Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mk Vc, VF-R, 5th FS, 52nd FG, February 1944

Back in late 2004 I wanted to model a Mk Vc, but unfortunately nobody made one.  Okay, to be fair, Airfix provided their Mk Vc(t) which was their Vb with that atrociously thick blob of a wing.  I actually attempted that kit and the result was pretty poor, as expected.

Earlier that year I'd begun a number of Spitfires, and starting building my stash of Spitfires and Seafires.   Only a couple of years before that I'd had only 1 Spitfire in my collection and it was on my shelf.  An '80's build of the Airfix Vb.  But there didn't seem to be a decent Vc.

So after studying a CMR Seafire IIc kit I realized the c wing from it was identical to a Vc (that would be a real "duh" moment today!).  Since I'd made the realization that the Revell Vb kit was inaccurate but detailed (cheap yes, no gull wing, though) I considered my first cross-kit by marrying the Seafire's c wing to the Revell fuselage.

An expensive option, yes.  But I was lucky enough to get a free wing out of the effort by publishing my build article for WestCoastHobbys and sharing the info with Petr at CMR.  My hope was a resin conversion set from CMR but Petr assured me other things were in the works...I'm sure that meant Sword's Vc, ultimately.

The Subject

Spitfire Mk Vc, VF-R, 5th Fighter Squadron, 52nd Fighter Group, USAAF, Italy, February 1944.  Flown by Lt John Anderson who achieved 2 kills over Me-109's on 15th February.  The aircraft has a non-standard camouflage scheme of a dark green, brown and sand to a non-standard pattern.

It's possible the colors are RAF Dark Green, Dark Earth and Middlestone, or alternatively USAAF ANA 613 Olive Drab, a brown, and ANA 616 Sand.  Or a mix of USAAF and RAF paints or even captured Italian paints.

The underside is thought to be a light blue, possibly a lightened ANA 609 Azure Blue, or RAF Sky Blue or an Italian light blue.

The Model

Since I had a few Revell Vb kits laying around, and the kit is reasonably detailed I cut the lower fuselage until the CMR wing would fit.  Like nearly all Spitfire kits in a single scale, the wings and fuselages are interchangeable and this made construction very easy.

Once I was satisfied with the wing/fuselage fit, I made the kit per the instructions.  

Masking and painting was straightforward.  I used Testors Model Master paints all around, specifically ANA 613 Olive Drab, RAF Dark Earth, and a lightened ANA 609 Azure Blue.  For the Sand color, I used an Italian Sand by Aeromaster that I had on hand.  I thought it would look better than MiddleStone, and it did.  It actually had that "desert pink" look to it next to the Olive Drab, so probably wasn't far from the basic ANA color.

The decals are from Rising Decals 72-019, Yankee Spitfires Corsica & Italy, 1943-1944.  It has a number of unique subjects on this sheet, I've already done one other and plan to do the other two.


This was an easy build and is an unique subject for a Spitfire.  I've since made another Vc using the Aeroclub wing with the Revell fuselage and both of these are as easy as the Sword Vc to build, albeit not quite as accurate.  If you can find the Aeroclub wing the price of the Revell+Aeroclub is better than the Sword kit.

Thanks for looking...

French Air Force F8F-1B Bearcat

Originally completed back in June of 2010, this was for a club challenge to build something related to the Vietnam War.  Since I don't do modern(-ish) jets, I decided to go back to the '50's and make something I've always wanted on my shelf:  A French Air Force F8F-1 Bearcat.

The Subject

French Indochina, what is today Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia were occupied by the Japanese during World War II.  Following the war France wanted to retain its colonial hegemony over the area, however the local populace was not so eager to trade one empire (Japan) for another (France).  France chose to use force to retain its authority, and during the '50's a number of battles ensued in a number of areas.  The best know is of course Dien Ben Phu, which was the effectively the final battle for the French.  Their humiliating loss there forced them to leave Vietnam and shortly afterwards the US sent in advisors to the South to keep the Communist North from expanding into the entire region.  The rest they say, is history…

Under the Military Assistance Program (MAP), the US provided surplus war materiel to allied nations during the 3 decades following World War II.  At around 1950 the US Navy began replacing their F8F-1 and -2 Bearcats with jets, just as the Korean War was starting.  France, engaged in its own Communist uprising in Indochina, did not join the UN forces in Korea, but need the Navy's excess Bearcats.  These were provided and served for a number of years, eventually the remaining aircraft were transferred to the infant South Vietnam AF, where they served into the '60's until replaced with more modern types.

US MAP aircraft in French Air Force service typically remained in their original camouflage schemes, the only alterations being the use of French national markings.  In the case of the F8F-1 Bearcats, the aircraft remained in Glossy Sea Blue with all USN markings removed and appropriate French national and unit markings applied.

Armee de l'Air Groupe de Chasse 1/21 Artois is one of 8 groups that operated the Bearcat in Indochina.  I chose this particular machine simply because it was on my decal sheet.

The Model

This is Monogram's venerable F8F-2 Bearcat kit.  It still holds up well in terms of shape, with one exception, and is a great kit.  Out of the box it looks the part and with some aftermarket resin for the cockpit and landing gear wells, can be a real show stopper.

I've always liked the Bearcat and still have the first kit I made when I was teen.  

Other than a lack of interior details, which were generally visible on the real thing, the major issue with this kit is the fin/rudder.  It's 2mm too short for a -2 (as the kit is listed) and 2mm too long for a -1.  So to make a -1 is an easy task with a sanding stick.  The -1B had 4 .50 machine guns instead of the -1 20mm cannons.  This is an easy fix as it only means cutting off the cannon barrels and drilling out the openings for the guns.  I also sanded off the cannon bulges as any photos I found with guns only didn't seem to have them.

I didn't add any details to the interior because I wanted a quick build, which this certainly was.  The Glossy Sea Blue paint is Testors, but for some reason the photos make it look a bit brighter than it actually is.


I've got 3 more of these kits in my stash.  I hope to someday make the yellow Beetle Bomb of the Blue Angels, a South Vietnam AF camouflaged aircraft, and a USN bird from the late '40's.  I want to add some resin and fix those holes called wheel wells, and the cooling intakes.  

Thanks for looking…

Sunday, May 5, 2013

RAF Dark Green: a good hobby paint match?

5 May 2013

Edit: I've completed my switch to acrylics, and have looked at more paints to match RAF Dark Green.

I've also acquired a copy of British Aviation Colours of World War Two, Crown Copyright, 1976.  My edition has the color chips in a fold-out in the back.

I checked my acrylic paint samples, against a similar white background and compared each.  The colors I looked at are:
  • Humbrol 116
  • Humbrol 163
  • PollyScale 5250
  • Tamiya XF81
  • Model Master 4849
  • Vallejo 892
  • Vallejo 893
Hu 116 is a perfect match.  Hu 163 is darker but only slightly so and could be an acceptable substitute.  PS 5250 is darker still than Hu 163.  XF81 is darker and slightly greener.  MM 4849 is very much greener.  Vallejo's 892 is very much greener and a close match to MM 4849, while 893 is a perfect match.

I also compared FS34079 to the swatch; it is greener and darker than the swatch.  Interestingly, PS 5250 is a near perfect match to FS34079, yet against the Dark Green swatch does not look as far off.

My last test was to compare to FS14056, a suggested FS color for DuPont T1-013, the US equivalent color to Dark Green that was used on the P-40 and some other US built aircraft.  Of note, I do not have a swatch of DuPont T1-013 for comparison.  Vallejo's 892 was a near match with MM 4849 being close enough to be the same.

Having a reference swatch for comparison, versus a generally accepted paint, is very informative.

Humbrol's enamel 116 is a perfect match to FS34079, which is NOT a match to RAF Dark Green.

Humbrol's acrylic 116 and Vallejo's 893 are both a perfect match to RAF Dark Green.

If modeling a US build aircraft in DuPont T1-013 Dark Green, and if FS14056 is the correct match, then Vallejo's 892 or Model Master 4849 are good matches.

Original - 18 August 2011
There is plenty of debate over which dark green hobby paint most closely matches RAF Dark Green. The IPMS Stockholm site (here) recommends Humbrol (Hu) 116 for the WWII timeframe and Hu 163 for post war (after the High Speed Silver phase, IMHO). That site is getting dated, but most folks swear by the cross reference as still fairly useful.

Tamiya XF-81 is supposed to be a pretty good match and some folks swear by any FS34079 match. I've yet to use Tamiya XF-81 but it looks the same to my eye as Hu 116. Hu 163 looks darker and bluer to my eye than Hu 116, but only ever so slightly and that could be due to its satin sheen versus the matte sheen of Hu 116. FS34079 seems too olive when compared to Hu 116 and even more so next to Hu 163.

Model Master RAF Dark Green looks more like just another FS34079. Pollyscale Dark Green (5250) is identical to Hu 116.

Some day I may try the Vallejo line as I do like the consistency of the paint and the color choices are extensive. Unfortunately they are not readily available as I don't have a local hobby shop.

Until my Hu 116 is depleted, I'll stick with it.  After that I'm shifting to Tamiya XF-81 because it's a) a near match, and b) acrylic.

Thanks for looking...

Early Spitfire Mk I K9794, WZ-T, 19 Squadron

Airfix Spitfire Mk I/IIa (kit #A02010)

Spitfire Mk I K9794, WZ-T, 19 Squadron RAF, Duxford, August 1938

This is the new tooling of the Mk I from Airfix, their second issue with the bits to make either an early Mk I, late Mk Ia or the IIa.  I completed this kit back in 2011 as part of an Airfix Group Build, and secondly to respond to a fellow modeler who had attempted to build the kit but was frustrated and felt it was an awful mess.

This was my second build of this kit, the other being the earlier Mk Ia release (A01071A) that I'd modified to the Mk IIa using 3D-Kits upgrade set.

The Subject
During the Munich crisis of 1938 19 Squadron prepared for a potential war by toning down the national markings -- specifically the roundels -- to the National Marking I consisting of the Red/Blue roundel in 4 positions on the top of the wings and sides of the fuselage.  Additionally, the undersides were painted Night/White, but due to balance concerns the ailerons and elevators remained Aluminum Dope.

K9794 was from the original production batch, the 8th Spitfire produced (not including the prototype).  According to Morgan & Shacklady, K9794 was assigned to 19 Squadron immediately after production on 18 August 1938; it crashed on landing 10 January 1939 and was subsequently struck off charge 18 April 1939.

K9794 was delivered, and probably operated its entire career, with a Merlin II engine fitted with the two blade fixed pitch propeller.  It had the original pole radio aerial mast for the HF TR9D radio.

The Model
Quite a bit has already been written about this kit.  While very accurate in shape and having very good detail for this scale, the main detraction are the very deep and wide panel lines.  If brush painting the model (as will most of Airfix's target buyers for this kit) the panel lines get filled and ultimately are not as noticeable.  I'm a bit ham-fisted when it comes to sanding and filling so don't mind the deep panel lines, given the soft plastic.  If it were a harder plastic I'd like the panel lines to be less deep/wide.  And…there be a definite difference between the three types of "panel lines": 1) control surface gaps, 2) removable panels, and 3) skin joints.  They should all be small in this scale, with the largest being the first and the near invisible on the last.

The kit goes together fairly straightforward, however admittedly the cockpit frames are a bit too large for the insides of the fuselage.  My solution, used on every Spitfire model I build, is to start with the tail and work forward using liquid poly cement.  For this kit I prepped the interior and completed the cockpit items as two separate pieces, instead of one per the instructions (step 1).

After gluing the seat and rear frame in, I then fit the fuselage to the wings (NO GLUE!) to ensure the fit is right, shimming as needed.  This kit needs none.

I then fit the front instrument panel/frame into the fuselage and clamp the fuselage to ensure it fits properly.  If the instrument panel/frame is too wide, I sand it a bit to make it fit.  An improper fit will cause the whole fuselage to distort, actually making it not only wider at the top (requiring filler) but too narrow at the wing roots, requiring more filler at the wings, or if too wide will eliminate the proper dihedral of the wings.  This kit really needs no filler, however due to the too wide frames the wing uppers are pushed out, causing a "flat" or no dihedral.

This next photo is of the fuselage with cockpit glued but the fuselage only dry fitted to the wings.  Notice the lack of dihedral and leading edge openings due to distortion.

The solution is to sand the fuselage wing root carefully until it fits.

Perfect!  Glue it up and prime.

No seams and no loss of detail.

The remainder of construction was straight forward and very easy.  Instead of using the decals from the kit, which depict K9794 in a transitory state with only a single roundel, I decided to use some spare decals from my CMR Mk I kit that represented a more typical scheme.  Paints used were Humbrol enamels, Hu29 for Dark Earth, Hu116 for Dark Green for the upper surface camouflage.  The other colors were black, white and aluminum paints from my paint shelf.

This is a great kit that represents the early Merlin a-winged Spitfires.  Out of the box many variants and schemes can be made (I plan to do most of them!) and with just a modicum of aftermarket nearly all variants of the a-winged Spitfire can be done.

My only niggle is the lack of gun blast deflectors for the outer most guns.  Very prominent on the Spitfire Mk I in 1938 and early 1939, only the Tamiya Mk I shows this feature properly.

Thanks for looking...

Friday, May 3, 2013

Jonesin' for some plastic!

Back in February I started a new job that required I relocate to the UK.  Given my penchant for Spitfires, Hurricanes and history and all that goes with it, I viewed it as a great opportunity.  Still do, even after 2 months here.

Unfortunately my modeling has been on forced hold.  I'm suffering from the opposite of AMS...what do we call it when we just have to have something?  Oh yeah: withdrawal.

I did drive around Cumbria and the Lake District and visited every hobby and toy store that could possibly carry modeling supplies and kits.  To my dismay, there is only 1 store within two hours drive that is actually a decent store.  A classic LHS, which is the good (great) news.  I've also discovered that if I want to join some fellow modelers, I have to do some driving which just isn't convenient.  I WILL go to some shows that are reasonably close and of course expect to visit a museum or 12 while I'm here.

Speaking of shows...I went to the IPMS Shropshire show held at RAF Cosford.  I really like how IPMS UK does their shows.  Lots of SIGs and club tables.  I'm not a competition modeler so I just like seeing the models on display, and by having them out either as a SIG or as part of a club is very enjoyable.

Of course, as an added bonus, there was a Spitfire Mk I there!

I did buy the usual resin bits and decals that are always in large supply and at reduced prices.  I even picked up a couple of kits so I could at least touch the plastic.  Both Airfix: the new toolings of the Spitfire F.22 and Mustang F-51D.

After a few weeks of no tools, no plastic, no glue and no paint, I broke down and bought the essentials to at least work on some cockpits, trimming, etc. go with an AZModel Spitfire I (cannon armed) kit, I've done some carving, filling and sanding.

Fun stuff!

After 9 weeks without my usual tools and such, my personal effects finally arrived.  I've finished unpacking them, to include my Mac, and I've got most of my modeling area ready to support me!  I've also been lucky enough to pick up the new Airfix Typhoon Ib and Lancaster Dambusters kits, at very good prices, too.

Now to squash the urge to start everything at once!

Thanks for looking...