Junkers D.1 by Roden

1/72 scale
Kit No. 041
Cost: $12.00
Decals: Two versions for German Air Force, Western Front, 1918
Pros: Nicely corrugated surface detail; complete engine and detailed Spandau machine guns
Cons: Instructions are vague as to precise placement of key parts; kit is not sufficiently well-engineered to resolve this


The Junkers D.1 was a German single-seat fighter that appeared in relatively small numbers in 1918 toward the end of The Great War.  It was the world’s first all-metal, cantilever design, single-seat monoplane fighter.  While monoplane fighters had first appeared during World War I as early as 1915, notably the French Morane Saulnier N and Germany’s Fokker Eindekker, Junkers was the first to produce one that featured an all-metal airframe and that did not require external struts or wire bracing to support either the wing or tail.  Little is known about the D.1’s performance in combat because of institutional resistance within the German Air Force to the new fighter, from the generals all the way down to rank-and-file pilots. The Luftstriekraft’s skepticism toward the D.1 was perhaps best summed up by its derisive nickname, reputedly first coined by Hermann Goering, a leading ace at the time.  To him, the D.1 was “a tin donkey.”  This attitude was perhaps instrumental in the decision to deploy the revolutionary D.1 not at squadron-level strength, but rather scatter it piecemeal in ones and twos throughout existing front-line squadrons along the Western Front in the closing months of the war.  Despite the skeptics, who may have had a hand in suppressing any record of the D.1’s performance in combat, its design clearly pointed the way to the future of both military and civil aviation.


The Junkers D.1 was the first Roden kit I’ve built since 2004, and I began this kit in hopeful anticipation that the quality had improved.  I was not disappointed in terms of the level of detail, which is noticeably crisper than anything they produced 12 years ago.  However, in terms of the kit’s engineering, there is still significant room for improvement.  As an example, a nice bit of detail are the actuators for the ailerons, which fit into machined holes, one each on the trailing edge of the wing, and one on the aileron itself.  The difficulty is that the starboard aileron had the machined hole on the wrong side of the aileron.  Given the shape of the ailerons, which give the D.1 a decidedly bird-like appearance, it was clear that I had not mixed up the parts, for if I had switched the port and starboard ailerons, one of them would still have a machined hole on the wrong side.  This was a mild defect, but noteworthy and not one commonly seen.

Another noteworthy point is that right out of the box, it was clear that one of the fuselage halves was significantly warped and would need some rehabilitation with hot water and judicious bending.   The port fuselage half was fine, but the starboard half was so warped that I initially doubted that I could straighten it by any means, especially given that the fuselage halves bear no locator pins.  After exposing it to hot water and bending it almost to the breaking point over several minutes, the problem was mostly cured, but not fully resolved until the halves were cemented together.

The kit is engineered with greater complexity than is really desirable in some cases.  For example, the kit features a five-part fuselage.  In addition to the two halves, there is a separate part forming the belly/underside of the fuselage, as well as a dorsal part aft of the cockpit bay, and a final part forming the radiator face and capping the nose. This, combined with the warped part, made the fuselage assembly fiddly and a bit nerve-wracking. In the end, it came together with effort, but I made certain to use both clamps and Tamiya tape (the modeler’s version of belt AND suspenders) as the glue set.

Landing Gear

Warning: The kit instructions begin with the landing gear, not the cockpit.  I do NOT recommend beginning to build the kit with this assembly, for two reasons:
1) The landing gear are rather fiddly — their V-struts must be cemented to the fuselage and wings at a much later stage of construction, and positioned at a rather awkward angle which may be difficult to achieve if the landing gear are fully assembled and cemented prior to attaching them to the airframe.  When the time comes, I strongly recommend cementing the V-struts to the airframe individually, then completing the landing gear assembly by inserting the cross-brace and cementing on the wheels.
2)The landing gear, if fully assembled prior to attaching them to the airframe, will be that much more fiddly to work with, and you will run a very serious risk of cementing the gear on with the wheels at the wrong angle, as I did initially.  This can be avoided if the gear are assembled and attached to the fuselage as recommended, rather than as indicated in the kit instructions.


The rudder pedals, seat, and control yoke are cemented not directly to a floorboard, but instead to a jungle-jim-like part from which protrude a series of pedestals.  This part is later cemented to the part forming the underside of the fuselage, which doubles as the cockpit floor.  This seems awkward at first, but with patience the arrangement will work.  I strongly recommend quick-drying cyanoacrylate glue to attach the pilot’s seat to its pedestal, otherwise you may have a difficult time of it.  There is a tiny, spartan main instrument panel which despite its small size is a bit too wide for the fuselage and will have to be cut down or sanded to fit properly.

Engine bay

The engine, as is typical of Roden’s WWI fighters, is complete and remarkably detailed, so much so that it seems a shame to close it up inside the fuselage.  The first hint of the vagueness of Roden’s instructions about where to place certain parts occurs here.  First, the kit is not so well engineered that the engine can only fit into one precise spot in the engine bay.  Second, the engine must be cemented in before the fuselage is closed up, because afterward it will not fit into the engine bay.  Here’s the challenge: The propeller shaft protruding from the engine must fit through a hole in the part forming the radiatory and nose cap, which is difficult to cement onto the nose with any precision before the fuselage is closed.  So you have to guesstimate.  I cemented the engine in at a point that was a millimeter or two farther back inside the engine bay than it should have been, and as a result later discovered that the propeller shaft did not protrude from the nose at all, once the nose cap was cemented on.   I remedied this with a makeshift propeller shaft fashioned from a section of toothpick.

Control Surfaces

The defect with the ailerons has been noted above, and is minor.  The D.1’s tail surfaces are remarkably small and delicate, particularly the horizontal stabilizer.  There is a separate part for the moving portion of the stabilizer, which seems too thin and frail but is actually probably to scale, considering that the D.1 was a small single seat fighter with a significantly narrower wingspan than some of its contemporaries.  I chose to paint the horizontal elevator separately, and as it was very delicate, it was one of the very last parts I cemented to the airframe.

Upper Decking/Machine Gun Assembly

There is a plate forward of the cockpit onto which the two machine guns are to be cemented, and two trowels running forward directly over the engine and nestled on either side of its overhead cam, in which the machine gun barrels are to rest.  The challenge here is that the precise placement of the plate or the trowels is not at all clear.  In the case of the trowels, the problem is aggravated by the fact that it is not clear what if anything they are to rest on, and the small amount of fuselage onto which they can be cemented provides an insufficient contact point.  It may be best to cement the trowels directly onto the plate to which the machine guns are cemented, to assure some degree of symmetry, then cement tbe plate to the engine or fuselage as best you can.


As noted above, due to the delicacy of the horizontal stabilizer portion of the tail, it should probably be cemented to the fuselage in the latter stages of construction, to avoid breakage.  Once cemented on snugly, a small gap may show between the fuselage and the stabilizer, but for me it was not enough to motivate me to break out the putty.  The vertical tail is supposed to have a small pin on it that fits into a machined hole in the aft end of the fuselage, but mine did not.  This was not a major problem, as I was able to eyeball it and get the tail cemented in position without difficulty.


The Junkers D.1 is airbrushed entirely in acrylics, featuring a camouflage pattern on the upper surfaces of Tamiya Purple and Gunze Sangyo Dunkelgrun (Dark Green), with the under surfaces in Tamiya Light Blue, a fairly good approximation of Hellblau.  This was one of the standard late war paint schemes employed by the the German Air Force.  The simple cockpit interior is airbrushed in Model Master Flat Aluminum, and the cockpit seat and coaming were brush painted with a Humbrol enamel, Red Leather.


The Roden decals were OK, but not first-rate.  Their finish was a little too dull, and the black of the German crosses was not a solid black and had to be touched up in places to conceal tiny flecks of white.  Had the kit been in 1/48 scale I would have seriously considered replacing the markings.  Small pieces separated at their edges when they were treated with decal solvent.


In the end this is a good kit of a lesser known World War I aircraft, but it would benefit greatly from clearer instructions.  Hopefully Roden’s D.1 in 1/48 scale features that kind of clarity.  Despite its flaws, this smaller version is an above average rendition of the not-so-famous D.1.

If you are interested in the Junkers D.1, you may have better luck with Roden’s 1/48 version.

%d bloggers like this: