Modelling, as any other hobby I can think of, isn't just fun. As we all know, there are several tasks associated with it that I'm sure won't rank very high on the personal lists of hobby pleasures of each one of us, and of these there is nothing I could hate more than cleaning the airbrush.
So, when the Roden PKZ-2 kit came along I felt quite pleased, since not only it provided me the chance to model something of an oddball, but also because I felt this could be a pretty much back to basics build-up that could achieved with a minimal set of modelling tools and supplies and, most of all, could be brush painted without fear of doing a bad job.
The kit comprises a single sprue of 50 well moulded, delicate and flash free parts and I decided I would prepare all the tiny bits and pieces that make up the model before starting the assembly process. I was very worried about this at first, due to past experiences with Roden kits, and I was expecting to have more than a few parts breaking when cutting them off from the sprue. Fortunately this proved not to be so, and in only one occasion did a part snap, what was readily taken care of with a touch of CA into the fracture. All this notwithstanding, be prepared to spend a good deal of time removing the traces of the sprue attachment points, what is best done by carefully scraping the surface of the part with a cutter blade and then finishing it off with high grade wet and dry paper.
Once all the parts were separated and cleaned I paused to think about what colours should be used because a great deal of painting would be best done before assembly of the parts and also because the painting instructions supplied by Roden didn't seem to agree with my interpretation of the photos I had seen of the real thing. In fact Roden would have us paint the whole lot in different shades of grey and from what I had seen in photos, at the very least, the central shafts as well as the fuel tanks looked to be decidedly metal. A quick posting to the WW1 modelling List confirmed that I wasn't alone in thinking this way as I was informed that other interpretations of the black and white photos, notably that on the Albatros Publications mini-datafile on the type, concurred in depicting the mechanical core of the helicopter as metal. I still think that the booms could also have been unpainted metal, but since I was not really sure about this I decided to go for grey, in a contrasting shade to the one used on the rubber buffers.
Another feature that I chose to address before starting the assembly process were the many structural wires that were present on the PKZ-2 and that would, of course, have to be replicated on the model. So, I made holes with a .3mm drill bit at the places where the wires were to anchor on the booms, which would be later used to thread invisible wire through them, making the complex rigging scheme quite easy to achieve.
And so I had finally come around to glue time. Construction is very simple but, again, there are a couple of things that might lead to unexpected trouble, and these are mainly centred on the assembly of the inverted Vs on the boom ends and on the way the booms attach to the central structure.
The solutions I came up for these two particular situations are apparent on the photo:
The assembly of the extremity of each boom, comprising a buffer and two inverted Vs, needs the buffers to be set at an angle, and this would be extremely difficult to achieve without the help of a third hand, due to their almost spherical form. Blobs of UHU tack were used to get the booms and the buffers at their correct angles and then the inverted Vs were glued in place. The other problem I had to deal with was the fact that Roden has the boom to "engine core" joint relying on one of their infamous butt joins, what I guess would be pretty hard to achieve given the almost non-existent contact area. On top of that the end of the booms are round and so they should be sanded flat first.
To overcome this, again used a .3 mm drill to make holes on the extremities of each boom and inserted into them tiny pieces of broken .3 mm bits that would later enter into similar holes made on the parts onto which the booms attached. The use of CA ensures a nice tight bond here, without fear of having the assembly collapsing later on, due to the strain of the rigging.
I also chose to use copper wire for some parts, notably the fuel pipes and the rods connecting the base "tripod" to the main buffer, since it was easier to cut the wire and mould it into shape than to clean the supplied parts.
Other than this the assembly was fast and without problems and the only additions I made were several pieces of thin copper wire, either painted black to replicate hoses or left in their natural colour to resemble fuel lines, that I glued onto the model, using the photographs on FMP's Autro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of WW1 as reference.
The pre-painted propellers (watercolour pencils over a base coat of Humbrol 63) were inserted into the main shaft and finally the light grey gondola was attached with a touch of CA. Roden supplies a cross decal for the Gondola, but all the photos I've seen of the real machine showed no markings at all, so the cross was not applied.
In my humble opinion the completed model looks quite a good rendition of the original, what is of course due to the merits of the kit itself, but I found it would benefit from being displayed in some sort of base, so I decided my model would rest on a wooden platform since the photos had showed it being tested on one such platform. For this I cut 3mm wide strips of wood veneer that I glued onto a plywood base. Once all the strips were glued, a wash of mahogany wood stain was given to the whole base, onto which I glued scratchbuilt rollers, made with pieces of straight pin, sheet aluminium, rod and stretched sprue, representing the devices used to feed the stabilising cables that were used on the original, which would connect to a winch trough which attitude control of the Helicopter was achieved. The cables were again represented by using fine copper wire (from the coil of an old transformer) painted black.
All in all I was quite pleased with the results and again Roden is to be congratulated for providing us with a very good kit of a subject that I'm sure will raise a few questions next time I take it to my model club's yearly public exhibition.
As usual, people on the WW1 Modeling List were extremely helpful and I'd like to thank Andreas Martin, Michal Beran, Craig Gavin, Todd Hayes, Tom Plesha, Brian Nicklas (hope I'm not leaving anyone out....) for all the precious help provided. Thanks Guys.
Austro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of World War One, Grosz, Haddow, Schiemer, Flying Machines Press, 1993.