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Curtiss H-16

Roden 1/72 Curtiss H-16 Build Review

By Michael Taylor

Date of Review March 2010 Manufacturer Roden
Subject Curtiss H-16 Scale 1/72
Kit Number 0049 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Great details Cons Fin flash decals printed backwards
Skill Level Experienced MSRP (USD) $32.99

Background

For a look at the kit in the box, take a look here.

Getting Started

I’ve always been a “yellow wing” fan and have eyed this kit for quite awhile before deciding to take the leap and purchase it. I needed something to slow me down and give me a challenge and I believed the rigging of this aircraft might be just what the doctor ordered. Upon studying the instructions I found that it was feasible to build the wings in their entirety before adding them to the fuselage-what a great engineering idea.

First off though I had to have a go at one of those beautifully rendered Liberty engines that, though quite small (yes that’s a #11 X-Acto blade in the photos), are quite exquisite. Their detail even includes the carburetors under the intake manifolds! Assembly is straightforward as per the instructions, however the parts are tiny in some cases and due diligence is advised. I assembled one engine in its entirety prior to painting. I used Model Master Metalizer Exhaust for the engine and Model Master Leather for the exhausts-both applied with a brush. The radiator was first painted aluminum and followed with a coat of brass with more exhaust flowed into the grill area.

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I then set aside the engine and began drilling rigging holes in the wings and tail surfaces. I believe there are some 134 holes drilled into the wings alone! I painted the struts on the sprue and touched them up after they were applied to the upper wing. Assembling the three part wings was a simple issue; I simply hit the ends with a file and used Tenax to bond them together. The resulting seams were filled and sanded with a minimal amount of putty.

H-16 Next I gave the wings a coat of paint, Chrome Yellow tops with Gull Grey bottoms, and while I was at it I painted the horizontal tail surfaces as well. I then attached the struts to the upper wing, being careful that they were straight on all axes. Once dry I taped the lower wing into position and applied some Testors liquid cement to the locating holes in the lower wing, then holding the upper wing above it, lowered it into position placing what struts I could in position before leaning it against a wood block to hold it steady while I placed the remaining struts. A jig of some sort may have come in handy but I continue to stubbornly refuse to use one. When dry it was still quite unstable, wanting to lean left to right or forward to back so care was necessary in handling until I got a few guy wires rigged.

After pondering my next move I decided to rig a few lines on both sides to introduce some stability to the structure. In order to minimize handling and any self induced yawing I slid the end of the wing off the table and rigged one side at a time. A few cross braces and fore and aft braces on each side. Using this method the wings were now less delicate and could be handled a bit more aggressively allowing me to complete the rigging process from the wingtips toward the center. I stopped short of the engine mounts because I wasn’t sure how the engines would affect the rigging process. My technique for rigging is to drill straight through the wings and use a rather long piece of invisible sewing nylon to “sew” the wings together. I anchor the thread by knotting it up and using cyano to keep it in place. Once the “sewing “begins I pull the thread taught and add drops of cyano to the hole on the outside part of the wing as I go. Often I use a piece of tape to hold the line taught while the glue sets. It’s probably only a psychologically induced feeling of security but I feel this adds strength to the completed assembly. Nothing to do now but to continue the process for the remainder of the wing right up to the engine mounts.

The engine mounts and central strut comprise the last three areas to be rigged. For the central strut holes needed to be drilled into the upper fuselage piece. Realizing that I could not rig these holes once the assembly was completed I needed to paint this piece in advance and insert some lengths of thread, leaving them sticking out through the top and cemented on the inside. The engine mounts consist of four V-shaped struts per engine that fit against the rectangular motor frames that are attached to the engines during their assembly. I was pleased when, with only some minor trimming for height, the engine was levered into place and the struts lined up with the mounting holes. Some Tenax was all that was needed to make sure they stayed where they were supposed to. While this process was continuing, in order to fill any waiting time I worked on painting various parts and built sub assemblies.

H-16 As you can see the decal for the tail stripes is useless and a keen observer will notice that initially I had painted the stripes as they are on the box top-wrong! Only when I happened to glance at my 1/72 Olimp Jenny did I question the sequence and looked it up. The correct sequence for tail stripes from the hinge to the trailing edge is blue, white, and red.

The fuselage interior is adequately detailed for a kit in this scale with the appropriate accommodations for pilots and gunners. I chose to ignore the interior details for the waist gunner positions as once the fuselage is closed they are invisible. Due to the engineering of the kit I was able to simply paint the interior, insert the floor and close the fuselage. The cockpit components can be added at a later stage. Taking care of what little seam work was necessary allowed me to paint the fuselage, Gull Gray over black.

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With the fuselage built I could now concentrate on the tail planes. The fit was generally good but the attachment points were minimal. I trimmed the mounting studs on the horizontal planes to insure they didn’t go too far into the horizontal fin and interfere with each other’s mounting. The struts were bang on as far as fit and placement went but the ailerons attach with two small hinges each and are rather only loosely attached at this point. Luckily it was at this point that I noticed the error in the tail stripes and set about to correct it before further construction and rigging began. It was also at this point that I dry fit these sub assemblies together for a few quick in progress photos.

H-16 Then I set about to build and install the second engine and completed the rigging, leaving only the center struts to be rigged. This could only occur after the fuselage was completely built and the wings permanently in position. Next up was to build and attach the wing floats- a simple operation. I ascertained that the rigging for the tail surfaces entered the fuselage just above the aft end waist windows. With this fact in mind I rigged the tail planes. For the elevator wires I first glued the line to the outer hinge and “fulcrum” (?) and, stretching it to a second line already attached to the fuselage I knotted it once to set the placement of the position where the two lines from the tail joined the single line running into the fuselage. Then the elevator line was run back and attached to the inner hinge/fulcrum. This set the area for the triangle formed by the two elevator lines before they meet and turn to one line entering the fuselage. Using this method I could continue with the other elevator lines keeping the triangular areas and meeting points consistent throughout. The rudder lines were simple affairs simply running from the rudder hinge/fulcrums to the point where they enter the fuselage. On all moving surfaces the lines trailing the fulcrums were done by sewing a continuous thread from the fulcrum through one trailing edge hole, then to the fulcrum on the opposite surface and back out the other side, finishing up at the initial point.

Once the tail was rigged I saw no reason to delay the attachment of the wing assembly. The wings were slipped into their locating slots and some Tenax was used to secure them in place. The fuselage dorsal section was slipped into place and secured with some more Tenax, making sure the locations for the tail plane wires matched the associated openings above the waist windows. Using the Tenax to bond the upper fuselage to the lower I went along insuring a good fit and a minimum amount of seam. When this dried I installed the central fore and aft struts (then needed some trimming to fit well) and using the thread that was left hanging through the top of the fuselage completed the wing’s rigging. When this had set the plane was all but completed. It was very sturdy to handle and I went about the process of trimming the rigging wires from the outer surfaces of the wings with a sharp #11. Some of the rigging holes still showed dimples, even though they’d been hit with the cyano, so a bit of white putty was used to smooth them over. I had no problems with the structural integrity of the wings when sanding these areas smooth and once dry I touched up the paint, yellow on the top wing and Gull Gray on the bottom. At this point the simple cockpit details were added, seats, controls and instrument panel with a bench seat for the nose gunner. The upper nose panel was attached after the two rigging holes in the nose were drilled and lengths of thread were inserted and glued from the inside. A minimum amount of seam work was necessary and I touched up the paint along this seam as well as the dorsal fuselage seams with a brush.

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The machine guns are beautifully cast in this diminutive scale and the kit calls for the mounting of eight of them. Two on a ring mount in both the nose and dorsal positions and one each in the waist windows and mounted to the windscreen of all places. Since this was a Golden Age build I opted for the middle ground and only built the two ring mounts with their four machine guns. I found the beaching dolly to be rather wobbly and took it upon myself to add two small posts to the aft end to give it a bit more stability. The cables from the nose to the wing were rigged and I had only to apply the decals to finish it up.

Conclusions

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I can’t stress enough how happy I was that the upper wing insignias set under the rigging as opposed to having the rigging run through them. This then was simply a matter of placing the insignias under the rigging as opposed to having to figure out a way to get an insignia on the wing around the rigging. If that were the case any rigging that needed to penetrate an insignia would have been left ‘till the insignia’s were in place. As it was I had only to apply six decals to the aircraft, paint the windscreen framing and attach it, apply a coat or two of Testors Dullcote and she’s finished and ready for her glamour shots!

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