Saturday, December 31, 2011

My goals for 2012

This is my first goal: starting a blog for all my model building.  Last year I started a blog for my Spitfire modeling because I figured I would be able to sustain it.  However I’m realizing I enjoy writing about the subjects and models I build and only half are Spitfires...
Our local club generates a list of themes for each monthly meeting to give us something to consider as we build our models.  We’ve been doing this for about 10 years now and it remains popular; ranging in about 3 models to as many as 15 (the membership is only about 40, about half make the meetings each month and it’s always a different “half” so it’s a good mix).  Each year I plan a subject/model for each theme, and each year I do better at actually completing the model for the theme.
I also try to have at least 1 Spitfire on the bench, always.  Today I’ve actually got 4, a Spitfire I, III, XIVe and XVIII, but two should be finished this weekend.  I’ll post those on my Spitfire blog.
My bench for 2012 will have the following, but may get more or less:
  • PM Models Ta-183T “whiff”
  • CMR F-51H California ANG
  • Matchbox Halifax GR II
  • Airfix Tomahawk IIb (new tooling)
  • Dragon USS Arizona
  • MPM FM-2 Wildcat VI
  • Monogram F4B, F11C or P-6E biplane
  • Airfix A6M2 Zero (new tooling)
  • Hobby Boss T-6 Texan
  • Revell A6M5 Zero
  • Revell F4F-4 Wildcat
  • Airfix Wellington III
  • CMR Seafire XV
  • Airfix Spitfire Va (new tooling)
  • Airfix Spitfire II LR (new tooling)
  • Airfix Spitfire IXc (new tooling)
  • Sword Spitfire Vc
  • Airfix Swordfish I (new tooling -- if I can get one!)
  • Hawk Gloster Javelin (my first kit, built on my own, ever - I’m doing a “build over”)
My display cabinets currently count 165 completed models.  I know there are more in a storage bin or two, but those are going to have to wait as my display shelves are full.  I hope to take a break in the Spring and have some new built-in cabinets installed, that should provide nearly 5 times the shelf space as I currently have, plus storage and some book shelves.  If and when that fills, I’ll convince my wife I need to expand displays to other rooms, but that’ll be at least 10 years from now, even at my dream rate of building.
All of my aircraft are in 72nd scale.  I tried 48th scale and even did a Me-262 in 32nd while in my ‘teens, but my budget and shelf space limited me to 72nd.  I’ve built a stash of about 300 kits, all of which are for the period 1911 to about 1955.  Okay, occasionally I’ll build something more modern, but only if the subject is right.
I also enjoy ships, and all but one is 1/700 scale.  The odd-ball is a 96th scale USS CONSTITUTION by Revell.  I first made one when 13 and about 10 years ago decided to make a second try.  It’s my slowest build, because I’m rigging her using wooden ship modeling techniques instead of the kit threads.
Thanks for reading...

Saturday, December 24, 2011

CMR Spitfire Prototype K5054

Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire Prototype, K5054, post modifications after first flight
RAF Pageant, Hendon, 27th June 1936, “New aircraft No 2”
It's now 75 years after the iconic Spitfire first flew and as a fan I thought it appropriate that I add the prototype to my shelf. I'm not one to make prototypes or one-offs but decided I needed to make an exception. Interestingly, it's beginning to make me pine for related efforts, such as the Mk III, IV, and of course the Spiteful/Seafang line. 
The Aircraft
K5054 is a rather iconic aircraft.  R.J. Mitchell’s design as a Vickers private venture with Rolls-Royce in response to a poor initial design for RAF fighter specification F7/30.  That initial design had fixed landing gear and a gull wing looking much like a single seat Stuka.  Its performance was very disappointing so of course the RAF were not interested.  In 1934 R.J Mitchell was challenged to design something better, ignoring the RAF specifications (which were too restrictive) and taking full advantage of the knowledge at the Supermarine firm.  
On initial roll-out and first flight on 5th March 1936, K5054 was not painted, the aircraft having a green tinted preservative on the fuselage and wings, the engine panels were unpainted and the fabric surfaces were all covered in aluminum dope.  The Air Ministry was suitably impressed with the performance and issued a specification drawn to K5054, now F37/34).  
Mitchell wanted to make some minor improvements and on 19th March 1936, coming out on 26th March with the Mk I style rudder, landing gear doors, a smaller engine intake and a paint job.  She was finished in a blue-grey color, the actual shade is lost to time and much conjecture exists around it.  Publicly unveiled on at Eastleigh on 18th June then sent to Hendon for the RAF Pageant, where the number “2” was added.
On 27th June, 1936 at the RAF Pageant, Hendon, spectators got to see both new aircraft for the RAF, No 1 being the Hawker Hurricane and No 2 being the Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire.
Reference:  Spitfire the History
The Model
CMR make the Spitfire prototype in both configurations, first flight on 5th March and RAF Pageant on 27th June.  The kits are not the same because of the detail differences between those two dates.  CMR have a reputation for very good accuracy, lots of detail and ease of construction (for a resin kit).  This was no exception as construction was fairly straightforward and did not take long.
Cleanup was quick, the cockpit being mostly photo-etch with some resin and with superglue the fuselage was together over a weekend.  The wing is one piece and with some fiddling alignment was perfect, very little filler was needed.  The nice thing with resin is that I can fill it, then use a cotton swab dipped in nail polish remover and clean the seam with zero sanding and no damage to the underlying resin.
Detail parts were added and the most time consuming item was the vac canopy.  It is very clear and with patience fits perfectly.  While I could have opened the side hatch and canopy this would have been difficult and I typically don’t, so decided to keep it all closed.  The vac canopy being so thin allows some good views inside.
I used Gator Glue on the canopy, first time trying and frankly it was a dream.  Worked very well, filled in the joints and after painting looks very nice.
After priming I decided to look for the proper paint.  The range in descriptions are:
  • French Blue-Gray
  • Rolls-Royce automotive Blue
  • RLM 76 Hellblau
  • USN Intermediate Blue (1943 color)
  • USN Blue-Gray (1942 color)
There is little help on the web as it seems nobody agrees on the color, and the range of colors for the above are nearly infinite.  Nobody seems to agree on what French Blue-Gray looks like and the RR Blue is similar.  I pulled jars of the 3 paints I had and RLM 76 looked good so I used it.  After it had cured, I put a light gloss coat of Future, decals went on with no trouble and I sealed with a final coat of Future as photos show K5054 had a glossy sheen.
All done in just a few weekends, how I like my builds. Definitely a winner and of course a must for any Spitfire fan. Now to get on with that Mk III...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Airfix Spitfire Mk Ia (1979 tooling)

Supermarine Spitfire I, R6595/DW O, 610 County of Chester Squadron, RAF
Biggin Hill, August 1940, P/O F. K. Webster, KIA 26 August 1940.

I was reviewing the Group Build section of Fine Scale Modeler last month and when I spotted an Airfix group decided I could be in and do a quick build of an older Mk Ia I had in my stash. My original plans for the kit were to convert it to a PR Mk I something or other that would not be a quick nor easy effort. So I rummaged through my spare decals and found an old Aeromaster sheet of Spitfires from the Battle of Britain (72-028). Paint and glue at the ready I jumped in.

The Aircraft

Spitfire Mk I, R6595, from first production batch of 450 aircraft on third contract awarded 9 August 1939.  This was the first aircraft in the batch, delivered 7 May 1940 to Number 8 Maintenance Unit. Delivered to 610 Squadron on 28 July 1940. Because of timing this aircraft would have been delivered to 8 MU with then then-required Night/White undersurfaces. While at the MU it would have been repainted with Sky undersurfaces per directives dating from June 11. This is certainly during the period from June to September where a controversial shade of Sky could have been applied, ranging from Sky Grey, Sky Blue, Eau-de-Nil, through to actual Sky.  As an example for demonstrating all the possible variations, this subject hits them all. Aeromaster suggest Sky.

This aircraft is featured in a fairly well known and widely published photograph from the period.  On Monday 26 August, 1940, the aircraft crashed after being badly damaged by a Bf109; the pilot, Pilot Officer F. K. Webster, was killed while attempting to land at Hawkinge.

References:  Spitfire the History, 610 Squadron History.

The Model

As mentioned above, this is the older tooling Airfix Spitfire Mk Ia dating from 1979.  Airfix modified the molds to be a snap together kit in the early 1980's.  Actually a fairly accurate kit in shape and outline, but the detail is raised (arguably more accurate) and the cockpit is nearly void except for a seat. The cockpit is not much of a problem if using the kit canopy as it is rather thick, most especially if one is to put a pilot in there. But if wanting to use a vac canopy much detail will be needed. For this effort I chose the kit canopy with no pilot.

As this was for the FSM Group Build I didn't want to take too long and it's the last of my old tooling Mk I kits. I removed the snap together pins to correct alignment but overall the fit is very good. As is typical of this kit and similar offerings from that period, construction was very quick and I was ready for painting within an hour. I almost felt like a kid again!

After a primer coat from a spray can, I hand painted the camouflage using Humbrol enamels.  Dark Earth (29) and Dark Green (116), after Sky (90) was airbrushed for the undersides.  Future was applied for the decals and followed with a light wash using Payne's Gray oil was applied.  A 50/50 mix of Future with Acryl clear flat was then applied as a final sealer.

Back to the undersurface color:  Humbrol 90 is listed as a recommended enamel paint for Sky, however the formulation has changed over the years. I have two tins, one the earlier Super Enamel before Hornby and Hornby's version with the blue stripe. The difference is subtle with the older paint looking truer to Sky with a slightly greener hue than the later paint.  Conversely the later paint is slightly bluer. I cannot stress how subtle the difference is and lighting conditions matter greatly. So based on the subject's timing, I used the later tin of "blue stripe" 90 as a local interpretation of sorts for Sky.

And that was that. A very fun build of a fairly familiar subject. It's unique with the oversized markings on the fuselage and fills a void in my collection of early Spitfires. Total time was less than 7 hours spread over a couple of weeks in order for paint and clear coats to thoroughly cure.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Airfix Spitfire Mk IXc

Supermarine Spitfire IXc, MA585/KH-B, 403 Squadron, RCAF
ALG Headcorn, September 1943, P/O George “Buzz” Beurling, DFC

The Aircraft

A Spitfire IXc, MA585 was an early production configuration having the original small carburetor intake, original elevator and 5 spoke wheels. Completed in June 1943 and delivered to 403 Squadron that month. MA585 remained with 403 Squadron until April when it was transferred to 501 Squadron; it survived the war and was sold to a foreign country

Pilot Officer Beurling was the leading Canadian ace of the war with 31 kills. Most were achieved over Malta in 1941/42 until he was shot down and injured. Following recovery he was posted to gunnery training which he disliked and eventually he was assigned to 403 Squadron. He was a lone wolf who did not follow orders and after reassignment to 412 Squadron in 1944 he was withdrawn from combat, grounded and sent home.

George Beurling volunteered to fly with the Isreali Air Force after the war and unfortunately while en route died in a plane crash near Rome.

Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) Headcorn was an airfield near (38 miles) London used as a prototype for the temporary landing areas that supporting fighters and fighter-bombers would use after D-Day France.

The Model

This Airfix Spitfire IXc is their new tooling from 2009. It's considered very accurate in shape and outline, however the cockpit detail leaves much to be desired and the recessed panel lines are a bit heavy for some tastes. The kit provides alternate parts to make (in theory) either an early or late IXc, however the wing and elevators are configured as a late IXc with wing bulges over the wheel wells (not introduced until late 1945 when wider wheels were introduced) and large elevator horn balances.

To improve the cockpit, I replaced the seat and added a control column, both from 3D-Kits. The wheels came from my spares box and the decals are from an IPMS Canada sheet for RCAF aces containing markings for many aircraft in all three major scales.

To model an early Mk IXc, the elevator outline needs to be rescribed and the wheel well bulges removed, either 4 (kit) or 5 spoke wheels (check photos), plus use the short carburetor intake.

To model a late wartime Mk IXc, remove the wheel well bulges, 4 spoke wheels (kit) and use the long carburetor intake.

To model a post-war Mk IXc with the wheel well bulges use 3 spoke wheels and use the long carburetor intake; unless your photo shows otherwise you'll also need to replace the rudder with a broad chord (pointed) unit. Quickboost make one for this kit.

Paints were all Humbrol (116, 106, 165, 90 and 24) except for the prop blades which was Mr Color 71 Midnight Blue (a near match for RAF Night).

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Goals for 2011

Like many modelers I have a stash. It’s not gigantic (I know of one that counts in the thousands of kits!) nor is it small with about 300 kits. I’m pretty sure I won’t build all of those kits, but I’ll certainly add to the stash some kits I fully intend to build. Having just started my second career I suspect I have between 25 and 30 years of modeling left. At that rate I need to finish at least 10 per year, so my production goal is 1 per month.

In 2010 I easily exceeded that goal with 17 models completed if memory serves me. As I pass the 75% point of 2011 it’s time for me to assess my progress for the year. So far I’m doing well: 5 Spitfires, 3 Hurricanes, a BlackburnShark, and a USS MIDWAY (CVA-41). I’ve still got another 5 Spitfires in various stages of build and hope to finish at least 3 by year’s end.

My local club sponsors, sort of, a monthly theme. We’re not real strict and no competition or anything but of the roughly 20 modelers who show up, 5-8 bring a subject that is theme related. The others bring something unrelated or nothing at all but we always enjoy ourselves talking about the kit’s pluses and minuses.

At any rate, I personally try to align a Spitfire to each theme, but I’m not always successful. It’s tough to find a Spitfire subject that can fit into a “Hasegawa F-4 Phantom” category. This month though, the theme is “Canadian Bacon” – any subject related to Canada so I’ll bring a model of Spitfire Mk IXc, MA585/KH-B, 403 Squadron RCAF, Pilot Officer George Beurling. It’s the Airfix new-tool Mk IXc corrected a bit to reflect MA585; I’ll post a description of the build soon. He’s the highest scoring Canadian ace of the war and I wanted to model both his Mk IX and a blue-grey Mk V from Malta (that build is in-work).

The 2012 Theme list has been approved by the club and I can easily align a Spitfire to half of them if one is a Seafire. None of the themes require I purchase another kit, but I probably will anyway. I’ll certainly need some decals for one of the themes, maybe two. If 2012 is successful I should be able to make 12 or more models.

Thank you for reading.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Spitfire Mk III radiator

While not the most noticeable difference between the Mk I/V and the III, from a modeling perspective it could be the most challenging alteration. As I indicated in an earlier post, the Mk III radiator is larger than a Mk I/V, and has a boundary layer splitter. Since I decided to use the Airfix Mk Ia as my donor kit, and had rejected a few others, I decided to start by comparing the radiators of some specific kits.

An obvious choice for modification could be a Griffon radiator, however the Mk III radiator was not really similar to the Griffon engined marks, while it was just as deep there were some other differences. The below photo shows 5 kit radiators. 2 Griffon, 2 Merlin and my fabricated Mk III.

The Mk III looks much larger than the Fujimi and Airfix Griffon radiators simply because it is. These kit radiators seem a bit anemic now that I've fabricated the III radiator, however I must admit that my attempt may be inaccurate. I do not have drawings, only a hint at depth and some poor photos that give basic details, but not size. What I did was use the Airfix Ia radiator as a prototype, and as I fabricated I ensured the new radiator would fit length/width wise. 
Looking at intake
 This next photo provides some additional details.The "rails" on the bottom fit into the wing recess for the kit radiator.  Photos of the prototype give the impression of a gaping maw, very square.

I fabricated the radiator from sheet styrene.  First 4 layers of .040 inch card for the actual radiator, then another sheet to create the boundardy layer, and yet another for the "rails".  The sides and bottom (top in this photo) are .010 card.

On the underside of the kit wing, the perspective is a bit better.  There is still a bit of fiddling to do, namely narrowing of the fairing as it fits into the recesses on the wing, and of course filling in the wing recesses under the boundary layer splitter.  I'll do all that once I've completed clipping of the wings.
Thank you for reading.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Spitfire Mk III

It's no secret at my local club that I'm a bit of a Spitfire fanatic. The aircraft and it's variants make up 20% of my stash of over 300 kits – built and awaiting. While I've collected a number of references, until my recent acquisition of “Spitfire, the History” by Morgan & Shacklady they were sorely lacking. StH contains the entire history, as it was known in 1985, for every serial number of the Spitfire!

So my amateurish research now has some good references that allows me to dabble in some unique variants, one-offs and the usual mass quantities. Between each, and some nice help from the internet I can cross reference specifics and gain a somewhat high level of confidence I've got the subject right.

As an example, I'd recently decided to fill in between the major marks with some of the prototypes and small production examples. Specifically these are the Mk III, IV, VI, and XII. Now, those latter two were actually fielded as a combat aircraft, in about 100 machines each. The VI being the high altitude Merlin engined variant and the XII being the (mainly) low-altitude initial Griffon engined variant. Of the two Mk IV prototypes, one acted (effectively) as the Mk XII prototype and the other (as the later redesigned and redesignated Mk XX) the prototype for the Mk 20 series (21, 22 & 24).

But I'm digressing a bit. The Mk III was to be the ultimate Spitfire for 1941-42, two prototypes authorized in 1939 and delivered (first prototype) in early 1940, before France was invaded. Refined construction and design to get as clean an airframe as possible, plus the improved Merlin XX engine (later installed in the Hurricane II) with another 300 hp and better mid-high altitude performance. Supermarine was also working on designs for fighters that would (hopefully) follow the Spitfire in 1942, but that's a different story.

Flush rivets meant a smooth surface. The wings were clipped, two feet more than on subsequent marks, to reduce drag even more; the resulting short span ailerons were later seen on the Mk VII/VIII and Griffon wings. The wing was to eventually be the “universal” or “c” wing, installed on the second prototype; the first had the “a” wing. The tail wheel was now retractable. The main landing gear was fully enclosed, using the outer flap design from the original K5054 prototype.

The engine, with its single stage supercharger, required a 4 inch extension to the nose. This was accomplished by angling the firewall forward and extending the upper fuel tank cover by four inches, and lengthening the lower engine panels forward of the firewall.

Additionally, in order to get back some of the range lost by the higher performance engine, the fuselage fuel tank was increased in size using that additional space created by the forward angle of the firewall.

The new engine required a larger oil cooler and improved radiator. The former was of circular (not “D” shaped as one the Mk I/II) and was later implemented on the Mk V early in its production. The latter was completely redesigned and while it influenced the later Griffon radiator designs, was not implemented in production. It's unique, boundary layer design was only on the Mk III.

The Mk III was used to develop a new canopy/windscreen with the armor internal and integrated into the windscreen. This was later implemented on the Mk V production line. It was also tested with various props, ultimately resulting in the Rotol Jablo props later implemented on the Mk V.

As can be seen, much of the Mk III design improvements were implemented on later marks. A contemporary to the Mk V, it influenced the Mk V, but not so much as did the Me-109F. The first prototype Mk III was undergoing testing in late 1940 and into 1941, at about the same time as the Me-109F was being tested and fielded in France. The Me-109F outclassed the Mk I/II and an interim solution was needed until the Mk III could be delivered. A development of the Merlin XX engine, the Merlin 45, was mated to a Mk I airframe and tested in early 1941. My mid-1941 it was decided to shift Mk I/II production to this variant, as its performance easily matched the Me-109F. Shortly after this, the Mk III was canceled and all authorized production shifted to the Mk V in order to get the RAF fighter squadrons upgraded as quickly as possible.

The first Mk III prototype, N3297, was used from March 1940 to late 1941 and tested many refinements as described above; it's wing was replaced with a standard “a” wing in September 1940 as the short span wing was not liked by the RAF at the time. The second prototype, W3237, was used to develop the “c” or “universal” wing and was later upgraded to the Merlin 60 series engine ultimately used on the Mk VII/VIII/IX/XVI in production. Effectively W3237 was the prototype for these marks, although not documented as such.

Not all current publications agree on the Mk III details, some even insist there was only a single Mk III. But with some help from Spitfire researchers on the web I've got enough details to model this esoteric subject.

Modelling the Mk III

While only two were made, their configurations changed often during their lifetimes. So modeling the either of the Mk III's falls into the “it depends” category. W3237, in my mind's eye, would look very similar to a Mk V in its early configurations and more like a Mk VIII later in life. N3297 varied significantly over its life, early on it was very different from a Mk I/II or any other mark in appearance but later it began to look like a Mk Va after its wing was replaced in September. So to have a unique airframe in my collection yet have things I can point to that were in later marks, I decided to tackle N3297 as she (probably) looked in August 1940.

Spitfire Mk III, N3297, August 1940

I looked at 3 basic kits as my possible donors:
  1. Italeri Mk IXc
  2. Airfix Mk Vb
  3. Airfix Mk Ia (new tool)

All donor kits will require a scratch built radiator and retractable tail wheel as these are so different from production kits. Also, the wing span will be shortened as well as the ailerons.

The Italeri kit is too short in the nose for a Mk IX, but too long by about the right amount for a Mk V making it just right in length for a Mk III! However the wing is all wrong as it's a “c” wing with two large symmetrical radiators. It also has a horrid fuselage that requires fairings from the sides to the wings, and the engine cover is not bulged enough for Merlin rocker covers. Lots of surgery required...

The Airfix Mk Vb is inexpensive and easily modified to the Mk III. It has all the right add-on parts for the later prop, oil cooler and canopy. Major issue is the wing, being the “b” wing but that's easily corrected. Surgery required is the the plug at the firewall.

The new tool Airfix Mk Ia is also inexpensive and just as easily modified as their Mk Vb kit. In it's favor is an already configured “a” wing. Additionally, the detail is much better; and the latest release (#2010) also includes the larger oil cooler as used on the Mk V.

I've decided to model the Mk III using the Airfix Mk Ia/IIa kit as the donor (#2010).