Thursday, April 22, 2021

Long Time, No See!

 I last posted here nearly two years ago, and that's crazy, I'm the first to admit! What happened, you ask? Well, in a nutshell, my lighting system died on me, and I had no way to properly photograph my models at publication quality. I keep meaning to either get it repaired or replace it--I need the light for building, plain and simple, and have been making do with daylight, as best I can... No wonder I've churned out only small numbers of projects in the last two years.

It hasn't actually stopped me building, but my eyes are not what they used to be, and the photos I can get in natural light leave a lot to be desired. I've done maybe a dozen models since I last posted, and will post about those projects when I can do them justice.

My most ambitious build is probably the Hobby Boss 1:72 F-14A, from last year, a lengthy and complex project, both structurally and at the painting stage. My simplest, probably the 1:72 Moebius Viper VII, also from last year.

This blog has been around for a great many years and I hate to see it languish. I do intend to fix up my working lights and get back to the bench the way I used to! Posting the finished results and discussing projects is part of the pleasure of the hobby!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

It Worked!

Sometimes the manufacturers really do know what they’re talking about… I’ve been working on Tamiya’s 1:12th scale Suzuki Katana off and on, a 2017 build that’s been on the shelf (full build post to come) and the wheel rims are in bright finish, which Tamiya recommend be done with an X-11 Chrome Silver enamel paint marker pen. I’ve never used their paint markers before and ordered one up with some trepidation, thoughts of floods of paint or dried-up tips going through my mind.

I searched YouTube for how-to videos and found one out of Russia which, though I could follow not a word, was pretty self-explanatory as far as appropriate touch for applying the tip to a surface was concerned. Even so, I put the job off at least a month before there was not one other thing to do on the project before this task.

Of course, when I finally opened the marker, gave it a good shake and started the flow, it worked perfectly. The corner of the chisel-tip seated comfortably into the wheel rim and I applied the paint in short, controlled sections. Before I knew it, it was done and the parts were set aside to dry. Some commentaries have remarked that this can take a long time, into the second day and still tacky, but I find myself wondering if that indicates the paint was insufficiently agitated beforehand. This oaint was dry in an hour.
The bright silver rim does not show up very well in the available-light photo at top, and the marker pen, which ships in a plastic shrink-wrap, has been resealed with tape at the cap juncture, to preserve paint life. The picture below shows the front wheel, with a gunmetal finish, and the chrome rim shines beautifully in a flash shot.

When these parts are ready to be handled, I can do most of the remaining build-up, indeed the only painting left to do is the front brake units and the rubber protector around the windshield transparency (fiddly masking required on both). But this project should hopefully come together quite quickly now.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Kit Review: MPC/Round 2 Space: 1999 MK. IX Hawk

I can’t remember the last science fiction model kit I completed. I have a few in my stash but I actively can’t remember completing one in recent times, so this Hawk is rather a milestone. In the late 70s I did a couple of the very disappointing MPC Eagles (under the Airfix label), and obtained their Hawk as a built example from the famous collector Phil Rae ten or more years back, but brand new kits from this cult TV classic have started to come available in the last few years from Round 2, under the MPC label, as a direct result of interaction between company manager Jamie Hood and both the fans who would be buying the product on one hand, and the leading experts on the originals, on the other. This fusion culminated in the Eagle Transporter kit in 1:48th scale, which has done great business and spawned a family of secondary releases. The first guest-star hardware to join the family is a 1:72nd scale Hawk.

The Hawk appeared in the episode Wargames, familiar Earth craft which mysteriously appeared from an alien planet and attacked Alpha. They were mental projections, plucked from the Alphans’ own minds, as was the entire unfolding scenario of destruction, as a means to persuade the humans not to attempt to settle on the planet they were passing, no matter how compatible it seemed. This meant a craft could be designed to reflect the same general era and mode of design as the familiar Eagles, which leant itself to rapid production of the needed models. Two were built, a definitive model scaled to the 1:24th scale Eagle, and a distance model at 1:48th scale. They were very different in detail when studied together (both have survived and are well documented photographically, and appear at fan conventions).

Round 2 based their detailing on the “hero” 1:24th scale Hawk and on inspection I was most impressed with the degree to which almost every detail of the original has been captured at one third the size. I studied the Hawk with a view to building a studio scale replica some years ago, amassing a fair bit of reference material in the process, and as a result I am able to say that the company has captured the important features to an amazing degree. Proportion and detail, including precise replication of the kit parts used as dressing on the original, are all there. The only notable exception I could find was the absence of the ribbing on the Saturn V-derived parts, this being more than likely due to the limitations of moulding technology. When the firm produces the promised 1:48th scale version to go with the larger Eagle, this omission will hopefully be corrected.

Assembly was quite straight forward, though fit was not as crisp as one might have hoped for, giving rise to some seams to be dressed, mainly on the command module sides and where the fuselage, split in upper and lower halves, comes together just behind the stub wings, and at the rear. Otherwise there were few hassles. The worst parts are the tiny Lunar Module legs, five of which are produced at a third their original size. The originals were forever breaking on the studio model, and these are so fragile you hardly dare breathe on them. The one above the cockpit broke and was repaired four times, while the ones around the engine barely fit (locator holes in the wrong places?) and the modeller is reduced to “superglue and prayer” — not ideal. Whitemetal replacement parts would be highly desirable.

I built the model in subassemblies, the lateral boosters and engine, solar panel and underslung weapons pods, the X-girders, plus the underside girder/rod/pipe parts all being completed separately, including decals and topcoats, and brought together at the end. This eased painting of the fuselage and side boosters, and I noticed that proper alignment of these units to each other depends largely on all parts coming together in one go—so they needed to be fully finished at that point.

In 1:72nd scale no cockpit is provided, just black decals for the windows. The Hawk’s interior was never shown in the program so any attempt to add one to a kit is an exercise in what-if. It will be interesting to see how the company tackles the issue at larger scale.

The biggest “wow” factor was the decals. The sheet is very finely printed, featuring over 130 markings for the craft as seen on-screen (orange trim) or the prototype model (white overall). I did the latter for simplicity, though picked up two kits and will do the on-screen version at a later date. The decals reproduce every marking seen on the original, including many which were actually drawn on by hand. They behaved very well indeed, were a delight to work with, and reacted well enough to Microscale chemistry. The small coloured bands took some work to wrap around the girders, several applications of Microsol were needed to get them to conform, and they could have done with being somewhat longer to wrap fully and seal to themselves. The anti-glare panel decals were sprayed with Micro Flat and trimmed closely from the backing paper, producing a decent flat finish in those areas, contrasting with the satin finish white I selected overall.

Improvements are always possible, and when I do the second kit I’ll make some small changes. The original had rows of holes drilled into the leading edges of the stub wings, weapon pods and solar panels, and these are represented as silver dots on the decal sheet. Dressing those edges very carefully to fully eliminate mould lines and drilling in the holes is an obvious enhancement. Being forewarned about those LM legs might ease that aspect too.

The model was a pleasure to build, notwithdstanding the acute frustration of those aforementioned LM parts. On the provided stand it looks the part, and is a milestone as the first fully accurate depiction of this craft to be produced as a conventional styrene kit. If the larger version eventuates, it will build upon the experience from this one, and be the perfect compliment to the big Eagle—as surely as the soon-to-be-released 1:72nd scale Eagle compliments this Hawk.

Full marks to Jamie Hood and Round 2 for giving us the kits we craved long ago and never expected to be possible!

Cheers, Mike Adamson

Friday, April 5, 2019

Recently Completed: Fujimi 1:72 F-86F (Kit No. F-18)

I’ve only done two Sabres previously – the Airfix F-86D when I was a kid, and the Matchbox F-86A at a teenager. The Sabre is a very elegant and impressive plane, historically and technically important, and surprisingly long-lived – I was not really aware of the fact at the time, but there were Sabres still flying with several countries, in secondary roles, certainly, at the beginning of the 1980s. This example, as befits a Japanese kit, is a Mitsubishi-built Sabre, distinguished by the small engine bay intake on the right rear fuselage.

This is only my third completed Fujimi kit, the others being their Ju-87 G-2 Stuka and A-7A Corsair II, in the same scale. It was quite a fun build but their engineering leaves a bit to be desired, creating problems of alignment – all around parts fit was nothing to write home about, and did the instruction to add nose weight have to be in Japanese? The parts look good in the box – also very familiar, I built a Hobbycraft F-86E many years ago, part of a conversion project which is still incomplete, and it’s quite obviously the Fujimi kit reboxed. The kit features excellent recessed detail, deep enough to take a wash and hold it, but the separate gun panels are a pain, as the fit is far from exact. They were tooled separately to facilitate swapping out for camera nose parts on the RF-86, an example of stretching the mould applicability at cost of builder ease. Likewise, the air brakes can be posed open, and do not fit as precisely as they should for the closed option.

Nevertheless, the kit builds quite well. It features the unslatted “6-3” wing, a pair of AIM-9B Sidewinders and pylons, and a choice of raised instrument details or decals. The decals would never lie down over the 3D detail, so drybrushing was used to bring out the instruments. The instrument decals were also far from crisp depictions.

The decal sheet provides sets of individual numbers so you can build any F-86 in the fleet (except the 500-series serials on the RF birds), though this invites alignment problems in the tail codes and makes for a lot more work. I chose a bird from No. 8 Squadron, Komaki AB, August 1977, sourced from a photograph, a fairly plain scheme which obviated messing on with masking for colour trim. The black and yellow stripes on the Sidewinders came from the Hasegawa US missile set (X72-3), though I used the Fujimi missiles.

Speaking of the decals, they were very matte, took their time separating from the backing sheet, and during the softening time exuded a milky goop I can only assume is the decal adhesive as it resembled nothing so closely as PVA whiteglue. I wiped away the majority and the decals adhered perfectly with what remained. The decals overall behaved better than I feared they might, so I’m inclined to give the kit sheets a go in more Fujimi outings of similar vintage.

I used my standard approach to painting metallic finishes, Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminium, overcoated with Microscale Satin, but resisted the impulse to use graphite to create panel variation as these birds seem to have been in metallic paint rather than natural metal, and were well-maintained, therefore clean and tidy. No weathering was applied to this model. The gun panels were probably stainless steel and always look darker, so graphite was used for this effect.

There are a few errors and omissions – joint lines needed more work, nothing shows up defects like metallics! Joints I would have sworn were perfect, adzed, then milled with wet 1200-grade paper, showed up hairline gaps under paint. Also, the fit of the jet intake pipe is not perfectly centralised and thus does not line up well with the nose part, necessitating work with a round rat-tail file in the intake to try to minimise the mis-match. I had tried chocking the fit with styrene shims, but it needed more. Next time I do a Fujimi Sabre I’ll know what to look out for. Same with the weight to keep her from being a tail-sitter, it should be superglued behind the gun panels, but the bird was finished before I noticed “3g” among the Japanese script and realised it was telling me to weight the nose. Two grams turned out to be enough, and the crushed lead shot is in fact simply lying deep in the intake trunk.

I mis-cued on masking in the wheel well, calling for brush touch-ups (in FS 34102, it seems North American used a green darker than Interior Green/Zinc Chromate for their gear bays on both major lineages of the Sabre). At the end of the day some details were left unpainted – a tiny black panel on the tail plane, plus the radome of the radar gunsight, because, with the rest of the model finished, I simply did not trust my wobbly hands to spot in that detail, especially with the brushing characteristics of Tammy acrylics. Risk spoiling the job at the last moment? I don’t think so!

I have a couple more E and F Sabres from Fujimi in my stash, and a couple of the Airfix tooling from several years ago, in the guise of the Canadair Sabre Mk. 4, to play with. I hope to line up a representative selection of Sabres in time, detailing the colourful schemes and range of variation among this milestone fighter’s thousands of examples.

On the bench in the not too distant future will be the Italeri F-100 Super Sabre, wearing Superscale decals and featuring a variegated metal finish.

Cheers, Mike Adamson

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 РI have a StuG IV to do featuring lots of extra track lengths as appliqu̩ 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