Fokker Eindecker III Late – Part 2
Resuming after a holiday break, I finished the model on January 2. Once the fuselage was closed and the wings and undercarriage were glued, the major work involved rigging the undercarriage, wings and control wires.
Castor Oil, Grim, Mud, Dirt and Goo
Reference photos show that once an Eindecker went into front-line service, it rapidly became stained, oily, and dirty. The two main factors were the dirt and grass airfields, which soon became muddy during most months of the year (except when they became snow-packed ice fields), and the engines which threw off their lubricating fluid as they operated. My understanding is that this was primarily castor oil, or some similar substance that was ubiquitous to all rotary engines. Consequently, I had no choice but to dirty up the wings and fuselage. Fun!
I did this with a mixture of various muddy and oily colors of oil paints, thinned to greater and lesser degrees with turpenoid. I found that applying this with a soft brush after the wings and fuselage had received a matt clear coat, and after I had applied a dot filter to the entire painted surfaces, worked best for replicating the mess visible in period photos. I also loaded a small stiff-bristled brush with the different concoctions of this goo, and by flicking the bristles with my finger, managed to fling and splatter it on the model with satisfying results.
Attaching twisted wire eye anchors to the rigging points is essential. I suppose one could use the EZ Line method by drilling the anchor holes in place, or drilling them a mite deeper where they exist, then gluing and stretching EZ Line where necessary. I opted not to do this because the rigging is such an integral part of the Eindecker. Being a monoplane using wing warping for flight control, the flying and control wires that thread through the undercarriage, the wings, and the upper pylon and pulley are too much a visible part of a model in this scale to look quite right when done with EZ Line – at least to my eye. And EZ Line does not offer additional structural support, which although not essential on this model because of the way Wingnut Wings has engineered it, is a benefit and provides an extra margin of security against unfortunate bumps and thumps. Another benefit of using the wire eyes for anchor points is that when a rigging line breaks or sags beyond recovery, it can be clipped off and a new one reattached to the eyes. Not so easy if your rigging or control line is glued into a hole.
A Lesson Learned
There are control wires exiting the cockpit area on the bottom of the fuselage, and lines exiting the rear of the fuselage to actuate the rudder and elevators. Attach these inside the fuselage and run them out their respective exits before closing the fuselage. I forgot to do this, and believe me, your rigging life will be easier if you remember. If you use the metal tube segment method of making your turnbuckles you can adjust the tension on these wires easily when it comes time to attaching them to their control points. Leave enough mono (or whatever you are using for wire) outside the holes to have plenty of length to run the end through a small tube segment - I use 0.5mm OD x 0.3mm ID brass tubing and 0.005” flexible monofilament for this.
Making a tube segment turnbuckle
Brass tubing is easily cut with a sharp scalpel or hobby knife blade. I do this by having made a jig from an old acrylic trophy plaque (thank you Petaluma Show people!). Score a straight, narrow width line with a razor saw into the acrylic. Then score another at right angles to the first. One shallow ‘trough’ will be where the brass tubing is placed and the other, at right angles, will guide the cutting blade. At the appropriate distance from the intersection of the two scored lines, drill a hole into which you can insert an old drill bit or pin. The distance should equal the length of the brass tubing you wish to make. Slide the tube into the score line until it butts against the pin in the hole, then make the cut using the second score line to guide the blade. I find that the brass tube will spin as the blade is drawn across it. Don’t put too much pressure on the tubing with the blade because when you cut through, the small segment you just cut might pop out into outer space somewhere. I find that if I angle the blade a little from the vertical as I cut, it tends to keep the segment in place when it is cut free. As a final bit of insurance, I use a medium sized needle chucked into an old hobby knife handle to make sure the ends of the tube segment I just cut are open, rounded and clean. I hold the tube segment in tweezers with a wide, grooved tip, which reduces the chances of zinging the segment into outer space with its wayward brothers, place one end on my work surface, and round out the open end with the needle’s tip, then do the same to the other. Optivisors help significantly with this step.
Making the turnbuckle attachment
With one end of the mono rigging wire, thread it through a tube segment. Then thread the end through the appropriate anchor point or control horn through which you have previously drilled a teeny hole to accommodate the monofilament. Then, take that end back through the tube segment. This is where you will appreciate having a long piece of mono to work with. Now the mono makes an eye through the anchor point with the tube segment holding the eye on the mono. Slide the tube segment gently while pulling the slack from the mono until it is taut. Ensure the tube segment is against or very close to the anchor point and secure it with a tiny drop of CA. The CA will wick down into the tube and solidly glue it and the mono together. I then pull up the tag end of the mono, carefully slide a small, sharp bladed scissors down it so I have no chance to cut both runs of mono, and clip the tag end as close to the tube segment as I can. You can later return and paint the brass whatever color you believe appropriate, or leave it brass, which looks cool even though it might not be accurate. Or, it might… with WWI colors, we are never certain.
Using this generic technique, I rigged the undercarriage, wings, and tail control surfaces. I did cheat and use some actual stainless wire on the bottom end of the control stick where it exits the fuselage, since I’d failed to anchor my wires before closing the fuselage.
I here also make a caveat on rigging materials. A friend sent me a package of flexible plastic tubing that is generally used in fly tying. It seemed to be just the thing – easily worked with, easy to cut. Takes paint well. I used small segments to cover the tails of the twisted wire eyes I made to fit into the wing rigging anchor points. All was well until late in the game when I realized that the flexibility of the plastic did not ensure straight runs from wing anchor point to eye. From now on, I will stick to brass or, in some cases, stainless tubing for segments.
As you will see from some of the photos, the Eindeckers used a color-coded system for identifying which turnbuckles went where. The aircraft were regularly transported on wagons which were pulled by various vehicles. Their rigging was taken down and the wings secured alongside the fuselage for transport. When reassembling the wings and rigging, it was evidently important that turnbuckles meant for the starboard wing were not used on the port wing, and vice versa. Consequently, the turnbuckles were color-coded and instructions to this effect were stenciled on the wingtips for the mechanic’s edification – starboard red, port green, and the pylon turnbuckles were painted blue.
The upper rigging and wing warp wires were supported by an inverted V-shaped pylon. Two large turnbuckles, provided and cast on the plastic pylon part by Wingnut Wings, provided support and adjustment for the flying wires. The wing warping wires run through a pulley at the rear of the pylon. The pulley is also provided as a separate part. I drilled holes in the plastic turnbuckles on the pylon for the wing support wires to pass through, secured by a tube segment on each side. The pulley, although very small, is an excellent fit to the pylon (don’t lose it!) and when dry, I very gently made a shallow trough between it and the pylon where the two attach. The wing warping wires, 0.005” monofilament from fly tying tippet material, went into this trough and were secured with CA. Pylon turnbuckles were painted blue.
The wings and elevator assemblies slot into the fuselage firmly with long tabs and have very good support. I found it useful to rig the underside of the wings first, then pull them up gently by tensioning the upper rigging (this is where turnbuckles that act like real turnbuckles come into their own), which helps to hold them in alignment and gives tension to the bottom wires. I had a couple of recalcitrant rigging wires that retained a little sag, but I took this out with a hot soldering iron run alongside them. Be careful with this…
I attached the monofilament wires along with their respective turnbuckles to the elevator and rudder control horns before attaching those to the model. The elevator attaches very securely with long tabs provided, and goes on in perfect alignment because of them. The rudder uses two holes and pins to attach securely to the fuselage and tail skid assembly. Very nice. This area has always been a problem for other Eindecker kits, but Wingnut Wings has solved that problem beautifully.
My only complaint about the rudder are the decals. They are thick and not cut to exact dimensions, but a little over. This required some trimming and will need a little white touchup paint later on. I would suggest painting the rudder field white, cutting out the crosses, and applying them separately. I will be doing that on my next Eindecker, as well as painting all of the white background fields for the national insignia. I think the decals that include the fields are too thick.
The machine gun is a simple build and with the PE cooling jacket looks very much the part. I particularly like the attention to detail on the ammo feed, with teeny bullets cast into place. Extra time spent painting these will pay off as they are very noticeable on the completed aircraft.
Even with the rigging required, this was a fun build. The Eindecker appears to be a kind of spindly machine, but when properly rigged and with the attention to fit and structure that the Wingnut Wings engineers and modelers put into this model, it is a solid aircraft in plastic, as I think it was in real life. It is also bigger than you think.
One final comment on rigging. Many modelers stay away from WWI and similar aircraft kits due to the need to rig them. There are many way to do this, and turnbuckles are not mandatory, regardless of what some of the “experts” may say. Rigging is more difficult in the smaller scales, but rigging model airplanes is not rocket science. Once a couple of simple techniques are learned, and you bugger up a couple of times, rigging is basically time-consuming and can be kind of boring, but the result is certainly worth it. The Wingnut Wings site hosts a ton of customer model photos. There are some amazing photos of a Japanese modeler’s Eindecker which are not only mind-blowing for his painting and finishing details, but because he rigged the entire airplane with no turnbuckles. He merely wrapped his rigging materials, which may have been EZ Line, around itself at the anchor points, clipped the tag ends and painted that section metallic. Looks great.
So, particularly if you’ve never built a WWI airplane before, try a Wingnut Wings kit. You can get models that go crazy on rigging (like the FE.2b I did here), those that require none like the Junkers J.1, or something in the middle like the Eindecker. You owe it to yourself to experience a Wingnut Wings kit. I like the Eindecker.
I like them all…
Thanks again to Wingnut Wings and IPMS USA for the opportunity to build one of my favorite airplanes and the fun I had doing it.