Roden's 1/72 Fokker D.VII (Late)

Model, Text & Photos by: Steven Perry

 

The Fokker D.VII entered service in the spring of 1918 after winning the fighter competition held in January of that year. Originally powered by the Mercedes 160 hp engine, the machine came into it's own with the installation of the 185 hp BMW engine. Teething problems included overheating and ignition of incendary ammunition. Increased louvers reduced the heat buildup and the German command banned the use if incendary ammo until the problem was resolved.

The D.VII served with front line Jastas until the Armastice. The D.VII was the only type specifically mentioned in the Treaty of Versailles. As the war ended, Anthony Fokker loaded up a train with tooling, supplies and a few airframes and fled to Holland. There he continued to produce aircraft for the Dutch as well as for sale abroad.

The Soviet scheme provided in the kit is representative of the group of 50 D.VIIs and 3 C.1s, (a 2 seat version of the D.VII), purchased by the Soviets. The Soviets took delivery of the first group of 25 in 1922.  The D.VII was used along with other foregin designs until replaed by Soviet designs.

Kit Color & Marking Schemes
The Roden Fokker D.VIIF Late version kit has a wide choice of paint schemes and markings. Georing's white ship, a Ukranian version, a Dutch machine, a Lithuanian fighter and a Soviet aircraft. I chose the Soviet version due to the simple paint job and that I have a friend who collects Russian Civil War era models.

Parts Cleanup
The Roden Fokker D.VII kits require considerable cleaning up. Fortunately the fine detail is there and with a few basic modeling tools and skills it is easily cleaned up. It is reminiscent of a limited run kit. Some rather thick gates, (relative to the part size), and some flash. Now this is not a bad thing. I find that kits like this where there is very fine detail and accurate parts inside the rough edges turn out better because you are forced to examine and refine the edges of nearly every surface. My poor old eyes too often miss the nearly but not completely invisible mold lines on the more recent injected styrene kits. Takes longer for sure and you have to exercise those old "basic modeling skills", but the model you get will be worth the effort.

During the parts cleanup is the best time to deal with the upper wing. It has an upward bow and should be bent with the fingers until the top surface is perfectly flat across the span. The soft plastic bends very easily and will hold the new shape. Start in the middle and gently work out the bow toward each tip. When you get the top surface flat, you will have a nice representation of this oft-missed Fokker characteristic.

Before you attempt to remove any parts from the sprues, please note that the plastic is different from many other styrenes in that it makes the long thin parts easily broken. Any cut, whether nippers or blade, (a saw is impractical on these small parts), tends to push the plastic apart and this stresses the part that is surrounded by sprue and attached at two or more other points. Long thin parts are incredibly easy to break. Best to carefully cut the sprue so the part, its gates and small bits of sprue are seperated. Then carefully cut each gate as close as you are able to the part. Use extreme care to reduce the stress on the part when the gates are cut. My score? A Spandau, an N strut, and the valve train. So far. That's what they make glue for and that's why they call us Modelers.

Part Photo Etched Brass Detail Set
Part makes an Early D.VII and a Late D.VII detail set. They each consist of a large fret, common to both, and a small fret containing the nose panels and radiator front. These are unique to either the Early or the Late set.

At first glance one is overwhelmed with the quantity of tiny and delicate parts.  There is a large fold-up fuselage frame, abundant interior details, many consisting of several PE parts, as well as a multitude of two part control horns, Spandau jackets and the traditional Part spoked wheels. A brass bender's delight to be sure.

I will discuss the fuselage interior assembly here and the remaining photo ethched parts as their use arises in the assembly.

The frets and the rather tiny instructions need to be studied hard and decisions made as to what is best prepainted on the frets. Spending some time and making notes at this point will pay off in assembly and finishing later.

I followed the sequence of assembly shown on the instructions and found it well thought out and the parts fit well. Part has taken the approach of laminating  several flat pieces to form a 3 dimensional part. For example, there are 5 tiny pieces used to make the air pump. The builder may decide to do the same out of 3 pieces of sprue. On an instrument bezel and the compass mount, the etching didn't go through. I used bezels from the spares box and the kit compass piece.

Carefully note the sketches. For example, they show the seatbelts attached to the seat and extendung out straight. Do it exactly this way. When you get to mounting the seat, the belt ends can be bent, trimmed and slipped into the brackets on the seat mount and cross member behind the seat.

The fabric panel behind the seat has nice stitching detail on the edge. Since my example is being built as a machine originally covered with plain linen, I painted the panel CDL, (clear doped linen). Then I lightly and carefully rubbed a black colored pencil over the stitching detail to color and accent them.

I found that making the long straight 90 degree bends required to fold many parts is greatly facilitated by the use of flat nose pliers. These can be used as a mini sheet metal brake. Care is needed to handle and bend the delicate parts. Just work slowly and carefully.

The fuselage frame is very delicate. Fold each side down from the top frame. Leave the bottom frame hanging straight down from the side frame it is attached to. I stiffened the structure before adding the seat and instrument panel sub-assemblies. The top frame tapers behind the cockpit. I joined the top and side frames together along the top longerons back as far as the frames go. I also bent and attached the portion of the bottom frame forward of the wing cutout. This firmed up the structure and facilitated slipping the seat and instrument panel assemblies into place from the bottom. Be sure to bend the 4 tabs over to support the fabric panel piece behind the seat. Finally bend the bottom frame and attach it to the opposite bottom longeron. I prefer CA glue when working with brass. White glue is often useful in sticking on little levers and such.

Taken together the Roden Fokker D.VII kit and the PART detail set make a 1/72 version of an old Eduard kit with the added plus of better surface detail. If you enjoy the old Eduard kits, then Roden/PART combos will delight and challenge you.

Engine
The Roden D.VII kits come with both the Mercedes and the BMW engines. They are very nicely detailed and simple assembly and painting will yield an engine better than most aftermarket examples. The D.VII molds tend to short mold three or four of the valve springs on the valve train piece. This piece also tends to break on removal from the sprue. This is easily repaired and the missing springs can be replaced by thin rod or heat stretched sprue.

Assembling the Fuselage Halves
I found the fit of the fuselage shells around the interior frame and engine assemblies to be unsatisfactory. The molded in interior detail was filed and sanded off the shells and trial fitting showed that some extra thinning was

required at the rear cockpit bulkhead. Even this was insufficient. In order to get the halves to fit, it was necessary to nip a few of the cross members and re-attach them so as to narrow the frame.

The engine was placed between the frame sides and with the fuselage halves pinched together and the engine position adjusted. When it was right, the engine was tacked to the frame sides with CA. When removed, a piece of scrap rod was inserted through the frame under the rear of the engine to support it in the correct position.

Before finally gluing the fuselage halves around the interior structure, the engine panel detail was sanded off and the photo etched panels installed.

The joining of the fuselage halves is facilitated by a gentle rubbing of the shells mating edges on a flat sanding stick. Start at the tail and join the pieces precisely. Due to the pinching and squeezing necessary to join the halves I used CA and kicker. Not the prettiest fit, but the applcation of a little elbow grease and abrasives will make the seam line disappear.

The radiator fit is pretty bad and required some whittling on the back of the piece and the front of the engine as well as plenty of fill and careful sanding. Thin styrene strips along the sides of the radiator were needed to fill the gap. The PE grill pieces required the grill area to be scraped out in order to receive them. On the Dutch built post 1918 Soviet version I am building, I used the two grill pieces and filled the area betwen them with 5 thou card.

The top fuselage panel with the gun mounts and ammo chutes also required trimming, sanding and filling to fit. The gun mount/ammo chute moldings need to be trimmed in the middle so the guns will sit low enough.

Once assembled and sanded, the fuselage is a very nice piece. The PART PE set required a lot of extra work to fit and a fairly wide range of basic modeling skills were employed to bring it to the ready to paint stage. It's a decided challenge, but the result is the best 1/72 Fokker D.VII fuselage available to date and worth the effort.

Fitting the Lower Wing
The one really serious flaw in the Roden D.VII kit is the poor fit of the lower wing to the fuselage. The gap in the wing is too narrow for the width of the fuslage that fits into it. My approach to this problem is to widen the gap.

I matched up the wing and fuselage to get an idea how much material needs to be removed from each wing root. The thick airfoil of the Fokker wing protrudes in front of and behind the two molded in spar pieces in the center section. I filed this area of the wing roots on either side of the spars until they fit the fuselage width. Then I carved and scraped the material in between the spars to the same degree.

The Fokker had a box spar center section where the area between the spars was boxed in with ply for strength. A piece of plasticard attached over the spar moldings and trimmed to permit the fuselage sides to slide into place
is a good idea as this portion of the interior is visible through the cockpit. Paint the interior of the lower wing center section your version of varnished ply before gluing the wing in place.

Control Surfaces
I am a believer in posing control surfces and the unusual styrene the kit is molded in is blessedly easy to cut with a sharp #11 blade. Seperating the control surfaces ruins the nicely molded hinge lines. A good modeling buddy from Argentina, Diego Fernetti, showed me an excellent solution.

After seperating the surfaces and dressing the edges, (be sure to remove the molded on control horns as the PART PE set provides brass ones). Lay out the surfaces on a flat surface and line up the main pieces exactly, then carefully mark the hinge positions on each side of the hinge lines.

Next take a razor saw and carefully notch the edge at each hinge mark. The notch need be no deeper than the hinge detail it obliterates. Now cut a supply of 1/4" squares from plasticard the same thickness as the notches.

CA a square of card into each notch on the main surfaces. The card should protrude above the top and below the bottom of the main surface equally. When these set, carefully trim each card so what is left protruding from the
rear fits exactly into the coresponding notch in the mating control surface. Leave the excess above and below in place for the moment.

Now CA the control surfaces in their posed positions. When set, you trim the excess card above and below the surfaces. Trimming & sanding the card hinge flush with all the surfaces leaves you with a fair representation of an
actuated hinge, not to mention an incredibly strong joint.

U/C Wing
The under carriage wing enclosing the spreader bar is too short according to the Ian Stair plans published in Datafile #9. Fortunately the UC legs are in the correct position and one need only nip the axles, add a slab of card to each end, trim and drill holes for new axle pins made from brass or styrene rod.

Painting
With the fuselage assembled, the lower wing and horizontal stabilizer assembly attached, the control surfaces posed and the short U/C wing corrected the model is ready to paint.

I usually use the same paint for primer as for final finish. If an imperfection doesn't show up under a coat of the final paint, it won't show under two. In the case of the Soviet version this color will be olive drab. I use artists acrylics thinned with Future and sometimes Windex. For the olive drab, I took some PC-10 and added green and then lightened it a tad with yellow. Thats what I like about mixing my own colors, a dash of this and a splash of that, see what it looks like and adjust to taste.

The cockpit, engine and grill need to be masked before painting. I use Parafilm for this purpose as it is easy to trim, doesn't stick and most importantly I get better results with it than masking tapes.

After the final coat is applied and fully dried I then coat the model with Future floor polish. This magic formula is simply clear acrylic. The smooth gloss finish facilitates two things. First it gives the best possible surface on which to apply decals. (Don't use a setting solution that smells like vinegar on Future. All others are OK) The second thing it does is to seal the surface details. This is necessary prior to a wash that will bring them out.

Everywhere I want a fine black line, I scribe the Future covered surface with the point of a new #11 blade. Bear in mind the previous sentence began with the word Everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Take great care in scribing
panel lines, around inspection hatches, hinges, louvers and the like. Any stray marks with the blade will hold wash and be instantly visible. A little gentle sanding and a bit of Future on a small brush can repair most errant scratches. Inside the louvers can be scraped out so as to hold more wash.

I use india ink to define the panel lines. With a very fine pointed brush I apply the ink to the scribed lines and then swab it away with barely damp Q-tips or a barely damp cotton cloth. India ink is very concentrated and when it is being swabbed it seems to grow and make a serious mess. Not to worry. India ink is completely water soluble and will not stick to the glossy Futured surface. When all the ink is swabbed away, (you gonna use a heap of Q-Tips or cloth because whatever you wipe off can be wiped back on. You must use a clean portion of swab or rag each wipe), there will remain fine black lines wherever you scribed through the Future surface. A final light spray of Future will seal the lines.

After the decals are applied and also sealed with a light spray of Future, an acrylic flat coat is applied. WWI aircraft were generally pretty glossy due to the doped surfaces. Pure crystal gloss like Future is a bit much and especially so in 1/72 scale. I mix a semi gloss by dilutung the flat with Future. The degree is determined by the subject.

Final Assembly
The final asembly consists of mounting the top wing and undercarriage. The best way to mount the wing is to glue the N struts in place on the lower wings. Refer to scale drawings to get the angle right for correct stagger and incidence. Careful dry fitting of the top wing  should confirm an acceptable stagger and incidence. Take care because the N struts are fragile and the solid top wing is relatively heavy.

When the top wing has been glued and fully set, the cabaines were dry fitted and attached. Care needs to be exercised not to force the top wing off center during the process.

Undercarriage attachment is pretty standard, but again care needs to be taken as the struts are fragile

The Part tail skid is laminated from 3 pieces and has excellent surface detail. Its fiddly to assemble, but a definite inprovement on the kit piece.

Final Finishing.
All thats left are the little parts you forgot and the touchups you've been meaning to do.

The Fokker D.VII has very little rigging. Control wires and horns plus the U/C bracing and aileron wires coming up from the cockpit. The Part footsteps and hand holds are very tiny and are as easy to knock off as they are hard to attach, but they do add to the appearance.

I gave the whole model a light overspray of acrylic flat from Micro-Scale. Just enough to tone down the Future the model had been sealed with. I went back over the prop with a couple of coats of straight Future to give it a varnished gloss.

Shipping
The whole purpose behind the drab Soviet color scheme is that I have a friend living several states away who collects models of Russian Civil War aircraft and this model was built for him.

Thoughts of entrusting your creations to the tender mercy of the U.S. Maul sends many modelers into fits of shudders. I've worked out a way to pack a model and ship it without damage. I have sent models intact from Florida to Australia, so the method is well proven.

I include these instructions because the ability to mail a model safely anywhere opens up all kinds of possibilities. There are many people out there who will pay well for nicely built models, there are contests all over the world and I can attest that it is a blast to have one of your models compete half way around the world in a contest put on by an internet buddy's local club.

My packing method is based on several principles. First is that mass is bad. When a parcel is handled during shipping it is moved and stopped abruptly as in being tossed into a bin. Whatever you use to support the model has mass and that is affected by the handling just described. The less mass that moves the less force to dissipate when it suddenly stops. Lighter packing is better. Not to mention cheaper to mail.

Second is that whatever supports the model must do so in a manner so that any momentum from the model's mass is absorbed in the packing and not the model. Such forces need to be spread out over the maximum area.

Third is that whatever shock the box receives is absorbed by the packing and not transmitted to the model.

Finally the one place in any solid where all outside forces are minimized is the geometric center.

The following method satisfies all the above requirements.

The idea is a box wthin a box. The inner box must be very light. I use the clear plastic food containers they sell deserts and deli items in at the local supermarket. These are very light and sufficiently strong. The semi-disposable food containers are a tad heavier. Regular tupperware is propably as heavy as you want to go.

The outter box should be a very stout cardboard box that provides at least 4" space around the inner box.

The packing material is Polyester fiber fill. This is available at any fabric store and is used to stuff plush animals and the like.

I pack the model in a nest of fiber fill in the inner box. The inner box needs to be as close to  a cube as possibe with at least an inch of space around the model when closed. The model resting in the nest of fiber is covered with more fiber and the box closed. The idea is to slightly compress the fiber around the model so the model will not move, but of course not so tightly as to crush the model. I tape the inner box shut.

The inner box is then packed in another nest of fiber fill inside the outter box. This is then covered with more fiber and the box is closed compressing the fiber around the inner box, imobilizing it in the center of the outter box just as the model is imobilized in the inner box.

All that's left is to tape up the outer box, slap an address on that puppy and send it on it's way.

This will work on most 1/72 models and many 1/48 ones. It is not recommended if the model has a lot of cast metal parts or is otherwise heavy. Rigging that is out in the open and antenna posts & wires on WWII plans requires care when packing the model in the inner box.

Conclusions
This kit has some very great plusses in the detail that Roden has achieved. The multitude of markings included in the kit are generous and well done. There are a few minor problems with the molding, but the big minus is the

lack of fit with the fuselage and lower wing. This in my opinion is sufficient to recommend this kit only to experienced modelers.

It is fair to say that this kit, and especially in combination with the Part detail set, requires more work than the average WWI scout. It is also fair to say that the result is worth the work. If you want a reasonably acurate 1/72 scale D.VII you will still have to work to get it, but the Roden kit yields an excellent D.VII and will provide a handsome reward for the effort.
 

References Used
Red Stars 3

Datafile #9

Profile Publications # 25

Squadron Signal Fokker D.VII in Action

The Fokker Dr.1 and D.VII in World War I by Heinz Nowarra

 


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