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Roden 1/72 scale Albatros W.4

Kit: No. 34
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: Roden, available from Squadron Mail Order, 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011-5010, 979-242-8663, www.squadron.com
Price: $9.98
Comments: Injection-molded, 47 parts, decals
Pros: Fine, subtle detail; accurate, attractive subject
Cons: Poor-quality plastic, decals unresponsive to setting solutions, inaccurate colors of lozenge decals

During World War I, the Imperial German Navy developed and deployed seaplane fighters produced by Albatros, Friedrichshafen, Hansa Brandenburg, Roland, Rumpler, and others. The aesthetically pleasing Albatros W.4 borrowed heavily from Albatros' D.I fighter. However, it was not a great success. Many problems with the floats and the effects of extremely harsh weather on the fragile biplane airframe caused the W.4 to be used in limited numbers until phased out by the more successful two-seat seaplane fighters.

Roden's Albatros W.4 depicts the production version with full lozenge camouflage and other minor differences from the three prototype aircraft. Construction began with the beautifully detailed Mercedes engine, but I couldn't get part 6Z to fit, and the location of part 4Z was unclear. I left off part 6Z since it would be out of sight.

Most of the parts had flash - no problem with the Flex-I-File. But, as I inspected the wings, I noticed several large bumps and protrusions. It looked as though the plastic was not sufficiently melted before being molded. It took some time to sand down the irregularities without losing the wing rib detail.

The plastic is brittle, and careful handling of the struts and fine detail parts was required. I had built a couple of Roden kits before and suspected the strut problems, so I substituted Strutz brass strut stock all around. This added to the building time but reduced the frustration factor.

I worked on parts fit before gluing, resulting in straightforward construction. I painted my model in subassemblies and used Model Master Acryl paints throughout.

Roden's decals are well-printed and in perfect register, but that's all the good news. The lozenge colors were not close to correct, but I started to apply them anyway for this review. Unfortunately, the decals would not conform to the model. I tried a battery of progressively stronger setting solutions, all to no avail. I ended up substituting Americal/Gryphon Kriegsmarine Lozenge sheet No. 1 for the camouflage, and spares box iron crosses for the insignias.

I rigged my model with two-pound-test monofilament anchored in holes drilled with a No. 80 bit.

Once assembled, Roden's Albatros W.4 measures close to published dimensions. Albatros Productions Mini Data File, Albatros W.4, is indispensable if you're building this kit. I spent about 30 hours on my W.4, most of it fitting parts and applying the complex lozenge decals.

- Kevin Taylor

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