Central Powers
by Glen Cannon

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Phonix D1

Kit: Blue Max (1:48)

This is my second biplane build. I am submitting less than perfect models for a couple of reasons, perhaps someone can learn from my mistakes and also because I am sure my models will continue to be less than perfect! But it is learning journey. Certainly, input and advice are very welcome. I should also correct an ommission from my first submission, a photo credit to my friend and fellow modeler Dave Scott. He thinks biplane builders are insane, but is willing to help with pictures. You will know when I start using my own images by the thumbs in frame and the poor focus and lighting.

This is the Blue Max Phonix D1, a type of which I knew nothing other than it seemed to be a perennial special on the Squadron Flyers. It was my first Blue Max kit, and I was very pleased. The fit was very good, the surface detailing, especially the wings, I thought were excellent. The colour scheme is attractive and somewhat striking.

I tried out some new things on this hoping to improve as I go along. I used the Part Photoetch turnbuckles, though admittedly not well. They are way too far from their anchor points, I don't know why that didn't leap out at me while I was rigging, but for whatever reason, I missed it. Perhaps I thought the pilot should be able to reach out and tighten them in flight? It is not unheard of that I have the stereo and a beer going while I build, but I don't think that was the case here.

I painted the wings with enamels, allowed a good drying time, and then used ordinary colored pencil with a small makeup applicator sponge dipped lightly in paint thinner to highlight the wing ribs. Draw on the nicely defined ribs, then smooth and fade with the sponge. I was plesed with the result, and found it easy to work with; if too dark, make another pass with the sponge, if too light, out comes the pencil again. To finish I took the now somewhat darkened sponge, dipped it in the paint thinner and squeezed it almost dry in a rag, then used it to slowly build up a bit more colour on the clear fabric. It worked fairly well, and you can modify the strength of the effect as you come to the different coloured panels on the wing. Not the answer for everything, but a technique I am going to keep in the back of my mind for complex colours on wings. The fuselage wood effect is a technique of Bucky Sheftalls. He advocates painting your woodgrain onto a decal sheet, then cutting panels. This is exactly what I did, taking an 8 by 6 inch sheet of white decal paper, spraying a light yellow background then dry-brushing various browns across it, deliberately creating a marked variation, light on top down to darker on the bottom of the sheet. Spray with decal film, I used the MicroSol product and sprayed it directly without thinning. Wouldn't have a clue what to thin it with anyways. But it worked quite well, and I am pleased with the effect. I am sure I have some of the panels going the wrong way, I crossed up a couple just to see how it would look. But I didn't loose any detail, the access panels are decalled over, then painted after, and still clearly defined. Thanks to Mr. Sheftall! I was unsure of the strut material provided, seemed pretty flexible, although I have since used it in some applications. I carved the wing struts out of toothpicks, not sure why that made sense at the time but it seemed to and it worked OK. Realized after construction finished that either the strut installation ( I don't think it was here, I was checking alignment pretty carefully as I went) or rigging imparted a "droop" to the lower wings. I do know for sure it was not present prior to these actions, I pinned the lower wings and they were very square and secure before moving on. Rigging is fine nylon thread, and the turnbuckles as mentioned are brass. I think they are too one dimensional now, but was happy at the time. One learns, I think there is a way to make them look more robust, I will try doubling them up and applying a touch of glue to give some body next time I use them. As mentioned, I knew very little about the aircraft. I looked at the boxtop, the wheel covers appeared to be the same colour as the fuselage, so I painted them to match, and realize now the absurdity of wooden wheel covers! Again, as a part of a learning process it was a lot of fun, very satisfying with the decal work as it was a simple way to get an effect without having to risk painting and stripping an assembly.

The aircraft itself really grew on me during the build. I don't know if pretty is the right word, but there is certainly a robust elegance to the shape and form, I thank Blue Max for the effort, I think this was a highly enjoyable kit.

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