When my Wingnut Wings DFW C.V (Late) arrived in the mail, I quickly flipped through the sprues and then opened the instruction book, going straight to the profiles to see what we were offered. As soon as I opened to the page with the Halberstadt-built version of the plane, with its Halberstadt “scumble”, looking similar to a sponged wall, I shut the book and looked no further, knowing that I had to take a shot at replicating the look of that iconic finish.
Owing to the amazing engineering of Wingnuts kits, the build itself was pretty much effortless. Compared to the old Airfix, Revell and Monogram kits I built back in the 60’s, building a model from Wingnuts is pure joy. Indeed, perhaps the biggest challenge to the builder is choosing which version to make, as four complete radiator systems, and numerous other extra detail parts are included in the kit. As my choice was driven 100% by the finish I'd chosen, I set right in on the build and have to say I enjoyed every aspect of it.
Painting - Round One
As with all Wingnut kits, the wonderful profile views in the instructions are by the über talented Ronny Bar. In comparing archival photos of similarly camouflaged DFWs, it does not appear that there is a set pattern of color placement, as one might find on WWII RAF or Luftwaffe aircraft. To create the underlying three tone camouflage for the DFW, I therefore decided to follow Ronny’s lead and enlarged the instruction’s profiles to 1:32 scale. I further enhanced the copies with colored pencils, just to be sure I knew what color went where. I also created a mirror image of the fuselage, as only one side is shown in the instructions. I then again used colored pencils and laid out the basic scheme directly onto the kit parts, using the rib lines as guides to try and stay as close to Ronny’s pattern as possible. It is really easy to get lost in laying out the pattern, and I found that incorporating these techniques was helpful in distributing the pattern evenly. I used Tamiya paints and applied the three-tone camo freehand using my airbrush. I created a mask for the trailing edge color by using a wood carving gouge to cut tape to the same radius as the scallops on the wing.
Painting, Round Two - On to the “Scumble”
In decorative wall painting, the toughest challenge in applying a sponged finish is maintaining a level of subtlety and the same challenge applied in trying to apply the Halberstadt scumble to the DFW. Achieving that subtlety was the result of lots of looking at as many pictures of speckled DFWs and Halberstadts as I could find, followed by lots of experimentation with differing materials and techniques.
I tried tube oils, Humbrols and acrylics and, in the end, settled on the latter, the caveat being that I added Retarder to the acrylic paint in order to increase the open time and not have the paint dry on the sponge as I worked. I chose retarder made by Golden, but have since discovered that Tamiya makes retarder for their acrylic paints.
Once I had worked out the proper ratio of paint, water and retarder, I began experimenting with different types of sponges. In the end, I chose to use miniature natural sea sponges, like those used to apply theatrical make up. As mentioned before, the real trick to achieving the Halberstadt look, scaled down 32 times, is in subtlety and only the very tips of the raised portion of the sponge can touch the model. Simply going by feel, I found it pretty much impossible to know when I had actually touched the sponge to the model, so, I ended up wearing my magnifiers and went strictly by sight. Even with this precaution, there were numerous times when I applied too much paint and words of various color echoed through the house. Having added retarder to the paint, and having applied a solid semi-gloss finish before starting, allowed me to wipe off these areas and start again. It was a tedious process and, thankfully, only the fuselage required the scumble pattern.
One of the many reasons I am totally sold on Wingnut Wings is the archival photos they post on their website. Between the photos of the two DFWs they offer, and the Albatros Publications Datafile, there are many photos available to study the weathering and wear and tear of DFWs in service.
Certainly, how much a real plane, and a model of it, shows its age is subject to one’s ability to interpret a photo, and I will admit to liking to build models of well used looking airplanes. This may stem in part from my time as a teenager when my dad, a USN pilot and, later, aviation historian and writer, lead the teams that restored the Grumman Wildcat, now at the Smithsonian, as well as the Grumman FF-1, now at the museum in Pensacola. This was in the pre-NASM days when the Smithsonian storage facility at Silver Hill was closed to the public. Now, almost 50 years later, I can still remember the smell of mixed dirt, dust, oil and grime in copious amounts, and the unbelievable rush of being able to touch historic aircraft like an Me 163 and the Enola Gay, still sitting in pieces, when they were in pre-restored, very used looking condition. So, between those wonderful experiences, and the photos I see, my builds all tend to look pretty ripe. I also really enjoy creating a sense of individuality and history for each model I build.
One example of the used look on the DFW is a section of just replaced fabric on the lower wing, where the outline of the replacement Eisernes Kreuz has been applied, but not yet filled in. So as not to lose this effect, and the rest of the work I’d done on weathering the underside, I chose to place the model on a mirror.
Whereas I strive to make my builds as historically accurate as possible, I often invent a fictitious pilot, with his own fictitious personal markings. In this case, Hauptmann Bertl Skorpil wasn’t a WWI pilot, but is alive and well, lives in Bavaria, and goes under the name Umlaufmotor on some of the websites. Bertl is, in my opinion, one of the best model builders on the planet and a constant source of inspiration for me. I chose the name, Sieglinde, one of the characters from the Wagner Opera, Die Walküre, to add to the Germanic flair of this gorgeous airplane.
The basic weathering was done with a combination of AK interactive products, oil glazes, pastels and pigments. For scratches, I applied a solid layer of various shades of Alclad aluminum and steel, then coverd that with a solid coat of clear semi-gloss. I then subtly scratched through the color coat to reveal the bare metal underneath. I’m late coming the hairspray technique….but am working with it now on my AEG build. http://forum.largesc...showtopic=73198
I used Gaspatch turnbuckles on the rigging, which was straight forward…until a judge at the IPMS Regionals pointed out a loose wire on the landing gear struts. Once back home, I fixed the problem by gently waving a smoking stick of incense under the offending wire. The incense produces low heat and, because of its small size, it’s easy to direct the heat into specific areas. The loose wire cost me a first place and was a real lesson learned. Had I put the build away for even a few days, sent the photos to a buddy for critique, or really looked at the photos I’d taken, I’d have had fresh eyes and seen the loose wire.
I chose oak for the base and used Celluclay, and leaves from Joe Fix Studio, for the groundwork. I went for an autumnal theme to go with the colors on the DFW and painted a few of the leaves in the same colors. This may seem like overkill, but I believe the build consists of everything from the tabletop up to the top of the airplane. Even if the viewer is not conscious of every detail, a harmonized whole is produced that is pleasing to the eye. (And damn artsy-fartsy artists never know when to stop, anyway.)
The DFW was my third Wingnuts build and I can honestly say these kits have regenerated and increased my lifelong passion for model building in a way I didn't think possible. I'm now in the process of closing down my business and plan to spend a lot of time at the bench. And, most likely, what I will be working on will have come from New Zealand.
Thanks for having a look.
Cheers from NYC,