Roden 1/72 Fokker D.VII (Late, Albatros built)
|NOTES:||Techmod 4 color lozenge and rib tapes|
Being one of the, if not the, most famous aircraft to emerge in the Great War, designed by Reinhold Platz, urgently needed due to the Albatros and Pfalz designs needing replacement, well liked by those who flew it, respected by those who flew against it, and having a long post-war career is probably well known, even by people who are not that much into World War 1 aviation. It is, due to it's lack of rigging and relatively simple construction, also one of the best aircraft models to start WWI modelling with -there are many schemes without, or close to it, lozenge fabric.
Since all of the above is probably pretty common knowledge, let's focus a bit on the Albatros built D.VIIs. These were known as Fokker D.VII (Alb). Albatros, and it's subsidary, Ost-Deutsche Albatroswerke, known as OAW, were still producing outdated D.Va and even older D.IIIs. The latter were mostly made at the OAW plant in Schneidemühl, now in Poland. After winning the early 1918 fighter competition, Fokker could not keep up with the massive demand for this new aircraft, so it was decided to have Albatros, who lost out with their own designs, and OAW produce the aircraft as well. Grudgingly Albatros accepted, after being made clear that they either produce D.VIIs, or get out of the fighter business entirely. Due to the speed things would have to move to get the new fighter to the units at the front as quickly as possible, Fokker supplied a basic set of drawings and sent a pattern aircraft on loan to both Albatros at Johannistal, and OAW at Schneidemühl. Both quickly got to work; OAW copied the pattern aircraft fairly closely, but Albatros, who were used to being one of premier fighter designers, modified it with a few clever inventions of their own, such as the split axle wing and a host of small refinements making maintenance that little bit easier.
During it's production run, many modifications were made, including cowling vents, exhausts, radiators, and a host of other modifcations and improvements. The basic powerplant was the reliable Mercedes D.III, rated in the 160hp class, but later models provided as much as 200+ hp. Truly sought after were the BMW IIIa engined models. Fokker designated these with an F suffix, but Albatros and OAW did not, making identification difficult.
All factories made their own modifications, so finding exact details without a clear photo or a serial number is difficult best!
Three of the sprues are used throughout the Roden series of Fokkers, and include all parts for those other versions as well. As such, you get an extra axle wing, wheels, and some other small parts. Sprue Z, Rodens generic engine and weapon sprue, contains both the Mercedes and BMW engines, as well as some unused machine guns and odds and ends. Since this sprue is used throughout most Roden German aircraft kits, quite a bit of flash is present. Detail-wise everything looks excellent: excellent engine and guns (as far as plastic can go without photo etch, I would say), nice ribs on the wings and subtle frame tubing shows through the fuselage fabric. No fake linen texture there, either. Control surfaces are moulded very thin (you can see through them when held against the light) and have thin trailing edges.
Unique to the Albatros version is the nose/radiator and of course the fuselage halves, with the proper louvres and asymmetric upper cowling. In the instructions you'll be instructed to remove some of the louvres for some versions, and even some upper cowling parts for other versions.
However, there is a large mould blemish on the left upper wing that requires removal (it is also present on my other two Roden D.VIIs so is apparently not an incident with my particular kit), and quite a bit of flash everywhere.
Decals look somewhat glossy and while the registration is decent, look like a typical Roden affair. They look much like same type as on my Fokker E.V, and those actually worked. There are four sheets; one each with upper and lower lozenge, one with rib tapes, and one for the rest of the markings. The lozenge decals are not sized to the kit, but separate bolts that you have to fit yourself. The colours look better than what came with the E.V/D.VIII, though I can't comment any more than that due to a lack of expertise in that area. There are three nearly identical silvery-white tailed versions for Jasta 34b, differing only in the fuselage band, (black/white/black, double red, or double green) and two with the black fuselages and white tails of Jasta 40. These have either a white heart, or eagle head symbol on the side, and both of these have no upper cowling panels, allowing a good look at the engine.
-Fokker built (early)
-Fokker D.VIIF with BMW engine (late)
-OAW built (early)
-OAW built (mid)
-Albatros built (early)
-Albatros built (late)
As you can see there are still a few basic variations missing, and even then, most of those will require small or larger modifications -ranging from engine panel removal, cowling vents, access doors, or grab handles.
Having built more than one Roden kit, I started out with removing all parts I would need for my version, and cleaning them up, especially the mating surfaces, since those seem to have a tiny amount of flash on them, making fit iffy. A tiny bit of sanding helps a lot getting some Roden kits together. On my earlier E.V I was positively surprised by the fit. On this D.VII I was surprised as well...
The D.VII reminded me of two teams working on separate projects, which are supposed to be joined together in the end. However, both teams would be working in a dark room without guidance or contact with each other.
The result speaks for itself... the whole fuselage is about 1,5mm wider as all the parts that are supposed to go in and around it. That includes instrument panels, cockpit floor, wings, horizontal tail, and to top it off, the fuselage is also about 1,5mm taller than the rudder. Sheesh!
Disappointed, but steadfast, I first started with some sub-assemblies to see what else awaited. The cockpit was assembled, and turned out to be too narrow, so at least it would fit. The instrument panel (yes, the D.VII had one) would not, so it was padded with some styrene and sanded until it fitted in the taped together fuselage halves. The horizontal tails had their forward cut-out enlarged, only to find out they are shorter than the fuselage by about 2mm, and the fin/rudder did not fit any better, but I left that for later, after the halves were glued together. That was also done with the too shallow recess in which the horizontal tails fit, as-is they sit nearly on top of the fuselage, not only looking odd, but also helping the rudder bottom not lining up with the bottom of the fuselage by about 2mm. After partially assembling the engine, I tried to shove it in the fuselage. Since this sprue is used on nearly all Roden German aircraft I had already anticipated this not fitting at all. After removing the engine support from the fuselage and sanding the walls paper thin, I could fit the engine. Only the handle at the back, which is not supposed to go into the engine opening itself, but protrude from a small opening aft of that, went wayyy to far into the engine compartment. This also results in the exhaust not fitting, as the cylinder closest to the cockpit is completely hidden now. After cutting nearly all off the engine block front, leaving the cylinder part alone, I was also able to dry-fit the radiator in place, as well as having that handle protrude from the proper opening. A surprising benefit of this hacking is also that the exhaust now fits properly, and it actually clears the wing struts there as well! Surprisingly, the radiator front is the proper width to fit the fuselage, which is probably explained by the fact that it comes from the same sprue as the fuselage... There are gaps and ridges all around that, so don't expect to escape without filling and sanding!
not, so lets turn to the interior, with which normal people building normal kits
usually start. Having established that most of the things that are supposed to
go in and around the fuselage fit now, the interior was painted up. I applied
Techmod lozenge on the sidewalls, and oversprayed that with Radome Tan to
simulate them being inside-out-lozenge fabric. Obviously the pattern should be
mirrored, but I'm not really bothered by that. I then painted the framing with
Tamiya RLM-grey/green XF-22, and applied lozenge decals to the seat. Some D.VIIs
had their seats wrapped in lozenge. Shaping a cushion from Milliput proved to be
beyond my talents. I painted the rudder pedals steel and added tiny dabs of
black and white to the instruments and compass. The stick, with typical Albatros/OAW
throttle control (nice detail) was left out for later, but painted at the same
time. I also made a rear bulkhead, and since that was fabric on the real thing
too, I applied more lozenge decals. I then made eyelets and added the Eduard
pre-painted German WWI seatbelts to the seat and rear wall, making things look
Having finished up the interior, it was time for the lower wing. First of all I sanded off all flash and rough edges, and very carefully sanded the blemishes on the left lower wing. Those were then polished out, and offered to the fuselage. Obviously these were from a different sprue (or perhaps a different kit?) so they did not fit the cut-out in the fuselage. I figured there were two ways to fix this. Either sand away a part of the wing to make it narrower, or cut the wing centre (on top of which the cockpit sits) and pad it with Evergreen to make it wider. The first option sounds easy, but the wing spars are moulded on top of the centre section, so it is quite hard to file at the wings themselves. I didn't even try, though later read some people had made this work. One advantage of this is not having to re-drill the strut holes for the outer wing N-struts, since after widening the centre section these will not line up with the top wing any more. Obviously... speaking of the top wing, after the lower one was cut and padded with 2mm Evergreen and left to dry, I cleaned up the upper wing. This is supposed to be straight as a plank on the top, and tapered on the bottom. Intentional or not, on all my three Roden D.VIIs the top is bowed. Out came the boiling water and straight piece of glass for some old fashioned straightening. After a few attempts the shape stuck, and it was further examined and put aside for now.
Since the kit was not quite challenging enough I decided in all my wisdom to separate the rudder and elevators. The soft plastic makes this quite easy, and after cutting off the control surfaces I made some narrow cuts and inserted strips of plastic to act as support and simulate hinges. These were also put aside. Since the axle wing between the wheels is also far to narrow, I used 1mm styrene on each side as padding to widen it. This does mean the wheel axles have to be replaced, but that was something for later. Quite a lot of sanding and filling later, the axle wing looked acceptable.
As the fuselage was now completely dry, I took a coarse sanding stick and sanded the cut-out for the horizontal tail deeper, so that would fit somewhat level with the fuselage top. A dry-fit of the fin and rudder revealed the rudder was still too high by about 2mm. Since, as I mentioned earlier, the horizontal tail is also too short, I also had to think about that. Cutting 2mm off the rear fuselage would be quick, but a large area of the fuselage sides would have to sanded back into shape to flare out towards the rudder, desroying all the beautiful detail. I decided to take the easy way out (hah -there isn't any on this kit, as I were to find out later!) and added a sliver of Evergreen to the cut-out of the tail, moving it backwards and allowing it to line up with the fuselage end. The too-short rudder was solved by sanding 1mm off the bottom of the fuselage. Voilà! After some glue and filler, the horizontal tail, fin (off centre to the right!), rudder and elevators were posed. One method I did not think of at the time but might try on the next, would be to sand 1mm or so from the mating surfaces, thinning the fuselage and making it also easier to fair in the rudder, and shorten the fuselage -which, when compared with the Windsock planes, is too long anyway. After much cursing and fiddling the lower wing was also assembled into the fuselage, the engine room flooded with superglue and the engine attached where it would mate, since I had earlier cut off all the lugs and shelves on which it is supposed to go... I dropped some extra where it would touch and called it quits. Then the nose piece was added, and the whole thing left to dry with loads of clamps, tape and rubber bands. Fortunately the Roden plastic is quite soft, so by using more than normal amounts of glue I was able to squeeze plastic out, requiring only a small ridge to be sanded, and virtually no gaps. Surprise!
After sanding, and some minor filling, I shot a thin coat of primer and redid some areas needing further attention. Then the interior was inserted from the top, and the gun decking installed. Surprisingly someone must have had a good day, as the width is perfect, but the length is short this time -easily solved with a sliver of Evergreen. More sanding ensued, and the top wing holes were measured out, found not to fit any more, and re-drilled. The old holes, as well as the ones in which the centre struts are supposed to go were filled as well. After all this, you didn't expect the struts to be of perfect length and fit their intended holes, didn't you? ;-)
For a tenth of a second I thought about separating the ailerons, too, but that thought was quickly dismissed when I dry fitted the guns. These were found to sit too high, so their openings were filed out to make them fit better, instantly forgetting the aileron thing entirely.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
By this time the cockpit was stuffed with some foam and another, more even, coat of primer shot on everything, including the parts separated from the sprue’s earlier that had in the meanwhile also been cleaned up. Further sanding and filling was done, and those areas touched up with primer. Satisfied, I drilled all holes for rigging and control wires at this time. Fortunately there aren't that many on a D.VII.
The paint scheme I had selected turned out to be quite complex to mask and paint. I started out with the “silvery white” rear fuselage, the unit colour of Jasta 34b. I mixed some white with aluminium and sprayed that on, using Revell Aqua. As back then I had not mastered those, the finish was rough and uneven, but wanting to proceed I masked and painted the red fuselage bands and painted the nose, struts, axle wing, and a few other items Tamiya XF-22 RLM grey/green. Unfortunately I had paint bleed from the red bands on the silvery white, and wasn't very happy with that colour either. Not just the colour itself, but the coat was too thick and rough.
I kept the cockpit stuffed and taped it off, then put it in a bag and sprayed oven cleaner over it. After a few hours it was removed from the bag, to reveal a naked D.VII again. I quickly removed the cockpit masking, hoping it would be unaffected -which it, fortunately for now, was!
On a less happy note I found out oven cleaner will also attack normal filler, as well as superglue, so my engine was on the loose (quickly remedied by again opening the superglue floodgates) and the filling and re-sanding was just another boring and tedious step towards completion. One step forward, two back, as they say. I re-primed, re-filled and re-sanded another time until I was happy again, and shot my trusty enamels this time, again mixing flat white with aluminium. The coat was on pretty good, but the aluminium highlighted some areas needing more sanding and filling. Which, again, was done, the paint flared out, and in a stroke of genius I kept some of the mixture to repair the damage, which was also helpful in painting the underside tail struts later.
Leaving that to dry I masked and painted the red bands, and since the rest would be covered in lozenge, I freehanded the nose and top decking towards the cockpit again with Tamiya RLM grey/green.
A small note on the red bands of Von Greim's aircraft... in the Fokker D.VII anthology there is a colour profile that is just like Roden's -inside the book, however, is a picture showing the bands were pretty sloppy and uneven. I did not like that look, so I went with German straight and tight. They might have done that on the real aircraft, too, after all!
Since the colour plate on the back of the box happened to be in 1/72 scale (thanks for that, Roden!), I used it to make a paper template for the patch of lozenge that would go on the side of the fuselage, between the red bands and the metal nose cowling. Both sides were then applied, glued on using Dutch equivalent Future, as apparently Techmod forgot glue on the backside making the decals fall off immediately after they were dry without the Future. Already scratching my head on how those decals would go over the curved wing tips later, I noticed the Tamiya nose colour was still not entirely dry, even after a few days. I managed to strip it off using alcohol, without damage to rest, or so it appeared... until the patch of lozenge decal, including underlying paint, fell of the model. Sigh. I scraped the rest off, but found the last bit of decal to be stuck on the gloss red paint of the band. Forcing myself to live with the ridge, I re-shot the nose (this time it went well and dried quickly), re-used my template and re-applied the side decals, then the tiny bit over the top near the cockpit. With that done, I turned to the wings....
To prevent being too long winded... HORRIBLE! The Techmod decals would neither stick nor conform to the wing tips, flake off at the slightest touch, even after liberal applications of Future, both underneath and on top. I lost count on how many individual patches I had to cut and apply to fix the flaked off bits. I used paint on many places on the wing tips. Never again Techmod lozenge.
Having suffered through that, the rib tapes are equally bad. They don't only go on the ribs, but also around the leading and trailing edges, as well as the wing tips. I attempted one on the thick leading edge of the top wing, and had it either straight or broken, so I quickly abandoned that. They are also about 1/48th scale width, but were all I had, so I applied them to the wings nonetheless. Slicing them in half to reduce the width results in a jagged edge and many fractions. After liberal coats of Future before and after they still silvered. I mixed oil pains in the appropriate shade and hand painted the leading- and trailing edges, as well as the wing tips and aileron outlines. The ailerons were done separately, as they were covered spanwise. And yes, it is noticeable! Control surfaces did not have ribtapes applied on the real thing, so I didn't apply them to the model either. I also shot a thin coat of Tamiya Smoke over the lozenge decals to tone the overly bright colours down.
Yes, I know, still long winded... after the purple clouds had lifted and the wings were safe to touch I slathered the appropriate areas with wet Future and applied the Roden decals over the lozenge. The same was done for the fuselage. I actually had only one fuselage cross broken, but repairable, by moving it too quickly off the backing sheet. The Roden decals take years to come loose from the backing, even with hot water. No wonder it took me four years to finish this model.
Unlike older Roden decals at least they did not shatter into a million pieces on contact with water, though they are still stiff and uncooperative -and immune to any setting solution, so I had to slice some of them to go over control surfaces.
More Future followed to hopefully safeguard them from further handling.
Being a biplane, quite a lot of construction happens after painting. The first thing I did was restore some of the control horns with tiny bits of Evergreen, some were broken off, others simply missing in the original kit. I then gave the forward cowl and control surface lines a dark grey wash, and added some very mild chipping to the metal cowl parts.
Then it was time for a flat coat with Revell Aqua, adding control wires and rigging with 0,06mm fishing line pulled through a black marker, and final assembly of all pre-painted parts such as wheels, guns, propeller, struts... and top wing! :)
Obviously this is not as simple as it sounds -dare I say that the cut-outs for the struts in the axle wing are not deep enough, should have a slight angle, the N struts need about 1 to 1,5mm taken off the rear bottom end so that that wing does not end up too far forward and low, and that some of the other struts need a bit of fiddling and cutting to properly fit? By the time the top wing rests on the N struts, rest is easily adapted. After trying to fit the tail support struts on the bottom I found out that moving the horizontal tail backwards resulted in them being too short. Life is also too short to be bothered by now, so I glued them where they touched. A real modeller would have replaced or lengthened them. The long fuselage I mentioned earlier also shows up with regard of the location of the tail skid -it sits at the proper place, but is too far forward with regard to the tail support struts. Another reason to try to shorten the fuselage and sand the mating surfaces from the cockpit aft to make the tail fit better on the next one -should I ever attempt one! :-)
The final items attached were the propeller, wheels, control stick, boarding step, and I fabricated the prominent aft-fuselage grab handles from thin wire.
Although it matches the drawing on the box rear perfectly, on the finished model I can't help noticing that either the fuselage is not only too long, but also seems too tall. Either that, or the top wing sits too low. Anyway, it is finished, and so am I on this model! :-)
Seriously, I am a fan of Roden kits and have more than a few of them, both built and in the stash. They require care and patience, but are generally accurate and great to build either out of the box or superdetailed. One of those was the Gotha -though far more complex, it is a much better kit. I built that one somewhat continuously in about six months. This Fokker was started for a group build celebrating 100 years of Fokker in 2009, but finally extended over a period of four years, burning me out on everything WWI in the process. So now I can say I built it for 100 years of WWI... It was done in short stints, after getting fed up again and again after another setback, of which there were many. Not all of this is the kits fault of course: I made some stupid errors myself, and the quality of the Techmod lozenge and all the problems I had with that didn't really help progress and motivation either. The width of the fuselage in relation to everything else is simply inexcusable, though. In the end I guess some models just seem to attract all the bad karma!
I made this review rather extensive (sorry if I got long winded!) in the hope of helping someone to bring one of those to an end. Shake and bake it is not, but it is not unbuildable either -if you know what to expect you can plan ahead. It'll be a long time before I do another, at least until someone comes out with decent 1/72 lozenge decals.
Thanks to Scott for letting me review another WWI kit, which forced me to finally get this thing cleared off the bench to make room, and not finish it by the time we celebrate 100 years of Fokker D.VII first flight! Stay tuned for that one later! :-)
Fokker D.VII Anthology 1, 2 and 3 (Windsock Publications)
The drawing on the back of the Roden box
If you would like your product reviewed fairly and fairly quickly, please contact the editor or see other details in the Note to Contributors.
Back to the Main Page
Back to the Review Index Page