Build Diary of Albatros D.V - Richard Banko

The Charlottesville Model Club decided to build models to commemorate anniversary the World War I armistice.  Models were to be selected from that period.  I selected the Albatros D.V.  Selection was made because of shape of the aircraft being somewhat streamlined and secondly German aircraft of the period could be very colorful.  After doing a little research, there were two attributes I wanted to model; a lozenge camouflage pattern and a colorful Bavarian blue and white checkerboard pattern.  I decided to build a kit for each.

The kit selected was Edward’s 1:48 Profipack Albatros D.V (kit 8112).  The kits are very nice and include lots of photo etch parts.  The prototypes modeled were Albatrosses flown by Otto Kissenberth’s and Lt.d R. Wolf.  Kissenberth’s D.V was basically a black fuselage with lozenge camouflage on the wings.  Wolf’s D.V was very colorful with the blue/white checkerboard pattern on the fuselage.  (Photos and graphics from WingNuts and Lifelike Decals)

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Building the kits started with interior details.  Engines were assembled and spray painted flat black.  Silver and brass parts were hand painted.  The engine cylinders were “colored” with No. 2 pencil lead wiped with a soft cloth to remove pencil dust.  This left a very attractive burnt metal effect with just the right amount of sheen.  The engine was then given a wash to bring out the highlights.  The pilot seat was painted with Model Masters leather.  Result was rather brown and flat.  As the instructions called for a “red leather” color, I decided to use Cordovan shoe polish paste to help provide some color, low luster, and interest.  Interiors and propellers have a wood grain finish.  The process started with a simple gloss white undercoat.  A combination of Cadmium Yellow Ochre, Yellow Ochre and Burnt Sienna artist oil paints were wiped on the surfaces to provide the wood grain look.  Other interior details were hand painted.  Pre-painted photo etch parts provided lots of nice detail.

Interior components were installed and fuselage halves closed up.  Fit of the seat assemble was a little difficult to square up and center in fuselage.  The tail surfaces and lower wings were attached.  I decided to have the tail plane control surface droop as seen in many period photographs.  This called for separating the control surface and simulating the hinges with stock styrene.  The scoring and separating process did not take that long and the result adds interest to the completed model.

At this point, the two models started to take different paths.

Starting with Kissenberth’s black Albatros, the fuselage received a gloss black painting.  Easy enough.  Gloss paint used in preparation for decals.  A dull coat after decal application evened things out.

Wings took a little more attention.  On prototype aircraft with lozenge pattern camouflage, the re-enforcing stripes are visible on wing edges and over wing ribs.  To simulate stripes along wing edges the wings were first painted with a light blue.  MicroSculpt manufactures four and five color lozenge pattern decals for both upper and lower wing surfaces.  I selected the five color pattern.  After painting the wings, lozenge pattern decals were applied.  Decals come in long strips and will cover from wing tip to wing tip.  With decals partially set on the wing, a sharp hobby knife was used to trim the decals leaving enough of the blue showing to simulate the wing’s leading and trailing edge re-enforcing fabric.  On the upper wing, the decal does not fully cover the entire wing surface from front to back.  Some fudging was required.  Separate pieces of the lozenge decals were used to fill in the upper wing control surfaces.  This seemed to work and be prototypical.   To complete the effect of the re-enforcing fabric, a blank white decal sheet was painted with same blue paint used on the wings’ edges.  Two #11 X-Acto blades were super glued together.   A narrow gap between the blade points naturally occurred.    Using a straight edge, the dual blade assembly was used to cut strips from the painted decal sheet.  These strips were then applied to the wing ribs simulating the balance of the re-enforcing fabric.  Very tedious, but looked great when done.

A couple issues encountered while decaling the wings.  MicroSclupt also manufactures a fabric pattern decal which is to be applies over the lozenge pattern decal.  I tried a sample on a simple piece of styrene.  The effect looks good, but even on a flat piece of styrene, some silvering was visible.  I leave up to your skill level as if this extra step is to be taken.  There were also some issues with the wing rib reinforcing stripes.  On some strips, the paint came off the decal backing while applying the decal.  I used acrylic paint over the decal sheet.  In the future I might try lightly rubbing the blank decal sheet with fine sand paper to provide a rougher surface for the paint to grab.  Enamel paint may adhere differently.

Most markings for the completed model came from the base kit.  While the flower on the fuselage is not exactly as seen on the prototype, it was close enough for me.  The identification number on the tail fin was a home-made decal.  Using Power Point, a graphic of the plane was used as a background image.  The tail number was enlarged.  Power Point’s line and curve draw tools were used to create various segments of the numbers over the background image.  With the identification numbers compete, the background was removed and colors changed to white numbers on a black background.  The graphic was then reduced in size.  The advantage of working with an oversize graphic and then reducing was shrinking any graphic misalignment errors, basically eliminating them.  Several test prints on plain paper were done to size the identification number.  Once the MK-1 eyeball test was satisfied, the graphics were printed on a blank white decal sheet using an ink jet printer.  Given the overall black color of the fuselage, the approach worked well.  If HP would produce a white ink printer cartridge, maybe clear decal film can be used adding the flexibility of this approach on non-black schemes.  Someday HP, we can only hope.

Wolf’s D.V took a less creative approach thanks to Lifelike Decals.  Lifelike Decals product 48-039 provided all the necessary markings for Wolf’s D.V.  However there were some lessons learned.  I started by giving the fuselage an overall white base coat.  This turned out to be very fortuitous.  The decals for the white/blue diamond checkerboard pattern is really clear and blue.  So the white undercoat is a must.  My hat is off to Lifelike.  The alignment of the checkerboard pattern decal is amazing.  Given the complex compound curves of the Albatros D.V and the complexity of the checkerboard pattern, the fit and alignment of the pattern is remarkable.  The grey mid-fuselage band was not quite as nice.  The band is slightly wider than the gap left by the checkerboard decals.  Also the grey is semitransparent thus allowing for ghost image of the checkboard pattern showing though.  A white background band decal is provided by Lifelike to hide this effect.  I used the white band with the grey band decal over it.  The color graphics of the lions in the band are provided as separate decals.  A matching white background is also provided, but was not used as the grey band is clear (thus white showing through) where the graphics were applied.

If I were to do this scheme again, I would take a slightly different approach.  I would pre-paint the grey band, install the checkerboard pattern decals, trim the decals as needed, use the graphics’ white background decal over the grey, and top with the graphic decals.  The boarding yellow stripes edging the grey band could be cut from the grey band decal or painted on.  Also a red band decal is provide for just behind the propeller spinner.  I would paint this to ensure a good color match between the band and the spinner.

With fuselages and wings painted and decaled, it was time for final assembly of both models.  I decided to use a pin drill to re-drill and clean out assembly holes for the various struts.  This was a major assist in fitting alignment pins and having a solid plastic-to-plastic bond.

One advantage to doing two kits, was that I could figure out how NOT to assemble on the first one and have a much easier time with the second.  This worked well for attaching the upper wings.  Best approach was to install the outer wing struts on the underside of the upper wing.  Making sure struts are perpendicular to the wing.   Let the glue set up a little.  Then install the fuselage-to-wing struts on the fuselage.  Now quickly flip the upper wing over and align all remaining points.  This worked pretty well.  The undercarriage was another story.  Never did figure out an easy way to assembly those.

Other odds and ends.  The radiators and radiator plumbing was painted using Alclad II brass.  Edwards does provide paint masks for several areas.  The masks for the radiators worked well.  There are also masks for the wheels.  I could not make these fit properly, so the wheels were hand painted.

In general, when painting a model, one of my first concerns is to how to physical hold the model.  For this project the solution was found in a local hardware store.  I used removable picture hanging hooks.  These devices have a tape on one side and a hook on the other.  When attached, then removed from a wall no tape residue is left.  I found that they attached very nicely to the front of the aircraft (before propellers attached), were secure, provided a nice holding and hanging attachment point, and when carefully removed left no residue.  Another tool in my bag of tricks.

Final lesson learned on this kit.  With all the detail photo etch and at my age, Opti-Visors are a must!