Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Pearl Harbor Attacker

A6M2 Zero, Lt Sumio Nono, Hiryu air wing, 7th December 1941

I finally built this newly tooled A6M from Airfix and used many of Nick Millman's recommendations for colors just to see how it would look.

The Subject

Lt Nono led the second wave of 9 A6M2 Zero fighter escorts from Hiryu, escorting 18 B5N2 Kate bombers from Shokaku attacking Kaneohe Bay Naval Air Station (now a Marine Corps Base). One Zero was lost against a loss of 2 P-40's that attempted to engage from Bellows Field.

Lt Nono was later killed in action of Ceylon on 9 April 1942 whilst intercepting Blenheims.

The Model

The basic construction was strictly per the instructions as current Airfix toolings are quite tight in tolerance and build sequence must be followed to ensure the model is finished properly.

Since my model represents a Mitsubishi built A6M2, painting details are unique. The interior of the cockpit, all metal items, should be an interior green; I used Tamiya XF-71. The instrument panel was painted black, and the decal applied. I also added masking tape seat belts. The decking under the canopy was painted the same color as the engine cowling -- a blue-black color that was more blue than black. I used Mr Color H77 Tire Black as it is a bluish black. Of note, Nakajima built A6M's had a cowling color that tended more towards the black end of the scale; so for a Nakajima A6M I'd add black to the H77.

All other interior was painted Aotake, or that blue tinted aluminum primer. I first painted the cowling interior silver, then misted Tamiya X-13 Metallic Blue to just change the appearance. The interior of the wheel bays was the same color as the exterior, which I painted in my own mix of Tamiya paints to achieve the Ameiro or caramel color with a green tinge. The recipe started with Tamiya XF-76 Gray Green, 3 ml, to which I added 2.5 ml of XF-2 White and then 20 drops of XF-64 Red Brown. The drops were a guess, and I mixed until it looked "right". Your mileage may vary.

The fabric areas were a slightly different paint, I'm sure meant to be the same color when new but obviously (to me) faded differently. I decided to use a warm gray, and chose MM Acryl Flat Gull Gray #4763 thinned with Future.
Decals are by Techmod, sheet 72059. They went on just fine, but are thin and require some care. I dipped them in water with a few drops of softener added for just enough time for them to get wet, then quickly slid them into place. I still had one of the fuselage stripes wrinkle on me, but with more setting solution and a cotton bud was able to smooth it out.


I enjoyed this build immensely. It was quite easy so long as I took care with the build and didn't rush. My only challenge was alignment of the main landing gear, but I used a drop of Tamiya thin cement and propped the model on the box corner with enough lift and the right angle to ensure it would dry hard overnight.

I've got another of these that I plan to make using the kit decals. My other Zeros are the nice Tamiya kits, but I've got many, many Hasegawa kits to make as well.
Thanks for looking...

Friday, December 2, 2016

Uschi flexible line

This is one of those products that has changed my modeling; therefore I'd like to share why.

Uschi rigging thread is a flexible thread that is also round.  So when it is applied to a model, it does not have the "flat" or square effect that some flexibly threads may show, especially noticeable if the line has a twist in it.  It is also in 3 different sizes, .01, .02 and .03 mm.  So even the largest is quite small.

With rare exception, my aircraft models are all 1/72nd scale.  I use all three thread diameters.  The largest (.03mm) I use for inter-plane flying and landing wires.  I apply it by planning my rigging before I build.  Well before the paint stage I determine exactly where each flying or landing wire is attached to the wings / fuselage and then drill a .05 mm hole using a drill in a pin vise.  I generally don't go all the way through the plastic, but sometimes it makes sense to do that.  On the Airfix Swordfish the wings are thick enough for an upper and lower half, so I certainly drilled all the way through on the bottom wing upper surface, and the top wing lower surface.  I also drill at an angle that approximates the angle of the wire as it exists the structure.

After construction and paint, when I'm ready to rig, I put a very small dab of superglue into the hole.  Typically I start with the visible side, as in the lower wing, first.  That way I have a bit more control on the appearance.  The thread is then dipped in accelerator.  I then quickly (and carefully) place the thread in the hole.  I've got about a second as that is how long the superglue takes to set with the accelerator on the thread.  Most times I get the thread deep into the hole, which ensures a very solid fit there.

I then repeat the gluing process for the top (underwing) position, but this time the line is slightly under tension.  I'm careful not to make the line taught as that means less forgiving, but I want it tensioned just enough to retain its shape over time.

The medium diameter thread (.02mm) I use for control wires.  For the Swordfish I first glued the end in the fuselage, where it exits, in the same manner as the lower wing for the flying wires.  The next step is to put a drop of glue on the guide pulley (not all models have these, but the Swordfish did) on the tail plane.  Some times these are big enough to allow a drill bit to go all the way through, which actually makes for a more realistic look than having it glued on.  The final step is to pull it in tension to the control horn on the rudder/elevator/aileron and attach with superglue.  Again, I use accelerator on the thread.

For antenna wires I use the smallest diameter (.01mm).  Frankly, this is the hardest to work with and I've use a few choice words in the process.

Similar to the others, I anchor the antenna wire on the fuselage or wherever the appropriate place is.  For the Airfix Wildcat I drilled a hole in the port side of the fuselage (before construction).  I then put a small drop of superglue and likewise dipped the thread in accelerator.  Here's where the small diameter gets tricky!  Once the accelerator is on it the wire tends to have a mind of its own and surface tension of the fluid causes the thread to "hide" everywhere but as a dangly bit of thread under the tweezers.

I've learned to put both accelerator and superglue in two separate bottle caps (away from each other) and after applying the superglue I "get set" by grasping the thread, gingerly dipping the end in the accelerator and then without breathing (the "breeze" makes a difference!) I quickly move to the hole and contact the thread to the superglue drop.  Instantly fixed.  No opportunity for adjustment on this diameter.  It's the reason I don't use it for anything other than antenna.

For the Wildcat, I then carefully wrapped the thread around the antenna post in a manner that resulted in a loop with the post-to-fuselage wire "over" the post-to-rudder wire.  The end result was an appearance of the wire being not quite attached, but threaded via a connector/insulator.  While visible in the photo below, at arm's length it's not visible at all!

A drop of superglue (no accelerator) and after it had set I put tension on the wire and pulled it to the post on the rudder.  Again it had superglue on it and accelerator on the thread.  

Difficult to see in the photos because of the varying focal planes, but the overall effect is quite nice.  At arm's length the hint of wiring / rigging is there, which is really all I want.  In period photos sometimes the wires are invisible, but many times there is just that hint.

With 147 feet on each spool, I suspect some new product or maybe even programmed nanobots that can thread like a spider will be the latest craze when this runs out.

Thanks for looking...

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Blogger has changed...

A bit of whinge if you'll allow...

I manage multiple blogs using Blogger, plus I use it to follow quite a few other blogs out there.  Google has decided that a new format would be "better" but now it means I have to change how I manage and view all of that.  (OBTW, I don't use adsense or other moneymakers, I don't agree with that ethic.)

This on top of changing how my photos were hosted, making the upload process vary laborious.  I've since altered that to be easier, but not as easy as it once was.  Grr.

The good news is that my blogs haven't changed.  I suspect that will happen soon enough and I probably should find some "news" on Blogger from Google to get ahead of it.  It sometimes makes me want to spend the money and host my own photos and blogs.  Not expensive but it means actively managing servers, web code, security, et cetera and I prefer not to do that.  Alas, Blogger is free so I should sit quietly and accept it.

I've looked at Facebook as an alternative.  Yes it would work, but frankly I have less control over the look and posting photos is actually more difficult.  It works great and is easy if I used my smart phone for photography, but I don't.  I use a DSLR on a tripod and have to take a SD card and transfer files to my Mac.  I can transition two of my blogs to Facebook, but until I find a way to photograph models better with my iPhone, not this one.

Of note, my Mac is in my office upstairs, but my modeling room is downstairs in the basement.  I do take my iPad to quickly check a reference or photo, but otherwise try to keep the distraction away from my modeling bench.

So am I becoming an old curmudgeon?  Maybe so, but I'd rather spend time fiddling with plastic and paint than figuring out a website or page or online process.

Thanks for listening, I now feel better...

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

South African Spitifire

Spitfire Vc(T), No. 2 Squadron SAAF, Palata, Italy, 1944

I like the Vc as it affords the most unique paint schemes of all Spitfire marks; and appears to have been used by more countries during the war than any other single variant. This one I particularly like because No. 2 Squadron was likely the only unit to use the 4 cannon configuration of the universal wing.

The Subject

No. 2 Squadron SAAF took lots of photos of their Spitfires during the war. Many are in color (stills from a film of lengthy formation flying) so "color" is not really a debatable issue with these aircraft. DB-R had its serial number partially painted out, but it is obviously from the JK series. One source claims it is JK815, but provides only a profile, not a photo so I left the "815" off as seen in the only photos I can find.

This is a late model Vc with all the latest Vc mods incorporated. Late windscreen, gun heating, Rotol prop. It was used in ground attack sorties, typically (as seen in its photos) carrying a 250 or 500 lb bomb on the centerline and using its 4x20mm cannon to great affect against vehicles.

The Model

This is the relatively new Sword Vc kit that dates from 2011. The kit has been released as various Spitfire Vc, PR and Seafire IIc/III variants with different decals, instructions and resin, the basic plastic sprues being the same. Of note, some Seafire kits include an added fuselage and/or wing, however my examples did not, with the Seafire specific fuselage or wing replacing the standard Spitfire item.

Construction was straightforward. I had absolutely no issues even though this is technically a short run kit. The only thing "short run" about it is the lack of locator tabs on the fuselage and wings. Any modeler with a few kits under their belt can easily build this kit. The most difficult part of the build was prop alignment -- the kit supplies the Rotol prop blades as separate items. So this means creating a jig of some sort to ensure alignment and feathering are correct. In my case I used a jig that came with a Quickboost resin Rotol prop that I saved after installing the prop on a Hobbyboss Vb(T) I made many years ago.

The landing gear was of greater concern, but I was impressed when the gear had perfect locating holes. It all went together perfectly only to be marred by the poor decals...these are not from the kit but are Airfix decals from a 2004-ish release of their Vc kit (which is very poor by comparison). Paints used are acrylics all around: Dark Earth is Vallejo English Uniform, Middlestone is Humbrol, and Azure is a Tamiya mix I created many years ago (I made a large quantity in a 10ml jar and it's lasting me quite a while!).


This is the first really nice Vc kit in 1/72nd scale. The other options are kit bashing or the old Airfix Vb with the noticeably newer and much too thick Vc wing.

I've got lots of decals, both good and bad as I've discovered, to make quite a few more Vc subjects and now that I've got a decent kit to do that with I'll certainly be able to do the Vc justice.

Thanks for looking...

Friday, October 21, 2016

V-1 Defender

Spitfire XIV RB159 / DW-D 610 Squadron RAF, Spring 1944

I tried kit bashing, something I have done rarely and only with the Spitfire, to make a XIVc from the Airfix IX and XIX kits.

The Subject

The XIV began showing up in squadrons late 1943 and early 1944. Initially they were used to replace the MK XII that were remaining as low level interceptors of Fw-190 penetrations. When Germany began the V-1 launches just after D-Day they were reassigned to intercept the increasing number of V-1's coming across the Channel.

RB159 was delivered to No. 610 Squadron "County of Chester" Royal Auxiliary Air Force on 1 January 1944 as part of the first batch of 50 built. It served with Nos. 350, 41 and 416 Squadrons before being scrapped in 1949.

The Model

I pieced this together from 3 kits, actually: The wings, main landing gear, canopy, and cockpit came from the Airfix IX kit. The fuselage, prop, carb intake, tail wheel, tailplanes, and radiators came from the Airfix XIX kit. There was very little fit issues, the lower wings-to-fuselage joint required a bit of added plastic as the XIX fuselage insert is shorter than the IX bit on its wing.

The canopy required building up behind the cockpit; since the XIX was pressurized the aft area of the canopy goes down to the rails, unlike the XIV which was similar to the IX and was much smaller. A bit of sheet cut to fit and sanded to shape actually provided a better glue surface for the canopy.

Everything else fit quite well, and it quickly took on the "look" of the XIV. Painting was hassle free and the only decals I had for subjects that did NOT have invasion stripes was the old Academy XIV. As an aside, not a bad kit, just inaccurate in shape. So I use the cockpit, landing gear and other bits of that kit as spares for older Spitfire kits that are devoid of detail.

The Academy decals were mostly either out of register or the wrong color, but I was able to find the serial and squadron codes that were very close to the right color. I nearly masked and painted the squadron codes but chose to use the deals anyway. Roundels and fin flash were from my spare decals.


This was a relatively easy kit-bash. I've got the older Fujimi XIV as well as the Admiral/AZ XIV/XVIII kits and the new Sword XIV c/e series. This one seems to look better, but that simply could be due to my improved skills of late.

Would I do another kit-bash? Not likely for this mark. I've got enough XIV kits now that I'll meet my desires for the likely future.

Thanks for looking...

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Belgian Spitfire XVI

TD231, MN-J, 350th Squadron Belgian Air Force, Fassburg 1946

The last of my Heller XVI kits.

The Subject

With the war over, many squadrons were allowed to revert their RAF roundels to their home country colors as liberated countries re-constituted their air forces from their RAF organizations.  In the case of Belgium, red, yellow and black.

350th Squadron, Belgian Air Force begin in November 1941 as No 350 (Belgian) Squadron, RAF from remnants of the Belgian Air Force evacuated from Europe in 1940.  They were initially formed on the Spitfire II, transitioning via Spitfire V and IX to the Spitfire XIV in August 1944.  They operated this mark until transition to the BAF, when they reverted to the Spitfire XVI in 1946.

350th Squadron has operated continuously since 1941; currently flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The Model

Not much more can be said by me about this kit.  I'll likely never build another, but I also believe one should never say "never".

This one both gave me the most trouble and looks the best now that it's completed.  Fit was very bad on this one, the fuselage having a twist to it and the wings being too flat (little dihedral).  It's a "black plastic" kit so must be one of the latter moldings.  I was able to fix the dihedral, but gave up on the twist (warp) in the fuselage.  If I look down the centerline I can see the fin/rudder twist, but otherwise not.

The paint scheme came out quite well; I finally beat the yellow leading edge into submission.  Until now that one bit of the Day Fighter Scheme has been my bane; never able to mask it and get it painted properly.  This time I got the tape to lay down right and the consistency of the Tamiya yellow paint was proper.  It airbrushed down perfectly and after a few minutes I removed the mask with no bleed through.  Happy days!


I've a Sword XVI in the stash.  I hope to build that one soon, and then all my future XVI will either be the Sword or Eduard kits.  I forget who said it, but "Life is too short for crappy kits."

If you don't mind the raised detail, these Heller XVI Spitfires are not bad.  Just not modern.

Thanks for looking...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Airfix Wildcat

Grumman F4F-4, 9-F-20, VF-9, Operation TORCH November 1942

This is an enjoyable build that allowed me to try a couple of new techniques.  Feathering (aka free handed airbrushing) and tonal variation using simply gloss, satin and matte finishes.

The Subject

VF-9 was created in March 1942 and quickly given Wildcats before she deployed on RANGER (CV-4) to the European Theater. Some histories indicate she had F4F-3 (non-folding variant) but photos clearly show she had the -4 variant with the yellow surround. They provided fighter cover for the TORCH landings until USAAF and RAF aircraft could be landed.

The Model

This is the 2015 tooling of the Airfix F4F-4 Wildcat.  It was a very easy build and I enjoyed it immensely.

I goofed and decided to install the landing gear after putting the fuselage together and painting it.  Don't do that!  Follow the instructions step-by-step or things don't work out so well.

My objective was to paint the Non-specular Light Gray undersides, then spray the Non-specular Blue-Gray in a nice tight pattern without masking and without having to work around the already painted and installed landing gear.  So I left it out thinking it would fit in post-painting.  No, no and no.  The painting went just fine, but when I tried to install the landing gear it just didn't work...er, fit.  Since I have two more of this kit in my stash, I pulled one off the shelf and cannibalized the landing gear.

Now the really hard part (all due to my own goofiness).  I proceeded to build the landing gear assembly inside the wheel well, versus outside and then just gluing to the firewall.  That would have been so much easier, and of course I'm a step ahead on my next one!

Painting was quite simple.  I used Model Master Acryl for all paints, except the Aluminum, Black and Tires.  Those were Tamiya.

I left off the control surfaces, since I could, until the end.  By doing that I was able to leave them unglossed for the decals.  I glossed the model using Future and then applied the Hasegawa decals for VF-9.  I used these simply because I had them and didn't have any other Wildcat at TORCH decals.  That's when my next set of problems began...

When I applied Daco soft decal softener, they crinkled up as expected...then hardened like that!  No settling down for these decals.  So I tried another decal with Micro-sol and it worked better.  Not perfect, just better.  At least I was able to get the decal to lay down with some coaxing from a cotton bud.

After the first set of decals were down, I decided to carefully sand away the crinkled ones (the two cocardes on the wing upper side) and luckily I have a second Hasegawa kit with the same decal sheet.  So I reapplied and aligned them to cover the damage done by sanding away the first decal.  Whew!  Another modeling challenge solved.

I then coated the model with a satin coat to knock down the gloss and seal the decals.  The control surfaces were left flat/matte and gave a nice faded contrast, which was a natural look on this scheme due to differential fading of the paints on the fabric versus metal.

No weathering, Navy aircraft are well maintained at sea to ensure they don't corrode.


Lots of positive reviews of this kit, and some detractors as well.  The spine is slightly shallow, and if one compares it to the Hasegawa F4F-4 kit, which was the standard for decades, it's obvious.  However the Hasegawa spine is bit too high, accentuating the difference; both kits being equal in the "error" but in the opposite directions.  Oh well, this Airfix kit is much better detailed and I like the look.  Having said that, I won't be getting rid of my Hasegawa kits as they are nice builds also.

With two more I expect to build one as a USMC bird on Guadalcanal, and the other...well there are a few other schemes out there for the -4.

Thanks for looking...