Monday, May 29, 2017

A build from my youth

Fi 156C3, 5F+YK, Luftwaffe, North Africa, ca 1941

This is the first Heller kit I was able to buy, I think from about 1980, but maybe earlier. It has the hallmarks of my building preferences from 1975-1980: hand painted with enamels, OOB decals, and a bit overzealous with the glue.

The Subject

I know little about the subject, albeit I did a quick search on the internet. Idleweiss unit in North Africa, circa 1941. I chose this subject because it wasn't green/green like all the other Luftwaffe models I could get my hands on at the time. THAT, I remember.

Some photos seem to suggest this was used by Rommel. Possible. He certainly moved around in a Storch if he wanted to see the battle field from the air. Not quite so sure he was in THIS particular Storch.

The Model

What I remember of this build is that I took a weekend to finish it. Purchased on a Saturday (I'm certain, as the rest of the week I would have been either in school or at work). Construction was pretty much done by the afternoon. First bits of white, light blue and green paint on by midnight. Sunday morning I put on the tan squiggles. By Sunday evening I was putting decals on it. Apparently I sprayed it with a coat of flat lacquer (Testor's Dull Coat??) because the finish is dead flat and the glazing is a bit frosty.

The decals have yellowed over time. Noticeable on the white backgrounds. At one point it had thread of some sort because I rigged the antenna per the instructions (had never done that before!). I remember it being a royal bear to get the thread to stick...likely I was using the only glues I had on hand, like Testor's tube cement. That did not survive 11 moves around the world while I was in the Navy.


I remember being quite proud of this one back in my teens. First "real" model, the detail was awesome and it went together so well I just had to find more Heller kits. I went right out and got a Tempest the next weekend. The Tempest did not survive the moves at all. I still have the canopy and wheels in my spares box.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Model Photography

Ha ha!  I just realized after typing in the title that this post will likely crop up on a lot of searches having nothing to do with 1/72nd scale aircraft or plastic mind.

I've been struggling with photographing my models for the last few months.  Set up the booth and lights, take pictures, then tear down the booth and lights and pack it away.  It wasn't helping with my ability to post here as I would delay taking those photos until I could do a batch.

And then suddenly the quality of the photos was crap.  I mean the lighting was bad, exposure bad, focus poor, depth of field all out of wack.  You name it, it was not coming out well.  I also decided to start putting my builds on line as Works-in-Progress (WIP) and that needed a faster method of photography...too many folks online seemed to be able to quickly take photos (daily) and post them easily on the forums.

So I asked questions.  My biggest hurdle seemed to be hosting the photos.  I could host them here but I'm not sure how long Google will allow that.  I guess, technically, none of us really know how long any of our photos will be hosted given the fine print in the agreements we quickly click through to get on with our lives essentially say the hosting site gets to decide everything unilaterally in the future.  Whenever that future comes.

So I shifted into using my iPhone6 for WIPs and my trusty Canon DSLR (Rebel T3) for the final photos for this blog.  And I started asking for help.  Lots of help.

What have I learned?

Firstly, my background is not quite right.  Mid-blue.  Why mid-blue?  That's the color that came with the portable booth.  Then I realized my white balance was all off.  So I tried using auto white balance but that seemed to make it worse, not better.  Just to my eye, wife couldn't see a difference.

I'm looking into a homemade frame made of ??? (PVC pipe from DIY store?) that I can attache a roll of white-ish barrier paper to.  The advantage of the DIY frame is that I can size it for my larger models...the Lancasters, Sunderlands, Liberators and Flying Fortresses.  I won't then be so afraid to build them given I can't photograph them.  Additionally, I can change the background out, if I want.

But until then, I'm watching Paul Budzik's outstanding videos on Photographing Models.  I've already created a gray card for standardizing my white balance for each session / model.

I've set my ISO to 200 to better balance speed and exposure.

I got a remote shutter release to eliminate camera shake.  Okay, turns out the shake is still there from the mirror moving, but I haven't yet figured out how to lock my mirror open.

My f-stop is set to 29 to create a larger depth of field.

I've moved my camera away from the model, and the macro-zoom allows me to frame the subject, capturing enough to allow me to crop it for display on this blog.

I'm still learning, but the photos have already improved.  I still can't move quickly, but it's better.

As for my iPhone6...I'm finding that a strong light on my work surface (already there for modeling) is "good enough" for WIP photos if I position the phone just so.

I'd love to have a dedicated corner of my work room just for photography, but that won't happen.  I'd rather have it for display at this stage.  There is a spot "over there in the other basement room" that would work...but my wife owns that room.

Thanks for looking...

Sunday, May 21, 2017

NMF Spitfire

Spitfire F Mk VIII, 307th FS, 31st FG, Italy 1944

This may have been easy, but it still took me 3 months from start to finish!

The Subject

The 31st Fighter Group used Spitfires for hacks during the last year of the war. As I understand it, they were flying P-51 Mustangs and retained a few reverse lend-lease Spitfires for the squadron CO's (or Operations Officer I would presume) to run about the theater when a critical meeting of leaders was needed face-to-face.

"MX" was stripped of paint and unit markings were applied. In my view, it should have been given an aircraft-in-squadron letter or number, but apparently it did not. Maybe the only known photos are pre-application of that letter/number so we are making an assumption that it never had them. Anyway, that is what this subject represents.

I also wonder if the aircraft would have retained it's 20mm cannon. I left them on for this build because it was simpler. If they access to spares to keep the bird flying they probably had access to the appropriate ordnance.

The Model

This is the Hasegawa late Merlin Spitfire kit, in a "U.S. Army Air Force" boxing of the Mk VIII variant. Kit number 00723 from 2004. The sprues are engineered to offer a HF Mk VII, F Mk VIII, or an middle or late F/LF Mk IXc. This particular boxing did not have the VII bits in it, but had everything to build either the VIII or IX. These kits are quite expensive nowadays, unfortunately, as they suffer some inaccuracy and the Eduard Spitfires beat these kits hands down for both detail and accuracy.

I decided to start WIP stories for each of my kits, which I'll document on the 72nd Scale Aircraft forum instead of here. I will discuss what I've done uniquely about this kit.

I decided to attempt the natural metal finish on this model because I hadn't done one in years and even then it was simply paint the entire model a silver color. Lately I've been building models that required an aluminum paint over either metal or fabric, and some are in the queue that have both fabric and metal painted aluminum...and there is a difference in the tone. So instead of simply painting it all one shade of Aluminum I decided to get some of the recent acrylic metallic paints and give them a try.

In this case, I started with Model Master Aluminum enamel as the base coat. I then masked off areas that I wanted lighter and sprayed them Vallejo White Aluminum. Then I did the same for Vallejo Dark Aluminum. I had no idea "what" would be each shade but I decided to experiment a bit and try to be symmetrical. I knew the cowling got hot so wanted to make it darker, but otherwise kinda let my imagination go. After the White Aluminum I was quite pleased with how it was progressing and frankly if I'd stopped there could have been quite happy. So for the Dark Aluminum I hand painted a few removable panels as well as the cowling. Yuck! Way to contrasty and the look was terrible. After lots of contemplation I did a combination of misting lightly the MM Aluminum enamel over the cowling and then misting it over the entire model to "tone down" the effects. Voila!


I'm quite pleased with this model. Yes, it's not accurate but frankly the Hasegawa late Merlin Spitfires are extremely easy to build. As a kit they are great, if expensive. I got lucky and acquired mine online as part of a "lot" and got a few of them for about $3 USD apiece. That was nearly 10 years ago and now they fetch well over $30. Not worth it IMO given the much cheaper Airfix IX and the extremely high value for money for the Eduard kits. Since I have them, I'll build them.
Thanks for looking...

Monday, March 20, 2017

Low and slow

Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bomber, B1-310, Lt. Joichi Tomonaga, at Midway; 4 June 1942

This is the second half of a "dogfight double" by Airfix that I completed for a theme build focused on "Low and Slow" subjects. I tried the salt weathering method on this one, otherwise it was an OOB build.

The Subject

During the Battle of Midway, on 4 June 1942, a section of Kates attacked the USS YORKTOWN (CV-5). LCDR Jimmy Thach, the CO of VF-3 which was assigned to YORKTOWN, was part of the CAP and attacked the Gates. Tomonaga's Kate was one of those shot down by Thach that day.

B1-310 was one of a group of Kates assigned to Hiryu and participated in the attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941. These Kates were originally (factory) painted in Ameiro, or a caramel gray color overall just like the A6M Zeros and D3A Vals of the typical IJN pre-war carrier air wings. En route to Pearl Harbor the Kates were given a coat of dark green on their upper surfaces to help conceal them from above over the waters of Pearl Harbor. By the time of Midway, survivors were showing wear to the green paint, even though the underlying Ameiro was still holding up well. Factory new B5N2 aircraft by this time were painted green on their upper surfaces, and the paint was well adhered to the airframe, so these examples would appear much more homogenous in their paint schemes.

The Model

I've always wanted this aircraft on my shelf, and while I have an old Hasegawa B5N2 Kate it was made 25+ years ago and reflects not only my knowledge of IJN aircraft schemes but also the available knowledge in the modeling community. In other words, that old kit is in the absolutely wrong colors! I was able to find some photos from Nick Millman who graciously shared them and while it appears that B1-310 does not have any surviving photos, photos of similar B5N2's at the time have survived and indicate a rather natty appearance. This both gives me freedom to weather it as I see fit but also mandates that the ameiro color show through in that natty appearance or it just would not be right.

Construction was straightforward; with the new Airfix kits accuracy is quite good and the engineering is amazing. Unfortunately it really does mean the modeler must follow the instructions as fit is so tight that any mistakes will result in a very poor looking model. After painstakingly painting the cockpit interior all the right colors, I closed up the fuselage and not a thing was visible! The olive green used in the interior (Tamiya XF-71 Cockpit Green) is not dark, but with the small openings it all comes out as just a single dark shade. I did add seat belts from masking tape, painted a bronze green color to give it a solid contrast.

The basic ameiro color is described as "grey poupon" or a "brownish RLM02". Huh? I found a recipe using Humbrol paints that was well like by Nick, specifically 8 parts Hemp (Hu168), 1 part Khaki (Hu159) and 1 part Midstone (Hu225). Since I had Gunze Hemp, and Tamiya Khaki plus my own recipe for Midstone, I tried this mix and it came out to a yellow-brown RLM02, but I didn't want to quibble at this point. My color mixing skills are not yet where I'd like them and while I know I can add some color and get brown, I have enough pots of brown mixed from various shades of other colors. I don't need to risk making another...

After painting the model overall ameiro, I then glued the canopy on, applying Eduard masks (which are nirvana when it comes to painting a canopy like this one!) and then gooped some salt, dampened with some water, onto the top of the model. After it had dried thoroughly (it turned white to confirm it) I sprayed XF-11 IJN Green on the topside. I purposely did not spray it evenly. I also lightly misted the tops of the ailerons, flaps and elevators, and the rudder to ensure they were a different tone, being fabric. After the initial clean up of all the salt I realized one side looked like it had been mistreated so I reapplied the ameiro and salt and tried again. Much better.

The other colors I used were a mix of black and Gunze H77 tire black to get a "blacker blue-black" for the cowling, as Nakajima used a "blacker blue-black" than did Mitsubishi. For the metal interiors such as the cowling and gear bay I first sprayed aluminum and then lightly misted metallic blue. This color should be more green but I'm not prepared to mix up that color.

Decals went on fairly easily with Daco soft and sometimes Daco medium. I had to be patient because initially they didn't behave, but eventually with multiple applications they finally tamed. Then I coated it overall with a misting of micro scale satin to seal everything in.


This was a very easy build, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've got two more as well as the B5N1 with the earlier cowling. I'm looking forward to completing at least one with folded wings.

Thanks for looking...

Friday, March 17, 2017


This is not meant to be a show-n-tell of my hobby room, but a near term dilemma: how to display my models when completed? While I have many shelves, about half of them are filled with my stash. Yes, I could temporarily move them to a hidden closet somewhere, but I'm likely to forget about them. That HAS happened in the past!

So I was over at a friend's house lately and he was describing his philosophy on display: 1/72 goes on a stick, 1/48 on its wheels. But he does not mix scales on the same shelf or even the same cabinet. So as he approaches the same challenge of "where to display and how" his solution is to shift to a "1/72 on its wheels and 1/48 on sticks" approach. His idea is that he can fill in above the 1/48 scale subjects, and fill in below the 1/72 scale. What a brilliant idea!

I've purchased some acrylic rod in 1/8 and 1/4 inch diameters -- this stuff comes in 6 foot lengths! I also have some display stands I've picked up over the years just to have on hand for some projects I had not thought of yet. I now need to start planning for some "in flight" displays. As my Airfix Firefly V shows, one option is to ignore the cockpit and just paint the interior, the other is on my Airfix Spitfire VI, where I found a pilot and gave him a proper uniform.

The likely path forward is a mix of both, obviously, and I think I'll focus on cockpits only in the more modern kits that actually have a cockpit...presuming I have a suitable set of aviators to sit in the seats. Since my collection of kits is made up of about 50/50 old/new kits, that's not going to be that hard. I also have a bag of aircrew in various sizes laying around somewhere...

Thanks for looking...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sometimes, you just have to take it easy.

Fairey Firefly FR.5, WB351/202/K, HMAS Sydney, RAN, Korea, 1951-52

This was a "free to me" kit found on the spare parts table at a recent club meeting.

The Subject

The Royal Australian Navy had a few Firefly FR.5 aircraft just prior to the Korean war but these were in a modification program to upgrade them to FR.6 standard. So the Royal Navy loaned a few to outfit the RAN carrier HMAS Sydney. WB351/202/K represents just one of these Fireflys.

RAN aircraft support strikes against North Korean supply lines; I suspect this subject is supposed to represent 1 of the 3 Firefly's that supported the longest helicopter flight at the time. This was the flight of a USN UP-28 Dragonfly on a rescue mission over North Korea; the Firefly's providing escort to "Uncle Peter" which was rescuing a downed crew from a RAN Firefly and returning at their extreme fuel range.

The Model

This is an old kit. Very old...not as old as myself, but it was released in 1966 by Airfix as part of their "red stripe" series. That's about the same time I started modeling. Lots of rivets had to be removed and because the cockpit was sparse and missing some bits (hey, it WAS on the free/parts bin table) I decided to not only close it up but not put anything inside and just put it on the stick with a clouded interior.

I took 3 weekends of 2 hours each weekend to pull this one together. I did ensure alignment, cleaned up the seams and generally focused on fit/finish. I tried 2 new things for this kit: Hataka acrylics and "spinning prop" by simply filling the spinner. For that latter bit I wanted to see how it looked. I kinda like the look...

I had purchased a Hataka set of FAA paints consisting of Interior Grey-Green, Sky Type S, Extra Dark Sea Grey, Dark Slate Grey, Sky Grey and Insignia White. The verdict is still out from on these paints. I frankly like the colors and want them to work. I found these to be too thin to brush paint and too thick to airbrush. The package said they could do both well (first red flag) and the bottles indicate they are airbrush-ready. I had to crank the pressure up to 30 psi and add a drop of thinner to the cup to get it to spray through my Iwata airbrush. I plan to add some self-leveling thinner and experiment a bit before I give up. They covered well and were easily masked.

The kit decals were yellowed and out of register. So I found some roundels in my stash and masked off the stripes. Instead of printing a new set of WB351/202/K black on decal film I decided to try experiment #3...add a thin film of Microscale Decal Film to salvage the original decals. It worked quite well, however even with Microscale's decal set/sol they didn't settle down, so I hit them with a drop of Daco soft and they settled right down. As seen in the photos, they still cracked in a couple of places, but they don't look bad. The yellowing nearly disappeared against the Sky paint, however the camera seems to catch the yellow better than my eye did.


I had fun with this one. I have another kit in the stash, but overall it looks small compared to say a Spitfire. I would have expected a late war 2 seater to be noticeably bigger. The cowling looks like it could barely fit a Merlin, much less the Griffon they used.

Thanks for looking...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

That was easy!

Spitfire LF Mk IXc, MH712/WX*D, No. 302 Squadron, 1944

Too much has been written about this kit already. I figure it's my turn to gush.

The Subject

No. 302 Squadron was one of the first Spitfire squadrons to land at Normandy shortly after the invasion.  MH712 is credited as the mount of Warrant Officer Henryk Dygala, a Polish pilot flying with the RAF.

The timeframe is likely late Summer or early Autumn, as the upper surface recognition stripes of Night/White stripes have been removed per an order issued in late July.  This aircraft also has the later pointed rudder that was likely a recent upgrade as the aircraft was used for bombing as part of 2nd TAF.  Wing bomb racks are installed to carry a 250 lb bomb under each wing.

The Model

This is the Profi-Pack which contains the sprues for a late Mk IXc (but with all the bits for an early F Mk IXc), masks, and PE. Decals for 6 subjects. Enough spares to tart up at least two more Spitfire kits...

The most difficult aspect of these kits is one must follow the instructions to ensure one uses the correct wheel wells, landing gear and fuselage details for the specific variant being built. Order is somewhat certainly can construct the wings before the cockpit bit don't attempt to insert the cockpit bits after closing up the fuselage. And you have to decide early whether the canopy will be open or closed; cockpit door open or closed.

The PE was not really fiddly. This isn't my first attempt at PE but in the past it was all very simple stuff, usually just one or two bits and paint it all after construction. This one is pre-painted and there are quite a bit of items to work with. It was time consuming but looked beautiful once done. Is it worth it? Not for me, as once done the model goes on a shelf and other than me knowing the details are there it's all not too visible. When I showed the model to my wife she didn't "see" any of it until I pointed it out!

Construction was quite straightforward. The plastic is crisp and hard, takes Tamiya extra thin cement well and it was no time at all I was ready for seam cleanup. Very little seam cleanup really. Mostly from my own mistakes. With more care on future builds of Eduard Spitfires they'll be cleaner.

Painting was typical for me and involved Tamiya paints, all airbrushed. First the White, then masked and followed by the Sky band, then the Ocean Grey, mask with maskol and then Dark Green. Pulled it all off, masked again and then the Medium Sea Grey. Pulled that mask off and then masked the Night stripes. Finally the Yellow leading edges. Cleanup where needed and after a long weekend the painting was finished.

Decals took,longer but were equally a breeze. They settled down with Daco Soft on a clear coating of Future. Wrapped it all up with a coating of clear satin and a model was in the done column.


A few modelers online have complained this kit is over-engineered and hence a difficult build.  I did not find that to be the case, but then again readers here will note that I like to tackle limited run kits occasionally and they certainly require me to focus a bit more on fit.

I do believe this is yet another kit that requires the modeler to follow the instructions.  Certainly until a few are under one's belt.  Just knowing which bits are needed for the sub variant requires some focus.  

I've got quite a few more of these kits. Royal Class, Mk XVI Profipack, Aussie Eight and at least 6 sets of overtrees. It's an enjoyable build, just enough to do to keep it interesting, but not enough challenges to want to shift it to the shelf of doom.

Thanks for looking...