Sunday, February 26, 2017

That was easy!

Spitfire LF Mk IXc, MH712/WX*D, No. 302 Squadron, 1944

Too much has been written about this kit already. I figure it's my turn to gush.

The Subject

No. 302 Squadron was one of the first Spitfire squadrons to land at Normandy shortly after the invasion.  MH712 is credited as the mount of Warrant Officer Henryk Dygala, a Polish pilot flying with the RAF.

The timeframe is likely late Summer or early Autumn, as the upper surface recognition stripes of Night/White stripes have been removed per an order issued in late July.  This aircraft also has the later pointed rudder that was likely a recent upgrade as the aircraft was used for bombing as part of 2nd TAF.  Wing bomb racks are installed to carry a 250 lb bomb under each wing.

The Model

This is the Profi-Pack which contains the sprues for a late Mk IXc (but with all the bits for an early F Mk IXc), masks, and PE. Decals for 6 subjects. Enough spares to tart up at least two more Spitfire kits...

The most difficult aspect of these kits is one must follow the instructions to ensure one uses the correct wheel wells, landing gear and fuselage details for the specific variant being built. Order is somewhat certainly can construct the wings before the cockpit bit don't attempt to insert the cockpit bits after closing up the fuselage. And you have to decide early whether the canopy will be open or closed; cockpit door open or closed.

The PE was not really fiddly. This isn't my first attempt at PE but in the past it was all very simple stuff, usually just one or two bits and paint it all after construction. This one is pre-painted and there are quite a bit of items to work with. It was time consuming but looked beautiful once done. Is it worth it? Not for me, as once done the model goes on a shelf and other than me knowing the details are there it's all not too visible. When I showed the model to my wife she didn't "see" any of it until I pointed it out!

Construction was quite straightforward. The plastic is crisp and hard, takes Tamiya extra thin cement well and it was no time at all I was ready for seam cleanup. Very little seam cleanup really. Mostly from my own mistakes. With more care on future builds of Eduard Spitfires they'll be cleaner.

Painting was typical for me and involved Tamiya paints, all airbrushed. First the White, then masked and followed by the Sky band, then the Ocean Grey, mask with maskol and then Dark Green. Pulled it all off, masked again and then the Medium Sea Grey. Pulled that mask off and then masked the Night stripes. Finally the Yellow leading edges. Cleanup where needed and after a long weekend the painting was finished.

Decals took,longer but were equally a breeze. They settled down with Daco Soft on a clear coating of Future. Wrapped it all up with a coating of clear satin and a model was in the done column.


A few modelers online have complained this kit is over-engineered and hence a difficult build.  I did not find that to be the case, but then again readers here will note that I like to tackle limited run kits occasionally and they certainly require me to focus a bit more on fit.

I do believe this is yet another kit that requires the modeler to follow the instructions.  Certainly until a few are under one's belt.  Just knowing which bits are needed for the sub variant requires some focus.  

I've got quite a few more of these kits. Royal Class, Mk XVI Profipack, Aussie Eight and at least 6 sets of overtrees. It's an enjoyable build, just enough to do to keep it interesting, but not enough challenges to want to shift it to the shelf of doom.

Thanks for looking...

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Where is my winning season?


Edit: I added photos as proof!

0-2...I've now binned two models after putting in quite a few hours trying to make a model out of them.  That's not like me, I typically keep at it until it's tamed and at least looks like something I'd put on my shelf.  Never a competition winner, but then again I don't build for competition; only myself.

The first one was a TBD-1.  Limited run kit from AZModel, the detail isn't bad and I've built some of their other kits, so figured it wouldn't be too bad.  I even bought a PE set for it that was pre-painted as a way to give a larger PE set a try.  I'd read a couple of online reviews that panned the kit, but that was mainly due to accuracy, not build-ability.

After getting the cockpit in and getting the fuselage together, which required effort but nothing I'd not seen in other limited run kits, I tackled the wings.  No much of a problem except one wing was slightly off in size as compared to the other.  I compared it to both the fuselage and the old Airfix kit (noted for shape accuracy) and it turned out the larger wing was in error.  Huzza! It's easier to remove than to add.

When it came time to marry the wing to the fuselage...not even close.  The problem was thickness, not chord (which was the earlier error I'd fixed).  I mucked with it for a week, and finally decided the only fix is to cannibalize the wing from the Airfix kit and conduct some major surgery...the wing break down is not even similar between the two kits.

After a week of evenings I gave up.  Nothing was coming together and the "shapes" just kept getting worse.  Not to mention fit.

The second kit was a SOC-3.  The Hasegawa kit.  I've build one about 20 years ago but it was before my rigging skills were developed.  Still on the shelf albeit in the "damaged" area due to moves; I may need to repair it just to feel good.

The problems are of my own making as they just don't seem to be challenges I should not be able to overcome.  One is short-shot struts.  I've got plenty of strut material and have scratched struts before so I'm not concerned with it, but haven't gotten that far.  The other is installing a resin AM cockpit.  It's a beautiful set, made for the SOC-3 and can even backdate the kit to a SOC-1 (slightly different IP).  My issue: I can't get it to fit.

Carving, sanding, even used a motor tool (low speed battery powered) and as the dust accumulates the space to fit it does not.  It does not help that the fuselage is warped.

To be fair, I have not actually binned them.  They are boxed and put away for a future attempt when my attitude is better...and if a better kit hits the market in the meantime they WILL get binned.  Life is too short...

So I'm rethinking my modeling objectives for 2017...after only 6 weeks!  I should work on easier kits and only have that one difficult (aka long term) kit in the queue, while all the others are simple and satisfying.  Hence, I've just finished a rather quick build of the Eduard IX, a simple build of an Airfix Firefly V, and started 2 Hasegawa VIII kits coupled with a comparison build against the Eduard VIII.  All easy, quick, and very enjoyable.

Now I need to photograph them and get them posted!

Thanks for looking...

Monday, February 6, 2017

A fighter's scout

Vought SU-3, 1-F-19, VF-1, ca 1935

The Subject

US Navy fighter squadrons, before the high quality nav systems of the post-war period made them redundant, had a two seat utility aircraft for navigation over great distances. They additionally were good for instrument flight training, ensuring proficiency in the inevitable likelihood the pilot found himself in the clouds.

The Scout was an aircraft built by Vought in the early 30's to replace earlier SU-1/2 and OU/O2U aircraft used in the late 20's and 30's. Later variants had a more rounded vertical tail and a few were fitted with floats. They were typically painted just like their fighter counterparts, but were numbered after the standard squadron strength of 18 but without section leader stripes or section cowling colors.

The Model

The only SU kit I know of is the Esoteric vacform in 1/72. The kit comes with white metal parts, decals and strut stock, plus a single sheet of vacuum formed major parts. I built the kit to represent an SU-3 I found a photo of, with help from Mark at Starfighter Decals, who also provided our group with some extra decals for the entire squadron.

The kit was not difficult, but then again I build 1-2 limited run kits each year and this is no more difficult, once the parts are removed from the sheet. I did not rig this as it was part of a group build and we agreed to "no rigging or weathering".


Unfortunately I did not take much for pictures of this kit when I finished it. It now sits with the other 18 aircraft from the squadron, all Monogram F11C-2 Goshawks, in a typical formation for the time period, at the Naval Air Museum at Patuxent River, Maryland. The SU-3 is in the back, in trail.

Thanks for looking...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Resurrecting an old pile of plastic

Spitfire PR Mk IC (PR Mk III), P9385/76, Nr 8 Operational Training Unit, 1940-41

While looking for a "training" Spitfire I realized I had the remnants of my "bash a Va out of the Tamiya V/I kits" sitting in my junk box.

The Subject

I won't repeat the story of the Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires but in short, just as the war started the two PR IA (modified Mk I fighters) were used from French airfields to look at German forces during the "phony war" period.  Both were modified to PR IB (longer focal lengths) standard and then to PR IC (same cameras differently configured, more fuel) as now they had to operate from England.

During this timeframe the Photographic Development Unit (not yet designated the PRU) was experimenting with color to better "hide" the unarmed PR Spitfires.  Sky, camotint Blue (later aka PRU Blue) and camotint Pink were tested.  I've read that grey, white and purple were also tested, but no documentation such as letters or photos can confirm this that I'm aware of as I would certainly create those schemes as well.

The PR 1C was a modified F Mk I airframe; the guns were removed and the fighter (armored) windscreen was replaced by the curved PR windscreen.  The canopy was also replaced by the PR canopy with the teardrop "bubbles" on each side to aid in seeing the target.

In order to gain more range, two fuel tanks were added.  One under the port wing in a fairing and the other behind the pilot.  Because oil consumption demanded a larger oil tank the chin was enlarged under the engine to make room.

The cameras were in a fairing under the starboard wing to offset the fuel tank on the port side.

The radio was removed to save weight.

This particular subject is a PR 1C operated by Number 8 Operational Training Unit.  It was used to train potential PRU pilots in the steady use of the Spitfire, flying straight and normal in the face of attacks to ensure mission completion.

The Model

This kit started as the Tamiya Spitfire Vb.  I had attempted a modification to the wings to convert it to a Spitfire Ib.  I gave up when AZ Model released their Ib kit and threw the bits into my spares box as it was fairly crude looking.  When I decided to add another PR Spitfire to my shelf I pulled it back out.

The fuselage was essentially complete; the wings had major divots and waves where I'd attempted to sand, cut, fit and make the wing appear to be a "b" wing with fabric ailerons.  I sanded down the bumps and filled and sanded some more, filling and sanding some more (forget how many times I did this) and eventually had a smooth wing top and bottom and enough of the rib detail on the ailerons to call it "done."

I then pulled my Pavla PR 1C/G resin conversion set out and after a bit more cleanup attached the resin fuel tank, camera fairing and chin fairing.  Some primer and additional cleanup required and then I re-scribed panel lines on the PR wing.

The most difficult bit was the canopy and windscreen.  Until this point construction/conversion was really just "basic modeling skills".  I had to put some brainpower to the canopy and windscreen, because while the Pavla set is designed for the Tamiya kit, it did not fit.  The rear portion was too wide and the windscreen is shaped a bit odd.  Luckily the windscreen/canopy is separate from the rear fuselage cover.

My solution was to trim and sand the rear bit until it "fit" with a bit of imagination.  If I squeezed it, the hight met the fuselage spine and the width match the fuselage sides.  Glueing was done via a combination of super glue and Gator's Grip acrylic glue.  I glued one side with Gator's Grip, then after 24 hours of curing carefully squeezed the glazing until it all matched and then added superglue to affix it.  After an hour of curing I then added more Gator's Grip via a wet paintbrush (being water soluble until cured it can be wicked into some important areas).  Giving it a good 48 hours to cure, I then wet sanded it lightly until it was smooth, and then polished it until it was crystal clear.

Now for the obvious issue: fogging.  I coated the clear bits with Future/Klear and let that cure before I started and then "hoped" it would not fog.  It didn't!

Painting.  How to mimic that PRU Pink color, which is really just a dusty off white with a hint of pink to it?  I started by priming the model in Tamiya gray primer (on purpose, instead of white primer).  I then pre-shaded to provide some depth, using a red brown shade.  Then I began layering on the thinned Tamiya white paint (XF-2) that had two drops of red (XF-7) added to the 15ml tin.  After each layer, I put the model under different lighting (natural, sunlight, fluorescent) and repeating layering until I could just see the Pink.

With a blue background and fluorescent lighting, it's white.  The red completely washes out including the pre-shading, resulting in a very flat and white model.  But the depth of the color remains so it looks sort of "natural".  In sunlight it looks washed out but dirty and in natural lighting against a white background the red shows up and it's definitely a Pink Spitfire.

Decals are from the Model Alliance sheet on Merlin PR Spitfires.  Now out of print but can sometimes be found via shows or online auction sites.


I'm quite happy with how it turned out, especially the paint scheme.  I want to do one more pink PR Spitfire, the FR IXc which is what most people model.

Thanks for looking...