Tuesday, January 17, 2012

“Land of the Morning Calm”

CMR Seafire FR.47
Vickers-Supermarine Seafire FR.47, VP459, 179/P, 800 Squadron, HMS Triumph, 1950
I’d longed for a Seafire FR.47 for years; I was tempted to get the old vacform by Rareplanes but kept putting it off.  Mainly due to cost as it was a rare kit to find but also because the other Rareplanes kit I’d built back in the early ‘90’s didn’t come out too well; which somewhat scared me off vacs for a while (but that's another story as they say).  I was not aware of the Ventura kit from down under until recently, when Jays began re-releasing them.  
So when CMR released their resin kit I was very interested.  While the price was steep, I was willing to buy, but had no experience with resin kits.  So, off I went to find a low cost CMR on sale somewhere to gain some experience.  I found them at WestCoastHobbys, lower cost than eBay and much lower than the US distributer.  After a few builds were behind me I purchased the FR.47 and this year decided it was time to actually make it.  I had some good stock of accurate paints and the kit came with the exact scheme I wanted.  Plus, my local club decided to acknowledge the 60th anniversary of the Korean War with a theme for November, "Land of the Morning Calm".
The Aircraft
When the North Koreans invaded the South HMS Triumph was operating in the western Pacific. Her, along with some US carriers were quickly dispatched to Korean waters to provide air support to the UN forces retreating down the peninsula. 

800 Squadron was onboard with the last embarked Seafire squadron and provided escort to her Firefly strike aircraft as well as providing some light strike capability as required. Additionally she received tasking to escort B-29s as they bombed targets in the north.

It was on one of these early B-29 escort missions that B-29 gunners fired on their escorts – they looked too much like the attacking Yak-9’s – that the FAA began applying Night/White identification stripes to the wings and empennage. 

By late Fall, 1950, the air wing was tired and needed relieving. HMS Triumph returned to England where 800 Squadron proceeded to trade in her Seafires for another Supermarine product, the Attacker.
Reference:  Spitfire the History, Squadron in Action, Warpaint Series No. 20, On Target Profiles 5

The Model
CMR make just about every Mark of the Spitfire and Seafire in 72nd scale, from the prototypes (both variations of K5054) through to both the Spiteful and Seafang. If one wants a very accurate model of their subject, CMR can provide it; however the buyer must know that accuracy comes with a price. CMR kits are expensive but in my opinion are well worth it. The detail is exceptional and even my feeble attempts are made to look that much better.

After cleaning up the resin by removing the parts from the pour-stubs and washing them with liquid hand soap I was ready to paint.  Generally I use an airbrush and shot everything with interior grey-green (albeit I use Tamiya XF-21 Sky as it looks more "scale") and then painted the night/black areas with Mr Color Midnight Blue.  I feel this color has that bluish tinge to it that Night should have, plus it is more of a dark gray color, so I use it for props and other areas calling for Night.

I bent all the PE for the cockpit into the right shapes, really a simple affair and it came out so well I almost went against my own policy of never opening up the cockpit.  I drilled out the prop shaft location at the nose to ensure my contra-props would spin, more on that later...

The fuselage went together very easily, requiring almost no filler.  One reason I like these resin kits is that I can use a strong solvent like acetone to smooth seams after filling and it doesn't affect the resin or detail.  The wing was test fitted and as I've found with CMR kits don't glue the lower fuselage seam until the wing is on because it may need some sanding or fitting of a spacer to make it fit just right.  This kit was no different as the forward fuselage between the leading edge of the wing and the nose didn't quite fit properly.  If I closed up the seam then there was a wide gap at the wing roots forward; if I eliminated the wing root gaps there was a gap under the nose.

So after studying drawings and photos it was obvious the wing roots should have no gaps and the nose should have not gap either; meaning a slight V-shaped gap existed with the pointy end of the "V" was forward.  After getting everything aligned I ran some super glue and made it all permanent.  Then filled in the "V" with plasticard and filler.

To allow my props to be removed and also to spin (young hands always want to spin the prop!) I always glue a sheet of plastic about an inch from the nose inside the fuselage.  As mentioned earlier I also drill out the prop shaft location and before I put the wings on I glue a tube that can take a rod, usually a 16th inch rod into a 8th inch tube with a 16th inch inner diameter (of course).  Unfortunately the contra-prop meant I needed another tube with an 8th inch inner diameter.  Unfortunately I had nothing with a small enough outer diameter to fit inside the Seafire's nose, so off to the hardware store.  Eventually I found a brass sleeve for something or other related to plumbing that was perfect.

The CMR kit comes with a choice of either individual blades for the spinners or fully build up props/spinners.  I'm not real good at prop alignment so I decided to use the ones CMR build up for me.  After cleaning the flash off they look okay, but could be better.  I may build those spares up someday and swap them out; easy enough since I make my props removable and able to spin!  

After priming and minor cleanup of imperfections I shot the entire model with Humbrol 90. This is actually an older tin of Super Enamel that is a very good match to Sky. Newer tins produced by Hornby are not quite the same color, unfortunately. So I use my Humbrol 90 sparingly...

I then masked off the areas for the stripes, shot the white and then removed all the tape to let the paint cure for a week. Next weekend I masked the stripes and lower surfaces and with a mix I found on the internet for Tamiya paints, I shot the Extra Dark Sea Grey (EDSG). That mix, by the way, is: "to 50 parts of XF24 dark gray, add 6 parts XF2 white and 3 parts XF8 flat blue." It looks right to my eye, not having that greenish tinge some paint makers insist is EDSG or the very dark gray that is near to a version of Night.

After all the paint had cured well, a good week, I decided to use a technique a member of my club swears by: spit. Okay, what that really means is an old cotton t-shirt rubbed on the surface with some spit to moisten it. There's just enough friction to buff the paint up to a nice satin finish without affecting the detail or wearing through the paint. It was smooth enough not to require any Future/Klear as an undercoat to the decals!

The kit decals were very thin and went on with Micro-Set (blue label) followed by a quick dash of Micro-Sol (red label) after they'd dried to ensure they settled completely down into the recessed panel lines. Remaining details were put on and the final piece remained: THE VAC CANOPY. My nemesis...

I tackled the canopy by trimming it down to what appeared to be the canopy frame outer mold line. First using very coarse sanding sticks and progressing down to fine until I was taking almost nothing off with each swipe. I then tried a dry fit and to my disbelief it fit the first time! Perfect. Painted the framing with Night, used a wooden pick to clean the edges, then painted the EDSG. Dipped it in Future/Klear to make the clear canopy really pop. On it went with Gator Grip -- I love this stuff as it dries quick and clear. A quick drill for the whip antennae, which is just a short piece of invisible thread, and she was done.

All-in-all about 30 hours of modeling spread over 3 months. I'm pleased and it enjoys a place of honor, at the front and at eye level.

Thanks for looking...

Monday, January 16, 2012

PM Models Ta-183T Huckebein

Focke-Wulf Ta-183T Huckebein Träger, 3rd generation carrier based fighter
1/JG(T) 77, KM Manfred Richtofen, North Atlantic Fleet, 1947
“What if...”  In this case Germany is not vanquished in 1945 but is still going and has not only created the KMS Graf Zeppelin but has at least another aircraft carrier, my imagination says this is actually their 3rd design, able to support their 3rd generation of carrier based fighters. The fighter just happens to be based on a second generation jet aircraft design.
The whiff build is probably the most artistic and creative form of aircraft modeling.  It allows us to use our imagination to create any aircraft we want; in any paint scheme.  Accuracy is only limited by our imagination.  In my case I simply used my knowledge of Naval Aviation in general, Luftwaffe practice and the possibility that Hitler made different choices in either 1939, 1940, or 1941.
The Aircraft
1/JG 77 transitioned from their trusted Bf-109F to Me-262A jets in 1945.  In late 1945 the new aircraft carrier KMS Manfred von Richtofen was being readied for sea trials, so a new air wing was needed: 1/JG 77 was chosen to provide the fighter element.  Initially a variant of the Me-262 was to equip the squadron, however Kurt Tank’s 3G jet, the Ta-183, was showing great promise so in 1946 1/JG 77 transitioned from the Me-262 to the Ta-183 while awaiting the carrier version.  
The TA-183T or träger (carrier) version used an uprated BMW-004 engine providing 8,000 lbs static thrust and included a primitive first generation afterburner or reheat capability that could boost thrust to 10,500 lbs for short periods.  Armament was the standard 30mm Mk108 cannon in 4 locations; 4 underwing hard points could carrier either fuel tanks, bombs, or the latest air-air unguided rockets.  Range was only 200 NM but with all four external stations carrying drop tanks combat radius could be extended to 500 NM, 650 for CAP missions and ferry range was as far as 1,900 NM.  Speed was over 550 mph and in a dive could easily exceed Mach 1.0 in a clean configuration.
For carrier operations the Ta-183T had beefed up landing gear, strengthened longerons for catapulting and arrested landings and most obviously a tail hook.  The pilot’s position well forward and up provided excellent view for approach/landing and the flaps and automatic leading edge flaps kept the approach speeds to well below 100 mph.
By 1947, 1/JG 77(T) was integrated with III/TG 1 Richtofen onboard KMS Manfred von Richtofen and the carrier & air wing deployed with KMS Tirpitz, KMS Hipper and 3 Z-29 class destroyers to patrol the North Atlantic.
Reference:  Mostly my imagination, the web for markings ideas.
The Model
This is a limited run kit of a Luft ’46 concept aircraft, the Ta-183.  A very basic kit, the fit was pretty good and there was little cockpit, just a hole for the tail pipe and the intake is just a short depression.  Detail is minimal but it is recessed.  I used the kit seat but trimmed it back, added an armor plate behind the seat and included a pilot in order to hide the lack of cockpit detail.
The canopy was thick, but fit well, it was not clear but good enough as I didn’t think I could clean the inside of the canopy.  The kit went together in a weekend and after cleanup of the seams I was ready to paint.
I chose a maritime scheme of RLM73, RLM75 with RLM84 undersides.  My thought was to provide a scheme that was both similar to the FAA scheme but using RLM paints, and which reflected the early war thinking of air superiority.  So lighter colors up the sides and on the top, and grayer.  Paints used were Model Master and Polyscale.
Decals came from my spares box.  The unit marking is actually 1/JG 77 when they flew the Me-109 and include the national markings.
The tail hook came from my spares and I believe was originally on a F9F Cougar.  The afterburner is from an old F-5A model.  Both models are long lost to the trash bin.

I enjoyed the build, albeit a bit out of place on my shelf of historically significant subjects.  The engineer in me looked at how the Ta-183 would have needed so much more in terms of improvements to be a viable aircraft, much more so to be a Naval fighter.  If, as PM supposes, the MiG-15 was based on the Ta-183 it’s a good example of the changes necessary.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

2011 Achievements

Last year was a very good year for me.  Besides a transition from one career (US Navy) to another I was able to expand my hobby of building model aircraft and ships from a solitary function in my basement to a club and network centric hobby.  I am a very active member of my local club; I edit the monthly newsletter; and I've done this while getting models built -- that's what it's about, right?  So how I did:
In order of construction, here are the non-Spitfire builds:

Hasegawa Hurricane IIb, 11 OTU, SAAF (March Theme “Training Day”). Nothing special about the build, although masking all that yellow was tough, first a coat of white, then the yellow. Dark Green and Light Green over Azure. Decals by Model Alliance (72148).
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Revell USS Midway (CVB-41) (May Theme, “100 Years of Naval Aviation). Okay, not 72nd scale or aircraft, but I’m including it for completeness. Old school build, no aftermarket parts, but I used Starfighter Decals’ decal set to make the markings more accurate and of course painted it per their directions, not the kit’s. That’s a Corsair on the deck, not enough patience with 8 decals per aircraft to complete the rest. Hull red, haze gray, deck gray and black, with some weathering.
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Frog Blackburn T.9 Shark I, K4358/657, HMS Courageous, Mediterranean Fleet, 1936 (June Theme “Damn the Torpedoes”). Lots of frustration making this silk purse from the sow’s ear. This was a repop from some Russian maker that was heavy with flash and missing parts (probably short shot). I decided to learn from it and I certainly did. Some of the struts are scratch built, the cockpit is completely scratched, the markings are all masked other than the roundels. Cerrux Grey, Silver and Black. My favorite build of the year; I always try to do at least one biplane each year.
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Airfix Hurricane Mk I, W9266, 274 Squadron, RAF, F/L Dudley Honor, Gerawia, Egypt, 26 May 1941, (July Theme, “It’s a Dry Heat”). A great story and a unique paint scheme, I had to do it. Even though it’s an old kit it still looks the part. The tropical filter came from my spares box and didn’t fit well, but I got it to work. The decals came from the same Model Alliance sheet as the Hurricane IIb from 11 OTU SAAF (72148). The Italian squiggles came from a Print Scale sheet. Sand, Dark Earth, Middlestone, Sky Blue.
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Thanks for looking.

2012 Goals

Okay, 2011 was a very good year for me.  Nine Spitfires/Seafires completed!  I've got an ambitious 2012 planned as I've indicated over on my other blog; but only 5 Spitfires/Seafires are in the mix:
  • CMR Seafire XV
  • Airfix Spitfire Va (new tooling)
  • Airfix Spitfire II LR (new tooling)
  • Airfix Spitfire IXc (new tooling)
  • Sword Spitfire Vc
I've got a Sword Mk XVIe on the way, and I may put that in and take out the Airfix Mk IXc.  It all depends on my progress with the others, the Airfix kit is so easy/quick it's almost a weekend build.  Of course, I have that box of parts waiting for me to carve and glue a Spitfire Mk III from, but I still have quite a bit of information gathering to do on that one, like paint scheme and where exactly to cut the wings, for starters.

Thanks for looking...

2011 Achievements

This year I kept better track of my builds and which theme(s) they were associated with. I also was able to achieve a few other goals for my hobby:
  • I started a blog of my Spitfire builds;
  • I participated in 2 Group Builds;
  • I completed 9 Spitfires/Seafires; my goal was 10 and I expected to get 8 back in October.
In order of construction, here they are:

Hobby Boss Spitfire Mk Vb, EP312 / D-K, personal mount of WC Dereck Kain, Edku, Egypt, 1944. Not a “bad” kit, but if you source the landing gear covers (mine came from a Revell Mk Vb), a new prop (Quickboost), and a new canopy (I used the kit one) it looks the part. Total cost is higher than it should be, given the aftermarket needed to make it acceptable. I’ll not do another. Dark Green, Dark Earth, Azure. Markings from spares and masks.
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Airfix Spitfire Mk IXc, 4th PS, 52nd FG, Corsica, January 1944, F/O Bob Hoover. I didn’t correct the kit like I should have as I didn’t realize the inaccuracies. This is a great kit to learn on, inexpensive and accurate in overall shape. Earth over Light Blue. Decals by Rising Decals (72-019).
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Airfix Spitfire Mk IIa, P7308/XR-D, 71 “Eagle” Squadron, P/O Bill Dunn, 27 August 1941. I finally got a new tooling Mk I here in the US and got the 3D-Kits Mk II conversion set at about the same time. I decided to make a IIa and try both out, since I liked the DFS in transition. Much has been said about the kit and conversion set, I’ve since purchased a half dozen more kits (the Mk I/II boxing) and the LR conversion from 3D-Kits. For the price this kit is an excellent basis for anything from an early Mk I to a Mk Va. Dark Green, Ocean Grey, Medium Sea Grey and Sky.
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Airfix Spitfire Mk IXc (early), MA585/KH-B, 403 Squadron RCAF, P/O George Beurling, 1943, (September Theme, “Canadian Bacon” and Spitfire Group Build online). My second attempt at the new tooling Mk IX, this time I corrected the kit by backdating the elevators, removed the wheel well bulges and sourced 5-spoke wheels. I also improved the cockpit with a better seat and column. Decals came from the Canadian IPMS sheet for RCAF aces. Dark Green, Ocean Grey, Medium Sea Grey & Sky.
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Airfix Spitfire Mk I, R6595, 610 Squadron, RAF, Biggin Hill, August 1940, (Airfix Group Build online). Another “old school” build, I decided to take my old 1979 tooling and make it a quick build like I would have back in 1979. Another subject chosen because of the history and with a unique scheme (too large unit markings and fin flash backwards). Hand painted Dark Green, Dark Earth and Sky; decals are from an Aeromaster Sheet on the BoB (72-028).
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CMR Spitfire Prototype K5054. I’ve quite a few of CMR’s Spitfires & Seafires to fill in my gaps. This is a lovely kit, it went together very quickly and I must say I’m getting much better at the vac canopy. Overall Light Grey-Blue (I used RLM 76).
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CMR Seafire FR.47, VP459, 179/P, 800 Squadron FAA, HMS Triumph, Fall 1950 (November Theme, “Land of the Morning Calm”). While I believe the Spitfire to be the most beautiful aircraft ever designed, the Seafire FR.47 is nearly my favorite of the line. In this livery it’s very attractive and the slim lines of the original Spitfire are taken to their limits. The only challenging portion of this build was the prop -- I wanted it to turn and may just replace it with a set that is permanently fixed. The vac canopy was no trouble at all.
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Airfix Spitfire Mk I (early), K9794, WZ T, 19 Squadron RAF, Duxford August 1938. Responding to another modeler who attempted to build their new tooling Spitfire and experienced an awful mess, I documented and shared my build as part of the same Airfix Group Build. I decided to complete it with spare decals from a CMR Mk I, as this was a scheme I wanted in my collection; albeit very close to the kit scheme.
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Fujimi Spitfire FR XIVe, 2 Squadron, 2nd TAF, RAF Wunsdorf, Germany, 1947. I began this build based on Paul Lucas’ excellent Camouflage & Markings, RAF Fighters 1945-1950 Overseas Based. Using period photos that appear to show a very dark scheme he surmised these were FR XIVe in the low-level recce scheme of Extra Dark Sea Grey, Extra Dark Sea Green over PRU Mauve. Alas, more recent research indicates that while authorized, no FR XIVe were painted thus, and all were delivered in a modified DFS of Dark Green, Ocean Grey over Medium Sea Grey with a Night spinner. A fairly easy build, I had to modify the tail wheel to be retractible and open the starboard camera port. My first use of the newer Tamiya paints for the DFS.
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Those last 3 will get their own postings soon in order to provide the usual details.  I failed to complete the MPM Spitfire FR Mk XVIII, but December was just too busy for me. 

I also got my other blog started, focused on all my models, not just Spitfires.

Thanks for looking.