Triebflugel build-up

September 30, 2008

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The Mad Klingon's 1/48 Triebflugel build report

The Focke-Wulf Triebflugel (powered wings), was a German concept for an aircraft designed in 1944. It was a Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) interceptor intended for defense of strategically important factories and to take advantage of smaller airfields. The design is particularly unusual. It had no wings, and all lift and thrust were provided by a rotor/propeller assembly in the middle of the craft. When the plane was sitting on its tail in the vertical position the rotors would have functioned similarly to a helicopter. When flying horizontally they would function more like a giant propeller. The Triebflugel had only reached wind-tunnel testing when the allied forces reached the production facilities and no complete prototype was ever built.

After a particularly busy week at work with a major project that needed to be completed in just 3 days, I decided to reward my hard work with a new kit! I know what you are thinking... I buy a new kit every week... but I earned this one, REALLY! I stopped by Hans' shop and waited for something to jump out at me. After looking for an hour I decided on Planet Models' 1/48 Focke-Wulf Triebflugel. The kit contains about 40 parts nicely cast in a cream colored resin. A small sheet of beautiful decals, vacuformed canopy and simple instructions are also included.

The kit should be an easy build of a interesting subject. I did notice a couple of things I will need to address. First, the cockpit is a bit sparse so additional details including a gun sight, rudder peddles and seat belts will be added and I may add a pilot. Second, the clamshell doors for four stabilizing wheels are solid cast. They will need to be thinned and shaped for a more realistic appearance. I will complete one and cast the eight needed.

Alignment guides are scribed into key parts to assist with critical alignment of the tail fins and engines. A nice touch by the manufacturer.

I also plan on scratchbuilding a gantry ladder and base.

I have not decided on a paint scheme just yet but there are many cool ones to choose from. I will keep everyone posted!


Had a great day today. I was able to spend almost the whole day on the new kit. I am trying to build the kit as quickly as I can - I have a nasty habit of spending too much time on research and measuring and cutting and then measuring again because I mucked up the first, second and third time. It was eyeball all day!

As a mentioned in my first entry the model has a few minor build issues. I addressed the solid cast clam shell doors yesterday. Using my Dremel and the large round engraving bit, I slowly removed the extra material until I was happy with the look. I will cast this one up and create the eight I need.

Next, I decided to attached the four fins to the fuselage. Worried the fins would not hold the weight of the model I reinforced the joint with brass wire. The scribed placement guides really came in handy!

While starting the assembly of the kit, I very quickly noticed the main landing gear and stabilizing wheel struts were missing. The stabilizing wheel struts were easily replaced with some brass tubing. I have not decided what to do about the main landing gear. I can get another one from the hobby shop, scratch build a new one or use landing gear from another kit? I will let you know.

I finished the three ramjets and working on attaching them to the "wings" but something didn't feel right. After checking some images on-line I discovered the wings should have a slight warp too them. The kit parts were straight...dangit! One of the many wonderful attributes of resin is it is heat susceptible. This means, with a little applied heat I can bend the wings into the required shape! I used my coffee pot to bring some water to boil and slowly poured the steaming water over the wings one at a time and carefully twisted each resin wing one into shape.

So far, only a few minor issues and every build has a challenge. See you next time!


October 2, 2008

A quick update. I have decided to take the easy road and procured a replacement for the missing main landing gear. Yeah!

Sat down for a couple of hours after work today. While watching Ironman, I secured the three ramjets to the wings. Again, using brass rod to reinforce the joints. Shhh...don't tell anyone but one ramjet is about 1/64 of an inch off. Also added brass rod between the wing and body of the Triebflugel. You can't trust super glue, it bonds quickly and is strong but brittle. Because it doesn't flex, one good bump and the glued part will pop right off!

I picked up some additional items for the kit yesterday including some fuel drums and these cool aircraft placards. They will add some interesting eye candy around the landing gear and in the cockpit. Speaking of the cockpit, I purchased a super detailed alternative, the Aires 1/48 Dornier Do 335A cockpit set. It was just a couple of dollars more than the Komet photo-etch set I was looking at and included photo-etch AND a complete resin cockpit. I will dissect the cockpit set and augment the sparse cockpit included in the kit.

I am really excited about the progress of this build...too often I get bogged down in the details and what started as a quick build turns into a 3 or 4 month long saga.

October 10, 2008

I have to report, I was unable to remove the yellowing of the canopy. I tried bleach, Windex and Future and none had an effect. Bummer. I am left with 2 options: I can leave the canopy as-is and hope the yellow color isn't noticeable or two, I can make a resin copy of the canopy and attempt to vac-u-form a new one. I am leaning toward option 2.

While waiting for resin to arrive I started work on modifying the sparse Treibflugel cockpit. (BTW: I got a good deal on the Smooth-On 300 trial size at, only $18.67 - it retails for $24.72) I opened the Aires cockpit and looked it over. It was beautiful, well cast with wonderful photo-etch. I hesitated cutting it up but I was sticking to my guns and broke out the razor saw!

I made several cuts starting with the back and continued cutting until I had several pieces that now fit into the original cockpit. After lots of test fitting I began to glue the cockpit together. To help hold the tub in place I built a small brace out of styrene and glued it inside the nose section. Finally, I glued the pilot's chair in place. Ok, that was stupid.

The next time I tried to test fit the cockpit I discovered it is now too tall to fit inside the nose section. Stupid. I tried to remove the chair but it wasn't going anywhere. I thought about cutting the head rest off and reattaching it later, no that's too much trouble. I decided to remove a small piece of the nose section. I can easily replace and repair the missing section after I paint and install the tub. Stupid.

The photo-etched accessories including the new instrument panel, pedals, seat belts and a couple of levers were added. It was my first time working with photo-etch and it was a lot simpler than I thought and it really adds another level of realism to the kit. The pedals look really awesome, too bad you'll never see them. In fact, most of the new cockpit detail will be obscured by the fuselage. Well, at least you and I know it's there!

Until next time.


November 7 2008

My resin finally arrived last week (it was on backorder) so I was able to cast the missing main landing gear strut.

Over the weekend, I brought the Triebflugel over to Erin's place for a little show and tell. He suggested I add some detail to the ramjet intakes. He happen to have a couple turbo fans from what looked like a 1/72 scale jet fighter that might do the trick. Thanks buddy!

Using my Dremel and engraving bit, I carefully removed the simple detail inside each of the three engines and dropped in the new fans that I had cast from the original. They fit almost perfectly, all I needed to do was place a drop of resin between the edge of the fan and inside of the ramjet to unify the two parts. It was a simple modification that made one hell of a difference in the detail and visual impact!

It was time to start on the cockpit I cobbled together from the kit supplied tub and Aries Do 335A Arrow cockpit set. I first sprayed the cockpit overall Testors Acrylic Model Master RLM 66, a standard German cockpit gray. To break up the RLM 66, I airbrushed in some Tamiya German Gray around the edges. After the base colors had dried overnight, I added a wash of Burnt Umber to give the cockpit a dirty, lived in look. The next night I added a pin wash of Ivory Black. This adds definition around the gauges and switches. When the second wash dried, I carefully drybrushed a little Tamiya Metallic Gray around the cockpit to simulate some wear. Next, I drybrushed Testors RLM 67, a light gray color to bring out the raised detail. Finally, I painted the switches, headrest and seat belts. I spayed the whole thing with Testors Flat and simulated the glass of the gauges with diluted white glue.

This was my first cockpit and I am happy with the results.

Next week I want to build a gantry ladder. Because the Triebflugel is a VTOL aircraft, the pilot and crew required a large ladder or stairs to get from the ground up to the cockpit and back down again. I had hoped to build one from styrene rod but after a few tests it was clear styrene is just not strong enough for the job.

But brass is! Stay tuned for my soldering adventures!


January 19, 2009

After a brief respite from the Triebflugel build I have an update.

The detail on the main landing gear was pretty basic so I decided to add a little more. The original wheel was replaced with a super-detailed early FW-190 wheel from True Details. I liked the hub detail and more important it was a good fit. I don't think anyone will give me any grief about placing an early war tire on a nonexistent aircraft. But, there was a problem...the wheel was designed to be side mounted; the Triebflugel's main strut is forked. The detail on one side of the wheel had to go so I cut the wheel in half with my razor saw, made a mold, duplicated the needed side and glued the two together. Ta-Da! I now have a symmetrical wheel!

I also added a trunnion or toque link...the little v-shaped hinge, cast from another kit. I made a really quick one-piece mold so I had to pull about a dozen before I got a decent copy. A brake line made from aluminum rod was also added.

Now that the main gear is complete it was time to glue the support struts in place. After some test fitting, the struts were secured in place with resin. I use resin because it allows plenty of time to adjust the parts before it setting. I didn't want a crooked Triebflugel.


It occurred to me that perhaps I should find a flat, level surface to make sure my model is straight and true. I carried the kit to the kitchen counter and stared at the model. Turned the model. Stared some more. I walked back to my hobby room and returned square in hand. It didn't take me long to verify my model was a cock-eyed. Not much mind you, just a fraction of an inch... but it will eat me up inside. I have to fix it!

I had hoped that maybe the brass could be wiggled out of the resin. All I needed to do was slide the tubing out a bit to level out the model. I started to apply a little pressure to the strut, back and forth with no luck. I needed a little more leverage and grabbed a pair of hobby pliers. Gently I pulled on the piece, applying just enough pressure to...squish the tubing. Dangit!

I was not able to pull the brass from the resin and instead carefully drilled the section out. Now, all I need to do is replace the brass…let me see, I am sure I have something around here. This piece is too small, this piece is too large. Oh for crying out loud! Of course I don’t have the correct size! Figures, I used the single oddball piece of brass tubing in my stash to create the landing struts. After a week of searching I located the correct diameter of brass and rebuilt the strut.

I made sure the model was straight-er, it’s still not perfect but close enough.

Thanks for reading and I will see you soon!


February 22, 2009

In Build Entry 4 I wrote about the issue with the model's discolored canopy. I tried bleach, Windex and Future and none had an effect. I even tried exposing the plastic to sunlight by taping it to my hobby room window for 3 days - no luck.

The time has come to make a new canopy. I flirted with the idea of buying the old Mattel Vac-U-Form Machine, it certainty is something that would come in handy but I decided against the idea because of the cost. A reconditioned and upgraded Vac-U-Form Machine runs about $90 on eBay. Instead, I have decided to try thermoforming.

Thermoforming is a simple and inexpensive method of creating a canopy or any other small part by heating plastic until is become pliable and pressing it down over a master. After reading several on-line articles about thermoforming, I purchased Squadron's Clear Thermaform.

Next, I made a resin copy of the original yellow part, mounted it to strip of balsa wood and clamped the wood into a small vise. To ensure a good copy, I created a fancy-shamcy jig to hold the Theraform plastic.

Following Squadron's directions, I placed the jig and plastic about 4 inches over a candle. This is where it got tricky. The directions read that the plastic will become soft and begin to sag when it's ready. I also read on-line that the plastic will start to haze. I found it difficult to know when the Thermaform was ready because there was little sag and I didn't notice any hazing. If you remove the plastic from the heat too soon you will not get a good copy and the plastic is wasted. If you wait too long the plastic quickly burns, turning a brownish-yellow color and the plastic is wasted. You only get 6 8" x 5" sheets by the way.

Too long.

Too short.

Just right!

After several attempts and the abandonment of my fancy-shamcy jig ( it lasted two attempts) I did mange to get two decent pulls - not perfect but good enough. The detail on the copy is soft but so is the detail on the original. I may create a second canopy master with more pronounced framing made from styrene. On the plus side, the new canopy is crystal clear!


Squadron's Thermaform plastic is very thin, only ten thousandths of an inch. After I trimmed my two copies, I noticed how thin .010 really is! It feels about half as thick as the original kit canopy. I know the thinner the plastic the more realistic the canopy but I wish the new canopy was a bit sturdier.

Until next time!


April 3, 2009

With the canopy issue resolved it's time to start thinking about markings. Actually, I have been thinking about what color to paint the model since day one.

The kit's instructions provide a painting guide for 2 aircraft. Option A is overall RLM 75 (Gray Violet) with a black (RLM 22) belly and red (RLM 23) nose. Option B is a single color, RLM 75. I felt both painting options were a little reserved and not what I had in mind.

After some poking around on the web, I discovered artwork created by Daniel Uhr of a FW 42 Ente (Ant) at This was it, I found my inspiration!


I thought you guys might like to see the process I went though to determine the final color choices (some of it anyway). Here are scans of my notes. The images of the EM A4b are from an on-line review of the Special Hobby kit. The model used a similar camouflage pattern as the ENTE and the colors were noted in the review. The base color is RLM 76, the green color is RLM 83 and the brown is RLM 81. Standard late-war I am told.

Color Swatch #1

Color Swatch #2

While on the subject of color, here is terrific resource worth checking out: Linky!  These pages of full-color illustrations were created by a very talented artist named Peter Allen. I found the collection very useful.  

Now, back to business...I careful masked the cockpit and primed the model with Tamiya Light Gray Surface Primer. After the primer had dried and was sanded smooth, I applied the base color of Model Master Acryl Lichtblau RLM 76 with my Iwata Eclipse HP-BCS. I use the .35mm needle and nozzle with pressure set at about 15psi.

I want to simulate some wear on the aircraft so I will be using a salt mask. I used this technique on a 1/35 Stug IV last year and it turned out real nice (4 shows, 4 wins...but who's counting) so I think I will try it again. After the base coat dried I sprayed small areas with Tamiya Flat Aluminum (XF-16) making sure to only apply color where chipping might occur like around panels and leading edges.


Next, the salt mask. I use regular, everyday table salt and tap water. With a fine tipped brush I placed a little water on the model then sprinkle the wet area with a pinch of salt. Placing a sheet of paper or paper towel under the model will help with clean up and you can save and reuse the extra salt. Looking back, I should have adding a drop of dish soap to the water to help break the tension. Live and learn.


I left the salt mask to dry overnight and then sprayed a second coat of my base color, RLM 76.

The next step is preshading, but that will be another update.

April 4, 2009

With the second coat of my base color dry it is time to preshade the model. Preshading is a subtle airbrush technique used to simulate the look of normal wear and tear aircraft experience in the field. It also very useful for adding a bit of depth and visual interest to what might be a simple olive drab color scheme. This is done by darkening the panel lines with usually black or dark gray paint, then over-spraying with the base color.

Now comes the moment I have been dreading...masking. Not because it is particularly difficult, in fact the 3 color splinter pattern should be straight forward. I'm nervous because my last project didn't go very well. While removing the masking tape I pulled up some paint. Thinking it was a fluke, I repaired the damage and moved on. And wouldn't you know it - it happened again. Days and days of work ruined. I was forced to bath the the kit in Castol Super Clean and begin again. It was a resin model so I am really hoping releasing agent was the problem. My own fault really, I never wash my resin.

I liked the look of the star burst common on Luftwaffe fighters. To make sure the points were symmetrical I first created several templates on my PC using Adobe Illustrator. When I was happy with the graphic, I transfered the design to 18mm Tamiya masking tape and carefully placed the triangles around the nose.

I used Parafilm-M to quickly mask off the body of the Triebflugel. Parafilm-M is a plastic film that was created for sealing test tubes in the laboratory and also comes in handy for sealing my color cups. Lacking any adhesive means that it is easy to remove, leaves no residue and will not pull up any paint! YEAH!




After everything was masked off I painted the nose RLM 23, a nice shade of Red. I thought about painting the nose yellow but Erin has already claimed yellow. So red it is!

The next day I started masking off the areas that will be RLM 83 Dunflegrun. I referenced my images of the ENT and the EMW A 4b rocket but mostly freehanded the masking. Over the next 2 days I followed with RLM 81 Braunviolett and finally back to RLM 76.


That wraps up the majority of the painting! Only the landing struts, inside the ram jet engines and I a few details here and there.



And I am pleased as punch to inform you I had no issues with the masking tape!


June 12, 2009


Crap. Crap. Crap. The salt mask that worked so well for my 1/35 StuG looked ridiculous on my Triebflugel. I thought I had kept the mask to a minimum and confined to areas that would receive some wear and tear but it was way too much, almost comical and the more I looked at it the more I hated it. It had to go. So, with a week until Jaxcon, I broke out the sandpaper and started to repair the paint job.

Wasted two days but I was able to correct the f**k-up that was my salt mask. After the paint had dried a black pigment pin was added.

Moving on...I have made a lot progress these last few days including finishing up the main landing gear, masking and painting the flimsy canopy and creating antenna.


The decals are a combination of aftermarket and custom ALPS printed markings. Designing my own markings was a lot of fun and being a Graphic Artist with access to an ALPS printer sure makes it easier. The fictitious squadron badge displays a stylized dragon, for my wife who loves them. Thinking about you sweetie! Most of the decals went down without issue over a locally airbrushed coat of Future. They only exception were some of the smaller aftermarket callouts which disintegrated when they got moist.



After the decals had set, I added a little black pigment to blend the markings into the background. I sealed everything with Testor’s Flat.

The night before the show the replacement Thermaform canopy was secured in place with diluted white glue. I built up the glue around the edge of the canopy to create a unified look between the canopy and the fuselage. When I was satisfied I called it a night…or morning, but worried the canopy might slide down the back of the model, I had my first model nightmare.

The model is nearing completion. It has been a long and sometimes bumpy trip and I am ready to move on. The last week on the build stopped being fun and has become more of a chore. I was building because I felt I needed to not because I wanted to.

Along the way I also created a nifty base and a figure. The base started as a standard el cheapo 6 1/2 inch craft store wooden plaque available at any craft store. I glued the plaque to some blue foam and after the glue set; I trimmed the foam to size. Styrene sheets cut to shape create a wall to conceal the foam and unify the side. I simulated the cement slab by first scribing sheet styrene and added texture with Mr. Surfacer 500 applied with an old stiff bristled brush. The ground is Sculptamold with a little white glue added for strength.


I wanted to depict the Triebflugel in the winter months, maybe a base somewhere in France? After painting the display, I added brown grass, a few fallen leaves and the snow was a combination of microballoons and Woodland Scenes Snow. The two products create convincing wet, glistening snow. The scene was completed by added a 55 gallon drum, water pale and oil can.

The metal figure is from Hecker Goros out of West Germany and provides scale to the model. I believe is sporting an early uniform but I don't care - I like the pose. Major Walter "Baron" Schoppe is my first 1/48 scale figure and is named after my grandfather.

Back in September 2008 I wrote, “The kit should be an easy build of a interesting subject.” HA! Well it was an interesting subject anyway. When will I learn I cannot build anything out of the box…

Until next time.


Since completing the model in February it took First Place at Jaxcon '09 and did very well last month at Modelpalooza '09, winning the Mike Goins Award, Best Aircraft Hal Roberts Award and taking First Place in it’s category. I will be taking the model Nationals in August and I’m sure you’ll hear all about the show here!


I had always planned on displaying the canopy open but time constraints forced me to glue into place and go. During Jaxcon, one of the First Coast club members pointed out the canopy had separated from the fuselage. It could be a show-ending flaw and in fact the model did not place the following month at the Venice show. For Modelpalooza I decided to remove the canopy and perform some plastic surgery.

I carefully removed the canopy from the model and cleaned up the glue residue with damp Q-tips. The problem with the canopy is it never did sit snug against the model and I tried to fix this problem with white glue but as the glue dried it pulled away from the canopy revealing the gap. To correct the fit I used my Dremel and sanding drum to remove some plastic from the front and rear of the canopy. That did it, almost a perfect fit.


The canopy was cut into three sections with a pair of small scissors and portions of the canopy’s frame. With the new forward and rear sections in place I secured the open center section. To finish the new look, a brace and grab handle were added.

That was it and I finished the work with plenty of time to spare! I packed everything up and placed it next to the front door. I was just getting ready to get into bed and enjoy a quiet evening. All I needed was a glass of juice so I walked down the hall and around the corner to the kitchen and caught my Boxer “dumpster diving” in the garbage can. Busted and panicking, he attempted to flee the scene. Sliding on the laminate floor and flailing in all directions Baxter crashed into the storage bin that now housed my finished Triebflugel and nearly knocking it on its side. Son-of-a-bitch.

Finally, the base I created for this model has started to fail. The styrene used to skirt the wood plague and blue foam is beginning to pull away. I suspect the unevenness of the foam and the contact adhesive is to blame. The base also suffered some minor damage on the trip home from Orlando. Too bad to, it was a nice base. It can be salvaged but I think I will take this opportunity to create another display. Better, Stronger, Faster.


Thanks for hanging with me. If you have any questions or just want to say hi, feel free to contact me at

Big Fuzzy Bear Hugs,

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