Monday, March 20, 2017

Low and slow

Nakajima B5N2 "Kate" torpedo bomber, B1-310, Lt. Joichi Tomonaga, at Midway; 4 June 1942

This is the second half of a "dogfight double" by Airfix that I completed for a theme build focused on "Low and Slow" subjects. I tried the salt weathering method on this one, otherwise it was an OOB build.

The Subject

During the Battle of Midway, on 4 June 1942, a section of Kates attacked the USS YORKTOWN (CV-5). LCDR Jimmy Thach, the CO of VF-3 which was assigned to YORKTOWN, was part of the CAP and attacked the Gates. Tomonaga's Kate was one of those shot down by Thach that day.

B1-310 was one of a group of Kates assigned to Hiryu and participated in the attacks on Pearl Harbor on 7 December, 1941. These Kates were originally (factory) painted in Ameiro, or a caramel gray color overall just like the A6M Zeros and D3A Vals of the typical IJN pre-war carrier air wings. En route to Pearl Harbor the Kates were given a coat of dark green on their upper surfaces to help conceal them from above over the waters of Pearl Harbor. By the time of Midway, survivors were showing wear to the green paint, even though the underlying Ameiro was still holding up well. Factory new B5N2 aircraft by this time were painted green on their upper surfaces, and the paint was well adhered to the airframe, so these examples would appear much more homogenous in their paint schemes.

The Model

I've always wanted this aircraft on my shelf, and while I have an old Hasegawa B5N2 Kate it was made 25+ years ago and reflects not only my knowledge of IJN aircraft schemes but also the available knowledge in the modeling community. In other words, that old kit is in the absolutely wrong colors! I was able to find some photos from Nick Millman who graciously shared them and while it appears that B1-310 does not have any surviving photos, photos of similar B5N2's at the time have survived and indicate a rather natty appearance. This both gives me freedom to weather it as I see fit but also mandates that the ameiro color show through in that natty appearance or it just would not be right.

Construction was straightforward; with the new Airfix kits accuracy is quite good and the engineering is amazing. Unfortunately it really does mean the modeler must follow the instructions as fit is so tight that any mistakes will result in a very poor looking model. After painstakingly painting the cockpit interior all the right colors, I closed up the fuselage and not a thing was visible! The olive green used in the interior (Tamiya XF-71 Cockpit Green) is not dark, but with the small openings it all comes out as just a single dark shade. I did add seat belts from masking tape, painted a bronze green color to give it a solid contrast.

The basic ameiro color is described as "grey poupon" or a "brownish RLM02". Huh? I found a recipe using Humbrol paints that was well like by Nick, specifically 8 parts Hemp (Hu168), 1 part Khaki (Hu159) and 1 part Midstone (Hu225). Since I had Gunze Hemp, and Tamiya Khaki plus my own recipe for Midstone, I tried this mix and it came out to a yellow-brown RLM02, but I didn't want to quibble at this point. My color mixing skills are not yet where I'd like them and while I know I can add some color and get brown, I have enough pots of brown mixed from various shades of other colors. I don't need to risk making another...

After painting the model overall ameiro, I then glued the canopy on, applying Eduard masks (which are nirvana when it comes to painting a canopy like this one!) and then gooped some salt, dampened with some water, onto the top of the model. After it had dried thoroughly (it turned white to confirm it) I sprayed XF-11 IJN Green on the topside. I purposely did not spray it evenly. I also lightly misted the tops of the ailerons, flaps and elevators, and the rudder to ensure they were a different tone, being fabric. After the initial clean up of all the salt I realized one side looked like it had been mistreated so I reapplied the ameiro and salt and tried again. Much better.

The other colors I used were a mix of black and Gunze H77 tire black to get a "blacker blue-black" for the cowling, as Nakajima used a "blacker blue-black" than did Mitsubishi. For the metal interiors such as the cowling and gear bay I first sprayed aluminum and then lightly misted metallic blue. This color should be more green but I'm not prepared to mix up that color.

Decals went on fairly easily with Daco soft and sometimes Daco medium. I had to be patient because initially they didn't behave, but eventually with multiple applications they finally tamed. Then I coated it overall with a misting of micro scale satin to seal everything in.


This was a very easy build, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I've got two more as well as the B5N1 with the earlier cowling. I'm looking forward to completing at least one with folded wings.

Thanks for looking...

Friday, March 17, 2017


This is not meant to be a show-n-tell of my hobby room, but a near term dilemma: how to display my models when completed? While I have many shelves, about half of them are filled with my stash. Yes, I could temporarily move them to a hidden closet somewhere, but I'm likely to forget about them. That HAS happened in the past!

So I was over at a friend's house lately and he was describing his philosophy on display: 1/72 goes on a stick, 1/48 on its wheels. But he does not mix scales on the same shelf or even the same cabinet. So as he approaches the same challenge of "where to display and how" his solution is to shift to a "1/72 on its wheels and 1/48 on sticks" approach. His idea is that he can fill in above the 1/48 scale subjects, and fill in below the 1/72 scale. What a brilliant idea!

I've purchased some acrylic rod in 1/8 and 1/4 inch diameters -- this stuff comes in 6 foot lengths! I also have some display stands I've picked up over the years just to have on hand for some projects I had not thought of yet. I now need to start planning for some "in flight" displays. As my Airfix Firefly V shows, one option is to ignore the cockpit and just paint the interior, the other is on my Airfix Spitfire VI, where I found a pilot and gave him a proper uniform.

The likely path forward is a mix of both, obviously, and I think I'll focus on cockpits only in the more modern kits that actually have a cockpit...presuming I have a suitable set of aviators to sit in the seats. Since my collection of kits is made up of about 50/50 old/new kits, that's not going to be that hard. I also have a bag of aircrew in various sizes laying around somewhere...

Thanks for looking...

Monday, March 13, 2017

Sometimes, you just have to take it easy.

Fairey Firefly FR.5, WB351/202/K, HMAS Sydney, RAN, Korea, 1951-52

This was a "free to me" kit found on the spare parts table at a recent club meeting.

The Subject

The Royal Australian Navy had a few Firefly FR.5 aircraft just prior to the Korean war but these were in a modification program to upgrade them to FR.6 standard. So the Royal Navy loaned a few to outfit the RAN carrier HMAS Sydney. WB351/202/K represents just one of these Fireflys.

RAN aircraft support strikes against North Korean supply lines; I suspect this subject is supposed to represent 1 of the 3 Firefly's that supported the longest helicopter flight at the time. This was the flight of a USN UP-28 Dragonfly on a rescue mission over North Korea; the Firefly's providing escort to "Uncle Peter" which was rescuing a downed crew from a RAN Firefly and returning at their extreme fuel range.

The Model

This is an old kit. Very old...not as old as myself, but it was released in 1966 by Airfix as part of their "red stripe" series. That's about the same time I started modeling. Lots of rivets had to be removed and because the cockpit was sparse and missing some bits (hey, it WAS on the free/parts bin table) I decided to not only close it up but not put anything inside and just put it on the stick with a clouded interior.

I took 3 weekends of 2 hours each weekend to pull this one together. I did ensure alignment, cleaned up the seams and generally focused on fit/finish. I tried 2 new things for this kit: Hataka acrylics and "spinning prop" by simply filling the spinner. For that latter bit I wanted to see how it looked. I kinda like the look...

I had purchased a Hataka set of FAA paints consisting of Interior Grey-Green, Sky Type S, Extra Dark Sea Grey, Dark Slate Grey, Sky Grey and Insignia White. The verdict is still out from on these paints. I frankly like the colors and want them to work. I found these to be too thin to brush paint and too thick to airbrush. The package said they could do both well (first red flag) and the bottles indicate they are airbrush-ready. I had to crank the pressure up to 30 psi and add a drop of thinner to the cup to get it to spray through my Iwata airbrush. I plan to add some self-leveling thinner and experiment a bit before I give up. They covered well and were easily masked.

The kit decals were yellowed and out of register. So I found some roundels in my stash and masked off the stripes. Instead of printing a new set of WB351/202/K black on decal film I decided to try experiment #3...add a thin film of Microscale Decal Film to salvage the original decals. It worked quite well, however even with Microscale's decal set/sol they didn't settle down, so I hit them with a drop of Daco soft and they settled right down. As seen in the photos, they still cracked in a couple of places, but they don't look bad. The yellowing nearly disappeared against the Sky paint, however the camera seems to catch the yellow better than my eye did.


I had fun with this one. I have another kit in the stash, but overall it looks small compared to say a Spitfire. I would have expected a late war 2 seater to be noticeably bigger. The cowling looks like it could barely fit a Merlin, much less the Griffon they used.

Thanks for looking...