Part 1 – History
The Fokker Eindecker is the classic prototype of the single-seat, purpose-built fighter aircraft. Probably everyone knows the basic story, which is simplified and almost mythical in content. The French aviator Roland Garros had deflector plates bolted to the back side of the prop on his Morane-Saulnier monoplane and began shooting up German observation craft in 1915. This drove the German High Command nuts and they were at a loss about how to deal with this. Or so the story goes. It appears that the bullets striking the deflector plates on Garros’ prop knocked it loose enough to kill the engine somehow and he had to put down behind German lines. The Germans asked Anthony Fokker to come up with an answer and he quickly whipped out a synchronizing mechanism, fitted it to a Parabellum LMG-14 machine gun on his Fokker A-II observation craft and, voilâ, the first fighter was born.
Not really. The outlines are correct, but Garros was not the only crazy French pilot to slap deflector plates on his prop. The synchronizing mechanism had already been developed by someone else, but it was Fokker who perfected it and fitted it to his existing airplanes. The ‘eindeckers’ – single wing – planes did, in fact, become the first effective purpose-built fighters, meaning they were created and manufactured with the express purpose of shooting down other aircraft, primarily observation and artillery direction machines flying over the lines. Some pilots of other aircraft had guns mounted on the top wing of the biplanes to shoot over the propeller, but these were make-do solutions and not very effective. The Eindeckers were fairly maneuverable for the time, and with their forward-firing machine guns, very deadly, creating what came to be known as the “Fokker Scourge” which began in June of 1915 and ended around March of 1916 with the arrival of more maneuverable and deadly airplanes from the Allies.
Until now, the best Eindecker scale model kits in either 1:72 or 1:48 scales have been those from Eduard. Battle Axe produced a 1:32 scale Eindecker but it is regarded by many as overpriced and of low quality, especially in comparison with Eduard, and now with Wingnut Wings. The Wingnut Wings Eindecker has been on their “to be released” list for some time and finally hit the streets in October of this year. For those waiting for the definitive large-scale Eindeckers, the wait is now over.
Wingnut Wings offers both the early and late versions of the Eindecker IIs and IIIs. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to tell from photographs whether a given Eindecker is a II or a III, but there are some differences. For the Eindecker III Late, the kit under review here, there are a couple of surprise markings: one an Austro-Hungarian Navy plane with painted cowl and undersides in light blue, and, Manfred von Richtofen’s Eindecker, which he managed to crack up when a novice single-seater pilot. As to colors, it appears that, contrary to popular belief, no Eindeckers left the Fokker works in clear doped linen, but were painted a shade variously described as gray green or a kind of olive drab. Wingnut specifies Tamiya XF-22 “Fokker gray” for the fabric color on the German planes and a deep green XF-67 for the Austro-Hungarian Eindeckers. I chose to build marking “D”, the plane in which Josef Jacobs scored his first of 48 victories. Jacobs not only survived the Great War, but left Germany when the Nazis came to power and lived in Holland until the second war was over. He died in 1978, age 84.
As usual, with Wingnut Wings kits, I began by building the engine, in this case an Oberusel 100 hp rotary. Wingnut Wings has you cut off the spark plugs that protrude from the side of the cylinders, leaving those around the rear sides in place. Although the fit is very good between the engine (cylinder) halves, there is a seam that will be impossible to remove. Well, perhaps not impossible for someone with AMS, but nothing I cared to tackle. It doesn’t show up very much, anyway. I built it as per instructions and added 0.006” stainless wire for the plug ignition wires and painted the ‘plugs’ white for visibility.
The cockpit floor was plywood, so I used Tamiya desert yellow covered with oils paint, most of that removed with a stiff, square brush to create some wood grain effect. When that was dry, I covered it with Tamiya clear orange to get a more ‘golden’ plywood effect.
I cleaned and attached the interior framing to a small box with Blu-Tack and shot the recommended Tamiya XF-76 Gray Green (IJN) on the parts. This color is recommended for most metal parts, with only a few being painted black, on the airplane. It is similar to RLM02, which could be used instead. Liking Tamiya paints, I went with Wingnut Wings’ recommendations.
There are small holes cast in small gussets at the intersections of the internal framing members. A very nice touch. This make rigging the internal bracing wires very much easier than without. Except for that EZ Line. Should be called Not-So-Easy Line. I like that it is stretchy, doesn’t sag, and is hard to break once in place, but getting it in place is the hard part. As I noted in the FE.2b review article, the stuff is hard to work with – very limp. Doesn’t cooperate when you try to get it into a small hole. The end sometimes curls after being dipped in CA, which makes it more difficult to place. Anyway, some like it. I don’t, except for long runs of control wires, perhaps, or antennas. Anyway, I used it for the internal bracing wires, with a small tube segment cut from fly tying midge tubing (Thanks to Larry Meidinger for this.) as a “turnbuckle”.
I managed to break both of the bottom seat supports while removing them from the sprue. They are tiny and fragile (at least to my clumsy fingers) and I had to substitute supports from Evergreen rod styrene. I recommend that the small parts be removed with a small razor saw rather than be cut or clipped. Safer that way. About this time my renegade tweezers zinged the control column grips across the room somewhere and I found them only after I had made a replacement and had painted and glued it into place and the fuselage was closed.
The internal framing, floor, ammo cans, and so forth all fit as they were designed, producing an aligned and robust assembly. The seat belts and harness were annealed by heating them in a gas flame until they began to turn blue, then painted, bent, twisted, and tweaked into something resembling heavy canvas and leather and glued into place. The fuselage closed easily and firmly. The top seam was easy to deal with, since the fit was so good, and the bottom seam is covered by plastic strips representing the stitching used to close up the real thing. However, I did clamp the bottom parts of the fuselage to help the stitching strips to fit and remain in place while the Tamiya Extra Thin cement dried.
Be sure to drill a control line rigging hole though the bottom of the control stick that emerges slightly from the underside of the cockpit, and in the upper decking and side panels for rigging wires.
Where possible, all of the aluminum parts – upper decking, cheek parts, deflector, and engine cowl – were painted off the model. I initially used Tamiya rattlecan gloss aluminum for this. It looks good and dries hard. Once it had cured for a day, I considered how to best represent the swirl patterns on the aluminum. These are not the result of being turned or buffed, but are the marks left from applying anti-corrosion paste or paint to the aluminum. Wingnut Wings has a recommended procedure, but being a klutz at keeping small brush lines small, I decided to use a #2 pencil instead. This worked remarkably well, as the photos will show. However, what they don’t show is that after getting all of the swirls in place (a long and painstaking process made possible only by regular administrations of Dewars White Label modeler’s fortification elixir), a subsequent coating of Tamiya rattlecan clear gloss completely buggered up the entire scheme. Well, it wasn’t entirely the Tamiya gloss’ fault. Instead of misting the stuff on, I got it too thick and it took the graphite pencil marks into solution and spread it across the aluminum. Puddles, not swirls.
So, calling on the notion that modeling is also about fixing mistakes, I stripped the aluminum paint and shot the parts with Model Master Non-Buffing aluminum. Which, incidentally I think looks more like aluminum than the Tamiya paint does. I tested this by painting another piece of plastic with the Model Master and scribing the swirls again with my #2 pencil. The swirls came out better as the Model Master has more “tooth” than the Tamiya which is very slick. I shot Model Master Flat over this and everything stayed put. So, using this technique I re-did the swirls and coated them with flat.
I made the turnbuckle assemblies for the wing rigging by twisting 32 gauge silver wire around a small drill bit (#78) while clamping the wire in hemostats. This results in a small eye with a tightly wound “tail.” I cut appropriately sized bits of the midge tubing and slipped them over the tails, then clipped the tails, leaving a small amount protruding with which to glue them into the holes on the wings. I drilled out these rigging anchor holes to about twice their cast-in depth for a solid fit. After the wings are complete with decals and weathering, I will attach the turnbuckles prior to gluing the wings to the fuselage. I intend to use monofilament to provide more structural integrity and support to the wings.
I primed the fabric parts – wings, elevators, fuselage – then shot them with the recommended XF-22 paint. After that had cured, I coated them with Future to protect the paint, then cut very small strips of Tamiya masking tape to cover the rib areas on the top and bottom of the wings.
The Eindeckers left the factory with long strips of cane tacked over the ribs and wing fabric. Some were removed in the field and some remained. The model has these rib coverings in place. The tape strips were cut, by aid of the Mk. I eyeball, just wide enough to cover these rib coverings. I laid tape on the top and bottom of each wing. Then, I mixed a very thin cup of red-brown and flat black acrylic paint and shot this over the tape, leaving the area between ribs unpainted. Once the tape is removed, a nice but dramatic effect remains of the ribs accented and the areas between shaded. This will be toned down later with a flat coat and with dot filters applied to the wings and fuselage.
At this point, I gave the wings and fuselage two coats of Future preparatory to applying the decals.
Although I’ve been using Future for this for some time, I think this will be my last build where Future is used for anything but clear parts, and perhaps with some recalcitrant decals. I can’t get it to coat evenly or without beading, and I do not get the very smooth gloss coat I want for decal placement. Marty Sanford has been using Alclad clear for his gloss coat and I may try that as well. There needs to be something reliable to apply that will produce a consistently smooth, glossy surface for decals. Nothing worse than a great kit, a good paint and weathering job, and obvious decals.
But, I went ahead and placed the big wing decals as well as the fuselage ones. I’d say they came out well, but not great. Wingnut Wings decals tend to be rather thick, but if one follows their recommended procedure, they can be used very effectively. I was able to get good conformation with surface features under the decals by using a hair dryer to heat them gently after they had initially dried, then rubbing them firmly with a Q-tip and pressing down in areas around protrusions, etc., to get those areas down flat. A word of warning: do not use decal setting solution, however mild, on these decals. It will cause them to shrivel and bubble, perhaps break. Wingnut Wings strongly recommends no decal solution be used and they are correct. I tried it on the FE build and wish I had not.
I cleaned areas of the landing gear parts that would receive cement and dry-assembled them on the aircraft to check for alignment and fit. In some Eindecker kits, the landing gear can best be described as “fiddly,” but with this kit, the location and fit is firm and precise. I had the gear attached to the fuselage with no cement. It would not have stayed in place, of course, but it fit well enough that I could ensure all was aligned properly before applying Tamiya Extra Thin cement to it.
Prior to gluing the gear in place, I attached to it the crank assembly that actuates the wing warp wires. I had previously drilled holes in this small piece to accept the control wires running down from the cockpit and the warp wires going out to the wings’ trailing edges. I also opted to drill holes in the appropriate spots on the landing gear struts and the underside of the fuselage to attach small wire eyes with CA. These will serve as anchor points for the undercarriage rigging wires that will be made from monofilament and tube segments acting as turnbuckles.
At this point, the landing gear is in place, but not rigged. The engine is under the cowl and the fuselage, wings, and elevators are ready for application of the small decals and stencils.
Final assembly of the tail control surfaces and machine gun await, along with weathering and wing rigging.
I am enjoying this build and learning much more about the Eindeckers and about Wingnut Wings excellent engineering and attention to detail without inflicting too many fiddly parts and operations on the modeler. I would like to thank Wingnut Wings for supplying this kit for review, and IPMS/USA for giving me the opportunity both to build and to review it.
- Photo 1 – Cockpit flooring
- Photo 2 – Oberusel 100 HP engine, front side
- Photo 3 – Oberusel 100 HP engine, back side
- Photo 4 – Cockpit floor, control column, rudder, seat, and back panel
- Photo 5 – PE seat harness installed. Note the two observation panel doors in the cockpit floor.
- Photo 6 – Cockpit with framing showing fuel pump line, control rigging, and bungee shock absorbers for landing gear.
- Photo 7 – Completed cockpit installed in left fuselage half.
- Photo 8 – Completed cockpit in right fuselage half.
- Photo 9 – Buttoned up.
- Photo 10 – Underside stitching along fuselage center.
- Photo 11 – Wing turnbuckles made of twisted wire and plastic tube segments.
- Photo 12 – Pencil swirls over Tamiya rattlecan aluminum.
- Photo 13 – Aluminum parts re-painted with Model Master non-buffing Aluminum.
- Photo 14 – Anti-corrosion swirl pattern on the Model Master paint.
- Photo 15 – Taped wing ribs.
- Photo 16 – Final effect.
- Photo 17 – Completed wings.
- Photo 18 – Landing gear struts – note small wire eye anchor points.
- Photo 19 – Landing gear struts showing another set of wire eye anchor points, with two more on the bottom of the engine panel.