Flashback 1/48 Etrich Taube
Short run multimedia kit
Ok, first a confession. This is the first kit I seriously approached that I built without having a Datafile for the airplane. In fact, I am not sure a Datafile exists for it since I didn’t look. Now that is one arrogant attitude! But without a datafile it is not difficult to obtain information on this aircraft.
First off, these airplanes were anything but standardized in their construction. Being built well before the war started in 1914 and up through the earliest days of the conflict, there appears to have been many liberties taken in their construction. When the war started the Taube was available and flying. It quickly became an experimental platform for aerial reconnaissance. The saving grace of the airplane was that it was simple and it flew. It is basically a very slow wing-warp-controlled underpowererd kite. It was used successfully for reconnaissance work during the intial German offensive into France in August 1914. It also served as the eyes of Hindenburg’s army when he crushed the Russians at Tannenberg. The aircraft had no permanent installation points for weapons. A 1914 era machine gun was just too heavy for it to carry, so the two man crew resorted to simple expedients. Rifles, pistols, hand grenades, even bricks - great to drop on other airplanes!! Even with its modest degree of success, the Taube was obsolete at the start of WW1. It was quickly replaced and by the end of 1914 was essentially out of service.
The Flashback kit represents a pre-war 1913 era Taube. It
consists of a few very simple plastic parts and photoetch for some detail.
Decals are for a prewar aircraft. Basically, there isn’t much to it until you
get to the rigging. This kit would be very difficult to build up and then rig as
one of the last steps; instead, it is more like build, rig, build, rig, etc.
The part quality is very good. It has very little flash and good fit. The plastic goes together great; I used only a little putty for seam filling. Instructions are the usual Eduard drawings and very easy to follow. I don’t recommend that you follow their sequence exactly though. I found that out the hard way.
Ed Maloney of the Planes of Fame Air Museum wanted a wartime Taube, so mine is not exactly “out of the box”. What I did for documentation on wartime Taubes was to search the internet. To obtain a wartime bird, I had to add some additional features such as upgraded radiators, national insignia, upgraded rigging, and armament. What I built was a hybrid of the Etrich Taube and the wartime Taube. For a wartime Taube, I used photos of the Taube replica on display at the Champlin Fighter Museum in Arizona that I obtained from my internet search.
I started out as I usually do, building the cockpits. This is
right out of the box, with only the addition of instrument panel bezels I added
using Tom’ Modelworks photo-etch, and construction was straightforward. The
cylinder in-line engine goes together easily and fits nicely in the engine compartment. Don’t install the engine exhausts at this time since they will only break off. This happened to me as I went on....duh (you’ll see why shortly).
The fuselage halves mate very well with very little seam. The large wings attach with slot/tab type fittings. So now I had this kit going together very well. So what’s the problem?
PAINT & DECALS
Painting - Obtaining that "fragile" look:
Before you start to paint this kit you have to understand that this is an airplane with a very delicate structure, so delicate that on the real thing you could see opaque lighting through the wing fabric. I really did not know how to approach a method of recreating this on a plastic model. In fact, I was stumped. So I stopped for a bit. As luck would have it I had a chance to be on the east coast and stop by the Old Rheinbeck Aerodrome in upstate New York. On that visit I saw my first real, flying examples of pre-WW1 airplanes built with similar construction techniques.
The first thing that struck me was the whitish look of the fabric coverings and the brownish look to the ribs showing under the tight fabric. The other aspect that I noticed was the staining on the fabric. Oil, dirt, fuel, wear, you name it, it had it. And these airplanes were well maintained at old Rheinbeck!. Just think what a front line Taube would look like after only a few hours of flying!
I primed my assembly using ModelMaster primer, fixed any remaining seams, then gave the aircraft a coat of Future. I painted the forward portion of the fuselage that was metal with SnJ aluminum metalizer. When dry I gave this a buffing with SnJ powder to get a bright metal finish like it may be out of the factory. I then “weathered” the bright metal with subtle swirls of Tamiya “Smoke”. After masking off the cockpit, engine, and metalized portions of the fuselage I was ready to try for that “fragile” effect.
First, I painted the fuselage with Gunze-Sanyo “Sail color ” acrylic and covered that with a coat of Future. The next thing was to create the ribs and fuselage skeleton, so as to obtain that “sticking out” look of the structure. I used 1/64”drafting tape I found at my local art supply store and covered all rib and structural points. This significantly raised the profile of the underlying structure. I should have used dark brown tape but all I could obtain was dark green. In any event, the idea was to get the ribs to shadow through the fabric. I coated the tape ends with CA to avoid them curling up and then I coated the fuselage with Future once again to seal the tape.
Since the fabric look I wanted was whitish and stained I needed a slightly off white color. I mixed about 5 parts Tamiya flat white to 1 part of Gunze-Sanyo "Sail Color" until I got a dirty white color. I airbrushed this onto the fuselage very lightly, just enough to overcoat the underlying "Sail Color" and slightly cover the much darker ribs. I then painted the sail color over the dirty white and vice versa for several coats. Each subsequent coat got a bit more sparse and a bit less consistent in overall coverage. The result was some parts being dirty white, some a bit more brown, some more brown still. I went for a random “patchy” effect. I think it took eight coats of each in all to get to the final look.
I now needed to get the ribs to stand out a bit more brownish. For this I used some reddish brown pastel chalk applied with a microbrush which I just ran lightly over the tape. I had never used pastels before so I just winged it. Nothing uniform, just enough. After the pastel was applied, I coated the entire aircraft with Future and then added another very light coat of dirty white. Then I Futured it again. The result was close to what I had hoped: a dirty, splotchy fragile, rib-showing "stringbag" effect. It looked ugly. I wasn’t sure this thing would turn out in the end, but I kept on going.
Time to decal. Americal Gryphon has a set of decals for early-war Taubes. One on each wing surface, top and bottom. No decals on the fuselage per Americal’s data even though the Champlin replica has them on the tail surfaces. I used a lot of setting solution to get the decals to snug down over my tapes. When done I gave the aircraft a good coat of Future to protect the decals during the long rigging process.
This airplane has a lot of rigging on it, a bit over 100 inches of wire by my estimate. Once you examine the rigging plan in depth, you will quickly realize that building all the plastic parts at once will get you in trouble. The airplane is very fragile. Rigging is supported on the top and underside by king posts that just stick out into space from the flying surfaces. To rig this thing you will spend a lot of time with the airplane on its back to rig the bottom, and the king posts on the top of the wing will break unless you take care.
I would recommend that once the wings are installed, you turn the airplane over and completely build and rig the underside of the airplane before doing any rigging or installing the king posts on the upper surfaces.
I have a little wooden stand I used to hold the airplane in place while I rigged it. It is just a simple box structure that supports the wings and the tail near their tips. With the airplane belly up, I installed the rigging support structural parts on each wing and the underside tail surface. I then proceeded to install the bracing wire for these structures. I used .007” diameter stiff steel wire for this rigging using .0075” teflon tubing for turnbuckles. Once the support bracing was installed, I built up the landing gear. Take care here because the gear is really just a collection of 5 individual pieces of plastic rod and it is very easy to warp it out of alignment. This turned out to be a bit of a task but was made easier by doing the assembly with CA and kicker.
Once the gear was installed, I completed installing the support rigging for the landing gear. I tossed out the PE underskid and replaced it with a curved toothpick coated with CA glue to fix its shape. I did the underside tail rigging last since it is very delicate. That was done using .004” stiff steel wire. The rigging “fan out” blocks were built using a Waldron micro punch set.
All of my rigging is attached using white glue. My teflon tube technique actually allows me to have a bit less than 2/10” play on each wire because I can slide my teflon tubes on or off the wire to obtain a perfect fit. That saved my sanity and I was able to rig this beast much more quickly than if I had to “custom” fit each wire.
Another point I learned is not to attach any wiring exposed on the side of the aircraft, like between side support posts and the tail structures until the very last. I kept breaking these off as I moved the model during the build and bumping it into paint bottles, lamps, etc.
From my experience, once the lower surfaces are rigged, just turn the model over, install the king posts, and rig the upper surfaces. Install the engine exhaust pipes before adding the rigging from the central support post forward over the engine. Be sure the side rigging is last.
Once the rigging was finished I just had some simple paint touch ups remaining. I “armed” my airplane with a scale WW1 Mauser rifle that I put into the observer’s cockpit by propping it up against the seat. Now I really had a warplane. I put a light coat of semi gloss “sheen” typical of WW1 fabric covered airplanes onto the entire model. I made this by mixing a 30% solution of Tamiya flat base to Future.
I built a monoplane !! For me, that is a big deal having built
exactly one, count em’, one First World War monoplane airplane and I never
build anything from an era later than 1918. I have to face it, I’m a
multi-wing fanatic. So when a friend of mine asked me to build this kit for his
display of WW1 models my first thought was yes, it’s WW1!! Upon further
reflection I thought,,,oh God….boring.
I am very happy to report that the Taube was anything but boring, in fact my experiences in building this kit went from pure joy, determined optimism, fist clenching frustration, near tears, “throw it away and start again” anguish, to relief and pride in having finished a pretty nice looking model of a very “noticeable” airplane. These emotions were experienced in no particular order and more than once during the build!
All I ever build are WW1 kits and this was the most difficult model I had ever built, but as with most endeavors, if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger. I experimented with techniques I never would have tried if I had stayed with a safe subject. I learned a lot and I like the way the finished airplane looks. More than a building project this was a “thinking” project. It is not straightforward. Now that it is finished I have to admit a certain pride in having completed a kit that I understand even very experienced model builders shy away from.
This is not a kit for your average builder. If you haven’t tackled a model with more than average rigging then I would keep this one in the kit closet until you get a bit more experience. The rigging is really the killer, not only because it is intricate, but also that you have to “go it” alone for the installation sequence and it can get frustrating when lovingly installed wires fall off again and again. I can’t remember the number of times I had to walk out of the room and just get away from it. I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to build it for Planes of Fame because I don’t think I would have started it for myself.
I probably spend at least 100 hours on this project and not all of it was progress. But no need to shy away from this beauty - when it is finally finished you will have one “looker” of a model; it will tax your abilities and you will most likely come away the better model builder for it. You will never be afraid of rigging a “stringbag” again.
A quick note: this model is the 20th that Candice Uhlir has built in her three year modeling career. Some people are just very talented.
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