Now approaching my 65th birthday, I've been modelling since around 8 years of age when I first took up an Airfix Spitfire kit and gleefully assembled it with lashings of polystyrene cement squeezed from a metal tube. In recent years, through dropsy and cataracts, I’ve found myself gradually producing more decals for the 1/144 community rather than actual modelling – although I still do a little when time allows. Aware of how difficult it is to accurately paint delicate streaked camouflage on tiny triplane surfaces, late in 2012, I decided to produce streaked Fokker camouflage decals. However, no sooner had I mastered a technique for producing a reasonable facsimile of streaked cammo, when research suggested considerable confusion regarding exactly what WWI aircraft bearing Fokker’s streaked camouflage actually looked like. This article discusses and endeavours to cast some light on this challenge for modellers and gamers.
Initial confusion may come from contemporary descriptions of the finish on Werner Voss’ Fokker FI. Although the upper surfaces were understood to have been Fokker streaked olive-brown, observers described the aircraft as green (lighter green than production DRIs) or silver grey. This confusion may be compounded by a failure to assess what happens when colours are mixed and then applied to different coloured undercoats.
In the Fokker factory, dreideckers were covered with natural unbleached linen, which was then clear doped. When dry, the aircraft’s undersides were painted aquamarine. On the FIs, and possibly early production Dr.I models, the upper surfaces were painted pale blue. These were finally over streaked with olive-brown, applied by hand using a 4 inch (100mm) paint brush. (The equivalent of this at 1/144 scale would be a 0.7mm wide brush!) On subsequent production Dr.I models, no pale blue was applied to the upper surfaces; streaking was painted directly onto the clear doped unbleached linen (approximates to a pale flesh colour).
The revered Dan Abbot published this information in the Aerodrome Forum: “The extant fabric samples held in the Imperial War Museum are all the same color, OLIVE-BROWN. Coloured paint was produced by adding and mixing synthetic coloured dye powders to clear lacquer. Fokker’s olive-brown dye was a mixture of chromium yellow and carbon black. The final colour on the aircraft would depend on the dye mix percentages, the viscosity of the paint, and also the base colour of the linen fabric!" See Fig 1 above – Streaked Fokker Olive-Brown Analyses.
I have no confirmation of the following observations, but they certainly make sense to me, where Dan Abbot reported that, “... the painter/doper painting the upper surface has several buckets of olive-brown lacquer from which he selects the viscosity he requires for where he is lacquering, thick, medium or thin. All the buckets are the same color, OLIVE-BROWN. The amount of black powder determines the final color. It is not green and it is not brown and is not derived from those colors. The light to dark is obtained through the addition of lacquer thinners to the desired viscosity to obtain the streaked effect.”
Some or parts of these methods would produce the effects we see on photographs from the period.
It is also known that Chrome yellow pigment oxidizes and darkens on exposure to air over time. How this may or may not have affected final streaked colours cannot be determined.
I hope the above helps clarify matters . . . rather than add to the confusion. Comments welcome.
Mehusla of 1-144Direct.com