Sunday, February 28, 2016

Batch Build = New Techniques 3


I'm not one to typically weather, or pre-shade, or post-shade my models. I'm not looking for a miniature replica so much as a small model...hmm. So why try pre-shading? Well frankly it's because I've never done it before and while I've seen it done beautifully on other models I wanted to try for myself.

I've been drilling Scott Samo on his technique over the last few months; Scott is a master modeler who has won a few regional and national IPMS competitions with his modern day jet models. His technique is to lightly pre-shade in a dark color, like black, along the panel lines and any other area he wants to highlight. Then he takes the color and mists very light and thinned coats until the color builds up to achieve the look he desires. The key, says Scott, is very thinned paint and lots of patience.

Since Scott is a fan of Gunze acrylics, I decided to make my first attempt using Tamiya acrylics (they are very similar paints, and I don't have much in terms of Gunze, but I like Tamiya very much). I mixed 1 part paint to 14 parts thinner using pipettes. For my initial try I am using Tamiya XF-13 Flat Aluminum, thinned using their X-20A thinner. Since my subject is overall High Speed Silver, I figured this would be both a good test, not too difficult with multiple colors, and it would help break up the monotonous 1-color scheme.

On the left is a primed and pre-shaded model, and on the right is a painted model that was pre-shaded just like the one on the left. This method works, but it does take a very long time. I had to fiddle with my airbrush for quite some time to get the pre-shading to work right. First, the airbrush -- I'm using a H&S dual action airbrush with a .2 needle so that I could get a very fine line. Secondly, I decided to thin the Tamiya XF-3 Flat Black paint just like the color coats: 1 part paint to 14 parts X-20A thinner. It took me some time to get the needle and pressure adjusted properly to ensure consistent application of the paint without it pooling, or running. The final working pressure was set at 25 psi at the compressor, and I'll note that I have a long hose from the regulator to the airbrush to ensure even flow. It likely also means a bit of pressure loss. The H&S has a limiting screw on the back of the brush that allows me to ensure the needle only opens so much; and I essentially kept opening it from fully closed until I could get a very faint bit of paint to flow, holding the brush about 1/2 inch from the model. The lines were about 1/8 inch wide, and a bit squiggly as my hands don't remain as still as I'd like, but it worked. Oh, and I had to keep the brush moving or it would pool.

By having the pre-shade black heavily thinned, it allowed me to build up that color so that it started a very light gray, until it was a dark gray to black. On the negative side, it took a long time to build up, which meant a lot longer at the paint booth than normal. The color coat took 3 sessions of about an hour. Yes, that's a very long time for me to stand at my paint booth. The H&S has a small color cup that I filled 4 times from my pre-mix of thinned paint. My hand actually got a cramp in it!

I've got a second model being painted, actually on it's second 1 hour session, but the color is an enamel. I've found I don't like using an enamel as it appears to be attacking the primer and other coats underneath. So while I'm using a thinned mixture, I'm finding I spray lots of just air on the model to evaporate the mineral spirits carrier and quicken the drying. So on the second session I doubled the paint making it a 1:7 thinning ratio. The color is also getting darker than I'd hoped, so I may be switching to a lighter color to finish. I'll complete the paint job as planned, but not decal it until I've had a chance to either let the color grow on me, or redo it.


Using my wife as a disinterested 2nd party, she admitted that she likes the depth the pre-shading adds. I'm not sure yet as the model looks too "dirty" for a post-war machine that likely was well maintained. But then again, it wouldn't be monochrome, either. I'll finish this with some decals and if I decide later I don't like it, I'll replace it.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Batch Build = New Techniques 2


So why not try other primers? Yes, my favorite is Tamiya gray rattle can primer, but it's expensive and a 5 hour trip to get it. So I dropped into the local hardware store to see what they have. While in the UK I used Halford's grey plastic primer and I have to say it's a great primer. Very cheap and easy to the UK. Now that I'm back in the US I hope to find something similar.

Tamiya gray primer

This is my gold standard. Best primer I've ever used, it's consistent and smooth, never pebbly or rough. Only problem is the can is small and the price is large. I get about 6 single engined prop kits in 1/72 scale out a can, if there is not too much filling.

Rust-Oleum Plastic Primer (white)

Based on the words on the can this should be no different than Halford's grey. goes on too thin, the nozzle clogs often leaving spits and spatters on the model. It may be okay for lawn furniture, but not for models. In the trash it goes...

Valspar Primer (gray)

This one appears to be a bit more aggressive as it's some sort of lacquer based primer. So I tried putting it on thinly from a distance. Unfortunately it goes on a bit thick, and pebbly. Lot's of rubbing down just to get it prepped for paint, and in the process a bit of detail (on raised detail kits anyway) is lost. This primer may work well on a kit with deep or wide panel lines, but I'd never use it on a kit with fine recessed panel lines; it would obliterate them. In the trash it goes...


I decided not to try the sanding filler, thinned with Tamiya X-20A, simply because I prefer rattle can primers. And anyway, it's not easy to find being not available even at my closest hobby shop (that 5 hour trip). So I'll save the sanding filler as my er, sanding filler.

My wife, a brilliant woman, suggested I pay the price and use Tamiya gray. Her logic: it's my gold standard and I can get as many as 6 kits out of it, so why compromise? I'll not argue with her.

Thanks for looking...

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Google's photo hosting - Picasa will be no more

Ok, this may be just a bit of a rant...Google recently announced it is killing Picasa, their photo hosting and sharing service launched back in 2002. I'm not yet sure what this means for my blogs, which are hosted on Google's Blogger and use PicasaWeb to store all the photos.

Interestingly, when I tried using other hosting methods, such as DropBox, or even Google's own Photos (which is replacing Picasa), the blog photos showed up in the PicasaWeb folder that hosts all the blog photos. And as an aside, the blog photos folder did not replicate in the Photos site, which Google says faithfully rehosted all of my photos.

In my perfect world either Google does not drop the PicasaWeb folders indefinitely (as in never) or, they auto relink all the photos currently hosted in PicasaWeb to a similarly labeled album in Photos that does NOT require I manually move the photos and recreate the links. Frankly, that likely means reposting all the posts in all my blogs, and that's not a fun think to consider.

In the meantime, I'll keep posting and see where this leads, but given that Blogger still points to PicasaWeb for photos in their photo link dialog box, I'm a bit concerned that Google may kill Blogger as well; for those of us using Blogger, let's hope they update it soon and comfort our fears. At the very least, mine.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Batch Build = New Techniques 1


I decided that I'd use this batch build of 5 Heller Spitfire XVI kits to test a few new (to me) techniques. First up is fillers. I have my tried and true 3M Bondo red filler in a squeeze tube however it's smelly and while I still have half a tube remaining, I've read online the formula has changed, making it less compatible with our hobby. So, armed with the knowledge that my life's supply of Bondo may need replacing I decided to make a few comparisons.

3M Bondo

I've been using this for years, and frankly I'm comfortable with it. Yes, it does shrink a bit and it seems I can never quite hide it through polishing and primer. But I've otherwise been happy enough with it. I've thinned it using Tenax liquid glue to make it easier to fill trenches some kits seem to have, and hopefully to have a more feathered edge when polishing it on those darned seams the older kits always seem to get. It still has a place on my modeling bench so I won't go throwing it out, but I hope some of these other fillers work better.

Squadron Green / White Stuff

I recently threw these tubes out when I realized I went for my 3M Bondo instead. The White had dried out anyway...but both were about the same as 3M Bondo however they tended to dry too quickly as I was working it into seams or laying it down with my putty knife. Not something I'd recommend today to a new modeler looking to start using fillers.

Humbrol Filler

While in the UK this was my filler simply because I could get it. Everything at the local hardware store wasn't quite right. Better than Squadron's fillers but not as good as 3M Bondo. Works the same as both and while I was certainly able to make it work, I still prefer 3M Bondo over it.

Sprue + Liquid Glue

What to do with all that old sprue? Well there is stretching it and making wires, or shaping it into bomb racks, or other things. But ultimately there is still a lot of sprue left over from most kits. Online some folks swear by this, so I took some of the sprue and dropped it into a half full liquid glue bottle I had from a visit to Pusan back in 1992. After about 48 hours it was a thick goo. I slathered a bit on a seam on the upper nose and let it set. This is different than 3M Bondo to work with, it was a bit more liquid and after the 24 hours I gave it to fully cure, it was rock hard like the original plastic. That's a good sign!

So I started sanding and feathering and this is where things started to go south. It actually peels up along the edges and doesn't feather. I suspect it has to do with the glue and sprue mixture, as the glue is a liquid Korean glue with no English. I'll have to try this again on a future kit when I've got a better (read locally procured and "new"-ish) liquid glue to use. I repaired the seam using my next filler option...

Mr Surfacer sanding filler 500 and 1200

I bought this about the same time as the Korean glue (I was stationed in Japan at the time) and by now it's a bit thick, but still workable. I scooped out a pea sized glob into a plastic bottle lid (these make great mixing and painting pallets, OBTW) and added some Tamiya X-20A thinner, just a drop really. It quickly thinned into a nice workable mixture, so I applied it on the plastic filler and then let it flow a bit. After a 24 hour cure time I started sanding and the cowling was very smooth, with no seams. I then polished with ever finer sanding sticks until it had a shine. It's been a long time since I've been able to do that!

Perfect Plastic Putty (PPP)

Lots of praise for this one online, so I'd bought a tube about 3 months ago just to try it. I finally had my chance, but instead of using it on a cowling (I have to say, a big drawback of these Heller kits is fuselage alignment) I decided to use it for filling the seam along the wing roots. Every kit had a gap here, some wider than others. I slathered it on using my spatula and let it dry just a bit (like 20 minutes) then used a cotton bud dipped in water to smooth it out. Worked a treat! I then let it cure for 24 hours and used a damp cotton bud to remove any residue. I then shot it with primer and the finished seam looks great. I don't think I'd use this for building up layers, but it seemed (groan) to work well.


At this point I think I have 3 new tools to add to my toolbox of fillers. Each has their place and I won't get rid of my 3M Bondo, but when it's gone, it's gone. I hope to keep my seems at least level so I don't need to build up layers, and if I do I'll use the sprue/glue mixture followed by either 3M Bondo or the Mr Surfacer filler. If it's a gap, I'll use PPP as it's easy to work and not smelly at all.

Thanks for looking...

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Another Batch Build in the works

Spitfires, what else?

My queue is sitting pretty big right now. Before the batch build I've got 3 Spitfires, a Swordfish, Wildcat, Walrus, Fortress, Tomahawk and a Saturn V in the works. I've agreed to build out of scale and make the Monogram He-111 for a local museum as part of a "Bomber Bash" challenge with the club. I'm liking the new Eduard Fw-190A kits, so loaded up on the A-8 and have some A-5s headed my way. I probably won't start the Luftwaffe stuff anytime soon, certainly not until my queue gets smaller. So what's a guy to do? Add more Spitfires to his queue!

The Spitfire XVI

The Spitfire XVI was delivered beginning Summer 1944 to maintenance units. By the time they received all their necessary modifications and upgrades they started showing up in combat units just before Christmas 1944. Most modelers (I was one) simply assumed the XVI was a bubble top Spitfire IX, but that's technically not true. The XVI was a IXe that had the Packard built low altitude rated Merlin 66, technically referred to as a Merlin 266. The engine was configured just different enough such the top cowling need a slight bulge to it. This was standardized on all IX and XVI to ease manufacture, so a late IX looks identical to the XVI.

The IX was developing fast and by Summer 1944 it was being delivered with a Volkes tropicalized filter (originated on the Mk VIII) as well as "e" wing armament of 2x cannons and 2x .50 machine guns (the guns replacing the 4x .303 guns), the armament enabled by the gyroscopic gunsight.

The IXe was supplanted on the production line by the XVI. Of note, the XVI was never referred to as the "XVIe" because all XVI had the 'e' wing configuration. Shortly after installation of the Merlin 266 commenced, the production line introduced the rear view, or 'bubble top' to the XVI. The low altitude performance of the type quickly showed too much stress on the wing spar, especially if carrying a bomb load (which was typical for all fighters by late 1944) so the wing tips were clipped, and required to be so on all rear view types until the redesigned (strengthened) wing of the XVIII was introduced.

To the modeler-historian, all Spitfire LF.XVI RV (Spitfire Low altitude optimized Fighter, Mark XVI, Rear View) had the Merlin 266 with 'bubble top' canopy and 'e' wing armament. The LF.IXe was similar, but none were delivered with the 'bubble top'. So it's possible to see both the LF.XVI and LF.XVI RV in units from 1945, including post-war as the type was quickly becoming obsolescent in RAF service, but served well in the last few months of the war in Europe.

Heller's XVI

The Heller kit is ancient by modern standards, being from the 1970's. It has raised panel lines but decent cockpit detail for its time. It's only real flaw is the too large radiators under the wing, the kit's radiators are more appropriate for a Griffon engined XIV or XVIII, not smaller Merlin.

Fixing the flaw is quite easy. Just take a razor saw that is about 0.5mm thick and cut each radiator off, then literally glue it right back on. The plugs used to replicate the actual radiators need to be filed down to ensure the wing top fits, but that's it really. All other construction goes as the kit instructions recommend.


I've got 5 of these in my batch build going. After week 2 I'm almost ready to paint. Details are done, such as the props and the cockpits. This is a very relaxing build session and when I'm done all my Heller XVI kits will be on my shelf. I do have Sword XVI on the go as well, and frankly its construction is just as easy as the Heller but without the flaw in the radiators. And lots more detail to boot!

Thanks for looking...

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bertold's Fokker

Rudolf Berthold, JG2, 1918

This was another of my "shelf of doom" models that I'd started at least 15 years ago. What stopped me then was a lack of lozenge decals and my inability to paint them.

The Subject

If you know very little about World War I aircraft, you probably know about the Fokker DVII. For many years, as a young boy, I thought all German aircraft from the war were Fokkers, the British flew Camels, the French Nieuports and the Americans flew Spads. Of course as I got older, did a bit reading of real history I quickly realized that not only were there many, many more aircraft, but also more belligerents.

Until a few months ago, when I decided to finish this diminutive model on my shelf of doom, I thought there was only one kind of DVII. I've since found that at least 3 variants existed, the major external differences being the engine and cowling. I'm not sure which variant this kit is supposed to represent, as I don't have much for reference materials for World War I other than the internet.

I did find quickly the pilot, Rudolf Berthold finished the war with 44 kills, but died during a mob uprising in 1920 (he was their leader).

The Model

This is an old kit, but I'm not sure how old certainly before 1980. It is NOT the Revell kit, while similar is not laid out the same on the sprue. I purchased the Revell kit assuming it was the same only to be disappointed. The ESCI kit is much nicer in terms of surface detail and appears much easier to assemble.

The kit went together very easily. As I noted above, I stalled when I realized I didn't have lozenge decals and didn't have the ability to paint them. So I waited...still not having the ability to paint lozenge I finally purchased a sheet from Aeromaster. I got the day, 4 color scheme. I botched them.

Try as I might the lozenge decals gave me fits. Either my setting solutions were too strong, or too weak. Eventually I was able to get it all on, and touched up some spots and out of frustration called it "done." Then I went to pull the kit decals from the "WWI German" folder guessed it, nothing. No idea what happened to them so I went to my stash and opened up the other ESCI DVII decals!?

My problem is that I'm an organizer. Not a good one, but I have a folder in my cabinet for every aircraft I want to model. In that folder I keep instruction sheets, decals (in ziplock bags), notes you name it. My WWI folder for German aircraft has all the above but absolutely no decals. The only other place I keep decals are in the original boxes, sealed. So when I searched around and realized my Revell DVII was still sealed, I realized I might have workable decals.

The good news is that yes, I had decals, the bad news being they were terribly off register. So I searched about and found some German crosses in other kits that would work, and used the Berthold eagle from the Revell kit. Crisis averted but significantly more work on decals than I'd wanted.


When next I'm in the mood for a World War I subject, I may break out my Revell and ESCI kits and finish my Fokker DVII builds. Of course, I need to find some adequate decals, and unfortunately I know now that variations exist. So...I'm likely to look for the Eduard or Roden kits and never finish my easy to make older kits. Unless of course that I forget about the minor detail of variations.

Thanks for looking...