There is a new player in the reference space for model building: KLP Publishing. The focus is on producing guide books for the scale aircraft modelling community in downloadable digital format (“eBooks”). With two build guides in 1/32nd scale already published, their newest offering is a jam-packed build guide for Wingnut Wings' enormous (and enormously complex) biplane bomber, the AEG G.IV. Written by master modeler Karim Bibi, the guide takes you through the intricacies of this kit, as well as peeking behind the curtain to learn how the many extras were added that make it a masterpiece.
The "book" comes in a 169-page PDF file that is downloadable to any device.
Author Karim Bibi (and airline pilot in his "spare" time) is one of the aircraft modelers I admire most. I have followed his builds on the Large Scale Planes website for some time, and he simply gets every ounce of quality and detailing out of any kit, rendering a triumph in plastic that looks as close to reality as I have ever seen. This book, in fact, is an outgrowth of a build thread he did on LSP, and it's good to see his insights and solutions to problems he faced laid out for modelers with lesser skills like myself. While Wingnut Wings kits have a reputation as the perfect out-of-the-box build with a flawless fit and abundant details, the truth is they can be improved in a variety of ways.
But it takes research and skill, something Karim has in abundance. And he needed it, as the AEG G.IV is a lot of kit.
A twin-engine behemoth designed to perform both tactical and strategic bombing, the plane was developed in 1916 but didn't see action until the Great War was nearly over. Part of its allure as the innovations that put it ahead of other aircraft of the period, including a steel tube frame fuselage, radios and electrically-heated flight suits for the crew. That's not surprising, since the manufacturer (Allgemeine Elektricitäts-Gesellschaft or A.E.G.) was and is Germany's largest maker of electrical appliances. That might sound counter-intuitive for aircraft design, but the AEG G.IV was way ahead of the Gotha and Friedrichshafen bombers. Wingnut Wings has captured much of the essential qualities of this innovative design in a kit that has over 400 pieces.
However, the kit isn't perfect, and Karim's build describes some of the flaws, including sink- and ejector pin-marks that will require filling, along with suggestions for improving the already-detailed twin Mercedes D.IVa engines. The good news for those who will want to recreate his build is he (mostly) follows the assembly order in the WNW instruction manual and adds his improvements on top of (rather than instead of) the base build. Nothing throws me off more than when I have to depart from the instructions in any major ways, and Karim is cognizant of his readers in this regard.
Starting with the cockpit, useful tips include "wear" on the "plywood" floor, and a five-step process for recreating the "leather" of the pilot's seat. These descriptions are micro-tutorials in their own right, and teach techniques that can easily be applied to other builds. Painting is crucial at the early stages of the build, since WW1 aircraft were mostly open to the elements, and Karim is expansive in describing his palette of colors, paint manufacturers, and application techniques.
What's particularly refreshing is that, throughout the guide, he both calls out the products he used, and occasionally calls them on the carpet. For example, the HGW textile seat belts and their sketchy instructions are taken to task. This candor both builds trust in the author, and helps avoid the sense of panic that often sets in when things don't work like they do in the sales promotional claims.
Next is the assembly of the fuselage, with more pre-shading and painting effects. All is fine up to this point. Then, the guide suddenly takes a bit of a left turn into a master modeler "twilight zone."
An area that's highly controversial is WW1 camouflage schemes and shading. Without reliable color photography (prints were hand-tinted after the fact), and with the surviving examples of WW1 aircraft almost non-existent and often heavily-restored, the color and shadings of German camouflage patterns are almost as contentious as deciding what caused the American Civil War. In the case of the AEG G.IV, there is no agreement on what its "night lozenge camouflage" actually looked like. So much so that one after-market company (Aviattic) has produced what it calls "faded" night lozenge decals. The reason for my calling this stage of the build "master modeler twilight zone" is that unlike the pre-cut kit decals, the Aviattic ones Karim chooses to substitute are in a single sheet.
The new faded lozenge pattern requires the use of a specialized Cameo decal cutter. Not exactly something most modelers will have on their work bench.
Yet I'm glad that the book is fully-transparent about this departure, and I'm sure that modelers will welcome the implied tutorial on creating their own decal options. It does thought make this portion of the book more remote from the average modeler, even one with advanced skills. So simply be warned that you have crossed over here into the rarefied air of a modeler with above-average skills and resources.
No sooner, however, than you cross over this threshold then you cross another when Karim decides to skip the Cartograf shark mouth decals needed for his particular aircraft (known as "White VII"), and instead uses them as a pattern to create scans so he can cut stencils for painting. The goal is to allow for weathering and chipping that's simply not possible with a decal, but it may be a bridge too far for some readers. I'm not at all against this being included in the book; on the contrary, I celebrate the author's total willingness to share his techniques with us.
Once Karim has painted on the shark mouth, he returns to a lower altitude of modeling where we mortals can hope to assimilate his skill set when he tackles painting the fuselage, including pre-shading and weathering the ribs beneath the "canvas" skin. As with many of his micro-tutorials, these techniques can be applied to any aircraft with fabric skin right up through WW2. He returns to the Aviattic faded lozenge decals, but these can be cut out from the kit lozenge patterns.
As good as the WNW engines are, they lack some visible details such as wiring, manifolds, spark plugs, etc. A variety of items can be found on the after market, and Karim guides us through the ones he used and how to apply them-- along with some modeling skill such as opening up the breather holes in the manifold. The kit exhaust pipes have gorgeous detail, but are molded in two halves; Karim shows us how to remove the seam (which destroys the kit's detailing) while restoring the details with AM rivets.
Since the particular aircraft Karim built (White VII) had two different wooden props, this affords him (and us) the opportunity to explore wood grain painting on WW1 propellers. While there is at least one AM wood prop manufacturer, following Karim's instructions will set you well up for turning out gorgeous wood grain props for all your builds. At this point in the book, we have a stand-alone tutorial on painting wooden propellers, and it's superb. You get a choice of four different techniques:
Karim walks readers through all four options and includes the good features with the challenges. Again, the transparency of the descriptions builds trust and confidence even an intermediate modeler can master them.
In this section, Karim scratchbuilds items left out of the kit (a second generator) or ones he finds wanting in detailing (the bombsight).
Assembly of the wings & rigging
Next up is attaching the wings. But before moving on to this step (and the rigging), Karim digresses into perfecting the bombs (complete with salt-chipping), the landing gear and the final assembly of the MGs (enhanced with AM brass barrels). Then it's the pièce de résistance: adding the wings.
The AEG's wings are massive and require both pre-shading and lozenge decals. Yet the challenge with biplane models isn't painting them, but getting the relatively heavy upper wing to ride on the relatively slender and weak styrene struts without distorting the shape and balance of the entire kit.
And then there's the nightmare of rigging.
WW1 planes had a bewildering array of rigging options, including turnbuckles in at least four varieties. It's one reason I sold off most of my WNW kits. I might have stuck with it if I'd had Karim's second added feature in the book: a tutorial on rigging. He walks readers through the process of which tools to use, the correct line (EZ Line) and turnbuckles (the ubiquitous Bob's Buckles).
Finally, there is a walkaround of the Mercedes D.IVa
engines used in the original aircraft and on other WW1 German bombers that is supported by heretofore unpublished original historical documents covering
the engine. To say that anyone undertaking a build of this aircraft would be insane to do so without this bevy of detailed color photographs of the original powerplant.
This isn't your run-of-the-mill guide for assembling a kit, but more like a master class in techniques that will improve all your future (Great War) builds. While the base kit at US$230 is a bit dear for practicing these new techniques, the opportunity to look over the shoulder as an expert pulls several rabbits out of his hat should not be missed. The format is beautiful, the photos clear and professional, with the result an enthusiastic "buy" in my opinion.
Thanks to KLP Publishing for providing a review copy of this book. When ordering your own copy, be sure to say that you saw it reviewed on Aeroscale.
Highs: An easy-to-follow guide on how one master modeler took an already remarkably-detailed kit and raised it to a level of perfection few of us can hope to achieve.Lows: Some of the techniques are at a highly-advanced stage of modeling, though readers can stick to the kit options and still achieve remarkable results.Verdict: Not for the beginner or even the intermediate modeler, but nevertheless will provide several master classes for those willing to stretch themselves on what is an expensive base kit.