Roden 1/32nd Fokker F.I:
FIrst of the F.I FIghters

By Thomas Solinski

Introduction

For a preview and history please see my First Look.

The subject of this full build review is Roden 1:32 scale kit of the Fokker F.I, kit number 605. This is the third kit based on Rodens’ first venture into 1:32 scale airplanes which was the production Fokker Dr-I. And as said in the preview, this kit is virtually identical to Roden’s Kit number 601 of the Fokker Dr-I. The only differences I can detect is that this kit still has the wing strut mounting holes for kit number 603 the Fokker D-VI molded on the inside of the fuselage, and it has the closer to actual configuration of the engine cowling. So with this kit you could build the Dr-I if you cannot find the other kit.

As I’ve previously stated I try to build my reviews straight out of the box without the use of aftermarket parts or putty, so that you will have a much better idea of what comes in the box. I’ve chosen to do the aircraft that is rarely if ever modeled the first F-I, F- 101/17. This aircraft is mostly Fokker factory streaked green, but with natural aluminum cowling and upper fuselage decking.

Some Thoughts on Accuracy

If you are an absolute stickler for accuracy, here are a few thoughts for you to ponder with respect to the differences between a Fokker Dr-I and the three Fokker F-I pre-production Dr-I machines.

Easy stuff:

Markings. Sufficient images exist of the three F-Is to make the general markings fairly accurate. This is especially true of the extremely faintly streaked rear end and tail planes of Voss’ aircraft. This is a detail I’ve yet to see repeated on a model, most of them are too heavy, approaching the production Dr-I streaking.

Wing tip skids. Only found on the Dr-Is, these are still in this kit, and the mounting holes are still molded into the bottom of the wing so that’s an easy one to remedy with a little putty.

Horizontal stabilizer.
There are enough photos that clearly show that at least the first two F-Is had slightly curved leading edges on the horizontal stabilizer. Roden threw us a curve ball in their instructions by indicating that Voss’ airplane 103/17 may have had the straight leading edge of the production Dr-I’s. I haven’t been able to find a photo proving one way or the other.
Engine cowling. This kit comes with a cowling that is molded closer to the two piece riveted construction of the production Dr-Is. This configuration is also visible on Voss’ F-I. But…photos of the aircraft I modeled indicate the possibility, that at least of the very first prototype the cowling may have been a one piece hammered to shape affair, look closely at the linked photo above. Again I don’t have a photo that proves one way or the other. There are also various discussions that the straight lower lip of the cowling, below the prop shaft hole changed configurations over the production run.

A little harder.

Colors. Until someone figures how to get an accurate color-recording device or camera through a time machine this one will always be a strong point of controversy with respect to WW-I modeling. The point I want to make is weather these three airplanes have a color coat over an aluminum/silver base coat, or the blue undercoat extended over the upper surfaces, then the greens (exact shade in question, some folks, based on Fokker drawings even include shades of browns) streaked over the blue. All I can say is take a really good look at lots and lots of photos and do your best.

Voss’ final flight colors. Marked as shown in the kit and its instructions, or with Jasta 10’s yellow cowl wheel covers and tail planes.

Ailerons. The kit comes with two different configurations of ailerons. One with a narrow second root chord rib and a gentle taper, the other, the later production configuration of the Dr-Is with a full chord second root rib and a very steep taper. Another issue, raised by another reviewer, is that the F-Is may have had a larger aileron counter balance. I haven’t found written verification of this but I’ve found one photo from the side and above of Voss’ airplane that does show larger counter balances. These balances are the same length from the aileron spar to the leading edge as they are from the aileron spar to trailing edge. On the kit ailerons, the counterbalance is about 60 % of this distance. Then again a shot of 101/17 shows counter balances that aren’t any larger than what is found on the production Dr-Is.

And a big bugger.

Wing chord. The official inspection report and Fokker’s’ own drawing show that the wing chord on the three F-Is was 980 mm opposed to the Dr-Is wings being enlarged to 1000 mm or one even meter. So if you want an absolutely accurate F-I you have to shave off 0.625 mm and reshape the trailing edge of each wing.

If this review sounds familiar, it should be it is identical to the DR-I review I did a year ago.

Pre Assembly Preparations

The kit comes with 7 light brown/khaki very nicely done sprues holding a total of 101 (my count on the sprue) parts. Included in this parts count are the alternate horizontal stabilizer, elevator, and ailerons for the F.I versions of the aircraft. Other options are a pair of machine guns that are molded to accept a PE cooling jacket, but this version of the kit lacks PE entirely. There is also a choice of two different propellers. The engine alone consists of 16 parts, featuring each cylinder head molded as a separate part. There is an extensive amount of detail for the interior including all of the tubing and visible parts.

Preliminary Painting

The preliminary painting consisted of using a dry brush technique to simulate the large plywood fairings that are trapped between the fuselage structure and the outer covering of the fuselage. While this was drying all of the tube steel components were given a covering of WW-II vintage RLM Gray. It appears that this color, or something very similar to it, was a standard finish on metal parts for both wars.

The Engine

Then, while this was drying, I moved onto the engine. As I said in the first look, I was most impressed that the little engine has 16 parts, all of which have exquisite detail. On the Dr-I build a year ago my first mistake was a naïve assumption that the front and back halves of the engine case and cylinders are flat, so I hit them with the flat sanding bar to make sure they were flat, so that I’d get a better glue joint, and I promptly sanded off the back half of eight of the spark plugs, and made the ninth one disappear altogether. Lesson learned; the spark plugs are molded on the front of the engine and act as alignment pins for the back half of the engine! So don’t sand them off! So THIS time, the only problem encountered is that the cooling fins on the half with out the spark plug will not allow proper alignment. I trimmed off the fins at the point of contact and with little patience the front and rear half’s were glued together and lined up so that the majority of the cylinders and fins lined up.

The cylinder heads were installed followed by the back of the crankcase, pushrods and intake tubes. As for painting, the only color shot of an Oberursel Ur.II I can find on line at the WW1 Modeling Page. That is a cleaned up and restored engine at the US Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio, I opted to go with this same clean configuration on mine. Also in this kit the engine shaft had snapped off in the packaging. So the larger locating bearing was permanently glued on the back of the engine.

The Wings

I moved on to assembling the wings so that exterior could begin painting. I opted to install the ailerons in a straight and level position. There was a little interference between the wing tip and the inboard edge of the aileron counter balance. This was quickly cleaned up with a little scraping on both parts. Take note when installing your ailerons, in that there is a large amount of latitude as to how high or low you can glue them on the simulated hinge points. So be sure to get them where you really want them before the glue sets up.

The Cockpit/Fuselage Interior

The cockpit floor was next. Just a smattering of parts here: the shaft that supports the rudder bar, the rudder bar itself and the aileron bell crank all at the front end of the floor. This followed by the joystick and its attached handles and triggers, and the compass at the rear end of the floorboard. Two items to note on this assembly; the assembly diagram in the instructions still imply that the aileron bell crank somehow goes on the rudder pedal shaft. When it should go on the torque tube on the floor, with both arms pointing up. I attached the attached the gun triggers/handle/aux throttle assembly to the joystick and then attached this assembly to the floor. For the final fuselage internal sub assembly I joined together the two halves of the fuel tank.

While all of this is drying it is a good time to work on getting the interplane struts to easily fit into the appropriate slots in the wings. On the Dr-I kit I waited to just before I glued the middle wing to the fuselage. Trying to fit these struts after the wings are mated, as shown in step 11, would have risked major damage to the wings and or fuselage. So it is best to get this fitting done early.

The Fuselage

I masked the interior of the fuselage in the wood fairing area and painted the remainder a “sand” color to represent the linen fabric interior. This was followed by the fuselage internal tubing indicated in step 9 of the instructions. The interior tubing was the next little stumbling block. The diagram in the instructions implies that these parts should go as far forward as possible. From the Dr-I build I found out that these tubes also stand too tall and interfere with the cockpit cover. So, on this kit I sanded the bottom tube rather aggressively, removing almost half of its thick ness and a goodly portion off the front edge where it meets the wing pass through box. INSERT F-1,005 Interior tubing.jpg This resulted in a tubing set that sat low enough to clear the edge of the cockpit and forward enough to let the aft cockpit bulkhead/seat assembly sit where it was supposed to.

Moving on to fuselage close out, I trimmed the cockpit closeout/seat assembly to fit then glued it in position perpendicular to the centerline of the fuselage. This was followed by gluing just the bottom of the fuselage haves together. (NOTE: The single alignment pin on the front of the fuselage at the wing box IS TOO BIG; it doesn’t allow the lower edge to mate completely. Trim this part down before you glue the fuselage together). This provided a little “give” in the top halves, to allow positioning of the floorboard and other parts. Another discrepancy that is still leftover from the Dr-I kit is that in the instruction drawings, the crossbar that forms the rudder pedal hinge is shown lining up with the aft most set of pins protruding from the fuselage sides. If you do this, the floor will be too far aft. This crossbar should line up and attach to the second set of pins from the aft side. The rear gun mount part number 16C attaches to the aft pins. This is opposite of what is shown on the step 13 drawings.

Another point to notice here is that the ammo cans and the fuel tank are glued to the BOTTOM of the fuselage tubing. They are modeled to hang down not mounted on top. If you glue them to the top you will have interference problems with the upper decking. There are a couple of trouble points in this area. First the ammo cans are not adjacent to one another but separated by the front gun mount/cross bar. If you look at step 13 it can imply that the cans go in together, but step 14 shows the proper position. As for the fuel tank, its location on the fuselage tubing is clearly indicated by some mounting points on the tubing. But…if you attach it as indicated by step 13 there may be some fit problems down the road. May I suggest you leave the fuel tank out until you have the upper decking in place, or as I did with this on, since it will never be seen again I just left it out completely? Since I also left off the engine mount frame I next added the firewall, using it and a sanding stick as a spreader to get the front of the fuselage to the correct shape.

The fuel filler neck and cap was then glued to the upper decking. As to the upper decking, I took quite a bit of time to do a lot of filing and test fitting to ensure this part falls into place. A little more work needs to be done on removing a small amount of flash on the fuselage to wing fairings, lastly, take a little more time to get a good fit of this fairing on to the upper wing. Be sure to glue the fairing edges and the main spar for a good strong joint. Installing the upper decking and the wing consists of first getting the fairing attached between the cockpit and the wing fairing. Then open the sides of the top edge of the fuselage as needed to get a good fit and alignment with the upper decking. I considered the fuselage done and closed out with the attachment of the lower wing and interplane struts. My last two sub assemblies were to drill out and install all of the flight control arms. In this scale, these items are big enough to have a hole easily drilled in them to accept the control cables. And lastly I installed the landing gear sub-wing and the associated struts. These fit extremely well in the provided sockets on the lower surface of the fuselage and wing.

This looked like a good time for decals, so on they went, sort of. I’ve read of others having problems with Roden decals. I haven’t experienced this with the four of their kits I’ve built so far. I guess this was my time to finally hit a snag. These were slightly fragile. On the upper wing white background areas, I had trimmed them with a sharp new knife blade, yet the started to break up along the cut edges.

This batch was not affected at all by micro Sol, so I switched to my favorite “hot” setting solution from Champ and after two hours the decals would lie down over the control cable exit holes. Unlike the Dr-I where you have to paint the white cross fields Rodent does all of these as complete decals. And once again, for my good South American friend “D” the upper wing decals were applied whole, in one piece. Allowed to dry for an hour then they were sliced through at the aileron gap, and re-soaked with setting solution to lie down in the gap.

Final Assembly and Rigging

With the decals dry and protected, a quiet Sunday evening was spent on final assembly and rigging. The engine was permanently installed in the firewall and then covered by the aluminum cowling. The wheels and axels were assembled and installed as shown on the instructions. The stabilizer was installed, and the elevator was given the now traditional “on the ground” droop. I was surprised to learn that the fuselage of the Dr-I does indeed go past the end of the stabilizer by about a foot, Roden accurately repeats this feature. With the upper wing still off, it is a good time to accomplish what little rigging is found on the Dr-I. I usually use 0.005-inch diameter “invisible” sewing thread. But again a less on learned from both the Dr-I and the D-VI this stuff is just a little too invisible and too small in 1:32nd. My friends on the WW0I modeling list had repeatedly mentioned the “E” string off of a guitar as an excellent size wire for rigging. So off to Granny’s Music here in Oklahoma City and picked up the smallest diameter E string steel wire they had at 0.010 in diameter (it also supposedly comes in .008in dia. too). The first application of this was the landing gear cross bracing and by using a pin to apply medium CA I was pleased with the results and it added a noticeable amount of stability to this part.

Before adding the top wing, the guns and feed chutes were cleaned up assembled and painted. Roden has done a fantastic job on the feed chutes in that you can distinguish the ammo feed belts, brass casings and metal rounds in the ammo feed side of the guns. When dry these were dropped in position on the fuselage. This time it took a little clean up of the clearance holes to get the guns to sit where they belonged. Use a little care; this is the third time I’ve snapped off the flash suppressor on a Roden machine gun. Carpet gnomes, what do they need these for?

The top wing was attached to the interplane struts, and the cabanes were maneuvered between he fuselage mounting points and the cabane attachments on the wing. While this was drying the rudder was glued to its hinges. The E string cross cables were installed on the cabanes, followed by the aileron pull cables. Then the rudder and elevator cables were added. It is a little bit of a challenge but you can actually drill through the horizontal stabilizer at the two displaced fairing holes and allow the upper elevator cable to pass right through.

Out of parts, I must be done!

Colors and Markings

The kit gives you the choice of all three of the F-Is and for this build I’ve decided to do the first prototype in the markings that it wore at the factory for its short life.

This image shows the V 4 prototype aircraft in CDL or clear-doped linen.

The evidence of this is that you can see the structure illuminated by the sunlight above. If the aircraft had been doped silver then the light would not make it through the fabric. Also note the oversized, square ELEVATOR counter balances!

The Dr-I was delivered to squadron service in Fokker’s streaky olive drab over light blue finish. Pages can be written on the exact hue and tone of these colors, but in this case I’m just using X-tra color enamels straight out of the can.

Things Roden could do better and they should consider revising in future kits.

Thankfully, the only shortcomings in this great kit are simple mis-marked or mis-identified items and installations on the instructions. These are:

  • In step number 4, clarify the installation of part number 2C the aileron cable bell crack.
  • In step number 9, clarify the installation of part number 5C and 6C the fuselage tubing, indicating that it should go as far forward as possible to leave a small gap at the rear ends to allow the fuselage close out panel (#2E) to fit.
  • In step number 13, clarify the installation of the floor assembly from step 4, switching the position of the cross brace and part number 16C.

Conclusion

Roden has done another fine job of giving us a big easy to assemble WW-I subject, that also gives you the flexibility of being built as a Dr-I too. Now on to the Albatros D-III.

Thanks to Roden for the review model.

References

Fokker V5/Dr.1, by Wolfgang Schuster, Achim Sven Engels, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd
Fokker Dr.1 Aces of World War 1, Aircraft of the Aces No 40, by Norman Franks, Greg Van Wyngarden, Tony Holmes, Osprey Publishing
Fokker Fighters, Vintage Warbirds No.6 (Out of Print-Available Used), by Alex Imrie
Fokker Dr.I in Action, Aircraft Number 98 (Out of Print-Available Used), by Heinz J. Nowarra, Squadron/Signal Publications

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