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...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Group Commander's Hack

Spitfire XVI TE199, Air Officer Commanding 21 Group, RAF, Swinderby, 1948

This is next in my batch build of the Heller Spitfire XVI.

The Subject

TE199 was a Mk XVI completed on 23 April 1945, going to 412 Squadron post-war where after only a few days it went to the Staff College at White Waltham. After only 2 months there it was taken on charge by 21 Group as the Air Officer Commanding's personal transport and given an all-black paint scheme. In 1948 it was removed from service and became a gate guardian in 1955. Subsequent to that, it seems to have disappeared as I cannot find any references to its demise.

TE199 was a glossy black with gold trim. Photos seem to show she had very light roundels, which are depicted on every decal sheet available. I did find one photo that was obviously done with ortho film, resulting in the roundels of all the aircraft appearing light with a darker red center. Likely, the roundels were "normal" colors for the type she wore (wartime).

The Model

Really nothing new to report, a very good model and great for one's "mojo" when looking for an easy kit to put together on a weekend. As with all my Heller XVI kits, I removed the wing radiators and then reattached them, the thickness of the saw blade being enough to reduce the size. Cockpit detail is sufficient for my tastes in this scale, no other modifications or upgrades were made other than masking tape seat belts.

In terms of painting, I airbrushed Gunze Tire Black (H77) thinned with Mr Color Leveling Thinner. I'm sold on MCLT for thinning both my Tamiya and Gunze acrylics. It goes on very smooth and dries very hard. For the gold I simply used Testor's Gold in the small square bottles, obtained at my local Michael's art shop. Decals were from Lifelike, sheet 72-006 and went on easily with Microsoft Set/Sol over a coat of Future. I toned down the glossiness and sealed the decals with Microsoft's Satin finish.


Ultimately, if I were to do this subject again, I'd use standard roundels, not the light colored ones provided in the Lifelike Decals sheet I used. I do really enjoy the simplicity of these kits.

Thanks for looking...

Monday, March 28, 2016

Controversial Color

Spitfire XVI SL721/JM-R, 1946

Two things pop to mind when viewing these pictures - first the quality is crap. I tried white balance and extra lighting, but the basic color is just too close to my photo booth. Maybe someday I'll try to make these better...

Second, the actual color of the aircraft. From what I've been able to find online, the color could be in a range from Sky Blue (being very light) to a darker medium blue. One reference indicated quite confidently that it was PRU Blue mixed 50/50 with White.

The Subject

This is Air Chief Marshal James Robb's hack and for some reason he chose a light blue color. What color this truly is supposed to be is a bit of guess work, but I had the decals and decided to make it.

The Model

Another of the Heller XVI kits from my Spring 2016 batch build. This one has the shading and I lightly sprayed the light blue until I had the coverage I wanted. What is different with this kit, and in hindsight I wish I'd used acrylics, is that I used an enamel because I had a light blue that looked good. All the others where too gray or too dark or too light. Ultimately I used my old jar of Testors Light Blue in the small square bottle. Likely because I'm rusty when using enamels it did not go down as well as I wanted, ultimately having a bit of an orange-peel texture. Instead of ditching the model I went ahead and finished it.

Decals are by Lifelike Decals (sheet 72-006) and went down quite readily using Daco medium setting solution on top of Future/Kleer varnish. I finished with Micro Scale's Satin varnish to seal it all in and knock the sheen down a bit.


Ultimately the blue looks a bit too saturated. If I were to do this one again I'd use acrylics and I'd lighten the light blue by at least 25% white, maybe more. Of course I had fun with it, albeit I'm still not sold on pre-shading. My wife loves the color, so it'll remain on my shelf and likely I'll not redo it.

Thanks for looking...

Friday, March 18, 2016

Back to the future

Spitfire XVI SL614/6D-A, 631 Squadron RAF, Llanbedr, 1948

The Subject

SL614 was delivered in August 1945 to the RAF and assigned to 631 Squadron. It was operated by them until 1949 when it collided with another aircraft and was destroyed.

A number of Spitfire XVI (later listed as LF.16) were repainted post war to Aluminum as they went through the depots, reverting to the schemes worn pre-war. This was actually a paint, not simply stripping of the aircraft to natural metal as the RAF preferred their aircraft painted to protect them from the effects of corrosion prevalent on an island nation. This model simply is representative of that scheme.

The Model

This is the classic Heller Spitfire XVI kit dating originally from 1972, however my boxing is from the 1980's. The detail is good, it has a great cockpit for this scale and unlike many contemporary models the wheel wells are properly boxed in. It does suffer from raised panel lines and other details, but there are good arguments for this being more accurate on a Spitfire given how it was manufactured with lapped joints. It's accurate enough, but needs one area corrected to make it "look right": that are the underwing radiators. They are deeper and seem to represent the larger Griffon series Spitfire radiators, not a Merlin engined one. The fix is very simple, take a hobby saw that is about 0.5 mm wide and cut each radiator off, then glue them right back on and clean up the resulting seam.

As mentioned on earlier blogs, I used this kit to test a few new-to-me techniques. Firstly, I tried a new primer, Rust-Oleum white plastic primer. It ruined the surface detail but I salvaged it best I could. Secondly I tried some new fillers which worked well enough. Thirdly I tried pre-shading since this overall Aluminum finish would be sort of flat due to the monochrome nature. The pre-shading certainly gave it depth and it got some positive comments from both my wife and friends. Lastly, I did all my painting (other than primer) using very thinned Tamiya acrylics. Normally I thin about 1:1 using their X-20A thinner, but this time I tried doubling the thinner to a 2:1 ratio and misting the coats on to slowly build up the XF-16 Flat Aluminum paint until the pre-shading blended in. It felt a bit laborious as I was standing at my paint booth for nearly an hour misting coats which dried quite quickly. Then I'd put it down and come back the next day to mist on a few more coats until it "looked right".

Decals are by XtraDecal, sheet X72182. They didn't respond to Micro-Set or -Set, so I shifted to Daco Soft; no luck there. However Daco Medium got them to lay down perfectly. I then misted a coat of Micro-Coat Satin to seal it all in and give it a proper sheen.


These kits are an easy way to keep modeling fun, being an easy kit with plenty of schemes and decals out there to dress it up. Yes, there are better kits of the Spitfire XVI but they typically cannot be found for $2 at shows!

Thanks for looking...