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Pfalz D.XII ‘A Plow Horse in Di-Skies’

Noted in the Pfalz Werke catalog of November 30, 1917 as ‘...type #11.) A D.IIIa with twin bay Spad-type wing assembly...’ After several prototype modifications it was to be designated as the D.XII and reached the front in June 1918. Late in the air war high speed and diving ability became as equally important as manoeuverability. In this case Pfalz was taking a page from the French Spad fighter series. The thin-low drag airfoil profile that made the Spad fast and hard to beat in a dive was just the ticket that the Pfalz design team was looking for. The typical top wing radiator soon gave way to the nose installed radiator. In early 1918 the eight individual interplane struts were replaced with four sets of ‘N’ struts of the type seen on the up and coming Fokker D.VII. By the time that the Second Fighter Competition was begun (May 27 to June 21 1918) four D.XII types with various engines were available for engine performance tests. It is believed that the Mercedes D.IIIa 180hp and the D.IIIav 200hp were installed in various production Pfalz D.XII airframes.

All plastic parts (PP) will be from the kit. The use of the photo-etched metal will be noted, by (PE) and resin parts as (RP.) I use cyanoacrylate (CA) glue as a bonding agent in almost all cases. For the sake of making it easy on yourself begin this project by familiarizing the areas for the internal structure of the fuselage halves (PP A 1 & 2 ) and pre-drilling all rigging holes. I went further and scribed parallel lines on the inside the cockpit walls to represent the wood lath / strips that went into the make-up of the Pfalz fuselage shell halves. Paint both fuselage halves (PP A 1 &2 ) interiors and wooden frame works (RP 1, 4 & 7) with a base color of Polly S dirty white, antique white, French beige or doped linen. This gives you a nice base for the plywood effect that you need to duplicate. Note that the forward half of RP 1 is the main fuel tank so that area will have to be painted either metal or a lt. Grey colour. After these are both thoroughly dry, spray the painted surfaces with a clear flat. Allow it to dry, then begin with a wash of Testors (#1166) flat (orange) brown enamel always going from nose to tail. The resultant streaks will simulate the wood grain. The colour variations that you create when doing this makes a great contrast to the inside wood lath.

Step 1.) Begins with the cockpit structures. The bulkhead or former that is depicted holding most of the cockpit instruments (RP C 4.) The instrument switches and gauge face for the main fuel tank are included as decals. The fuel tank pressure, hand pump(RP C 3) is shown as being attached to the cockpit flooring on the pilot’s left. The water pump greaser is shown as one of the gauges on RP C 4. I drilled out the switch housings there to accept switches I gathered from a an ‘Eduard’ aftermarket photoetch fret (#48217) for Pfalz D. Type aircraft. Next attach the harness and the pumps. For the instrument cluster you will have representations of the starting magneto switch, spark control handle, fuel and air mixture switches. Also I deleted the pillar under the pilots seat (RP C 5) and added a couple of painted brass rods for cross members that go from the left cockpit side to the right cockpit side for the modified seat (RP C 5) support. I finished the seat with the annealing the kit harness assembly (PE D 2, 3 X2) in place. The machine gun braces & ammunition box are represented in RP C 6. Check your references specifically Datafile 41 p. 28. This cone shaped area is actually part of the shroud for the timing and decompression bell and the reserve fuel tank. The windscreen (PE D 5) will be added here later. I scratchbuilt the ammunition box and spent cartridge tray to the underside of RP C 6. Ialso added a scratchbuilt tachometer between the machine gun breeches. The face was laid on its side in its housing ( this was for ease of reading in-flight and was a normal practice of its time.) As mentioned earlier the front of cockpit flooring (RP C 1) is the main fuel tank. So paint this accordingly. To the flooring add cables and a control column lock can be added to the control column base (RP C 2.) Since ‘Special Hobby’ did not provide one you should install the rudder control bar from the ‘Eduard’ aftermarket etched metal fret #48217 or a spare fret from ‘Copper State Models’ Pfalz D. XII kit. Now glue the fuselage halves together and allow to dry.

Step 2.) The Mercedes inline-six motor assembly (PP A 4 &5) is reasonable representation of the standard Pfalz D.XII engine installation (180 hp D.IIIa and or the D.IIIav 200hp.) Only one of the experimental Pfalz D.XII types had a185hp BMW IIIa engine. Check your references for some keynote differences in the types installed. The cylinder jackets of German engines were the color of “blued metal. The BMW sat higher in the compartment so about 1” more of the cylinders could be seen. Its air induction pipes were unified where the Mercedes six cylinder induction pipes (PP A 10) were divided. The rest is below the cowling and not readily visible. Several good manufacturers ( specifically ‘Roden’ and ‘Plavak’) note the difference and have distinct castings. The Mercedes D.IIIa 180hp and D.IIIav 200hp were the standard engine in both the Fokker D.VII and Pfalz D.XII through 1918. The 185hp BMW IIIa was highly prized by pilots. For the exhaust (PP A 11) I opened or drilled out the mouth to better simulate this item. The difference between the 180hp and 200hp are almost imperceptible in 1/48 scale. When comparing the kit engine to other castings I mentioned, you will find that the kit item is visually under scale. You have two options here. Use the engine as is because after its complete installation it is hardly noticeable. Or you could add a spare item from another manufacturer and at a minimum you will have to carve off the oil pump at the bottom to get a good fit. The reason for this is the thickness of the plastic walls of the fuselage halves and the nose area being smaller in area that most 1/48 scale drawings. It is up to you the modeler to make the choice.

Step 3.) Brings the sub-assemblies together and unites the fuselage halves. I added a scratchbuilt rear cockpit screen from plastic sheet and used 5 colour lozenge decal to simulate it as fabric. Careful sanding helps the horizontal tail unit (PP B 3 ) fit properly. I used gap filling super glue (semi gelatin) to fill joint seams between all plastic parts joined to the fuselage. Note that there is a cap strip that runs from the rear of the cockpit to the rudder fin / stabilizer and on the underside from the front of the tail skid opening all along the fuselage underbelly to the chin cowling for the radiator. Since the fuselage covering was done in two halves these caps helped seal the divisions. Since this was covered in fabric overall, a modeler could simply use a narrow strip of clear decal film and paint over this for a reasonable representation.

Step 4.) Brings the chin cowling (PP A 12) , radiator (RP D 8) the finished fuselage assembly and lower wings (PP B 1) together. Note when attaching the radiator the pilot’s left side needs to be raised about 1mm to sit correctly. Fill the resultant gap with gel type super glue. Now for the wings. First of all leave the top wing, upper surface (PP B 2) and the lower wing under surface (PP B 1) unfinished. Why you ask? These are the areas that you need to apply glue to. An open flat surface is easier to work with than the narrow area between the wings. Now measure and mark the locations for each hole and drill straight through the wing the rigging holes will be about 1/16 of an inch away from the strut holes. When drilling the rigging holes note that they should benext to the strut at the appropriate angle. There should be two holes for each strut and each rigging strand. Note also that one hole can possibly hold upto 5 strands easily. Once your wings are drilled and partially covered (lozenge decals.) Bring these components together with the fuselage using a temporary ‘Lego’ block jig and let the assembly dry thoroughly. The referenced jig keeps everything lined up correctly. (Hint!!! If your kit is eyeballed by a contest judge and they think that it is NOT plumb or square, it will be dropped from further consideration.)

Step 5.)On the early D.III and D.IIIa motors the rocker springs are centered on the sides of the rocker box covers. Mistakenly that is what ‘Special Hobby’ has attached to their motor (PP A 14.) The Mercedes D.III 160hp was outclassed by 1917. The immediate visual difference in the early Mercedes D.III 160 hp/ D.IIIa 170 hp and its progeny the D.IIIa 180hp and D.IIIav 200hp is that the rocker springs exposed above the cylinder jacket heads are located on the forward leading edge of the same covers. They were also that way on the 185 hp BMW IIIa. Many, worn out D. III and IIIa motors were rebuilt to the D.IIIa and D.IIIav specs at the airparks as the war progressed. That is why some captured examples had motors with the i.d. designation of 160hp D.III cast into their crankcases. This has caused the misconception that the standard 160hp and 170 hp were used in 1918 at a time when they had become obsolete. The metal etch windshield framing (PE D 5) folds over and traps the clear acetate (PP F.) The troughs (PE D 1 X 2) are to keep the tracer rounds from igniting the oil and fuel vapors near the engine. Also they need to have three cross bars uniting them in parallel runs.

Concerning the twin Spandau Maxim machine guns (PP A 13 X 2), I augment them with brass gun jacket items from the ‘Eduard’ Brass fret #48217. Giving both the typical ring-n-cross hairs sight. Note that only some of the late model Pfalz D.XII types had the machine gun cocking handles (PE D 4 X 2.) Most of the Pfalz fighters used ‘T’ shaped handles in the cockpit leading from the cocking levers on the right side of the gun breeches and worked via a linkage system. I also added the empty belt chutes using bent solder/flux. On the Left side of the left gun breach add the auxiliary throttle push lever. These items came as ‘Ring’ or ‘T’ handles.

Step 6.) Add ‘M’ profiled cabane struts (PP B 6 & 7 ) to the fuselage at this point. It should be noted that most circular engine access panels need to be flush to the surface but not completely flat. I finish the undersurface of the top wing and the upper surface of the lower wing (PP ) at this point before assembly and rigging. Note when the cabane ‘M’ struts (PP B 6 & 7) or interplane ‘N’ struts (PP ) ends enter the wing at an angle drill your insert holes accordingly. Now attach your windscreen with white glue and let dry.

Step 7. Attaches the top wing (PP B 2) and the ailerons (PP B 5 X 2.) Now check your rigging map in step #10 and complete all rigging between the wings.

Step 8.)The weakest part of a ‘Vee’ strut landing gear assembly in plastic is the side to side twist. This causes the plastic gear legs to eventually dislocate or break. I replace the kit landing gear legs (PP A 15 X 2) and the exposed axle ends (PP A 16) with the appropriate diameter blackenedbrass rod. I use upholstery thread to wrap around the lower legs of the landing gear with the axle in place to simulate the bungee shock chords. This looks like the original and actually secures the axle in place with one drop of cyanoacrylate (CA) glue. The kit rigging control horns (PE D 9 X6) are used per the instructions. Finish any rigging now.

Step 9.) I personally like scratch- building my kit propellers from light and dark woods. I have also learned to paint the laminations with convincing effect. Most of the Pfalz fighters were equipped with the light and dark laminated propellers. Carefully check the aircraft profile your modeling to choose the right propeller. Don’t limit your choices to the kit instructions. The D.XII used at least four types of propellers. ‘Special Hobby’ offers only one (a ‘Propulsor’ profiled item) with this kit. The parent propeller company determined the paddle profile of the propeller (it was their trade mark) while the engine application determined its pitch and length. After the final clear coat of your model dries thoroughly. Now add the tail skid (PP A 18.)

Kit decals
The decals went on beautifully with the application of Microset & Microsol. The lozenge is a bit off in colouring and I used the Eagle Strike 5 colour upper and lower patterns. The rib tapes were cut from the same decal sheet. The individual instrument gauge faces are a nice touch.

The National markings and serial numbers are great and are easily applied. The serial numbers are well with in the existing batch of Pfalz D.XII types 2502 - 2531 /18 photographed under construction at the Pfalz works in June - July 1918. The batch was probably inclusive to a much larger number but these are the ones photographed. While I have no knowledge of 2519/18 operationally here's a bit of fun.

After the War 2 Pfalz D.XII came to the USA in crates marked as Fokker D.VII types. one was machine Pfalz D.XII 2486/18. After both machines were sold by the dept of Commerce they both passed through various private owners. The history of 2486/18 shows it was purchased by Buck Kennell and he is photographed with it in 1938. By then helpfully restored by Col. Jarrett (The owner of the other Pfalz type in the USA, D.XII 2848/18 ) 2486/18 had acquired the similar dark and white bands seen on the Special Hobby kit. At this time instead of Orthochromatic film Panchromatic film was more popularly in use. The bands look black and white to me in the photos I have seen. During its service with Jasta 23b 2486/18 employed the unit's broad black and white bands around the tail plane. Greg Van Wyngarden covered their markings well in the old Cross & Cockade USA Volume 21 #3 Autumn 1980.On 2525/18 see the reference by Mckler below for the image of Vzfw (acting sergeant) Marchner by his Pfalz D.XII 2525/18 with the light coloured 'M'.

Cross & Cockade USA, Various issues.

German Army Air Service in WWI by R. Rimell, Osprey Vintage Warbirds #2, 1985.

German Fighter Units June 1917 -1 918 by A. Imrie, Osprey, Airwar #17, 1978.

Hollywood Stunt pilots...H H. Wynne

Lafayette Foundation Archive, Denver CO. USA

Pfalz by P. Grosz & E. Krger, WWI Aero Pub. inc. 1964.

Pfalz D.XII by P. Grosz, Datafile 41 Windsock, Albatros Pub. Ltd., 1993.

Pfalz D.XII, ‘A workhorse in foreign fields’ by S. T. Lawson, C&C Intl. Vol. 30, #4, 1999.

Pictorial History of the German Army Air Service by A. Imrie, Ian Allen Pub. 1971.

Scale Model Aircraft in Plastic Card by H. Woodman, Model & Allied Pub., 1975.

Scratchbuilding Techniques by Alan Clark, Scale Models Int. Pp174-5, 1990.

Spandau Machine Gun by David Watts, WWI Aero,1998.

World War One in Plastic by Brad Hansen, Great Auk Pub. 1979.

Final comments
‘Special Hobby’ is a relative new comer to the WWI aviation arena and is very welcome indeed. Fine detail in their subjects has them in steep competition with ‘Eduard’ and ‘Roden.’ While ‘Roden’ still leads in basic kits and pricing, ‘Eduard’ tries to give the modeler a bit of everything. The truth of the matter is that some new and older modelers just feel inadequate with photoetch metal frets or resin parts. Looking at the ‘Special Hobby’ Spad VII and Pfalz D.XII the average modeler says to themself ‘...I could do that!..’ Their subject matter is right on time. Having built both of the previously mentioned kits I can say that I had a good experience.
  • Pfalz_D_XII_interior
  • Pfalz_D_XII_2
  • Pfalz_D_XII_4
  • Pfalz_D_XII_3

About the Author

About Stephen T. Lawson (JackFlash)

I was building Off topic jet age kits at the age of 7. I remember building my first WWI kit way back in 1964-5 at the age of 8-9. Hundreds of 1/72 scale Revell and Airfix kits later my eyes started to change and I wanted to do more detail. With the advent of DML / Dragon and Eduard I sold off my ...


A very nice article. That's for writing it. I enjoyed it.
OCT 06, 2005 - 04:45 AM
Hi Stephan, The Pfalz has been my favorite over the Fok. D.VII for years, probably because I have a color print of one in action. I have the Blue Max kit--unstarted-- and am about to attach the wings of the 1/72 Toko kit. Good looking model. "Plow horse"? The Pfalz has been descibed as "as good" as the D.VII but suffering from Fokker's marketing accuem, as well as second-best. What is your understanding? Good looking canvas falcon!
OCT 06, 2005 - 06:22 AM
JackFlash to Armorama Air Wing Base Greetings all; Thanks for the great comments. One further note...the interior on some Pfalx D.XII airframes was the same as the light blue exterior. Even on some later multicoloured camouflaged types the interiors were painted light blue grey at the factory. It was ltn. Ltn. Rudolf Stark of Jasta 35b that was quoted as saying... "...The Fokker is a Thoroughbred and the Pfalz is a Plow Horse..."
OCT 10, 2005 - 02:59 AM
Greetings all; I had an offline request to know about the turnbuckles on my build. These are from Bob's Buckles. http://members.lycos.co.uk/wind1/
OCT 12, 2005 - 11:15 AM
Sorry for this belated response...I must be getting old. Hah! The PFalz D.XII came to war with a 200hp Mercedes D.IIIav and needed it to keep up with the Fokker D.VII with the 180hp Mercedes D.IIIaü. The 200hp Mercedes was also put into airframes arriving for front line ops at the same time as the Pfalz D.XII. The Pfalz was a heavier bird than the Fokker and you had to muscle the Pfalz as much as the older Albatros D. types. Jasta pilots were unwilling to trade ...down to the Pfalz when a Fokker was available.
NOV 13, 2005 - 12:33 AM
Greetings all; A fellow modeler contacted me and asked about this build so I am just bringing it up for him.
APR 05, 2006 - 02:27 PM