Wednesday, March 6, 2019

A Proud Moment!

It’s always nice when one’s hobby output is appreciated by others, and this week (first week of March, 2019) a rare pleasure came my way when a photo from my Tamiya Corsair shoot (see last post) was selected by the administrators of the Airfix Modelling Club page on Facebook as the new header/banner image.

Nothing like this has come my way before and I can only describe myself as pleased as punch! It’s a genuine delight to see my work used in such a context, as I’ve felt the models chosen to lead into the page have always been of the highest quality. It’s a great compliment, and an encouragement to do even better!

Next up, Sabre, Bf 109, F-4J…

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Recently Completed: Tamiya 1:48 F4U-1 Corsair (Birdcage), #61046

As a modeller who tends to have something like three dozen uncompleted projects at any one time, it’s always nice to get an older one past the finish line. This was a 2017 build that’s been playing shelf queen waiting for final details and paintwork ever since (it was a matter of display space, which opened up not long ago when I boxed for storage a batch of projects from around five years ago.)

This is the 1996 kit from the grand masters in Shizuoka City, and a sweet build it is. It can pull the odd surprise, but overall is a pretty friendly kit. To wit – the ovoid transparencies for rearward view on the fuselage sides are incorrectly identified in the plans, the numbers are reversed – swap them port and starboard and the parts fit perfectly. Interestingly, the masks for these parts on the Eduard sheet are also reversed!

The cockpit is quite well detailed, and if the canopy is to be closed you’ll see little enough. I used the decal seat harness supplied, and painted everything a dark bronze-green, as research suggested the cockpit shade of the time was somewhere about FS 34092.

I decided to depict a bird from VMF-213, companion squadron to -214, which became  the Black Sheep, when they entered combat in the Solomons campaign in February, 1943, the first Corsairs in-theatre. This is the two-tone scheme, which later gave way to three-tone, and finally to overall Sea Blue Gloss and its variations. I’m currently enjoying the 1976 series Black Sheep Squadron, which, though unavoidably compromised at a historical detail level, gives you a look at Corsairs in the field and the kind of effects the conditions created in their appearance. Solomons Corsairs were battered and heavily weathered by the elements, caked with dust and mud – one can certainly go to town on the weathering process, though I fancied something a little cleaner. Okay, a bird fairly fresh on the line!

The Tamiya Corsair is very well engineered, when it came out I recall reviewers raving about its click-fit precision. It’s not quite that easy, the folding wing option is a PITA to avoid an obvious joint line if building with wings extended, as I always do. The landing gear is very solidly engineered and fits into big receivers, but somehow the legs managed to be at different angles, meaning the wheels were a few millimetres out of alignment…

The paintwork is Tamiya Acrylics, mixed as per kit specifications – XF-18 + XF-2 (3:1) for the topside blue-grey, and XF-19 + XF-2 (2:1) for the underside grey, with soft-masked demarcations. I used Miscroscale Satin to seal both the paint and the following Florey washes, and Flat as the final low lustre after decals.

I made standby decals in case the masks pulled the paint off the canopy struts, but they were unneeded. This means I have 1943 blue-grey over black, with clear, decal material in stock in case any future USN/Marines project develops the issue!

Decals in this edition were by Scalemaster, printed by Vitachrome, and behaved generally well – I say generally as they did not offer to pull into engraved detail at all and did not seem to react very well with Microscale chemistry, wrinkling patchily. The roundel on the right fuselage side broke up somewhat after application and refused to settle in, being still wrinkled when dry. I removed it with the old tape trick, and replaced it with an identical item from a Superscale sheet; the blue is a fractionally different shade, but nothing the eye really catches. The Superscale item of course snugged down perfectly – I’d expect nothing else.

Oil wash and Mig pigments comprise the weathering – when I get a Prismacolour silver pencil I’ll take a crack at chipping but I aborted the attempt in paint when it became clear I had no control over the process at all. My hands seemed to do anything they liked, and I knew to quit before I made a mess.

The radio antennas were rigged with EZline, usually the last task of a model and not my favourite activity. I set the long piece first, pegged the mast end and managed to hold the thread in tweezers to secure the tail end (despite cramp in my right thumb…), then pegged the fuselage end of the short piece to dry over night. The upper juncture of the lines I found I did not have the dexterity for, no way could I hold the line in tweezers long enough for superglue to get hold. I made up a contraption of tweezers, two bulldog clips, a sanding block, a CD and two thicknesses of card that brought the end of the short piece into contact with the long, and left it to set. The applications of glue created a thick spot on the line, which suggests a ceramic insulator or some such, but of course there was nothing there on the real plane. The line was painted with black, some hull blue was used to touch up around the glue points and clear flat added to even out the lustre.

I hope to fit the 1000-pounder on the centreline rack, but the olive drab I sprayed it a year or more ago is very dark under a clear coat, dark enough for black decals to probably be waste. I’ll respray it in lightened olive drab when I next mix that shade, then apply the ProModeller decals for WWII ordnance and hang the bomb.

So, some work to do on her in future – hang the bomb, add the missing pitot probe (the entire project was complete and photographed when I spotted the omission – d’oh!) plus do the above-mentioned chipping.

Last year I built all 72nd scale for reasons of storage space, and it’s nice to get back to something larger. I’ll be completing a 1:32nd scale Bf 109 in the months ahead, too – at least that’s the plan!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Recently Completed Dragon 1:35 Kugelblitz (#6040, ’39-’45 Series)

This is my second completed Dragon armour kit, and ironically another on the Pz. IV running gear. The last was their Brummbar, Series II, a few years back. I’ve always fancied the “Ball Lightning/Fireball” antiaircraft tank from the very end of the war, the futuristic dome-like turret catches the attention, so unlike the suicidally open fighting compartments of earlier designs. I was delighted to snag Dragon’s kit on eBay a few years back, as I didn’t fancy trying to scratch-build the turret on a standard Pz. IV chassis (ala Tony Greenland).

The kit is built out of the box with the exception of replacing the indie-link tracks with Tamiya vinyls – my ability to handle indie-link tracks is a matter of record. I’m giving it a go on a kit for which no substitute is available, but it’s very experimental, and changing out the plastic for vinyl makes the current project possible for me. Okay, the tracks are a tiny bit tight, resulting in some toe-in on the idler wheels, but that’s it.

This is a 2018 build which got as far as the base coast of the camo before New Year. The paint scheme is based loosely on that created by Tony Greenland for his conversion/scratch project many years ago, but developed into something fairly original as I went. The paintwork features Tamiya acrylics, with the base coat faded for a scale effect, then oversprayed with XF-11 for the dark green and XF-64 rotbraun, both thinned over the odds and delivered at higher than usual pressure to achieve a reasonably tight pattern. The yellow was retouched to fix overspray and better define the balance between the shades, then a 5% dark yellow glaze was added over the upper surfaces to tie the camo together. The lower surfaces received a similar glaze of brown/black to create a road grime base.

One new technique I worked with here, I wanted a fairly fresh vehicle with some subtle lustre on the paint, more subtle than Microscale’s Flat would provide, so I used a couple of coats of straight X-20A acrylic thinner over the paintwork. It seemed to do the trick, evening the surface at a fine scale so it picked up a low sheen. Conversely, the underside gave issues of excess luminosity – after the oil wash was done to create dirt, oil and rust streaking, the mineral thinners left the whole undercarriage shining with a high satin look, so I sprayed Tamiya XF-86 Clear Flat – which did not in fact pull the shine down as far as I would have liked. The overall upper paintjob is fresh and chipping is minimal but there’s a good build-up of road grime behind the running gear, plus exhaust carbon from intensive work-up on the firing ranges. I profiled all edges with pale yellow oils, but did no topside rust streaking and only minimal dirt spotting.

Dragon’s over-complicated approach was not very apparent in this kit, the assembly seemed quite logical, but the on-vehicle tools were a headache, just as they were on the Brummbar. The plethora of variants the company squeezes from the same molds necessitates a constellation of holes and slots on the underside of the sponsons which you drill out as appropriate to the subject, to receive the tool pins. This is fine in theory but not in practice – when you have holes for parts with no pins and pins with no corresponding holes at all, or a tool with two locator pins, one on each side, it really smacks of amateurishness, or overambitiousness at best. The tools also interfered with each other here and there – the tolerances are too fine.

The decals were not up to much. As the real thing never got beyond prototype stage, the idea here was to represent a trials vehicle, so no divisional markings were required (national insignia only). I raided the brilliant decal sheet from the Brumbar for balkenkreutzers, which went on without a hitch.

The finished model looks good, with minimal pigment work, and the Dragon indie tracks will provide Pz. IV links for other projects for years to come – I have a StuG IV to do featuring lots of extra track lengths as appliqué armour and I expect many will be assembled from this kit. My next Dragon? Not sure, but possibly a Nashorn, another chance to do the track switch-out. Yes, the new Tammy kit is fantastic, but the Dragon is already in the stash.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Recently Completed: Airfix 1:72 P-51D Mustang (A01004A)

This is the “8th Air Force” edition of Airfix’s new-tool Mustang kit, featuring markings for one of the famous “Blue-Nosed Bastards of Bodney.” Structurally it’s the same kit I built in 2014 and 2018. No luck with the joystick this time, and the radio mast is scratch built as always. I used SAC whitemetal landing gear as a matter of course.

I used Model Master Acryl Interior Green for the first time, and sprayed a shade to represent the plywood cockpit floor as well, something of a first for a detail seen so little (I generally do the canopy closed.) The “Bodney blue” was straight Tamiya XF-8, glossed with Microscale clear, maybe a touch too dark, but fairly close – closer than the Humbrol “French Blue” which is recommended in the plans.

I used the same graphite weathering technique as last time to vary the panel shades of the natural metal finish. It may not be perfect but it’s not bad and it’s certainly quick – an hour’s gentle masking and brushing with powdered 6B lead and the job was done. It also avoids the possibility of firmer masking pulling up previous paint or of anything going wrong with a second application of paint, if varying the metallic with a mixed shade.

The canopy was masked from scratch using Tamiya tape and Gunze fluid, which worked brilliantly on the main hood but on the windscreen it pulled the paint off the narrow struts. I rectified this by making strip decal with clear film – spraying interior green, then blue, then clear, and cutting fine strips with my Chopper II guillotine.

Speaking of the windscreen, the part does not fit as snugly as it might – you can have it tight into the lower curve on one side or the other but not both unless using a hot glue to make it grab before you release the seating pressure – but that will craze the plastic. I used white glue as a gap-filler on the left, which was not terribly successful.

It’s been observed that the drop-tanks in this kit are not very good, certainly they lack the prominent median ridge of the real thing, and I left them off this build, though I might transplant the better-detailed tanks from an Academy bird, if practical.

I love how the finished model feels “busy” to the eye. Consider the left fuselage side – the basic metallic, selectively darkened with graphite, then overlaid with clear, accented panel lines and the decals, all pulled together with final clear – there’s a lot going on to catch the eye in a very small space. The same goes for the wings – technically they should be a uniform aluminium shade and the panel lines should be filled and smoothed, as they were on the original, but it would make for an awfully plain display. This is where artistic license gets in the way of historical accuracy.

This kit was assembled before the end of 2018 but I knew there was no way I could get it finished in time to include it in last year’s tally. Painting was a fairly straight forward process but included one or two backtracks, all of which cost time. I have three more of this edition, plus a couple of other editions of the kit, and look forward to adding to my Mustang line-up in future.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Monday, December 31, 2018

Recently Completed: Airfix 1:72 Hawker Typhoon Mk. Ib (A02041).

This is the first Typhoon I have ever done (though there was a Matchbox 1:72 Tempest II back in the 80s). Tooled in 2013, this kit looks very nice in the box, and as a Series 2 kit comes on four sprues and with two decal options. I had intended to do the more colourful scheme with invasion stripes, but didn’t trust such large decals not to pose grab and alignment problems that might result in tearing; plus I wanted to get this one off the bench before New Year and wasn’t in the market for surprises, or for backing up and painting the stripes.

Another good-looking addition to Airfix’s stable of British aviation in miniature, the model’s pleasing lines conceal a few challenges. I got the feeling Airfix somewhat over-thought the engineering in this kit, especially in the way the cockpit interior locates, and the cockpit floor/wheelwells part, which demands a certain order of assembly and unavoidably introduces the potential for misalignment. Fit problems I found inevitable, steps at the wingroot being the most serious, though gaps manifested on the horizontal tails too: whiteglue to the rescue. I expected the keyed landing gear to be out of alignment also, but surprisingly it was not – the wheels are flattened and bulged, and keyed to the struts, and once the model is “up on its feet” the flat spots are firmly to the ground. Assembly took a little time, and there was plenty of prepainting to do, between the prominent radiator/carburettor intake assembly, the cockpit and surrounds, landing gear, bay doors and propeller assembly.

Overall, though, the model looks the part, and once it was together the finishing techniques flowed along well enough. I used Tamiya’s accurised RAF late-WWII shades (XF-81, -82 and -83) topped with Microscale clears and Florey panel wash, finished with oil wash weathering and Mig pigments. I used the Eduard mask set for the canopy and wheels, and the AML masks for the Type A camo scheme. The set includes an extra sheet of straight strips doubtless intended for painting the invasion stripes.

The best part of the kit was the decals, they were superb and pulled into surface detail even before MicroSet was applied. Very thin, they grabbed a bit quickly, but are of solid tone, fully in-register, and seem especially accurate. They behaved much better than the sheet in the Spitfire I finished last, indeed I completed all decals, with the exception of the leading edge yellow stripes, in a single day of work.

Criticisms? The small antenna on the underside of the fuselage did not fit its locator hole – I fiddled and fumbled with it for a good twenty minutes, most of which was involved in getting hold of the tiny component, over and over and over, while applying a file to the base until it actually dropped into the receiver. The tailwheel is moulded as one part and must be seated before the fuselage is closed, which ups the odds of damage during handling and makes painting the unit a matter of a small brush and prayer. When the propeller is finally installed, the mounting calls for a cylindrical unit to be inserted between four moulded guides which “tension” it into place – why so complicated? The fuselage aperture had to be filed to accommodate the outer ring of the cylinder, and when it slid home it became apparent the outer diameter of the fuselage mouldings is larger than the outside diameter of the spinner backplate, leaving a strip of unpainted plastic exposed – yet with the prop now quite firmly in place there seems no way to tease it free again to paint the strip. Chancing getting camo green on the satin black spinner is not a risk I’m willing to take at the very finish, so it stands as-is, and angle of view will hopefully conceal the flaw for the moist part.

I have another of these, in the “Dogfight Doubles” edition with Pips Priller’s FW 190 (an unusual combination, as the Tiffie found its forté as a ground attack plane and probably never tangled with a 190, at least not on purpose) but it may be a few years before I welcome going 15 rounds with this kit again. There are some lessons learned here, of course, such as leaving the main gear bay doors off until after the struts are in place, which would make it easier to keep the doors aligned and not “toed-in” a bit.

Enjoyable? It’s always nice to see a project come together, but I would have to say I was happy to see this one leave the bench in the end. Maybe the shake’n’bake kits have somewhat spoiled me, but I had hoped for better alignment. Recommended nevertheless, to those with a little experience under their belts.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Building Bigger

Sometimes, with the pressure of one's daily obligations, a piece of work can be produced and clean forgotten. Below is a model build-up feature I wrote years ago, and even then it was a retrospective on a project which had not been documented at time of actual completion. I was browsing for some information in old articles and came across the text, so figured it was high time this one saw the light of day!

As I’ve ruefully mentioned before on this blog, some modellers build bigger as they get older simply because they can’t see the small ones anymore. That’s very true for me, yet I haven’t built large scale planes since I was a kid – in fact I’ve only done one 1:32 aircraft in modern times. My previous was 34 (now 36!) years ago!

In 2014 I tackled Hasegawa’s big scale Fw 190 A-8 and had a great deal of fun with it. There were one or two hassles – the fit of the engine cowling to the fuselage left a lot to be desired and was a tough contour to fill and sand but that was about the only structural difficulty. The decal sheet was a let-down – I had selected Hans Dortenmann’s Red 1 and as with so many Luftwaffe aircraft the markings and the camouflage scheme particulars go hand in hand. It was bad news when it turned out the sheet was unserviceable, as the paintwork was fully finished. Patching the markings together from AM sheets would have been a $60 job (three sheets required). Fortunately a friend in Europe had the same kit and was doing it in different markings and sent me his sheet, which worked perfectly.

It’s a big, beautiful bird, and at this scale the problems of airbrush mottling are minimised – overspray can still be an issue but the battle for fineness seems less acute. The cockpit was easy to detail, and the 1:32 etched harness was incredibly realistic. The outer pair of canon barrels is missing – by the time I was done I was more than slightly browned off with Hasegawa’s engineering choice to simply scab them onto the exterior as optional bits, as my confidence to get them lined up in both axes while glue dried was in negative numbers, so she’s a slightly odd-looking A-8 here. Better that than make a mess after so much work had been invested…

I didn’t weather this one heavily – weathering is a skill mated t0 scale and one must learn to use a heavier hand as scale increases. I’m not comfortable with really laying on filth so this bird is in very well-maintained condition – which they must have been at least some of the time.

So why so few models in this scale? Simple, somewhere to put them. You can store four, even six, 1:72nd scale models in the same area as the “footprint” of a 1:32nd scale project, and you very quickly fill display cases with the big guys. I have plenty of models in this scale and would like plenty more, but until the day comes I have some sort of storage designed to receive them – shelves of the appropriate depth and at a spacing which does not waste cubic volume with empty air – I fear I’ll have to leave them where they are, buried deep in the stash.

There’s also a lot of work in a big model, even if it’s structurally no more complicated. It certainly uses a lot more paint, you’re aware of your running supplies being used more quickly. But that’s par for the course, I can only imagine the investment in time and materials the ship guys go to when they’re building the new Trumpeter 1:200th scale battleships. Now there’s a project to conjure with – it gives a whole new meaning to the term “big scale.” It is to ships what 1:16th scale is to armour or 1:24th scale to planes.

Hmmm, that reminds me, I have an Airfix 1:24th scale Harrier hiding away in the stash. After more than forty years since the basic tooling came out it might be high time it got the full treatment… If only I had somewhere to put it!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Recently Completed: Airfix 1:72 Spitfire Mk. Ia (#A01071A)

Airfix and the Spitfire have been partners since the firm’s beginning, around 1954. Though the Spitfire was not the very first kit they ever produced (a farm tractor has that honour), a Battle of Britain-eraMk.1 was a very early release, followed by the classic Mk. IX in the late 60s, a Mk. V in the 80s, and so forth. In  1:48th scale Airfix has filled in many of the gaps of the available marks, their super-accurate Mk. XIV due out soon filling a major hole – though many vocal hobbyists bemoan any new Spitfire from Airfix as a missed opportunity to kit something actually new.

The subject here is the kit that’s had a lot of folk talking in the last year. A UK newspaper did a promotion with Airfix, providing coupons for free kits, and some enthusiasts managed to wrangle as many as five or six, though to be fair others missed out. Accuracy is likely to be high, given the meticulous approach of the firm these days, and the availability of the originals for study. Compromises for the scale appear minimal, though panel lines are a little heavy. The kit is a great pleasure to build. There were no real issues except for the fit of the canopy (below), which is very tight and needed a lot of careful filing and adjusting to sit down properly into the aperture. When it reached final shape it literally snapped into place. The build was otherwise uneventful. The landing gear legs are molded integrally with the gear bay doors, which in view of the warped legs of their Mustang kit, was a good idea, as these are dead straight and drop home into their receivers with a comfortable solidarity.

Cockpit detail is entirely adequate, the canopy cannot be posed open and so little is visible it makes little difference – in this writer’s opinion – if one superdetails or not.

The cockpit was painted with MM Cryl British Interior Green, the the model was airbrushed overall with Tamiya Acrylics. The underside shade is a mix of Tamiya XF-21 Sky and XF-2 White at 1:1 (and it still feels a bit too green to my eye), the Earth Dark Brown is also mixed, XF-52 Flat Earth and XF-64 German Rotbraun at 1:1 (as their straight Flat Earth seems too drab), while the green is straight XF-81, one of the group of three especially accurised RAF colours released some years back. Microscale clearcoats followed, with the final finish being flat, though MS Flat is actually quite satin in lustre. I was uncertain about the general shades until the model was finished, but once it had the brilliancy of the decals in contrast to the paintwork, I was very happy.

The decals were pretty good but I found them rather inflexible and unwilling to conform to sharp curves – it took up to ten applications of Microscale setting solution to get the flank roundels to lie down close to the top curve of the fuselage, and at least as many to get the wing roundels to draw into the gun hatch detail, though still not by 100%. Note the red gun patches are absent, there was no way they would curl around the leading edge. If I find some decal material more willing to conform, I’ll add them at some point – I did not fancy backing up and painting them with the model essentially done.

The canopy was masked with the Eduard set, which behaved perfectly, plus Gunze masking fluid, and the camouflage was masked using the AML set for the type B+ scheme. Florey wash and MiG pigments provided the finishing suite. The antenna wire was rigged with EZ-Line, always the last job I do because it is typically frustrating in its delicacy, and so hard to line up accurately at this scale.

There’s not really enough weathering for a battle-used aircraft in the thick of it. The pigments don’t adhere well to a hard, bright surface, they are far better seen against flat where they can get a grip on the fine irregularity. The oil streaking on the underside is also very restrained – Merlins leaked oil notoriously and Spitfires became filthy beyond words on the underside during sustained action. However, I seem to have developed a great sensitivity to mineral spirits, as just enough to wet the brush and do the job in a few minutes left me with a cracking headache for the evening. I didn’t think the job was big enough to be worth pulling out the twin-cartridge respirator, but I was wrong! Okay, this plane was washed recently!

This is my first 1940, Battle of Britain-era RAF project since I did Airfix’s 1:24th scale Mk. Ia around 1976! I’ll certainly be doing some more subjects in these colours – they have a new tool Hurricane, the Boulton-Paul Defiant, and a couple of Curtis Tomahawks in 1940 RAF livery, all of which should looks very nice indeed (and are served by the excellent AML camouflage mask sets, which save a great deal of time and effort).