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Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An end to 2013

Just between you and me, I will have no regrets for seeing the end of 2013. Ongoing unemployment, the financial hardship that brings, some health issues, and a last minute dog health disaster has marked this as annus horribilis in 72 Land. I'll never say things can't get worse, because that seems to become a divine challenge to prove me wrong, but I have every reason for anticipating a better 2014.

And no matter what is going on in the 72 Land gulag, that won't prevent me from wishing all of the blog readers a fantastic and happy New Year. May your 2014 be weighted down with new plastic! 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Trumpeter Vickers Wellington

Today I am presenting my final completed model of 2013. It is the Vickers Wellington, another in the series of twin-engined World War 2 bombers.

I've always liked the look and uniqueness of the Wellington, mostly due to its geodetic design work. I actually built the Matchbox version back in the paleolithic era of modelling, and still feel that they did the best job in reproducing the trademark patterns on wing and fuselage. A somewhat clunky model with no decent detail, though.

When the MPM kit came out, I bought one and gave it a desultory start. I even got myself one of the Eduard photoetch frets (a large one IIRC) and gave it all much serious consideration. But there were some serious fit and buildability issues going on, and work stalled. Then the Trumpeter kit was issued. Every Trumpeter kit that I have built so far has been a marvel of good fit and nice detail. The things that get Trumpeter trashed on forums is that their detail accuracy is hit and miss, to be polite. However - all engineers are advised to attach earmuffs at this time - that is not my primary concern. A few mm's here and there, a clumsily reproduced engine cover, some marginally incorrect lines, just elicit a shrug and a search for the Tenax from me. However, even I wasn't thrilled with their representation of the geodetic imprint on the wings. It looked as though someone was vacuuming the inside of the wing and causing the fabric covering to suck in. A bit overdone. However, all other things being equal, I figured that a bit of judicious sanding and a coat of paint would minimize the problem.

And to be honest, I think that it did. Is it a perfect realization? No. Is it a better representation than Matchbox? No. Is it good enough for a profoundly average modeller to build and put in his display case? The answer for me at least is yes.

There are some good points to the kit. Lots of nice internal detail (not much of which can been seen in the final product, so take that for what it is worth). The fit was indeed good. I like their approach to how the geodetic structure appears in the fuselage transparencies - actual pieces inside the glass rather than just putting paintable panel lines on the glass itself. I am quite satisfied with the use of Alclad Light Burnt Metal to reproduce the exhaust rings on the engine cowling.

And there are certainly things I would do differently. I would have put the wavy camo demarcation on the fuselage side higher or lower. As it is, the line intersects the top of the window line and just looks like incompetent masking. But I meant to do that. Really. I must have messed up the positioning of the nose machine guns. They are there, but do not stick out past the turret facing. And one gun on the rear turret is carpet monster fodder. At some future point I will swipe some guns (from the MPM kit, most likely) to pretty things up.

Decals were already stolen from that MPM kit. I definitely wanted to do the one with Dark Earth and Mid Stone uppers and the donkey nose art no matter which kit got the call. It was used by 37 Squadron RAF in Egypt in January of 1942 according to the MPM instruction sheet.

I'm happy enough with this one, once I get the machine guns sorted, and will be following it with a Hasegawa B-26 and Ta-154.

This is completed model #436 (#16 and final for the year), completed in December of 2013. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas greetings 2013

As we slip into Christmas Eve here in the Pacific Time Zone, I wanted to take a moment to wish the readers of this blog a very merry Christmas. This is a very good time to be a modeller, what with all the new kits, decals, and references that are being released. I doubt it is something that can go on forever - with the modeller base aging and some prices working their way into the stratosphere - but at the very least we have the makings of a serious stash!

Merry Christmas 2013! 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Hasegawa Hawker Hurricane 2C (Portugese Air Force)

The next on my list of final completions of 2013 is yet another Hurricane. There is probably no need to recap my love for this type; I do support the underdogs, and the Hurricane has always been overshadowed among the general public by its stablemate, the Spitfire. But the Hurri was, if anything, a more crucial part of the defense of Britain in the early BofB period, and with much more average performance stats.

This particular example is another foreign operator, the Portugese Air Force. According to Wikipedia, they used 150+ examples in the late war and postwar periods. The decal sheet is by Colorado (Carpena), and - though I have had some issues with adhesion with some earlier sheets by Carpena - these performed as per requirements. Paints, as always, are Xtracolour, as long as my stocks hold out.

The photos are from an earlier, less than completely successful photo session. As I've mentioned, I was evicted from my former modelling space - to provide sleeping space for my son... I mean, really! :) The space I'm using doesn't have very good lighting, I've been having issues with the camera's color temperature settings, and of course this all has to be done on aperture priority settings and on a tripod in order to maximize depth of field. Nothing, as they say, is easy. But it is at least finished, which is more than many modellers can say.

I should note the missing cannon on the wing leading edge. Another feast for the carpet monster, though I should be able to pick up a replacement from Quickboost or some other aftermarket producer. The carpet monster seems to have had a more successful relocation than I did.

This is completed model #434 (#15 for the year), completed in November of 2013. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Two types enter the queue

As we count down the final completions in 2013, that is not the only work being done here at the 72 Land production line. There are actually a couple of new entries coming along.

I've decided to put a little focus on WW2 twin-engined aircraft, now that I've completed most of the WW2 heavies. There are still some to be completed but they tend to be more fringe types (Pe-8, Piaggio P-108, Me-264, Rita). All of the major RAF and USAF types are already in the display cases, though I do intend to replace the Stirling when Italeri's kit is released.

I've recently completed a Bf-110 (not the very nice Eduard kit, unfortunately), He-111, Ju-88, and a Wellington, so twin-engined types seemed like a good way to proceed. I decided to work on the Hasegawa B-26 Marauder. So far I've got the cockpit and internals together; just need to get some painting and detailing done.

The other new start is the beginning of a large cargo series. I have a number of kits (An-12, C-130, etc) but have not yet been able to pick up the new kits that have been produced in the last couple of years (A-400, C-27, any of the Anigrand transports). But I do have a copy of the Revell C-160 Transall, and somewhere along the way I picked up a Two-Six Decals set for an all-white Air France airliner version. Although I honestly don't have space for one of these in any of my display cases at the present moment, by the time I get it finished I hope to have some additional capacity. We'll see how that works out.

Here are a couple of workbench shots of the two newbies. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Hasegawa Hawker Hurricane 2B (captured IJAAF)

The next in the parade of year-end completions is part of another long-standing series project. I do have a number of these on the boil at any given time, since they are especially useful in restoring modelling mojo. They provide you with a familiar kit, thereby minimizing the construction disasters that occasionally come up, and give your display case a nice capsulated history of markings.

This is a Hasegawa Hurricane 2B. I had two of the Hasegawa kits in the stash and decided that now was the time to get them built. Both of these (along with two Hobbyboss kits also in the queue) were 2s. That didn't bother me much as the new Airfix Hurricane will likely be producing a set of metal wings to go along with the already-released ragwing variant. So my mark 1 needs will be amply taken care of. That's actually a good thing, because the Hasegawa early marks have gotten a bit expensive and elusive.

Since I have done most of the variations of RAF and RAAF Hurricanes, I've been working my way through the foreign air force examples. And since I had run across a decal sheet with a captured Japanese Hurricane, that was the decision. I had to think a bit about whether I wanted to paint on the thin white fuselage stripe, but came to the conclusion that I would try the decal and if it didn't work I could always do a quick mask and paint job. Luckily the decal was very opaque and adhered well to the paint.

This is completed model #433 (#14 for the year), completed in November of 2013.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Airfix BAe Hawk T1 (100 Squadron 95th anniversary markings)

I am currently working on the traditional end-of-year rush for completing models. Some of these were pretty close in the process when I fell into the midyear mojo funk, and some had some construction to finish up. But at least 4 will be debuting before the end of calendar 2013, and it is possible that I might add one or two more to that. It will still be a slow year in terms of total completions.

Today's completion is part of a long-standing type project. I have been building BAe Hawks for much of my modelling career. It falls well into many of my preferred categories: RAF, trainers, special anniversary paint schemes. Most years the RAF paints up at least one Hawk for some sort of special occasion.

This is the Airfix Hawk. The newer tooled version, not the one from a decade or more back. It is a fine example of the Hornby ownership's art: nice shape, reasonable panel lines, no nasty surprises during construction. It is a pleasure to put one together, especially when they are so reasonably priced.

Not that it didn't have a few issues, mostly self-inflicted. I always seem to make some sort of mess of the canopy (in this case the painting of the internal seal strip). And though I didn't screw up the wheels this time, they didn't seem to want to anchor solidly into their receptacles in the gear bay, so there is an ever-so-slight list to one side.

The decals came from Xtradecal 72-156, which includes a number of special RAF schemes. I've already used the Hawk T2 from 4 Squadron, the anniversary Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 with the green tail, and have imminent plans for the 1 Squadron Eurofighter as well. But this time out, I decided on the Hawk T1 set for the 95th anniversary of 100 Squadron. It is basically put into Bomber Command markings, with a Dark Earth and Dark Green upper fuselage (the rest of the fuselage and wings in trainer Black) and a WW2 style 95oY on the fuselage side. There is also a rather attractive skull and crossbones on the underside and the tail. As always the decals performed without a hitch.

Since the lower skull crossed onto both landing gear bay doors, I used the process suggested on the instruction sheet. Using double sided tape, attach the bay doors in the closed position, apply the decal and wait for it to dry, use a sharp knife to cut along the door outline, then glue the doors in the open position.

But the snakebitten aspect of modelling followed the kit around: the pictures were pretty useless since I am transitioning to a new layout and had to shoot them in an unfamiliar spot. #1 son is back home for longer than we expected and is tired of sleeping in the living room and has requested his old room back. Not an unreasonable request, but it did mean a day of moving modelling equipment around to another space.

So all you get is one photo this time. Hopefully I can improve the focus and depth of field on the next few shots. As a bonus, I've included a shot of the display case with the Hawk collection all assembled in one place.

This is completed model #432 (#13 for the year), completed in November of 2013. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Painting exhausts

The cold weather in Seattle continues, and the resulting finger rictus during airbrushing is ongoing as well. But it didn't prevent me from enduring a (quick) session last night. There is a Wellington approaching its final stages, but the exhaust pipes and collector rings needed painting. For this I typically use Alclad Light Burnt Metal. I'm not sure if the "bronze" color callout that was on all Airfix kits of the 70s and 80s is an error or just a myth that has taken on a life of its own, but I've never really thought that was an adequate choice for British collector rings or anyone's exhausts. Now, the burnt metal color may not be perfect either - something that gets a lot of engine exhaust would likely have a darker look, at least in places - but I think it makes a nice visual compromise. Evaluate for yourself, based on the following photo.

The only other color I shot was a bit of RLM04 Gelb, for the cowl, rudder, and prop spinner of the captured P-47 "Beetle" that is underway. But it highlighted an interesting problem, very similar to what happened the last time I had the airbrush out. The paint in the tin was uncommonly lumpy and thick; the only difference is that I discovered that before I ever got it into the paint cup and therefore didn't have to go through a panicked field strip and cleaning.

But it brings up a worrisome point. Now that I am no longer able to order Xtracolour paints from Hannants (due to Royal Mail restrictions), is the paint I have starting to age to the point where it is becoming chemically unstable and will be useless before much longer? I have no clue when I bought this particular tin of RLM04, though it probably at least 4-5 years old. Possibly much more. More as this issue develops.

At least I was able to get some satin topcoat from a LHS today. This should free up the logjam of completed models and allow me to get them posted in the blog. Here is a photo of the work done in the freezer last night. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An addition to the circle

Here comes another of those non-modelling posts. If you can't stand the idea of another one of my dog or travel related stories, then look away quickly!

I've taken over the daily dog-minding of an 8 month old English bulldog named Porterhouse. He belongs to a friend of my wife's, whose usual dog-minder had to quit the biz. They don't live too far away and my time is pretty open for a while, so I stepped in. I mean, c'mon, the entire job is to play with a bulldog puppy. What's not to like? 

Here are a couple of pics of the beastie. We'll shortly return to our normal airplane related content - as soon as I get near enough to a LHS to pick up some satin clear. I've got 3 models that need it in order to get finished!