HISTORICAL MINIATURES BY GEORGE GRASSE
WORLD WAR 1 AIRCRAFT IN 1:48 SCALE

HALBERSTADT CL.II, SCHUSTA 23b, WESTERN FRONT, EARLY 1918

by George Grasse

MIRAGE HOBBY 1:48 SCALE INJECTION KIT MR1306 OF AN EARLY-PRODUCTION HALBERSTADT CL.II

MIRAGE HOBBY HALBERSTADT CL.II BOX ART
27 October 2011

QUICK REVIEW: This 1:48 scale injection molded kit represents the early production version introduced to front line service in late 1917.  It was a major departure from the widely held belief in the German Air Service that any two-seater could perform in the role of escort to other two-seaters of FA and FA(A) units tasked with artillery fire control, photography, and reconnaissance (these roles are collectively known as army cooperation).  The escort units were created on 1 January 1917 and termed Schutzstaffel meaning armed escort aircraft unit.  The idea persisted through 1917 and it became obvious that just any two-seater was not nimble enough to take on enemy fighters to protect army cooperation aircraft.  The Halberstadt CL.II was the first practical design to meet the requirements of an escort two-seater.  It was armed with forward-firing and flexible rear-mounted machine guns powered by the excellent Mercedes D.III 160hp engine.

 

 

CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 1
27 October 2011
MERCEDES D.III ENGINE RATED AT 160 hp: The engine is composed of two halves of the crankcase, six cylinders, carburetor/intake manifold, overhead cam housing, left-side mounted generator (for the rear-cockpit wireless transmitter), generator connecting shaft, rear mounted generator cam housing, and three coolant circulating pipes of which one at the rear is shown.  The other two will be added at final assembly time and basically connects the engine block coolant circulating system with the upper wing flush mounted radiator.  Depending on whether or not I decide to cover the engine, additional "doo-dad" wiring, cables, and other detail features will be added.  During Summer months, the engine top panels were usually removed.  Since this is a late-1917 aircraft operating in Winter, it is likely I will use the engine cover panels.   
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 2
19 January 2012
ENGINE AND COCKPIT DETAIL: One significant feature of this kit is the attention to detail.  The engine really shines when painted.  The crankcase is painted in Vallejo VC0865 Oily Steel and highlighted with a little VC0997 Silver.  The cylinders are painted in my mix of semi-gloss black.  The red line represents the tube carrying the ignition wires.  The twin carburetors are finished in Vallejo VC0801 Brass.  All valve headers are Vallejo VC0864 Natural Steel.  The intake manifold and piping are a mix of Vallejo VC0864 and VC0863 Gun Metal Grey.  Other components were likewise painted in varying mixes of these colors, some lighter some darker.

The cockpit interior starts off with a floorboard to which is added rudder bar, control column, forward (engine) former, and rear cockpit former.  In between is the main gas tank faintly visible in brass under the pilot's seat, seats with seatbelts, side plywood panels serving as kick plates, and a couple gauges.  More cockpit detail in the next panel.  

 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 3
22 January 2012
COCKPIT COMPLETED:  This photo shows the final trial fitting of the cockpit assembly into the right fuselage.  The left side was fitted and ready to glue together.  Here are more details added:  red oil pressure hand pump, a scratch-built Parabellum machine gun stowage rack (left rear of observer's seat, two .005 monofilament thread representing the forward, fixed machine gun synchronization cables, and the send-only radio (Morse) transmitter on rear wall behind the observer's seat.

The kit's painting instructions would have you paint virtually everything including the wood framework, floor, and fuselage walls in a Vallejo paint mix that represents German light grey-green which is an enamel product used to protect primarily metal components such as engine access panels and strut fittings.  I didn't buy into that.  I compromised an painted the fuselage walls in my mix of light grey-green but painted all of the wood parts in the color you see.  My research does not single out the Halberstadt CL.II as having the interior painted completely in light grey-green.  Interior wood was left in a natural state and protected by a few coats of varnish.  Besides, I like the contrast.  I painted the floor in several wood shades to get a worn and dirty look to it.

 
  
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 4a, 4b, and 4c
26 January 2012
FUSELAGE PROGRESS:  These photos show different angles of the engine, machine gun, and engine cover installation.  The Spandau machine gun was installed on the left, by far, the most common installation on actual Halberstadt CL.II aircraft because the exhaust manifold pipe on the right side obstructed such an installation and, even though a twin-gun system was designed into the forward fuselage, it was almost always abandoned to save weight.  The left side forward engine panel is not yet installed.

The only other addition to this point is the "Drehzahlmesser" (tachometer or rev counter) on the top deck just in front of the pilot's cockpit.  Several parts were not installed in the engine compartment because they cannot be seen and presented some extra work not welcomed on this kit.  The most serious problem with the kit are the attachment points for all of the plastic parts on their respective "trees"  Each part had two and sometimes up to four "knobs" joining the part to the tree and this meant careful cutting and sanding. . . . a fair amount of extra wasteful time on an otherwise nice kit.  The other problem was the unnecessary, somewhat complicated and time-consuming assembly of components that should have been cast in far fewer parts or, as in the case of the main fuel tank, cast in one-piece resin (that fuel tank had six sides!).

 
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 5
19 February 2012
HALBERSTADT FUSELAGE CAMOUFLAGE:  Saying that you are going to paint the peculiar Halberstadt fuselage camouflage pattern and actually doing it are two different things.  I pondered this for some time and did a couple of sample attempts at the scheme.  This photo shows the last two samples.  Both are painted with a five-color irregular pattern of patches in random order.  I used Misterkit paints: MKGC20 German Gotha LVG Blue, MKGC02 Albatros Mauve, MKAU03 Austrian Fokker Pale Green, MKAH06 Phönix Dark Green, and an ochre color consisting of a 50%-50% mix of MKGC01 German Red-Brown and MKUS17 ANA614 Orange Yellow.  My objective was to get a palette of probable colors not necessarily the exact ones for this test.

The sample on the left was dabbed with a round paint brush and instead of getting the dot spray effect, I got streaks; so that didn't work.  The sample on the right was an overspray of Tamiya Color TS-46 Light Sand.  Voila!  To my eye it looks close with two exceptions: 1) there are a few "dots" a little too large and 2) the basic five-color pattern does not exhibit feathered edges between each color. 

I'm not sure how to solve the first problem except to be careful on the spraying.  It seems that from a distance of about 15" and with a light tap, I got finer more evenly sized dots.  As for the second problem, it was intentional; I didn't want to spend time creating a scrap piece of art!  The final version will have feathered edges, a more controlled spray technique, and a new set of colors.  I think the ochre I used is too bright and blue may not have been in the original scheme.  This camouflage technique was not only applied to the fuselage but also center section of the top wing which was plywood-covered.

 
  
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS No. 6 and 7
22 February 2012
HALBERSTADT FUSELAGE PREP:  Simple step - just paint a base coat over the fuselage top and sides where the painted camouflage pattern is to be applied.  Note that the bottom of the fuselage is left in its natural plywood varnished state.  The unpainted cowling was usually painted with a metal enamel-based paint in German grey-green (forerunner of RLM.02).  The base coat of paint is Vallejo VC0913 Yellow Ochre.

Photo 7 below is a view into the cockpit.  The gauge on the top deck in front of the pilot's seat is the tachometer (Drehzahlmesser), probably the most important flight gauge.  You can see the front end of the Spandau just to the left of the rear intake manifold.  Note how close the pilot and gunner were seated which greatly facilitated communication during flight, especially during combat.

 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS No. 8a and 8b
25 February 2012
HALBERSTADT PAINTED CAMOUFLAGE - CONTINUED:  After the initial tests shown in photo panel 5 above, the lighter colored spray was the best method.  I created a sample pattern consisting of Vallejo colors (center sample).  Before committing to the spray, I tried Tamiya TM8046 Light Sand on the scrap piece (left sample) from a distance of 15" to 18".  Warmed up, I over-sprayed the the sample pattern resulting in fairly good coverage except for the occasional larger dots.  However, I went ahead and sprayed the kit's center section (right image) which, to me, was okay.  I finished hand painting the metal components with Vallejo VC0830 German Field Gray WWII, a dark gray green.  My Vallejo Black/Brown was used to paint recesses and panel lines.
HALBERSTADT 5-COLOR PRE-PRINTED CAMOUFLAGE DECALS: The colors I used to represent the top wing's center section upper surface and to be used on the fuselage were matched to the 5-color decals to be applied to the upper flying surfaces (i.e., the dark pattern).  First, however, I had to determine how the decal would show up on the model knowing full well that the underlying "primer" would have an effect on the applied decals.  To test this, I took a long strip of plastic stock and painted four panels (names shown on bottom of sample above).  I took a single strip of upper surface 5-color decal and applied it straight across the painted panels.  The chose the far right panel which was painted in Misterkit MKGC10 German Clear Doped Linen mostly because it looked better to my mind's eye and Misterkit paints offer superior coverage without streaking.  To duplicate these colors to hand-paint the center section and the fuselage I turned to Vallejo paints because they offer the widest range of colors.  I did not want to use Misterkit because I would have to mix all of the colors and I would end up with five 17 mil bottles of limited use.  Four of the five colors were near matches to the decals that could easily be adjusted on the palette with a small drop of Vallejo VC0941 Burnt Umber if need be.  The other color was mixed.  Here they are in my own names:

Prussian Blue-Gray: Vallejo VC0964 Field Blue is close but a bit "grayer" and "lighter".  I used Andrea ANAC22 Prussian Blue sparingly;

Dark Green: Vallejo Black Green is close but just a bit "darker" but I used it as is since the finished version of the wing's center section using the spray dots muted the shade.

Ochre Brown: Vallejo VC0824 German Camouflage Orange Ochre is "lighter" and I darkened it on the palette using Vallejo VC0941 Burnt Umber.

Light Green or Pea Green: Vallejo VC0857 Golden Olive is a close match but a little "brighter" so I toned it down with a drop or less of Vallejo VC0941 Burnt Umber.

Magenta: this is the color I had to mix on the palette using Vallejo paints.  Portions in parenthesis are approximate: VC0812 Violet Red (4), VC0803 Brown Rose (4), and VC0941 Burnt Umber.

 

 
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS No. 9
28 February 2012
HALBERSTADT 5-COLOR CAMOUFLAGE:  All of the upper flying surfaces, fin, and rudder were covered in the dark version of the 5-color scheme with the top wing's center section placed in position.  The underside of the top wing was covered in the light 5-color version.  The underside of the bottom wings was not covered at this time to allow for the passage of the .005 monofilament rigging lines which would have to be glued and sanded (I don't want to mar the decals!).

Note the 45 degree angle of the "fabric" on the wings, a common feature of Halberstadt aircraft.  The Vallejo paint I used for the center section will also be used to touch-up the edges of the flying surfaces.  Note a small tear near the tip of the right lower wing.  The circle in the left lower wing is for the compass.  Wing rib taping is next.

 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 10a, 10b, and 10c
6 March 2012
FUSELAGE "SCUMBLE" PAINTING:  The original state of the fuselage is shown in Photo 6 above with a base coat of Vallejo VC0913 Yellow Ochre.  I painted the engine cowling with Misterkit MKAH06 Phönix Dark Green Photo which, it seems to me, is a more modern late-war color quite similar to the shade seen on the metal components of Fokker D.VII aircraft.

Photo 10a at the top of this panel shows the rough sketching in pencil of a random and irregular pattern to be used as a guide.  I used the Vallejo colors as described in Panel 8 above and started at the front of the fuselage alternating colors that I had on the palette.  These colors had to be thinned a little and replenished often during the painting process.  Incidentally, I started by following the pencil pattern at the front but noticed that the overall design seemed a bit too small.  By the time I got to the end of the engine along the fuselage side, I broadened the patches.  The results of the painting are shown in Photo 10b in the middle above.

The last step was to apply the Tamiya TM8046 Light Sand overspray from a distance of about 15-18 inches.  I allowed the overspray to stay on the engine covers as seen on many Halberstadt CL.II aircraft.  Sometimes, in fact, the engine covers were incorporated into the five-color pattern.     

 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS No. 11
7 March 2012
RIB TAPING APPLIED: Light blue rib taping was applied to the upper surfaces of the wings only.  Not shown is the under surface of the top wing's pink taping.  I used Techmod's 1:48 scale TD4055 German Rib Tape Decals.  The general intent of taping the wing ribs and leading edges was to protect fabric separation during flight where it was demonstrated (sometimes at tragic consequences) that un-taped ribs or the leading edges would tear or otherwise separate causing large sections of fabric to peel off resulting in drastic lift reduction and sometimes loss of control.  Each strip was glued and doped over the ribs and leading edges where the fabric was attached.  Light blue was thought to be reserved for upper surfaces and pink (or salmon) for the under surfaces.  However, it is obvious that strips cut from clear untreated fabric or from pre-printed fabric were used.  Sometimes, with the use of clear fabric, it was hand-painted to roughly duplicate the printed fabric.

The gaggle of .005 monofilament wires at the tail are the control lines for the rudder and elevators.  I would recommend carefully pre-fitting the horizontal stabilizers which have short stubs that have to have corresponding holes drilled out on the fuselage for fitting.  The forward stubs correspond to the location of the eyelet holes in the fuselage where the elevator control wires go.  I cut off the rudder's plastic control horn stub and installed PE replacements which have a pre-drilled hole for the .005 MFT.

The attachment of the lower wing was "by gosh and by-golly", much the same as you might encounter with a less "advanced" kit.  This is just another problem with this kit: no locating holes or pins.  I located two places on the fuselage for locating pins.  I transferred the holes to the thin cross section of the lower wing and drilled them out.  I test-fitted the join of the lower wing to the fuselage using brass pins inserted into the pre-drilled holes.  Luckily, the fit of each lower wing was good and I glued them into place using super glue.

 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS No. 12a & 12b
8 March 2012
TAIL UNIT AND SOME PHOTO-ETCHED DETAILS: The horizontal and vertical stabilizers had small locating tabs.  I drilled out the fuselage locating holes and dry-fitted the positioning noting all of those MFT "wires".  I glued the right horizontal first and eye-balled its positioning before the super glue set up.  Then I glued the left one.  The actual one-piece elevator was not glued just yet.  The rudder was best set in place attached to the vertical fin.  I thought it best to apply the Eisernes Kreuz (EK) to each side.  The completed sub-assembly was super glued to the fuselage.  Lastly, I attached the elevator piece.

There are a lot of photo-etched (PE) details included in this kit.  Many of the smaller, "teeny-weeny" pieces could have been molded right in the major components: wings and fuselage.  When so many little parts are involved something can and usually goes wrong when working with super glue.  If the part is not located properly, the super glue sets up and you have to peel it off and try again.  Hopefully, you haven't marred the surrounding surface.  Photo 12b shows PE parts on the underside: two engine access panels, four wing root access panels, and four wing strut reinforcement plates.

 
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 13
10 March 2012
LANDING GEAR:  The landing gear struts were fabricated from K & S Engineering Brass Tube 1/16" OD x .014" ID (1.57mm x .355mm) available online from Micro-Mart (item #82638).  Each strut consists of three lengths but made from one tube length and bent in two places using the one of the kit's landing gear strut as a pattern.  The tops of the struts where they meet the fuselage were ground down on my 4" x 36" grinder to the appropriate angle.  Then, smaller diameter pins were glued into each tube to serve as locating pins.  Each strut was carefully hammered flat on the top of a modeler's vise (serving as an anvil) using a small tacking hammer.  The struts were inserted into pre-drilled holes and super glued using the kit's axle to get the correct spread.  A brass axle was fashioned and the wheels attached (not glued).  The axle was glued in place.  Later, the simulated "bungee cord" shock absorbers will be wrapped around axle and struts making the bound secure.

The wheels were primed using Misterkit MKGC10 German Clear Doped Linen.  Using an Eduard template of scale circles, I marked four of them on the "dark" pre-printed 5-color camouflage decal sheet, cut them out, and applied them to the wheel covers.  I painted the tires with a mix of Vallejo VC0995 German Gray and a little VC0874 US Tan Earth.  The tailskid was inserted up and into the rear underside of the fuselage with its short vertical reinforcement bar positioned into a pre-drilled hole.

 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 14
10 April 2012
OVERHEAD VIEW:  Note completion so far: propeller with spinner, side rack with grenades, flare pistol strapped to right rear of gunner's cockpit, compass inboard on lower left wing, slope of the pre-printed camouflage, horizontal application of the pre-printed camouflage on the stabilizer but vertical on the elevators.  The leading edge of the wings need light blue taping. 
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 15a & 15b
10 April 2012
RIGHT REAR VIEW:  The propeller with spinner provides one of the significant features that separates the CL.II from the CL.IV, the latter having a blunt rounded nose.  This view shows the  flare pistol strapped to right rear of gunner's cockpit and the grenade rack.  The pre-printed camouflage was applied separately to the fin and then to the rudder in a slight horizontal pattern.  Control horns have not been painted. LEFT REAR VIEW:  Note the bulge of the internally mounted radio generator.  When not equipped with a radio, this feature would be replaced by a flat panel cover.  The aircraft represents a time in March 1918 just before the Luftstreitkräfte changed from the Eisernes Kreuz (EK) to the Balkenkreuz (BK), the late war straight cross.  Note the flare cartridge rack.  
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 16
18 April 2012
DECALS - PART 1:  Now was a good time in the construction process to add decals before considering attachment of the top wing.  The decals supplied in the kit are overly thick and fragile tending to crack or completely break away in pieces.  In fact, the smaller decals for the inscription "Marianne" under the cockpit were destroyed becoming separated in several pieces - so they're lost.  The red horizontal datum line - likewise.  
 
 
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No. 17
28 April 2012
STRUTS AND PRE-RIGGING:  This photo shops the kit's wing and cabane struts in the top row and far right.  The brass struts in the bottom row correspond to the kit's struts that are to be replaced.  The forward cabane struts on the far right are retained.

The serious step of attaching the top wing needs two preliminary steps.  First, I decided (as usual) not to use kit struts with one exception, the forward cabane strut.  I will attach the top wing on cabane struts first and then add the outer wing struts.  The Halberstadt CL.II struts are relatively narrow so I used Griffon Model GCPBHP03 Brass Tube (0.8mm OD, 0.3mm ID) into which is inserted a brass rod with about 1/8" protruding at either end to serve as anchors.  Each strut is carefully pounded into an oval aerodynamic shape using a small hammer.

The first pieces I made were for the rear cabane struts which form an upside down "V" but I made these in two parts.  The forward part was made long to fit down into the fuselage as far as it would go.  This would serve as the main support for the top wing.  The rear piece is shorter and has its lower brass rod bent at about 60 degrees to fit into a hole in the fuselage.  The combination of these two strut parts form the upside down "V" strut.  The forward cabane struts were directly from the kit and had an especially well molded base that attaches to the inner fuselage.  The wing struts were simple enough.  I simply measured one strut and cut four pieces of brass tube then cut four pieces of brass rod with protruding ends.

Pre-rigging has to do with being sure that all of the rigging holes for both the struts and ailerons are, in fact, drilled.  Occasionally, you get lucky after the top wing is in place and can access the spot where a hole needs to be drilled; but that rarely happens and drilling can be troublesome.

 
  
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No.18
6 May 2012
TOP WING ASSEMBLY:  The top wing is set on top of the rear cabane "V" struts as a test fit.  It's probable that some adjustment of the brass struts will be necessary and this can be tricky because the plastic to which the struts have been glued could crack; so, hold the brass strut to be bent with pliers and make the bend ever so carefully with another pair of pliers.  In both cases, narrow-nosed pliers are the best.

With alignment taken care of, the top wing is super glued to the rear cabane "V" struts and allowed to dry but make sure alignment hasn't gone astray.  Next, I test-fitted the wing struts and made minor adjustments by trimming off the excess brass rod material protruding from the ends of the brass tube struts.  Each strut was then glued in place and allowed to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next one and, at the same time, making sure wing alignment is correct.  With all four struts in place, I checked the fit for the kit's forward cabane struts but these were a bit short.  I made replacements using brass tube/rod and glued them in place.  

 
    
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No.19
9 May 2012
TOP WING ASSEMBLY:  The top wing is set on top of the rear cabane "V" struts as a test fit.  It's probable that some adjustment of the brass struts will be necessary and this can be tricky because the plastic to which the struts have been glued could crack; so, hold the brass strut to be bent with pliers and make the bend ever so carefully with another pair of pliers.  In both cases, narrow-nosed pliers are the best.

With alignment taken care of, the top wing is super glued to the rear cabane "V" struts and allowed to dry but make sure alignment hasn't gone astray.  Next, I test-fitted the wing struts and made minor adjustments by trimming off the excess brass rod material protruding from the ends of the brass tube struts.  Each strut was then glued in place and allowed to dry thoroughly before proceeding to the next one and, at the same time, making sure wing alignment is correct.  With all four struts in place, I checked the fit for the kit's forward cabane struts but these were a bit short.  I made replacements using brass tube/rod and glued them in place.  

 
 
    
 
CONSTRUCTION PHOTO No.21
11 May 2012
FINISHING TOUCHES:  To enumerate the finishing touches: 1) painted the wing border tape to match the rib tap on the upper surface; 2) built up the Parabellum machine gun and made it removable; 3) added radiator piping; 4) added the horizontal exhaust; 5) added the aileron push rods; 6) connected the tail control wires; and 7) added the pilot's windscreen.
 
 
 
FINISHED MODEL PHOTOS No. 20a thru20i
 11 May 2012
 
 
 
 

 

-------------------------------  FINIS ------------------------------
 
 
Additional after-market kits used in the construction of this model:
 
    Andrea and Vallejo acrylic paints as noted
    Eduard EU4406 Turnbuckles & Control Horns
    Griffon Models GMBH series Brass Tube
    K & S Engineering brass rod
    Misterkit German World War I paint colors as noted
    Techmod TD4055 1:48 German Rib Tape Decals
   

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Bibliography:

Duiven, Rick and Dan-San Abbott.  Schlacht-Flieger!  Atglen, PA: Schiffer Military History, 2006.

Gray, Peter and Owen Thetford.  German Aircraft of the First World War.  London: Putnam & Company Limited, 1962.

Grosz, P. M. Halberstadt CL.II, Windsock Datafile 27, "Colours and Markings" section by Ray Rimmel, color profiles by Ray Rimmel, scale drawings by Ian R. Stair, cover art Brian Knight, Albatros Publications Ltd, Berkhamsted, UK, revised second edition 1999.

 

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