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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.