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KIT REVIEW


Lukgraph Nakajima KO-4 -- 1:32 Scale



The Nakajima KO-4 was one of the first aircraft produced in Japan for their fledgling air service in the early 20th century.  Based directly on the French Nieuport 29 biplane, it was a very consequential aircraft in this history of Japanese military aviation and aircraft engineering and production.  Yet, the KO-4 has been nearly totally neglected by all kit manufacturers aside from a 1:72 scale Azur kit and a 1:144 scale from A&W Models.  Here, this rare and interesting aircraft has finally received its due in the world of scale models with a 1:32 scale resin kit by Polish manufacturer Lukgraph.  I’ve been quite eager over the last few years to review Lukgraph products for Detail & Scale, but they are small company and can’t afford to share review samples of their limited run kits - and that’s quite understandable.  Nevertheless, fellow scale modeler and friend of Detail & Scale, Mike Swinburne, generously lent me his Lukgraph kit of the 1:32 scale KO-4.  Let’s take a look!   

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The Nieuport-Delage NiD.29 was a French single-seat biplane fighter that incorporated many of the lessons in fighter design and the technological developments accumulated throughout the course of World War I.  The Nieuport 29 was, in your reviewer’s opinion, a rather elegant and graceful biplane.  It was an equal-span biplane that featured a Hispano-Suiza 8Fb powerplant delivering some 300 hp, a single cockpit, and a fixed tailskid.  It flew first in 1918, and was one high-performance airplane for its day – reaching a top speed of nearly 150 MPH and achieving a service ceiling of 27,800 feet.   

The French Air Force evaluated the prototype in the summer of 1918 and, following two orders of pre-production aircraft in 1918 and 1920, the first production aircraft were delivered in 1922 to the French Air Force.  The pre-production aircraft worked out various performance glitches but it still had a tendency to depart into a flat spin.  For a time, it was the fastest service fighter in the world.  Production aircraft did not have ailerons on the upper wing and the lower wing ailerons were increased in size.  France was the first and most numerous operator of the NiD.29, but several hundred aircraft were either bought or built under license by Spain, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, and Japan. 

Looking to further develop its emergent military aviation capability and to replace their aging Spad XIIIs and Ni.24s, the Japanese company Nakajima purchased a non-flying pattern aircraft of the NiD.29.  From that engineering airframe, they constructed 608 Ni.D29s for the Imperial Japanese Army that then were re-designated as the KO-4.  They served with Japan from 1923 to 1937 with the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 7th, and 8th Hiko Rentai (Air Regiments).  KO-4s patriated in the invasion of Manchuria, and some kept flying until 1941 in training and support roles.

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Lukgraph’s 1:32 scale KO-4 kit is comprised of 78 cast resin parts, 68 photoetched metal parts on one fret, six self-adhesive printed instrument panel films, a small piece of clear acetate, and two decal sheets.  The full color instruction booklet organizes the build over nine pages.  Markings for three airplanes are provided in the kit:

Strengths:  One of your reviewer’s favorite pastimes is to build limited run resin kits, and over the years, I’ve had experience with some of the worst out there as well as some of the best.  This Lukgraph kit can be counted as among the best.  And – all the good things I’ve heard about Lukgraph products over the years appear to be true.

First, let’s talk about the casting.  The quality is excellent, free of any kind of defects, air bubbles, warpage, or other issues.  The surfaces of the kit are all relatively smooth, and the fabric-covered wing surfaces are particularly well done.  I would always suggest polishing the surfaces of a resin kit with up to 3000-grit sandpaper or Micro Mesh, and this kit is no different.  The left and right fuselage halves, along with the ailerons on the lower wings, are all separate parts but are held together in their packing by nice Lukgraph stickers, assuring their safety in the box.  Fuselage halve seams are tight with almost no gaps.  Following a little cleanup of the edges of the fuselage halves, you will have an even tighter fit.  There are also nice mounting pins and holes for the interplane struts.

Cast resin generally does a poor job in terms of long-term load bearing, and to ensure no untoward drooping, sagging, or spontaneously broken parts, there are metal rods cast within the interior of the wings, interplane struts, and landing gear struts.  Very nice!
Second – the various construction options are quite nice, but the details brought to the table by both the resin and photoetched metal parts are a real treat and represent another highlight of this kit.  These PE parts span details such as the rudder pedal stirrups, engine radiators, the tail skid assembly, aileron hinges, and various other items including the metal strips as part of the elevator assembly.  You can build your KO-4 with either solid wheel hubs or photoetched spoked wheel hubs. 

The resin parts include a complete cockpit, very nicely made PE seatbelts, and really nice instrument panels (the KO-4 had three).  The self-adhesive printed instrument panel stickers attach to a resin backing.  Then, a photoetched metal instrument panel face with raised bezels and other touches is placed on top of all of that.  The stickers look like very thin but very precision-printed vinyl, and the instrument dials appear to represent each of the eight individual instrument faces of the KO-4.  In other words, I don’t think these are so-called cookie-cutter idealized representations of dial faces as some manufacturers are often fond of producing. 

There are also really great cast details in the Hispano powerplant (at least the parts that extend out from the cowling, and separate exhaust stacks are included).  The machine guns are well done as are the landing gear strut-mounted radiators that feature some great cast textures.  The control surfaces (ailerons, rudder, and elevators) are all separate parts and can be positioned as the builder desires.   

The three-plane windscreen frame is photoetched metal, and the builder then cuts the clear acetate in the kit to shape – it’s a smart way to accomplish a great looking set of clear parts. 
For some folks, building a limited run resin kit can be a little intimidating, but here, the instructions are very helpful in eliminating nearly all ambiguity (see below).  It is very well illustrated.  Construction steps are broken down into simple and manageable tasks. Care is given to illustrate the proper dihedral of the upper wing along with a complete rigging diagram.

The markings options are all similar to each other, differing only in fuselage and wing-top buzz numbers, and markings option 3 has a red rudder.  The decals themselves look quite nice from a design and printing point-of-view.  Carrier film is tight and restrained, especially around the Hinomarus.  However, the carrier film is a little thick, compared to Cartograf, for example.  I would opt to trim my decals just a bit before applying them.      

Weaknesses:  Only a few things to note, and none of them are even close to deal-breakers.  First, the internally placed metal rod in a few of the interplane struts seems to have wandered during the casting process, and they indeed migrated close to surface of a few of the wing struts.  So, prime those parts, cover with some putty, sand, smooth, and check again with primer.  It won’t be a lot of work. The instructions indicate the choice of solid versus spoked wheel hubs is up to the builder, but the markings guides all show KO-4s with solid wheel hubs.  The spoked wheel hubs really appeal to me, but it will take some extra research to figure out if that’s an option on these three airplanes.  Also, I assumed the overall color for the Japanese KO-4 was silver dope, but the markings guide refer to it as “pale blueish gray,” with no callouts in any paint line.  So again, a little research will be necessary before being able to go to sleep at night and not worry about the general color accuracy of your KO-4.   

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Lukgraph has produced the best Nakajima KO-4 in any scale by far.  It is a lovely limited run cast resin kit that receives very high marks.  I recommend it for anyone with a little experience building resin and who enjoys working with photoetched metal detail parts.  However, if you’ve been thinking about getting into these kinds of kits, I would say that the Lukgraph KO-4 is a good one to start with.  It fits well, has some great details, and is not too complex at all.       

Sincere thanks are owed to Mike Swinburne for the review sample.  You can visit Lukgraph on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Lukgraphkits and the web at http://www.lukgraph.pl where you can order direct, but you can also find their kits for sale online by Victory Models and Kitlinx in the United States, Hannants in the UK, Aviation Megastore in The Netherlands, and Quarter Kit in France.  

Haagen Klaus
Scale Modeling News & Reviews Editor
Detail & Scale

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Just Released!

JET FIGHTERS
OF THE U. S. NAVY AND MARINE CORPS
PART 1: THE FIRST TEN YEARS
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Detail & Scale Special Edition Books

U. S. Navy and Marine Carrier-Based Aircraft of World War II
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Attack on Pearl Harbor, Japan Awakens a Sleeping Giant

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Colors & Markings Series



Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
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Coast Squadrons
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Colors & Markings of the F-102
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Colors & Markings of U. S. Navy
F-14 Tomcats,
Part 2: Pacific
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