Sopwith Triplane in 1/25 scale by Orlik

Discussion in 'First Impressions Kit Reviews' started by Leif Oh, Apr 9, 2005.

  1. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Sopwith Triplane in 1/25 scale by Orlik

    The first thought upon opening the long-awaited Sopwith Triplane in 1/25 scale by Orlik was how very small the aircraft is (for a moment there I had the crazy thought that the publishers had got their scales wrong - this had to be 1/33, I thought!).

    The model is very detailed. One reason for this is the option to build every single wing and stabilizer rib, plus every single engine cylinder cooling flange (there is also an option to build simplified cylinders). Another example is the most detailed Vickers gun I've seen, plus the equally detailed prop-driven generator.

    The kit is graded as "difficult", by the Lighthouse Transatlantik Paper Model Magazine, as compared to "medium" for the Halinski Spitfire. Personally I would definitely have graded the Spitfire at least as "for experienced builders" - which says a lot about the degree of difficulty of the Sopwith Triplane!


    The kit comes in a standard A4 booklet, with five pages of coloured parts (four of them on thick paper, one on thin), one-and-a-half page of black and white parts for glueing on thicker cardstock, roughly three-and-a-half pages of construction sketches, two pages of instruction text, and a two-page black and white version of the cover illustration, neither of which are exeptional.

    The design and execution of the kit, however, is of very high and precise quality, requiring cuts of fractions of a millimeter in places. In fact - and I keep returning to this point - I would despair to build it in the printed scale, and will scan & enlarge it to 1/16 without further delay. I think all parts will easily fit into standard A4 paper size even at the 156 percent enlargement required to get to 1/16. The Sopwith Triplane was quite a tiny aircraft!

    The interesting part about the model and kit is that it continues a trend towards making more and more detailed interiors, as well as exteriors. As you can see from the instruction sketches, the entire interior is modeled:


    I have yet to understand the proper construction method for achieving this, but it will be a most interesting challenge. I do lack an English translation of the instructions in this case, and will write in to the publishers to enquire.

    As you probably quickly have realized almost all of the intricate detailing of engine, fuselage framework, and cockpit interior will be hidden from view, which is a pity. A model like this almost cries for cut-away sections, and I will devote some time to figuring out how this could be done.

    Also, in a scale of 1/16 it would seem an urgent task to replicate the internal wire bracing of the fuselage, particularly if you have cutaway sections. I have yet to figure out a good way of managing that, too.

    Some of the details of the fuselage, like the framework member metal reinforcement plates, seem to be somewhat of a product of the kit designer's imagination. I do not remember that amount of reinforcements from photos, but will check further before starting to build eventually.


    As you can see from the excerpts of the parts sheets, shading and wheathering are not of exceptional quality. What is really exceptional, however, is the construction of the wings, which follow the original very closely, down to correct position of spars, plus the fact that all of the wing ribs, including the leading edge small false ribs, are supplied.

    It seems a great pity to hide all those details under the wing covering, and the design just cries out for leaving one wing, or at least the bottom side of it, uncovered. In that case, the spars and ribs should be recoloured to simulate wood. The designers very thoughtfully have included large chunks of patterns (for spare parts) which could be used for that purpose.

    If you build the model with cut-away sections, many parts of the fabric covering will have to be painted to simulate unpainted fabric. Metal parts (such as the scores of parts for the engine) probably ought to be printed on grey paper, if for nothing else to simplify the otherwise very arduous task of edgecolouring all those tiny little details.

    The engine will be a challenge to build it as a truly rotary engine, with an electric motor inside. Even at 1/16 a smaller electric motor than the ones I've used so far will be necessary. And I'm already thinking of how to get a small 2,4 V rechargeable battery into the fuel tank!

  2. gera

    gera Member

    Hi Lief:
    Good report. Well all I can say is good luck, with your ability I am sure you will finish a super model.
    I am presently looking into a Morane parasol in 1:33 but have no yet desided. I have several Orlik models (unbuilt) and they defenitly look challenging which should take a long stretch of time.
    Enjoy your build. :wink:
  3. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Hi, Lief! :D

    A truly exceptional description of this kit, and a well thought out analysis of many building considerations. I know if anyone can do this kit justice (and then some) you are the fellow!

    At 1/16 scale, you will be very tempted to have open panels to see the details you describe, and I look forward to your conclusions on how best to accomplish this. For the engine, I wonder if the cowlings had any removable panels that you could work with and leave them in the open position to give a peek of the interior details. I'm not that familiar with the details of this particular plane, but I do recall seeing some WWI craft shown in museums where some of the panels were left open.
    I found this link showing some details that might be helpful:

    I hope some of this is useful if not helpful to your project.

    Looking forward to seeing more as you tackle this awesome project.


  4. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    Great model description. You're right about the questionong the detail level and whether it's appropriate when it is totally hidden from view which breaks the rule "only model that which shows". Do you think Orlik is testing uncharted waters? Curious to see if there are any photographs of a completed model...,

    Warmest Regards, Gil
  5. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Thanks, Jim, for those superb images at the links you provided - wouldn't be surprised if the designers of the kit studied precisely those photos! I knew that someone on the site would come through with tips of good photos, and I'm particularly happy that it was you, a dedicated mariner (but then again, the Triplanes were mainly used by the Royal Naval Air Service, weren't they)!

    I don't mind the level of detailing, Gil, quite on the contrary. What I do mind, like you pointed out, is designers hiding them invisibly inside the fuselage without providing tips for how to make suitable cut-aways. But then again, that would have taken away some of the fun of figuring it out for yourself!

    Incidentally, there is a clear progression of interior detailing in kits. From my own - very limited - experience the Halinski Polikarpov I-16 has much larger interior areas modeled than e.g. the Airacobra. The Polikarpov would in fact be an excellent subject for trying out the kind of cut-aways that the Sopwith Triplane definitely needs!

    Thanks again, guys, for tips and links!

  6. wunwinglow

    wunwinglow Active Member

    Gil, shame on you!!! I thought making stuff that won't be seen was a very important aspect of modelmaking! How many times have you heard modellers say 'Ah, but I KNOW it there, even if you can't see it!' ? Loads of times....

    Almost as many times as I have said, 'I'll get on with that bit when I have ALL the information I need...' It's the gold at the end of my rainbow!

    Tim P
  7. Darwin

    Darwin Member

    Leif, great review. I may wind up buying it just for the machine gun and engine. Looks like a challenging build...please share pics (great for me to say, eh?).
  8. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    Ok, Ok, please indulge a bit of rhetoric but the point I was really trying to make is whether Orlik is fishing for a new niche, playing one-upmanship on the competition or just seeing how things go (my votes on the new niche and seeing how things go)? I think what Leif's alluding to is there's enough information contained in the kit to do pretty much anything one pleases. This is especially pleasing to the modeler and saves an enormous amount of research time when done well. In fact I think I'll go and buy one just to satiate my curiosity. Good sales job Leif!

    Warmest Regards, Gil
  9. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    The deed is done. Also picked up a GPM Granau Baby for the Depron experiment.

  10. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Leif et al,

    Received the Orlik Triplane in the mail yesterday. As Leif indicated it includes enough detail to build a bare bones version if one has the patience and skill. This brings up the development of "rolling tiny tubes" and forming tubular shapes. The horizontal & vertical stabilizers are perfect candidates for the method. The wing leading edges are also prime candidates. The kit also triggered the idea of using forms other than round for forming tubular building elements. A square tube should be easily done after the starting the tube on a round mandrel.

    The detailed rotary engine is best described as a daunting "sea of holes"..., an extremely sharp and extended set of hole punches will be necessary to get even near to it (2 x 2 x 9 x 19 accurate punch operations needed to make all the cooling fin rings).

    Best, Gil
  11. Gil

    Gil Active Member

    Tubular Aircraft Construction Detail

    Below is a small construction trial with small diameter paper tubing using the rudder detail of the Orlik Sopwith Triplane. Need to find a slightly larger diameter wire for forming the curved section but overall the technique works well enough for general use. I plan to use styrene square and rectangular rod as mandrels for those types of cross sections. More as time allows...,

    Below left is the rudder construction glued together with PVA and on the right is the section after coating with nitrate lacquer and a primer coat. It's much stronger than it appears which is somewhat surprising.

    Best regards, Gil

  12. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    That is so deftly done. I've been thinking along the lines of soft wire (thin floral wire), covered by rolled paper (perhaps the vellum you've introduced). Do you think that might work?

    Although the major problem of course is the framework of square members. How does one accomplish that? (I now realize that's what you were thinking about when thinking out aloud on the subject of making square structures of rolled tubes).

    I suppose you could give in and go buy some 2x2 mm wooden strips (or even thinner if you're building in the original 1/33 scale). But then the problem of rigging wires remains.

    I've been thinking along the lines of double layers of cut-out card structures, rather like railings, and then glueing in the riggin wires between the layers. What I haven't figured out is how to join the vertical and horizontal frameworks of a square fuselage made this way. Dove-tailing?

    And, final problem: How does one accomplish the cross braces running along the places where formers usually would be?

  13. Gil

    Gil Active Member


    Paper coated floral wire will most likely work. I thought about using it but the problem is one of scale. The paper coated floral wire seems to come in only one size which limits it's direct application without modification. I think your time would be better spent learning the art of making small diameter tubes. It opens up an entire genre of construction techniques heretofore closed to paper and only open to plastic and wire. Just think of all those Chrome-Moly tubular welded fuselages and engine mounts...,

    The curved section was formed first from a small diameter paper tube constructed from vellum tracing paper. A 24 AWG copper wire was inserted and the curve was formed. The curved section was coated with nitrate lacquer (any type of lacquer will work) and let dry after which the wire was pulled out. The technique is modelled after the full scale technique of tube bending wherein a spring is inserted to keep the tube from kinking when bent. The part was then cut to shape with a scalpel. The other parts were cut directly from a small diameter rolled tube. PVA glue was used to bond the elements together being smoothed with a small, damp paintbrush and let dry. The resulting part was then lacquerd followed by a primer coat.

    It appears that a two part tutorial would be helpful. Small diameter tubing is very easy to turn out once a few basic techniques are learned. Another point is the strength of these structures is nearly unbelievable. Hard to maintain that they're simply made of paper.

  14. Leif Oh

    Leif Oh Member

    Great. Agree. Was thinking about exactly what you describe, just didn't wish to delve into nitrate dope & stuff, but stick to wire, roll the tube around it from thin vellum paper, varnish with acrylic, paint with acrylic, glue with white glue. I thought perhaps the wire could remain inside the tube, glueing facitilitated by the paper cover.

    And yes, of course I'm thinking about the tubular structure of e.g. a Piper J3...

    So, I for one, would much appreciate a tutorial. Particularly if it would be possible to make thin tubes also without the nitrate dope.

    Very grateful for you development of these techniques. They constitute a real contribution to paper modeling.

  15. Jim Krauzlis

    Jim Krauzlis Active Member

    Please count my vote for a tutorial on rolling small tubes as well. :D
    I've done a bit for the barrels on Constitution and other ships (masts, etc.) but except for the small length fellows I'm still not confident about the loner tubes...they seem to wander a bit as the paper is rolled for me.

    I tried using no madrel early one but realized I just don't have the finger feel to prevent crushing the tube at some point in the process. I hadn't thought about using styrene, but that would help avoid the tube from sticking to the mandrel. I wonder how small a tube they come in?
    The square tube is an interesting idea too...I've used a mandrel to help form small square or rectangular pieces for a few models but, again, never ventured in to the longer lengths.

    I was wondering about everyone's thought of soaking the paper in making the tubes to form around the mandrel. I've done it using a relatively dry method thus far but the web site on the merchant ship Emiliana talks about using soaked paper to form tubes, sort of using the technique we probably all used as kids to make clay "worms." This techique does not involve using mandrels, but if styrene is used that would probably work better than wire to avoid the soaked paper sticking to the mandrel. Of course, it sounds like the degree of saturation is important, as is the type of paper used; I can see myself making a bunch of pulped messes at some point. :roll:

    Gil, that framing came out great on the rudder! I can't get to something like this myself for now, but I would love to see how using the styrene squares and tubes works.



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