Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Kit Review: Tamiya 1:48 Fw 190 F-8

This kit is 15 years old, #39 in Tamiya's expanding 1:48th scale aircraft range, and while there would be many reviewers quick to point out that the kit is "showing it's age" in ways, I would sooner concentrate on the ways in which this kit is still a very good one, and a very pleasing build. Some might point to Dragon's and Eduard's offerings as being far more detailed, with hatches that display engines and guns, but I would point to the sheer unfriendliness of those kits to build, their susceptibility to misalignment of the major components if key elements of their multitudinous internal fittings are not mounted with exact precision, something many builders only discover retrospectively after doing it wrong the first time.

In contrast, Tamiya offers a basic cockpit and engine, the latter of which is pretty much invisible behind the prop and fan (as is going to be the case with any closed-cowl 190), and the cockpit looks just fine through a closed canopy. Add some harness hardware, that would be about all you'd need to up-detail the cockpit, unless opening the hood.

The cockpit features raised instrument detail which responds very well to drybrushing, and a gunsight which is clearly visible through the windscreen. A choice of standard or Galland Haube (blown) canopies is provided, both crystal clear. The prop mounts on a poly cap, a Tamiya trademark, which allows it to be slipped into place at the very end, easing not only painting and decaling, as the spiralschnauze really needs to be applied to the spinner cone before the prop is built up.

There are some stores options for this, the dedicated ground attack variant of the 190. Twin underwing pallets for R4 unguided rockets are optional vs a quartet of well-molded SC50 bombs and their pylons, while a 300L droptank and rack are provided for the centreline station.

The Tamiya kit builds beautifully. Buildability is a dependable trait for Tamiya and even so early in their series, only a few kits after switching to recessed panel lines as standard, the parts fall together very neatly indeed. The main fuselage and wing parts are super-accurate and align correctly on their pins; the tail surfaces literally snap into place and their tabs and slots are size-coded so you can't get the surfaces on upside down. The engine cowling is a single moulding into which the completed engine sits before the unit fits back onto the fuselage and the gunbay cover drops into place.

A separate insert for the wheelwell brings up the possible detail level, while separate parts for the retraction struts, locking to the legs at fixed pivot pins, assures the main gear will almost fall into correct alignment, a boon when one considers the forward rake and toe-in on the Focke-Wulf undercarriage that can be a challenge on some kits. This is standard engineering that will be found throughout Tamiya's 190 range.

Similarly, the single-piece lower wing surface assures the correct dihedral and a gentle flexed fit for the wing to fuselage joint, often the major issue with joint dressing but here requiring no attention at all. Overall, the joints were dressed with a little adzing and wet sanding over superglue assembly, while some joints were closed with liquid cement on natural panel lines,. Filler was used in only a couple of places, such as behind the engine cowl, down by the wing roots, and to eliminate discontinuities where sprue attachment points fell.

The decals provide for four aircraft, all interesting choices, including the famous Black 10 of 2/SG4 in tropical camouflage for the Italian campaign of 1944, Green Double Chevron of SG2 in March '45, White 7 of I/SG2, in Hungary during the winter of '44 to '45, and Red 2 of I/SG2 in a zebra-pattern winter camo over standard RLM 74/75/76, in early '45. In 1995 Tamiya was recommending mixing rations to reach RLM equivalents from their acrylics range, while later kits offer matches from the Tamiya enamels range.

Their formula for RLM 76 (XF-2 Flat White plus XF-23 Pale Blue plus XF-66 Light Grey ata ratio of 7:1:2, provides a virtually perfect match for the original, lacking only lustre, and an addition of 25 to 30% X-22 Clear Gloss approximates the sheen of the original RLM colours. Unfortunately, their suggested formulas for the 74 and 75 are miles off, and I experimented to find a decent fit. For 74 they recommend XF-24 Dark Grey and XF-27 Schwartzgrun at 3:2, but this was too dark and too green, especially compared to the Model Master enamel equivalent. I reduced the ratio to 3:1 and added 1 part Flat White as well, then brought up the lustre with 30% Clear Gloss. For the 75, Tamiya suggests XF-51 Khaki should be a component, but as 75 has no green hue at all this mystifies me. I mixed it from scratch, starting with XF-24 Dark Grey and adding Flat White at a ratio of 2:1, then adding 30% Clear Gloss. On reflection this was too much gloss, as darker shades reflect more strongly than lighter ones, and 20% would have been ample. The final shades were acceptably similar to the Model Master enamel equivalents, though I have to say the acrylics are both more delicate and lack a certain 'gutsiness' that the solvent-based paints have. I mixed the RLM 04 Yellow also, warming and lightening XF-3 Yellow slightly (it could have gone still lighter...)

The camouflage was soft-masked using light card, while hard edges were acheved with Tamiya tape. This was my first time doing an all-acrylic multi-tone paintjob and I was quite pleased with the result, not pleased enough to say I'll retire enamels, but pleased that I can pursue a build like this in weather which forbids taking the hobby outside to spray solvent-based paints.

If there was any particular shortcoming to the kit, it was the decals. Two sheets are provided, one large, one small, with all the stencil data on the small sheet along with a few squadron markings. The small sheet was glossy and the glue was both slow to release from the backing paper and quick to dissolve thereafter, resulting in decals that were not predisposed to lying down invisibly. Even when gauging the soaking time correctly, some of the decals were prone to wrinkling, calling for considerable skill with solvent and setting solutions to get them to even out and pull into surface detail. I'm very glad I painted the block colour areas of the scheme I chose, as the decal version of those areas I am certain would have been unnecessarily difficult to apply and not looked half as good. There are, of course, aftermarket decal sets for the Fw 190 almost beyond reckoning, many of them probably being released with this very kit in mind, so this is perhaps the least of concerns.

Finishing tricks included carbon staining and dust applied with MiG Productions powder pigments, and an antenna wire made from Berkshire Junction EZLine.

I'm sorry this kit is out of production. Hopefully it will be reissued at some point, and until then one must haunt eBay with a watchful eye to catch it when it changes hands from time to time. My verdict on the Tamiya Fw 190 F-8 is that it is a very pleasant build with few challenges, which can be both tackled by a beginner and enjoyed by a master, and which certainly captures the stance and look of Kurt Tank's masterpiece fighter.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Smart Save on a Dodgy Decal

I was decalling along nicely on my new Focke-Wulf when I had a rare faux pas on one item, the green dash for the port side. I left it to soak too long and the glue, fairly resilient in the first minute or two, pretty much dissolved away so that when the decal was applied, it barely stuck and would rather curl up as it dried out.

What to do? I could paint it, maybe, but I didn't fancy another foray into paint at this stage. I remembered a few saves involving white glue, I did something with a decal many years ago, but I had no white glue to hand. The decal was drying, crisping on the model as I watched, so what did I have close by that would do the job?

I quickly rummaged in my drawers and found Micro Krystal Klear, a PVA derivative meant for attaching canopies without crazing the plastic, or making windows by exploiting the glue's surface tension. The bottle was new, rarely, if ever, opened...

I dipped a fine brush in the stuff and laid in a bead under the up-curled edges of the decal. Then I smoothed it down with the brush rinsed and wetted with water, which squeezed out excess glue and washed it away. Wallah... Couldn't be easier. The decal laid down at once and never moved again, and the glue was invisible against the surface, whatever residue was left.

The moral of this story (besides remembering your decals when they're soaking) is always have a well-stocked supply drawer, and even if it takes years to find a use for a product, rest assured it'll turn up eventually.

Now, on with those decals...