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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Italeri Messerschmitt Me-323

One of my intentions this summer, when I am not distracted by the insidious influence of yard and mountains, is to make some inroads into the Shelf of Shame. One of the advantages of being involuntarily semi-retired (ie, unemployed) is that you have enough time to actually do things like give attention to neglected models.

Today’s completed model has been on the Shelf of Shame for at least 7 years, which is technically long enough to have it declared legally dead. It stalled when it came to a tricky masking job for the fuselage sides under the wings and tail. I had to shoot the sides without getting the struts caught in the overspray. But I finally decided to bite the bullet, lined up some Dio concerts from the 80s on the CD player, and settled in for a masking session.

This is the massive Italeri Me-323 Gigant. I decided to do the 6-engined version, since those are relatively unseen in a built condition. But in one of those odd decisions that you don’t remember making at the time, and seem absolutely incomprehensible afterwards, I managed to put skids on it instead of the optional wheels. Now I could see skids on the assault glider version. But it is unlikely the engined version would use anything other than the wheels. And I have no earthly rationale for having done it. But there you are.

There were other issues. Over the many years of residence on the Shelf, a couple of parts were damaged. One spinner cap went missing entirely, and one blade of a prop broke off, never to be seen again. I did manage to find a spinner in the spares box that was pretty close, and welded another prop blade into the missing spot. You can probably spot the bogus prop on the finished model below, but I’ll leave that to your detective skills.

This particular Me-323 was used in North Africa, and sports the very unconventional paint scheme of large RLM79 blotches over the RLM71 top coat. It also has the theatre markings for the Western desert: white under-wing tips and a white fuselage stripe.

It is always gratifying to liberate an inmate of the Shelf of Shame (even with those skids) so this was particularly satisfying. Next on the escapee list is a Lockheed Super Constellation.

This is completed model #395 (#20 for the year), finished in May of 2012.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Lots of black

Black is one of those colors that are notoriously difficult to paint. It is such a light sink that it tends to obscure detail, which forces some to overweather the subject in order to pop the detail once again. My problems with it have been, as usual, a bit off the beaten path. The last couple of models I shot with black (a couple of Hawks and the bottom of a Wellesley) have exhibited a strange tendency. It’s hard to explain – and I didn’t take enough pictures at the time – but the surface almost looked like the paint had not covered well. It was thin and blotchy, but not because there wasn’t enough paint applied. After much consideration, I think I’ve decided that it was due to surface impurities on the plastic; most likely mold release agent that I didn’t adequate wash off. I tried to fix that problem with today’s paint job.

Because there was a lot of black to paint. As it happens, the Hawk T2 was all ready to go at the same time the Gnat was ready for its black tailfin. And I decided to bit the proverbial bullet and mask off the new Airfix Swordfish for the black spine that I had somehow forgotten to take care of when it was in its paint cycle. That was nerve-wracking; painting a fully-assembled and otherwise painted biplane without getting any overspray or pulled up silver paint due to the masking. But miraculously, with the exception of one small bit of overspray on one fuselage side that I should be able to cover with brush painting, it went okay. Well, did break off the rudder while unmasking, but that part has a tenuous physical connection at best. I’ll just glue it back on and it should be ready for decaling and then >ugh!< rigging.

I also put a first coat of the International Orange panels onto the B-50. It came out a bit grainy, so I will probably go through the exercise of buffing and respraying those areas.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Academy Messerschmitt Me-262C

The final model in the series of 5 Me-262 related aircraft (at this time, at least) is the Academy Me-262C. Admittedly, the differences between an A and a C are not drastic, but it was still as surprise when Academy announced that this would be an option in their kit. The tail is a separate piece, which allows them to mold the peculiar cutout and odd little pipe below the tail that comprise the major differences. There is one paint scheme for the C, and a much larger number of decal options for the A provided in the kit.

Detail on the Academy kit is pretty good; more in the wheel wells and cockpit than is provided in either the Hasegawa or Revell kits. I’m not the proper one to ask about accuracy, but the result is certainly busy enough for me. The separate tail’s seam needs a bit of attention, as do the engine pods, but that is common on most 262 kits. Paints were the usual Xtracolour.

I do have plans for other Me-262 models down the road (including one that may get a wider audience, with any luck) but for now my plan is to take a family portrait of everything from this project added to the 3 previously completed ones. They’re all in different cases, of course, so it may be a while before I get time to extract them and get them cleaned up for their photos. Plus it wouldn’t hurt to get a sunny day to shoot them outside, something that is never guaranteed even in the summertime here in the great Northwest.

This is completed model #394 (#19 for the year), finished in May of 2012.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Painting a yellowjacket... yellow

There was a trip to the paint shop on the schedule tonight, though not much was involved. An overall matte top coat on the A-7, the first yellow coat on the new Airfix Gnat (planned to be a Yellowjacket leader, with the black tail), and the gear bays for the Hawk T2 destined for 4 Squadron markings.

I’ve also spent some time on the PSR process for the Matchbox Meteor NF11. The seams where pieces meet on the fuselage nose and tail, as well as the insert for the fuselage top and even wings, seems to slope down to the places they touch, resulting in a furrow that needs to be puttied up. It is a lot of work, but at least it eliminates the raised lines that remain in the vicinity.

I also did some cobbling about on the Sword P-47N. Just a mask job on the canopy and a bit of painting on the resin engine. When all that dries I can start on the paint cycle.

The last bit of business for the weekend was masking off the International Orange parts of the B-50. I should be able to start painting it the next time I have a paint session ready to go.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Adding a Brigand and a Lockeed Twin

Just a quick note to catch up on the construction work for the last couple of days.

I have brought two new models into the production cycle. First is the Bristol Brigand, the postwar follow up to the Beaufighter. This is the Valom kit, and it seems to be engineered better than earlier kits from this manufacturer. Most of the kit is injected plastic, as is the canopy. Due to the sale price at the Great Models going-to-Missouri sale a few weeks back, I had to buy the T4 boxing instead of the B1 box that I really wanted. It turns out that the plastic is the same in both, and I already had a Freightdog decal sheet with the MSG over black color scheme that I was after.

The other is the Special Hobby Lockheed 12. I’ve planned a leisurely trip through the Lockheed Twins, starting with the smallest of the pack. It is mindful of a C-45, except for the canopy/cockpit area. I likely will use the kit markings for one of the British Airways types, if I can figure out exactly what Beige Green is supposed to be referring to. I’ve heard some people conjecture that a good choice would be Sky, and others Light Slate Grey. More research is clearly called for, probably in the massive yellow “Lockheed Twins” book from Air Britain I picked up a few years back.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Messerschmitt Me-109TL

Next to last in this winter’s Me-262 project is not actually in the direct 262 lineage. But, like the He-280, it is definitely part of an exploration of late-war jet twin-engined fighter aircraft. Not something that made it into production, the Me-109TL was a paper project that attempted to merge the proven 109 airframe into the concept of podded jets on the wings. The intent was to find a way to shorten the production time of the Me-262 by using established components, including the 109’s straight (ie, not swept) wings. However, it turned out that enough changes were required to the standard 109 that no time was being saved by going this route, and the project was quietly dropped.

This is the Planet Models resin kit, and it provided all the advantages and problems that seem to come with that type of kit. Planet resins tend to be fairly well engineered, so fit was decent. However, the vac canopy and the use of superglue caused some issues. The canopy, due to its small size, got a bit foggy, and superglue always seems to do a much better job of sticking one’s fingers together than it does with the resin. But this all comes under the heading of Operator Error, so I want to stress that the kit itself is very good.

The paint scheme is a late-war standard, RLM76/75/81, all Xtracolour as usual. Decals were mostly from the spares box.

One of my goals is to produce as many unusual models as I can, and the Me-109TL certainly qualifies. It is not a shape that most people have on their shelves. Plus it looks good when placed with the 262 and the aforementioned He-280. And it certainly provides a well out of the mainstream shape in a lineup of 109s!

This is completed model #393 (#18 for the year), finished in May of 2012.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A seasonal slowdown

We are now getting into the time of year in the northwest where modelling begins to drop off somewhat, in favor of outdoor activities. All of us model builders grope our way out of the collective modelling dungeon, blinking in the sunlight, and rediscover the benefit of things like hiking, biking, and picnics. Those of you in other parts of the country (and world) are likely already well into the season, but the weather patterns in Seattle generally don’t clear up until May. We almost always get a week of 80+ days, our first for the year. And we’re just finishing up such a cycle – and the sunny days landed on a weekend, no less. That is what inspired our recent trip to Snoqualmie Pass, and this weekend’s visit to the Auburn Petpalooza. The Callahans are most definitely Dog People (we ran pug rescue in Seattle for a number of years, established the annual Pug Gala, and my son is a trainer) and we often find ourselves at weekend pet events.

So the production line has slowed somewhat. That and a very frustrating job interview on Monday have had me in the pits. This is a bad thing, because of a project I’ve begun work on that needs some close attention. But hobbies are supposed to keep you positive, right?

I did have a chance to do major construction on the Airfix Hawk T2 that will be sporting the new 4 Squadron decals from Xtradecal. And I finished up the Eduard F6F, a sterling kit that I’m pretty pleased with overall. Not much done on the Gnat other than painting the cockpit and trying to figure out where to put the weight in the nose to prevent tail-sitting. At the last minute I tossed in a Matchbox Meteor nightfighter and re-discovered exactly why I had such a battle with it the last time. The fit is pretty atrocious, and will be testing my PSR skills shortly. This one will be an NF11.

Other than that, and resurrecting a Connie from the Shelf of Shame, not much is going on. But that doesn’t mean I’ve run out of finished models to present on the blog. There are still Me-262 projects in queue, and a really big (literally) giant on its way to you shortly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Revell Messerschmitt P-1099

Continuing through the Me-262 project, we now come to one of Revell’s short series of Luftwaffe 1946 types, the Messerschmitt P-1099. This used the wings, engines and tail of the 262, which no doubt held an appeal to Revell since they could use the same tooling. The fuselage was larger and rounder and the cockpit was relocated to the front of the aircraft. Revell had two boxings of the type: one a standard fighter and the other a heavy fighter with additional guns festooning the nose and sides.

Though I only had the heavy fighter boxing, I think the additions really do damage to the lines of the aircraft, which don’t have much of the 262’s purposeful aggression left, in any case. So mine is something of a hybrid, with all the extra guns deleted except the heavy cannons behind the cockpit. And that, only because you don’t have the option of the fighter canopy. The result is a bit mindful of the Schrage musik installations that were done in the late war period. That is one of the advantages of Luft46 modelling; since the type existed only as a design, you have more flexibility in both construction and markings.

Construction was for the most part trouble free. There are minor issues with the fit of the engines, as with all the types in the 262 project, but dry-fitting and adjustment will make your life easier. I even used the markings provided in the kit. Revell decals tend to be too matte, but treatment with setting solution and a good solid matte coat hid any problems. The periscope in the canopy managed to break off and lose itself inside the fuselage, but I replaced it with some plastic rod.

This is completed model #392 (#17 for the year), finished in April of 2012.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Hasegawa McD-D F-18C Hornet

Today’s finished model is in a category that I haven’t featured too often in the 17 month history of this blog: modern frontline jet fighters. I have never finished even the full range of US fighters; I have built an F-14, an F-16, and an F-22, but still haven’t managed an F-15 or an F-18E. But at least today I can cross of the legacy Hornet, an F-18C.

This is the Hasegawa kit, which has some odd engineering decisions and is really more complex than it needs to be. Presumably this is to accommodate variants, although I would think most of the changes would be to ordnance rather than airframe. The multiple parts underneath the LERX are a mystery. But the fit in general is not bad.

The markings came from a Two Bobs sheet that was made as a Hurricane Katrina tribute, and features two aircraft from the Louisiana ANG. The main attraction for this F-18 is the tail art, a snake wrapping around a bomb, and the artwork on the dorsal airbrake door. Both of these two are multiple part decals – as are many of the others on the airframe as well. I gather this is to prevent alignment issues, though it does make for a slow decaling process. Add a decal, apply setting solution, let dry overnight. To a notoriously impatient modeller such as myself, it is a huge temptation to just bull on ahead and finish the job, but I was determined to keep things steady and improve the overall result.

As a closing note, I saw this plane featured in last month’s Air Forces Monthly, repainted into a much more sedate scheme, though the airbrake artwork was still there. We have a trip to New Orleans tentatively penciled in for 2014 or 2015, so this will be a nice little reminder of those plans in the intervening years.

This is completed model #391 (#16 for the year), finished in April of 2012.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Snoqualmie Pass

Just to once again confirm that 1:72 aircraft are not all that goes on here at Castle 72, here are some photos from today's day trip to Snoqualmie Pass.

The Pass is roughly 60 miles east of Seattle on I-90. It is often closed with snow in the winter, but today was brilliantly sunny and 67 degrees. There was still a lot of snow banked on the sides of the roads, though the road surface was long since bare and dry. We played in the snow at Summit, took some photos near Keecheless Lake (though the road around the lake was still closed), and took shots of the waterfalls near Alpental Ski Area. Finally, we explored the trailheads for Asahel Curtis Nature Trail and Denny Creek Trail for future reference.

Here is a link to the Photobucket album for those who are interested:

Otherwise, here is a sample of the shots:

Friday, May 11, 2012

In The Shadow of Air Force One

I had an unusual experience yesterday. As I was heading to Seattle to order a new pair of glasses, which we gentlemen of a certain age must do periodically, I was passed overhead by the familiar shape of Air Force One. It was on finals at Boeing Field, where the President was landing for a fund-raising tour in Seattle and Bellevue. I hadn’t seen the plane since it was delivered. At one of the last Boeing Field airshows, the 747 (or rather E-4, I guess) made an unscheduled low pass just as the airshow was opening. It is pretty impressive to see a 747 making a high speed pass at 100 feet. The State Patrol was already set up at all the onramps to close down I-5, so if I had come by 20 minutes later I would have been stuck in the backup until the presidential limo had long passed.

Today, however, was a paint day. Several kits have been started this week, so there were no less than 3 cockpits waiting to be painted. The new Airfix Gnat, an old Matchbox Meteor nightfighter, and a Hawk T2. At the same session, I did a repair job on the new Airfix Swordfish (shooting some Xtracolour silver to save the patchy Alclad). And finally, the Light Gull Gray topcoat on the LTV A-7.

There is also some construction to report. I got the major bits of the Sword P-47N all together. Fit was a little difficult, especially on the wing/fuselage joint. I think the uppers look fine, but the lower joints have a definite step to them and will need some remedial PSR. And I really don’t think I did the tailwheel enclosure correctly, but there isn’t much to be done about it now.

I have also chosen my next escapee from the Shelf of Shame. This is a Heller Constellation that has been there since the Jurassic age. Mostly assembled, there is still a lot of painting to be done.

I also have a number of finished models that will be introduced in the next couple of weeks on this blog. Plus a day trip to Snoqualmie Pass.

Messerschmitt Me-262B

I am still working my way through the Me-262 project with might be the least unusual example of the five. Not that there is anything inherently boring about the Me-262B, it is just one of the variants that actually made it into production. Though I did resist the temptation to do one with the antennae array on the nose, I might come back to that one in the future.

But at least it provided some drama during construction. I discovered that the kit was missing the front windscreen. Missing clear bits seems to have been something of a theme around here recently – the Wellesley had the same issue. But I decided that since the panels on the piece were all flat, that I would actually construct a little frame in plastic strip and then fill in the openings with Kristal Kleer. Yeah, I don’t know what I was thinking, either. But it turns out that the theory was pretty sound, though if I had to do it over again I would place the frames a little differently. Still, I’ve had worse looking canopies.

The B model is of course the two-seater, used for training and for nightfighter ops. Technically the nightfighter is a 262B-1a/U1 while the trainer is a simple 262B-1a. The particular paint scheme is for 3/EJG2, though Hasegawa does not list a pilot name. RLM76 on the undersides, RLM81/82 on the top with a light mottle of RLM82 on the sides. All paints by Xtracolour. The decals were a combination of kit markings and some aftermarket crosses. Hasegawa decals tend to be a little thick, so replacing them with Aeromaster seemed like a good idea.

This is completed model #390 (#15 for the year), finished in April of 2012.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An escapee from the Shelf of Shame

I mentioned a few days ago that I brought a partially finished model out from the Shelf of Shame. This was a fully built and mostly painted Italeri Me-323. It needed to have its top coat of RLM71 completed (mostly the fuselage under the wings and tail, which is some masking work). Then today came the RLM79 patches, since this is a North African version. I was a bit concerned, since this would be a freehand job, not something that my paint mixing talents – or my airbrush in its present configuration, for that matter – are very good at. But I was quite pleased when the job was done.

The last two models in the Me-262 project also got their matte topcoats. They will be premiering on the blog shortly. I think the Swordfish’s Cerrux Grey (in the guise of Light Aircraft Grey) portions have been sorted now, so there will be some remasking and a lot of construction. That really is a deceptively complicated and difficult kit. Well, difficult is probably harsh; but you need to be on your toes when you are building it. Lots of parts, options, and fit adjustments to do in order to be successful. But that seems to be what many in our hobby want, so I hope it is a success for Airfix. It surely beats the pants off of any previous 1:72 Swordfish kit.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Karakorum K-8

The advent of Trumpeter as a substantial kit manufacturing force has opened up a whole new sub-area of modelling for me: Chinese aircraft subjects. Except for various Russian castoffs, I don’t think there were very many indigenous Chinese types that had been kitted in 1:72 until Trumpeter really got going. But they have been supplying a number of types, including the J-10, J-20, FC-1, J-11 (Su-27 clone), and Tu-16 (mostly so they could do the Chinese variant), and the subject of today’s finished model, the Karakorum K-8.

Unfortunately, the instruction sheet has absolutely nothing in the way of description or history, so I had to do some grazing on the internet to get some details. It is apparently a joint effort between China and Pakistan to provide basic jet trainers that could be armed as light strike fighters if necessary (not unlike the BAe Hawk, which it rather resembles). First flight was in 1990, and early production batches were split between the two primary developing countries. It has also been exported to Sri Lanka, Egypt, Zimbabwe, Venezuela and Bolivia. The type is still in production.

The kit is a competent rendering, with adequate detail and good engineering. The cockpit could use some work if you are so inclined, including the ejection seats (a good option for replacement in most kits). There is a color print of the paint scheme, which comes in handy since it is a somewhat complex masking job. An overall coat of White came first, followed by months of procrastination on doing the masking job, then a burst of springtime energy to finish the thing off. Decals seem to be thin, and attach well. If you have a thing for unusual aircraft, trainers, or Far Eastern air forces, this would be a fine example to add to your stash.

This is completed model #389 (#14 for the year), finished in April of 2012.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Launching a P-47 and F6F

Production rarely stops here at 72 Land Industries, and even when we were experiencing the ISP meltdown work continued. Today a couple of new kits entered at the beginning of the production cycle: the Eduard F6F3 Hellcat and the Sword P-47N.

To be honest, I don’t have a great deal of interest in the Hellcat. I built one in the early days of my return to modelling (I think it was the Hasegawa kit) and put it in an overall Gloss Sea Blue paint scheme. I figured that would be it unless I someday felt the need for an FAA version. But then the Eduard kit came out. It is being hailed as one of the best kits in the last decade or so. So I looked at it a bit closer. In the process I discovered that I had a copy of the Draw Decals sheet for the F6F3 racer “Little Nugget”. I broke down and ordered a copy of the kit during the Great Models dissolution sale. It is a one-color (white) paint scheme, though even the decals themselves remark on how delicate and prone to destruction the gold leaf on the markings are. So that may be a nice little disaster awaiting me in the future. But at this point all I have is a cockpit.

The Sword P-47N was another impulse purchase during that sale. It too has been getting some good reviews. I built one of the Italeri P-47Ns, and even I could tell that something wasn’t right (and for someone who lists detail accuracy fairly low on the list of important things for a kit to have, that is saying something). So I’ll have to physically compare the two once the Sword kit is built and see where the differences are. I have a number of decal sheets for P-47Ns, so markings are not decided on, though I do have the Aztec sheet for “Red-E-Ruth” with a nicely put together cheesecake shot for the nose art.

And in an effort to reduce the residents of the Shelf of Shame, I have pulled down the Italeri Me-323 and will make an effort to finish it up. I got stalled on another nasty masking job (painting the sides of the fuselage with all those underwing struts in the way) but am determined to push this one past the finish line. And is that an A-7 lurking in the paint queue?