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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

AZ Models Gloster Gauntlet

Another biplane crosses the finish line tonight. This is the AZ Models Gloster Gauntlet, one of the many silver interwar biplanes that was featured in Model Alliance’s book Wings of Silver. I personally have found the AZ kits to be pretty buildable, though you have to watch out for all the usual traps of a short run injected plastic kit. At least they feature injected canopies in their kits, which is a great advantage in my book.

The particular boxing that I bought was the Gauntlet Mk 2, kit 72020. Decals are for a camo version (dark earth, light stone, and azure blue) and two silver versions. I opted for the 74 Squadron markings, as I’ve always liked their tiger stripes, and this one featured a squadron markings bar across the top wing. Part of the tail and the wheel hubs are in the flight color of red.

Construction was generally uneventful. The cockpit is pretty sparse, and the resin engine and its cowling take a bit of fiddling. The wing struts (except for the cabanes) are all single pieces, which means a challenge in keeping them lined up when the time comes to attach the top wing. All it takes is patience; not my best trick. Still I managed to get it painted and decalled without too much drama. Rigging, as always, was a lot of work. I used the ceramic wire method I’ve outlined in this blog before, but since my calipers are broken there was more trial and error involved than I’m used to. As I was attaching the last couple of wire lengths I was breathlessly waiting for the big disaster but was able to give out with a huge sigh of relief when the last one was in place.

I did discover as I was downloading the photos onto my laptop that I have apparently torn the decal on the port side. Very discouraging after a lot of work, but then I seem to have that problem a lot. Not sure if I can cadge a properly sized tiger stripe from another decal sheet. I do actually have an old Aeroclub Gauntlet that has those markings, but I have no idea if they would be the right size. Ack, I may need something stronger after this session than the usual Cherry Coke...

I do think this will satisfy my biplane urge for a while, having finished a Gladiator, Snipe, Staggerwing, a Ki-10 Perry and two Bulldogs in the last 18 months. I seem to be leaning toward  some Cold War RAF projects at present.

This is completed model #356, finished in May of 2011.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Another train wreck in the paint room

There is a reason why I am enamored of single-color paint schemes. While I do love my Iwata Eclipse HC-S double-action airbrush, that love does not extend to the antediluvian compressor that I have. It is clearly on its last legs, but for budgetary reasons I haven’t been able to replace it, though I do have its successor wish-listed on The problem is that I have no pressure control with the airbrush. It just blasts out at maximum PSI and my only level of control is the amount of paint I let into the airstream in the airbrush. And I don’t think just buying a standalone regulator would be cost-effective either, knowing a compressor set including one is on the horizon. Thus, the ideal paint job for me is a single color (yah, night-fighters!) or at most one that can be easily masked.

And that brings us to WW2 Luftwaffe mottling. It is an arcane art at the best of times, but we’ve all seen some excellent examples of this on the net. The problem that I ran up against was the desert camo on a Hasegawa Ju-88A4. The RLM78 undersides and RLM79 uppers were all on, and it was time for the RLM80 mottling. But I seem to have stumbled over the thinning again (this time not thinning enough) and it spattered in a very messy (and non-realistic) way. See below.

Now, we of the Profoundly Average school of modelling can accept a lot when it comes to errors. Slight outline inaccuracies, overdone panel lines, even “representative markings”. But when the paint job is that bad it really pulls you out of the moment. I personally have the same problem with brush painted models. It is next to impossible to remove the brush strokes, and whenever I see a photo of one on the net with the brush marks reflecting the picture’s light source it just screams out “toy”. Don’t get the idea that I consider myself above such things – remember, I know where every problem on every model I’ve made is – but it’s just one of those things I don’t personally like. And super-lousy mottling is another one.

So. What to do? Accept it or fix it. That is the answer to all such modelling quandaries. This time I decided to (try and) fix it. I buffed the surface down as smooth as possible and applied another coat of RLM79. As soon as it fully cures I’ll try the RLM80 again. Mix it to be thinner and only allow the tiniest of paint to escape from the airbrush. If you hear a large thump in the next couple of days it might be me pounding my head against the garage floor.

On a more satisfactory note, I finished the painting on the F-111 and unwrapped the mummy. That was a lot of masking tape. Although I’m not terribly pleased about how I masked the Tan, this is one of those things that we Profoundly Average types can live with. Decals next. Also, I got a nice smooth coat of Black on the two Hawk T1s (one for a special scheme and one with a black tail and MSG/Barley Grey camo). And I continue to grind through the rigging for the otherwise complete AZ Models Gloster Gauntlet. Hopefully it will make its premiere here soon.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Minicraft Consolidated B-24D "Hail Columbia!"

We all have projects that seem to drag on forever. Loss of interest, lack of modelling time, enthusiasm for a new project. But there comes a time when you need to finish the thing and move on. Such was the subject of the most recently finished model. I started this Minicraft B-24, I believe, before the Hasegawa kit came out. It is a completely competent kit which fits well and, except for the canopies, doesn’t present any great problems for the average modeller.

The cockpit canopy did not want to cooperate. The problem was primarily in the separate side panels. I probably should have just kept on sanding the edges until the fit, but that didn’t seem to be helping and I finally ended up just forcing them into place. The result was a pretty sub-par effort, but by that point Captain Impatient was making his presence felt.

Painting was pretty straightforward, though time consuming. Hail Columbia! is one of the Ploesti raiders, and is painted in a somewhat non-standard scheme of Desert Sand over Neutral Grey. There being no direct Xtracolour paint for this, I eyeballed one of their US light tans that seemed to fit the bill. Decals came from the Aeromaster raider sheet, 72-025. According to the sheet, the plane belonged to the 344th Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group and was based in Benghazi, Libya. It was piloted by Col John Kane. It used the post-Torch yellow ringed national roundels.

One thing I should note was that I used Cutting Edge masks. Those little suckers do not wish to release once they’ve been on for a while. Getting them off was quite a challenge, and even the usual application of WD-40 to polish up the glass once they were off seemed to get all of their adhesive off. Whatever they were using for glue was pretty powerful stuff.

I am in the middle of a long-term heavies of WW2 project. So far I've finished a B-29, B-17, Lancaster, Stirling, and this B-24. I have an Fw-200 that is just needing some additional paint and decals, and then it will be on to what I am told is a pretty nice Zvezda Petlyakov Pe-8.

This is completed model #355, finished in May of 2011.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Painting prep (and the required letting of blood)

As we all know, the Elder Gods of Modelling require the occasional blood sacrifice. And I gave them a good one tonight. Slashed my thumb with a scalpel while doing some close-in work. Not quite as entertaining as the time I wiped off a new Xacto on my shorts and then discovered a rivulet of blood going down my leg, but nearly as red. Luckily, the mutant healing factor kicked in (ie, I wrapped my thumb in a paper towel) and barely a beat was missed.

This was mostly painting prep tonight. The Ju-88 (RLM80 mottling) and F-111 (tan camo patches) are ready for their final pre-decal trip to the paint shop. The F-22 is ready for its Light Ghost Grey and the T-50 and J-10 are masked for some additional metal areas painting. The two Hawk T-1s are getting their canopies masked, and will shortly be ready for their first paint coat. Construction-wise, I got the engine nacelles added to the B-50.

I probably won’t get the painting done tonight. The weather being nice (but don’t tell anyone; this is supposed to be Seattle, remember?) we were out on a local rail-trail conversion much of the evening. I actually got strafed by a Canada Goose who apparently did not appreciate me walking in what I presume was the vicinity of the mating pair’s nest.

But I will post some pictures after I get the items painted.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Return to the paint shed

It was time to nut up or shut up, so I went back into the paint room Friday to try and fix the problems I had at my last session. Things generally went well, thankfully.

First up was a matte topcoat on a recently completed Minicraft B-24. One of the Ploesti raiders, it is in desert tan and neutral grey, and will feature on the blog shortly.

I was able to do some serious buffing on the Ju-88 and F-111C, enough to take down the rough surface from the last airbrushing session. This time I put on a surface coat, which means that the color is already applied, so the idea is to get a nice gloss, or at least semigloss, finish when you are done. I always use Xtracolour enamels, which are gloss out of the tin. Typically, you get there by lightly spraying on a highly thinned paint in quick passes, trying not to overstay your welcome so that you get too much paint piling up, or in the worst case, paint runs. I’m glad to say that the job appears to have worked. Next up is to freehand the RLM80 mottling on the Ju-88 and mask for the tan camo on the F-111. 

In the following photo, you can see that I’ve got the masking on the F-111. With five colors, getting all of the masking tape and paper towels off is going to be like unwrapping a mummy.

Since I seemed to be in a groove, I went ahead and applied the Alclad Jet Exhaust coat to the cans and vector nozzles of the next gen fighter group (F-22, T-50, J-10). No problems there. Next I will mask parts off and paint a lighter color (some variant of aluminum no doubt) for the rest of the cans. Then it will be time to start the camo colors.

And what is that lurking in the back of the model assembly line? I put together the main bits of a Minicraft B-50 that I have had for a million years (aka when the kit first came out). This all started when I decided to do a Boeing Washington for my RAF heavy bomber group, but noticed that I had a B-50 already started. So it came first in the queue, though I still have the B-29 out and in the model room to start once I get the inspiration. Though I don’t think anyone has ever done actual decals for a Washington, it’s really only roundels and serial numbers, so I plan to cobble that together from Modeldecal sheets. The only unusual part will be determining the color of the nosewheel door, which was about the only distinguishing feature on the Washington. I have a sideview of one with a red/white door, so I think that’s what I’ll go with.

The ultimate problem that this will bring up is display space. In my garage I have filled up three display cabinets (about 6’ wide and 3’ tall, with three shelves) and at least six self-built box things (made with shelving, fibreboard, and topped by a 36”x36” piece of glass) and am very close to maxing out the available square footage. There are probably things I can do in the meantime (like add a shelf each to the big display cabinets), but the ultimate solution will be the 6’ tall, 5’ wide, 18” deep display cabinet that I’ve picked out from a local retail supplier. But given the price ($1500) and my current income (zilch) it will definitely be a future purchase. But when it does get installed upstairs in the newly designated model room, I will be a happy (though non-productive, since by definition I’ll be back working fulltime) modeller.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Trumpeter BAC Lighting F6 (11 Squadron RAF)

This model has actually been 99.9% complete for weeks now, but was waiting for a key part to arrive and be painted. When I was masking the front windscreen, I managed to crack the thing and then misplace one half of it. So I wrote to Stevens Intl, begging for a new clear sprue to replace it. After a couple of weeks (and a check for $10) I had my replacement. Thus endeth the story of the convertible Lightning. Imagine what your hair would look like after an hour’s drive in that

The markings came from a Cutting Edge sheet that came out shortly before Dave Klaus scuttled the operation. Paint was of course Alclad (White Aluminum) and since I was going to have the cockpit closed – once I got all the necessary parts – I didn’t bother to upgrade the ejection seat or add etched seatbelts. As anyone who has read this blog knows, my main interest is in colors and markings in any case. And the 11 Squadron markings look good. As it happens, the next Eurofighter Typhoon T2 in queue is in 11 Sq markings as well. I can’t recall offhand if I have any other models that use the black/yellow squadron bars.

Although the Trumpeter kit has some issues, most noticeably the not terribly delicate treatment of the tail end (the big fuselage dip between the two exhaust cans), it is miles ahead of the aged Airfix raised line and stick landing gear kit that we’ve all been using for so long. In fact I think I built about 4 or 5 of the old kits, including a P1 conversion from Aeroclub, back in the day. They were the dictionary definition of chunky. But they were what we had at the time. I still wish that someone would do a modern version of the trainer variants. There are a couple of color schemes that can only be applied to a T4/T5.

This is completed model #354, finished in May of 2011.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Airfix Messerschmitt Bf-110E

Next in the completed stack is the recent Airfix Messerschmitt Me-110E. I have heard the kit maligned for its panel lines and its undersized vertical tail surfaces. The panel lines are a bit deep and wide, but for anyone who has dealt with the Matchbox trench-digger of old they can be successfully ignored. As to the tail surfaces, I’ve heard that the fix is a five thou shim of plastic around the outside rim of the tail. Five thou? That’s not much. And given the serious pig-butt I would make of the job of sanding down the strip of plastic, I have to respectfully decline.

In terms of buildability, a much more important yardstick to me personally, the kit comes across pretty well. The parts fight tightly and require no filler. Their method of adding the nose guns has some issues, and even being careful I managed to bend one of the barrels to where it would not go through the assigned hole. Out came the .25 plastic rod and I was past that problem. You do have some options – bigger sand tires, extended tail, different noses.

I very often will find myself an aftermarket decal sheet to use, especially since it gives the model a little personal touch. But since the kit markings included a North Africa version – always the choice if I have the option – I decided to stick with that. I earlier mentioned my concern with the extreme matte surface of the decals. I followed the plan I outlined, using an old Microscale sheet.

This is completed model #353, finished in May of 2011.

I’m in the process of assessing the damage from yesterday’s paint session. I think the Ju-88 will be fine after the required buffing. The F-111 will take some careful work, given that so many of the painted areas are in areas difficult to take the sandpaper to. The white wheel wells were just a botch, and will need to be repainted, this time with paint that has more than the thickness (and covering ability) of skim milk.

Monday, May 9, 2011

A non-productive airbrush session

You know, one of the iron-clad rules in this hobby should be that if you think things are going off the rails, they probably are, and you should stop whatever you are doing until such time as you can pay proper attention to the task at hand. It was a rule that I violated tonight.

I generally have to be in a pretty positive mood to break out the airbrush. I have a long history of problems with the thing, almost all self-induced, and need to be on top of my game to get a decent result out of it. One of critical things about painting with an airbrush is learning the nuances of paint thinning. It has to be just right; too thin and it runs, too thick and it develops into orange-peel. After doing this for 25 years, you’d think I had learned all those nuances.

First it was time to paint the white undercarriage of the two Hawks. I thinned the Xtracolour paint too much and ended up with runs all over and no coverage. So I added more paint to try and up the ratio (military axiom: do not reinforce failure), but it still wouldn’t cover sufficiently. Quite a mess to clean, sand and respray when it dries. Since no decals will be in these areas, I may just break out the Model Master flat white and paint by hand, at least for the gear. One of the Hawks is in red plastic, so coverage was going to be difficult in any case. Bah!

But that should have been my catastrophe for the night, right? Unfortunately not. I didn’t thin the RLM79 paint for the Ju-88 or the second darker green for the F-111 enough (overcompensating?), with the resulting rough surface effect. The cure for that is to wait until it dries, buff it down with high-grit sandpaper so that you don’t break through to the plastic below, and shoot on a second very thin coat to fill in the surface. That is my general procedure anyway, but usually these two colors shoot on well enough to require only minimal cleanup. This will be a serious job. And that is assuming that I can reach all the areas that need it with the sandpaper.

On a more positive note, I’ve decided what my next mini-project will be once the next gen fighters (F-22, T-50, and J-10) are completed. It will be a Cold War British set of Xtrakit Swift, AZ Models Attacker, and HobbyBoss Seahawk. All three models are in the stack and waiting for some space to clear out on the bench.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A bit of Hawk construction

Most of the activity this week has been in construction. I decided to move ahead with my last Italeri Hawk T1 (I think I still have a T2 as well) so that I could use a particular Xtradecal decal sheet: 72085. This is the “roundel Hawk” that I’m pretty sure was sized for the Italeri kit, since the Airfix new-tooled version was not available when the sheet first came out.

But while I was at it, I realized I had another Airfix new-tool T1 in the stash. So I decided to build them in tandem. Still haven’t quite decided on the markings, though the 208 Squadron (yellow and blue squadron bars) on Model Alliance 72105 is a frontrunner. But then, I have to say that I like the black-tailed 63 Squadron example on Xtradecal 72031 (with the big axe in a yellow circle and yellow/black checks as squadron bars). Then again, I might go all retro and do the 79 Squadron grey-and-green camo (with red arrowheads on a white field as squadron bars) on Xtradecal 72095. So many Hawks, so little time.

Just to keep my modelling credibility up, I had to do some work on a Third Reich type. This was the recent Airfix Bf-110E. It is all built and painted, and I’m currently applying decals. I had decided to use the kit markings, but have been getting cold feet about the extreme matte-ness of the Revell decals. So I pulled out an old Microscale Bf-110 sheet and swiped as many markings (mostly the wing and fuselage crosses and the swatstikas, which Revell does not provide anyway) as I could. I still will need to use the Revell decals for the squadron crest and individual ID letters and possibly a selection of stenciling, but I think I can bomb enough clear matt over the top to blend them in. I guess we’ll see when the final shots are taken.

I still need to put some work into the Hawks (masking and attaching the canopies, painting the wheel wells and gear white) before getting to the exterior painting. As you can see, the Sukhoi T-50 has gotten its cockpit installed, and the F-22 and J-10 are patiently awaiting their appointment at the paint shop. The F-111 and Ju-88 are starting to give me the evil eye, however, since I haven’t even masked them up for their next paint color.