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Big Scale WWI fighter updated 6-20-13


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#1 Harry P.

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 08:31 AM

This is my under construction Albatros D.Va. The Albatros was a German WWI fighter plane, armed with twin Spandau machine guns that fired through the propeller. The guns were synchronized to only fire between the spinning propeller blades so that the pilot wouldn't shoot off his own propeller!

 

IMO one of the coolest looking WWI fighters of them all, partly because of the swoopy shape of the nosecone and fuselage (due to the inline engine rather than the more typical for the era air-cooled radial engine). I think there may be one or two of these things still in existence, but the photos below show a modern day clone (top) and a 3D computer rendering (bottom). As you can see, the markings on these planes were very colorful, and varied incredibly from one plane to the next. This was before the air force had any standardized color or marking schemes. Basically, every pilot in each jasta (squadron) was free to have his plane painted any way he wanted to, and some of the color schemes were really wild… you have to see them to believe them! These two are on the "subdued" side… you can imagine what some of the wilder ones looked like! Baron Manfred von Richtofen (Germany's top ace during WWI) flew an Albatros during part of his career, and his was painted all red… hence his nickname, the Red Baron.

 

albatros1_zps5f4d9003.jpg

 

 

This model is 1/16 scale, with a finished wingspan of 22 inches and a fuselage that's 18 inches long. At this scale you can pack a lot of detail into a model plane, and this kit definitely has it. The model is built pretty much just like the real thing… a wooden framework comprised of dozerns of spars and ribs that you assemble piece by piece, just like the real plane. The engine, the hardware, the landing gear and various other parts are all cast white metal. The model is meant to be built as a "ghost" version, with no covering and the framework exposed, but I decided to build it covered, as the real plane would have looked. That means that a ton of intricate internal detail will never be seen on the finished model, but oh well… at least I have photos to prove it's all in there!

 

engine-left_zpsca15272d.jpg

 

Above: The left side of the engine, a Mercedes water-cooled OHV 180 hp straight six, unusual for WWI-era planes, which usually used air-cooled radial engines. The radiator on the Albatros was mounted in the top wing, directly above and in front of the pilot... so if the radiator got shot out, the pilot got a nice scalding-hot shower! You can see the wooden framework of the fuselage. After I built the fuselage framework I stained it with oil-based Varathane stain/poly combination spray to give the wood a nice, mellow, "old" color. The engine consists of well over 100 pieces, and is very well detailed. All the parts are cast metal, and the finished engine is pretty hefty! In the photo above you see the intake side... that big squarish thing in the middle is the carb, at the rear you can see one of the twin magnetos (the engine has dual magnetos and two spark plugs per cylinder, one on each side). Directly behind the engine is the gas tank.

 

engine-right-2_zpsaf9c1de1.jpg

 

Above: The right side of the engine is the exhaust side, but at this point I haven't attached the exhaust manifold yet. Here you can see the other six spark plugs and the right-side magneto. That cylinder alongside the crankcase is an oil tank. You can also see the rear gun mounts (the unpainted white things on top of that bluish-green metal crossbar assembly)... guns have not been mounted yet. You can also see the mounting plates that the lower wings will bolt on to. BTW... this engine is the same engine as in the Monogram "Red Baron" show car! But in this case it's fully detailed, not the "blob" that comes in the Red Baron kit!

 

tail_zpsed853349.jpg

 

Above: Here you can see the internal structure of the tail. This is before the rear horizontal stabilizer and vertical rudder are installed. Every one of those strips of wood is an individual piece that you have to assemble one by one, just like the real thing.Those lengths of gray thread that are taped to the rear of the tail structure are the control cables for the stabilizer and rudder, and will be attached when those pieces are installed. They're just taped in place now so they don't get tangled up inside the fuselage.

 

front-end_zps4068dd64.jpg

 

Above: A general view of the front half of the fuselage. The large object directly behind the engine is the gas tank (painted with Testors Metalizer Steel), directly behind that are the twin ammo cans painted the same way (those curved arms are the feed tubes for the guns, which are not installed yet). And directly behind the ammo cans is the can that catches the spent shell casings (maybe they recycled back in 1917???  :lol: ). Also visible is the pilot's seat that I upholstered, and the scratchbuilt seatbelt harness made of strips of masking tap, wire for the hardware and carved styrene buckles. Strangely enough, with all the detail this kit has, there are no seatbelts included!  :blink:

 

The fuselage is sitting on a stand that I made of leftover scraps from various other laser-cut wooden models (the "sprue" part of the wooden parts sheets. No, I never throw anything away!). The stand comes in handy, because you need both hands for building!

 

Unlike most WWI-era planes, the Albatros' fuselage was not covered with fabric, but with thin plywood veneer. This gave the Albatros a very stiff and rigid fuselage. Since the model is meant to be built "see-through" style, no coverings for the fuselage or fabric for the wings and tail are included... so I went to the local woodworking store and got some 1/64 birch veneer. I cut the individual birch panels out (following the layout seen on my reference photos), and used CA to glue each panel into place. The veneer is thin enough to easily follow the curves of the fuselage without needing to wet it (as long as you remember to orient each panel so that the grain runs 90 degrees to the bend). Once I have all the birch panels in place, I will sand smooth, stain, and varnish the fuselage.

 

cockpit_zps79a7646d.jpg

 

And here's a pilot's eye view of the cockpit. As a frame of reference, the cockpit opening is just a bit under 1-3/4 inches across. You can fit a quarter onto the pilot's seat cushion.

 

Once I get the fuselage finished, it's on to the wings. They build up the same way as the fuselage... wooden framework, piece by piece. But unlike the fuselage, the wings are covered with fabric. Not sure yet what I will use... probably a tight-weave linen or cotton, but I'll cross that bridge when I get to it!



#2 Agent G

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 09:06 AM

Very, very nice!

 

What kit is this?

 

G



#3 Harry P.

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 09:12 AM

Very, very nice!

 

What kit is this?

 

G

 

It's from the same manufacturer that makes the stagecoach, doctor's buggy, Conestoga wagon and buckboard that I've posted. The land vehicles are "Model Trailways" and the planes are "Model Airways"... available at Model Expo (modelexpo-online.com).



#4 Sixx

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 09:39 AM

WOW, that's freekin cool man!!  Not into airplanes but, man, I dig the detail in it!!!



#5 cobraman

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 04:17 PM

That looks like a tough build. Kind of reminds me of the stick and tissue paper covered planes I built years ago except very,very detailed. Looks great so far.



#6 Harry P.

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 04:34 PM

That looks like a tough build. Kind of reminds me of the stick and tissue paper covered planes I built years ago except very,very detailed. Looks great so far.

 

It's like a stick-and-tissue paper model on steroids! According to the instruction manual, every part of the real plane is provided in scale (scale permitting, of course). I mean, obviously the engine doesn't really run, and the altimeter doesn't really have internal parts and really work and the guns don't really shoot tiny bullets, but you get the point... if it's on the real plane, it's included in the model, right down to individual turnbuckle slack adjusters on all of the control cables for the wing flaps!



#7 jeffs396

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 04:44 PM

Awesome build Harry!

 

That's something I can appreciate as an A&P mechanic. Super details and very realistic.

 

I can't build scale aircraft though...after 24 years of working on planes, I really don't like them all that much :lol:  



#8 Sixx

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Posted 23 March 2013 - 07:35 PM

I JUST LOOKED AT THIS AGAIN...WOW!!! That looks hard to do to me!!



#9 Harry P.

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 12:32 PM

No new pix, but I got a lot more birch panels in place on the fuselage today. What a tedious process! Making templates, cutting and fitting, re-cutting and re-fitting and tweaking each panel individually is a real pain, especially if you want nice, tight seams. The fitting of the panels is by far the hardest part of this project so far... it makes building the wooden fuselage "skeleton" seems like child's play by comparison! 



#10 cobraman

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 02:33 PM

Will it, does it have any removable panels ? Seems a shame to cover up all that beautiful detail.



#11 Harry P.

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Posted 24 March 2013 - 02:50 PM

Will it, does it have any removable panels ? Seems a shame to cover up all that beautiful detail.

 

The model is intended to be built as a "skeleton" with no coverings, but I decided to build it covered, like a real one. So yeah, all of that internal detail won't be seen, but that's the way I decided to do it.



#12 sjordan2

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 09:13 AM

Fuel tank on the forward bulkhead in front of the pilot? I guess that made for more thrilling movies. 



#13 Harry P.

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 10:19 AM

Fuel tank on the forward bulkhead in front of the pilot? I guess that made for more thrilling movies. 

 

Let's say that aviation technology in the early 20th century wasn't quite as advanced as it is today!  :lol:



#14 sjordan2

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 11:01 AM

 

Let's say that aviation technology in the early 20th century wasn't quite as advanced as it is today!  :lol:

 

Must have been quite exciting while executing the Plummet Maneuver with everything in front of you in flames.


Edited by sjordan2, 26 March 2013 - 11:01 AM.


#15 Agent G

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 12:04 PM

It was a trade off between safety and balance. Counterpoint to that is having the tank aft the cockpit and crushing the pilot in a crash landing.

 

This build is getting better and better. More sir!

 

G



#16 Harry P.

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 12:26 PM

It was a trade off between safety and balance. Counterpoint to that is having the tank aft the cockpit and crushing the pilot in a crash landing.

 

This build is getting better and better. More sir!

 

G

 

I'm in the process of covering the rest of the fuselage with birch panels. As you can imagine, it's a very slow and tedious process to fit each individual panel onto a surface that curves in two directions. More new photos once I have something interesting to show you guys...  ;)



#17 Ace-Garageguy

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 01:29 PM

Fuel tank on the forward bulkhead in front of the pilot? I guess that made for more thrilling movies. 

 

It was still common in WWII to have forward-fuselage mounted fuel tanks. The Spitfires had 'em...read Duel of Eagles for some graphic descriptions of the results of taking a round through one.

 

Beautiful model, beautiful build, :wub:  Harry.



#18 Harry P.

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Posted 26 March 2013 - 01:32 PM

Thanks, Bill.

 

More to come...  ;)



#19 Shardik

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 01:03 PM

 

Must have been quite exciting while executing the Plummet Maneuver with everything in front of you in flames.

That's O.K., you had the ammunition drums between you and the burning fuel tank :D  :o


Edited by Shardik, 30 March 2013 - 01:04 PM.


#20 Harry P.

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Posted 30 March 2013 - 01:55 PM

In a previous post I mentioned how the birch veneer that I'm covering the fuselage with was thin and flexible enough so that it followed the curves of the fuselage without wetting it. Well, that's because I started at the cockpit area, where the radiuses (radii?) of the fuselage are the largest. As you work back towards the tail, the fuselage tapers and the radiuses get tighter and tighter (hey... '60s song flashback!...  :lol: )... anyway, my veneer panels were cracking as I tried to force them around these tighter curves. So I had to start "preshaping" the veneer by wetting it on one side and letting it dry, which gave it a permanent curl. Then I could lay out and cut the panels and use that permanent curl to my advantage.

 

However... once I got to the tail itself we have a whole new set of problems. Some of the individual panels will have to curve in two directions (compound curve). So the only way I would be able to make the panels fit is to soak them, clamp them in place wet and let them dry in place... then when dry, remove them and actually glue them back in place. A slow, tedious and meticulous process for sure. Here's where I'm at today...

 

9_zps57f7198f.jpg

 

It's probably too hard to see in the photo, but the base of the panels that cover the tail flare out at the bottom in one direction and at the same time curve gently from front to back to follow the curve of the top of the horizontal stabilizer. Bending wood to curve in two directions at the same time is no easy task!  :lol:

 

I'm trying to keep the joints between panels as tight as I can, but it's very hard to do. The good thing is, once the panels are stained, they will be quite a bit darker and the dark joint lines will be less noticeable. Plus the color scheme will take your attention away from the panel seams, too... so I'm pretty sure things will look good in the end.