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Monday, March 26, 2012

Paint shop prep

Much of the previous weekend was devoted to decaling two elaborate BAe Hawk display schemes, which will be making their blog debut shortly. One of the things that, while helping to get over the mojo hump and increasing production, has been degrading the quality of the finished models is my native impatience. I’ve been trying to slow down with these Hawks. Apply some decals, give them a little setting solution, let them thoroughly dry without grabbing them and destroying the soft decals. So far so good.

When not decaling, I’ve been doing some cockpit construction for the next round of kits. As it happens, I have a number of kits in queue that require Grey-green cockpit paint, so I’m trying to get them all built up at once. That way I only have to load and clean the airbrush once to shoot the lot. The kits include the new Airfix Swordfish, the new Revell Halifax, the certifiably old Matchbox Wellesley, and the Meng Kayaba Katusodori (from what I’ve seen, the Japanese cockpit color is very close to the Brits’).

I also got the vac canopy for the old Special Hobby Me-262 3-seater masked up and attached to the model. Justifying why I cheerfully hate using superglue on vac canopies, it managed to shift position while I was holding it down long enough for the glue to set. So it is somewhat tilted to starboard. I just didn’t have the sand to rep it all off and reposition it. This is why I’m so glad that MPM’s standard procedure is plastic injected canopies these days.

Time for some paint.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Republic P-47

Longtime readers know that I like P-47s. An outstanding kit (Tamiya), lots of markings with nose art, and except for the NMF ones, relatively easy painting requirements. So my annual production will often be peppered by the occasional Thunderbolt.

While trying to jumpstart my modelling mojo this winter, I decided to work through a couple of Tamiya kits of the type, one razorback and one bubbletop. The razor was the first to cross the finish line, due to some problems with – what else – the Alclad finish on the bubbletop. Though I suspect I’m the culprit for once, and not incorrectly produced paint. Anyway, more on that later when it emerges from the production line.

One of the many aftermarket decal sheets that I have for P-47s is Aeromaster 72-188: Debden Jugs pt 1. All five razors on the sheet sport the same paint scheme – Olive Drab over Neutral Grey with White tail markings and cowl ring. All have nose art. I’ve already completed one from this sheet: “Wela Kahao”. This time I decided on “Little Butch”, flown by Gil Ross of the 334th FS in 1943.

As usual the build for a Tamiya kit went wonderfully. Now that they have produced another entry in their 1:72 series (the stunning A6M5 Zero), fingers crossed that they are going to re-enter the fray and give us some kits on a par with their P-47, Corsair, and Spitfire. Where Tamiya really pulls away from, say, Hasegawa, is engineering and cockpit detail. The Hasegawa stuff is good, but the Tamiya fit and engineering is almost qualitatively perfect. It is always a delight to build one of their kits; I only wish there were more of them.

Alas, these were the last of my Tamiya kits. But I do have 4 or 5 Academy razorbacks, and might just build them all in tandem sometime this fall. I certainly have enough decals for them.

This is completed model #381, finished in March of 2012.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Airfix Scottish Aviation Bulldog T1

My personal sources of modelling inspiration can come from just about anywhere. Very often there is an article in either a historical or modelling magazine that sets the train in motion, and sometimes it is a new product that causes something to get added to the queue. In the case of today’s example, it was a new decal sheet: Xtradecal 72050: RAF 2000 update.

I actually bought the sheet because of another aircraft entirely. I was looking for a simple black trainer Hawk with squadron markings, and settled on the 100 Squadron example with the blue/yellow checks and a skull and crossbones on the fin. But later, I noticed that there was a Scottish Aviation Bulldog T1 on the sheet in red and white trainer markings. I like trainers, I like light aircraft, I like RAF, and it isn’t very often that you see aftermarket decals for the postwar Bulldog. So off I went.

This is an elderly Airfix kit, which meant raised lines and rivets to get rid of. It is small and delicate – certainly the landing gear are – and it had four paint colors to apply. But it would mean a new type in the cabinet. I seem to be having problems with getting fuselage windows to seat properly in their location (though this one is not as bad as the Spit PR19). And the nose gear leg tried to escape at least once. But gradually, over time, I got the various colors painted and masked. I probably started this one in late 2010, so it has been in process for a while. Paints were the usual Xtracolour, with the exception of Model Master White.

This particular aircraft was owned by the Birmingham University Air Squadron in May of 2000.

As the plane was almost complete, I realized that it most likely had the black and white striped props that RAF postwar prop aircraft often had. A quick look on confirmed this. The masking job was a bit of a bungle, and along with some masking issues are the model’s worst features. And of course once you start taking close-ups of these things, you’ll notice all sort of issues that were not really visible to the 50 year old naked eye in the earlier instance. Still, it is a unique aircraft that can sit in a variety of groupings: RAF, trainers, light types.

This is completed model #380, finished in March of 2012.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A bit more building

Some construction and painting on the menu today. I’ve gotten started on the cockpit of the new Airfix Fairey Swordfish, which is an excellent kit which thoroughly puts the older Airfix and Matchbox examples well into the shade. I’ve gotten all the pre-painting bits together on the other P-47 (this a bubbletop). And I have made a start on cockpit construction for the venerable old Matchbox Vickers Wellesley. I should really get going on the Revell Halifax as well, so as to be able to shoot three cockpits with one paint load.

But as to today’s painting, the main event is getting a matte topcoat on two finished models, the Scottish Aviation Bulldog and the P-47 razorback. I’m going to reshoot the black on the two Airfix BAe Hawks. I think I thinned the Xtracolour a bit too much when I put the first coat on, since there are some bare patches. I was able to find a bottle of Model Master gloss Black as well, and that has worked well on previous occasions. So this will serve as a surface coat for those two aircraft. While the P-47 bubbletop has already gotten its yellow cowl and red tail tip, it still needs the anti-glare panel (in this case Olive Drab) before I can move on to the Alclad.

If all goes well, I’ll be presenting the two finished models in the next few days.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire PR19

Today’s finished model was another part of my attempt to get back into full production after the first of the year. I wanted something fairly simple and straightforward. Something that was not going to fight me every step of the way. Simple construction, and not too complex a paint job. I have found that the new wave of Airfix kits fit this bill admirably. I happened to have the Airfix PR19 on hand, so it went into the build queue.

I already have a Spitfire in the Medium Sea Grey over PRU Blue scheme, but I believe that is a long-winged high-altitude FR7. And the PR19 is gunless, which adds a little visual distinction as well.

Construction was quick, though one problem did crop up; one that I couldn’t fix by the time I found it. The little clear piece that provides the upper fuselage camera window didn’t quite seat in to its proper place. I didn’t see it until the fuselage halves were together. It looks a bit like the rear window is rolled down. My fault, emphatically not the kit’s.

I also had some issues with the Airfix decals. Though nicely in register and sharply printed, they did silver a bit, especially the serial number. And this was on what was, at the time, a very gloss Xtracolour coat. On the 72nd Aircraft board, I have learned that some will deal with this by applying liquid cement over the decals to soften them (SuperSol/Set had no effect). Apparently it works pretty well, but my mind immediately leaped to the dozens of ways that little process could go hideously wrong. So it stays the way it is.

This is completed model #379, finished in March of 2012.

Production is stepping up these days. I should have as many as 4 or 5 completed models in the next couple of weeks. Probably not a bad thing since outside projects such as landscaping and day hikes will be calling inside of a month or two.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Heller DeHav Vampire FB5

Now that I seem to be over the completion anxiety that affected my production around the end of last year, work is flowing through the system much easier. Though it isn’t going to be too much longer until the weekends will be warm and sunny enough for biking and trips to the coast, we’ve still got “good modelling weather” here in Seattle.

And that has allowed me to finish another in a series of postwar British fighters. I can’t say the Vampire is one of those aircraft that really gets me excited, which likely explains why I used a decades-old Heller kit that I had in the stash rather than sell a kidney and invest in the much better CMR kit. Still, once you give it a buffing with medium grit sandpaper to get rid of the raised panel lines, it isn’t a badly detailed little thing.

Back in the day, Modeldecal produced their hundredth decal sheet, and filled it with DH-100 Vampire schemes. I chose a nice bold one with squadron markings and set out on construction. The build was generally trouble free, with some sanding and a little putty needed on a majority of the joins. This happened to be squarely in the time period where I was having Alclad issues, so even though I was successfully able to spray the undersides, the masking pulled up bits of the underlying paint. So some brush painted patching was necessary.

Other niggles dogged the build: some paper towel stuffed into the intakes went a little too deep and became lodged inside the wing – though not far enough to not be visible from the outside. Digging it out caused the loss of one of the starboard intake’s strakes. Still trying to decide how/if to fix that one. The mass balances on the underside of the horizontal tail just didn’t want to stay attached, and even the nose gear managed to break off at least once.

One of the principles that Dickie Ward used when creating Modeldecal art was that he would provide the distinct markings for a larger variety of aircraft, and the modeller would come up with roundels and serial numbers. Though I do have most of his sheets in the stash, it turned out that I didn’t have the white serial numbers/letters that were required for the serial numbers on the twin tail booms. Modeldecal has been out of print for ages, but when they went south all of the stock was sold to Hannants. And Hannants does still have sheets (and has reprinted a number of them over the years). Thankfully sheet 36 was one of them, and in a couple of weeks I was able to finish up the Vampire.

Not a contest winner, but my primary goal was just to get back in the groove and finish some projects that had languished over the winter. My strategy was to use some tried and true kits that I was familiar with to recharge the mojo. These were the Airfix Hawk and the Tamiya P-47s. They did the trick admirably, and are working their way through the production line. The P-47 razor is mostly painted (awaiting a surface coat for its upper surfaces), the P-47 bubble is still getting some detail painting done (in this case, the yellow cowling), and the two Hawks are built and waiting for their black paint. And those aren’t the only ones getting some attention.

This is completed model #378, finished in March of 2012.

The 72 Land T-50 goes viral

This was rather a hoot to discover while on my net-grazing rounds today.

Scale Model News

In passing I should note that the Zvezda T-50 build has by far the most individual page views on this site. It passed the CyberHobby Meteor last month and has just kept on going.

SMN attributed it to 72 Land so I have no issues. In fact it is rather nice to find your own model in a place you didn't expect. At least it means someone is reading the blog!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Hasegawa Boeing B-47

Hear my tale of woe, o mighty, and despair.

Some models are just snakebit. Despite your best intentions, they exhibit a bunch of (usually stupid) errors and rookie mistakes. But at some point you realize how much time you’ve already invested in the thing and you just want it done. Since I am a self-identified “Assembler of Plastic Kits” as opposed to “Modeller” this does happen to me occasionally. And this was especially irksome, since it was a local Boeing product.

Snakebite was certainly the case with today’s finished example, the Hasegawa Boeing B-47. I can’t even tell you when I started it, but it wasn’t in the last 5 years. I spent a lot of time and effort sanding down the raised lines and rivets while trying to miss the vortex generators on the wing. It isn’t one of Hasegawa’s better engineered kits, so there was a lot of dryfitting, adjustment, and PSRing in the process. It even spent some time on the Shelf of Shame. Finally, in 2011 I decided to get it finished. I used my last bottle of functioning Alclad on it, in fact.

And then, I put a small but noticeable glue part-fingerprint right on the top of the fuselage. After telling the model what I thought of it in terms that would make a dockworker blush, I tried just buffing it out, then sanding a small circle and respraying. But I could never get the finish to look consistent, and this came when I discovered the problem with certain Alclad paints. I used nearly a half bottle of Dull Aluminum and it barely covered a patching strip 8” long. In fact, as you’ll shortly see (the problem is along the fuselage spine), it didn’t really even cover that. Refusing to admit defeat, I just got the decals on and got it ready for the display case. The dark back end of the display case. If I had a display case in Siberia, this model would be in it. In truth, this was part and parcel of the Great Mojo Implosion last November.

It’s really too bad, since the decals were one of the few cases of an attention-grabbing scheme on a B-47. This was the anniversary markings that were applied for the 1000th Wichita-built B-47 which was featured on an old SuperScale (72-561) sheet. The decals went on smoothly. If only I had found that bottle of functioning Alclad that I mentioned in yesterday’s entry before decaling, I might possibly have saved it.

Under normal circumstances I probably would never have displayed it here. But when I started this blog, I decided to feature every model I finished, good or bad, if only to show that it is ok to display your work without fear even if it is not exactly Nationals caliber. Time to put money where mouth is, I guess. And no, I haven't acquired a larger backdrop yet either. Time to build some smaller aircraft!

This is completed model #377, finished in March of 2012.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

More paint room fun

An iron rule of modelling is that if things are going bad on your production line, stop and find an alternate hobby to occupy yourself until the troublesome patch passes. The inverse to this is when you are having some success, keep on going at full throttle.

My last adventure in the paint shack (umm, garage) went pretty well. The gloss Xtracolours behaved themselves, I found a bottle of Alclad that actually worked, and there were no runs, big flecks of dust, or other disasters. So I got back in there tonight to push ahead. This included the Neutral Gray lower surface on the razorback P-47, the PRU Blue coat on the Spit PR19 – though that showed up a big gaffe with the alignment of the camera window in the aft fuselage – the Admiralty Grey on the two BAe Hawk cockpits, and Alclad Aluminum on the landing gear and wheels of both P-47s. I may have to do some buffing on the exteriors along with a reshoot for surface, but I’m pretty happy with how they turned out.

Also over the last couple of days, that most beloved ritual of all modellers occurred: a series of boxes arrived from online retailers! A minor buying spree. So if you hear a scream off in the distance, it probably means my wife has stabbed me with a pair of knitting needles.

The first came from Lucky Model, and included the Meng Katsuodori and the much-maligned Revell Halifax. The Katsuodori is a neat little IJN46 and is the first aircraft from Meng. Simple but well-molded; I’ll be starting on it once some space opens up on the assembly line. And the Halifax. This kit has gotten some of the more savage reviews from the online community due to some rather silly errors in the engine nacelles and props. The nacelles are noticeably too big, though I doubt a non-RAF fan would pick it out without prompting. Anyone who has been reading this blog knows that detail accuracy is not my primary attraction to modelling, so I was going to build it regardless of the problems. But I did discover that Colin from Freightdog was producing an “improvement set” that at least attempts to downsize the radiators a bit and give you a better set of props and wheels. So I got one. I’ve got to be honest and say that I think it will get me to a satisfactory point with the model, though your mileage may seriously vary.

Next was a box from Sprue Bros, including the Quickboost P-47 leading edge gun inserts. This ended up being my solution to the teeny plastic piece that popped into an alternate continuum while I was trying to insert it into the wing. It was considerably cheaper than buying an entire “A” sprue from Tamiya America. Plus it has the advantage of drilled-out gun barrels. A double win. Also from Sprue Bros was the final Eurofighter necessary to complete the series of 5 (each squadron in the RAF currently flying the type). I believe the last one is 11 Squadron.

Finally came a shipment from Great Models. This was an unfortunate episode of retail therapy, since I was getting mightily frustrated with the job search at time of order. Three kits: Eduard F6F3 Hellcat, Skunk MQ-9 Reaper, and Special Hobby BP Balliol. I had not intended to buy the Hellcat, since I don’t have much inherent interest in the type. But the reviews have been so glowing, and I did discover I had a Draw Decals set for a racing version of the type. The MQ-9 was included since I like building drones (no canopy masking!) and I’ve already done the two Platz/Italeri types, the RQ-1 and RQ-4. When Platz gets around to releasing the X-47 I’ll get that too. Finally, I’ve always been a fan of RAF training types, so the Balliol was a given. Interestingly, I had my copy of the Pegasus Balliol out in mid-2011 to decide if I wanted to put it in queue. But the buildability on Pegasus kits isn’t super-high, and my attention went elsewhere. Now I can retire the older kit and concentrate on this one. When are we going to get a Prentice (beyond the now-unavailable Dujin resin?)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Alclad mystery deepens

I have spent much of the last weekend painting, but not in the way you’d expect. Actually we are in the process of painting the interior of the house in a sort of loose 5-year plan to prepare for sale (and downsizing to a smaller location such as a condo). This week is the master bedroom, in a nice sort of Spitfire prototype French blue-grey. Don’t mention that to the wife, since she thinks it is a frost grey.

But I did squeeze in some model painting too. After all, the painting clothes were already primed (literally) and ready. Some white detailing on the P-47 razor and the gear portions of an F-18. The Medium Sea Grey upper surfaces on the Airfix Spit PR19. And the gear doors on a Boeing B-47 Stratojet.

Those gear doors bring up an interesting point. I have been having inexplicable problems with the Alclad paints I’ve been using lately, especially on this model. For the longest time, everything worked perfectly. Then as I continued to buy bottles of Alclad, troubles began to creep in. Coverage got thin and worse. Masking would pull up the paint (which Alclad is famous for not doing).

Last week I had to pay a visit to a local hobby store. This is a rare event for me, since I buy virtually everything online. I just have no interest in paying full retail on these increasingly expensive kits. About the only time I go is if I need something basic (the local store doesn’t have much else) and inexpensive, where losing the discount isn’t much of an issue and I don’t want to wait for the item to ship. That means non-Xtracolour paint or glue, essentially. While picking up a container of MM liquid glue (to go with the Tenax I use most of the time) I noticed that they had some Alclad paint. I figured that turnover wasn’t exactly constant, so the paint might be old enough to have come from the time before I began having issues. I even picked a type (Dull Aluminum) that I had particular troubles with. Long story short, that is exactly what happened. The paint went on flawlessly. I wish I had had it when I came to patch the B-47’s botched upper surface. But I didn’t.

And that is a story for a later day. In the meantime, here is a shot of the P-47 (now masked for its coat of Neutral Gray) and the Spit 19, patiently waiting for another trip to the paint room.