Thursday, February 23, 2017

Where is my winning season?


0-2...I've now binned two models after putting in quite a few hours trying to make a model out of them.  That's not like me, I typically keep at it until it's tamed and at least looks like something I'd put on my shelf.  Never a competition winner, but then again I don't build for competition; only myself.

The first one was a TBD-1.  Limited run kit from AZModel, the detail isn't bad and I've built some of their other kits, so figured it wouldn't be too bad.  I even bought a PE set for it that was pre-painted as a way to give a larger PE set a try.  I'd read a couple of online reviews that panned the kit, but that was mainly due to accuracy, not build-ability.

After getting the cockpit in and getting the fuselage together, which required effort but nothing I'd not seen in other limited run kits, I tackled the wings.  No much of a problem except one wing was slightly off in size as compared to the other.  I compared it to both the fuselage and the old Airfix kit (noted for shape accuracy) and it turned out the larger wing was in error.  Huzza! It's easier to remove than to add.

When it came time to marry the wing to the fuselage...not even close.  The problem was thickness, not chord (which was the earlier error I'd fixed).  I mucked with it for a week, and finally decided the only fix is to cannibalize the wing from the Airfix kit and conduct some major surgery...the wing break down is not even similar between the two kits.

After a week of evenings I gave up.  Nothing was coming together and the "shapes" just kept getting worse.  Not to mention fit.

The second kit was a SOC-3.  The Hasegawa kit.  I've build one about 20 years ago but it was before my rigging skills were developed.  Still on the shelf albeit in the "damaged" area due to moves; I may need to repair it just to feel good.

The problems are of my own making as they just don't seem to be challenges I should not be able to overcome.  One is short-shot struts.  I've got plenty of strut material and have scratched struts before so I'm not concerned with it, but haven't gotten that far.  The other is installing a resin AM cockpit.  It's a beautiful set, made for the SOC-3 and can even backdate the kit to a SOC-1 (slightly different IP).  My issue: I can't get it to fit.

Carving, sanding, even used a motor tool (low speed battery powered) and as the dust accumulates the space to fit it does not.  It does not help that the fuselage is warped.

To be fair, I have not actually binned them.  They are boxed and put away for a future attempt when my attitude is better...and if a better kit hits the market in the meantime they WILL get binned.  Life is too short...

So I'm rethinking my modeling objectives for 2017...after only 6 weeks!  I should work on easier kits and only have that one difficult (aka long term) kit in the queue, while all the others are simple and satisfying.  Hence, I've just finished a rather quick build of the Eduard IX, a simple build of an Airfix Firefly V, and started 2 Hasegawa VIII kits coupled with a comparison build against the Eduard VIII.  All easy, quick, and very enjoyable.

Now I need to photograph them and get them posted!

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Resurrecting an old pile of plastic

Spitfire PR Mk IC (PR Mk III), P9385/76, Nr 8 Operational Training Unit, 1940-41

While looking for a "training" Spitfire I realized I had the remnants of my "bash a Va out of the Tamiya V/I kits" sitting in my junk box.

The Subject

I won't repeat the story of the Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires but in short, just as the war started the two PR IA (modified Mk I fighters) were used from French airfields to look at German forces during the "phony war" period.  Both were modified to PR IB (longer focal lengths) standard and then to PR IC (same cameras differently configured, more fuel) as now they had to operate from England.

During this timeframe the Photographic Development Unit (not yet designated the PRU) was experimenting with color to better "hide" the unarmed PR Spitfires.  Sky, camotint Blue (later aka PRU Blue) and camotint Pink were tested.  I've read that grey, white and purple were also tested, but no documentation such as letters or photos can confirm this that I'm aware of as I would certainly create those schemes as well.

The PR 1C was a modified F Mk I airframe; the guns were removed and the fighter (armored) windscreen was replaced by the curved PR windscreen.  The canopy was also replaced by the PR canopy with the teardrop "bubbles" on each side to aid in seeing the target.

In order to gain more range, two fuel tanks were added.  One under the port wing in a fairing and the other behind the pilot.  Because oil consumption demanded a larger oil tank the chin was enlarged under the engine to make room.

The cameras were in a fairing under the starboard wing to offset the fuel tank on the port side.

The radio was removed to save weight.

This particular subject is a PR 1C operated by Number 8 Operational Training Unit.  It was used to train potential PRU pilots in the steady use of the Spitfire, flying straight and normal in the face of attacks to ensure mission completion.

The Model

This kit started as the Tamiya Spitfire Vb.  I had attempted a modification to the wings to convert it to a Spitfire Ib.  I gave up when AZ Model released their Ib kit and threw the bits into my spares box as it was fairly crude looking.  When I decided to add another PR Spitfire to my shelf I pulled it back out.

The fuselage was essentially complete; the wings had major divots and waves where I'd attempted to sand, cut, fit and make the wing appear to be a "b" wing with fabric ailerons.  I sanded down the bumps and filled and sanded some more, filling and sanding some more (forget how many times I did this) and eventually had a smooth wing top and bottom and enough of the rib detail on the ailerons to call it "done."

I then pulled my Pavla PR 1C/G resin conversion set out and after a bit more cleanup attached the resin fuel tank, camera fairing and chin fairing.  Some primer and additional cleanup required and then I re-scribed panel lines on the PR wing.

The most difficult bit was the canopy and windscreen.  Until this point construction/conversion was really just "basic modeling skills".  I had to put some brainpower to the canopy and windscreen, because while the Pavla set is designed for the Tamiya kit, it did not fit.  The rear portion was too wide and the windscreen is shaped a bit odd.  Luckily the windscreen/canopy is separate from the rear fuselage cover.

My solution was to trim and sand the rear bit until it "fit" with a bit of imagination.  If I squeezed it, the hight met the fuselage spine and the width match the fuselage sides.  Glueing was done via a combination of super glue and Gator's Grip acrylic glue.  I glued one side with Gator's Grip, then after 24 hours of curing carefully squeezed the glazing until it all matched and then added superglue to affix it.  After an hour of curing I then added more Gator's Grip via a wet paintbrush (being water soluble until cured it can be wicked into some important areas).  Giving it a good 48 hours to cure, I then wet sanded it lightly until it was smooth, and then polished it until it was crystal clear.

Now for the obvious issue: fogging.  I coated the clear bits with Future/Klear and let that cure before I started and then "hoped" it would not fog.  It didn't!

Painting.  How to mimic that PRU Pink color, which is really just a dusty off white with a hint of pink to it?  I started by priming the model in Tamiya gray primer (on purpose, instead of white primer).  I then pre-shaded to provide some depth, using a red brown shade.  Then I began layering on the thinned Tamiya white paint (XF-2) that had two drops of red (XF-7) added to the 15ml tin.  After each layer, I put the model under different lighting (natural, sunlight, fluorescent) and repeating layering until I could just see the Pink.

With a blue background and fluorescent lighting, it's white.  The red completely washes out including the pre-shading, resulting in a very flat and white model.  But the depth of the color remains so it looks sort of "natural".  In sunlight it looks washed out but dirty and in natural lighting against a white background the red shows up and it's definitely a Pink Spitfire.

Decals are from the Model Alliance sheet on Merlin PR Spitfires.  Now out of print but can sometimes be found via shows or online auction sites.


I'm quite happy with how it turned out, especially the paint scheme.  I want to do one more pink PR Spitfire, the FR IXc which is what most people model.

Thanks for looking...

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Imperial Japanese Army Air Forces Trainer

Tachikawa Ki-55 Type 99 Advanced Trainer

While at MarauderCon 2016 decided to pick this kit up.  Only cost me a fiver and it was well worth it!

The Subject

The Ki-55 was a demilitarized variant of the Ki-36 light bomber.  Essentially the bomb racks and bombing windows were removed, and a second set of controls were put in the rear.  As I understand the history (and I don't know that much!) the IJAAF needed a trainer, and the Ki-36 was a good means of getting one with little development effort.

The Model

The kit had 30 parts and given it's from 1983 unexpectedly the panel lines were all finely recessed.  Construction was very straightforward and only took a weekend to get it primed and ready for paint.

I chatted with Nick Millman regarding the orange color, and his advice was to start with a color like RAF Trainer Yellow (Humbrol 24) and add RAF Middlestone (Humbrol 224) until it had a "khaki orange" tint to it.  It turned out I had those two colors and quickly had a shade that was not quite orange, but definitely no longer khaki.  With that in my mind I then mixed some Tamiya paints as I prefer working with those.

I also decided to take some license with the "cocoa brown" color recommended by Fujimi for the cowling and landing gear covers.  Instead of a brown shade I used a blue-black cowling color that all other Japanese aircraft of that period had.  My own opinion is the "cocoa" color came from the heating of the cowling from the engine.

For the interior I added masking tape lap straps for the seats, otherwise a simple interior olive green paint.  The small instrument panel I painted black.

Decals are simply 4 Hinomarus, the "trainer" character on the tail and the unit marking on the cowling.  Very easy albeit the Hinomarus were a bit pernicious and one cracked on me.  I was able to sort it on the wing and when it dried I couldn't see the damage.


Chatting wth Nick I learned quite a bit about Japanese orange colors.  Navy and Army were quite different, with the Army color more like a khaki.  I also learned quite a bit about trainers in general that I'd known existed, but never thought to investigate.

Thanks for looking...

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Upgunning the Spitfire

Spitfire Mk I, R6776/QVoH, 19 Squadron, F/S George Unwin, September 1940

The cannon armed Mk I has always intrigued me, so when I discovered the story, I had to model one.

The Subject

Soon after the Spitfire began production, the Air Ministry was keen on adding cannons to the Spitfire.  The reason was simple: all the other nations were showing off their new fighters with cannons!  Actually most only had mock ups of cannons, or larger caliber (12.7mm or .50 inch) machine guns.  Most still had basic rifle caliber guns as did the Spitfire and Hurricane.  Up until the Battle of Britain even Fighter Command was cool towards cannons, viewing the 8 x .303 inch guns sufficient to their needs.

The Air Ministry however continued to pursue the cannon.  The 5th production Spitfire, K9791, was removed from production and used for mock ups; based on this L1007 was then modified to allow for 2 x 20mm cannon; all 8 guns being removed.  This was as early as 1938; actual modfication and testing ensued into 1940, 30 aircraft being modified and fitted with the new armament.  The modification could be viewed as simply new wings (to some degree that's initially all it was) with a switch for the cannon on the control column.  The operational use required much more development to get the cannons to work properly and not jam.

The g forces during aerial combat flexed the wings of the Spitfire and while not an issue with the .303 guns, it turned out to be a major issue with the 20mm cannon.  For starters, the cannon had to be rotated to ensure they would fit with minimal bulges above and below the wings.  Then the problem of the drum remaining tight as it connected to the breech had to be solved, and finally what to do with the excess gasses and links/cartridges as it fired.

Ultimately these were solved into 1941 and to ensure reliability as a gun platform 4 of the .303 machine guns were re-installed for a 2 x 20mm plus 4 x .303in configuration.  This became the "b" wing configuration, the "a" wing being the 8 x .303 inch Brownings.  Due to the weight of the armament, the higher power of the Merlin 45 was preferred in the Mk V, so all Mk I and Mk II cannon armed fighters that remained in the inventory were upgraded to the Mk V standard, or reverted back to the "a" wing.

This particular subject is one of the first 30 conversions to the Mk I, which had only the 2 x 20mm cannon installed; the Brownings being removed due to weight.  No 19 Squadron, RAF was converted to the cannon armed Mk I in the Summer of 1940, at the height of the Battle of Britain.  Unfortunately, due to the regular jamming of the cannon they rarely got off more than a few rounds before having to retire from the fight due to an inability to fire their weapons!  While they continued to score kills, they were very frustrated and at the time had many of the most experienced and higher scoring aces.  They quickly reverted back to the Mk Ia but by the time they completed the transition to get back into the fight, the BoB was essentially over for the day fighter phase, the Germans having shifted their incursions to the night time.

Wing Commander George "Grumpy" Unwin, DSO, DFM & Bar, was a Flight Sergeant during the Battles of France and Britain, having shot down 14 enemy during his initial combat service.  The subject of this build was his aircraft during September, 1940.

The Model

This is the AZModel limited run "Spitfire Mk Ib" kit.  It is the same set of sprues as their Mk IIb, Vb and VI boxings, with the only difference being the instructions and decals.  All only offer the externally armored canopy and unfortunately only offer the later Mk III (aka Mk V) round oil cooler.  To properly model a Mk I or II from this kit an earlier Merlin III oil cooler (semi-circular) has to be sourced.

While technically a limited run kit, AZModel has done a great job of making their kits assemble like a main stream kit.  Flash was non existent and all the parts fit perfectly.  No slots or tabs are present for attaching parts, so care must be taken with alignment, but they do attach well.  I had zero issues with construction.

I sourced the earlier Mk I oil cooler from an Airfix Mk I that I had converted to a Va.  It fit perfectly into the location on the wing underside.

Painting was straight forward for this scheme:
  • Dark Earth -- Vallejo Model Color 70-921 English Uniform;
  • Dark Green -- Tamiya XF-81
  • Sky -- Hataka A026
  • Night -- Tamiya XF-69

The new paint I tried was Hataka's version of Sky. Not bad, it's a bit less intense than other paint makers' Sky and I like the color, however it doesn't brush well (likely I've not figured the right balance of thinner, retarder and flow improver). It airbrushed okay but I need to thin it a bit more which means I need to, you guessed it, find the right balance of thinner, retarder and flow improver.

I used the kit decals, but I have to say they turned out to be a bit translucent, and inconsistent.  The small sheet of stencils where dark and went on perfectly and the carrier disappears under a coat of setting solution.  However the markings, while the proper color, seemed "off" and upon closer inspection (ok, via my magnifiers) I could see the dots from the silk screen printing.  I applied them anyway and some looked ok and of course at arm's length (my standard) they looked just fine.  They also had a filmy residue that didn't seem to want to come off, but luckily when it dried it dried clear.  Ultimately the decals did not silver, so it looks ok but do not meet the quality of the rest of this build. Ah well, done and dusted.


I enjoyed this build and during construction decided to buy a few more in the Vb boxings.  Now they are hard to find but AZModel released a more modern set of sprues in their Admiral line and I hope to make one soon.  They say they will also release these with the later internally armored windscreen, and then I can begin easily modeling the later Mk Vb subjects.

Thanks for looking...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Museum Build: Heinkel Bomber from the night blitz 1941

Our club decided to do a "Big Bomber Build" of the 1/48th scale Monogram Bombers, and since a local museum wanted something for their displays I agreed to make this one.

The Subject

Six Luftwaffe aircraft predominate the Battle of Britain, which for the Luftwaffe also included the night blitz (as Britains call it) that lasted into the Spring of 1941.  These are:

  • Ju-87 Stuka Dive Bomber
  • Me-109E Fighter
  • Me-110E Heavy Fighter
  • Do-17Z Bomber
  • Ju-88A Bomber
  • He-111 Bomber
The He-111 could have been labelled as obsolescent, nearing the end of its practical development as a  medium-to-heavy bomber and ready to be replaced by the rather new Ju-88 series.  

But the He-111 soldiered on; survival improving with the shift to night operations albeit at much reduced effectiveness.  This particular subject is from KG-55 Greif (Griffon) in the early Spring of 1941, just before operations over England ceased for them and they transferred to the East to begin Barbarossa.

The Model

This kit reminds me why I don't like 1/48th scale.  For starters it's a big model; larger than anything on my shelves in 1/72nd!  Additionally, unless I were to paint over the cockpit glazing the cockpit is quite visible even at arm's length.  So that means the cockpit is a MUST for details or the aircraft just won't look right.

Luckily the kit comes with some pretty good details, and given the vast majority of people who will see it won't be able to discern accuracy versus details I elected to keep the details to what was in the kit.  I can easily see a modeler insisting on PE and/or resin improvements, plus lots of wires as the real one would have.  I spent quite a bit of time painting the interior, I used a lighter off-the-shelf gray than RLM66 in order to make the interior a bit more visible.

I decided from the beginning to make this one in flight.  A member of our club mainly builds in 1/48th and is very excited over using Prop-Blur PE props to give it that in-flight look.  Those were the first things for me to construct as I wanted to see how well they looked and I do think they look pretty sweet.  I've since purchased a few in 1/72nd scale for some future subjects.

While the cockpit bits were drying I acquired some crew figures from a fellow modeler.  Two of the three visible crew members needed surgery to make them fit, and this was surprisingly easy.  I kept telling myself that this kit will be on a display shelf at an adult's arm's length so tried not to spend too much time on the figures.  I quite liked how well they came out with acrylic base painting and oils to highlight / shadow.

I spent quite a bit of time on the wings, ensuring the seams were not visible on the landing gear doors and the shapes were blended properly.  In fact, it appears the engines are a different scale than the wings, as they don't quite fit properly with some gaps.  Plastic card and filler fixed it.

Most of the painting was done separately, the fuselage and wings coming together as part of a final assembly.  I then touched up the joints between the wing-fuselage with some careful masking and painting.  Speaking of the wing-fuselage joint...don't look underneath!  The wings were warped enough that no amount of squeezing or filling would correct it so I aligned the wing tops and the dihedral, then just applied superglue.  Once it had set I then applied liquid cement to help with blending in the visible areas, and underneath where the gaps were I filled with clear resin.  I quickly realized the bombs would actually hide the wavy structure and given it was black I simply painted and called it "done".

I used the kit decals, which did not include a swastika.  Since I was able to find a photo or two that did not show them (either units painted them out or a censor edited the photo) I decided that would work.  The decals had a milky film on them that actually dried clear after a couple of days, but I was a bit concerned at first.

Paints used were all Tamiya.


This took me over 9 months from start to finish, and distracted me to no end from my preferred subjects because of the deadline.  Ah well, I can now display it in the museum and try to get through a year without another distraction.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Another High Flyer

Spitfire HF VII, MD114/DUoG, No 312 (Czechoslovak) Squadron, RAF, Skeabrae, 1943.

I hadn't yet built a Hasegawa Spitfire, and since I didn't yet have a Mk VII on my shelf decided I'd do this one.

The Subject

I've come to understand that frontline squadrons would rotate on occasion to airfields in the North and East, but would trade their aircraft for similar ones at the new bases.  The point was to give them some rest while continuing to operate but at a much reduced threat level.  One example is No. 312 Squadron, which took a break in June 1943 from operations on the Channel flying from Church Stanton, Somerset with 10 Group to 13 Group flying from Skeabrae, Orkney.  They traded their mounts from the Spitfire Vc to the Spitfire HF VII.  When their break was done in December 1943 they transitioned to the LF IX.  They remained on the Mk IX until the end of the war, transferring to Czechoslovakia in September, 1945.

The HF Mk VII was a pressurized design, similar to its sister the unpressurized F Mk VIII.  It had all the refinements of the F Mk V including the improvements developed in the F Mk III.  These included a 60 series Merlin, retractable tail wheel, internally armored windscreen, blown canopy and improved landing gear.  Additionally, the VII/VIII development included greater internal fuel and included the Mk XII rudder (broad chord) on most deliveries.

Development of the HF Mk VII and F Mk VIII was delayed

The Model

Accuracy issues aside, this is a very easy kit to build. Within the first few hours I had a wing together and the fuselage assembled with cockpit installed. Filler was required at the wingtip extensions as well as the wing-to-fuselage joints forward and aft; the fillets fitting near perfectly with a very light run of a sanding stick. I don't like how the aft wing underside joins the fuselage, being an insert with nothing to support it. In my case, even with a large piece of plastic to "hold" it flush it was still a bit off and required filling.

Painting was very easy, the scheme I chose for my first foray into the VII is a simple one of Medium Sea Grey (Tamiya XF83) on the topsides over a PRU Blue (Tamiya mix of 3 parts XF-18 + 1 part XF-2) on the undersides. The High Altitude Scheme. Decals are from the AZModel kit as I did not like my choices in the kit boxing.

Ok, to accuracy. The Hasegawa late Merlin Spitfires are all the same sprues and so Hasegawa made some compromises in order to have 1 set of sprues cover the HF VII, F/HF VIII, and early F/LF IX. They have you fill aileron panel lines to make either the short VII/VIII version, or the IX version. The wing doesn't have the panel lines for the fuel tanks on the VII/VIII but then again these were puttied and smoothed then painted, so should not be visible anyway. Shape-wise, the wing is spot-on in span but a little long in chord by about 1.5-1.8 mm.

The fuselage is a bit more off. The nose is short by 1.7mm over a distance of only 26mm, making in noticeably short. The rest of the fuselage, from the firewall to the rudder post, is short by 2.5mm.


Overall a very easy kit to build.  Similar to building a Tamiya Spitfire in terms of ease...but also in terms of being slightly off.  Of course, every kit is off just a bit as none are yet perfect.  Being such an easy build I'd certainly recommend it if one does not insist on perfect accuracy.

Thanks for looking...

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...