This is an old kit I’ve had lying around in the attic for years. It has more recently been reissued by Revell—same parts, but a better set of instructions (available online from Scalemates) and decals.
Blohm und Voss is a German shipbuilding company, which diversified into aircraft production during the Second World War. Under the direction of Chief Designer Richard Vogt, they were responsible for producing some of the more striking and innovative airframes of that period. Of these, the BV 138 flying boat was produced in the greatest numbers, though none survive intact today. It was officially named the Seedrache (“Sea Dragon”), but rejoiced under a less glamorous nickname, Der Fliegende Holzschuh (“The Flying Clog”).
It generally fulfilled a long-range maritime reconnaissance role, for which it was equipped with two enclosed cannon positions and an open machine-gun position, as well as mounts for bombs or depth-charges. I’m, however, aiming to build the experimental mine-clearing version. Designated “MS” (Minensucher), this aircraft was stripped of armaments and fitted instead with a large conducting ring below the wings, which was intended to generate a magnetic field strong enough to trigger magnetic-sensing mines as the aircraft flew over. The ring is often, infuriatingly, referred to as a “degaussing ring”—but it performed exactly the opposite function to degaussing equipment, which seeks to suppress the magnetic field of a ship so that it does not trigger magnetic mines. So it was more of a gaussing ring, really.
Here’s what I’m aiming to build:
This is aircraft CB+UA, which operated out of the Luftwaffe Test Centre at Travemünde, near Lübeck, Germany.
Since I’m planning to mount this one on a custom-built magnetic stand as an in-flight model, I first needed to figure out roughly where the centre of gravity of such an oddly shaped object might lie. So I taped the major parts together roughly, and then sought the balance point of the whole assembly.
With that established, I glued a couple of little neodymium magnets in an appropriate position inside the fuselage, and then assembled a little “cradle” out of styrene card and epoxy, with another couple of magnets inside. Here it is, drying in position.
At left, you can see the old Airfix transparent base to which I’ll attach my cradle mount.
Next, some work on the interior. I’m not big into detailing areas that can’t be seen in the completed model, but the kit provides a set of decals for the radio operator’s position behind the cockpit, so I added these.
The radio operator’s seat needs to be racked right back to make room for the provided figure, and sits uncomfortably low, but here’s what I ended up with when the interior detail was added to the port fuselage half.
You can see one of my interior magnets on the fuselage floor aft of the radio operator’s position. I removed the starboard control column (the BV 138 did not have dual controls), and provided the observer/navigator with a map to clutch. I was aiming to hint at the sort of interior activity visible in photographs taken inside the real aircraft.
The fuselage halves came together fairly well, once I’d trimmed off a bit of flash.
The forward armament dome of the real aircraft was retained, to house the equipment for the mine-clearing ring. The rear dome was removed and replaced with a flush-fitting hatch (which is supplied as an optional kit part). It’s not clear from photographs, but it looks like the rear machine gun was removed, but its mount left in place, so I’ll adapt the kit part accordingly. The kit domes come in two halves, one complete and one fitted with a slot for the cannon, so I assembled my own forward dome from the two complete halves of the two domes, saving myself a bit of filling and sanding.
And, although I’ve read horror stories about the fit of the wings in this old kit, they went into position easily, securely and without any need for filler.
Here, you can also see that the cockpit canopy is in position and painted with the interior colour, which should be visible once I open the side windows of the completed model. The side windows in the real aircraft could be slid back, and I aim to have them in that position. For now, I glued them into the closed position with some Microscale Krystal Klear, which will seal off the cockpit for painting, but allow them to be removed and repositioned later. I’ve used the Montex canopy masks designed for this kit, but I’m really not very satisfied with them—they’re a bit too stiff and not quite adhesive enough, in my view. Despite my best efforts to rub them into position, I know I’m going to have to deal with a number of paint leaks when I come to remove them.
With flight crew in position, the other necessity for my in-flight model is to replace the static kit propellers with clear discs to represent rotating props. I’ve previously written a brief tutorial on how I do that, but plan on updating it with more detail, using this project (and my Supermarine Walrus) for illustration. Watch this (or rather, that) space.
The BV 138 is interesting, because it has two different kinds of propeller—a central four-bladed prop, and two wing-mounted propellers with three very broad blades. So I measured them both up, as the first step to calculating the density gradient of the colour in my propeller discs.
I also needed to carve up the kit spinners, trimming a little off the back and filling the slots that accommodate the propeller blades, and then replacing the rear part of the spinner with a sliver of styrene tubing of an appropriate gauge. I ended up with rebuilt kit parts looking like this:
With suitably sized holes punched in my transparent discs, I could slide them on to the prop spindles and then sandwich them in place between the front and back halves of the revised spinners. Here’s the final result, with the two broad three-bladed props flanking the central four-bladed one.
The real CB+UA sported a pale stripe on the rear of the fuselage. The rather limited decal sheet from Supermodel provides a couple of shaped white stripes to reproduce this on the upper fuselage, while the Revell painting instructions suggest that it’s a yellow stripe that runs entirely around the fuselage. I have (slightly) more faith in Revell, but used the Supermodel decals as a shape guide—scanning the decal sheet and enhancing the two stripes before printing them as a shape guide on to the back of a sheet of Bare-Metal Foil. Here are the resulting paint masks:
And here they are in position on the primed and yellow-painted fuselage:
Next time—a lot more masking and painting.