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Academy 1/32 Sopwith Camel

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  • Member since
    February, 2010
  • From: Berkeley CA/St. Paul MN
Academy 1/32 Sopwith Camel
Posted by EBergerud on Friday, April 29, 2011 4:02 PM

1/32 scale Academy Sopwith Camel
Coat d'Arms, Vallejo Model Color and Golden Acrylic paints
Golden Acrylic mediums
Doc Martins pigments; Windsor oils
2lb monofilament for rigging: "midge" size rubber tubing for sleeves

Below is my first rigged biplane. It was the most complex 40 part kit I've ever done, a result coming from some moron mistakes and pushing envelopes.

The Kit:
This model was originally done by Hobby Craft many years back. It had some fit and accuracy problems that caused Hobby Craft to issue a revised version. Academy boxed the old one. It's claim to fame, along with it's very low price ($13) was that it was designed for those new to biplane rigging. There are holes already drilled in the sides and the struts to keep the number of threads to an absolute minimum. It even comes with thread. If you are content to simply rig a biplane, a needle would work very well and you'd get it up and running in short order. (Two long threads would rig 2/3 of the wings.) There is much to be said in favor of this approach (from 10 feet away you can't see rigging detail anyway) but I didn't take it. WingNut models are inspiring a lot of buzz on Finescale and that means turn buckles and sleeves. So I bought Bob's Buckles (with sleeves) and left them in Berkeley California. I did the kit in St. Paul Minnesota, about 2500 miles distant. So I took a tip from Doog on the Great War GB and  and substituted "midge" sized rubber tubing from a fly fishing shop for the brass sleeves. As there was no way I was going to make them myself I skipped the buckles. (Might add that unless you are very close, what you usually see are the sleeves, not the buckles.) They're the perfect width - .5mm - and a snap to cut with a knife on glass. When painted bronze they served perfectly well. They might not have been exactly uniform in length, but the world will continue to spin. (Might add that along the way I learned how to cut brass tubing, a lesson I think could come in very handy, just not for biplanes. It will either be Bob's or plastic tubing in future.) The problem was that needles don't fit through the tubing so Academy's original sacrifice of detail for ease was demolished. In retrospect, I wish I'd filled all of the holes and drilled all of the connection points. But I didn't, so the result is a kind of hybrid of real rigging and lazy rigging. But it is fully rigged and done right. To atone for some sins I scratch built a gizmo to hold the rigging wires over the machine guns, something Academy omitted in favor of a simple loop. So everything is in place - that's something. And it wasn't that hard once you got the hang of it. Far more difficult was setting the wings. For its price the Academy kit is well detailed but the top wing has a little too much curve and you will do your share of sanding. (No putty needed though, and the potentially tricky landing gear fit very well.) However, any way you cut it the grooves made to connect the cabane struts around the cockpit were slightly out of alignment. Under normal circumstances this would have been easily handled with a little filler and some surgery. However, dry fitting a biplane is no easy matter and it wasn't clear that there was a problem until after the initial fit. In the end the alignment is off just a bit, which doesn't make me happy. But rather than reassemble the wings I left it alone because, frankly, nobody will ever notice unless they really know Camels and bring a compass to examine it. (The Hobby Craft/ Academy Nieuport 17 is supposed to be a better effort all the way around - and easier to rig.)

Should note, however, that the decals are very poor. (If there are any purists who don't like the decals, I should note that some good ones simply fell apart so I had to use what I had.) It wasn't hard to create three part national markings but the texture was too brittle to lay down well on the ribbed surface regardless of any solvents used. Other builders of this kit noticed the same thing, so I'm not a gloomy gus on the subject. If I can find 32 scale French decals I'm going to get them - if not I'll at least mask and paint the tail for the upcoming Nieuport.

Painting and Weathering
In a probably pointless pursuit to find the best water soluble acrylic paints, I bought some Coat d'Arms jars for a very nice price. This is a Brit company that specializes in paints for miniatures. (They used to make the metallic paints for the Games Workshop Citadel brad which were outsourced to you know where.) They're lovely paints and, as I suspected, worked wonderfully with artist acrylic mediums for airbrushing. I used their "linen" color unaltered for the undersides of the wing and created my own WWI RFC khaki green and am very pleased with the results.  Ditto with the grey (tinted with a little green) I used on the front - a color scheme I stole from Eduard. I got excellent results with very heavily diluted fine spraying when putting on oil stains. (I'm very tempted to use this stuff on a tank - might be just the thing for panel shading.) I did use Tamiya clear orange on top of MM "Wood" for the struts.

Des over at favors "delivery day" kits. If I made models as good as his, I would too. (WWIaircraft is one of the best small sites I've ever seen and is brimming with very useful biplane building info. If' you haven't seen it, do check it out: Des who runs the place is a wonderul gent and makes jaw-dropping models.) But I don't and in the case of WWI aircraft, as in most genres, history does call for weathering. But the same drill as used for a metal fighter won't really do according to biplane gurus on this and other boards. The Camel had a rotary which in WWI carried a "total loss" castor oil lubrication system. That means there was a stream of burnt castor oil coming down the lower part of the plane every minute of flight. So I did some caramel colored oil streaking underneath which worked very well: mixed with Golden burnt umber, payne's grey and Vallejo clear varnish. (Might add that this oil splotch is very evident in modern films of rotary engined WWI planes.) Also gave the bottom a good dusting of light brown pigments to show ... dust. I gave plane an oil wash (burnt umber on green, payne's grey on grey) to break up the surface and used MIG to fade the wings a little. Also ground in some Doc O'Briens  "grimy black" pigment around the engine cowl to show a little soot which collected in addition to the castor oil. None of this, except for the castor oil splotch, is very evident because I wanted to leave the plane with a nice satin finish which it still has. (Been told it was a rare plane that lasted long enough to suffer from serious fading. Hard core "weather" by adding patches or bullet holes.) We've was a nice argument on other parts of the forum whether a freshly painted fabric surface is much different than painted metal. (I argued yes.) Whatever the answer a company called Micro Sculpt sells German "lozenge" decals and also a plain "fabric" covering to change the effect. I'll try that next biplane.  (

And there will be more. I was seriously out of my comfort zone here. I didn't have a clue when starting how the rigging would go or how the kit would build. And it's a little tense to spend hours working on a kit that you know could end up a complete debacle in the end. But it didn't and a fully rigged biplane is a neat display model. I've got the Academy Nieuport 17 on order not because it's cheap (it is) but because it's a really spiffy plane and supposedly is very well made. I'll fill the holes and use the buckles I've got. (Bob's Buckles are really cheap so unless you are a real fanatic, I strongly recommend them. Des loves doing that stuff and told me it takes nearly a day to do enough for a complex build.) After that the WingNut Pflaz looks terrific. I also have a real soft spot for the Morane Saulnier N, but it's made by Special Hobby a company that made at least one kit that did not leave me smiling. Anyway, good time was had by all. Pics below.



A model boat is much cheaper than a real one and won't sink with you in it.

  • Member since
    December, 2010
Posted by DiceCaller on Friday, April 29, 2011 6:08 PM

Congrats on the rigging!  Nice build and very nice kit review. 

I had been wondering about the Academy kits; the price when compared with other 1/32 planes seemed way out of line.


  • Member since
    February, 2010
  • From: Berkeley CA/St. Paul MN
Posted by EBergerud on Friday, April 29, 2011 8:52 PM

Outside of the new king from WingNut, today's biplanes are made by Eduard or Roden both from Eastern Europe. One thing you get from the newer kits is a much more detailed cockpit. This is good if you look at cockpits. It can be bad if the "birdcage" that surrounds them doesn't always fit well. The inline engine planes like the Albatross also much better detailed engines. The Academy/HobbyCraft have adequate cockpits but no birdcage (goody) and simple engines which isn't so bad in a rotary. I did note that the HobbyCraft kits are several years old so don't expect the kind of really tight fit that modern kits can give you. But don't expect some of the heart attacks that over engineered contemporary planes can give you. Everyone tells me the Nieuport 17 is a better kit and it's a really neat fighter. If you've never tried a biplane this would be a good place to start. You could even get out that needle and use the provided thread and rig the plane in twenty minutes (or so). They make a Fokker triplane that's supposed to be okay and a Spad 13 which is a hard build in anybody's hands because of the problems rigging that low top wing. These kits are not toys by any means. Nor are they ancient repackaged kits that really are crude like some of the Monogram, Lindberg or Testors kits kicking around.



A model boat is much cheaper than a real one and won't sink with you in it.


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