The Roden Sopwith Triplane kit comes in a nicely presented box with impressive art work. The box contents are typical of Roden with all sprues contained within one plastic bag, a separation of these sprues into individual bags would offer more protection for the parts. The decals cover 5 schemes and are on the bottom of the box in its own plastic bag along with a small clear sheet for the windscreen. There are no decals for the instrument faces, this to me is an important part of the aircraft so why they are not included is a mystery. The instruction booklet is a customary Roden production with clear straight forward building instructions printed in black and white, there are no additional reference photos. There is a paint colour guide included along with a basic rigging diagram. A quick browse of the instructions revealed no major problems with the clarity of the building process.  

The sprues are moulded in Rodens light grey with parts easily located, a parts reference is included in the instruction booklet. Moulding is quite good with nice crisp lines and well defined details. The inclusion of a PE set would greatly enhance the finer details such as cockpit detailing and machine gun. No rigging material is supplied with the kit. A quick inspection revealed no major flaws with just the usual minor clean up of parts required prior to painting and assembly. There is a choice of two propellers with hub detail being a bit better than previous kits. Engine cylinder fins are well defined but the push rods appear slightly over sized, replacement with brass tube would rectify the problem. I will give a much more detailed analysis of the parts as I get into the build.


The engine, if built up straight from the box would look OK, but I have decided to add some detail. All the moulded “blobs”around the crankcase which are supposed to be nuts and bolts will be replaced using Vectorcut nuts. A short piece of 0.25mm copper wire will be inserted through the nuts to represent the end of the bolt.

I glued the nuts in place using CA, I placed a very small amount of glue onto the surface where the nut was to be positioned, I then held the nut with a pair of pointed tweezers and sat the nut on the glue holding weight on the nut for a few seconds. Once dry I drilled 0.3mm holes through each nut and inserted small lengths of 0.25mm copper wire, these are also held in position with a very small drop of CA.. When dry, I filed the end on the copper wire to give a nice flat appearance. I glued the two engine halves together then removed the spark plugs. I drilled 0.6mm holes into each cylinder and inserted a length of 0.6mm brass tube to simulate the spark plug body, a drop of CA holds them firm. I drilled a 0.6mm hole through 9 Vectorcut nuts, to do this I removed the nuts from the sprue then holding the nut with a pair of tweezers on a hard surface I drilled the hole, I then slid each nut over each brass tube pushing them hard against the cylinders, a drop of CA holds them well, these represent the nut section of the spark plug. A length of 0.35mm copper wire will be fitted into the brass tube for the plug leads to connect to. The photos show the difference the nuts make giving them depth and a more realistic appearance. The Vectorcut nuts are laser cut on laserboard and react perfectly with CA, the bond is superb, they are simply removed from the sprue with a sharp scalpel and can be drilled very easily, a brilliant product.

The push rods supplied with the kit are oversize and are not round in section, the top and bottom connection points are not well defined. I removed the push rods with a sharp scalpel leaving the moulded section on the centre section, I then drilled a 0.3mm hole. I cut and inserted a small length of 0.3mm brass tube into the hole. I cut 0.5mm brass tube to the appropriate length to act as the push rods, on one end I placed a small brass washer then I slid the tube over the 0.3mm tube. I didn’t allow the washer to touch the centre housing but kept it away a little, a small drop of CA holds it all together. The push rods are longer than what is required but they will be trimmed once fitted to the engine, then I need to make attachments to the rocker arms.

These two photos show the near completed engine. The induction pipes at the rear of the engine are painted using Gunze burnt iron then slightly polished. Spark plugs are completed and painted and a length of 0.13mm copper wire was fitted to represent the ignition leads. The front view shows the unfinished push rods and the nuts around the centre section. The rocker arm assemblies are poorly represented in the kit and each of the nine assemblies required work before they would sit neatly on top of the cylinders, I removed the locating pins below each rocker assembly and filed them flat before gluing them to the cylinders. I also drilled two 0.4mm holes under each rocker arm then trimmed away excess material to give the impression that each rocker arm was a separate unit, not jut a blob of plastic. The cylinder fins were first painted with Humbrol 27004 Gun Metal then they were dry brushed with Humbrol 27003 Polished Steel, once dry (20 minutes) they were buffed, the result is shown with the darkened fin recesses.

The completed engine. I trimmed the push rods to the required length and connected them to the rockers with a short length of 0.6mm brass tube. The tube was bent to the correct angle and a 0.5mm hole drilled in one end to slip over the push rods. The other end was sanded at a slight angle to fit neatly against the rocker, a drop of CA holds the tube to the rocker and another small drop was applied to the push rod where the angled tube fitted. A 50/50 mix of Humbrol polished aluminium and Humbrol polished steel was applied to the rockers assemblies and when dry, it was lightly buffed. The same mix of paint was applied to the front section of the engine and again lightly buffed. It may seem like a lot of work as very little of the engine will been seen once the engine cowl is fitted, but detailing is up to each individual modeller.

To add a little bit of realism to the engine I positioned the cam followers in different positions where they exit the crankcase. This small detail is hardly noticeable but a close inspection does reveal the difference.  

I modified the control column as per the description on the photo on the left. By using brass tube the top view shows the hollow section of the column with the retaining pins passing through. The hand grip is painted with Humbrol leather and the column with Humbrol aluminium

The elevator control cables run from the base of the control column forward, around a pulley then back to the elevators, I made a pulley from brass tube with brass washers fixed on either side. The rudder bar if fitted as supplied is too close to the foot boards, so I drilled out the centre locating pin and replaced it with a longer brass rod allowing the rudder to be raised slightly higher. I added an extension to the control column mounting tube (?) to allow a connection point for the aileron cables, I used 1.0mm brass tube with a small length of 1.2mm tube on the end where it butts up against the timber. The turnbuckles are very small, I’m using 0.4mm tube for the body and 0.1mm copper wire for the eyelets, a very small drop of CA holds it all together. The control cables will be 0.1mm smoke coloured mono (invisible thread).

The cockpit control cables are now complete. Work commenced with the fitting of the bracing cables with turnbuckles, then I fitted the aileron cables with turnbuckles.  I connected a small piece of PE to the bottom end of the control column so I could connect the two cables for the elevator. The cables run forward, travel under the pulley then exit on top of the pulley and are then attached to the seat mounting board. The rudder control cables and the steering cables which are connected to the rudder bar are straight forward. I painted the cables using a mix of Humbrol polished aluminium and polished steel. The turnbuckles, being brass, were too bright so I dulled them down by using equal parts of magenta and yellow printer ink with a splash of black printer ink. The foot boards needed some underside work before they would sit neatly on the cross timber, they also touched the aileron cables so a slight trim was needed to rectify the problem. For the timber I applied a base coat of Gunze H85 Sail Colour, when dry I used Burnt Sienna oil paints. On the foot boards I used Raw Sienna oil paints. The flooring forward of the control column is sprayed with a 50/50 mix of Humbrol 27002 polished aluminium and 27003 polished steel. Once everything was dry I sprayed two coats of Humbrol Matt Cote.

These are the small turnbuckles I used for the control cable rigging. Carefully drill the 0.4mm brass tube out to 0.3mm using a sharp drill bit, cut to a length of 2.0mm and clean any swarf by running the drill bit through the cut length. Make the eyelets and fix them inside the brass tube with CA, clean off any excess CA before it dries.  

The kit supplied wind driven pump is a very poor representation of the real thing so I removed it and made a new pump and propeller. The body of the pump is made from 1.2mm, 1.0mm and 1.5mm brass tube, the prop shaft is 1.0mm brass rod and the prop itself is made from brass sheet. I used my razor saw and cut a slot down the brass rod to allow the prop to slide into position, CA holds it well. Once the glue was dry I twisted each prop blade. The propeller will be painted to simulate wood. I have painted all the struts and instrument panel with Gunze Radome in readiness for the oil paints for a wood grain finish. The photo on the right shows the pump that I tried to copy.

The struts, instrument panel, fuselage ribs and seat have all been painted with oil paints to simulate wood, I used Gunze Radome as the base coat then Raw Sienna as the light wood colour. All the metal brackets need to be blackened then a coat of Humbrol Matt Cote will be applied. All the instrument panel bits and pieces will be painted before the clear coat.

The completed struts, fuselage interior, seat and instrument panel (apart from the instrument decals). All the brackets have been painted using black printer ink and the “brass” bits on the instrument panel have been done with gold leaf paint. All parts have had two coats of Humbrol Matt Cote, this is important as the printer ink, even when dry, will smudge.

I completed the instrument panel by using the decals I printed on white water slide decal paper. Roden do not supply instrument decals with this kit which is a real mystery, instruments are a very important part of the aeroplane. The two instruments on the right of the panel are poorly moulded, the actual instrument is not centred with the bezel which throws the symmetry out. Contrary to the instructions, I fixed the instrument panel to the fuselage.

The fuselage is now joined and and the bottom wing is attached, the bulk head is also fixed in position. The bottom wing with floor pan went on very easy and required very little filler, the instrument panel fitted snugly into the cockpit coaming. I am making a new primer pump which can easily be fitted through the cockpit opening.

I have decided to build this model as the prototype triplane which had a transparent section in the mid upper wing. I marked out the ribs and spars and then removed the unwanted material. Care must be taken because when nearing completion the wing becomes weak.

Being the prototype meant extending the plywood coaming, I did this with Mr. Surfacer 500 followed with light sanding. The photo on the right shows the top wing hand held in position to give a general idea of what it will look like. The primer pump has now been fitted inside the cockpit.

The pre-shading is done using a propelling pencil. I first mark out where the shade sections will go then I fill between the lines with the pencil, no need to be perfect here as the graphite will be blended. Once all the shading has been done I use a small stiff brush and blend all the graphite, a little bit over the lines does not matter as it all adds to the shade effect. The photo of the wing shows the end result after applying very light mist coats, keep applying until you reach the desired look. I was after a light shade which is the result here, a few coats of clear will darken it just a tad. I use strips of stiff paper to hold against the wing/fuselage to act as a guide for the pencil lines, the paper conforms well to any shape. The mist coats will leave a “sandy”finish so a light sanding may be necessary before the next stage.

As I am building this model to depict the prototype the overall finish will be a CDL (clear doped linen) colour. This colour varied greatly so to get a 100% accurate shade would be impossible, the age of the aircraft and how long it has spent out in the weather all play a big part on the colour of the CDL. Where the aircraft was manufactured has a bearing on what colour CDL is, different fabrics were used and different techniques for applying the dope. So when someone asks the question - what colour is CDL - just answer by saying - well, how long is a piece of string -

The cockpit plywood coaming and the exposed timber on the wing have been painted using artist oils. The wing was done with raw sienna and the plywood was raw sienna with just a hint of burnt sienna added. Once these have dried they will get a coat of clear.

I masked the front section and painted it with Humbrol Polished Aluminium then realised that the whole front fuselage was covered with very fine scratches, not noticeable until the paint went on, this required quite a bit of sanding to rectify. The engine cowl was also painted but it revealed thousands of minute holes, again not visible until the paint went on. These are annoying problems but easily repaired.

I fixed all the marks and painted the forward section using Humbrol Polished Aluminium, the photos show the painted items but they have not been buffed at this stage. The engine is also fitted and the fuselage has been clear coated with Humbrol Matt Cote, including the extended plywood decking. I also hollowed out the ammunition chute (feed) firstly by drilling 0.5mm holes as close together as possible then cleaned out the remainder of the material with a very sharp No.11 scalpel blade. I add a row of screws along both sides of the forward section, I drilled 0.4mm holes and inserted short lengths of 0.35 copper wire, CA holds them in place.

I decided to use the kit supplied machine gun which is now fitted, it is painted with Gunze Burnt Iron, the frame for the padding behind the gun is painted with Humbrol Polished Steel and the padding is Humbrol Leather, the leather has been coated with Humbrol Matt Cote.

All the wings, fin and horizontal stabilizer have now been pre-shaded, a time consuming and tedious process. The rudder will be painted then it all will be sprayed with a clear cote of Humbrol Matt Cote. A trial fit of the struts revealed that it is all going to fit together well.

The decals are now fixed but still require a matt coat sealer. The struts have been attached to the centre wing, the interplane strut needed some work so it would sit neat within the wing. I removed the rudder and replaced the hinges with metal pins. The decals are from the Pheon Models Triplane set, they adhere very well and conform to shapes nicely, colours are perfect.

This is just a mock up with the wings and tail doing a balancing act for photo purposes, it gives an indication of what it will look like. I will now spray all the decals with Humbrol Matt Cote then assemble the wings and tailplane. This photo show the true colour of the CDL I used.

The tailplane is now fitted and I have started the rear end rigging. I am using 0.12mm monofilament (fishing line) in Chameleon colour, the small brass ends are 0.4mm brass tube drilled out to 0.3mm, it is all held together with CA (runny super glue). Very little weight is required on the rigging to keep it taut.

The wings are now fixed and the rigging has commenced. Roden has done a superb job with the fitment of the wings, when assembled they did not require any clamping or tape, the locating points are very positive and all three wings aligned perfectly. The assembly is reasonably strong but the rigging will add more strength to the whole structure, I’m using 0.12mm monofilament as rigging.

The wing rigging is now complete apart from the aileron cables. The single through the wing landing wire was done by drilling part way through the wing at the points marked by Roden on the top and bottom of the wing, the mono was then glued into each hole, when pulled tight and viewed from the front it gives the impression that the wire runs through the wing. The double flying wires required a hole to be drilled at the appropriate spot mark by the mould mark on the wing, the double wires pass through this hole without interference. The wing rigging is quite simple and only took about 3 hours to complete.  

As per the data I have available, the undercarriage has been painted black. The mounting locations for the undercarriage are very good and the assembly mounts firmly once the glue has set, the rigging will add a lot of strength to the unit. The wheels will be painted with the CDL colour which I have used on the aircraft. Aileron horns have been added and are painted ready for the control cables. One more drag wire will be added, it mounts on the forward undercarriage leg and connects to the bottom wing, I had to wait with this wire until the undercarriage was fitted.

Here are a series of photos of of the near completed model. All the rigging is completed, the wheels and prop are in the heat box.

The Roden Sopwith Triplane is now completed. All the rigging has been checked, the prop has been gloss coated and fitted, the wheels have been sprayed with Humbrol Matt Cote, final touch up of paint is finished. The only thing I need to do at a later date is to find a very pale yellow/clear film to cover the centre section of the top wing, the very pale yellow will give it the slightly aged look. This kit has been a pleasure to build, there were some issues but nothing that caused any major headaches. The fit of parts is excellent, especially the wings and undercarriage. Some areas could do with detailed PE parts which should be included in the kit, but the down side to that would be an increase in kit price. Roden should be congratulated for producing a lovely kit which is easy to build and if built OOB would display as a nice looking model. The Pheon Model decals are excellent with a good range of schemes to choose from, they are very thin and adhere well to the gloss surface, thank you Rowan for providing the decals.

Here are photos of the completed model.

Colours and Materials used during the build

Fuselage/wings - CDL - Humbrol 121 + 20% white

Undercarriage - Humbrol 85 Satin Black

Engine cowl - Humbrol 27002 Polished Aluminium

Tyres - Humbrol 92 iron grey + 5% black

Struts - Base Gunze Radome H318 then Raw Sienna oils

Strut brackets - Black printer ink

Turtle deck - base CDL then Raw Sienna + a hint of Burnt Sienna.

Cockpit padding - Humbrol 62 Leather

Tail skid - Gunze H37 Wood Brown

Prop - base Gunze H31 then Burnt Umber.

M.G. Padding - Humbrol 62 Leather

Seat cushion - Gunze H17 Cocoa Brown

Seat - Gunze H71 Middlestone

Control column hand grip - Humbrol 62 Leather

Control column - Humbrol Aluminium

Cockpit floor - Base Gunze H85 Sail then Burnt Sienna

Foot boards - Base Gunze H85 then Raw Sienna

Forward floor - 50/50 Humbrol 27002 and 27003.                     

Engine cylinders - First coat Humbrol 27004 Gun Metal then dry brush the fins with Humbrol 27003 Polished Steel, then buff.

Induction pipes - Gunze Burnt Iron lightly buffed.

Timber on top wing - Base CDL then Raw Sienna.

Brass filler caps - Gold Leaf craft paint.

Wing pre-shading - Propelling pencil


Rigging - (all) 0.12mm Chameleon Monofilament

Brass connectors - 0.4mm brass tube drilled out to 0.3mm then cut to 0.7mm long.

Pulley inspection covers - Filled with Humbrol Gloss Cote.

Super Glue - Very runny CA for all rigging points.

Rigging holes - 0.3mm holes drilled for all rigging

If you have any questions please contact me at;

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