Roden 1/48 DH-4

KIT #: 422
PRICE: $37.95 SRP
DECALS: Three options


The De Havilland Four was first flown in late 1916 and became operational in January 1917 with the RFC and later the RNAS.  The DH4 is considered the best single engined bomber of WW1 thanks to its versatility plus speed and altitude when fully loaded (the latter two aspects appeared when the DH4 was fitted with the Rolls Royce Eagle engine.)  It could be considered the forerunner of the Mosquito as it often flew bombing missions unescorted thanks to its high performance.


The DH4 also flew coastal patrols, Zeppelin intercept missions and acted as a courier aircraft besides its normal bombing/observation role.  Near the end of the war, the DH4 flew as a strategic daylight bomber relying on its speed and firepower to stop enemy fighters.  The poor results were a precursor to the heavy losses and flawed assumptions of massed bomber raids of World War 2.


By the end of the war, the DH4 was slowly being replaced in RAF bomber squadrons by the inferior DH9 whose only improvement on the DH4 was that it had a shorter distance (hence better communication) between the observer/gunner and pilot as the center fuel tank was moved elsewhere.


After the Great War, the DH4 would be converted to many civilian roles around the world such as passenger plane, courier and postal plane.


Info from Wikipedia.


The Roden DH4 comes with eight thick sprues of light pinkish tan soft plastic, a decal sheet with markings for three planes (two from the RNAS and one from the RFC) and a small clear acetate sheet for the windscreen and windows.


It contains several options for the exhausts, engine covers, bombs and machine guns as the DH4 came in several variants.  Be careful to make sure you are using the correct parts for the DH4 you build.


The kit parts require some cleanup as there is flash and thick sprue connections.  It is also a touch grainy while the decals leave something to be desired based on my past experience with Roden’s decals.


I dry fitted the parts and discovered that the fuselage of the Roden DH4 is one fiddly assembly.  The rear fuselage is easy to put together, but it needed extra support so I reinforced the rear fuselage seam with a piece of cut plastic card.


The interiors parts were painted with Gunze Sail and the wood grain was hand painted using red brown (first) and when dry, clear yellow.  The center fuel tank was painted silver but I wish I didn’t as the tank is hidden so there was no point in painting it.  I used Tamiya tape for the seat belts.  I lined the rear fuselage pieces up and glued them together.  The fit was not that good so I sanded and filled with CA glue (this was done a few months later as I had stopped building models for a while as demands of work ate up most of my time.)


Roden’s fuselage pieces have a lot of sink marks thanks in large part to the interior detail.  I chose to ignore most of them except a few of really obvious ones.  These were filled in with CA glue and sanded flat.  I next added the lower wing assembly.  I ended up waiting a week for the glue to cure before filling and sanding the seams.


The nose is one of the more complex assemblies as you have to attach the pilot seat with frame as well as the engine parts.  One problem I encountered is that the pilot seat frame is 1/2 mm too short making a butt join a difficult proposition.  I used a couple of thick drops of super glue to keep the seat in place.  I then followed the instructions, but soon realized during dry fitting that the nose needed to be reinforced so I used a “measured” length of the sprue gate to stiffen the nose.


In test fitting the cowling (which was painted first), I noticed that nothing really lined up and that there were a 0.5mm gap on the sides.  I cut a shim of 0.005 thick plastic card to cover the gaps on both sides.  I had to carefully sand down the nose join till it lined up in test fitting.


Lastly, I glued on the top portion of the fuselage to the plane.  There were some gaps that needed to be filled with Vallejo plastic putty.


Note:  I painted the wings, stabilizers, cowling and fuselage separately and then assembled them after painting.



The DH4 scheme I selected was the RNAS one from the box which had a bright red nose and tail.  This scheme is “interesting” from the mask/paint/repeat perspective, but it also has uses fewer decals than the other schemes which is important if you are familiar with the stubborn nature of Roden decals.


The first thing I did was to cut thin strips of tape to mask the top and bottom areas of the wings, stabilizers and tail where the frame meets the canvas.  I then sprayed on flat black or dark gray onto these surfaces.  Next I preshaded the fabric seams and when the paint was dry I removed the masks.  These parts sat for a couple of months as I had no time or passion for the hobby.


When I did have the time/passion, I sprayed on several thin coats of Tamiya Deck Tan for the underside doped fabric color and the tail was painted flat white (for the red.)  When that was dry, I masked off a thin area of the underside of the wings and stab just past the leading edge and then sprayed on the Poly Scale PC10 (again in several light coats.)  Afterwards the fuselage was preshaded with flat black and then sprayed PC10 except the tail and parts of the nose.  When the paint was dry these areas were masked, unmasked, the PC10 areas masked painted white first then red.  I put the model outside on the porch after each painting step to cure quickly in the sun.


The PC10 portions around the engine and tail were masked and then I sprayed on light gray for the engine covers and Gunze Red Madder for the red.  I had painted the engine cowling earlier, but had to redo the red after I realized that the Red Madder on the fuselage was way too dark because I shot other colors first and did not clean out the airbrush enough so the other colors contaminated the red paint.  I used Insignia Red to darken the cowling.


Once the paint was cured, I sprayed on a couple of thin coats of Future for the decals.


The prop was dry brushed red brown, painted with a mix of clear red and yellow (two parts clear red to one part clear yellow) to represent the colors used on British props.  When the paint was dry, it was masked and painted light grey (Tamiya XF-80.)  Next the struts were done the same way except I just used clear yellow.  The ends of the struts were painted gloss black as well as the pitot tube.  The wing mounted oil tank (?) was painted silver and the oil line was replaced with wire (because I broke it) and painted black.


Lastly, the wheels were painted using leftover Eduard wheel masks while the landing gear itself was painted flat black.  The hubs were painted white first and the thin strip around the hub masked off.  Next the tire was painted red then the middle was masked off and the tire itself was painted Tamiya Kure Grey.  Some minor touch up was required.



My experience with Roden decals has not been good.  Fortunately, the scheme I picked doesn’t use many decals and most are solid colors.  The roundels went on okay except I lost a small piece off one of the underside ones and had to cut off a piece from a surplus decal.


Roden provides the stabilizer flashes but not in precut shapes.  I just lined them up on the flaps and then when dry trimmed off the excess with a really sharp knife.  Roden decals are also rather brittle so be very careful when trimming.  Unfortunately, the white isn’t that opaque and the red paint of the tail shows through so I had to cut some white decals and trimmed to fit.


Weathering and Final Coat.

The upper wing was lightly weathered, sealed with Xtracrylix Satin Coat and the clear acetate panels for the upper wing viewports were glued in place with Elmers white glue.  The rest of the plane was weathered later.  The only parts of the plane that I really did was the underside.  I used a light watercolor wash on the underside, but made it dirty where the mud would splatter.  The topside of the lower wings were dirtied a bit where the crew would enter.  After all the model was fully assembled and the excess weathering was removed then I sprayed on a light coat of Xtracrylix Satin coat.


One problem I have with biplanes, but especially British ones is that there is no easy to get the strut angles correct.  Fortunately Roden did a simple and effective way to get the angle on the struts correct for those on the fuselage as they are keyed to the correct angle.  I glued those in place with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement and let the glue harden.


I added the guns, oil tank(?) and front windscreen next because adding them afterwards would be almost impossible to do with all rigging in the way.  Next I attached the landing gear with CA glue.  The toughest part was aligning the tail skid, but it was long enough to glue to the ceiling of the fuselage.


The upper wing was glued in place (CA glue) and then each set of struts was added to the wings with CA glue.  It took a bit to adjust them into the proper angle.  Next I added the wire one everything was dry, I added the rigging.  It took about 6 hours of work to get the inter wing rigging done using dividers, 0.008 brass wire and white glue.  FYI, there is a total of 9 1/2 feet of brass wire on that model.


For the most part, the clear acetate parts went on okay except the rear windscreen.  The way it is angled there is no way I could use any glue short of CA glue to keep it on.  After I lost the rear windscreen piece as it flew from my hand onto the floor, I rummaged through my spare windscreens and found a part from a Nieuport 17 that looked the part (sort of.)  A drop of Tamiya was used to hold it in place.


The tiny multi stripe prop hub was not very pleasant to do.  It took me two tries to get something that looked like but not exactly the number of stripes of the actual hub.  I ended up painting the hub white then cutting thin strips of Tamiya tape (approx 0.8mm wide) and carefully wrapped them around the hug keeping them from bunching up or screwing up the alignment.  As you can tell from the photos, there was no physical way I could do four stripes of red and three stripes of white on such a tiny hub, I settled for three stripes of red and two stripes of white.  I did the best I could and I’m going to let someone else make it correct.


I glued on the rear machine gun ring and the exhaust tubes thus completing my DH4.



The Roden DH4 is a nice 1/48 scale kit of this important WW1 aircraft.  It certain does take a lot of work to get something that looks decent.  It was certainly a challenge for me.  I think it is a more advanced kit and I recommend that if you’re going to tackle something like that you have some experience building WW1 aircraft and have plenty of brass wire (or whatever you use for rigging) on hand.

Dan Lee

September 2011

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