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Blimpwerks: Scratchbuilt 1/144 Zeppelin Q Class

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Dang! What a behemoth! That second picture looks like the beast is flying!

I don't recall, are you going to put some 1/144 aircraft around it? Would add great perspective, even if people don't understand how small WW1 aircraft were...

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Amazing, simply amazing. It looks so simple, yet we all know how complex and difficult of a build it's been.


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I look forward to seeing it in person Mike! What a large beast in terms of not only size, but sheer hard work and materials involved.

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yet we all know how complex and difficult of a build it's been.

There's a good chance that's as much the builder as the subject. ;)

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Today was a very significant anniversary for this particular Zeppelin:

It was shot down 98 years ago today. :crying:/>

On the morning of 21st August 1917, Zeppelin L23 was sighted by a squadron of British ships taking part in minelaying operations near Hvide Sande. HMS Yarmouth, having been fitted with a special "fly off" platform, launched one of her Beardmore built Sopwith Pups flown by Second Lieutenant B.A.Smart. As the aircraft was launched, L23 tried to dodge, but Smart raced flat out at 110mph to a height of 9000'. Smart dropped to 7000' before diving to 6000' to strafe the Zeppelin with incendiary rounds. As Smart broke off his attack, he saw the Zeppelin going down in flames, its nose pointed at the sky at an angle of 45 degrees. The flames spread quickly up the L 23, leaving only the nose intact when it hit the sea.

One crew member, probably a gunner from the front end of the airship, managed to parachute from the burning airship, only to drown as no ships were in the area to effect a rescue.

The body of the sail master Johan Schüttrup washed ashore September 3, 1917 at Vigsø Strand in Thy and was buried in Vigsoe cemetery. The clothes were labeled Schüttrup 10,423th. His gravestone reads "He died for his German fatherland".

A putrefying corpse was found on 15 September 1917 in Søndervig and was buried in New parish cemetery. It was believed to be the remains of machine sailor Johannes / Hans Buhr, identified because the name 'H. Buhr 'was found on a metal plate on the corpse's belt. There is a gravestone in his honor at the cemetery in Harboøre.

Many other unidentified corpses drifted ashore on the west coast at the time, who may have been crew from L 23.


With no provision for landing back on ship, Smart had to ditch his aircraft, but was picked up safely. The Pup however, could not be recovered.

This was the first time an aircraft had taken off from a moving ship to engage the enemy.

In order to celebrate(?), I started work on the Pup. (I figured I had best not tempt fate with the Zeppelin today ;)/>)


The Pup is a two-pack from Valom. Ironically, it was this thing, bought off a friend for, like, $5 that started the whoooole saga. I'd been toying with the idea for several months, bought the kit, saw that a Zepp had been shot down by a Pup and figured, 'well I've got the Pup, might as well do the Zeppelin to go with it.' I tend to jump into things somewhat hastily... :D/>


Anyway. The kit itself is pretty basic, with a rather hand-made feel to the masters. A bit of a throwback to older Central/Eastern European limited run kits. The plastic comes in the form of a credit card sized sprue of parts for the airframe; you get two sprues to build two Pups, but Valom could easily have fit eight in the box...


...along with two postage stamp sized PE frets for struts, the tail skid and control column. They're okay - not terribly crisp, but they'll do the job.


And a single small decal sheet with markings for three British and one Japanese airframe.


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As I said, it's a simple kit. Detail's pretty sparse, so if you were expecting something on par with Revell or Eduard's recent 1/144 kits, you'll be pretty disappointed. This is what passes for cockpit detail (plus a seat, but nothing on the sidewalls):


Which I guess is fair enough, but the instructions are *hilariously* optimistic, given the actual plastic. Case in point, the kit seat is somewhat simpler than the instruction drawings would suggest:


As is the gun:


Which brings us to my planned improvements. I'll probably modify one of my 1/144 Spandaus instead of using the kit part. Yes, it's completely wrong, but compared the the kit part it's a big step up. I've also has some 1/144 wicker seats printed; no idea what they look like, but I mostly just want to stick it to WNW. :P/> I've also printed a replacement engine, since the kit part is a.) crappy looking and b.) not symmetrical (again: hand made masters)


The first step, however, was to fix the ribs. Valom depicted the ribs with recessed panel lines. These are waaay too heavy in 1/144, and - yet again because it's hand made - are completely uneven and out of alignment. Notice how the spacing is somewhat arbitrary, and several of the lines are crooked. So I slathered on a coat of Mr. Surfacer, let it cure then sanded away the excess. I'll likely pencil in the ribs once the paint is on - should be much subtler.


Also note that the cutout in the middle isn't actually centred - it's offset to one side. I have a feeling that may become a major headache...


Next, I filled the divots for locating the struts with some CA. The divots were massive and wouldn't create a positive fit, but if I just filled them with Surfacer, it would lead to a weaker glue bond come final assembly, so I drilled out the Surfacer for a much more robust CA-on-styrene bond.


The CA was smoothed out, then I marked the locating points, scribed the control surfaces and drilled out a few holes.

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I know Wings of War gamers who would kill to go up against that beast... Thorsten and I have exchanged correspondence about converting his P into a Q. Beautiful model!

Trivial note: the Q gains a full gas-cell (10m) just ahead of the tail-taper, and a 5m half-cell somewhere in the front, relative to the P. Before the Airship Modeler site died, Zeppelin expert Andreas Horn and I exchanged a few notes and he sent me some of his notes from his own research in the Zeppelin archives.

Edited by Diamondback Six

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Hmmm... kind of surprised nobody's commented on my drilling...

Anyway, onwards and upwards.

Turns out the Pup in question (N6430) was actually an Admiralty type 9901, which means conversion. I took the opportunity to make a few jigs and templates as well. Up top are a couple of wing alignment jigs, which will also let me set the fuselage as well. In the middle is a wing diagram, to mark off rib locations, ailerons, fold lines and gun slot. Bottom left is a jig to align the landing gear; bottom middle are some guides for the struts and bottom right shows the gun slot on its own:


That done, the first order of business was to carve out the slot for the gun - some RNAS Pups had a modified gun mounting with a slot in the upper wing so that tripod-mounted gun could be fired vertically. After marking the edges off, it was a fairly simple matter to carve out the hole using a Gunze chisel. Less easy... notice that the wing doesn't really fit my drawing, which was pulled directly from the scale drawings in the Pup Datafile. The kit wing is wrong, but fixing it could open a whole can of worms, so I'll probably just live with it. This also highlights the wonky rib lines and if you look carefully, you'll see that not even the cutout is the right size...


Next order of business: fixing the instrument panel. The kit part looks terrible. It'd be better with a smooth piece of plastic + decal instruments, but Valom weren't that generous. So, I measured up the kit part (2.5 x 3mm), sketched it out in illustrator and printed a bunch of copies - with delicate work like this, it's good to have some backups. Next I flooded the paper with thin CA, which gives it a hard, sort of plasticky texture, sort of like thin styrene sheet (a technique learned from the great Rato Marczak).


The various bezels were carefully drilled out, then the panel trimmed from the sheet. And then it vanished, so I had to do it again. :(/> THIS time I glued the panel to some .010" styrene sheet, leaving a sizable tab to increase visibility, then tucked it safely in the zip loc baggie with the decals. Hopefully the revised panel is a bit of an improvement over the kit part:


Next up, I cut away the raised bulge over the lower wing mount. It's a standard item in many WWI kits, but I felt it would push the floor up too high - the fuselage is only a few mm high to begin with, so I need all the room I can get. Then I CAed some .2mm monofilament to the sidewalls, to represent the framing. It's not perfect, but it should add a nice, subtle detail. Unfortunately, it's a bugger to photograph (funny thing about 'invisible line'...) I'd just like to remind you that a.) this picture is WAY bigger than the actual part, b.) it looks much better in person and c.) it'll be fixed by the time it gets primered. Ahem.


Finally, I cut a replacement floor out of .005" sheet stock. Again, the kit floor is too thick. It's also WAY too wide - see that panel line on the right side? I've already trimmed that much off the left side, just to see if it'd be enough. It wasn't. Not even close. Kind of ridiculous having a 5mm wide part be 2mm too wide.


Next order of business: load up the airbrush and get some paint on the cockpit.

Edited by MoFo

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A really nice side build of that 1/144 scale Pup. It's just amazing that even in that small scale you have the ability to add all that detail. Heck, I can't even see anything that small.


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Mike amazing work on the Pup. I cannot believe the size of the panel you are working on. I have a hard enough time with my 1/48 panels.

Looking forward to seeing this in the flesh one day.

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More updates.

(gondolas are just test fit, obvs. Also, note the Pup for scale)


Shading has been done on the balloon. The top section was masked off and sprayed with a thinned-out mixture of the ivory base to lighten it up, simulating the looser weave up top to allow gas to escape. Simple and straightforward. I briefly considered using some fine mesh or pantyhose as a mask, to give a 'woven' texture, but decided it probably wasn't worth the hassle, and would likely look overscale. So, just paint.

The sides were then masked off to simulate the darker, reinforced fabric. This was less straightforward. I originally started by adding 2mm wide strips of paper over the panels to simulate the fabric strips visible here, then oversprayed the area with an ink and future mix. This... failed. The Future soaked into the paper, it ran, it was blotchy and the edges were too hard. Luckily it stripped off easily with Windex/Windowlene. Attempt #2, I ditched the paper and used a mix of paints to get a darker look... which I didn't like; so I tried another mix, which I also didn't like once applied; then some Tamiya smoke, which looked too dark, followed by more paint, which looked meh, followed - finally - by a streaky coat of Humbrol 71.

The net result actually looks good. All the thin, tint-ey layers add a bit of translucency to it, and the blotchy Humbrol gives it a weathered, natrual look which I quite like. A bit touch and go for a minute, though. :(


I also rigged the rudders. Simple job with some .1mm monofilament, pre-coloured with a Sharpie. Fun fact: each control surface uses a single length of monofilament; it's just wound 'round and around. :)

Also, also, I finalized the base. I think I mentioned above, but originally I had hoped to have it supported by just a couple pairs of 1.5mm hypo tubes, running through the gondola. With all the weight of the putty and paint, and with raising it up off the base (I had originally planned to have it 'grounded'), there was no way that was going to work. Plan B was to use a length of carbon fiber tubing as the main brace in the middle - it's nice and rigid, but will flex rather than bend under strain, plus being black, it's unobtrusive. Plus, the thought of mounting such an archaic form of aircraft on a high tech material makes me giggle. The balloon isn't perfectly balanced, however, so I'll still need supports in the nose and tail just to keep it from pitching. All this had to be done before I could start adding the gondolas and scaffolding.

Final update on the balloon - I had a good modelling friend drop by with some much-needed accoutrements last week:


Bit of sanding and a bit of gloss, and it'll be ready for the markings. :D I'll probably run the rigging on the fins first, though.

The first order of business, though, is figuring out how to paint the gondolas.

The card model I'm basing this on has the gondolas in overall doped linen colour. The Hippo kit from a few years back had NMF gondolas. While the Datafile on the R-Classe Zepps suggests they were overall grey. Hmmm... Now, the actual gondolas were made up from a metal lower half, with fabric uppers and roof. Basically, everything from the corrugations on the sides down was metal; everything above the corrugations was fabric. Photos suggest a uniform colour, but it's inconclusive as to just what that colour was.

*Personally*... I have a hard time imagining the Germans painting the metal parts CDL. There are plenty of German aircraft with CDL fabric and either painted grey or are metal... metal... but I can't think of a single example where they painted the metal to look like CDL. The only thing that comes close are the night bombers that had metal areas painted to match the lozenge pattern. The Hippo kit has tons of problems so I wouldn't stake my life on it, and the gondolas in pictures don't seem very shiny. So I'm leaning towards overall grey. If nothing else, it'll be a nice contrast compared to the balloon.


I've also made some progress on the Pup.


First up, the cockpit got a coat of paint, then a couple of extra details for the instrument panel made from some brass rod. The instruments were also picked out with black and white paint.


Next up, because this particular Pup had a tripod-mounted, jacket-less Lewis gun, I had to scratch a gun (you'll recall, the kit part looks terrible, and was just a jacketed barrel anyway). I lopped the barrel off of one of my printed Spandaus, glued a length of .2mm and .3mm brass rod together inside a length of 1mm tube, then grafted this onto the Spandau body. Not exactly accurate, but good enough for the purpose. The brass 'arrow' beneath the modified gun will actually become the tripod mount.

The fuselage was glued up, lower wing and tailplanes attached and it was on to the jig:


Normally I'm pretty cavalier about adding upper wings, but normally I'm dealing with kits that have SOME sort of positive fit. The Valom kit has tiny, crude, PE struts that (maybe?) fit into vague dimples. It was really obvious that it would be a hassle, so I decided to make a jig to hold both wings securely in place while I added the struts. The templates were as mentioned above. They were spray-mounted on some styrene sheet, then cut out and hot-glued to a piece of MDF, using LEGOs to set the spacing and alignment. Incidentally, I went with hot glue because it'd set quickly (no need to clamp it for hours) and be slightly flexible, allowing me to squeeze the plane in and out.

And it worked great. Actually installing the struts, however, not so much. Turns out, two of the interplane struts were slightly too long, while everything else was too short by at least 1/2mm. My first attempt (yeah...) was with epoxy, as I wanted something more robust than CA to take the knocks of construction. I eventually managed to get everything in place, but when the glue cured and I started trying to trim away the excess, the struts just popped right out. Not exactly a great bond.

Frustrated, I knocked the rest of the struts out, scraped off the rest of the epoxy, and resigned myself to plan B. I wanted a secure, robust locating pin, and that meant I had to make it myself. So out with the soldering iron and .2mm brass rod. :(


It's not a perfect job. I know it's not a perfect job. But these things are tiny, and they're going to get brush painted, and they'll be buried between the wings of a tiny aircraft that will be overshadowed by a much larger build, so, screw it, it's good enough.


Seriously, did I mention these are tiny? It'll do!

And with some alignment pins added, construction was a whole lot faster, easier and more solid.


I do have some excess wire to lop off, but it's an acceptable trade-off. Besides, I'll have to touch up the wings after rigging anyway.

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I like your jig. I wonder if it will work for 1/48th? I know there are bi plane jigs out there but to be honest I am cheap for something I can probably build. More so as I build bi-planes like.... never. However I do have several in my stash as I really do like the markings.

The paining on the blimp sure came out nice and I think I agree that any sort of weave pattern that you would have put on would look over done for this scale.

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Should work. Though it will depend somewhat on the accuracy of the kit - if it doesn't match the scale drawings, you could have issues with the struts being the wrong size. I'd probably go with something like foam core board rather than styrene though, as it'll have a bit more flexibility, giving you a little wiggle room. Les likely to damage the paint, too.

Personally, I tend to just freehand it in larger scales - glue the struts to the lower wing (aligning them carefully), then plop on the top wing and rig with monofilament to pull everything into place. It's not the best way to do it, but I tend to glue first, ask questions later. :)

Oh, and speaking of monofilament... I did the math last night. I'm going to need at LEAST 150 feet of monofilament to rig the tail. :woot.gif: It looks kind of complicated, but it's actually a pretty simple pattern - there are six anchor points on the balloon that run to six anchor points on each tail fin. So the first anchor on the balloon runs to each of the stations on the fins, then the second anchor runs to each station, etc. etc. x6 anchors. x2 sides. x4 fins. 288 individual lines. 0 chance I'm going to sharpie all that filament! :(

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