Total Pageviews

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tales from the Workbench

Have you ever been working your way through a model and suddenly realize that you are missing some important bit of plastic, decal, or information that will prevent you from finishing it? I do that sometimes, and today is an example. I am finishing up the Heller Vampire FB5 using an old Modeldecal set. Dickie Ward (one of the greats of our hobby) had a simple philosophy: produce all the uncommon portions of the markings and let the modeller dig up the common things like roundels and serial numbers. Like everyone else of that mid-80s vintage, I picked up a lot of Modeldecal roundel and letter/number sheets in order to be able to do this.

Unfortunately I never picked up #48, which is a set of white numbers/letters in three sizes, including 8”. And that is what it turns out that I need. Yes, I should have noticed this long before now, but I assumed that since I had all the other sheets the white one wouldn’t be an issue.

By a stroke of luck, Hannants, who inherited the Modeldecal stock when Modeltoys left the business many years back, has a stock of MD48. But it is never economical to buy only one sheet and pay the postage, so I will likely pick up a couple of decal sets that have been on my list. Perhaps the Xtradecal Swordfish sheet or one of the Kits-World nose art specials. But it’ll still be a couple of weeks until it gets here. So the Vampire is on the shelf for a short while.

In preparation for a trip to the paint shop is a Tamiya P-47 razor, the white bits of an F-18, a ScottAv Bulldog, and the new Airfix Spit 19.

I had two P-47s in preparation, but the bubbletop was victimized by the carpet monster. I was adding the wing leading edge gun insert, and *ping* off it went into the missingpartosphere. I must have spent two hours searching the room, though I should have known better. I tried getting a replacement part (or more likely, sprue) from Tamiya America today, but only heard the phone ring 20 or so times until it went to voicemail. And voicemail doesn’t really do it when you’re asking a question. I’ll try again tomorrow.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Monogram Rockwell B-1 Lancer

I’m finally finishing the first model of 2012. This demonstrates the lack of mojo in the year so far, since I was completing the 11th one last year at this time.

It is another entry in the long term series of heavy bombers, the Rockwell B-1 Lancer. The kit is an elderly Monogram example which was released early in the aircraft’s development. This means fairly good detail on items like landing gear, but awful raised lines on the surface. I have no interest in rescribing, so my general approach with this sort of kit is to simply sand off the raised lines. Given my profoundly average skill level, I’m much better off with no panel lines (which arguably are more a modelling convention than a reproduction of reality) than badly scribed panel lines, which will be visible from across the room. I can’t honestly say that the fit was great, especially around the cockpit piece, but it is not a terribly complicated kit until you come to the landing gear. Lots of pieces in a very unusual arrangement, multiple tires to coax into contact with the ground, and relatively few glue locations to anchor them down.

Modern aircraft are not really my thing, though there were a lot of them in the 2011 programme for some reason. I still intend to take a stab at the somewhat ratty Testors B-2 in the foreseeable future, if only to make some more progress through the current USAF inventory. Then when the mood strikes, I’ll have to tackle the AMT B-52, with those uplifted wings. Someone makes a revised wingbox for the kit to at least point the wings somewhat downward, though I’m not sure that is really the answer. The truth is that the wings should bow downward toward the wingtips due to the weight of onboard fuel and engines. Perhaps a brass spar bent to the correct angle, and the plastic glued around it and solidly taped until dry?

In any case, the model was completed with kit decals. I found to my surprise that I actually do not have any B-1 decals, though I know that there have been several sets produced over the years. At least the Monogram kit provides a couple of options with nose art. The one I chose was “Sweet Sixteen” of the 7th Bomber Wing, 28th Bomber Squadron, based at Dyess AFB near Abilene, Texas. Colors were Gunship Grey with a black nose, Xtracolour as usual.

When it came time for its photos, it became obvious that my photo backdrop is too small! I was obviously building mostly fighters in the recent past. I'll have to get some better background or start shooting outdoors.

This is completed model #376, finished in February of 2012.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


Just a quick update to reflect the weekend’s work. By and large most of it was construction. I’ve had a B-1 mostly completed for a while now, just waiting for a recharge of my Xtracolour paint supplies from Hannants. Since I got that, I’ve put the Gunship Grey surface coat on the aircraft and finished all of the fiddly bits (such as landing gear and doors). Next up is decaling, for “Sweet Sixteen” from Texas.

I was also fiddling with another ancient model that I have been considering adding to the queue. It is the Matchbox Vickers Wellesley, a long-winged single-engined fighter. It is a second cousin to the Wellington. The problem was that I had lost the rear canopy somewhere in the dark spidery recesses of the garage. One day I was working my way through the What If Modellers forum– a fine way to spend some free computer time, by the way – and saw Kit Spackman’s model of a PR variant of the Wellesley. The interesting thing was that he had built it as a single seater, which means that it had no aft canopy.

I exchanged email with Kit, asking if he still had the rear canopy. He did, and very graciously offered to send it to me at no charge. Since he is in the UK and I’m in the US, this was very greatly appreciated. The kit part has made its transoceanic trip – this canopy is in fact more well-travelled than I am – and I decided to tape the parts together with Tamiya tape to see what it all looked like. I’ll be finishing up the cockpit and getting some paint on it later this week.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Another Alclad head-scratcher in the paint room

The first of two boxes of new kits arrived on Saturday. This is the one from Sprue Bros, which contained an Airfix BAe Hawk (destined for 2009 display colors) and a deep discount Cyberhobby Sea Vixen. My experience with their Meteor was very satisfactory, but I was not terribly interested in paying $45 for it. So when it appeared at a 50% discount, I decided things weren’t going to get any better than that. I did a bunch of Cold War Brit aircraft in 2011, so this will be a belated part of that series. Anyone interested in the MPM boxing of the Sea Vixen, going cheap?

I also got into the paint room this weekend. Another head-scratcher of a day concerning a current bottling of Alclad paint. This concerned a B-47 where I had an occasion to relive my childhood model-building days by putting a nice glue fingerprint on the surface of an almost finished model. After making several creative suggestions on what it could do to itself, I proceeded to mask a reasonable sized section off and primed it with Alclad primer. Then I buffed it down to get a smooth surface and shot it with Magnesium.

A bit of history: I love Alclad paint, but have been having problems with some recent purchases. It does not seem to want to cover anymore. Have they decreased the amount of pigment in the paint jars? Anway, I shot half a bottle of Magnesium on this patch (maybe 6” x 1”) and it still didn’t cover, except in patchy spots. I would spray it on the primed portion and it would literally just soak up like a sponge and return to grey. I am really quite mystified by all this.

But I am thoroughly tired of this B-47. It may be a bit of wasted effort to have laboriously sanded down all those raised lines and rivets. But I am done fiddling with it. I will get the decals on it, declare victory, and find it a dark spot in one of the cabinets. Maybe if someone (Trumpeter?) gets around to doing a modern B-47 I will do another one and consign this one to the landfill. But I am well and truly finished trying to get this up to minimum standards; just the law of diminishing returns in action. Didn’t help the mojo drought much either.

However, finishing major construction on the two P-47s and the Spit PR19 did. Over the course of this coming week I’ll try to get cockpit construction on the two Hawks in gear and do some more painting.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Purchase update

As expected, the Revell of Germany Halifax did arrive at Sprue Bros. And sold out instantly. Not sure how that happens when they don't do pre-orders and I check their site every day in the morning. Just a few modellers quicker than I am, I guess. I don't know how many they got in their initial shipment, of course, but I hope it is not a case of "don't buy too many because we all know 1:72 doesn't sell". That myth does seem to have the most extraordinary staying power.

So, off to plan B (PMs always have a plan B). I did go ahead and buy a deep discount Cyberhobby Sea Vixen ($23) and an Airfix Hawk in the Red Arrows boxing ($7) but had to go looking for my Halifax elsewhere.

I found one at Lucky Model for $25. This had the associated advantage of being a source for the Meng Models kit of the Katsuodori, an interesting little IJAAF 46 model that does not seem to have hit US shores yet. I would have preferred not to have to pay shipping on two orders, but it is time to get started on the Halifax.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

A reintroduction to the paint room

While waiting for the arrival of the Revell of Germany Halifax to one of my preferred online vendors (it has just arrived this week at Squadron, and should be making an appearance at Sprue Bros very soon), I received a small box from Hannants in the UK. This was mostly intended as a paint reload from their excellent Xtracolour line. But I did take the opportunity to pick up a couple of kits and decal sheets as well. Delivery time was about 14 days from London to Seattle, average for purchases from this vendor.

I picked up an Airfix new-tool Hawk to use with one of the decal sheets. But the star purchase was the new Airfix Swordfish. This thing has gotten rave reviews – almost universally, which is unusual for any kit – and is a delightful little thing. Lots of detail, inside and out. There is a wing fold option, though I can’t say I’m interested in that personally. The decal choices are ok, but Xtradecal has already announced a couple of sheets if you want to put your own stamp on it. As far as the Airfix decals go, I would have preferred that they print the aircraft’s number separate from the dark blue band that surrounds the fuselage. Large decals over the multiple curves of an aircraft fuselage is a veritable sinkhole for problems so I would prefer to paint it. Still, I can probably find appropriate numbers on a Modeldecal sheet, or another similar color scheme on one of the aftermarket sheets. The blue cross on a white field that sits on the top wing will provide some visual interest. No rigging diagram as such in the instructions, but you can infer some data from the drawings and the box art. A quick Google search for photos should give you any more info you need.

I also picked up two Xtradecal sheets for BAe Hawks, 72100 and 72137. I chose 137 for its depiction of the 208 Squadron / 4 FTS 2011 display aircraft from RAF Valley. Simple yet attractive, and I even remember seeing it for the first time in Air Forces Monthly and wondering when the decal was coming out.

72100 was chosen mostly for the rather more elaborate 2009 display aircraft from the same squadron, which is the one with the Union Jack erupting from the sides, as if the paint job had been ripped. It also has the heart-shaped roundel on the underside. I was glad to see that this decal is explicitly sized for the new-tool Airfix Hawk. One of the previous Roundel Hawks that I built had been sized for the Italeri kit (the wheel well size and location differs between the two models) and I had to put an old stash kit to use for that one. Since I bought a Hawk in this shipment (the Red Arrows version, thankfully molded in grey rather than red plastic) I will start work on the 2011 display aircraft shortly.

These two (Swordfish and Hawk) will replace the A-3 in my mojo restoration project. Most current progress on those: the P-47s, Spit 19, F-18A, Vampire and Harrier GR9 all got their first paint last night. I was rather rusty, having not used the airbrush in a couple of months. Painting is probably my least favorite part of the process, due to the high failure rate. Plus, I also got some detail painting in the cockpits. Next job: get the major construction done on these kits.

Friday, February 3, 2012


This winter, it has certainly proven difficult to recharge the mojo. Besides the ongoing issues with long-term unemployment (and a particularly heartbreaking near-miss in December), we’ve had extensive tree damage on our property from an ice storm and now a scary medical episode. I had a piece of my left ear removed for biopsy. It was determined to be a pre-cancerous external caratosis, but given that the cancer that killed my father began as a skin lesion, it’s one of those things I have to pay close attention to. Some more skin will be removed in a couple of weeks. I’m just trying to keep from looking like Mick Foley!

The kits I pulled out to try and engineer a mojo resurgence with have changed a bit since the last few postings. The two P-47s are still there, as is the Spitfire PR19, but the F-15 dropped back in to the stash in favor of an F-18. The TwoBobs Katrina sheet made that choice easy. I had practically decided to replace the A-3 (it turns out the two aftermarket decal sheets I have are for the EKA-3 model, which is not the boxing I have) with a Hasegawa TBF Avenger. But after an hour of searching my garage I could not find the kit in the stash. I know I have (or at least had) the kit, but damned if I can find it. So I’m still musing on that one. The requirements for a mojo-restoring project is that the kits be well engineered, so it is likely that it will still come from the Hasegawa/Tamiya/Revell/Airfix end of the hobby pool.

Below is a shot of the work currently awaiting paint attention. Lots of cockpits here; P-47, Spit, F-18, Harrier GR9. Plus the Dark Green upper surface coat for a DeHav Vampire.

I’m also in the process of repairing and repainting some damage to the surface of a Hasegawa B-47.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Some more completed models

As a bonus to the display photos from a few days back, here is a shot of the box that contains all my P-47 derivatives (along the the 109 variants I’ve finished). 18 of the former, including a P-35 and an XP-47H. Pretend the prop in the center of the photo is where it should be....

Finally, two shots of boxes filled with general stuff.

Now remember, none of these shots cover the three actual formal display cases or the temp box of experimental types. Or the small displays of biplanes, Me-163 variants, or German two-engine jet fighters. Or even the display box of RAF types, which is the same size as the new box. I’ve been doing this since 1985 after all.