Wingnut Wings’ latest release represents the Roland D.VIb, and follows their earlier release of the D.VIa. The D.VI was designed by LFG (Luft-Fahrzeug-Gesellschaft). The company’s name was changed to Roland in 1914 to avoid confusion with another aircraft company, LVG (Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft). The D.VI first flew in November 1917. The D.VI was a single bay biplane which discarded the LFG/Roland patented semi-monocoque fuselage construction technique for a new method, Klinkerrumpf construction, where the fuselage was built by overlapping thin strips of spruce over a light wooden framework. This construction method resulted in a fuselage that resembles a small boat or a clapboard sided house. This detail was captured nicely by the Wingnut Wings designers. There were two variations of the D.VI. The D.VIa was powered by the 160hp Daimler-Mercedes D.III, and the D.VIb was powered by the 185ps Benz Bz.IIIa. A total of 350 D.VIs were built: 150 D.VIa’s powered by the Mercedes, and 200 D.VIb’s powered by the Benz. After a short evaluation period, production began for the D.VIa in February 1918 and two months later for the D.VIb. 31 D.VIs were at the front by August of 1918.
As is typical of a Wingnut Wings kit, the instruction booklet is loaded with references and detailed archive photographs of prototype aircraft. I usually start my build by studying the booklet cover to cover several times before starting to cut plastic. I have found it helpful to do this with the kit alongside, especially when trying to figure out the rigging. The Wingnut Wings engineers are meticulous in their detail; all rigging points are indicated on both the wings and fuselage with small molded holes. If there is some confusion while studying the rigging diagrams in the instruction booklet it can usually be figured out by looking at the actual components.
Construction starts with the cockpit and interior components. Before painting, pre-drill the rudder bar and control column for the control-wire rigging. The control column has four points that need to be drilled. Drill a single hole at the top and bottom of the aileron control horn for the ailerons. Then drill a hole at the bottom of the column for the lower elevator cables and at the middle of the column for the upper elevator cables. The points that need to be drilled out are obvious when looking at the column. If you have decided to include the control wire rigging inside the cockpit, you will also need to drill out a hole in the bottom former attached to the rudder foot boards. This is so you can pass the lower elevator cables through. Dry fitting the control column will show where the hole needs to be drilled. You will also have to drill out the pulley that the aileron control cables pass through. This pulley is located at the bottom of the sidewall formers (parts A15 & A39). Dry fitting the formers to the fuselage sides will show where the corresponding holes need to be drilled in the fuselage sides (D8 & D10), so that the cables can pass through. Use caution when drilling as the cables do not pass straight through but rather at an upward angle. Drill these holes from the outside in a downward angle so the aileron control cables can pass through.
Once the components are drilled out you can begin painting. For the wooden components the painting guide calls for a light wood and a dark wood. For the light wood I base coated all components with Tamiya Dark Yellow (XF-60). When dry, I applied the wood grain with Burnt Umber oils. For the dark wood I used a base coated of Tamiya Flat Earth (XF-52) and added the wood grain using Burnt Umber oils once again. This gave a distinct difference in the finished pieces. All metal components inside the cockpit are painted with an interior grey-green. The paint chart calls for Tamiya Gray-Green (XF-76). Once the wood grain on the interior formers is completed, paint all of the metal brackets and fixtures with this interior grey-green. I used Model Master Metalizer Non-Buffing Aluminum for the magazine and empty cartridge belt box. The instructions indicate to paint the throttle (A6) and control handle (A2) semi-gloss black. However, the archive pictures in the booklet show the handles as dark wood. I painted the metal part of the handles semi-gloss black, and painted the wooden handles in a dark wood as shown in the pictures.
Use caution when cleaning up and handling the parts. Wingnut Wings’ fidelity of detail results in some very fragile pieces, and clean-up, drilling and normal handling requires a light touch. These fragile parts can easily be damaged during clean up. The instrument panel is very sparse with only three instruments and the master switch. The spark advance lever is located on the left cockpit former (A39). For a little extra detail, I used thin rod (0.010) to replicate the rod shown in the archive photo of the cockpit interior. I slightly flattened one end of the rod and glued it to the bottom of the spark advance lever. The rod goes forward and ends out of sight alongside the magazine (A13). Paint the rod with the interior gray-green.
Adding the interior components to the cockpit formers is fool proof. There are holes in the fuel tank that correspond to pins on the formers, and there are notches in the bulkheads that mate with the horizontal runners on the formers. Glue all of the components to the right cockpit former, and then do the control cable rigging before adding the left-side former. For the pilots seat I chose to use the option with the padded seat cushion. I liked the detail on the seat cushion, and I wanted to add some different colors and details to the cockpit. Once the cockpit component is completed, fit the pilot seat. After annealing the harness, bend it to fit. It is attached to the back of the rear bulkhead (A10) and passes through the slots molded into the bulkhead. Once the harness is bent to fit the seat, remove it from the cockpit. I primed mine using Model Master Gray enamel primer from their automotive range. Once primed, paint it as indicated in the instruction booklet using Tamiya Deck Tan (XF-55) and replace it in the cockpit. I do it this way because if painted before bending the Tamiya paint habitually splits and falls off at the bending point. Once completed, place the cockpit component aside and start construction of the engine bearers. Use caution in cleaning up these parts as they are extremely fragile. Once the engine bearers are completed paint them with the Tamiya Gray–Green (XF-76) and put them into the previously completed cockpit interior component.
The Benz Bz.IIIa 185ps engine is beautifully molded, and includes molded spark plug wires and a harness. Use the color diagram in the instruction booklet to detail paint the engine. I used Vallejo Light Rubber for the spark plug wires and Vallejo Dark Rubber for all the other rubber connectors. The cylinders on the Benz engine have a red stripe around their upper portion. This stripe indicates that they are high pressure cylinders. There are two red stripe decals to be placed on the cylinders. One stripe is for cylinder #1 and one stripe is for cylinder #6. The booklet also indicates for you to paint the red stripe on the other four cylinders. However, with all the molded detail on the cylinders, I couldn’t see where to paint, so I ignored the suggestion and just tried using the two decal stripes. That didn’t go to well. With the molded detail on the cylinders, I just couldn’t get the decal to lie down properly. While the decal stripe was long enough to go all the way around the cylinder, the molded detail didn’t allow for that. In this case, the decal’s use would require trimming, so I simply gave up on the decal stripe. Instead, I used Vallejo Flat Red to paint the stripe onto both the first and last cylinders, and that worked fine. However, once the cowl nose and covers are in place you won’t see the stripes anyways. Therefore, it’s up to the modeler if he feels the need to have the stripes on the cylinders. Moving on, I painted the leather magneto covers with Vallejo Brown Leather followed with a small dose of Burnt Umber oils to achieve a nice leather look. There are only 21 parts for the engine, and construction was quick and simple. Once the engine is completed, add it to the engine bearers.
Pre-Assembly Preparation for Rigging
The rigging of a model, which is necessary to accurately portray the early multi-wing aircraft, has always been a daunting task. Several modelers will avoid building these early airplanes just because of the rigging. That is unfortunate, because once completed, these multi-wing airplanes with all the rigging in place makes for an attractive addition to any collection. I have been building multi-wing aircraft for many years, and I am always looking for an easier and quicker method to rig my models. Lately, I have read about a method where the rigging line is run through a brass-tube sleeve, then through a small eyelet, then back through the tube sleeve, drawn tight and finally, super glued. Because there isn’t a lot of rigging involved in the D.VIb, I thought I would give this method a try. It requires some pre-planning and a lot of set up time, but the actual rigging time is very quick and the results are definitely worth the effort. All the prep work should take place before any painting or construction is started.
The materials used for the rigging cam form various sources. Eyelets were made from very thin armature wire taken from an old motor that came in an ancient Tamiya kit, the sleeves were made from brass micro tubing of 0.5 mm outer diameter with a 0.3 mm inner diameter, and the rigging line was 4.75 lb test fly fishing line. The micro-tube sleeves were cut to be approximately 1 mm long.
Start by making the eyelets. I made a small “Shepard’s Crook” out of .015” brass wire glued into the end of a dowel. Then, using thin armature wire, make a small loop and hook the wire with the end of the crook. Twist until the wire is tight around the crook’s loop. This will give you an eyelet that has an inner diameter that is the same as the wire used in the crook. It takes about 30 minutes to make more than enough of these eyelets. Next, at every rigging point on the wings and fuselage, I drilled out the molded rigging depressions. On the fuselage I drilled all the way through, but on the wings I just drilled the rigging points a little deeper while being careful not to drill all the way through the wings. Finally, super glue an eyelet in each of the rigging positions on the wings and fuselage. The kit can now be assembled and painted as described as usual.
Before adding the interior components to the fuselage you will have to remove some D.VIa details on the outside of the fuselage halves. There are three inspection plates that need to be removed from each side. These are indicated in the instructions. Once cleaned off the fuselage, drill three holes as indicated. Place the two new inspection plates on each side. The second hole drilled on the left fuselage side is left open. I am assuming this hole is for a starter crank. Once the exterior details have been modified, place the interior components onto the right side while being sure to run the aileron cables through the hole in the fuselage. The cockpit module and engine both fit like a glove. I had no problem fitting the two halves together. I did need a small amount of filler along the top seam as a result of a little too much sanding of the edges. After cleaning up the seams, I added the fuselage top. I held off on the gauges and water pipe (F7), until after painting.
I chose to use the PE machine gun jackets and started to construct those next. Start by annealing the jackets; heat until glowing and then let cool slowly. Then, bend them over a 2.5 mm drill bit. Being American, I used a 7/64 bit which was really close. Once rolled, the jacket is glued to the previously painted machine gun. Finally, just glue the PE face (P2) to the front of the gun while being careful that the gun site is aligned properly. I missed that on one of the guns and was afraid to try and repair it for fear of damaging the site beyond repair. Hopefully it won’t be too noticeable once the top wing is in place. I added the horizontal stabilizer at this time. When dry fitting the piece I saw it would need some filler, and I thought I would rather deal with it before painting. I used Vallejo filler. The elevator will need to be added before gluing the assembly in place. I did hold off adding on the rudder until later.
Early on I had chosen to depict the aircraft flown at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio, during the summer of 1920. I think the experimental color pattern with the straw, violet and greens on the wings is really eye catching. Combined with the silver, light blue and green fuselage, I was sold. With the complicated camouflage pattern it is really necessary, and much easier, to paint the model before adding the wings to the fuselage. So, construction took a short break while I paint the various components. As this is a one-of-a-kind aircraft I thought it necessary to duplicate the pattern as accurate as possible. To achieve this, I took the instruction booklet to my local Kinko’s and they enlarged the four-view to the proper dimensions. A couple of quick measurements and their magic chart told them to increase the drawing by 254%. I was then ready to start painting.
The color plans call for the fuselage and wings undersides, prop blades, struts and wheel covers to be silver. This was a highly reflective paint on the real aircraft. To replicate this I used Floquil Old Silver (F110100). This is in their railroad line, and it is great for duplicating doped silver fabric. It dries with a nice reflective surface and is durable enough to be masked, unlike the metalizer paints. The Old Silver covers the fuselage undersides, carries along the sides of the fuselage in a narrow irregular pattern between the wings, and finally meeting the pattern from the other side on the top of the fuselage. Once the Old Silver dried for at least 24 hours, I masked the lower fuselage, drew the irregular demarcation line, removed the tape and then cut it along the drawn line. Finally, I then replaced the tape onto the fuselage effectively masking the Old Silver for the next color. I followed the same steps to mask the upper fuselage area that also remained silver. This technique only takes a few minutes to complete. After masking the cockpit and engine, I was ready for the next color, a very light blue. For this, I chose to use Wingnut Wings’ formula from the color chart. This called for a mix of Tamiya Flat White (XF-2) and Medium Blue (XF-18). The mix calls for 20 parts XF-2 to 1 part XF-18. I thinned the mix with Tamiya lacquer thinner and painted the fuselage.
Next, it was time to move on to the wings. First, I masked the undersides that had been painted Old Silver. Then I painted the base coat on the upper surfaces. I started with the lightest color, which the Wingnut Wings guys named Dark Straw. I relied on their research and used their suggested match, Tamiya Desert Yellow (XF-59). This color is markedly different from the color plans and the reproduced color images in the instruction booklet. However, allowing for color shifts in printing (and fading of the 90-year-old photographs!), I decided to trust in Wingnut Wings’ research and use their formulas. Once the Dark Straw had dried, I completely masked the upper surfaces with wide Tamiya modeling tape. Then, the fun began. Using the enlarged color profiles of the wings and stabilizer, I cut the camouflage pattern apart. I traced each individual color pattern onto the taped wings. Then, using a new, sharp #11 blade and a light touch, I cut each pattern apart but left the tape in place. I then pulled the tape for the violet patterns. I saved the patterns I removed by placing them on a piece of glass. I then mixed the violet color and painted the areas on the wings and stabilizers - not forgetting the lower portion of the rudder. Once the paint dried sufficiently, I replaced the tape over each violet area and pulled the tape for the final color, green. The color chart called for Tamiya Black Green (XF-27). Once the final color had dried I removed all of the masking. I was pleased with the results.
Once the masking was removed, I added all the detail parts to the fuselage. The fuel gauge, tachometer, machine guns and empty belt chutes can be added, along with the cabane struts and exhaust pipe. The four interplane struts, which are keyed to fit, were added next. Then, moving on to the upper wing, I started by rigging lines to the previously placed eyelets. By placing the upper wing upside down and inverting the fuselage, the cabane struts and fuel line can be easily aligned to the wing’s center. Thanks to the engineering the fit is dead on. I glued the cabane struts to the top wing, and then aligned and glued the interplane struts before everything cured completely. When set up, the rigging can begin. It’s easier to start outboard and move towards the middle of the wing. I held off on adding the landing gear until the rigging was finished. I was concerned the tall wobbly legs would be damaged during the handling required for the rigging process. The landing gear legs snapped into place. Once rigged they become stronger and are more than sufficient to support the finished model.
The beauty of the marking option I chose is that there are only nine decals. These went on nicely. I was able to get the decals to snug down over the wing ribs and the fuselage slats without needing to use a hair dryer. Do not use decal setting solution on Wingnut Wings’ decals as they can be damaged.
This was a fun build, and the guys at Wingnut Wings have given us a highly detailed kit. It’s a quality molding full of details throughout. The clinker built fuselage moldings are beautiful and the sharpness is first rate. The variety of marking options offer choices to modelers of all skill levels. This is another winner from the guys at Wingnut Wings, and I highly recommend it.
Thanks to Wingnut Wings for the review kit and to IPMS/USA for the chance to build and review it.