Blue Max's 1/48 LVG C.VI
Model, Text and Photos by: Steven Perry
The LVG company spent the first part of the war building the designs of others under license. They were the most prolific builder of aircraft in wartime Germany. Herr Muller, the founder, succeeded in hiring away the designer of the DFW C.V, and began to produce planes of their own design. The LVG C.VI was designed in late 1917. It was an evolutionary development of the DFW C.V & LVG C.V observation machines. Kind of an ultimate C class design, it included improvements and simplifications learned from the previous designs. Two hundred or so were in service at the end of the war. Many more were in storage. The design served on post Armistice and into the 1920s in the service of the German Police and many central European air forces.
The Blue Max LVG C.VI has 20, (I'm counting from the exploxed view here), injection molded parts in Blue Max's delightful, easily worked styrene. There are 16 white metal parts and the usual extruded strut material. There are decal options for two machines, Checkerboard 12 and 1510/18 . Both late 1918 machines. The decal sheet includes strut logos which is a nice touch.
Let me make a point about Blue Max kits. They are for the builder as opposed to the assembler. Assembling and building are two variations of our hobby, both valid, fun and capable of yielding contest quality models. So if assembly of a detailed kit with minimal cleanup and parts prep is your cup of tea, you won't particularly enjoy a Blue Max kit. On the other hand, if you enjoy using a kit as a starting point and then detailing it to your hearts content, Blue Max kits are some of the best starting blocks in the business.
The Blue Max LVG C.VI is a fine kit. Mr. Gannon has gotten the art of producing limited run injection molded kits down pat. The flash was minimal and except for the large limited run gates, the plastic parts only required a little dressing around the edges. The white metal parts are better than average and took a little dressing with a file to clean up. The interior sidewall structure is molded in and excellently done. This is good kit engineering as it provides a nice basis for serious detailing. Mr. Gannon doesn't waste effort trying to reproduce details beyond the ability of his technology, rather, he does an excellent job of reproducing those details suited to his technology. I would rather have a kit that leaves out some details and concentrates on what can be done well than pay for a kit with loads of details that are better replaced with scratched or aftermarket parts anyway. Mr. Gannon is making excellent use of his limited run technology and producing a line of kits that build up into beautiful models.
I began construction in the fuselage interior and engine. The engine was much too nice to hide behind the molded shroud and since these were frequently removed in operation, I wacked it off and dressed the new edges. Take care as the then remaining plastic at the rear gets pretty small at one point.
The engine was pretty nice OOB. All I added was spark plugs, wires and plug wire conduit. The magneto area at the rear of the engine is pretty well invisible when it all goes together so I didn't add any detail here. Painting was straightforward. Black cylinders, steel valve train, aluminum intakes, rust exhaust, red/brown conduit, off white plugs, gray crankcase. It did take a little dremeling in the nose and on the crankcase to get it to fit right. This is done where it cant be seen and the soft B-M plastic makes it easy.
Once I had a good fit in the engine compartment, I painted the interior a base coat of wood and aluminum where the cowl pieces were. A few darker brown watercolor pencil marks blended with a moist swab gave it a plywood look. The structural members were painted a light wood color.
Next, I made my first blunder and began fitting and attaching the white metal bulkhead pieces into the right side of the fuselage shell. Don't do this. Use the left half. The side wall instrument panel on the left side is notched and fits over the former, so it is better to assemble the formers in the left shell.
I ended up discarding the kit piece which needs extensive thinning and scratching the panel from card and detailing it with pieces of strip, rod and wire to match the original piece. I used a darker color wood decal to cover the panel.
I used several types of wood decal material, both homemade and commercial as well as paint and watercolor pencil techniques on the fuselage interior. I wanted several types of wood showing. When all the formers were fitted and painted/decalled/ colored, I made a 5 thou card floor and covered it with homemade ply decal material. It slipped nicely under the formers and covered the interior bottom seam.
With all the interior wood done, I mixed up some tinted Future. Yellow and red and a touch of brown made the redish orange varnish color I saw on the Shuttleworth photos. I sprayed several coats of this tinted Future on the interior until I built up the effect I wanted. This worked real well over all the different wood I had used in the interior. The differences showed, but only under a uniform varnish tint. I was pleased with the effect.
The photos of the interior I have show that the rear cockpit was closed off with a solid bulkhead in back, so I pitched the kit parts and scratched a bulkhead and fold down seat. The pilot's seat sits on the fuel tank, so I scratched one of these out of a plug of styrene which was then wrapped with 5 thou card that overlapped the edges a hair. Rod & strip made the hold down straps and filler neck.
The Shuttleworth pics showed a ply seat back that had holes drilled in it like a Nieuport. I replaced the kit seat back with a Foto-Etch back that had holes. I used ply decal for the seat bottom. It was only after it was installed that I found a photo of the front office which showed a perforated seat bottom. Oh Well.
Seat belts were made from PE that I found in the fiddly bits box. I attached them with Grandt Line bolts through the bulkheads. Heel runners for the rudder bar were made from card and various sidewall details scratched from whatever was handy.
At this point I had to stop on the fuselage until my camera got out of the shop, so I began lozenging the wings and horizontal tailplane. I joined the upper wing panels to the metal center section with steel pins broken off the end of a piece of thin music wire. A note about pinning wings. It is not necessary for the pins to be very long in order to greatly increase the strength of the joint. 1/16th to 1/8th inch into each side, so the overall length of the pin is less than 1/4". The thickness of the wing determines the diameter. Take care with the soft BM plastic that you don't raise a bump on the top or bottom surface by drilling too close to the surface.
I used Americal/Gryphon 5 color lozenge for the top surfaces and SuperScale 5 color on the botton surfaces. The rib tapes I made by painting a piece of clear decal material, coating it with airbrushed Micro Scale Clear Decal film and sliced in strips. I painted the tapes a light blue that could pass for underside turquoise. Close examination of color photos of the Shuttleworth machine revealed that the tapes were most probably light blue on top and bottom. There was clearly a lozenge material spanwise tape running down the leading edga, around the tip and back the trailing edge. There was a blue tape on the Shuttleworth machine that ran spanwise along the wing side of the aileron cut out.
After this was all finished, the inevitable reference showed up too late. I received a photo of an original LVG stabilizer. The tapes were plain linen doped over the lozenge. They took on a green/blue hue from the underlying loz. These would have photographed to a nearly identical gray shade as light blue on the ortho film of the day. Personally I am convinced many of the "blue" tapes are really plain linen. The effect can be duplicated by spraying a CDL color on clear decal material. The trick is to spray a very light translucent coat, so when you cut the tapes and apply them over the lozenge, the loz colors will show through a little. I intend to do a 1/72 LVG on my to do list this way.
At this point the fuselage was ready to close up and now it's time to tell you about one of the dumbest stunts I have ever pulled. I was going over to my parents house and I wanted to bring the fuselage and show my Stepfather the interior details before I closed it up. I grabbed a plastic bag and slid the fuselage down into it nose first. Only the bag I grabbed was one I had cut the botton off of for some forgotten reason. Yup, the fuselage just slid right down through the bag come tube and augered straight into the floor. Repeat several of the above paragraphs. The repairs went well, but this is a step I heartily recommend omitting. Doh!
I closed up the fuselage and in the process of dressing the seam, I obliterated all surface detail on the bottom. Thats OK because it is easily replaced. After lightly re-scribing all panel lines, I covered the fuselage with individual panels of homemade ply decal.
I make my ply decals by spraying a light wood base coat on clear decal material. I use acryl/Future mix paints. When this is dry, I dry brush/scrub a darker brown over the material to make the "grain". I usually use thined enamel for this. A final coat of sprayed Clear Decal Film from MicroScale finishes the sheet.
It isn't necessary to cut the panels exactly, just the general shape and slightly larger. Line up one corner of the decal piece with a corner of a panel. Blot it down with a swab and then use a sharp #11 blade to trim the two overlapping edges. Cut with the flat of the blade edge, not the point. Start at the nose and work back. Go ahead and cover over louvers and hatches. Use Micro Sol or the like to get it to sucker down as well as it can. You go back and carefully trim around these details when the decal dried and they pop right off. A small drop of Future will seal the edges around the detail.
A light coat of Future will seal the decals when you have the whole thing covered and trimmed. Do this ASAP as the decals un-sealed are less than robust. Once the sealing coat is good and dry, very carefully scribe each panel line with a sharp blade. Then run a line of watercolor or water soluble ink in each line with a fine brush. Keep a moist swab or three handy to mop up spooges. You end up darkening the panel lines and simulating the glue lines. Give the whole thing a few coats of tinted Future. I prefer to spray rather than brush.
One thing I have religiously messed up on German models is the white rudder. Caught in a spasm of ambition, I drilled a #80 hole in the LE of the rudder where a hinge would be and inserted a length of 28 ga brass wire, This gave me a nice handle and I was able to spray the piece without messing it up. Later I clipped the wire close and drilled a coresponding hole in the TE of the fin. Made attachment and posing of the rudder easier too.
The fit of the horizontal tailplanes was less than ideal. Its not that it didn't fit, it was just hard to get the three pieces aligned. I did this by attaching the right and left stab pieces to the single piece elevator with brass wire pins. I tacked it all together with a tiny drop of CA on each wire. This gave joints that could be gently positioned. I had to trim a little off the root edges of the stabs in order for the assembly to fit the back of the fuselage. Here again the workable B-M plastic made this easy. I did this all with the stab, elevator and fuselage all covered in decal. You cant glue to decal because the joint is only as strong as the decal to plastic bond. You must trim away some of the decal where the pieces join so you get a plastic to plastic joint. I use CA and have never done this with plastic glue, but I expect the solvents would do the adjoining decal material no good. The fin and sub-fin were attached in the same way.
The bottom wing attachment caused me some concern. This proved justified as I then proceeded to shift into "I" for Idiot and mash the accelerator. I decided that a brass rod running through the fuselage and into each wing about 1/8 - 1/4 inch would be sufficient to strengthen the joint and keep the wings from drooping. All goes well as I cut off the molded pins and dress the wing roots. The molded dimples on the fuselage were just visible under the ply decal covering. Here's where I got stupid. I used the dimples. NEVER do this. You are human and you did not get the fuselage PERFECTLY aligned when you closed it and that assumes you believe the dimples were exactly right in the first place. Grab the dividers and pick the points you will drill the holes so that they are exaxtly even and dead opposite one another. It ain't rocket science....maybe thats why NASA never recruited me .
So, when I stuck the brass rod through the two holes it was pure D gollywampus. One hole so off that when the wing panel was in the correct location, only half the hole was covered. "Not fine", to use one of my Wife's favorite sayings. I was pretty jerked at myself at this point. No more room to drill another hole(s). I trimmed a little decal material and filled the holes in the wings and fuselage with thick CA and butt glued the wings to the fuselage. A tiny drop of kicker right wgere the filled holes were caused it to harden into a more or less single plug on each joint. Not exactly pinned, but stronger than a straight slab butt join. I got away with it but I don't recommend the technique.
The struts needed to be cut to length and shaped. I usually make them out of bamboo, but this time I decided to use the strut material provided in the kit. First I cut the pieces to length as shown on the instructions. Then I drilled a #80 hole in the ends of each piece. I dipped brass wire in CA and inserted a small piece in each end. I left them long to aid in handling during shaping and painting.
I wanted to represent the metal sheathing on the ends of the struts. After shaping them with knife and sanding stick, I painted them my mix of German gray/green. The brass pins were handy to stick in a lump of Blue Tack for spraying. I scribed the edge of the metal ends on each side of the strut. This made painting the ends easy as it acted as a guide to keep the metalic paint where I wanted it on the ends. I recommend you use a darker metallic shade than plain steel as this doesn't contrast well with the gray/green struts. Finally I added the logo decals to each side of the strut. I made up a little Tee piece of rod where the length of the cross piece was exactly the length from the end of the strut to the decal. This ensured they were all set at the correct height up the struts. A coat of Future finished them off.
The metal cabane struts were a challenge, so I pinned them through the side and into the fuselage notches where they sat. This made a very strong joint. The thin metal is very maleable and you are constantly having to straighten it out as you work with it. Just be patient .
To mount the top wing, I trimmed the wires in the strut ends to less than 1/16". Then I drilled into the strut dimples, (Locations checked out with dividers), and glued each mainplane in place. The wire pin allowed some adjustment. The locations were drilled in the bottom of the upper wing, (I only drilled through on two). The top wing was fitted on the struts with the pins in all the holes. Alignment checks and tiny drops of CA to tack it all in place. Some fiddling and adjustment, but it went on well. The cabanes were either a tad short or I had mounted the rear parts a bit low. Anyway, I had to cut a tiny cross section of strut material and insert it into the gap between the back of the strut and the top wing.
The U/C is all white metal. I wrapped the strut/axle joints with copper wire painted tanish brown to represent the bungee cords that acted as shock absorbers. Again locating the mounting holes with dividers, I drilled them and attached the gear. Once again the white metal posed bending problems. Care and patience work best here.
I rigged the model with heat stretched sprue pre-painted with Metalizer titanium/steel mix. I attach point to point and tighten with a heated needle. The tightening can be used to aid in final alignment. HSP is quite strong and definitely structural. The whole cellule is noticable stronger and more rigid after it is rigged. I made my turnbuckles with a small blob of Acrylic gel painted brass in the expected locations.
The guns are from the Toms Modelworks PE set. These are very detailed and each had many tiny pieces. Very fiddly and only recommended for confirmed brass benders. The white metal guns in the kit can be cleaned, worked on a little and well painted for much less effort. I just like fiddling with brass.
I felt this kit was an outstanding example of it's type. As I mentioned before it is a kit for those who enjoy the challenges and rewards of the building process. I thoroughly enjoyed this project and while there were some minor problems with the kit, most of the obstacles were self created (and richly deserved). I can recommend this kit to anyone who enjoys a good build. My sincere thanks to Roll Models for this example and the opportunity to enjoy it.
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