by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
Originally published on:
History of the original
The production Sopwith type 9400 became known as the 1 ½ Strutter and started out as a two seat aircraft design that was expected to fulfill several rolls. Like an actor in an off Broadway performance having several minor parts in a play production, so the ‘Strutter’ was expected to be a fighter, bomber, trainer and reconn platform. Then began the night bombing of London. British General staff ordered type 9400 aircraft that were destined for the refit, rebuild and repair shops for conversion to interceptor duties. In June and July 1917 that meant that they would be expected to meet the Gotha Bomber over England. Sopwith design team evaluated the refit suggestions of Captain F. W. Honnett of 78 (Home Defense) Sqdn RFC and gave their thumbs up to the military. The 130hp Clerget mounted to the ‘Strutter’ gave it the best edge. They closed up the forward cockpit and moved all controls, guns and instruments to the rear ‘office.’ The first three birds were in 78 Sqdn’s capable hands by August 1917. It seems that these types were never put into factory production but most were in-service airframes refitted at the No. 1 (Southern) Aircraft Repair Depot. In early 1918 the Sopwith-on-the-Thames began turning out their production version of the night-fighter ‘Camel.’ It was this version that received the official title ‘Sopwith Comic’. The term was originally applied to the early ‘Strutter’ version as is had a profile that made most fliers cock their heads and wonder if it was all a joke from a vaudeville or Piccadilly stage. From what we know there were about 59 Strutters that were slated for the three Home Defense Squadrons. But we do not know just how many were converted as described above. Begin with general clean up and mapping out your rigging pilot holes, pre-drilling all of these and the strut locator holes. Scribing and or separating any control surfaces that you want to later show actuated.
Step 1.) There is a two piece Clerget type cowling (1 & 2 E) with three oblong vents. There is some internet speculation that the three slotted types were not used on the Clerget motor installation. What we do know is that this type of cowling was a universal type that could be fitted to either the LeRhône or the Clerget types. The position of the slots is for gas and heat dissipation for the prime firing position. This was usually at the 5, 6 or 7 O’clock positions (depending on the motor type) because the exhaust channel was located under the forward fuselage area.
Step 2.) The instrument panel (11 I ) and the facade (5 P) are detailed and references can be found in the Sopwith Strutter Datafile to their identities. Warning wait to add the photoetch until you dry fit the plastic item in step 2. The only thing you might want to add to the photoetch is the pulsometer at the panel’s lower left corner. The photoetch instrument panel facade ( 5 P) itself can be painted to represent ‘Copal’ varnished wood. I use ‘Testors’ brown 1166. This is a small bottled flat that when thinned and applied as a wash stains well. (Hint: The slightly stiffer the bristles on your b rush the better the ‘wood grain effect you can achieve, just don’t scrub the base coat too hard. The carburetor intake pipes are apart of the instrument panel / bulkhead (11 I.)
Step 3.) Unites the instrument panel assembly and the seat (8 J) that needs to be cut down at the back, rudder bar (11 J), control column (12 J) to the flooring (2 I.) The rudder bar ( 11 J ) attaches to the base support of the flooring (2 I. ) Here you have to think just a little bit ahead. Paint and mount the control trim wheels (1 J X 2) in the rear cockpit and try to dry fit the flooring to its needed location. First, notch it to accommodate the trim wheels and then to get the fuselage halves (6 & 7 A) to close up your going to have to sand down the edges of the flooring (2 I). Then turning to the plastic instrument panel your going to have to trim it to fit as well. It appears that these items were designed for the forward cockpit location of the normal Sopwith and its single seat Bomber. With this “Comic” version the cockpit instruments were moved to the aft compartment and the front closed up / faired over. The objective here is to trim down the plastic instrument (11 I) panel first then the photoetch (5 P) and then unite these two items. The rudder bar could do with a couple of simulated leather retaining straps for the pilot’s feet. Later you will need to add fine wire to represent the rudder control cables. Next you could scratch build a hand operated fuel pump. Note you might want to add a fuel mixture control lever to the left side of the cockpit almost under the instrument panel assembly. Admittedly this narrower than usual cockpit get filled up quickly. The seat (8 J) does not sit on the floor. First it should have the back rest cut down low so that it is one continuous arc from top of armrest to top of armrest. The seat should then sit on two wooden type cross members spanning across the cockpit from side to side to a resting bar on either side. From the factory this is a metal seat like the Sopwith Triplane types, not wicker.
Step 3a & b.) Is the forming application of the “Comic” type windscreens (1 &2 R.)
Step 3c.) Discusses the alteration of the single Vickers machine gun (3 J.) Note this is installed on kit profile A/6906. Cut off the two small sections at the rear of the machine gun. The Sopwith Pup and the two- seater Strutters usually employed a small windscreen mounted at the rear of the Vickers with a padded edge. The gun on this profile is far removed from the cockpit so no padding is needed.
Step 4.) Begins with the assembly of the Clerget type 9B rotary engine. Attach the pushrods (4 E) to the engine first. Note the center hole in the PE will have to be filed to open up the hole more or it won't sit over the engine stub correctly. It has to move freely enough for the whole piece to line up the pushrods for the cylinder head tappets. Then add the face plate cover (4 E) without the plastic pushrods. Check your references.
Step 5.)Also, the rear engine shaft (8 I ) is glued into the rear of the rotary while the spindle is inserted into the mounting support tube (17 I .) This then passes through the firewall and a simple retainer (18 I ) is provided to glue to the exposed end of the spindle shaft. I’m not too concerned with having my rotaries free floating or able to turn. For those of you that see this as a viable option try this; Make sure the shaft will pass completely through the tube into the retainer. Add a very small amount of petroleum jelly to the shaft between the firewall and the back of the rotary. Insert the motor/shaft assembly part way through the firewall. Finally add the retainer and then apply a small amount of thick consistency cyano- glue to the tip of the exposed shaft tip with the retainer in place. The plastic is soft and easy to work with. I decided to add an extra ‘Copper State Models’ firewall face plate that I had (normally from their Sopwith Snipe kit.) This item has some nice rivet and screw details. While a little large in area it cuts down easily and anneals at the edges nicely.
Step 6.) Assembles the forward deck (1 H) with the twin Lewis guns ( 2 & 4 J X 2 ) and their mountings (12 & 13 I ) for profile B’762.
Step 7.) Attaches the Vickers machine gun. I will usually paint the allied type gun assemblies with a base coat of aluminum then add a wash of black that darkens the over all look of the pieces. Vickers machine guns were bare metal but the finish was not bright metal. This also makes a great contrast to the cowling if your going with a polish cowling type.
Step 8.) Unite’s fuselage halves ( 6 & 7 A), lower wing ( 4 B ) and engine cowling assemblies, horizontal (2 B ) and vertical ( 3 B ) stabilizers. Shows the pilot’s right fuselage side interior and adds some structures ( C 12 & 17.) You can use a linen colour for the wood and fabric areas. Then stain the wood ribs and ply with the Testors brown #1166 I spoke of in step 1. You may also want to thin out the interior face areas (in both fuselage halves A 1 & 2) where the control cables will enter the fuselage. This will show a scale thickness for fabric. Also you may want to thin out the forward edge to the fuselage cowling area as this area is to match the wing vent for the exhaust and if left unattended it creates an edge that doesn’t look scale. (IPMS Judges will use this to disqualify an entry. The fuselage halves (6 & 7 A) should align without much of a problem but, if you have any concerns line the spine up and then pull out or push in the bottoms of he fuselage halves to loose any stepped look or misaligned seams. I also added two sections of sprue to spread the inside walls of the fuselage out, to match the top decking assembly from step 6 or 7.
Step 9.) To mount the top wing (2 C ) try using a temporary jig of children’s Lego blocks. I would add the interplane struts ( 1 J & & J X 3) first and get the wing plumb then go back and test fit the cabane struts (13 J & 16 I) to keep everything lined up. For more strength in the attachments of the interplane struts you can use brass wire or rod inserted into pre-drilled holes in the struts. The exposed ends of the wire can be inserted into the drilled out locator holes in th wings. Don’t force a strut to go in place as it can throw the wing alignment off greatly. As a beginner, leave the upper-surface of the top wing and the undersurface of the lower wing unfinished (bare plastic/resin.) Do not add the landing gear yet. Why leave these areas unfinished you ask? These are the surfaces that you will use to apply glue on. An open flat surface is easier to work with and scrape excess glue from, than the narrow area between the wings, struts and rigging pathways. Also note that the smaller the hole you drill, the less area you will have to fix later. I like to use the thin type cyanoacrylate glues.
Next add the struts. Struts being the bane and pain, the war-cry of the neophyte modeler is - “I can’t do that, it has all those struts!” Just take your time. It gets easier with practice and then it goes by pretty quickly. Most of the time I will either replace kit items with modified brass sections (Like Aeroclub’s Strutz) or drill holes in the kit strut ends and insert and secure brass pins into the these holes. Next remember to drill corresponding holes in the wings to allow the exposed ends of the brass pins to slide into the factory strut locator positions. This will reinforce your work and also gives your struts an adjustable (by bending) pivot that works to your advantage, especially when your kit has dihedral, forward or reverse stagger.
The key to working with monofilament is start by securing all of the strands that go into the anchoring holes first. This usually begins with the top wing areas adjacent to the cabane and interplane struts and end at the area adjacent to the lower wing strut locator hole or the fuselage longeron at or near the lower wing root. You don’t want to start here as the glue can run into the cluster of cables fouling them when there is no tension to keep them straight and separate. You can use an accelerator to dry the glue quicker but this must be managed carefully (most of theses are known carcinogens.} To be honest it is usually not needed but then again it can depend on your local climate. Normally I just take my time to ensure the anchored strands are completely dry. Start with the upper ends of the cabane strut sockets and move out and across the top wing with anchoring your strands. Once the anchored strands have the loose ends inserted through the holes (that you pre-drilled into lower wing area) use spring action wooden clothes pins to clip on these loose ends. Attach one clothes pin for one strand and clamp the model in place with the wooden clothes pins suspended under the model pulling the strands tight.. This pulls the strand(s) tight and then you just put one drop of thin type super glue in the hole and let thoroughly dry. Don’t use metal hemostats on the small 5-8 mil as they can over stress strands and after your complete it will go slack and heat application won’t tighten it permanently. When your finished rigging use a sharp #11 blade and clip all ends of the secured strands and then carefully scrape any glue spots from the bare plastic / resin and finish to suite your chosen profile. When you are scraping away extra glue be sure to hold the wing specifically that your working with. If your holding the bottom wing and working on the top it will cause undo stress on the struts. Check your references.
Step 10.) Shows the photoetch turnbuckle attachments from the top plan. Note that these so called wing turnbuckles are simply “eye candy” and should not be used to bear tension on monofilament rigging. These turnbuckles need to be studied carefully and note where the pieces bend and in what direction they angle to. With my method of rigging these turnbuckles can be glued right to the area where the lines enter the wing surfaces. If you use fine wire simply cut to fit the gap needed with dividers or a cheap school compass.
Step 11 & 11a.) Show the landing gear ( 14 J X 2 ), wheels ( 16 & 17 J X 2 ) and propeller (5 A) attachments. The landing gear (14 J X 2 ) items represents the types that were steel tube structures. Some Naval airframes simply had the streamlined steel tubing. Several types of propellers were employed on the 9400 types depending on the engine installation and company of manufacture. Check your references. Add your own windscreen.
Step 12.) Shows the photoetch turnbuckle attachments from the bottom plan. Again these need to be studied carefully and note where the pieces bend and in what direction they angle to.
Kit decals; WARNING!!!!! Before you start, spray a series of light dustings of gloss coat and let each dusting of gloss dry before adding another. When completely dry use a sharp razor knife blade and cut each item away from the sheet. If you apply these decals from the sheet without the gloss you may face disaster. I have been told that Roden will send you a replacement set if disaster strikes. But that will be a two week wait for you.
The first scheme is B’762 with Twin Lewis armament sent from No. 78 (HD) Sqdn RFC to Martlesham Heath during Summer autumn 1917 then back to Suttons Farm un August. 1917. Various pilots.
The second is A’6906 with single Vickers No. 78 (HD) Sqdn RFC at Suttons Farm flown by Lt. J. S. Castle, December 1917.
British Fighter Units 1915-16 by A. Revell, Osprey Pub. Ltd. 1978.
British Fighter Units 1917-18 by A. Revell, Osprey Pub. Ltd. 1978.
Royal Flying Corps in WWI by R. Rimell, Osprey Vintage Warbirds series #1, 1985.
Royal Naval Shipboard Aircraft Developments 1912 to 1931 by Dick Cronin, Air Britain Pub.1991.
Royal Navy Aircraft Serials 1911-1919 by R. Sturtivant & G. Page , Air Britain, 1992.
Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter by J.M. Bruce Windsock Datafile #34, 1992.
Sopwith 1 ½ Strutters by J.M. Bruce Profile Pub.
Sopwith Fighters in WWI by J.M.Bruce, Osprey Vintage Warbirds series. #3, 1986.
I have heard recently that WWI aviation modelers take up less than 10% of all models sold in the world market today. Taking into account their kit subjects we are very lucky to have Roden putting out these great kits. As mentioned previously they have a knack for beating the big companies to the punch when it comes to 1/72 and (my favorite) 1/48 scale subjects. Their kits of the Fokker D.VII, Nieuport 28 C.1 , SE 5a, Bristol F2.B and various Sopwith 1 ½ Strutter types are all great subjects that have been sorely neglected by all other larger companies. Usually flash free, well fitting and relatively easy to put together. They have basic kits and some kits with a bit of photoetch and you simply won’t believe what they have in store for the future! At these prices I have plans to purchase at least three of each kit.
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