This article originally appeared in the December 1998 issue of Internet Modeler.Copper State 1/48 Fokker D V
By Robert Karr
A product of late 1916, the Fokker D V never received the acclaim that its more famous stablemates enjoyed. Underpowered and deemed structurally questionable by the German authorities, it managed to earn its keep as an advanced trainer. Reportedly pleasant to fly, it soldiered on through 1918 in the schools and in a few frontline units as a hack. Perhaps its greatest contribution was allowing the Fokker company to stay busy and solvent in the lean time before the DR-I and D VII were sprung upon the world. Around 300 were built.
Upon opening the box of the Copper State 1/48 Fokker D V kit, I was struck by the seeming completeness. Main airframe parts are in a pleasing tannish-pink resin with fine details done in photo-etched nickel-silver and cast pewter. Instructions are rather sketchy, but anyone familiar with biplanes and multi-media kits shouldn't have too much trouble. However, great scale drawings of the real item by Martin Digmayer are included, and these supply most of the answers to most of the construction questions.
I've worked with all these media before, but I must confess that this was my first venture into building a model whose main parts were all resin. Another confession is that I cordially dislike cast metal and photo-etch for any structural members such as struts. With these confessions and prejudices out of the way, I'll begin the kit!
A quick rinse in soapy water to remove mold gunk allowed a closer inspection of the resin bits. NO pits or tiny air bubbles! None! The wings are perhaps the best part of the kit, having very thin trailing edges and just the right amount of rib detail. Five minutes of general refinement and leading edge cleanup with a sanding stick and the wings are ready. Moving to the tail surfaces, I found the outlines to be good, with the rudder needing just a few gentle kisses with sandpaper to pull it into shape. However, unlike the wings, these parts are overly thick planks and lack finesse. Since the rib detail wasn't so great to begin with, I elected to sand and file these parts to the correct cross section, first marking the perimeters with a felt tip pen. The rudder was just generally thinned down, while the elevators were given a slight airfoil shape and razor thin trailing edges. Despite this rather harsh sounding treatment, the job was accomplished in a few minutes and was much easier than scratchbuilding new parts. To get all of the cleanup out of the way, I next tackled the fuselage, grinding out and enlarging the cockpit cavity. The fuselage is split horizontally and a test fit revealed a warp or bow in the pieces. If the nose was held together, the tail halves wouldn't meet. Instead of the heat-and-bend method of straightening, I just flat sanded the halves as one would a vac form. This actually brought the model into true conformity with the drawings. The overall outline looks good, but the major weakness of the kit is the fuselage. The detail is too soft and indistinct - the stringers of the real thing are sharp and pronounced, but the kit merely has some flabby facets. The one area of sharp detail is the lacing along the bottom, and this is grossly over scale. Fortunately, some sanding does take this down, and it doesn't look all that bad.
My resin learning curve was rising steeply. In my cockpit grinding, I found out that resin cockpit walls don't like being too thin. Upon realizing that I wouldn't be able to accurately stuff this area with everything needed, I went for a cover-up strategy. I would hide alot of the interior with a pilot! Not a terribly popular thing in modeling these days, I find it to be a wonderful solution whenever there's a problem with getting the cockpit just right. I built some internal structure using very thin sprue for the stringers and longerons and thin strips of typing paper coated with craft acrylic paint for the vertical formers. These assemblies were built and painted outside the cockpit and installed into the upper half. A few never-to-be-seen-again pieces were made and installed - a hand pump here and an instrument there. A dummy ammunition box facade was made from plastic sheet and stuck up under the front coaming supported from the back with a crude scrap stick. Lurking on the photo-etch frame in the kit is a truly wonderful ammo box, which I elected to save for some future project.
The pilot consumed the most effort in this area. He was hashed together from three different figures, including an old Lindberg Me262 pilot, an Airfix Stuka pilot, and an Aurora ground crew guy. With the various body parts arranged, a long flying coat and scarf were built up and the flight helmet altered using good ol' tube style Bondo auto body putty reduced with MEK and lacquer thinner. I keep this mix on hand at all times, mixed in a bottle and ready to work with an old brush, literally painting on detail. Once this had set, and after a bit of clean-up sanding and filing, I shot it with gray primer. I fixed the remaining rough spots and then did the final painting. To this finished figure, I started adding more cockpit bits, including the kit's great rudder pedals and control stick grip. The belts and strappings were made from the acrylic-soaked paper. The underside of the "leather" coaming was painted and a block of wood glued under the turtle where a seat back would go, and the fuselage was ready to receive the pilot. He was unceremoniously shoved up into the upper half and his back glued to the block and the cockpit detailing was complete. To this point, all assembly was accomplished using green label Zap-A-Gap. The halves were put together with 2- part epoxy to allow plenty of working time to get the pieces lined up. Some Bondo-mix filled the side seam, a bit of sanding and the fuselage was ready for priming. This was sprayed and left to dry.
Turning back to the flying surfaces, I connected the elevators with a rod of skinny bamboo, shaved out of a kabob skewer. Bamboo is far stronger than plastic and easier to work than metal wire. A notch was cut into each elevator half and the ends of the bamboo rod glued into these notches. Bondo-mix was slopped on the joint, slight cleanup performed and my elevators were connected. I needed to replace the rib indications on the elevators, and this I did by masking off each rib location and spraying several thick coats of paint. When this had dried, I peeled off the tape, and gently sanded the proud paint stripes, leaving subtle but noticeable raised detail. The wings also had their already fine ribbing enhanced using the same method. The rudder had some material cut away to allow for a bamboo hinge post, and with a little touch of sandpaper, all was ready for priming. This was done and the major components were ready for a version of the Fokker streaked paint job.
Everything was first sprayed with a fabric color mixed from Model Master flat white with a few drops of the same brand's Skin Tone Base - Light, and insignia yellow. This was allowed to dry for maybe twenty-four hours, then the fun began. I had a film canister sitting around marked "Fokker green-brown water base". I have no idea what's in it, but it looked good. Taking an old stiff brush, I started at the front of the fuselage brushing vertical strokes until the brush needed recharging, following what was probably the actual method. Except for the prototype, all other D Vs seemed to have the same pattern of dense opaque strokes starting just behind the cowl, thinning out behind the cockpit, and more opaque denseness sprouting out behind the white cross field. The wings were similarly streaked, with the strokes perpendicular to the leading edge - NOT angled as on later Fokker products.
The elevators did receive angled strokes. This same color was also used to paint practically everything that wasn't fabric such as the struts, cowl, fasteners and all manner of minutia. Searching about for an underside color, I spied another mystery film canister, this one labled "WW I Ger Turq oil base". I opened and sniffed. It looked to be a usable light turquoise blue.
Declaring it to be satisfactory, I masked and sprayed the fuselage bottom along the longeron line (apparently correct for the D V). The elevator and wing undersurfaces also got shot with this stuff, with the bottom of the bottom wing having the fabric colored areas masked where the crosses would go. All sources consulted were uncertain about whether the flying surface undersides were clear doped fabric or painted in the turquoise light blue. I went with blue - just because it looks good! When all this was thoroughly dry, I "varnished" it using tinted Future floor wax. I filled a film canister (handy things!) roughly 2/3 with Future and added a couple of drops of brown craft acrylic and a drop of yellow. The acrylic colors were very generically labeled, being in fact called "brown" and "yellow". This stuff was hand brushed all over the components, giving a very pleasing and accurate appearance. After this "varnish" dried, I masked and sprayed the white cross fields on the top of the top wing.
Meanwhile, I needed some struts, an engine, some wheels, a cowl and a gun. As stated before, I dislike cast metal struts. This project did nothing to change my mind. The kit-supplied pieces are pretty rough and need lots of careful clean up. Indeed I was defeated. By the time they were even remotely smoothed, they had become so bent and irredeemably misshapen, that I resorted to my favorite material for parts such as these- bamboo. Strong, easy to shape, glue-and-paint loving bamboo! Hacked out of the ends of skewers, the shaped struts were coated with Zap-A-Gap, sanded, and the ties uniting the steel tubes and wood fairings of the real objects were painted on using white glue mixed with a little white paint - the white merely providing an indicator of where I'd been. Moving to the engine, I must say the kit piece is a jewel. It has the best cooling fins I've seen. Just be sure to put the etched rod assembly on the FRONT of the engine, disregarding the instructions on this matter. A dark black-brown wash, followed by the Future "varnish" mix and you'll be looking at a perfect miniature of a real Oberursel rotary. It's too bad that it will be almost completely obscured by the cowl and spinner. After the great engine, I was disappointed when I looked at the wheels. From the side, they appear fine, but head-on they're not just thin, they're cardboard thin. Scaled up, they wouldn't support a bicycle. It's really a shame because they have good diameter and detail. Digging into the scrap box, I found a couple of wheels from who knows what old kit.
The gun. Hmmmm. Copper State makes great photo-etch gun jackets so it was a surprise to find the kit only contained a one piece solid casting. Harumph! Out came an Eduard Spandau set. After dealing with the gun, the cowl was next. Like all such cast parts, it's heavy and at first glance appears somewhat crude. Before anything else, I shot it with primer and was pleasantly surprised with the surface finish, as there were very few pits or other anomalies. I now cheerfully grabbed the Dremel and thinned out the rear edge, and cleaned up the front opening. I added the retaining wire from some fine stuff I got out of an old clothes drier coil, Zapped it on, gave it another primer shot and was truly pleased.
Assembly went quickly - the bottom wing fit perfectly into a wide slot in fuselage (particularly fine work here, Copper State!). The gun was mounted and feed and ejection chutes added. Strut holes were emphasized with a bit in a pin vise and rigging holes drilled with a home made bit chucked into a battery powered Dremel. The homemade bit is nothing more than a piece of .007" guitar string jammed into the end of a piece of bamboo and Zapped in place. Cheap and disposable, it will drill true provided a starter dimple is pricked. I like structural rigging, and because I've heard horror tales about resin wings sagging over the years, this was the way I went. The holes are drilled all the way through. Starting with the photo-etch cabane struts, I mounted the top wing and made sure everything was lined up. I wish I had made my own bamboo cabanes - the etched units are just too weak and wobbly. Oh well. Using a little more than ordinary care, I cut the bamboo interplane struts to length, wedged them between the wings, got a couple of them secured with Zap and rested for a bit. After caffeinating myself, I took some so-called "invisible thread" nylon monofilament and started running it through all the holes. All lines were first secured at the top positions using drug- store brand name Krazy Glue. This stuff holds tighter and stronger for rigging. When the top glue joints had set, I went about pulling strands through the bottom holes, tweaking here, pulling tighter there, gluing as I went along, getting the alignment right, using the model's rigging to true and trim. When all had set firm, I trimmed the sprouts with a new #11 blade, gave the spots a little sanding and then touched up the cross fields on the wings. The fuselage white field was also masked and sprayed at this time.
After the previous day's work had dried overnight, the landing gear received its due. I DID use the kit cast struts as they were sturdy enough to withstand the cleanup. I cut an axle from wire-cored plastic rod and using all three hands somehow managed to get all three pieces lined up and stuck on. The D V had a rather unusual bungee arrangement and I duplicated this using a small piece of plastic rod for a spool, glued above the axle on the outside of the struts. To make the bungee chord itself, I used cotton thread that had been treated with white glue. There are four separate bungee coils, so for each one, I Zapped one end of the thread to the spool and started wrapping till it looked right and then cut and tucked. Next came all of the model's little bits and doo-dads: steps, rear fuselage handholds, a windshield from cigarette package cellophane and elevator horns. The D V's tail skid mount was an inverted pyramid of tubing and the kit's etched parts were just too flat so I used stretched sprue. Also, the kit's part list shows a tail skid among the cast items, but there was none to be found. Here again, the miracle of bamboo saved the day. The elevators were now glued on, directly across the knife-edge of the rear fuselage. The rudder received its control horns, the post was trimmed to length and this unit attached. Control wires were made from stretched sprue and stuck on. Now the beast was starting to look like a little Fokker!
It still needed its engine. Copper State has thoughtfully molded a little peg on the back of the crankcase and over this I glued an extension of plastic tubing to form the basis of a rotating mount. A firewall was cut and a piece of tube the inner diameter of which would receive the engine extension was lined up and glued into a carefully cut hole. The rear of the little motor was now offered up to the firewall, it's tiny plastic extension fitting into the firewall hole-and-tube. A retaining cap was glued on and I had a rotary engine that would spin on the firewall! Let me say here that I usually don't go for movable parts on models- it's just more things to break and fall off. But I make a big exception in the case of props- and especially when attached to spinning WW I rotary motors. I've noticed that with most kids and some adults, the first they do when they see a propeller is flick it with their fingers. If the prop can't move freely- SNAP! There's a murder to be committed and a repair to be made. In that order. If there's a chance your model will be shown in public or your friends and relatives are congenital "prop spinners", you must make the thing move! Yes, where were we? Ah, the engine mount. To allow the firewall-engine unit to be glued to the nose of the fuselage, I grabbed the Dremel and hollowed out the nose interior immediately behind where the firewall would fit. After attaching the unit to the nose and popping on the cowl takes, the prop was next. The kit includes two kinds - a Garuda and a Germania. They both look good, but I chose to use a scrapbox plastic prop modified to look like a Garuda. The kit spinner just didn't look right to my eye, appearing too pointy and narrow. Back to the scrap box. The spinner I chose ended up being too flat and fat, which covered even more of the great engine. Rats!
On to the decals. Printed by Microscale, they're GREAT. They're well printed, thin, non-curling and they're pretty much perfect. Copper State also did a very nice thing by including two sheets. They mention in the instructions that they goofed and the sheet only included one serial number, when two are required. Bless 'em - they just threw in another entire sheet! If there is one gripe about the markings, it's that the serial number - 2672/16- is for a machine that had plywood aileron gap fairings. This mod could be done, and it does show up on most pictures of the bird, but it's almost a shame to do too much fiddling with the great wings. For my markings, I just reversed the last two digits and this still gives me a machine in the right serial range.
In the home stretch now, I gently Futured the entire airplane and let this dry for a few days. I added the wheels and made and attached aileron control horns on the top of the top wing. Engine inspection side panels were painted on. I then dry-brushed and sprayed some rotary engine gunk around and underneath as these rotary powered planes could get incredibly filthy. An attempt was made to bring out the soft stringer detail by adding some airbrushed shadows in a few spots. A coat of half-shook Testors flat was sprayed overall for a semi-matte finish and all that was left to do was hit a few spots with a small brush and Future - the pilot's goggles, his leather jacket and the cockpit coaming.
The kit has its problems, but overall I enjoyed making it. If I decided to put on my "evil killer contest hat" and construct a world beating Fokker D V model, would I get this kit? YES! The basics plus a lot more are contained in this small box. Aside from my personal problems regarding some metal parts, the only real disappointment is the soft fuselage detail, and this could be dealt with. Please just don't ask me how right now - I'm tired!
Windsock Mini Datafile 11 by PeterGrosz, 1997 Albatros Productions Ltd.
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