Monday, August 29, 2016

Recently Completed: Tamiya Spitfire Vb

Tamiya’s 1:48th  scale Spitfires are old news – highly buildable, friendly, accurate, they vie with Hasegawa for industry standard, though (somewhat infuriatingly) the Big Guy from Shizuoka City didn’t come back to do other marks, just the Mk. I and Mk. V in b and c variants. This left the field open for Hasegawa (the other Big Guy from Shizuoka), ICM from Ukraine and the reconstituted Airfix to mop up the missing marks, a process not yet complete even now. (Off hand, I can think of at least seven marks which achieved production status which have not been kitted to date, though we do have rarities like the short-production HF Mk. VI, and the Mk. XII, first of the Griffon birds.)

I’ve had one of the Tammy Vbs on the shelf for many years, I prepainted the interior RAF grey-green so long ago it was done with Humbrol enamel, and I’m hard-put to remember exactly how long it is since I retired solvent-based paints in the name of brain cell survival. I had a yen for another Spit so pulled this one and whacked her together. The build was smooth and uneventful as you would expect from a Tammy. I didn’t bother with harness, I’m not sure if this means my flirtation with printed etch is at an end or if it depends on my temperament when the time comes – I guess I’ll find out.

The new aspect of this build was the AML vinyl mask set for the camo. I ordered them up last year as they looked pretty good and offered a relief from the tedious business of cutting tape masks for curved, hard demarcations. They are thin, backed with a low-tack adhesive, and free off from their backing sheet easily. In only one place did they lift paint, and though they took some pushing and pulling to try to line them up, they were generally very good. Here and there, the errors in location from one part to another compounded so that some particular part did not fit at all and was replaced with a swathe of Gunze masking fluid, but that was perfectly okay. The pic above shows the masks partially removed, the one below the result with the paintwork complete.

I used the Tamiya Acrylics late-war RAF matches (XF-81, -82 and -83), sealed with Micro Satin and panel lines accented and sealed with Florey washes. If there was a real challenge with this kit it was the decals, and while many builders report poor experiences with Tamiya decals I would have to say that was not the reason. Feeling somewhat mistrusting of the kit decal sheet, I considered replacing them with Techmod stencils, Eagle Strike roundels and Fantasy Printshop codes and serials. However…

It turned out the codes were the wrong size – I have the sheet of 18” letters and numbers, and the aircraft I was modelling had heavier 24” lettering. This compelled me to at least try the kit sheet and it turned out it worked perfectly, snugging into panel lines nicely. The kit decals feature a fairly good suite of stencil data but far from complete and I was tempted to busy-up the bird with the Techmod data, but… Photos of the original aircraft show it to have featured comparatively little stencil data anyway, plus the Techmod stencils are so fine I can barely see them. I concluded there was no need to go to the extent us using them for this project. Same with the roundels – the kit items were acceptably accurate in colour and laid down fine, though they took a lot of solvent to conform to surface details. The hardest part of any Spit is the underside roundels which lie over surface blisters and I have yet to have them be anything but a compromise.

The yellow leading edges are also supplied as decals, much less work than masking, but again the task of getting them to snug down is a long one. I spent three days on the decals of this kit, before finally being able to gently wash the surface to remove dried setting solutions and lay down some Micro Flat for the final finish.

I’m happy with the finished model, though I’m the first to admit I gaffed in a few places. I aligned the canopy incorrectly and didn’t notice it until the first colour went on – blame my glasses. There are stiffening ribs on the wings incorrect for the Vb and the instructions tell you to cut them away, though with other projections nearby on the wing I was not confident to remove them without making a mess of the job, so I accepted the inaccuracy. I got the wing walk stripes in the wrong place by about their own width, and the fuselage roundels should be aligned on each other – to get the codes set up at visually acceptable spacing, that turned out to be too much to ask. Other than that, I’m happy with this beast. She’s presented as early service days rather than the heavy chipping and wear seen in photos, and though the paintwork is preshaded I don’t go in for the “patchwork quilt” fading effect so popular these days – not that I wouldn’t if I could, but my AB skills are seriously not up to it!

One other point, I swear the canopy was crystal clear and flawless when it went on, but it was patchy and striated on the inside when the masking came off. I can only assume it’s the fumes from the adhesive. The problem is, the clear parts cement sold by Testors is essentially just white glue and I swear spit would have more grab. The amount of force exerted in masking and unmasking the canopy would surely overcome it. My option for the future to avoid this problem is to mask and paint the canopy off the model, and attach with the weak-as-water-glue afterward. I certainly must do something, as this element is an ongoing disappointment.

So there she is, a Tamiya classic, a generally fun build and a nice addition to the display case, canopy notwithstanding.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Building Bigger

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 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 the 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!