Thursday, December 27, 2012

Modeling Goals for 2013

The new year means a number of things for me: a new job, a new home, and of course the age-old question of, "how to set up my modeling space?"

Since my assignment is temporary, but long term, I plan to simply work from a table in a spare room...or at worse from the kitchen table. That means some sort of portable tool kit, and a means of storing bits and pieces while also having them "in work". I've just about cracked this nut, but practice will see how well I implement the planning.

And speaking of planning, I have an ambitious year ahead!

With my museum builds behind me (the Swordfish will have to wait until I return) I can again get back to Spitfires and club theme builds. It's a rare opportunity to align Spitfires with our club's monthly themes and with only one exception I've got the kits lined up for 2013:
  • Frog Spitfire Mk XIV with V-1 (drones or unmanned)
  • CMR Speed Spitfire (Need for Speed)
  • Airfix Spitfire IX as Dr Who Spitfire in Space (Science Fiction)
  • AZ Model Isreali and Egyptian Spitfires (Friend and Foe)
  • Kora RP-63G Pinball (Aggressor)
  • CMR Seafire F.IIc (Anniversary)
  • Hasegawa RAAF Spitfire VIII (Down Under)
  • Heller SAAF Spitfire XVI (Korean War -- loose connection here)
  • Airfix Hawk T.1 in Spitfire commemorative scheme (Build The Same Kit)
  • Sword Spitfire VI (Failures -- okay, the VI worked, but not as well as it should have)
Plus I plan to clear out my queue of "in work" models:
  • Airfix Spitfire XIII conversion (paint & decals)
  • Airfix Spitfire Va (paint & decals)
  • MPM Spitfire XVIII (assembly, paint & decals)
  • Fujimi Spitfire XIVe (assembly, paint & decals)
  • Revell P-26A (decals)
  • Hobby Boss P-47D (seam fix, paint & decals)
  • Trumpeter P-40B/C (paint & decals)
I've also got a resin ship and an Airfix Wellington in work, but they'll have to wait until I get back...not room for anything that fragile or big!  Each completed model has to survive a shipment back; which is another nut I need to crack: how to package?

I also want to learn a few new skills, such as exhausts and exhaust staining; "scale" color and fading; and proper tires (you know the ones that look really real).  Practice, practice, practice.

Which of course makes this a fun hobby...there is always some new skill to master.

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year!

Thanks for reading...

Spitfires for 2013

The new year looks good for Spitfires.  Even my planned theme builds align mostly to Spitfires, so unless I get distracted by some special Kit-That-Must-Be-Built I hope to complete quite a few.

To be reported over on my other blog, the list is extensive and if I can sneak in a couple of additional models, I certainly will.  I like doing multiple builds of the same kit, such as my modifications of the Airfix Spitfire I/IIa kit into a Mk Va and PR Mk XIII.  Both are very straightforward and the only challenge is finding decals...well not so challenging given all the available decals out there.

I'm also looking forward to another Seafire.  I finished that CMR FR.47 at the end of 2011 and after looking at my Merlin Seafires on the shelf, I need to update the stable with some better looking kits.  My old conversions from Airfix Mk Vb/c kits are just not cutting it anymore and other than an example of my skills 5 years ago, need replacing.  I'll include photos of those older builds alongside my updated models, of course, but I doubt I'll do the same subjects.  Too many good subjects out there to keep redoing the same ones.

My Spitfire/Seafire plan for 2013:
  • Frog Spitfire Mk XIV with V-1 (drones or unmanned)
  • CMR Speed Spitfire (Need for Speed)
  • Airfix Spitfire IX as Dr Who Spitfire in Space (Science Fiction)
  • AZ Model Isreali and Egyptian Spitfires (Friend and Foe)
  • CMR Seafire F.IIc (Anniversary)
  • Hasegawa RAAF Spitfire VIII (Down Under)
  • Heller SAAF Spitfire XVI (Korean War -- loose connection here)
  • Airfix Hawk T.1 in Spitfire commemorative scheme (Build The Same Kit)
  • Sword Spitfire VI (Failures -- okay, the VI worked, but not as well as it should have)
Plus I plan to clear out my queue of "in work" Spitfires:
  • Airfix Spitfire XIII conversion (paint & decals)
  • Airfix Spitfire Va (paint & decals)
  • MPM Spitfire XVIII (assembly)
  • Fujimi Spitfire XIVe (assembly)
And of course, make some progress on that Spitfire Mk III.  I'm nearly ready to cut some fuselages...

Thanks for reading...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Looking Back at 2012

Really?  Not a single Spitfire all year?!

One could call this my Mayan apocalypse.  I did at least start 4 Spitfires...

But I got totally sidetracked by the Museum builds.  One of which was not something I signed up for, and the other was a total drag as it was the Matchbox Halifax.  Not a bad kit, but I wanted more out of my build than I should have expected.

Now for my guilt seems that somebody is actually reading what I write.  The number one post, in terms of pageviews, is my Fujimi FR Mk XIVe from earlier this year.  A close second is 2011's CMR Prototype Spitfire K5054.  Over on my non-Spitfire page the top read post is about Academy's F4F Wildcat -- go figure.  What about these subjects makes them interesting?  What did I put in them that is causing them to pop on search engines?  Obviously I should post more...

And in that vein, I need to make more progress on my Spitfire III.  I pick it up every weekend, but put it back down after pondering the surgery needed to make it.  That Matchbox Halifax and the Revell Condor are not ego boosters for me, in terms of my skills.  And I totally botched two Tamiya Spitfires last year attempting to cross kit and make a cannon-armed Mk I and Mk Va.

I did complete 15 models for the year, and I may actually sneak in another before year's end.

Hopefully everyone has a great holiday; I know I will, even if I only handle some plastic instead of actually finishing a model!

Thanks for ready...Merry Christmas!

Looking Back at 2012

Okay, there was no Mayan apocalypse and I still have 10 days left in the year, and of those 10 days I estimate I have 4-5 solid modeling days, so I may be editing this post to update what I got completed.  At any rate, my build plan for 2012 got totally side tracked by the Museum requirements, but I did have a good year!

For the Museum:
  • Trumpeter Liberty Ship
  • Tamiya Type VII U-Boat
  • Hobby Boss Type IX U-Boat
  • Tamiya HMS Prince of Wales
  • Matchbox Halifax GR II
Theme builds:
  • Academy General Motors FM-1 Wildcat & Wildcat V (Salute to the General)
  • Academy & Airfix Tomahawk IIb (Shark Tank)
  • Academy P-40B (Between the Wars)
  • Airfix P-40B (Anniversary: Pearl Harbor)
  • Hawk Javelin (rebuild your first model)
  • Matchbox Mosquito PR XVI (Trench Warfare)
  • PM Ta-183 (Whiff)
  • CMR P-51H in Air National Guard markings (Minutemen)

I started a number of kits, only to be foiled by some sort of roadblock (usually work):

  • Revell P-26A -- Decals were complex and slow going
  • Matchbox Halifax GR II (my first attempt) -- too many complex corrections
  • Dragon Arizona -- Overwhelming
  • MPM FM-2 Wildcat VI -- Ran out of time
  • Hobby Boss P-47D -- No matter how much I try, the seam gets worse
  • Tamiya 2 O-Class and 1 E-Class destroyers

Still, 15 completed models for the year is a good rate, and keeps me on pace to finish my stash before I shift to the workbench in the sky (presuming typical longevity, of course).

Thanks for reading...

Coastal Command - Part I

Halifax GR II Series 1a

58 Squadron, Coastal Command, RAF St Davids, Wales, 1943

As a child I read, with great enjoyment, the stories of Barnes Wallis, Dambusters, Tallboy, Grand Slam, and as much of the full history of the Lancaster as I could find.  It is a story of what a nation can do with some interesting ideas and the urgency of war as motivators.  But what does a Lanc have to do with the Halifax?  Well, years later as an adult, I came across the Squadron/Signal booklet "Halifax In Action".  What?!  There was a RAF bomber other than the Lancaster?  I knew of the Stirling that didn't do so well; and there was use by the RAF of both the B-17 and B-24; but a SECOND indigenous heavy bomber that operated with the Lancaster?  I had to know more!

At the time I did not know that the only surviving Halifax was W1048/S, residing as she'd been found in a fresh water lake in 1973 but at RAF Museum, Hendon.  The Lancaster was not only well known, but there were (and still are) a few flyable examples albeit I think only the BBMF Lancaster is the only flying one.  Since then, there have been two more Halifax added; and there is a forward section in a museum.

Needless to say I scoured over the Squadron booklet and decided that an aircraft produced in such large numbers, and with so many variants had to be on my shelf.  But which variant?

I'll risk offending Halifax fans and say there are essentially 3 variations:
  1. Early Merlin Engined - aerodynamically dirty, turreted nose, small triangular fin/rudders;
  2. Late Merlin Engined - aerodynamically clean(er), top turret, square fin/rudders;
  3. Hercules Engined - similar to the late Merlin engined, but with Hercules engines.

Within each of these broad categories there are quite a few detailed variations.  Morris or Gallay radiators; engine; exhausts; landing gear; type of top turret; waist guns or not; nose configuration; and the list goes on...

Plus there is the mission type:  Bomber, General Reconnaissance, Meteorological, Airborne, and Cargo.  The paint schemes did not vary much: Dark Earth/Dark Green over Night undersides; or Extra Dark Sea Grey over White (this latter had a few early examples with Extra Dark Sea Grey and Dark Slate Grey over White).

Initially, and because my knowledge was limited, I purchased two Matchbox kits of the Halifax at the same time back in the early '80's.  The kit provides both an early and late Merlin engined Halifax, in either a Bomber Command scheme or Coastal Command.  What more could I want?

Fast forward 20 years...I now have K.A. Merrick's very good reference on the Halifax, a set of decent drawings and many decisions to make regarding configuration.  And Revell of Germany releases a new tooling of the Merlin Halifax!  Great joy and it can essentially make ANY Merlin engined variant...but not so fast.

The Revell kit is well documented to have engines/nacelles very wrong and the wing not quite right generally.  But the detail is very high.  Options, both undertaken and demonstrated on Britmodeller are:
  1. Correct the engines/nacelles and wing; or
  2. Replace the engines/nacelles/wing with the Matchbox set.

Since I didn't have the Revell kit, yet, I decided to simply build my Matchbox kit; but learned a few corrections would be needed to truly accurate.  But first, a bit about the subject.

The Subject

Halifax GR II, Series 1a, HR792/G is part of a batch of 200 Halifax B/GR II made and delivered by Handley Page Ltd from December 1942 to August 1943.  She was assigned to Number 58 Squadron, RAF, Coastal Command for her entire career.  She crashed on landing at Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis on 13th January 1945.  Her fuselage was later recovered and combined with the wings of a Hastings to make a composite Halifax (she looks like a B III with Hercules radials) in honor of Halifax LV907 which made 128 sorties with 158 Squadron.

Her paint scheme reflects Coastal Command policy for the time: matte Extra Dark Sea Grey on all horizontal surfaces as seen from above, matte White on all vertical services and gloss White on all horizontal surfaces as seen from below.

A note on this scheme: The Extra Dark Sea Grey quickly faded to a blue-ish gray color from its original dark gray shade.  Additionally, the Merlins were dirty and oily, tending to dirty up the white paint very quickly.  Most photos show GR Halifax as very natty along the engine nacelles and from the wings aft.

The Model

This kit started as a "Trench Warfare" theme build, and I wanted to correct the inaccuracies of the kit at the same time.  The overall shape is about right, and the dimensions are pretty good.  Things that will need correcting:

  • Outer engine nacelles are not vertical to the ground, but are at 90 degrees to the wing;
  • All four nacelles are a tad narrow, about 1 mm;
  • The outer nacelle overwing fairings are too wide;
  • All four engines sit too high;
  • The radiators have no real depth; just a flat face;
  • The propellors are too wide and too thick;
  • All clear parts are thick and the framing is considerably raised;
  • The landing gear is of insufficient depth.

I quickly made the fuselage as it didn't need much (I don't super detail and you cannot see anything once it's closed up anyway).  I then attempted to correct one of the outer nacelles.  After weeks of sanding, adjusting, fitting, and attempting a new radiator -- I gave up!  I the time I'd spent trying to get a single nacelle to look right (it still doesn't) I could have built 1-2 single engined fighters.  The overwing fairings had been removed and my feeble attempt at shaping new ones completely botched the wings.

So after nearly 2 months of bashing at plastic I boxed the unfinished kit up and pulled out my second Matchbox Halifax.  This time, now that the "Trench Warfare" theme had come and gone, I decided to make this for the Battle of the Atlantic display AND build this kit out of the box.  

In the mean time I finally got a copy of the Revell, I'll not attempt that one until John Aero releases his correction set.

Construction was actually quite straight forward, now that I was not attempting to correct anything.  Well, not so straight forward.  Seams were terrible and lots of filling and standing was to be had.  Including around the cockpit canopy.  That was filled and sanded 4 times before I gave up; seems no matter how much I filled and sanded, the seam wanted to show through.

I did reshape the props.  They were so thick and so wide they looked more like ceiling fan blades than props on a Halifax!  I probably could take more off, but they look much better after taking about a 1/4th of the chord and half the thickness.  Another 1/8th of the chord, but not all along the length is probably doable.

I took a risk and did not put the flat side pieces in.  I figured I could use Microscale Krystal Kleer to fill it in, and ultimately I was right.  Those large side windows are probably as big as can be done, though.

I also build the wings and fuselage as separate components, taking them all the way to decals and weathering before mating them.  It worked perfectly!  

I decided to paint the model with white primer to make it easier to put the white color coat on.  Well, nothing easy about that!  The Matchbox green, brown and black plastic did NOT like white primer.  I used a Tamiya rattle can primer and then tried white primer thinned with lacquer and airbrushed and it was no better.  Two cans of Tamiya primer and half a bottle of primer (Krylon 1 oz enamel) later, it reached the "good enough" stage.  Oh, and filling/sanding seams all along the way!

I then overcoated with a thin layer of Tamiya white, after the primer had fully cured (2 weeks to be sure).  

I then used a mix for Extra Dark Sea Grey I like:  To 50 parts of XF24 (dark grey), add 6 parts XF2 (white), and 3 parts XF8 (flat blue).

Another trick I learned from Scott Samo is to use a soft cloth, moistened with spittle and gently rub Tamiya paint until it is very smooth.  Sometimes it takes a few hours, but it is well worth the result (I usually watch TV).  No clear coat is required for decals and since using his method I've never had any silvering, no matter who makes the decals.

I used the kit decals.  One set was ruined by the wax paper; it was stuck together so I threw those away.  But the other was just fine and with no yellowing.  I used Future as a decal setting solution, but I mix 50/50 Future and water.  I dip the decal as I normally would in water, and while it's sitting on a paper towel to wick off the excess water I brush a thin later of Future/Water on the place to be decaled.  I slide the decal off as normal and get it in place, then use a cotton swab to roll any excess liquid from under the decals.  I only do one side and let it side horizontally until gravity does its magic with Future, about 4 hours, before I attempt to decal the next side.  Works great every time!

Weathering:  I'm not much on weathering, but I did add exhaust staining on top of the wings and oil leaks along the nacelles.  I even dusted some "oil" and "dirt" on the radome and vertical fins.  Not very easy to see in the photos, but it's there.


I'm not entirely happy with the results, but given all the problems I had I'm satisfied.  For now.

I plan to replace this model with the Revell kit, properly corrected using John Aero's set.  I'll certainly get 3 sets when I can -- one for the B II (W1048 Sugar) and two for the GR II (mine and one for the Museum).

Now all we need is a new Halifax B III kit.

Thanks for reading...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Your First Model

Most of us remember our first model.  Some of us only remember the type, or the circumstances, but not always THE model.  A rare few of us actually still HAVE that first model.

November's club meeting focused on what that first model was, and if you could identify it, build it again.  A car showed up, mostly aircraft, but mainly just stories.  Stories about what that first kit was and how we came to have it.  How we built it (you use the whole tube for the kit, right?).  How we painted it (curing time between colors, why?).  And the ultimate demise of the model, whether from fire crackers, BB guns or just rocks.

My own story begin at age 5-ish.  Dad brought home two models of airliners.  He made them both and I got one while my younger sister got the other.  We flew those around the house together until they were demolished or we bored of them, probably just a few hours later.  But I remember watching Dad build it with lots of anticipation on my part.  And I remember the landing gear coming off shortly after my hands got on it, but it still flew just like the real thing!

The next model I remember is a silver jet.  I remember building it myself and the stickers didn't work so well; and there was no paint.  I remember being 8 or 9 and during some warm days that jet met its fate in an imaginary firey crash near those green army men the jet was attacking.  But what was that model?

By the time I was 10, I had a number of ship, car and airplane models.  The ship models floated (somewhat) in my Nana's pond and the airplane models attacked.  It was that summer I lost interest in cars and started my focus on 1/72 scale.  Revell had released a double kit of the F4F Wildcat and A6M Zero.  Constant scale meant my models looked more real next to each other!  By Christmas I had nearly all their 1/72 scale aircraft hanging from my ceiling...but I digress.

I still have that Revell Zero.  It comes out at Christmas and takes a place of honor on the tree.  So I decided to find the Wildcat and another Zero and try my hand at those kits 40+ years later...but fate intervened.

While scanning photos from old albums I came across this photo of a smiling new 8 year old holding his new GI Joe and waiting for the "go!" to dive into those birthday cupcakes.  Look at what's in the lower left corner:  A Hawk Gloster Javelin.  Could it be?  I searched eBay and for $7 one in the same boxing was en route.  A week later I opened the box to find silver plastic and a very familiar feel!  I had found my "first" model!

The Subject

Who knows?!  This is a sleek, modern, fast delta winged jet.  "Javelin" -- It has a name that sounds fast and dangerous.  Nothing like it flies over Arkansas and with TWO jets I bet it makes lots of noise.  It's got these missiles for shooting things up and all these other bits that go under the wings, but who needs them?  If I make it ready to fly without that stuff it won't break off and I can actually shoot the missiles at things like ships, tanks, green army men and other airplanes (where is that B-17?).

And it's BIG.  Almost too big for that little boy's hands.  But if he uses enough glue it'll be solid and perfect with his Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars. 

The Javelin was an all-weather interceptor for the RAF, operating throughout the '60's.  It was a contemporary of the McDonnell-Douglas F3H Demon and F-101 Voodoo with comparable performance and capabilities.

The Model

Hawk produced this kit in the '60's.  It is typical for the day with lots of raised detail, rivets the size of tennis balls and even the national markings are represented by raised detail.  The cockpit is non-existant, with a pilot that sits on a plank, even though it is called a seat.  The landing gear doors are molded shut, however separate doors are provided to display the model with the gear down.  There is no intake or exhaust detail, one can look down one end and see through to the other.

One site infers Hawk made identification models for the US, of which the Javelin was one, and after that contract expired they used the molds and sold the kits to the public.

The kit is considered inaccurate for a production Javelin.  At best it represents one of the prototypes that flew with just the forward seat.  The nose, canopy, wings, exhausts, intakes are all wrong.  But who cares?  This was a fun model for a kid; and as an identification model, it's close enough to a Javelin in appearance to pass.

I didn't use all my skills on this one, I wanted conversation piece to go with that photo.  I DID paint it this time, as is obvious in the photos.  I filled the seams, the top and bottom halves of the fuselage don't fit well.  The outer wing panels left noticeable gaps on the wings, but instead of filling and sanding all that detail away, I drizzled some Future and other thin glues into it to make it better (good enough anyway).  I had to fair the canopy in; I used strip styrene to raise the rear portion so it had a better profile.  Otherwise it would have had a 1/8th inch step behind it and I wanted to limit sanding.

Decals were yellowed but they worked just fine with Micro-Sol.  The white turned out to be the same shade as Floquil Antique White, so I touched up the fin flash where each side didn't quite meet.  A final coat of Future mixed with Acryl Clear Flat toned down the sheen just a bit.  I put it on its stand and voila!  My first model.

Thanks for reading...

Note: Also published over on Small World

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Anniversary: Pearl Harbor

Well, the 70th anniversary of the "Day of Infamy" was last December.  Every year we commemorate any milestone anniversary with a theme build; but not necessarily a specific event.  This year I decided to note the attack on Pearl Harbor as most modelers were focusing on more recent milestones.

At any rate, I dropped the Arizona kit I had started because it was totally stalled at the "remove from sprue" point.  And since I was building a pair of P-40's for the "Shark Tank" theme I decided to add two more and build a pair assigned to the Hawaiian islands.  One would be 2nd Lt George Welch's "160" from 7th December and the other an earlier scheme.

The Subjects

Both are basic early P-40B aircraft in the standard Olive Drab 41 over Neutral Gray 43 scheme.  

The first subject is a P-40B from the 55th Pursuit Squadron, 35th Pursuit Group during early/mid 1941.  In addition to the standard camouflage scheme, it sported a white squadron identifying spinner with squadron emblem on the fuselage side; and the then standard rudder striping.

The second subject is a P-40B from the 47th Pursuit Squadron, 15th Pursuit Group in which 2nd Lt George Welch is purported to have flown.  In addition to the standard camouflage, it sports a white "160" on the fuselage sides.  No other markings were carried.  Most of this is based on a painting and is considered "common knowledge" as there is no information to refute this, however Lt Welch may have flown "155" as both were at the satellite field and no known information other than the painting exists.
The two subjects are similar but different, just enough to show the transition in schemes as war was looming.

The Models

Since I was building these two in parallel with the "Shark Tank" builds, I also chose to use the Airfix and Academy kits.  All of my comments on building and detailing is the same, with the exception of the decals.
I airbrushed the camouflage free hand.  Not something I typically do as I usually cannot get a good demarcation.  I just cannot seem to get a smooth, curving line and/or the overspray is ridiculously large.  This time I turned the pressure down to 7 PSI and thinned the Model Master 2050 Olive Drab paint considerably and patiently painted over the Pollyscale 505086 Neutral Gray, working until I had a nice demarcation.  I touched up with the Neutral Gray and I am actually very satisfied with the results.
Before decals I sprayed three light coats of Future to ensure a nice smooth surface.  For both subjects, I used Starfighter Decals sheets.  

The early P-40B is from sheet 72-134, subject D.  The decals went on wonderfully, the only trouble I had was with the rudder striping.  They are a tiny bit undersized for the Academy kit I put them on, and I had to touch up the blue and red.  Based on my experience with the Academy kits, some day I'll replace this model with the Airfix kit (already ordered for the stash!).

The second subject, "160" is the Airfix kit, new tooling, with markings from sheet 72-135.  I had absolutely no problems with the decals using water and Micro-Sol.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"Shark Tank"

The requirement was to build any subject with a shark or shark mouth motif or related to a shark in some way.  Examples are a Blackburn Shark (been there, done that), any various aircraft with a shark mouth, SS-174 USS SHARK, a P-3 Orion of VP-6 "Blue Sharks" get the picture.

I wanted to make that FAA Seafire IIc with the shark mouth, or even the RAAF Spitfire VIII but decided to step out of my Spitfire phase and do a traditional P-40.  Okay, not too traditional as I did NOT do the typical AVG bird.  I've got 3 AVG Tomahawks already, two of which are not very good but one which I'm quite happy with (Hobby Boss kit). 

I browsed through my decals and found two I wanted to do, both 112 Squadron RAF, Egypt, 1941.  But which one?  How about both!

As I collected some info and decided on paints, I received two new Airfix Hawk 81A-2 kits (kit number A01003).  In the box is the right plastic bits to make either a Tomahawk I, II or IIa; or the P-40-CU, P-40B or P-40C.  There was only one P-40A, modified for reconnaissance.

The Tomahawk I represents the 140 H81A-1, which is generally similar to the P-40-CU.  Ordered by France with French guns, and other internal systems; this lot was taken over by Britain when France fell in 1940.  The major external differences are a single gun in each wing and the fuselage gun barrels protruded further.  British serials AH741 to AH880 apply.

The Tomahawk IIa is the British equivalent of the P-40B.  British serials AH881 to AH990.  

The Tomahawk IIb is the British equivalent of the P-40C.  The external difference is the ability to carry an external fuel tank or bomb.  British serials AH991 to AH999, AK100 to AK570, AM370 to AM519 and AN218 to AN517.

I suspect there may be other external differences, like radio masts and antenna wires, but I have not found a reference to indicate what those may be.  If I do I'll update this portion.  None of the photos I have of British Tomahawks show different antenna configurations, so at this point I assume they are the same.

In my stash I had 2 of the venerable Academy kits of the same subject.  I decided to build one of the new Airfix and the old Academy; and do them side-by-side for a comparison.

The subjects

112 Squadron RAF is generally credited with initiating the shark mouth motif on the P-40 line.  The Luftwaffe actually had a Gruppe of Bf-110's during Dunkirk that was sooner, and I think I have some photos of a Bf-109D from 1939 with a shark mouth.

112 Squadron got their Tomahawks in July 1941 in Egypt.  They came to them painted in the then-standard scheme called the Temperate Land Scheme of Dark Green and Dark Earth over Sky undersides.  After a few weeks of operations the squadron repainted the Tomahawks in the Desert Scheme of Middle Stone and Dark Earth over Azure.  For identification the aircraft had red spinners and no fuselage bands on either scheme.

Both subjects have the shark mouth motif, as well as some other squadron identifications on them. 

The colors of Dark Green, Dark Earth and Sky as used on Tomahawks is the subject of debate.  I am quite happy with the colors described by Nick Millman on his blog; generally there is agreement that Curtiss used Dupont paints 71-013 for Dark Green, 71-065 (or possibly 71-009!) for Dark Earth and 71-021 for Sky.  Ultimately I chose paints that appear very close to these colors as depicted on Nick's blog.  I will not enter into any debates on what color Dupont 71-021 is, some believe it to be a bluish gray, others a greenish gray.  It's your model, paint it they way you want it.

Between Britmodeler, my books and some other forums I read occasionally, the Desert Scheme for these aircraft was achieved by simply overpainting the Dark Green with Middle Stone and the undersurface with Azure Blue.  As these are standard RAF colors, I used paints which approximate the reference chips I have, but left the Dark Earth color the original 71-065.

The models

Simply put, the Airfix kit is a dream compared to the Academy kit.  Okay, the Academy kit is crude and a very easy build.  If it's the only early P-40 on your shelf it'll look the part, but set it next to the new Airfix, Trumpeter or even the Hobby Boss kits, it looks toy-ish and crude.  Best used as a pallet or as a toy for your young modelers-to-be.

What's wrong with the Academy?  The prop spinner is too large, making the prop look small (it isn't).  The nose is over thick as is the fuselage in general.  The tail is thick and too deep.  There is no detail in the cockpit or wheel wells, the guns and pitot are just stubs and the canopy is all wrong.  But other than that, it sort of looks like an early P-40.  I remember first seeing it back in the 80's when it was first released and thinking, "Finally!  An early P-40 I can put in my display."  There was a reason I didn't build a second one until now...

The Airfix kit is beautiful.  Not only does it look the part, but it has good detail in the cockpit, the wheel wells are accurately displayed, the nose, wings, fuselage and tail are all delicate and well detailed, providing both that rugged look of the early P-40 in a more scale-like appearance.

Okay, enough gushing...the parts are very delicate.  I broke a few trying to remove them from the sprues and used my razor saw at that.  The plastic is soft, so care must be taken while working with it.

For the Airfix kit I decided to model Tomahawk IIb, AK367/C, 112 Squadron, RAF, Sidi Heneish, Egypt, Summer 1941.  The scheme is Dark Green, Dark Earth and Sky, as delivered by Curtiss.  The paints I used to mimic what I believe these colors to look like were: 

  • Dark Green -- Dupont 71-013, Model Master 1764
  • Dark Earth -- Dupont 71-065, Tamiya XF-52
  • Sky -- Dupont 71-021, Humbrol 23

I used the decals from BarracudaCals sheet 72005.  They laid down great with just Micro-Sol and floated well on water so working with the decals was easy.  After the decals had dried fully I put a final coat of Future mixed 10:1 with Model Master Acryl Flat Clear.  Just a drop in my airbrush cup with the Future is enough to give a satin finish; any more and it takes on a very flat sheen.

For the Academy kit, I modeled a Tomahawk IIb, AN413/K, 112 Squadron, Egypt, October 1941.  According to the decal sheet I used, it was piloted by Pilot Officer Jack Bartle, an Australian.  The scheme is the Desert Scheme of Dark Earth, Middle Stone over Azure Blue; another source indicated these aircraft were repainted locally so the Dark Earth was the original Dupont color.  The paints I used to mimic these colors were:

  • Dark Earth -- Dupont 71-065, Tamiya XF52
  • Middle Stone -- Gunze HobbyColor H71
  • Azure Blue -- Model Master Azure Blue with a few drops of Deep Red added 
I used Sky Decals P-40 sheet 72 058.  Again using just Micro-Sol they went down well, however the decals are sized for either the Trumpeter or HobbyBoss kits as they have a smaller and better shaped nose.  Also, I believe the red is too bright in the roundels and on the fin flash; it should be more dull.  The shark mouth decal is too small for the Academy kit.  I also made a slight mistake with the fin flash but some minor paint touch up will fix that.  Overcoated with my Future/Acryl mix for a satin sheen.  I'll replace this one someday with an Airfix kit.


For the money, they Airfix kit is the way to go.  While you can pick up an Academy kit for less than $5 at shows, the Airfix kit is only another dollar online and makes into a much better model.  If you were to buy or scratch the necessary upgrades to make it look as nice as the Airfix, the Academy would cost much more.

I also have a Trumpeter and HobbyBoss Tomahawk II.  The Trumpeter is over engineered, consisting of too many parts.  It does build up nicely, but takes putty to clean up the nose seams as it's made up of 2 additional parts to get the guns and intakes right.  Airfix did this right.  It's 2-3 times as costly as Airfix so I don't recommend it.  

Hobbyboss is the Easy Build kit, and it was easy.  It's "not quite right" with a panel raised and a bit of detail off.  About the same price as Airfix and it alone can replace your stash of Academy P-40's.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

"Trench Warfare"

After a couple of years of poor participation in our BTSK -- Build The Same Kit -- theme we decided to change things up and build the same kit manufacturer.  In this case we chose Matchbox.  For the uninitiated, Matchbox is notorious for deep trench-like panel lines, but I have to say most of my Matchbox kits seem to have few panel lines that warrant that observation.  Ultimately as a theme it fared worse so we'll be dropping that approach for the future, but it did afford me a reason to complete a model that had sit on the shelf of doom for a few years.  Not because the kit was a problem, but due to a lack of decals.

The Subject

I like the lines of the Mosquito and over the years have acquired kits that allow me to model the main variants.  I've always wanted one of the PR birds after seeing photos and profiles of an overall blue aircraft with a bright red tail.  

NS569 was a PR XVI Mossie assigned to the 8th Air Force.  Specifically, the 654th Bomb Squadron.  I chose this particular set of markings simply because they were different with the stenciling on the national markings and a name on the nose.

What is a PR XVI?  Basically a pressurized B IX with standard flush bomb bay doors and 3 cameras installed.

Remember that the Mossie started as a PR aircraft, the PR I being the first model to operate in 1941.

The Model

The kit is PK-116, listed as a Mosquito NF 30 or B IX.  Typical Matchbox black and brown plastic, overly thick canopy and details a bit heavy, if any.  I sanded away most of the details because every photo of a Mossie I've got shows them to be a very clean aircraft.

My references, mainly the Squadron In-Action 127 and 139, indicated the kit represents a PR XVI better than the B IX, so I decided to make the necessary mods.  It can also make the NF 30, but I'll await a better kit for that variant.

The modifications were easy:  Simply drill 1/8th inch holes at the locations at the forward end and behind the bomb bay for the 4 camera ports.  I filled these with white glue, which dried clear and looked the part.  The kit is otherwise finished as instructed for a B IX.  There may be more modifications needed to be very accurate, like correcting the air intake under the forward nacelles, but until recently I didn't know they were "off".  

For painting, I used Model Master PRU Blue enamel; Tamiya X-7 Red and XF-8 Blue acrylics.  After a coat of Future I applied the markings.  I used Ventura Decals V7256, a sheet I acquired of eBay and the decals went down well over the glossy surface of Future.  Of note, they are thick and the carrier film covered the entire sheet.  I trimmed them close and with Micro-Sol did not silver.

Other than sanding detail and cleaning up seams, not a difficult build.  If I ever decide to do this one over, I hope to have a nicer and better detailed kit.  Unfortunately the Mossie experts out there remain disappointed with no modern tooling of a two-stage Merlin Mossie, that I'm aware of.  If I do the Matchbox kit again I'll add cockpit detail, better props and improve the nacelles, plus a vac canopy to show off the details.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Sword XVI Preview

Sword Spitfire Mk XVI “Bubble” canopy SW72052

Back in May I was on vacation in London and was able to visit an IPMS UK show at Hendon.  What a treat!  But that’s a story for another day, as they say.  While there I picked up Sword’s recent release of their Spitfire Mk XVI at a very good price.  Given I saved shipping costs to the US, and import duties, this kit only cost me about $18 US, or about $5 less than here in the US.

What makes a Mk XVI?  The short answer: it’s basically a Mk IX with a US Packard built Merlin 266.  The mark was produced in both high back and low back (bubble) variants.  I understand that a few of the early production had the “c” armament of 2x 20mm cannon and 4x .303 guns, but the majority were the “e” wing armament of 2x 20mm cannon and 2x .50 guns.  Other than the serial number there is no real way to tell the difference in photos of a Mk IX and Mk XVI.  “Typically” if it’s a low back then it’s a Mk XVI, as the vast majority were produced with the bubble canopy; and the majority of Mk IX were of the high back.  Most also were built with clipped wingtips to lessen stress on the wing spar during rolls; by the last year of the war the Mk XVI was generally used in the low-level ground support role with 2nd TAF.

This kit has very fine, recessed panel lines.  And I mean very fine.  If you use a hairy stick to paint with, be prepared to lose some of the detail, and keep your paint thin for airbrushing as well!  This makes for a very accurate look, of course.  

Additional detail is just as good, such as a well detailed cockpit.  Much more than I need as I always build with the canopy closed (...dust).  The canopy is provided as two pieces to allow showing off the interior.  The cannon and gun barrels are provided as resin (very nice!) and there are two resin alternatives for the engine exhausts; fishtail and the later round type.

Interestingly, my sample had one half of the high back fuselage that is on the original sprue.  A shame as that would have provided real value if both were there as I could have corrected that awful Italeri Mk IX...  The low back fuselage is provided on a separate sprue.

Plenty of folks elsewhere have checked this and the other Sword Spitfires against plans, and they are spot on accurate.  I did not check as I trust those experts at Britmodeller.

Kit includes things under the wings like two bombs with their racks and choice of slipper tanks; these are typically not provided in a Spitfire kit so this is very welcome given the typical mission of the Mk XVI.  I look forward to hanging these on.

Markings are provided for 4 aircraft of 2nd TAF late in the war:
  1. TB625/OU-V of 485 Squadron, “Rongotea” flown by Warrant Officer M.J.C. Lind out of Fassburg, Germany, April 1945.
  2. TB886/AU-J of 421 Squadron, “Dorothy” flown out of Reinsehlen, Germany, May 1945.
  3. TD240/WX-V of 302 (Polish) Squadron, “Janetka” flown by Squadron Leader Boleslaw Kaczmarek, 1945.
  4. TD317/ZF-P of 308 Squadron flown by Squadron Leader K. Pniak, 1945.
The only Sword kit I’ve actually completed was one of their Hurricanes, and the decals were very nice.

Obviously a comparison has to be made to the other Mk XVI kits available.  These are the old Heller and KP kits.  Hands down this Sword is much better.  Both Heller and KP have raised panel lines and nearly no detail in the cockpit.  Both are fairly accurate in shape, albeit the Heller kit has too deep radiators (an easy fix).  I’ve got quite a few of the Heller kits because I can find them for $2 or less at swap meets.  But if adding an aftermarket cockpit and vacform canopy the price is nearly as much as the Sword kit.  Considering the Heller decals are so off in color, you’re in for more than the Sword kit.

I like scratch building a cockpit for the Spitfire and with a closed canopy it works, so I’ll keep those Heller kits to use up some spare decals.

The KP is typically $5 or more, so I don’t recommend it as bringing it up to the Sword in terms of appearance will cost significantly more than the Sword.

So from a value perspective, the Sword is well over the top.  

Watch this space for a side-by-side build with the Heller Spitfire Mk XVI.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A pair of Wildcats

Our club's theme for July is "Salute the General", any model of a General Motors subject. My initial plan was to model the FM-2 Wildcat using the MPM kit, but once the Museum project kicked in I had to find something less challenging. Since Iwasn't doing 1 FM-2, I decided to do 2 FM-1's.

A quick scan confirmed I had some F4F-4 kits that I could easily convert to the FM-1, and since I wanted an otherwise quick build, I decided they would be out of the box. That also influenced me to choose the Academy kits as they were simple, looked like Wildcats, and would (hopefully) give me some quick satisfaction given their small parts count. I was not disappointed!
The subjects
Since I had two of the Academy kits in my stash, I decided to knock them both out. Painting of the engine and interiors would be identical and other than the exterior colors both would require the same steps, but times two. I checked my decal stash and found, to my dismay, that I had NO decals for the FM-1!  Lots of decals for F4F-4 and FM-2 and their FAA equivalents, but not my chosen aircraft. 

Some quick searches on eBay and my references and I realized for a small sum I could get the Frog decals for the F242 Wildcat kit and it would have decals for two aircraft. But on page 34 of Squadrons Wildcat In Action had a nice photo of a FM-1 in the Atlantic ASW scheme with a red surround to the star and bar. Granted that red is an interpretation and it could just as easily be fresh insignia blue...  The caption says it's an aircraft from VC-55 on USS Block Island (CVE-21) while she was working up for her first ASW deployment. A quick check for those red bordered insignia in the stash...yep!  How about that big black 14 on the sides?...yep!  So now I've got a model that ties in with all that Battle of the Atlantic work I'm doing. 

Back to that set of Frog decals. Since I decided to make a US Atlantic theater subject I decided to use the FAA set. Turns out the markings are for JV429/8N of 881 Squadron while embarked on HMS Pursuer. This particular aircraft was flown by Sub Lieutenant Brander on February 1944 in which he shot down a He 177 Grief bomber. It was also part of the April 1944 raid on KM Tirpitz.  Hopefully the decals are useable. 

The models

The Academy F4F-4 kit has been around for a long time now. When it first came out it had some great exterior detail. Unfortunately it suffers from being a bit portly and the engine is just a couple of rows of cylinders. The prop is hideous and detracts terribly. Importantly though is the fact that you can pick these up at swap meets for about $2 US. While Quickboost can be your friend with fixes for the prop and engine, and you can find cockpit and landing gear sets to fill the cavern, by the time you invest in the aftermarket you can get the Hasegawa kit which is much better in shape and detail.

The interior is US interior green. I painted a black circle on the headrest to give the impression of a cushion, and painted the pistol grip area of the control stick black. Otherwise there is no detail and the thick canopy hides it well.   The engine is painted anthracite gray overall, with the crank casing neutral gray and the firewall interior green. At this point all my painting was with model master enamels. 
I filled the outer machine gun panel lines and the leading edge hole, carefully wet sanded primed and refilled. The only externally distinguishing feature of the FM-1 as compared to the F4F-4 is the former only had four guns to the latter's six. Initially the FM-1 was meant to simply be a massed produced copy of the F4F-4, but the US Navy and Marines wanted the longer firing time that came with 4 guns versus 6 so that change was incorporated. 
Construction was (not so) straight forward. My two kits were from different production runs. The earlier kit fit well and went together okay but the "newer" kit had fit issues due to misalignment of the pins and the parts just didn't fit well. In both cases the fuselage halves are not the same depth, so I chose to have the step on the underside. More filling and sanding. 

Once together I primed both using a white primer and touched up all the seems. Once ready I masked the canopies and installed them. Interior green went on first followed by the color coats for both kits. 
A word on colors for Eastern Aircraft built Wildcats and Avengers.  From scouring the forums it appears the consensus is they used the ANA colors for all manufacturing runs. I decided that was close enough, given model paint variability so decided to check my paint rack for acrylics that matched. 
For the USN version I used Tamiya XF-54 Dark Gray. It looked about right for ANA 6xx Dark Gull Gray and the IPMS Stockholm cross reference recommends it. The undersides and sides were just left in the white primer. 

For JV249 I used Tamiya XF-24 for ANA 603 Sea Gray (equivalent to Extra Dark Sea Grey), Acryl ANA 613 Olive Drab (Dark Slate Grey) and XF-21 Sky for ANA 610 Sky. These ANA colors were the Temperate Sea Scheme equivalents for Lend Lease aircraft. 
The landing gear is flat black and the tires are Gunze Tire Black. I took a piece of soft cotton cloth from an old t-shirt and with some spittle gently rubbed the surfaces to polish the finish and smooth out the paint. 

After a day to cure fully I sprayed a coat of Future as prep for the decals. All went down nicely using a bit of thinned Future as a setting solution. I then mixed up some enamel medium gray to pick out the deeper panel lines on the white, darkened it up a bit for the Dark Gull Gray and Sky, and nearly black for the FAA upper surfaces. After a few minutes to dry I cleaned up the excess with a cotton swab and let it all cure for another day. I then mixed a bit of Acryl Flat Clear with Future to seal it all in with a satin sheen. 

Not my best work but very satisfying. When my skills are a bit better I plan to do both subjects again, but using the Hasegawa F4F-4 as the basis. 
Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Liberty Ship

No Battle of the Atlantic display would be complete without some sort of merchant ship to represent the thousands that not only served but were lost during the 6 years of the battle. Thousands of merchant sailors served the Allied cause and were exposed to many of the same dangers as soldiers, sailors and airmen of the militaries, but their sacrifices are sometimes forgotten simply because they did not carry arms. The US Merchant Marine alone lost 9,521 men aboard 1,543 ships during the period December 1941 to May 1945. Britain, Canada, France, Russia and other countries lost even more as they served longer. For no other reason, if you build ships, put at least one merchant ship in your collection for these men. 

Surprisingly, there aren't that many kits out there in 1/700 scale of merchant ships, but of course the ubiquitous Liberty Ship is available from two manufacturers: Pit Road and Trumpeter. If you're willing to build in resin, you can get a few more choices, but they are expensive. 

The Subject

Since our display is to cover PQ 18 my first worry was whether that particular convoy even had any Liberty Ships in her group. To my relief I discovered that of the 40 merchants, there were 8 liberty ships. These were:
  • SS Esek Hopkins
  • SS Oliver Ellsworth -- Sunk by U-408
  • SS Patrick Henry
  • SS St. Olaf
  • SS John Penn -- Sunk in air attack
  • SS Nathanael Greene
  • SS Virginia Dare
  • SS William Moultrie

I don't have any good references for Liberty Ships but I wanted the model to be somewhat representative, not specific. There were 2,751 built during the war, and while all were similar, some had some unique features such as gun configurations, lifeboats, and other minor changes. 
Initially I had wanted to paint my Liberty Ship in one of the disruptive or dazzle paint schemes you see in so many photos and videos. Interestingly, most Liberty Ships were painted one color: USN Ocean Gray. To speed construction everything was painted the same color with the exception of the Charlie Noble (galley smoke stack) and the top of the main boiler stack. 
To be fair some ships were camouflaged, but that is rare and unless you're modeling a specific ship (I wasn't) that was camouflaged, it should be Ocean Gray. 

The Model

As mentioned earlier, there are two kits of the Liberty Ship. Pit Road did a model in the 1970's listed as an AK class ship or a Liberty Ship, depending on the boxing. Tamiya and Skywave also released the kit. It's a bit rare and a bit expensive, and as I understand it reflects typical Pit Road quality, which is quite good for the vintage. 

Trumpeter's Liberty Ship is the SS Jeremiah O'Brien, a working Liberty Ship that tours the US ports and is currently berthed in San Francisco. The kit is also boxed as the SS John W. Brown, the other surviving Liberty Ship berthed at Baltimore and while the parts are the same, there are obviously two different configurations and some variation that can be built.  
Construction was quite easy, and I have to say this is a great kit for first getting into ship modeling in this scale. Detail is excellent, fit is superb and the parts count, while high for  this aircraft modeler, is not bad. I didn't quite follow the sequence, I made everything that I could as a subassembly, painted it and then glued it onto the hull. A small amount of filler was needed along the deck - hull seam.

The instructions would have you paint her in modern colors, as she is currently restored.  That's only accurate for a post war Liberty Ship, not her wartime service. Since I have a couple of bottles of Model Master RAF Ocean Grey enamel, and that color is too blue as the RAF color, I decided to use it as USN Ocean Gray. This latter color is quite a dark blue with a gray tinge to it, according to online sources. Since in 1/700 scale I would normally lighten the color by about 30%, I decided the Model Master color could be okay. 
I'm quite happy with the color as it really looks "scale" to my eye based on available color photos of ships painted in USN Ocean Gray. And there are lots of them available. 
Painting was almost too easy, I just sprayed it all over.  Then I picked out the Charlie Noble and stack in black. The canvas covers under the battens were olive drab, as was ALL canvas during the war, I've been told, so I chose a random bottle and picked out the canvas  I attempted a wash but it didn't look right, so I cleaned it off. 
Again, as a first kit it's great, I'll definitely get another for my shelf. 
Thanks for reading.