To date, the Roden Fokker D.VII has received disappointing reviews, and I would have to agree with these. This kit is not up to the standard I have become accustomed to receiving from Roden. There are several molding flaws and errors in the kit. However, these have been well documented and I won’t go into that here.
I built this model strictly out of the box. The intention being to show others what they might build straight out of the box. Even though I often wanted to add some after-market parts I persevered and used only Roden parts.
The building of this model begins by adding the instrument panel to a turtle-deck, which will cover the forward cockpit. Roden also wants the machine guns mounted at this time. I opted to save this step for later. The next step is the best part of the model: the engine. This is the best Mercedes D.III engine I have seen in plastic. It's too bad this little gem gets buried in the fuselage. I painted my engine with a variety of Testors Metalizer paints. Aluminum, Steel and Stainless Steel to name a few.
Now the fun starts with the interior. I attempted to apply some lozenge decal to the interior and then lightly paint it with Testors Sand. The idea was for the lozenge to show through the clear doped linen color. The decals didn’t cooperate with me and I was forced to peel the decal and paint back off. I repainted the interior with Testors Sand again.
This model is to represent an Albatros built Fokker D.VII, and Albatros protected the steel structure of its aircraft with a pale gray/green paint. I chose Testors RLM02 Gray for this color. I painted the tubular structure, instrument panel, foot pedals and control stick this shade of gray. The instruments were detailed using Testors Interior Black and I painted the grips of the control stick Testors Leather. Once this dried the paint was given a protective coat of Future floor wax. After waiting for this to dry I gave these parts a series of oil washes: black and burnt umber. I continued working on the metal pieces by highlighting the tubular structure with the Testors RLM 02 gray mixed with white. I completed painting the interior parts by giving this portion of the model a quick shot of Testers Dullcoat from a rattlecan. Roden's instructions suggest assembling the spreader bar and wheels at this point. I put this off for a bit because I wasn't sure what paint scheme I was going to use yet.
After the paint dried on these pieces I assembled them. The cockpit parts went together without any fuss and the fuselage halves fit well. So, things were moving along fine. Then I tried to put the radiator on. That was too wide and needed to be sanded down for an acceptable fit.
Now, it was time to decide which paint scheme to build. The winged sword aircraft depicted on the box artwork is attractive. However I think Berthold's mount is becoming rather hackneyed. I wasn't feeling to inspired about painting the streaked olive drab paint scheme of Hermann Goering's D.VII either. If I wasn't feeling up to the bother of a streaky paint job there was no way I was up to painting Bruno Loerzer's black and white striped machine. So I selected Hugo Shaefer's winged serpent D.VII. It incorporated an interesting paint scheme that wasn't overly difficult. The only issue with this paint scheme was the lozenge fabric on all surfaces of the wings.
Now that the paint scheme was selected it was time to start applying the lozenge decals to the wings. Roden supplies nice, one-piece decals to be placed on the upper and lower surfaces of the wing. Another block of lozenge decal is supplied to be cut up into rib tapes.
The first half of the lozenge project was not that difficult. I gave the bare plastic wings a coat of Future floor wax. Next the undersurface decals went on. I found these a little difficult to trim to size. Even with a brand new X-Acto blade the decals preferred to break instead of cut. I encountered the same problem with the top decals too – A tip I have since received is to use a fine grit sanding stick instead of the X-Acto knife. Once the lozenge decals are dry another coat of Future is applied. Decals are very fragile and will wear away along the leading and trailing edges where the wing is handled.
As mentioned above Roden wants you to cut your own rib tapes. This is a little tricky due to the small size and the quality of the decals. The first thing to do is build a small jig, so the rib tapes will be about the same size. All I did was place a piece of masking tape onto my self-healing cutting board to act as a stop. I placed it just above one of the lines printed on my cutting board. The printed line was just the right width for a rib tape. I placed my decal face down and butted it against the masking tape stop. I used a metal straight edge aligned along the bottom of the printed line. I cut the decal using two or three light passes with a new X-Acto knife. When I used only one cut the decal broke or separated from the backing sheet. Finally I had a batch of rib tapes to apply.
I began applying the rib tapes to the bottom of the bottom wing. I suggest you give the wing another coat of Future as soon as possible. Otherwise the rib tapes may fall off. Mine did, which, of course, required the wing to be rib taped again. Finally the rib tapes were applied to all wing surfaces. It can be a real pain getting all the rib tapes on, but it is very satisfying once they are on there. Lozenged wings are just one of the best looking camouflage ideas out there.
In between bouts with the wing decals I had been painting the fuselage. The nose was painted Insignia Red from Testors. Mid-Ship Blue, from Floquil's Marine colors line, was used for the rest of the fuselage and tail plane. Once again Future was brushed on before and after applying decals. I had a little silvering on the winged serpent so I used a brush to try and jam some Future underneath. It seemed to work.
Now disaster strikes! I had been in a big hurry to build this model and I had never tested the fit between the lower wing and the fuselage. It didn't fit! The opening in the fuselage needed to be widened. Also, the gap in the wings needed to be enlarged. It took some careful work with a razor saw and an X-Acto knife to make the parts fit. Finally it all went together. Obviously, a little touch up was needed for the lozenge. I had a similar fit problem with the horizontal stabilizer. The gap in the stabilizer was too small and needed to be enlarged.
Now it is time to mount the top wing. Yep, that's right – the part of WWI modeling that people dread the most. The struts went on this model very well for the most part. I started with the outer "N" struts by gluing them into the pockets on the bottom of the top wing. I used Ambroid Pro-Weld glue for this. As the glue dried I made sure the struts were perpendicular using the ol' Mk. I eyeball. Once the glue had set I glued the struts into the pockets on the topside of the bottom wing. As this dried I used an assortment of paint jars to hold the top wing and model stable. The top wing is surprisingly strong once the glue has set up. Now I started sneaking the center struts in. These all fit without a problem with the exception of the "V" strut. It needed to be trimmed a little. Now that these struts are all installed the wing is very strong.
The landing gear struts and spreader bar were installed in a similar as above.
The propeller had been painted earlier. A base coat of Testors Desert Sand was applied. I hand brushed some dark stripes using Testers Leather. Once these dried I gave them a coat of a mixture of Gunze-Sanyo Clear Yellow, Clear Orange and Future. This gives the Testors paint a warm, varnished wood look. The prop boss was painted Testors Steel. The tailskid was given a similar treatment to simulate wood. The propeller and tailskid were installed along with the tailplane support struts.
My overall impression is this kit is much tougher to build than it ought to be. The errors in the fit of the fuselage to the wing, radiator and tailplane are inexcusable from a mainstream kit manufacturer. The quality of the Roden Fokker D.VII is something I would expect from a limited run or resin model. The very best piece of advice I can offer about this kit is to throw away the lozenge decals. Not for their colors (which are suspect) but for the way they fail to adhere to the model. Eagle Strike makes some nice after market decals although Americal-Gryphon is my favorite. In the end a nice appearing model can be had. Unfortunately, it is a lot of work.