Saturday, January 25, 2014

Heller LF XVI

Spitfire LF XVI, TB900/GE-D, 349 (Belgium) Squadron, Fassburg, 1946

This model was completed back in 2009 when my passion for Spitfires was just beginning to gain some steam.  I had this Heller kit for a number of years; the instructions indicate HELLER HUMBROL.  

The vintage of the kit is such that it has raised details.  Until the more recent Sword XVI was released, this was the most accurate XVI in 72nd scale.  Frankly, it still stands up well next to my more modern kits.  It does suffer from the radiators being too deep.  One modeler has suggested Heller was using photos of 349 Squadron when it flew both the XIV and XVI and made the mistake of presuming the key shots of the radiators were for the XVI.  

At any rate, it's an error that is easily fixed with a razor saw.  Simply cut the radiator off then reglue it.  The thickness of the blade is generally enough to fix the problem.  Unfortunately I wasn't aware of the problem with this kit when I built it, so did not know to fix it.  I do remember that when building it I thought the radiators looked odd, but I had few (read zero) Spitfire references back then.

During construction I took care to retain the details.  All was good and what little I lost along the fuselage seams was easily repaired with a hobby knife.  I simply rocked it across the seam until a slight ridge of plastic came up.  All sorted.

The Heller kit captures the shape very well.  The shot along the fuselage axis quite nicely shows the nose could fit a Merlin.  Some Spitfire kits are a bit anemic in that area.

The model is painted with Humbrol enamels.  Ocean Grey is Hu106, Dark Green is Hu116 and Medium Sea Grey is Hu165.  The model was coated with Future/Klear prior to decals.

Oh the decals!  The kit decals are useless; even on this kit released today.  The code letters are a sickly green, not Sky.  The national markings are off register.  I had found some Lifelike Decals, sheet 72-006, that had this scheme on it; since I wanted a Day Fighter Scheme for my first LF XVI, I decided to use these markings.  I remember having absolutely no difficulty with them; I probably used Micro Set/Sol, which was my setting solutions at the time.

Overall I'm very happy with this model.  It was an easy build over a few weekends and the kit looks the part.  I like it so much I keep an eye out for them at shows.  Typically they run $2-$3 each and are tremendous value for money at that price.

Thanks for looking…

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Spitfire III Part 3

Over the holidays I able to make some progress on my long term project -- the Spitfire III N3297.  Readers may remember my previous posting wherein I summarized my knowledge, which hasn't changed much since.  I did decide since that N3297 was the bird I wanted to model, and her 1st configuration specifically.

So after studying my donor kit(s) carefully I decided to break out the saw and start cutting.

Since the Merlin XX added 4 inches to the engine cowling, but with no change from the firewall back, I essentially cut the nose cowling off the fuselage sides.  Done very carefully since I don't quite know I'll add that 4 inch plug.  Oh, and the firewall above mid-point of the fuselage cants forward -- that's got me a bit perplexed in terms of describing, but the first thing I have to do is get the nose extended properly.

I also have to shorten the wingspan.  With lots of study of both photos (not many) and my refs, the best I can surmise is the wingtips were removed at rib 19.  This is a full rib station further inboard than the later "standard" clipped wing.  It's easy to spot on the Airfix Mk I/II as it's the panel line that is inboard of the typical clipped line.  

Since the aileron was also shortened, I had to figure out to what length; ultimately I realized it was shortened to the hinge.  Note that later Mk VII/VIII and later Griffon marks had shortened ailerons, however the Spitfire III also had another few inches removed.  This will be easy as now that I've cut the tip off at the right place, I just have to fill the end and then sand to the contour.

So that is my next bit of work, time to sand and fill.

Thanks for looking…

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2013 In Summary

What a great year!

A new job, relocation to England, 50th Anniversary of IPMS, attended Telford, got a Saturn V for Christmas and I completed some models.

My goal for 2013 included a number of Spitfires as well as other kits. I didn't complete all I wanted, and now of course still have a few that are "in progress", but I'm happy with what got completed.

In order of completion (links go to a writeup on each one):

Frog Spitfire XIVe and V-1

Hobbyboss P-47D

AZModel Spitfire VIII

Academy Kittyhawk

Airfix Spitfire Va

Airfix Spitfire PR XIII

Airfix Spitfire IX as Dr Who "Spitfire in space"

Heller Spitfire XVI

Airfix Spitfire I

Airfix Hawk T.1

Airfix Hurricane I

Hobbyboss A6M5 Zero

Thanks for looking...


Hawk T.1 XX184/19 of 19 Squadron, 2008

I struggled with where to blog this one: on my Spitfire blog or my general modeling blog? Obviously I chose this one because it's aligned to Spitfires.

This is my response to our club theme of "Build the same kit". 2013 was a year where I was able to align a Spitfire to each of the monthly themes for the year, if one presumes the SpitHawk counts!

The Subject

Google "SpitHawk" and you'll find lots of info on this aircraft. Essentially 19 Squadron, now a training unit for the RAF, was authorized to repaint XX184 in a commemorative scheme in 2008 to recognize the 70th Anniversary of the first operational Spitfire squadron -- 19 Squadron. My own commemoration of that event, this year being the 75th Anniversary, is here.

There is a photo of XX184 flying in formation with a Spitfire IIa P7350/XT-L that is in BoB markings. To mimic that photo I chose to put both my Spitfire I K9797 and Spithawk XX184 on a double in-flight stand. The effect is precisely what I wanted.

The Model

Construction was strictly out of the box. The kit provides an in-flight option, so with some care I was able to close up the landing gear. There is no attachment point provided for the Airfix stands (those double holes usually flashed over on their other modern kits) so I looked at what should be the balance point and drilled two holes in the under-fuselage gun pod. I then filled the pod with some white glue to let it harden and redrilled so the pins of the stand would have something to "grab".

The intakes took some work as photos show it to be a smooth surface yet the kit had ugly seams and some other "panels" that all needed filling. Once done it looked good and the rest of the construction was straight forward.

Painting was per photos and decal instructions, I used Humbrol Acrylics for the Dark Green (Hu163) and Aluminum (Hu56). The Dark Earth is Vallejo 70.921 which matches perfectly the RAFM chip. The more I use it, the more I like it (color that is, I'm still not happy with adhesion of the paint).

Decals are by Model Alliance. I did not use all the stencils at most are not visible in photos so I chose that are readily visible. They all laid down well using Revell Decal Soft over a coating of Future/Kleer. A final coat of flat to tone it all down finished the model.


As many should know, I'm not a modern nor jet builder. This was an easy and enjoyable build and I can see why some modelers are fans of the BAE Hawk and this Airfix kit specifically. I'll never say "never" but I doubt I'd build another Hawk. The only other scheme that tempts me is the USN commemorative "yellow wings" scheme. Maybe if this becomes another theme…

Thanks for looking…

Another Anniversary

Mk I, K9797, 19 Squadron, Duxford 1938

This is my second attempt at an introductory Spitfire.  My previous attempt was a squadron-mate from just a few months later in the year, but essentially the same kit.  The relatively new tooling of the Airfix Spitfire Mk I/IIa.

The Subject

19 Squadron was the first Spitfire squadron, forming on the plane in Autumn 1938.  When first established on the Spitfire, the squadron did not carry squadron codes (later WZ was assigned) but instead painted their squadron number on the tail in flight colors.

This subject was built for two reasons: 1) I wanted this scheme on my shelf; and 2) it's the 75th anniversary of the Spitfire's debut in operational service this year.  The latter supports our club theme of "Anniversary" and this kit fit nicely.

The Kit

This is becoming my go-to kit for early Spitfires.  There's not much more I can say about it, it's just a great little kit.  The major differences in this build was the addition of the pilot and use of the "wheels up" option.  To make the pilot fit, unfortunately I had to shorten his legs.

Paints are acrylics throughout, Humbrol 29 for the Dark Earth and Vallejo 70.893 for the Dark Green.  The underside is Tamiya X-11 Chrome Silver (for a variation in the underside Aluminum).  

The decals are from Model Alliance and were included with the On Target Profiles 4 booklet.  

I put it on the Airfix dogfight double stand, to display with my other "anniversary" model, the BAE Hawk T.1A in commemorative markings in 2008.  But that's another subject to blog…

Thanks for looking...

Mitsubishi A6M5c Zero

E-137, Yokosuka Naval Wing, 1945, Saburo Sakai

Over the holiday I wanted a quick and easy build so I decided to make this Hobby Boss kit straight out of the box, including the kit decals. I decided research would be minimal so I could just enjoy the build.

The Subject

E-137 appears to be a "standard" A6M5c Zero. One quick review of the web indicated it was probably Mitsubishi made so some of the details are a decking in cowling black, wheel wells in an underside color, and the prop was natural metal with brown rear face.

As far as the accuracy of the markings, I didn't check.

Also according to the web, all A6M5c were painted a dark green on the upperside with the lower surfaces painted a green gray.

The Model

Typical Hobby Boss. Generally accurate in shape and somewhat well detailed on the outside. The cockpit has detail but is very basic and does not appear accurate. As usual, something wasn't quite right with the kit. More on that later.

Construction was easy and quick, which is what I wanted. Everying thing fit well.

I painted the kit using Tamiya XF-76 (IJN Gray) for the lower surface and XF-70 (IJN Green) for the upper surface. Cowling Black is a home made mixture of two Model Master Acryl colors: USN Glossy Sea Blue and Instrument Panel Black. The latter is actually a bluish color, but when dry looks black. So I added the GSB until it looked right. Which ended up being about a 50:50 mixture.

Three things seem "not quite right" with this kit.
1) No headrest / roll bar in the cockpit. Very visible feature of a Zero and it's just not there. I'll never build another and didn't want to take the time to scratch one, but when I build another A6M5c it'll be one that is more accurate.
2) The exhausts are not aligned with the cowling cut outs. Not even close.
3) The landing gear is canted similarly to a Fw-190. Every picture / reference I have (which is not much) show them as vertical, not canted.


I got what I wanted out of this kit, an easy and quick build. It was both fun and enjoyable, and I'm glad I made it. Will I do another? No. Would I recommend it? Only to a novice or someone who wants a Zero and cares little for accuracy.

Thanks for looking…

Hurricane I, BR 2337, 52nd Group, 2nd Regiment, Yugoslav Air Force

Niksic airfield, 15th April 1941, flown by Vojislav Rakic.

This kit is the new Airfix rag wing Hurricane released at Telford. I was lucky to pick up 4 kits that day and it looked so nice in the box I had to build one right off.

The Subject

This is meant to be a Zmaj license built Mk I. It represents a transitional machine, as Zmaj built approximately 24 fabric winged Hurricanes but with the Merlin III engine which had the 3 blade DH prop but without the armored windscreen. Another 24 Hurricanes were delivered by Hawkers, the first 12 being fabric winged, and the last 12 being metal winged. My refs are not clear, but it appears many of the fabric winged Hurricanes, both Hawker and Zmaj built, were rewinged at some point with metal wings.

I chose a fabric winged example based on a photo that clearly shows the aircraft with fabric wings and DH prop.

The scheme for Hawker built Yugoslav machines was standard Temperate Land but with a Sand or light brown color painted over it. Undersides were delivered as Aluminum paint, but probably overpainted in a light blue by Yugoslavia. The Zmaj built machines had a non-standard dark green, dark brown and sand scheme with light blue undersides.

The Model

As mentioned above, Airfix released this kit in November at Telford. The kit is very accurate and well detailed. The fabric effect is not overdone. I built the kit out of the box, with no aftermarket at all. The only detail that is incorrect are the wheels, which are 4 spoked, as represented by a modern restoration. I suspect the Airfix kit designer simply copied what he saw and was unaware it was not appropriate for a fabric winged Hurricane. At any rate, I used the kit wheels as I don't have anything to replace them. When and/or if someone releases the correct wheels I'll purchase a few sets for my other kits.

Construction was somewhat straightforward. I found the wing top/bottom joint was slightly off. I put some putty along it and only a few swipes of a sanding stick made it all right. The wheel wells are very well detailed and I did have to take care to ensure it was a good fit. It was a bit fiddly. The under-fuselage panel was a perfect fit; an area I thought was suspect before the build, but pleasantly surprised how good it looked. The landing gear popped right in, and was another surprise at how well it went together.

The canopy was the last surprise. Typically for a Hurricane model the canopy either fits poorly or is so thick as to be unusable. Airfix did this one right; it is very clear and fit perfectly. It actually clicked into place without glue when I was test fitting it; to include the windscreen. After I popped them off I put some Gator Glue on it and pressed them back on. I hope to make one of the future kits with the canopy open; we'll see how that works.

Paint is all acrylic; I used Tamiya all around except for the cockpit green, which is Model Master RAF Interior Green. For the paint scheme the undersides are XF-23 Medium Blue, the dark green is XF-81 (RAF Dark Green), the brown is my first attempt at mixing RAF Dark Earth which is too brown and too red for Dark Earth but works here. The sand color is XF-59 Desert Yellow.
Decals are spare from my Sword Hurricane Mk I. They went on beautifully and settled down over a coat of Future/Kleer with Revell Decal Soft. I overcoated the decals with a clear flat to tone it all down.

I did have some difficulty with painting the canopy. I shot a coat of interior green then a coat of Desert Yellow. Unfortunately when I pulled the tape off it left huge amounts of glue residue that just didn't want to come off. Eventually I soaked the canopy and windscreen in some Windex (contains ammonia) which cleaned it all up. I then remasked with a different tape and then shot only the Desert Yellow. All settled.


This is a great kit! Ease of assembly is near perfect and this is my FIRST kit ever that was accurate, well detailed and easy to build. The hat trick or trifecta, you pick your favorite term. I plan to build at least 3 more; two that use the kit decals and a third with Rumanian markings.

How does this compare to the AZ/Sword fabric winged Hurricane? While both are accurate and with the resin bits Sword is just as accurate, Airfix is much easier to build. I have another Sword kit I'll build as a 111 Squadron machine, but if I want another fabric winged Hurricane I, I'll be buying Airfix as it's also less than half the price of the Sword kit.

Thanks for looking…