Sopwith Triplane

Published on
September 7, 2021
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Company: Wingnut Wings, Ltd - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Wingnut Wings, Ltd - Website: Visit Site
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The Sopwith Triplane was a follow-up to the highly successful 80hp Pup that was widely liked by the young pilots of the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) and Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). The Triplane prototype was powered by a 110hp Clerget rotary. The prototype was quickly accepted and sent to the front for trials with A Squadron of the RNAS. A Squadron took the new Tripe into combat as soon as it arrived in France. A second Triplane powered by the 130hp Clerget was sent to France in August of 1916. This new highly maneuverable aircraft was an instant hit with the RNAS pilots who had a chance to fly it in combat. Although similar to the Pup, the Triplane fuselage was redesigned for the larger 110hp & 130hp rotary engines. The wingspan was the same as the Pup, but the narrow chord wings allowed better visibility for the pilots. It was more maneuverable than the Pup and had a quicker rate of climb. Initially armed with a single Vickers machine gun, the later models were equipped with twin Vickers. The “Tripehound” could out-climb and out-maneuver the German Albatros D-series fighters and helped the British regain air superiority. The success of the Triplane forced the Germans to explore their own designs, with the ultimate being the Fokker Dr.1.

The Triplane was quickly phased out when Sopwith introduced the Camel. As a result, only 150 machines were built by three manufacturers – Sopwith, Clayton & Shuttleworth, and Oakley & Co. There were minor differences in the planes built by these three manufacturers, and Wingnut Wings has included the parts necessary to build an aircraft from any of the three with this kit. There are also markings included on the decal sheet that will allow building an aircraft from any of the manufacturers. One of the more notable differences is that on the aircraft built by Clayton & Shuttleworth, there was an inspection window on the side of the fuselage and oval access panels on the sides of the engine cowling. The Wingnut Wings engineers have marked the location of the inspection window inside the fuselage, and there are three different cowling side panels with the three types of access panels. You will need to decide early on which of the three aircraft you want to build, and the instruction booklet is good in pointing out where these differences are.

The Wingnut Wings Sopwith Triplane was released in November, 2012. It includes the usual high quality Cartograf decals with markings for 5 aircraft and contains 129 injection molded parts. It also includes optional side panels for the cowling, different propellers, and an early or late tailplane. There is an optional instrument panel, magazines and cockpit comings for either the single- or twin-armed Vickers, and parts to build either a 110hp or a 130hp Clerget engines. The 11 photo etch parts include seat belts as well as detail parts for the Vickers machine guns. The detailed instruction booklet includes period photos and complete rigging diagrams.

The Build

Before construction begins, a careful read and study of the instruction booklet is necessary. If the interior rigging is to be done, it will be necessary to pre-drill several holes to allow rigging to be accomplished. The interior rigging diagrams can be confusing, so careful study will pay off in the long run. An early decision as to how you want to achieve the interior rigging will be a big help. Actual construction of these Wingnut Wings kits is relatively quick; the time-consuming thing is the preparatory work, getting the parts ready for the rigging. Handle these parts carefully as they are all to scale and can be fragile.

I chose the aircraft built by Clayton & Shuttleworth as it is the only example that was armed with the twin Vickers machine guns. This aircraft was, in my opinion, the most colorful, while second place went tothe plane built by the Oakley & Co., “Dusty II”. The differences start right off with the Clayton & Shuttleworth having a different instrument panel for the twin Vickers. I pre-drilled all interior parts that needed rigging before painting. I started by painting all parts that would be wood with a base coat of Tamiya Dark Yellow, XF-60. After a 24 hour drying time, I followed with Burnt Umber oils. I also painted all wing struts at the same time to be sure the tone and coloring of all the struts would be the same. I put a good coat of oils on the parts and let them sit for about 15 minutes. Then I went to each part and pulled off a lot of the paint with a dry paper towel, and finished with a flat brush to balance the color and impart some wood grain. I let the finished wood sit for about 24 hours to get some drying time, then the next day I clear-coated the wood grain parts with Model Master Metalizer Sealer. This gave a nice semi-gloss sheen to the parts and allowed me to handle the wood grained parts without rubbing off the oil paint before it had a chance to dry completely.

Now I added the decals to the instrument panel and started to do the interior rigging. It is really necessary to study the rigging diagrams carefully. They are quite busy and could be a little confusing. (If these kits could be improved in any way, it would be in the rigging diagrams. Perhaps including a few more less crowded diagrams would be helpful.) There are 10 control wires that need to be rigged. I would suggest rigging those before gluing the pilot seat in place. I got a little ahead of myself and glued the seat in place first, then tried to do the rigging, and it took a lot longer and was difficult to get the rigging wires through the correct holes in the seat brace (part A28). I also rigged the side structures (A14 & A17) before gluing them to the floor (F9). The seat belts will need to be put on the seat before gluing the seat to the mount. This is due to all the cockpit parts being keyed, and there would be no way to mount the belts after the side structures are in place.

The instrument panel has really nice details. All instrument decals are separate and fit in their proper place without any problems. There are 13 separate decal faces and data plates to be added to the instrument panel. The finished panel really dresses up the front office nicely. After finishing the cockpit module, I glued it in place and closed up the fuselage. Then I glued the bottom wing to the fuselage before painting started.

I wanted to pre-shade all the clear doped linen (CDL) surfaces to show a hint of the wing ribs & spars. I started by painting all CDL surfaces with Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth. When this was dry, I taped over each rib and spar with 1/16” Chart Pak tape. Now using Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan, which is a close match for British CDL, I sprayed a good cover layer of the CDL color. Then I pulled the tape off all the parts exposing the darker flat earth. Then I sprayed a light coat of CDL over the wing surfaces and continued spraying light coats until I achieved the desired effect. I sprayed between the ribs to help deepen the base coat and finished with a clear flat to blend it all together. The instruction booklet gives the option of painting the upper surfaces as either PC10 or PC12. I chose to paint mine PC10. I used Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab as a base and lightened it somewhat with Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow. I was happy with this color and painted all upper surfaces thusly.

Now it was time to add the other wings. I started by gluing the lower wing struts to the top of the bottom wing, allowing these struts ample time to dry before putting the middle wing in place. The wings have a forward tilt and, if not dry before putting the middle wing in place, there is a good chance that the strut will pull away from the lower wing surface when pressure is placed on the middle wing. When the middle wing was set. I glued the upper struts to the top of the middle wing. Alignment of the top wing was achieved nicely because the center struts are molded in place on the side structures and his helps line everything up.

Next, I built the engine. The version I built was equipped with the Clerget 130hp 9b engine. I wired the engine with very thin copper wire stripped from a small motor armature. There are two spark plug wires for each cylinder. Unfortunately, the wiring is on the back of the engine and not clearly visible when placed inside the cowling. But I know it’s there!

Once the engine was completed, it was added to the model and the cowling glued in place.

The ailerons have a solid attachment point to the wings, but the rudder is another story. I relied solely on the molded tabs to glue the rudder to the vertical stabilizer. This wasn’t a strong enough bond. I broke the rudder off a few times during handling. I even broke the rudder off while shooting the pictures for the review. It since has been repaired. I would suggest drilling out and placing a wire at the hinge points to make the bond to the stabilizer stronger.


Rigging necessary to portray early multi-wing aircraft accurately 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 that rigging make for attractive additions 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 the method where the rigging line is run through a micro-tube sleeve, then through a small eyelet and then back through the micro-tube sleeve, drawn tight, and super glued. Because there isn’t a lot of rigging involved in the Sopwith, 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 were as follows. The eyelets were made from very thin armature wire taken from an old model motor that came in an ancient Tamiya kit. The brass sleeves were made from brass micro-tube 0.4mm o.d. x 0.2mm i.d., and the rigging line was 4.75 lb. test fly fishing line. The micro-tube sleeves were cut 1mm long.

I began by making the eyelets. I made a small “Shepard’s Crook” out of .015” brass wire and glued it to the end of a dowel. Now, using thin armature wire, I made a small loop and hooked the wire with the end of the crook and twisted it until the wire was tight around the brass crook’s loop. That gave me an eyelet that has an inner diameter that is the same as the wire used in the crook. It took about 15 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 the fuselage, but on the wings I just drilled the rigging points a little deeper. Then I super glued an eyelet in each of the rigging positions on the wings and fuselage. The kit can now be assembled and painted as described earlier.

I started the rigging before gluing the wings in place. I started with the middle wing and glued the rigging line that passes through the middle wing. First, I deepened the hole a little on both the top and bottom. Then I glued a length of rigging line in the hole at the approximate angle it would travel when secured to the top or bottom eyelet. Next, I secured a rigging line to all the eyelets on the bottom of the top wing; for the Triplane, there are only 8. Now the wings were glued into place. Once the wings were dry and set up, the actual rigging began.

T took the end of a line and passed it through the micro sleeve, then through the correct eyelet, and back through the micro sleeve. Then I pulled line taut and, using tweezers, slid the sleeve down to the eyelet. I placed a small drop of CA glue on the top of the sleeve and, once dry, carefully trimmed the extra line to the sleeve. Once I started rigging the model it took less than an hour to complete all the rigging. I was so impressed with this method I used it to rig the DH2, and it worked great. And the DH2 had 38 rigging lines attached to the top wing before gluing – a real bowl of spaghetti compared to the Triplane. Another benefit of this method is repair. I had one line that had a little too much slack. I was able to cut the line off and replace it in less than 5 minutes. This is definitely my method of rigging from now on.


This is another winner for Wingnut Wings. The Tripehound has always been a favorite of mine, and I plan on building another. The kit actually builds quickly with few problems, and would be a perfect starter kit for a modeler looking to try his hand at an airplane that requires rigging.

I would like to thank Wingnut Wings for the model and IPMS/USA for allowing me to review it.


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