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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas greetings

No, honestly, the moss-encrusted fortress of 72 Land has not slipped under the waves of the Pacific. I'm still here, though it has not been the usual sort of December, which tends to be modelling heavy. A minor computer meltdown (our home laptop is gradually crumbling into dust, this time's crisis being primarily in the keyboard), some brief excitement and disappointment concerning a potential new job, and the usual rush of Christmas festivities are to blame.

But we are currently celebrating the one-year anniversary of the 72 Land blog. Almost 40 models were completed in calendar 2011. All of us (dogs included) are still breathing, and you can't find fault with that.

So to all the nearly 6000 page reads in the first year, let me express my best Christmas wishes (sorry, I don't do "happy holidays"). May all your gifts be full of styrene, and may your workbench be covered in the heady scent of Tenax and paint.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hasegawa Panavia Tornado F3

I have a lot of Tornado RAF anniversary decals. A lot. Choices from Xtradecal, Model Alliance, Fineline, and Modeldecal. Many are for GR1s, though there are also a few for the F3 fighter variant. And of course, once I decided to build one, it wasn’t one of the choices from my deep decal stash, but a sheet that only recently appeared.

OK, I especially liked this scheme. It was the 25th anniversary of Tornado F3 use that was applied to a 111 Squadron RAF bird in 2011. It was on Xtradecal sheet 72-132. A big “25” over an oversized roundel on a Tornado with a black spine and tail. It also had the advantage of being fairly timely, since the plane had been seen in most of the current aviation magazines earlier in the year.

I used the Hasegawa kit. Although some of the reissue prices of Hasegawa kits are truly eye-watering, it had the advantage of having been bought when a retailer was having a clearance sale. Tornados are something I have built multiples of, so it is one of the few kits that I have multiple copies of. The Hasegawa kit is well engineered, fits well, and has adequate detail for the scale. There is work that needs to be done to the seam between nose and body, but it isn’t a deal breaker.

It seems that this particular example had wings from an earlier paint scheme, since they are in Barley Grey and the rest of the body is in MSG. The nosecone is a different tonal grey, and I used Neutral Grey. All paints were Xtracolour. On further review, I should have used a different and less stark grey for the wing glove markings.

The decals worked well, and the only ones I applied SuperSol to were the big tail markings, just to make sure they got down into the panel lines and attached solidly to the edge surfaces of the tail. I even managed to get all the little antennae and dangly bits to survive the decaling process, though I think the tiny little dorsal pair of rod antennae must have escaped at least twice.

Still, I have to say I’m pretty pleased with this one. A good kit, nice decals of interesting markings, and a minimum of modeller-inflicted agonies go together for an excellent modelling experience.

This is completed model #375, finished in November of 2011.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Developing a plan

I thought it might be informative to give everyone a little insight as to how some of these weird projects gestate in the dark and cobwebbed portions of my brain.

Although I can’t really consider myself a big Bf-109 fan, I have built a few over the years, if only because there are a number of nice kits out there for the type. And of course I am drawn to the oddball variants. One of these is the Planet Models kit of the speculative Bf-109TL, a possible option for mounting Jumo 004 jet engines in pods on the wing. It was apparently considered as a possible alternative to the Me-262, since they could use a lot of existing 109 tooling that would speed up production. I had gotten the kit out and begun some preliminary explorations, including the standard “stick the kit components together with Tamiya tape” routine (a part of my process and a source of endless hilarity to modelling chums).

Since I have been feeling the need to return somewhat to my roots, primarily WW2 aircraft, after the flood of postwar and modern jets that I’ve been doing this summer, I began thinking about what other types I could do along with the 109TL. I had already completed a Me-262A, Me-262V1, and He-280, so maybe it was time to do some other Luftwaffe late war twin engine experimentals.

After a trawl through the stash, I was suddenly surrounded by the Hasegawa Me-262B (the two-seater), Special Hobby’s 3-seat Me-262 project, Academy’s Me-262C, and Revell’s Messerschmitt P-1099 heavy weapon 262 project. Not only did they create a nice little development series, but they also had the advantage of needing a lot of the same paint colors (primarily RLM02 for the interiors and gear bays to begin with) and mostly the same late-war RLM colors on the exteriors.

To this point, only the 3-seater is fully together, though I have gotten two other cockpits painted as well. Hopefully I will get the other cockpits together and painted shortly. Two have the dreaded vacform canopies, though hopefully my success with the Sack As-6 will give me enough momentum to deal with those.

And that is how one of these projects comes together. Although I did spend some time pulling 262 books out of the downstairs library room, it’s not like I took a monk-like sabbatical to research all the possible variations. I identified an interest, sought out the kits in the stash, and got them moving into their construction cycles. Hopefully you’ll see the results before the end of the year.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Trumpeter Chengdu J-20

Some of the projects that got started in the summer are coming to fruition. I enjoy building groups of aircraft, especially if they embody some sort of central theme. An example might be multiple manufacturers’ treatment of the same specification (back in the days when they used to actually build multiple prototypes). Sometimes, especially in the modern world, you have different power blocs developing similar aircraft that appeared in a roughly equivalent timeframe. In this case, we’re talking about fifth generation, high-performance, stealthy air superiority fighters. The US example is the F-22, while the Russians built the Sukhoi T-50, and the Chinese the J-20.

I started with the F-22. I would have preferred to use the Academy kit, but I had a copy of the Italeri version and didn’t want to spend the extra money (a direct result of my employment state, which I’ve mentioned before). Next came the relatively recent Zvezda T-50, which while providing some modelling challenges around the intakes, was a pretty nicely building kit. I had originally planned for the J-10, a new Chinese small fighter (more like an F-16 than F-22), but as I was finishing it up Trumpeter announced their kit of the J-20. As soon as the kit appeared at Sprue Bros I had one on its way to the Northwest.

It is somewhat of an odd bird, but not overly difficult to build. You’ve got to praise them for getting the kit to market so quickly, taking advantage of all the real type’s publicity. I have heard some complaint about the lack of a detailed missile bay, but this is no problem for me. I’m more interested in getting the kit finished, and dealing with the (usually) miserable fit of missile bay doors – as happened with the F-22 – is more trouble than it is worth. This may be a security concern, and Trumpeter obviously did this one with some government input, so they had to follow the rules.

There are some odd things about the kit. It appears as though the designers were trying to make it so the kit could be completed with a minimum of painting. The cockpit sprue is duplicated in two colors, grey and black. The exterior surfaces are pretty much all in black plastic. Gear bays and landing gear are white. Parts that need two colors, such as landing gear doors, come with decals for the exterior (ie, white plastic with a black decal). There are silver decals for the exhaust cones. Some of this just isn’t going to work, and anyone reading this blog is going to be painting the bits anyway, but it is an odd approach.

Exterior parts are large, so there isn’t a lot of seam work on the fuselage. In fact, the only parts that will give you a chance to put your modelling skills to work are all in the landing gear area. The main legs attach in a very unusual way, and the doors are mostly supported by arms rather than attached to the fuselage itself. Still, nothing that will prove unmanageable.

I used kit decals, of course, since the paint has barely dried on the actual plane. The Chinese markings are pretty minimal, but look nice on the black surfaces. It’s not a bad looking plane at all, somewhat similar in configuration to the MiG-144. In fact, when I do some rearranging in my display cases, I’ll get some photos of the T-50, F-22, and J-20 in company with the S-57 Berkut and MiG-144. It should make a nice family portrait, though they are brothers of some radically different mothers.

This is completed model #374, finished in November of 2011.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Just a quick note to all of you turkey-gorged, football-loving (bloody Cowboys...), airplane-worshipping maniacs to wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving Day.

Though I guess that for all of you non-US readers, the best I can do is hope that you had a pleasant Thursday....

Back with more, including a Trumpeter stealth fighter and an anniversary Tornado, later this week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Special Hobby Sack AS-6

Every so often I have the sublime pleasure of rescuing something from the Shelf of Shame. It is most often a kit that posed some seemingly insurmountable problem, or just got to a point where I had to disengage and go work on something else. “Disengage” eventually becomes “ignore” and the half-finished model stares sullenly from some dusty perch until either guilt or boredom compels one to finish it up.

Today’s odd little finished example is a prime example. I’m really no good at vacform canopies, and that’s what killed this one. It is an early Special Hobby kit of the Sack AS-6. Not exactly a household name. It is an experimental circular wing plane apparently developed by an amateur enthusiast on a farm in Bavaria during WW2. He eventually got the concept to a point where it was a flyable full size prototype, and asked for Luftwaffe help in testing. Though you would think they might have better things to do, they seem to have tested it enough to realize it was underpowered and an aviation dead-end. It is still a unique and distinctive airplane, though, and will be nice to place it in a lineup with the already completed Hasegawa F5U and the Sword V-173.

With only about a dozen parts – my kinda kit – construction was not bad until I got to that vacform canopy. Somehow I never got the fortitude up to tackle it, and on it went to the Shelf of Shame. But last week I pulled it down and determined to finish it. Cutting out the canopy itself and masking went without issue, and although there was some fogging from the superglue, I think it turned out well enough to go on the shelf.

I used the usual Xtracolour paints; in this case RLM65 and RLM71. These are kit decals, and of that species of Czech decal that loves to attach itself to a model wherever it first touches, like the proverbial limpet. And then it refuses to move. The secret, if you can manage it, is to literally float the decal over in a sheen of water and maneuver it in position, then tamp it down with a paper towel. You’ve really only got one shot though.

This is completed model #373, finished in November of 2011.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Academy Consol PBY Catalina

Much to my chagrin, the lack of sufficient enclosed storage space for completed models means that I have to create “temporary” storage cases. Some of these temporary cases are literally 15-20 years old now. I use lumber and non-perforated pegboard to create the box itself, then put a piece of 36x30 glass over the top. I have five of the things now, plus one 36x90 version. Given that the modelling bunker is starting to fill up with models and no storage, I had to go to Lowes last week to get the component parts for another large unit. Since I’m trying to keep the cost low, I’ll actually be using this as a second story of an existing box (no need to buy additional glass that way). Once my income returns to normal I’ll be buying more professionally created storage – in fact I’ve already picked out the cabinet from a local supplier – but this will have to do for now. I’ll try to get a shot of the process of creating these as I work on it.

In the words of Bill Cosby, I told you that story so I could tell you this one. Sometimes those glass lids break. Generally, it is something falling from above, which means that damage is always done to the models within. I’ve gotten competent at model repair over the years. One of those damaged models was the following PBY Catalina. It has been sulking in its injured state for a couple of years, so I decided to bring it back up to proper display condition. Since it was out, I also took a couple of shots to add to this blog.

This is the Academy kit, which I remember as being a really a nice build. I believe I used Aeromaster decals for the Coastal Command version, but I don’t have the details in my notes. This model won a second in its class at the annual IPMS-Seattle Spring Show. The wheels and props were where the damage occurred; hopefully it isn’t noticeable now.

This is completed model #244, completed in January of 2002.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Construction and some painting

Progress continues in the modelling bunker.

The Trumpeter J-20 is now getting ready for overall Black paint, having survived a brief panic. I couldn’t find the small separate door over a rear dorsal hatch, and had to practically disassemble the modelling room to find it. It had gotten tangled up in some masking tape and found its way to the trash can. Thankfully a bit of trash can diving located it again.

A Monogram B-1, having finished its major construction, has been in the paint shop to receive White paint for the gear and missile bays. It has now been masked and is getting the Black nose painted. Since the biggest pain in airbrushing is generally prep and cleanup, I do try to group models that require the same color, in this case the Black of the overall J-20 and the B-1 nose.

And, as a teaser for future construction, here is a shot of three related models that have just entered the building cycle. The one in the middle should be easy to recognize, and the ones on either side are at least tangentially related to it. The far right has not yet had its engine nacelles added to the wing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

GenDyn F-16

Have you ever started a model for no easily discernable reason, and then lost whatever interest you had in the thing, until you just want to get it done and in the display case – even if it has to sit in the back row? That seems to be what has happened to me with a Hasegawa F-16. I’m not really a great fan of current in-service USAF fighters in any case. Until this point, I had never finished an F-15 or F-16, and the F-22 I have completed was only done in the last 6 months as part of the international fifth gen fighter project. But I figured I could knock out an F-16 while doing a large number of other projects.

Maybe that was my first error: too many projects in play at one time. I am notorious for this, but that native impatience which has been my downfall so many times likes the fact that whenever I have to wait for paint to cure or glue to dry I can move on to another model if I have some spare time at the workbench. Or maybe it was just that I wasn’t heavily invested in the F-16 as a type. Perhaps I was just moving too quickly and didn’t take the time to apply whatever Profoundly Average modelling skills I possess to this one. Impatience led me to a disastrous session with a B-47 (more about that at a later date) and probably worked against the F-16 too.

Since it was a Hasegawa kit, the model went together well, with minimal need to work on seams or details. The painting had some challenges, as it always does for me, but I eventually got to the point where I was satisfied enough to proceed. The major disaster was the decal work. I used an old RepliScale sheet, which had markings for an anniversary DC ANG plane, with lavish tail art. The sheet showed its age in the brittle nature of the markings, and many of them splintered on application. Most I was able to maneuver into position, but the two that were least intact were the striping around the engine intake and – of course – that tail art. Little pieces of red stripe managed to come loose and lodge themselves all over the place, including one that landed on the ANG lettering. I didn’t notice that until after I had applied SuperSol, and there was no chance of getting the offending wandering bits out without destroying the underlying decal. I was able to replace one bit that mysteriously left the model (current whereabouts unknown) by using a Revell kit sheet that came with the same DC markings. I probably should have stripped the tail and started over but by this time I was just anxious to see the back end of this one. Bah!

I hereby resolve to take a deep breath before starting work on the next project in my queue.

This is completed model #372, completed in November of 2011.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Revell Eurofighter FGR4

Having just recovered from National Metal Day, and having my head properly banged by long stretches of Dio, Sabbath, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Ozzy, and other denizens of the metal underworld, I thought I should crawl through the stack of tequila bottles and get something posted on this blog.

So far, in the current service series of Eurofighter Typhoons, I have finished models of 3, 17, and 29 Squadrons. This week I finished another single seater in the markings of 6 Squadron, which is the latest to become operational. Only one more to go in the series (11 Squadron), at least until the RAF decides to expand the total number of squadrons. Not sure when that is scheduled, given that they seem to be in a definite shrinking mode at present.

The kit is the excellent Revell, which has been released as both a single and twin seater. It isn’t a simple kit, but it is not that difficult to build either, and I think has a much better look than the Italeri or Airfix versions. I have not built (or even seen) the HobbyBoss version, so I can’t comment on it.

So far on this project, I’ve used decals from all over the place. Some kit, some Model Alliance, some Mark 1 Guide. This time around I used the 6 Squadron history sheet from Xtradecal, which is 72127. There are a number of different types on the sheet: Tempest, Canberra, Phantom, Jaguar, F2B, Lysander, Hurricane. It seems that the squadron markings don’t really start to shine until after WW2.

I did have a couple of issues with the model, though mostly due to my own hastiness. The canopy did not want to fit, the airbrake cover did not want to stay closed, and there should have been more seam work done to the wing/fuselage joint. Still, I think that it will look fine along with its three stablemates (four when I get those 11 Squadron decals and another kit). I suppose if I have Eurofighter withdrawal I could build a couple of the examples in the Mark 1 Guide: German and Italian air forces, both with large and attractive tail designs.

This is completed model #371, finished in October of 2011.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

And now for something completely different

Well, we do need something to shoot at, right?

For the first time ever, I will be showcasing both a different genre and a different modeller, but the scale remains the same. A nice little bit of Japanese armor by the head of IPMS-Seattle, Andrew Birkbeck. I have known Andrew since shortly after I returned to modelling in the mid-80s, when we were both involved in 1992’s IPMS-Nationals in the Emerald City. We’ve both been IPMS-Seattle newsletter editors and owners of one of the early internet hobby shops, The Supply Depot. Don’t hold his almost exclusive building of armor against him, though.

The model is the Japanese Army’s type 97 Chi-ha tank, as kitted by Dragon. Japanese armor is not common in either main armor scale, though with the explosion of new kits in the last 5 years the search for new types to kit has led to there being a larger amount of IJA metal. This particular model is of a late production type as seen on Saipan in 1944, as used by the 9th Tank Regiment.

It is apparently a pretty well detailed effort, including DS100 magic tracks and photoetch. Being in 1:72, some of the parts are very delicate and require careful separation from the sprues. Andrew’s build notes are clear that there are some fit problems to deal with, so test fitting and subtle trimming is rewarded. The tracks are extremely fragile, and may require some adjustment as well.

The color scheme is a typical IJA scheme of Brown, Green and Khaki, with yellow stripes. Andrew used Mr Hobby lacquer paints for these. Thankfully the decals are produced by Cartograph, so no problems there. A brown oil paint wash and a sealer matte coat finished off the festivities.

Andrew rates the kit very highly, noting the excellent and abundant detail, but again notes that you do need to pay attention to fit. There will be an early production version of the type 97 on the way from Dragon in the near future.

This is the Imperial Japanese Army’s type 97 Chi-ha tank, as used by the 9th Tank Regiment on Saipan in 1944.

Next time we'll be back to our regularly scheduled program of winged things, starring a Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 from 6 Squadron RAF.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Airfix Vickers Valiant

I think that one of the great advantages of 1:72 scale is that so many aircraft types have been kitted that you can explore the odd byways of aviation history and even build up little mini-collections of related types that are of great personal interest. In the larger scales there are still many types that haven’t been kitted yet, and this kind of approach is more difficult. I do like doing long-range projects like USAF bombers, global transports, and odd experimentals. One such project is doing all of the RAF V-bombers.

Until this year, there was one rather gaping hole in the series. Airfix had of course done the Vulcan, and Matchbox the Victor. If it had survived, it isn’t too much to think that Frog would have done a 1:72 Valiant to finish the trio. But it did not survive, and the spot was left to vacform kits, with all of the attendant issues that they present. Mach 2 released a kit a couple of years back (demonstrating both their excellent type choices and execrable execution) but there was only minimal improvement over a vac.

And then the rumors began to circulate about the newly revived Airfix releasing a Valiant. Their TSR-2 had apparently been a success and they were looking to follow up with another home-grown most-wanted type. Gradually the Valiant firmed up into an official release (with a gradually lengthening delivery date, but we RAFophiles rejoiced nonetheless).

The Valiant was one of my two must-own types of 2011, the other being Revell’s Halifax. In the age of the internet, I had to watch all of our British associates getting their kits before the boxes ever reached the US, but finally I learned that Sprue Bros had gotten a shipment in, and an order was immediately placed. Shortly, the box arrived and I immediately made time in the industrial production of the 72 Land factory to begin work.

It is a fine example of the current state of Airfix’s art. Some modellers are more skeptical about the company’s efforts than I am. I admit to being a fan of Airfix’s ability to produce solid efforts at wonderful prices. Sure, I wish they would restrain their panel lines at times, but they seem to be getting that under control. The Valiant’s panel lines are restrained. There are some places that could be refined – I’ve heard the kit likened to a Russian tractor – but all of the large tab and slot connections that I could see were well-hidden in the finished model. I think the shape is well captured and the buildability is high. For the Profoundly Average Modeller, those are the stats that count.

For those who are just getting started on the kit, you would be well served to take a look at the build recaps on, especially the long string by General Melchett. He takes a good hard look at what deficiencies there are and suggests solutions for them, always the mark of a useful build review. There are other builds on there as well, which will help you steer by the rough patches.

Not that there are many. I had some issues with the fit around the exhausts, and the instructions could be a bit clearer on the various options (there are a lot of optional pieces that are only correct for particular variants). The bomb bay doors fit pretty well when closed, though clearly designed to be open. The intakes buried in the wing seemed to fit well also. Actually, I would say that there were more issues with the painting (vast areas of white, a notoriously difficult color to spray well) than anything else. There was no masking set available when I built the kit – the dangers of being an early adopter – so I had to do it the old fashioned way. I have to say that due to the small size and large number of windows, a masking set (Eduard 72-299) would certainly have made things easier; probably not one of my best jobs.

While the markings are not extensive, I wanted to follow my usual process and at least take advantage of aftermarket decals. I had bought the Kits At War Valiant sheet before many of the current sheets were out. I’m not sure the sheet is still available since it doesn’t appear on the Hannants list. But right now you have options for different camo schemes from Airdecal and Airframe / Model Alliance; my sheet has only white examples, though this was the scheme I had planned for the Valiant in any case.

Most markings are pretty standard – roundels and serials. The only point of attention is the squadron art, two swords over a white and blue field. No problems with any of the decals. I don't have the sheet to hand and I can't for the life of me remember the squadron number.

I already had a Vulcan in the completed category (along with a what-if project of the “fourth V-bomber”, a camo version of the AMT B-49 flying wing that I named the Vector), so completion of the Valiant makes it three. Next comes the Victor. If I really get ambitious, maybe I’ll spring for the Magna kit of the Short Sperrin, the actual backup fourth V-bomber, in a fit of self-inflicted modelling torture for having avoided the Mach 2 Valiant.

This is completed model #370, finished in October of 2011.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Revell Republic P-47D

If you were to wander through the 72 Land model dungeon and look at the boxes of unfinished kits, one of the things that would strike you (other than the fact that there are a lot of them) is that I have very few duplicate kits. Oh, there are a couple of favorite types that I have gathered  multiples of – A-4, BAe Hawk, Hurricane, DC-3, and the subject of today’s finished model, the P-47. I have actually completed 22 models in the P-47 project. Most are of the usual bubbletops and razorbacks, though I do have a P-35 and XP-47H to show where the lineage grew from and what it grew into. And there is an Alliance XP-72 that is still waiting in the stash.

Why is the P-47 so attractive? As usual with me, it concerns the markings. While I have no reason to think that there were more P-47s with nose art than, say, P-51s, I would argue that there are certainly more nose art decal sheets for P-47s than any other single type. And I have accumulated most of them in my 26 years of modelling. I could literally build only 1:72 P-47s until the day they wheel me off to the rest home and still probably not use up all my decals. Of course, Tbolts aren’t the only thing I build, so I likely will never reach the point where I run out of either kits or decals.

Every so often a new sheet is published which moves another P-47 to the top of the queue. Such was the case with “Sigma Nu Girl”, one choice on the EagleCal EC107. Besides the large lettering on the side of the fuselage, it was a rare chance to put a late model bubbletop in Olive Drab and Neutral Grey.

I used the Revell kit. While it isn’t the best-building P-47 in 1:72 scale (that honor belongs to the Tamiya version) it is a solid effort that doesn’t miss the mark by much. And in this case I have about a half dozen of the things in the stash. As I said earlier, this is pretty unusual for me.

The Eagle Cal decals are very thin, and require some care when applying them. They do settle down into the panel lines with no problem, and did not require any setting solution. Although there is an error on the sheet – the data block on each propeller blade near the hub is called out in the instructions, but doesn’t seem to appear on the decal itself. Not a huge issue, but you’ll want to source some replacements if that is important to you.

“Sigma Nu Girl” belonged to Greasy Methany, and the reference is to a fraternity at UC Berkeley. It uses the dorsal fin, which is included in the Revell kit, and sports the Curtiss asymmetrical prop. EagleCal notes that Methany’s grandson, Charles, was killed in 2006 near Baghdad, by an IED.

This is completed model #369, finished in October of 2011.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The rise in the fall

There has been a brief lull in the fall production here in 72 Land. Some business to take care of which has been taking my attention, with other various distractions mixed in. I do still have two completed models that need their photos taken so I can feature them on the blog, and have three more deep in the painting stage. As you can see from this picture, they are an F-16, Tornado, and Eurofighter Typhoon. Basic color coat shot onto them this morning; as soon as the paint cures I can give it a light buffing and go for the final surface coat. This will put the Typhoon as likely to be the first to cross the finish line, since the overall Barley/Camo grey coat is all that remains to be finished on that one. The F-16 has another color for its upper surfaces, and the Tornado (which will be in 111 Squadron special markings) still has appointments for a couple of greys.

I've also got the Heller Vampire mostly put together, and the SA Bulldog is slowly working its way through the paint queue.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hobbyboss Hawker Seahawk

I’m still catching up with models that have been completed in the fall modelling campaign. The next one is another in the ongoing series of Cold War British fighters, most recently exemplified by the AZ Models Attacker and the Xtrakit Swift. This is the relatively new Hobbyboss Hawker Seahawk.

It is a very nice kit in the box, though it suffers from the engineering that one usually sees for the Seahawk. The German and British versions have a different tail, so the fuselage is inevitably split to allow both options, giving you an unnecessary seam to deal with. Otherwise the detailing is plentiful. The only area that I messed up on was not giving sufficient attention to the seam directly behind the exhaust cans. The best way to approach this is to not install the actual exhaust pipes until after you have dealt with the seam. Not the way I did it, unfortunately, so I was unable to reach the area that needed the PSR.

The actual colors on this jet seemed a bit on the confusing side, with various iterations of DSG, EDSG, Sky, and White being proposed. I decided to use an old Modeldecal sheet. This is actually for an F1, but I couldn’t see any external differences so I went ahead. If you can’t rely on Dickie Ward for postwar RAF/RN camo data, who can you rely on? I’m sure if there are some physical differences between the F1 and FGA6, some poster on the boards where I display these finished models will let me know.

While wrapping up this model, I got the urge for another Cold War fighter, and started on the cockpit of a Heller DeHav Vampire FB5. This is an elderly kit, with raised panel lines that will need to be eliminated and unusable decals. The detail isn’t too bad for a kit of this vintage, and I believe I have another Modeldecal sheet that featured Vampires, so markings won’t be a crisis.

This is completed model #366, completed in September of 2011.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Italeri Lockheed-Martin F-22 Raptor

Given most of the types that have been featured in the first 10 months of the blog’s existence, you might be surprised to find that I’m not terribly interested in modern frontline US fighters. I’ve never built an F-18 or F-15, no AV-8s, and my very first F-16 is currently in the painting queue. I can’t say I have any interest in the “my missile is bigger than yours” conversations that seem to go along with types such as the F-22 and F-35. I find myself much more fascinated by the weird little byways of aviation than the best of breed.

Which is not to say that I don’t like experimental types. I had been reading about the Sukhoi T-50 in Air Forces Monthly before the Zvezda kit became available, and thought it would make an interesting comparison with an F-22. Then in the fullness of time Trumpeter announced their J-20, and plans for a mini project were born. The T-50 has already featured on this blog, and the J-20 is currently in construction. But the F-22 has just emerged into the (rather overcast) light of day here in the great northwest.

This is the Italeri kit. I am aware that the Academy version is apparently a better kit, certainly in terms of buildability. But I had the Italeri in the stash, spending was restricted to new kits that I just HAD to have, and the F-22 is just not a type that would cause me to heedlessly throw some bucks around. Going with the Italeri kit does have some minor penalties in terms of fit – there is a seam aft of the cockpit that will turn your hair grey(er). But the detailing on the visible bits like cockpit and landing gear is good and it had the satisfaction of using up something that had been in the stash for years.

Construction proceeded without need for medication, with the main problems other than that seam revolving around the internal weapons bay doors. I have very little interest in ordnance, and have never been one of those who obsesses about what to hang off the pylons. In fact, I typically don’t hang anything at all. That seems to have the effect of concentrating the eye on the airframe itself, primarily the markings. The problem in this case was that the doors for the ventral bay and the two side missile bays don’t fit and are in multiple pieces that are meant to serve both for the choice of open bays and closed bays. In the event I ended up closing the lower bay and leaving the two side bays open. I’m not sure it was the best idea, and I probably should have just built them all closed and resolved myself to some PSR sessions.

Then there was the painting. The overall light grey coat went on well, but my masking for the darker patches on the upper surfaces was pretty mediocre. Plus the dark grey paint sprayed on like that stucco coating they used to apply to Southern Californian houses in the 80s. Even by buffing it down and reshooting it was still rather rough. At this point I was possessed by the familiar demon Impatience and decided to see if the eventual matte coat would solve the problem. Thankfully it did, pretty much, though I still can’t say it is my most technically sound painting job.

Decals were from the kit: the first production Raptor, apparently labeled “Spirit of America”. No problem with the markings at all.

Once I finish the J-20, I’ll get all of the fifth generation fighters together for a group portrait, along with two other large fighter prototypes, the Sukhoi S-47 Berkut and the MiG-1.44.

This is completed model #368, finished in October of 2011.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Zvezda Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA

Next up in the parade of fall model completions is another in the fifth gen fighter mini-project. It is the Zvezda Sukhoi T-50 PAK-FA.

You may remember that I had some concerns about Zvezda’s color call-outs on their instruction sheet. They were designating a dark blue (gloss sea blue, in fact) as the dark color in the camo. I have to admit, that didn’t seem right to me. Everything I’ve seen said three greys. As it happened, as I was pondering the issue, the latest copy of Air Forces Monthly arrived with a nice color shot of the prototype in flight. It was clearly a dark grey, or at least as clear as a nice color photo in a mass-produced magazine can be (for me, pretty clear). So even though I had already sprayed on the first coat of gloss sea blue, I buffed it down and shot a coat of Ocean
Grey over it. Nothing special about that – I had it in the airbrush for the Hurricane 2C – but it seemed to capture the color closely enough for my purposes. I’m happy with the choice.

Construction was not difficult, although there were some moments where it didn’t look like the intake design was going to work. You have to bring a multi-part assembly through the inside and locate it in the right spot for everything to line up. It is not instantly obvious, but a judicious session of dry-fitting eventually got me there. Everything else fit the way it was supposed to.

Decals were from the kit, and worked perfectly. I’m not one of those stenciling obsessed modellers, so I didn’t spring for the aftermarket sheet (Begemot, I believe) that has pretty much every little mark on it. The ones provided were sufficient.

The T-50s project stablemate, the F-22, is complete and will be featured on the blog shortly. I also bought the new Trumpeter J-20 so I can have the trifecta. When it is complete I’ll do a family portrait. Seeing them together in the same scale really shows the variations – and similarities – of a group of designs from different countries where the basic design assumptions were clearly very close. I’ll probably also pose the three fifth-gen fighters with a couple of immediate Russian predessors, the Sukhoi S-47 Berkut and the MiG-1.44, and the recently completed Trumpeter J-10.

This is completed model #367, finished in October of 2011.

As an update to the Airfix Harrier saga, I have received a message from Great Models. I am to return the Bf-110 in a Harrier box to them and they will send out another Harrier when it returns to stock. Not sure if I’m expected to pick up the return shipping, but my primary concern at this point is getting the proper kit.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

There's a WHAT in the box?

I don't remember this happening in my long modelling career. Last week I ordered a couple of kits from Great Models in Utah: an Airfix Harrier GR9 and a Trumpeter J-20. I received the package and began rooting through the merchandise. The J-20 was fine, and is currently in the construction phase, and will eventually join the F-22 and T-50. For the Harrier, the outer shrinkwrap and those little Airfix sticker-seals were in place. The instructions and decals were fine. But when I took a look at the plastic, that fuselage sure looked odd for a Harrier. Turns out it was the plastic for the Bf-110!

Since I had already bought and built the -110, the kit wasn't something I was interested in. Unfortunately, when I wrote to Great Models' support email address, they have not answered in the last week. Hopefully I'll hear something quickly so I can send the 110 back and get the kit I actually bought. More as this develops.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Airfix Hawker Hurricane 2C

Now that I’ve tricked you into thinking that the only things I produce are postwar types, here comes a more traditional WW2 entry. It is the Airfix new-tool Hawker Hurricane 2C. While I would prefer that the Corgi-esque panel lines were a bit more subtle (and I do think they have been toned down on more recent kits, like the Valiant), they aren’t bad enough to bother me. I think I’ve sampled about all of the engraved line, modern Hurricanes, having built a dozen of the type so far, and I think this fits in well with them. Nice fit and easy construction.

There is one area that I think would benefit with a replacement, and that is the prop. Even to my non-engineering eye it looks too small, so I have to assume that if I can detect it, it is probably quite wrong. Pavla makes an upgrade set with all three prop types – along with cannons for the 2D and those distinctive underwing tanks – which is set 72015. Quickboost also has sets for the DeHav prop (72211) and the Rotol prop (72215 and 72221). There are also a variety of detail bits that were originally meant for the Hasegawa kits but could probably be used here as well.

I used the Sky decal sheet (72053) for Hurricanes, The one I chose was the final Hurricane to leave the production line, appropriately named “Last of the Many”. It would make a fitting bookend to a project I’ve been considering for a while – putting together a prototype from the fabric-winged Hurricane in the Sword (and later, AZ Models) early version. Since that kit comes with the two-blade prop and a separate under-fuselage strake, I think the main conversion work is on the radiator, the exhausts, and the panel lines changes necessary for the elimination of the guns. I haven’t done all that much research yet, though, so there may be other things that need to be changed. It was definitely more of a project before we had a ragwing Hurricane to start from.

This is completed model #365, completed in September of 2011.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

AZ Models Supermarine Attacker F1

The second item in the initial wave of fall modelling to be completed is the AZ Models version of the Supermarine Attacker F1. AZ kits are a bit rougher than the best short run makers like MPM, but they are still quite buildable. And although I don’t feel to compelled to buy every mark of Spitfire that they have been producing (though the PR1 is tempting) I do understand the economic imperative behind it. If it allows them to continue producing buildable kits of obscure types like the F6U Pirate, Ki-54 Hickory, K3M3 Pine, Gauntlet, and those early ragwing Hurricanes, I’m all for it.

There were some fit issues with the kit, which I solved in greater or lesser degrees of success. The fuselage can use some sanding of the edges prior to sealing it up, and the wing/fuselage joint was pretty awful. The tail wheel has no positive location for gluing, and ended up detached and lost in the fuselage before too long. I went ahead and built a replacement using strip styrene that satisfied me, at least, though those with more of an engineering orientation would probably want to do something a bit more realistic.

Painting provided its usual content of drama, given all the masking that was necessary. You wouldn’t think a simple thing like that patch of Sky between the Dark Sea Grey of wings and the upper fuselage would cause issues, but with the vertical tail surfaces also Sky – well, there was a lot of Tamiya tape on this kit in the painting queue. It all turned out well enough.

Given that the markings are pretty generic for the type, I used the kit decals for the most part. The blue in AZ’s roundels looked suspiciously light to me, however, so I replaced them with Modeldecal postwar types I had in the decal vault. As is always the case with these postwar naval types, those underwing serial numbers were a pain where they crossed the various landing gear doors. Blessings upon the decal makers who provide those in pre-measured pieces that fit precisely on the doors themselves. AZ, however, is not one of those makers, and you are forced to cut them out yourself. Never one of my best moments, and I was mostly happy just to see the end of that decaling session.

Nonetheless, I was generally pleased with the way the model turned out. It certainly helps to expand my postwar RAF collection in the display cabinet.

This is completed model #364, finished in September of 2011.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Xtrakit Supermarine Swift FR5

It appears that the post-summer logjam is really breaking. I have no less than 5 completed models in queue, which will be debuting here on the blog over the next few days. And there are a number more in the final stages of construction, painting, and decaling. Looks like the goal of 40 completed models in 2011 in coming within reach.

Tonight’s entry is the Supermarine Swift FR5. It is part of a small postwar British fighters project that includes an Attacker and a Seahawk. It is the Xtrakit, which is a reasonable short run kit, though it does require some extra work to smooth over fit issues. Panel lines are nicely engraved and the canopy is injected. The Swift was one of those types we thought would never get kitted in injected plastic (unless you count the aged Hawk version from when the type was actually in service). But thankfully Hannants/Xtrakit has been making an effort to plug some of the holes in British types.

Derived from the Attacker, by way of the type 510 and 535, the Swift featured swept wings and tail, along with a longer nose for placement of the FR5s camera. It didn’t spend much time in front line service and was replaced by the Hunter in 1961.

Mine is in the red arrow markings of 79 Squadron RAF. The camo is PRU underside, with Dark Green and Dark Sea Grey on top. All paints were Xtracolour and I used kit decals.

This is completed model #363, finished in September of 2011.

You’ll also notice that the Sukhoi T-50 and the F-22 are being readied for paint. They should be finishing up in a few days. And my J-20, to complete the set, is on the way from Great Models. Finally, the last photo shows the current state of the Hobbyboss Seahawk, a P-47, and a revived SA Bulldog.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Catching up with modelling activity

I have fallen a few days behind on reporting the progress in the modelling bunker. The weather did a bit of a turnaround and gave us some 80 degree days, but in September the nights tend to cool things down wonderfully. Given my employment status and my natural cycles, most of the modelling I do comes at night anyway.

In terms of construction, I’ve been pounding away on a Revell P-47 (after painting both the wheel wells and the cockpit) that will use the “Sigma Nu Girl” decals I’ve had for a while. Also, I’ve started on a Eurofighter and Tornado to showcase other recent decals as well. Finally, I’ve gotten the major bits together for an F-16C that will carry District of Columbia ANG anniversary markings. Believe it or not, this is the first F-16 I’ve ever built. I’m using the Hasegawa kit.

The paint room has also been busy. Besides getting the first coat of white on the substantially complete Valiant (and a fine kit it is), I’ve gotten the Dark Sea Grey coat applied to the Attacker. The Swift is fully painting and awaiting decals. It should show up in the finished column shortly.

I’ve been having confounding paint issues with the Hobbyboss Seahawk, though. Though the paint seems to go fairly smoothly, it manifests some very pebbly surface texture in a couple of places, notably the horizontal tail surfaces. I just assumed I put too thick a coat on it, or perhaps got a bit of water into the airbrush stream (my compressor is pretty medieval and without a water trap). So I buffed down the tail and reshot. Same result. I buffed it down again and used a different tin of Xtracolour. Same result. I am going to shoot a very thin coat over it all again this evening. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that I am badly infected by the bane of all (good) modelers, impatience. But really, it has had a number of chances. Not sure of the root cause: some chemical contamination on the plastic? But would it still be there after numerous sand-and-repaints?

I’m not sure why I’m producing so many Cold War British aircraft at present. Maybe it is because the mainstream modelling companies have finally discovered the era (or run out of options for anything else) and have begun turning out kits. Airfix Valiant, Trumpeter Lightning, Hobbyboss Seahawk, Cyberhobby Sea Vixen. But I’ve always been a Britophile, so it really isn’t much of a surprise. I’m considering doing another trio: Heller Vampire, Airfix Javelin, and Xtrakit Scimitar. The only disadvantage is that these kits are either short-run or, shall we say, not current state of the art. But hopefully the Profoundly Average Modeller can keep from making a mess of them.

One problem I am going to have to confront is storage, what with the Valiant, B-47, B-1, B-50 and 707 working through the queue. Besides my three 6’w x4’h x3’d ex-retail display cases I bought in the 90s, I have been constructing little flat boxes out of shelving wood with a sort of poster/particle board as the bottom and a sheet of thin glass laid on the top. They were never really meant to be permanent. Just a temporary stopgap until I could afford to buy a nice tall 6’w x 7’h x 2’d display case. But as with so many “temporary” situations, this has been in place for a long time. I’ve already picked out the case, but at $1600 it certainly isn’t going to happen until I resume drawing an income, and even then there are more pressing issues (house repairs, property taxes) that will take first place in the money-eating stakes. But when I do get it the model room will be truly majestic. The current cases, along with the airbrush area, are all in the garage.

My model production, due of course to my employment state, continues to be high. I am just finishing my 27th of 2011, equaling the total for 2010. And the last four months of the year are always the highest for number of completions. There is a good chance I could hit 40 this year. The downside being that if I do hit that lofty number, it will likely mean I haven’t hooked up with another PM position, which will shortly become a disaster of epic proportions when even the minimal unemployment funds run out.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

End of summer

Summer is drawing to a close here in the northwest. It has been a very nice one – in fact, the highest recorded temperature in Auburn in all of summer 2011 that I can find on was 85. That works for me. I am not constitutionally built for heat, which is one reason I moved away from Southern California in 1985. Any city whose highest temperature was 100 even, and can have a summer perpetually under 85, gets my vote.

We went out to the 2011 version of Harbor Hounds, a dog event in Gig Harbor. This year it was Harbor Drowned, since the weather chose today to reintroduce we mossheads to the glories of Seattle rain.

Since the model room and the garage were cooling down, I was able to get some construction and painting done. There are actually a couple of painting sessions combined into the following photos. The Valiant has gotten all of its detail painting done, was masked, and is now getting its first coat of white. One roadblock – I appear to have run out of white paint! Sounds like it is time for an order of Xtracolour.

The trio of Cold War Brit fighters – Swift, Attacker, and Seahawk – have gotten their wheel wells painted Alclad White Aluminum and the Sky has gone on the Attacker and Seahawk. While I had the Sky paint out, I did the fuselage band on a Hurricane. The Swift is a little farther along, and already has the lower surfaces done in PRU Blue. I was able to paint the Dark Sea Grey uppers and the Dark Green camo.

The Sukhoi T-50 is in queue for its camo area of Gloss Sea Blue. Not a color that Soviet aircraft are necessarily known for, but that is a Zvezda interpretation. They do use a number of unusual blues on their Su-27s.

A bit more wheel bay detailing in Zinc Chromate Yellow has been done on the B-47, along with the wheel wells of a P-47. I’ve been trying to group models that need the same colors, since painting is not something I’m terribly good at.

Lurking on the horizon is a B-1, and stalled efforts on a B-50, SM-84, and F-22. And you can see that the 707 has gotten the fuselage blue (for a Braniff jellybean). It still needs some detailing in Aluminum and the underside of the wings done in Boeing grey.

I kind of shake my head when I see all these large models that I start, given my upcoming storage crunch. I'll have to build up another temporary display box to accomodate the Big Iron.

As an aside, condolences to those related to anyone involved in the tragic crash at the Reno Air Races.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flying Heritage Center Battle of Britain Flight Day

Another non-modelling road trip to tell about today, but this one at least has aircraft related application. I paid a visit to the Flying Heritage Center, where Microsoft co-founder (and former aircraft modeller!) Paul Allen houses his fleet of flyable historic aircraft. As you can imagine, with that much $ to throw around, the collection is very impressive, not least because all of them are maintained in flying condition, though not all will be flown. Bf-109, Hurricane, Ki-43, Fi-156, P-51, Spitfires, a recently acquired B-25, Fw-190A and D, Po-2, I-16, and even the nose of an Avro Lancaster. I didn’t ask, but I suspect that one doesn’t fly.

On many weekends during the summer, the staff takes a couple of the aircraft out and fly them for an hour or so. This weekend, being an anniversary of the Battle of Britain, they had scheduled two Spitfires and a Bf-109E. As it happened, the Arizona CAF had their B-17 and B-25 in town as well, and they would join the other three in the air. More warbirds in the air than any airshow that I have seen since attending the Chino airshow a few years back.

The Bf-109 had some cooling problems almost as soon as it took off, and landed after only two circuits. The Spits circled for a half hour, and the B-17/B-25 pair also did a few laps before landing. I had never seen a 109 in the air, so that was quite a thrill. There were hundreds of spectators in attendance; this was obviously a well run and well publicized event. If you are ever visiting the Puget Sound area, we have a lot of aviation related stops (the Museum of Flight, Olympia Flight Museum, the Boeing company tour) but you should really put the FHC on your itinerary as well. Especially since it is so close to the Boeing facility. There were quite a few partially assembled 787s parked along the way to the facility, most without engines.

I went with IPMS-Seattle’s newly elected president, Andrew Birkbeck, and ran across another long term IPMS member, Bob Labouy, while wandering the museum. There may well have  been others from the club in the significantly large crowd. Kind of warm, but excellent blue skies.

Below are a couple of tasters. The lighting in the museum hangar was a bit tricky, with the clerestory windows always backlighting the aircraft. One of those times that I would have benefited from Seattle's normal clouds.