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Monday, March 21, 2011

Xtrakit BAC Canberra PR9

Before Airfix produced their new set of 1:72 Canberras, Xtrakit was the first out of the gate with a newly tooled version of this classic British Cold War jet bomber. Actually, this is the reconnaissance version with the modified wings and the camera inserts in the lower fuselage. I have built the Airfix bomber version as well, and can say that it is a much easier construction job. The Xtrakit version isn’t bad, exactly, but it does exhibit all the issues that embody the phrase “short run kit”. Now, I say this having been in the hobby for a number of years, so I readily acknowledge that short run kits have improved exponentially over the last two decades. (I’m working on a first generation MPM McDonnell FH-1, so I know whereof I speak). But as long as you know what you’re getting into, the Xtrakit Canberra PR9 is a decent enough molding job. It was done, I believe, by Sword, after Hannants’ recent falling out with MPM over the Meteor F8.

The biggest problem I had was on the wing/fuselage joint. I just couldn’t seem to eliminate the gap during construction, so I had to do a bit of putty work to seal things up. The canopy was fine and clear (and not a vacuform, thankfully). The wheel wells were a challenge, with a huge ejector mark right in the middle of the raised structure.

The markings are from Model Alliance. This was a special commemorative marking when the PR9 was being retired from active duty. Colors are Hemp over Light Aircraft Grey, with an MSG tail. The MA sheet does not provide any stenciling, so that has to come from the Xtrakit decals. I’m a diehard sucker for special schemes, especially on a type (the PR9) that isn’t really known for interesting markings.

Even though I added fishing weights into the nose, I clearly didn’t add enough as the model is a tail-sitter. So ignore the scale 200-gallon industrial tub of Xtracolor paint that mysteriously appears in the photos below.

Incidentally, also ignore that nasty question-mark shaped thing that has snuck into the photo. It appears to be something on the camera’s sensor, since it does not appear in any picture that isn’t taken at a high f-stop (thereby increasing the depth of field enough to pick it up within the focus field). I’ve got a new cleaning kit on the way from Amazon, but wanted to get this article posted. I told you I was impatient.

This is completed model #349, finished in March of 2011.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Airfix BAe Hawk T1

Another to add to the completed column tonight. This is the new-tool Airfix Hawk T1, and I really enjoyed making this kit. I thought the engineering was very competent, and there were lots of little gifts to the model maker included. The nose gear doors are slightly curved to match the fuselage, ensuring a tight attachment. The flap fairings are very tight as well, meaning that they stay in the right place, something that was hit and miss on the Italeri kit. Their T2 / Mk 128 looks good too, though I haven’t built one yet. Too bad that Matchbox is still the only 200 on the block (and I have built one of those).

This Hawk was the one that threw me into a quandary over markings. I had originally planned to use decals from Xtradecal sheet 72085 for 208 Squadron RAF, with the giant roundel on the tail and underside. But I discovered that the new tool Airfix kit was somewhat different in the placement of the wheel wells and flap tracks than the Italeri kit which the sheet was apparently designed for. So off I went to the decal vault to see what I could use instead. I finally decided to go with a black trainer T1 from 100 Squadron. At least it had squadron bars.

I’ve mentioned before that I like the new tool Airfix Hawk. The engineering is excellent for building, even if the panel lines could be a bit less prominent. And having a one-color exterior is always a plus. BAe Hawks are one of those types that I’ve built in double digits due to the wide availability of colorful markings. As always, the Xtradecals went on perfectly, with good color, density, and adhesion.

This is completed model #345, finished in February of 2011.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Project status

Just a bit of an update on the various projects working their way through the production pipeline.

I've got color coats on the Xtrakit Canberra PR9 (the Hemp upper surfaces) and the first green on the upper surfaces of the Hasegawa F-111. Both will need some buffing followed by a surface coat, but they are proceeding well. I was able to repair the Alclad issues on the Trumpeter Lightning F6 by buffing down the surfaces and reshooting with one of the colors that does not seem to have the consistency problem. Again, it was White Aluminum, which strikes me as a bit bright for a NMF, but I won't have any more Alclad until I can try to source some from Sprue Bros later this week.

I also managed to be hamfisted enough to snap the front portion of the Lightning's canopy while applying the paint masks. For now I've just stuffed everything with paper towels to keep the paint out. I will be able to finish the model and decal it without those bits. I've already been in contact with Stevens Intl, the US distributor for Trumpeter. They will send me a clear sprue for the kit for $10 including postage. Not cheap, but it was my own fault, so I'll pay up.

At the same time I was shooting the Aluminum coat on the Lightning, I put an overall coat on the Toko Sopwith Snipe. A bit of detail painting, such as the wheels and leather surround for the cockpit, and decals are next for it. The decals are coming from the Model Alliance Silver Wings sheet, which I've been making great use of in the last year. This is like my fifth model using those two decal sets (three if you count the roundel sheet), with more to come shortly.

Over the last couple of days, I also got the wheel wells, nose cone, and exhausts painted for the next Eurofighter Typhoon. This is a two-seater, in line for 29 Squadron markings that came in the book/decal combo from Four Plus. I think this will give me models of three of the five squadrons currently in service.

I also got the canopy masked and the upper surfaces painted on the new Airfix Bf-110E. Though I think we'd all like it if the panel lines were a bit more understated, I think they look fine under some paint. And although I've heard that the vertical tail is undersized, the solution I've seen is to wrap a 5 thou strip of plastic around the outside and then sand it down. If the difference is really only 5 thou I guess I don't see what the issue is. Not sure you could even see the difference in two models standing side to side, one modified and one not. I certainly would have more problems trying to attach and sand a sliver of plastic to the outside of a tail surface than in ignoring the error. But that is why I am a Profoundly Average Modeller, I guess.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

MPM Gloster Meteor F8

Now on to my other disaster of the week. It’s really in two parts too (these just seem to go on forever sometimes): one that turned out ok and one – well, less so.

The second incarnation of Alclad has been one of the great success stories of the modelling subculture. We all seem to fear the NMF monster, and Alclad has made achieving an excellent finish easier than it has ever been. The stuff really didn’t need a primer coat and generally sprayed on evenly with almost no capacity for errors.

A number of months back I ordered a few more bottles from Hannants to stock up on my Alclad supplies. But when I actually used them, some problems were apparent. It was as if there wasn’t enough pigment (ie metal) in the carrier. The surface was splotchy, the coverage was uneven, every little swirl in the underlying plastic showed through, and I even ran into paint runs because I was unconsciously opening up the airbrush’s paint valve due to the lack of coverage. It seemed to be the worst in two colors: airframe aluminum and dull aluminum. Luckily I was able to buff the model down a bit and reshoot with one of the colors that didn’t seem to be affected, white aluminum. Unfortunately, white aluminum is pretty bright, and is best for accenting individual panels rather than using as an overall color. The crew would have had to have been up all night polishing their Meteor to get it that bright. Still, one works with what one has.

The kit itself was a pleasant surprise. I dearly love MPM and their line of kits; they were one of the first to really take a full leap into the realm of less popular aircraft, producing kits in my scale and to a respectable standard. But you know that there will be some additional fettling that will be required to achieve the same result as you would see out of a Tamiya or Revell box. But their kit of the Gloster Meteor F8 was no more difficult than the DML F3 I recently built. Almost everything fit with a minimum of fuss, almost no filler/surfacer, and (as long as I didn’t let my native impatience get ahold of me) was a generally calm experience all around. Until I got to the paint shop.

Using one of the Xtradecal Meteor F8 sheets, I used the markings for RAF 1 Squadron, with white squadron bars outlined in red. There are a lot of options on the two F8 sheets they have released so far, so I basically just picked a set of markings that I hadn’t used before on any other postwar British fighter. As usual, the decals went on snugly. In general, except for the overly bright shade of the NMF, I was pretty pleased with the model as a whole.

This is completed model #346, finished in February of 2011.

(As an aside, and related to yesterday’s disaster tale, I had another bad experience with AeroSol, this time on Alclad pale gold paint. I was doing an Australian special paint job on a Douglas A-4 which required the gold coloring. When the time came to apply the decals, one part had to try and snuggle down over the Skyhawk’s wing fences. Out came the AeroSol. Which immediately turned that gold paint to a sickly greenish hue wherever it touched. I just assumed it was some weird chemical interaction between Alclad and AeroSol, but now that I’ve got more of a track record I think it was the AeroSol that had gone bad. I’ll find out by buying a new bottle of MicroSol with my next hobby order).

The model that didn’t quite survive as nicely as the Meteor is a Trumpeter Lightning F6. The paint is still pretty splotchy on that one. Overshooting with white aluminum does not seem to have done the trick. I may need to primer this one in grey and then try again. More details when I decide how to proceed.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Huma DFS 228

This is the first part of my tale of twin modelling disasters for the week. They involve two normally very reliable aspects of modelling techniques: Micro/AeroSol and Alclad.

The Micro/AeroSol disaster involves a recently completed model of the DFS 228 rocket powered experimental vehicle from the end of WW2. That would be the Huma kit, of course. It was one of the first kits where Huma pioneered the use of extremely fine plastic parts. These things were thin; more like a plastic version of photoetch than traditional short-run plastic parts. The parts were mostly for the cockpit, and unlike photoetch they used regular styrene glue. That is a vast advantage in my mind. But they were exceptionally fiddly, and are almost completely hidden when you install the cockpit into this particular aircraft.

I have always liked experimental aircraft, so I decided to use the decals for one of the test planes. It was in overall RLM02, no disadvantage either. The decals, like most from Huma, had a dead matte surface. Not an optimal choice, since it always seems to look a little different from the surrounding paint surface even if you bomb it with a top coat of semigloss. Huma decals are also notorious for being pretty thick and unwilling to conform to the model surface. I figured that a bath of decal softener might take care of that. And that is where I got into trouble.

I trimmed the decals down to reduce the amount of uncolored carrier film that was going to be on the model. So far so good. They went down well onto the Xtracolor gloss surface. Then I put on some AeroSol to soften them up. I noticed after a few minutes that the solution was actually changing the reflective surface of the paint. It was almost a slightly different color. Sensing disaster, I tried to daub off what was left of the liquid solution. And up came the paint along with it! Now I could see this happening if I were using acrylics, but these were enamels thinned with lacquer thinner. They should have been hard as a rock. I was able to soak up any remaining liquid by just touching it with a paper towel corner and left everything to dry overnight.

The next day I could survey the damage. A couple of thankfully small spots where the paint had come up, and some discoloration in a couple of spots. I was able to brush paint some patches – though these never end up being exactly the same shade as the sprayed paint. Hopefully the photos won’t show the problems.

The reason for the disaster? Beats me. This was in an AeroSol bottle (as in, produced by the late Aeromaster), so it is definitely an old bottle of softener. And Sol is a stronger formula than Micro/AeroSet. But strong enough to affect dried and cured paint? That is a new one on me. I will definitely be more careful to keep any setting solutions on the decal itself in future. Many modern decals don’t even need setting solutions, though I still use them in order to really get the decal down into the panel lines. Maybe the solution was old enough that it had evaporated a bit and distilled down to something stronger. Maybe it just needs some bottled water to thin it a bit. I’ll have to keep an eye on the issue in future models.

This is completed model #347, finished in March of 2011.

Hasegawa PBJ1

I need to get caught up on some of the models that have been finished over the last few weeks. First up is the Hasegawa B-25. I decided on the PBJ1 version used by the USMC, with the advantage of being painted an overall Gloss Sea Blue. The model went together as well as any other contemporary Hasegawa kit, and there was even an interior to work with, something that has not always been the case with this manufacturer. I used Xtracolor for the exterior paintwork. Paint masks by Eduard, but no photoetch.

The only odd engineering choice I noticed was all those tiny little bumps (each molded separately) on the two engine nacelles. I’m assuming that one of the variants that Hasegawa is making doesn’t have those particular bumps, though I’m no B-25 expert. Otherwise it wouldn’t make a lot of sense.

This is completed model #343, finished in February of 2011.