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, 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...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Flying Razorbacks

F-100D Super Sabre, 188th Wing, Arkansas Air National Guard about 1972

Okay, let's start with "I'm not a jet guy." This kit was started back in the early '90s, with construction and painting completed quite quickly. Then a move, followed by sea duty (minimal modeling) followed by another move. If not for a theme build of "Century Series" jets, it might still be on my shelf of doom.

The Subject

When I purchased this kit I was in a bit of a jet phase. I'd completed a F-105, Kfir, and Mirage 2000; plus was attempting a F-86 and F-84F natural metal finish. I wanted to do the F-100 in the Viet Nam era camouflage and was enjoying Esci kits as easy build and high on details (for the time).

This particular subject happens to be from the Arkansas Air National Guard; I grew up in Arkansas so this is a natural set of markings for me, however I don't remember if that was my initial draw to the kit. Anyway, not being a jet guy, I know little about the Arkansas ANG and less about the F-100.

The Model

This is the Esci kit, built straight out of the box with the kit decals. My skills were maturing (as they still are!) and while I airbrushed this kit I can see seams and the transition from one color to the next is not tight at all. At the time aftermarket was mostly just decals, and I never had any aftermarket F-100 decals.

I do remember the kit being a very easy build. It likely went together over a weekend, possibly two. Interestingly, while I used the kit decals, they went on 20 years AFTER the kit was completed. They settled down just fine on the coat of Future and the only setting solution I used was Daco soft. I followed that with a light brush on of Future over the decals as they acted like they didn't want to stick, once dry.


After my move to my current home, about 15 years ago, I unpacked this kit and found it had survived a second move quite well. Two landing gear doors were all that were missing. It did need some clean up of the finish, as the packing material sort of "stuck" to the paint. I've since determined that enamels and foam peanuts don't mix well, even if the enamel is fully cured. However...put a coat of Future (clear acrylic) on it and it seems to fare pretty well.

Anyway, digging around in my spares bin, I actually found the two missing bits. Glued them on and after decaling I had a finished model. It's over on my "jet shelf" with a few other relatively modern (post 1955) subjects; okay it's a sparse shelf.

Thanks for looking...

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Swordfish and Bismarck

Fairly Swordfish Mk I, V4298/4C, 820 NAS, HMS Ark Royal, 26 May 1941

I have an affinity for biplanes, and for Naval subjects of import. The Swordfish is something I've worked on for decades, first building the Matchbox offering and also the earlier Airfix. This is my third attempt and actually won't be going on my shelf...this will be donated to the local Museum for their Battle of the Atlantic display.

The Subject

The history of the Bismarck, Hood, Prince of Wales, and Ark Royal's Swordfish is rather famous and I won't repeat it here. For more info Wikipedia is a good start. (Yes, I know, Wikipedia is only so right...but it's a start.)

This was finished in late May 2016, at about the 75th anniversary of the subject modeled. At the club meeting in June the theme was "Anniversary" so I submitted it for review.

On 26 May, it was obvious that Bismarck might just escape, so in poor weather and at extreme range Ark Royal launched her Swordfish squadron in an attempt to slow Bismarck down. V4298/4C was piloted by Sub-Lieutenant F A Swanton, Lead Armourer J R Seager at the gunner's position and Observer Gerard Woods. 4C was damaged in the attack from flak, but the Swordfish attack famously caused damage to Bismarck's rudder, rendering her helpless and steaming in circles.  Swanton and Seager were both wounded in the action.

The actual pilot/aircraft that launched the fateful torpedo was LCDR John Moffat flying 5C/L9726.

The Model

This is the recent (2011) release, kit number A04053. The kit is superbly engineered and during construction (begun in 2012!) it was quickly obvious that I needed to follow the instructions closely. Unfortunately I deviated but learned a new skill...

A key detail I wanted to add was the rigging. Not just the wires between the wings, but also the control cables to the control surfaces as well as any aerials that should be present. To my rescue was Uschi with their three elastic thread sizes, but first I had to learn a lesson. My former method is to drill holes and thread invisible thread (really just a fine clear thread) the lines so that I can pull it snug, glue, then trim. This always required that I clean up the resulting exit points on either the top or bottom of the wing structure, followed by a (if lucky) minor touch up with paint.

Not so with this kit. While I was able to find a route for the thread that included minimizing my cleanup the resulting thread thickness was just large enough to throw off the fit of the wings. How so? You ask...well, because the wings can be constructed in either the folded or spread positions, they are in 3 major sections for both top and bottom wing. Left, right and center. Once I realized (post drilling and all the other prep) that the wings would no longer fit, I decided to remove all the old thread and try the Uschi .005 inch elastic line.

First I cleaned up all the damage done to the wings trying the old method, then I redrilled some of the holes to give me a place to glue the Uschi thread. It came out ok, but when I came by to inspect it the next day, apparently one of my wing joints was off by about the thickness of the older thread...not good but barely noticeable. I will attempt a fix at some point, but not until I've studied it at length. The "fix" involves cutting the wing joint and then regluing it, the amount to remove bent about the width of a razor saw blade. If I fail, I start over with a new kit...

Otherwise the kit was a breeze, as with Airfix kits of late, careful trimming is required and just the thickness of the paint can throw off the fit, so take care.

Paints were a various lot; for the underside Sky I used Humbrol Hu90, for the upper surface Extra Dark Sea Grey I used my own formula of Tamiya acrylics (I need to write a post on it), and the Dark Slate Grey was Vallejo Model Color 892. For the shadow shading on the upper side of the lower wing I used Tamiya XF-54 for the Dark Sea Grey and XF-25 for the Slate Grey. For all the paints I brush painted with a hairy stick using a variety of thinners and retarders. It was a bit of a learning process and I've hit on a great solution using Future/Kleer and Vallejo as my preferred hairy stick paint. That will be the subject of another post as well.

Decals are from Xtradecal sheet 72-147. They applied easily over a coat of Future/Kleer and laid down nicely under a coat of Daco decal softener.


I will of course make another; I believe I have 3 more kits in my stash, all of this particular kit.  My desire is to make a Taranto strike aircraft as well as put this one on my shelf.  The third will likely be a pre-war variant, or the later ASW (all white).  Who knows, I like this one so much I may get a couple more!

Thanks for looking...

Monday, June 27, 2016

Spitfire Mk III - fin!

Spitfire III Prototype, N3297, Spring/Summer 1940

Finished! This is the prototype Spitfire III, of which only this and another were ever made; the type being superseded by the Spitfire V.

The Subject

The Spitfire III was meant to be the ultimate Merlin engined Spitfire; a truly air superiority aircraft that would outperform anything expected from Germany for the foreseeable future. Well, at least until the next Spitfire was ready, the Spitfire IV which was to be powered by a Griffon engine. It was to be faster, higher flying, more maneuverable at all altitudes and support up-gunning to as many as 6 20mm cannons!

Refinements expected with the more powerful engine were drag reducing elements such as flush rivets throughout, retractible tail wheel, and a refined windscreen. A shorter span was recommended with changes to the ailerons to permit better roll control at lower altitudes as well as better speeds.

N3297 was taken from the production line and given Merlin XX to provide additional power. The Merlin XX was 4 inches longer than the Merlin III so a modified nose was required. Additionally, the added power meant a new radiator was required, and ultimately 3 different configurations were tested. A retractable tail wheel was devised and different configurations of windscreen were tried.

At least 3 different wing configurations were tested, all based on the standard Spitfire wing. The first was a short span wing; the tips were removed at rib 19 and a rounded cap installed. This required the ailerons to also be shorted. This configuration used the original 8x.303 inch gun wing.

The second wing used the same wing but reinstalled the standard length wingtips. This was in response to Fighter Command's complaint that wing loading was already too high, so reducing the wing area made takeoffs and landings too dangerous. The third, and final wing configuration was the universal or "c" wing of 4x 20mm cannons or 2x cannons and 4x .303in guns. First tried on the Spitfire III this later became standard on the Mk Vc and early Mk IX, XII and XIVc.

A number of windscreen configurations were tried, but ultimately the standard used on the later Vb and subsequent marks chosen. Again first tested on the Mk III.

The new engine required better cooling; first the oil cooler. This became standard on the Mk V and XII even being retrofitted to some older Mk I and II still in service. A number of coolant radiators were tried, the first being a larger cooler that looked similar to the Speed Spitfire radiator. The second had a boundary control layer. Other configurations tested were more similar to the Mk XII and/or IX configurations.

Ultimately, the Spitfire III became, effectively, the prototype for all later marks. While N3297 did not get the newer Merlin 60 series, its sister W3237 did including the dual radiators that were eventually standard on the Mk VII/VIII/IX series. W3237 would look more like a Mk VIII than a Mk III during its entire career. N3297 was used until nearly the end of the war for testing purposes, ultimately being scrapped, as was W3237.

The Model

Obviously I chose to model N3297 as she appeared early in her career. If I'd chosen any other configuration she would have looked mainly like an early Mk VIII but with a shorter nose and 3 blade prop. That's an idea for another subject...

As shown in an earlier post, I chopped the nose and added a plug and then clipped the wings inboard at rib 19. The oil cooler is from the Airfix Va kit, which is the basis for this conversion. The coolant radiator is scratch built. The canopy is from a Mk IX kit.

Since the Mk III was started in 1939 and first delivered before June 1940 to Fighter Command for some comparative testing...AND...the only photos I have (which are copies of all that remain) indicate very low contrast I chose the standard Dark Earth, Dark Green with Night/White undersides. When N3297 was reconfigured later in the year with a standard wing, I'm sure it was Sky underneath; Yellow with a yellow P in circle where not introduced until 1941 so I didn't plan for these markings.

I originally started to brush paint but switched to my airbrush since I had already done too many experimental things. Other than national markings and serial number, no other markings were applied. Decals came from the donor kit plus 8 inch Night letters/numbers from an Xtradecal sheet.


Well, it certainly looks different on my shelf. I must admit I don't like the lines of the Mk III and wonder if that had more influence on the reports from Fighter Command than wing loading? If it had better lines would that fault have been overlooked? Clipped wings later became standard (albeit not so short). The larger radiator looks awkward, and impairs the clean lines of the Spitfire even more. But all-in-all I like having this on my shelf. It's an interesting conversation piece, and given the importance of the Mk III in later development, is an important step in the Spitfire's story.

Thanks for looking...

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

French Spitfire

Spitfire XVI, TB702/GW-Y, 340 (French) Squadron, G/C 4/2, Ile de France 145 Wing, Drope, Germany, 1945

I chose this subject for three simple reasons: no fuselage stripe, no yellow leading edges, and it's French. An easy build made even easier, and with a bit of unique color.

The Subject

From photos it appear that as soon as VE Day the air forces in exile painted out the RAF roundels and replaced them with their own national markings. Some using the British style, some not, and in the case of 340 (Free French) Squadron, being Groupe de Chasse 4/2, simply reversed the RAF colors to make the roundels appear in the French style.

This aircraft was part of 2nd Tactical Air Force, supporting Field Marshall Montgomery as he swept through the Low Countries into Germany. From VE Day their role became one of occupation until the forces were fully stood down and disbanded post-war. In the case of 340 it maintained an occupational role until November 1945 when it transferred to the Armee de l'Air.

The Model

This is my fourth Heller Spitfire XVI as part of my batch build this year. This one actually had better detail and the plastic was crisper, so must be one of the earlier releases.

There is nothing additional to add, other than the colors. For the spinner I used Mr Color H77 Tire Black, which is just enough of an off black to look better in this scale. The Dark Green is Tamiya XF-81, Ocean Grey is Hymbrol Hu106, and the Medium Sea Grey is Tamiya XF-83.

Decals are from the Xtradecal sheet 72-192, and went on well with just Daco soft setting solution. 


The best of my batch build, so far. I've got one more to finish...

Thanks for looking...