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Friday, February 25, 2011

More snow in the Emerald City

The snow has landed here in the Emerald City. Not like they’ve been getting it in the Midwest and East (and even to the far south of us in the Sierras) but enough to send the drivers of Seattle into a panic. Barely enough to cover the roads right now, but we’re expecting more overnight. It’s a running joke that the Weather Service loves to try and make us panic ahead of time; they had predicted 6-10” out of this storm, when the total is likely to be more like 3”.

So that made the garage a pretty chilly paint room, but I did manage a marathon session. Six colors, which with prep and cleanup takes some time. I tend to plan on at least two coats (in two distinct sessions) when I’m laying down a color. The first is the color coat, meant to go on somewhat more concentrated so that it covers the plastic well. Then I hit the area with some high-grit sandpaper to take down any dust, uneven paint, or orange peel (though I really try to avoid that). Finally, I put on a highly thinned surface coat to bring everything back to gloss. As you can imagine, this makes preshading difficult – since the theory there is that you apply the paint thinly enough to allow the darker shading to show through – but that isn’t a technique that I use anyway. I’m not one for weathering. Besides, the backstory is that this is the world’s largest air museum, so I’m not trying to reproduce military field conditions in any case.

I should point out that even the color coat is not terribly thick. I learned from a longtime modelling cohort that the secret to paint is consistency: lots of stirring beforehand and a significant bit of thinning before you shoot. And I have to say the advice has served me well over the years. Sometimes I get lucky and the first coat doesn’t have enough imperfections to require buffing and reshooting, but more often than not I’m doing two layers.

So what did I accomplish tonight? The RLM78 undersurfaces on the new Airfix Bf-110E, the overall RLM02 coat on a Huma DFS-228, the Black lower surfaces on a Hasegawa F-111C, the overall RLM05 cream coat on a CzechMasters Olympia Meise glider, the Light Aircraft Grey lower surfaces on the Xtrakit Canberra PR9, and some tail and wheel Red on a Sopwith Snipe (for use with the recent Model Alliance Royal Navy sheets). Even with a respirator, that’s a real cloud of paint droplets!

In the last couple of days I’ve finished up a couple, which I’ll bring to the site shortly.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A new 1:72 website and forum

Before I go another step I need to give some love to another website I’ve just run across. It is a site and forum designed specifically for 1:72 modellers, called 72 Scale Aircraft. Here is a link to the forum:

There is a link to the home page on the forum, though the content there is still in the early stages. The forum is the primary point of interest, and for anyone that casually runs across this blog it will be right up your alley. It is run by Robert Rensch, who is adopting a light and casual style, though he is obviously interested enough to devote the time needed to make the site successful.

I post there under the name of "kingofmen". Just in case there are any Freddie Blassie fans out there.

Thoroughly recommended.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Production rate

I've got like half a dozen newly finished aircraft to catch up with on this site, but I wouldn’t want anyone to get the impression that the admittedly impressive model production of the last year is going to continue indefinitely. There were times while working fulltime that I couldn’t scrounge up the enthusiasm to glue two pieces of plastic together in the evening, let alone manage a paint session with three or four different paint colors. Now at least, with my biorhythms taking over and restructuring my sleep patterns (up at 10am and down at 3am), I have more energy in reserve in the evenings to devote to the hobby. Once I return to wage slavery, things will slow down noticeably, though I’ll try my best not to let it stop completely. In any case, according to my records I haven’t finished anything in the summer months, roughly late May to August, in the last 4 years anyway. Too much going on in the Great Northwest – whatever focus I have is being taken up by house, yard and garden maintenance, the occasional hiking trip, and of course our annual vacation. But I’m enjoying the ride while I can, at least until the financial ramifications catch up to me.

Construction today centered on the new Airfix Hawk T1. As I’ve said before, I like the engineering of the kit. Good fit, decent detail. One curve ball it threw at me was that it is caused a change in my decal choice. I had planned to use an Xtradecal sheet of an RAF display aircraft – the one with the roundel on the tail and underside. But the sizing and location of the gear bays on the new Airfix kit are a bit different than that of the Italeri kit, which the decal sheet was clearly designed for. And since that underside roundel has to fit amongst the gear doors and flap fairings, I think I will wait until I can apply those decals to an Italeri Hawk. The kit is already painted black, so it has to be one of the newer training squadrons. Maybe that 100 Squadron example with the skull and crossbones on the tail and the yellow-and-blue checked squadron bars. It all depends what I can find in the decal stash. At least I seem to have solved the paint problem on the fin – after sanding it down to the plastic and reshooting, it seems to have resolved itself. I’ve been building and adding the landing gear prior to decaling the model.

I also put a load of putty on the Xtrakit Canberra PR9. This was bought before the Airfix kit was available, and is a much more difficult build, even though the panel lines are considerably more restrained. Some of the fit is rather indifferent, and the wing gap needed help. I’ll be buffing down the putty over the next couple of days. Then it’s on to paint.

I’ve also resurrected the Huma DFS 228 from the boneyard. I had assembled the cockpit sometime in the distant past, but then lost interest. But yesterday I did some detail painting and got much of the nose together. Next up is the landing skid and fuselage/wing assembly.

Some people will chuck a kit if they haven’t finished it in a certain timeframe, or run into some obstacle that forces them to put it back in the slush pile. But I don’t typically do that. There have been some models that have been partially assembled for literally years, gathering dust in the garage, that have been cleaned off and finished, if only to get rid of my own guilt feelings. I can only recall two models that I ever chucked as being too frustrating to finish: the Roden He-111C airliner and the Kopro L-4 Cub. I mean, I’ve finished two Merlin kits, so bad kits don’t usually scare me off forever.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

New releases for 2011

I thought I’d make a slight departure from the workbench and take a look at the new items that have been announced for 2011. The Nuremberg show is over now, though almost everything had been leaked ahead of time. We might get some insight over new Hasegawa kits from Shizuoka in May, though they haven’t exactly been flooding the market with new 1:72 tools lately. So what do I find personally interesting in the 2011 release list?

Pride of place has to go to Revell’s Halifax. I’ve been working my way through the WW2 heavy bombers in the last couple of years and actually delayed starting the Airfix or Matchbox kits due to them no longer being of present-day quality. The Airfix is all raised lines and the Matchbox is one of the Trenchers masterpieces. Neither has much in the way of detail and it would be futile to expect great fit and engineering from them. But now I can relegate these ancients to the spares box, if the Revell B-17G and Lanc are anything to go by. Nice engraved panels and lots of detail, certainly as much as I can handle. It looks like two answered prayers (the Airfix Valiant and Revell Halifax) in one year. That’s a good start.

I’m also enthusiastic about the Revell A-400. I mean, I would have preferred a C-17, but any new transport kit that hasn’t been done before gets my attention. I wouldn’t mind if they would retool their C-130 too, to give us a modern engraved panel line version. And while we’re at it, how about a C-124? And how much longer do we have to wait for an AMX?

I am very respectful of the way Airfix has turned around since the Hornby buyout. The Concorde and TSR-2, while difficult models, showed some courage in model selection. The new Hawk T1 is a little gem of a kit, the Canberra is thoroughly buildable, and I’ve got a Bf-110 somewhere in the air between Hannants and me to play around with. As I mentioned above, the Valiant is one I’ve wished for for ages, and I will definitely get their new Swordfish and Gnat when they emerge. I’ve heard talk – mostly wishful thinking, I suspect – about a 1:72 VC-10 from them in 2012. I would certainly buy one.

DML/Cyberhobby made a big splash last year when they released a laundry list of new types, but it appears it was more of a 5-year plan (not unlike the way MPM announces their upcoming projects). The Meteor was a good choice for the first release, and I enjoyed building it. There are a number of interesting things in that long list, such as the A-20, F-35, Hurricane F1, and Sea Vixen. But a lot of the others leave me cold. Does the world need another P-51 at Cyberhobby prices?

MPM always has an interesting list, though you shouldn’t expect all of them to arrive in the next few weeks (or months). I’m interested in the Vautour and the B-18, and a number of others that appear when they appear. Sunderland? Perhaps, though I'd like to see some extra parts to make the civilianized options.

Trumpeter is another that seems to stick to pretty safe subjects, though I do appreciate their attention to current Chinese jet types. In my dream world, they would use their preference for large boxes to attack some of the big transports (like a C-17) or even some airliners (a 1:72 737NG or the ultimate in 1:72 modelling – a 747).

It is a truism that very few of us need to worry about new kits because we couldn’t finish the ones we’ve already bought in three lifetimes. But I do accept that buying new kits is a legitimate part of the hobby. One that keeps the hobby afloat, in fact. As long as we are buying in sufficient numbers, the kit makers will keep producing. And I would always prefer to build a kit with state of the art engineering and good detail rather than an indifferently molded lump from a mold cut when I was an infant, even if I have to pay a price penalty to do so.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cyber-Hobby Gloster Meteor F3

Another one to put into the finished column today. It is the Cyber-Hobby/DML Meteor F3, the first in their new line of 1:72 kits. I went into this model with a bit of trepidation, since I remembered the older DML 1:72 kits, which looked great in the box but were devilish little nightmares to actually build. I still haven’t screwed up the courage to face the He-219. But I am glad to report that the Meteor is an excellent kit, at least from the buildability angle. I am not the one to ask about precise accuracy.

Detailing is outstanding, with busy cockpit and wheel wells. Engraved panel lines are of a proper depth. Assembly was trouble-free, with a minimum of surfacer being used. One thing to look for is that there is not much room for weight in the front end, and although I packed in some BBs, it was not enough to keep it from becoming a tail-sitter. Fishing weights, even behind the cockpit assembly, would have been a smarter idea.

I didn’t want to do another camo 616 Squadron example or the all-white version, having done both with the old Airfix kit. So, after taking a look through the Modeller’s Datafile book, I decided to do the Royal Navy evaluation aircraft. It would look rather different in grey and sky and required just a small bit of modification (building a tailhook). I filched a tailhook from a Sword Helldiver (with the Academy kit, this one has been superceded so I didn’t feel bad about parting it out) and built the rest from plastic strip. The decals came from various Modeldecal sheets. Assembling the tiny serials is always a trial when working with these very small numbers. The only thing that remains is to finish the underwing serials. I didn’t happen to have the correct size in stock, and will need to wait until my next Hannants order to pick some up.

This is completed model #339, finished in January of 2011.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Into the paint shop

I got a chance to do a bit of paintwork and construction while listening to the recent Donnington 83/87 concert CD from the late Ronnie James Dio. I finally gave up trying to wear the wireless headphones and respirator at the same time, since I looked like a multicolored version of Darth Vader.

On the menu today was the overall black surface coat on an Airfix BAe Hawk T1. This went on fairly well, with the exception of a truly odd problem on the tail. I’m not sure if I captured this in the photo, but something is definitely wrong with the paint surface. As far as I can tell, there was nothing chemical on the tail, but there is a large spot where the paint surface reflects differently. It feels the same. It has the same amount of paint. But it just looks different. I’m going to have to sand it down to the bare plastic and try bombing it with a new coat of black paint. A bit frustrating, since the engineering of this new Airfix kit is such that construction was delightfully painless. I especially like their method of attaching the nose gear doors (a little tab that has a positive location in the wheel bay). Not strictly prototypical, but those doors are the most solid of any of the 8 Hawks that I’ve finished.

Next came the green upper surface coat on the Hasegawa Macchi Mc-202. I tried getting the correct paint color from White Ensign, but it was unfortunately out of stock at the time of my order (like many of the Italian AF colors). The Tauro decal sheet that I’m using helpfully lists FS colors, and I was able to locate an Xtracolour tin with their approximation, a USMC green. There is a lot of masking on this one, mostly for the lower surfaces, a white fuselage stripe, and the white Savoy tail cross. The green went on well, and once it fully cures I’ll decide if it needs a surface coat. At this point I’m thinking that it won’t.

The rest of the painting time was spent with the RLM65 undersides of a V-1 (an old Frog thing that has sat around in my stock fully assembled for probably 15 years) and a few odd bits of the Hasegawa PBJ1 (ie, USMC B-25) needing a final coat of gloss sea blue.

I also had the time on Sunday after the Super Bowl (yah Packers) to finish major construction on the Hasegawa Ju-88A. It is destined for desert markings to go with the already completed He-111, Hs-129, and Hs-126. This is another highly modularized kit to accommodate the variants, with all the construction woes that brings along. I had some issues with the wingtips, though that may have been due to my own stone fingers rather than any kit shortcoming. There will be some putty or surfacer in my future. The engine nacelles seem unnecessarily complex as well. But it is all coming together. I thought I had a masking set for this kit, but haven’t been able to locate it. With all those frames it is going to be a true chore if I can’t find or buy one soon.

Off to the side on the apocalyptic wasteland that is my workbench, you can see the progress on a couple of new projects, the AZ Gauntlet and Roden Snipe.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Special Hobby P-59 Airacomet

Winter is always the most productive time for me in terms of completed models. We don’t get very much snow each year in Seattle, but we do have to deal with resolutely grey skies that can go on for literally weeks at a time. It is one of life’s small pleasures to be able to sit down at the workbench and plug away at some models when the weather is wretched. We didn’t get any of the huge winter storm that is currently burying most of the country; in fact it was rather sunny here today. But I know that Dallas at least was in trouble – Squadron Mail Order, the “hobby shop that never closes” – was actually closed today. The NFL folks must be pounding their heads against the goal posts, with all the people who will be coming to Dallas over the next couple of days.

So here is another recently completed model: the Bell P-59 Airacomet from Special Hobby. Make no mistake, this is a short run kit, but the detailing is good and the canopy is injected, even if the engineering on the lower fuselage / engine compartment seems overly complex. Like any SH kit, there is some filler in there, but it is certainly buildable. I had the most trouble with the canopy; it was a bit too narrow for the fuselage. It became more noticeable, unfortunately, after painting was complete. In trying to spread the canopy out a bit during construction, there was an audible crack, but the crack itself must lie under the painted bits, because it is not obvious on the finished model. Dodged a bullet there. I am a great fan of the Czech modelling industry; for the 1:72 modeller, they are responsible for doing so many of the kits that fill the holes in a collection of aviation history. I am willing to put up with the fact that their kits may not  be state of the engineering art since they are doing types that don’t make sense to the larger manufacturers. Though I have to say that it is a mystery to me why no one like Airfix or Hasegawa had ever done a P-59 – the first American jet fighter.

This is completed model #338, finished in January of 2011.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

An airbrushing session

I managed an airbrushing session tonight. I painted the cockpits of the Airfix Scottish Aviation Bulldog, the Xtrakit Canberra PR9, and a Huma DFS 228. Then a group of natural metal bits (mostly wheels and landing gear for the Hasegawa B-25 and B-47). Finally, the overall black paint job on a new Airfix Hawk T1 and the grey lower surfaces on a Hasegawa Mc-202.

I generally put two coats of most paint colors down, at least for exteriors. The first is meant to be a color coat – in other words, the paint is a bit less thinned and is meant to go on pretty strongly. That’s one reason I don’t use pre-shading. Then I get out some very high-grit sandpaper. It is polishing cloth, really. This gets rid of any surface imperfections and orange peel effect that may have snuck into the color coat application. Then comes a surface coat. The paint is very highly thinned and only enough is shot on to even out the surface and produce a nice level shine. Since I only use Xtracolour paints, this usually takes it back to a glossy shine, though at times it can look almost satin. Still, it makes decal application very easy. Sometimes I get lucky and the color coat goes on smooth and glossy and no surface coat is required. But it seems that most times I get enough roughness to require some additional buffing. Once the decals are on, I’ll shoot a final satin coat overall, which has the virtue of hiding a lot of problems.

Hasegawa Heinkel He-111 photo

OK, here is the photo of the He-111 that I promised.