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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Emerging on the other side

Just a quick note to let everyone know that yesterday's surgery was a success, with all three leads properly seated and functioning. I was discharged late this morning (1-28-2016). I will be in a left-arm sling for 3 or 4 weeks, so this will have some impact on modelling. This being the second go-round, I have a bit more experience with the sling's limitations. Decalling can probably be done, construction depends on complexity, but airbrushing is liable to be on hold for a bit. 

As it has been a while since I have been able to go get a hair trim, and I'm forbidden to shower for 4 days (not good to get a new incision wet), I am starting to look like Howard Hughes in his later stages, not including the rows of urine jars of course. We're looking to get that taken care of in mid to late February - my wife exchanges book keeping services for hair work with the owner of a salon, but it is physically located about 30 miles away and we don't get out that way too often. 

But in general I am feeling pretty good, and am looking forward to a few days of Blu Ray movies, reading, and some surreptitious modelling sessions. So we will be returning to our regularly scheduled story of modelling mishaps and disasters shortly! 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trumpeter Raduga AS-6 Kingfish

I wanted to get this second completion posted before I head off to surgery tomorrow morning at the crack of dawn (well, the crack of 6.15am, which might as well be dawn to a retired person). This is the first part of a long-term project I am working on. You may have noticed that I never hang any underwing stores on to a model that I do. As I've mentioned before, this is because I want to spotlight the lines of the aircraft itself, and not a real or imagined warload that the plane may or may not have carried. But sometime during last year, I conceived the idea of a separate display of purely ordnance types. It's not an original idea; I've seen a couple of collections on the net that are rather interesting.

In the old days, you would only have been able to get these items with kits, but now many manufacturers are producing ordnance-only sets. Hasegawa is probably the most famous, with their - what, nine? - sets of bombs, missiles, and nationally oriented weapons sets. But ICM has produced Russian sets, AModel has released lots of the large airborne missiles (with nice little transport racks to stow them on) and aftermarket producers like Eduard and diving into this market as well. The result is nice little things to either hang on to existing models or display by themselves.

This first completion is not like that. With finances being what they are at the moment (I feel like if I walk into a hobby store with cash, hidden representatives from one of the hospitals will spring from the bushes and snatch it to pay down our outstanding balances) I have had to rummage through kits to find something interesting.

So while going through a box with a mostly completed Trumpeter Tu-16 on the Shelf of Shame, I ran across a sprue of a pretty large missile. A bit of Google research led me to believe it was a Raduga AS-6 Kingfish, a fairly standard load on a Tu-16. It wasn't long til I found some pictures to give me clues on the paint scheme, which was good since the Trumpeter instructions neither identified the model nor gave any hint as to the colors. A bit of construction and a bit of painting and here we are.

I'm not 100% satisfied with the shade of green, but it will have to do. I also built a little stand to hold the Kingfish up. Though decals are provided for the AModel version, that wasn't what I started with, so I just did the red stripe and the two yellow placards from stock solid colored decal material. 

This is completed ordnance #1 (#2 of the year), completed in January of 2016.

I am likely to be offline for a few days while I recover from the surgery. I was in a sling for 3 weeks last time to prevent the leads from disconnecting, and expect to do the same this time. I'm also not allowed to drive, so I can now in good conscience get the rest of the family to do all of my errands! Prayers and good wishes gratefully accepted of course. See you on the other side!

Fujimi Ju-87R Desert Snake

This is my first completion of 2016, and while the paint scheme is rather interesting, it is not one of the better models in my collection. Many of the effects of the 18 month layoff manifested themselves on this one.

The one that was not self-induced was the Eduard black vinyl masking I used on the canopy. I am now officially done with this product, despite that fact that I have others in inventory, unless the surfaces to be masked are absolutely flat. The black vinyl masks simply don't have enough adhesive on them, and tend to pull away on a curved surface. This happened multiple times on the Stuka, so the frame lines are indistinct and smudged. I've tried to clean them up with a toothpick, but that doesn't seem to have helped much. From now on, it is masks made with the yellow kabuki tape only.

But there was some general ham-fistedness on display as well, likely due to the layoff. Almost every dangly bit was broken off at least once. Dive brakes, tail struts, radio mast all took a trip past the Carpet Monster. Thankfully none disappeared forever.

And I made a dumb mistake regarding colors. I left the spatted undercarriage in the undersurface color and discovered they should have been in topside RLM79 with mottled RLM80. Much consideration went in to whether to ignore this or not, but I relented in the end and did a remasking job to keep the underside safe from overspray. The model has decal issues, too, but that is enough self-flagellation for today.

This is one of those models that I probably wouldn't even display online if one of the founding concepts of this blog wasn't to show everything I have built, whether it is good or not. The point is to be a hopeful beacon to those that are reluctant to put pictures of their own models online. I am trying to say that not everything has to be a masterpiece, that adequate models (though I'm not sure this one qualifies) have just as much right to be out there as the great ones. I do have to take a bit of stick occasionally for obvious errors, but that is part of the deal.

This particular Stuka was a R2 Trop, based on the coast of Libya in 1941, where it was tasked with harassing Allied shipping in the Med. It was attached to StG 2. 

This is completed aircraft #440 (#1 of the year), completed in January of 2016.

I must apologize about the picture quality, esp depth of field. I have not been able to reassemble my former photo rig, so these were just shot on a white leather coach in order to get them out before surgery. 

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Airbrush momentum continues - at a cost

The airbrush was less cooperative than it has been, and I am beginning to wonder if the current problem is related to the needle. When I shoot pure thinner through it to clean it out, you can see that the spray is only coming out on the right half of the arc, not across the full range that it should be. Maybe the needle, or even the nosepiece, is bent? Not sure what the root cause is, but the symptom still seems to be that paint is not being pushed through the airbrush in sufficient volume to paint the intended surface.

I do my standard thinning. Not much goes through the brush, so I try some additional thinning of the paint. Eventually, I can see it exiting the brush, but it is as if I am spraying pure thinner; there is no color on the model. Sometimes I can temporarily improve the flow by holding a finger over the nosecap and backspraying into the paint cup. But in a few seconds I am back to square one. It looks like my next purchase will have to be some new airbrush parts. Insert grumbling sound bite here.

Eventually I got all of tonight's victims painted, but the surface quality varied widely. In some cases there was sputtering and too little coverage. So it is likely that most of these will have to be buffed out and a surface coat (which at least is overthinned intentionally, to fill in the imperfections and get me back to a true gloss coat) will be necessary.

I don't think I'll need to respray the Eurofighter noses. Upon reflection, Medium Sea Grey may be a tad too dark, but the paint seems to have applied well enough. The Dark Green coat on the uppers of the two Spitfire 1s will definitely need to be buffed and resprayed. Not sure about the upper surfaces of the Fieseler Fi-103X; I'll have to re-examine them when the paint cures. And of course the Hurricane needs its Sky undersides repaired and its uppers buffed and resurfaced. But at least I can amuse myself with hours of decalling the X-47. That thing has a lot of markings, most of which are teeny walkway lines that are just waiting to fold or break when on their way from backing sheet to model.

I haven't been very successful in finding all the pieces of my photo setup from before the Great House Refresh of 2015. The camera and tripod were fairly easy, but the table I used and the large backdrop - really just a poster sized piece of white heavy cardstock - appear to have vanished, or perhaps been eaten by a particularly ambitious Carpet Monster. I may have to shoot the first couple of completions against a basic table background if I am going to get them posted before Wednesday.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

And only one disaster

Another marathon paint session last night which allowed me to catch up with most of the paint queue. Next comes some masking on the Eurofighter nose radomes and the two Spit 1s so that they can take their place in the line.

Though the airbrush does continue to be a bit cranky at times, it is mostly behaving itself. There was one incident of operator error that I found to be very frustrating. It was on the Hurricane that will be done up in Operation Torch markings, so I was shooting a color coat of EDS Grey onto the upper surfaces. Any intelligent human would have had a dowel stuck into the propeller hole in the front of the aircraft in order to hold it while spraying. Alas, I apparently do not qualify, so I was trying to hold it by tail surfaces until the time came to put the model onto a piece of cardboard and shoot the tail. Needless to say, the thing slipped out of my hands, got EDS grey onto the lower surfaces as well as causing some damage to the still wet paint. In trying to quickly get the grey off of the ventral surface, the Sky paint came up. So it will need a Sky respray as well as an EDS respray. Hopefully a lesson learned for the future: I am a spaz and should not be trusted with holding on to a model in the process of being airbrushed.

Beyond the painting session, some construction was also completed. I've now got landing gear and wheels on both the X-47 and the B-26. Decals will be next, then a final bit of attaching fiddly bits like antennae and landing gear doors.

I do have the first couple of completions for 2016 in hand, and as soon as I try to rebuild my photo setup (which was disbursed and probably misplaced during the Great House Refresh of early 2015) I will get them photographed and posted. My goal is to get this done before 1-27, which is when I go back in for the follow-up surgery to repair the pacemaker/defibrillator leads. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Moving some projects through the paint booth

I had a bit of uninterrupted free time this evening so I decided to make a second stab at some airbrushing. The brush still seems to be behaving itself, though I did notice some moments of sputtering and difficulty in moving paint through the brush. Enough to get color coats on the two Eurofighters, the XB-47, and a Ju-87 prop to help move that project along.

I continue to find the Eurofighters frustrating. More issues with fit and tons of flash, which I don't remember encountering on my earlier Revell 4317 pressings. Even the cockpit canopy had to get some careful scraping to rid itself of flash and uneven mating surfaces. That Hasegawa kit, even at $38.50, is looking better all the time. If I do any more Typhoons in the near future, it will likely be the two twin-seater kits I have left over from when they first came out (and these, I believe, are the Italeri kits reboxed, so at least I know what I'm in for). I have decals for a German special scheme that came with an early book on the type, and have a what-if scheme planned for the other trainer. More as that develops.

Even today, I only was able to get about half the items in the paint queue sprayed before the upper back started telling me it was time to head back upstairs and wish I still owned a jacuzzi. The Hurricanes and Spitfires will have to wait for a day or two. By then I will certainly have other items to work on as well.

Prior to this paint session, most of my construction efforts were pointed toward the Eurofighters and XB-47. The Platz kit is an excellent bit of work; everything fit perfectly. Even the bomb bay doors, which I decided to close, fit like a dream once I trimmed off the hinge tabs. Not every kit is like that.

I did get a start  on the elderly MPM kit of the Northrop XP-56 Black Bullet, one that has been on the back burner for a while now. Just the cockpit so far. I've also got a pre-Hornby Airfix Tucano assembled and waiting for black paint. It will be carrying a special scheme from the same sheet that the Battle of Britain Eurofighter markings are coming from.

My personal favorite part of the process is the decal stage. Not because I do it particularly well, but because that is where the model really starts to come together. I spent a while last night putting the markings on a desert snake Stuka from a Tally Ho sheet. The Czechs love to make decals that are super thin, but they do have a tendency to curl if you're not careful. No need to ask how I know that. I still feel a little rusty on basic techniques after my long break, so none of the current crop are going to be award winners, but that is not my goal in any case. But I should be able to push a couple of items into the completed column before much longer. One is part of my ordnance project, and barely counts as a completion, but it has been long enough that I will take whatever I can get.

Below are shots of tonight's airbrush victims. 

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Showdown

I stared grimly at the malevolent little blue bastard that lurked like a diseased toad on the surface of my workbench. No words were exchanged; things had long since gone past that point. Within seconds the thing was making a horrendous racket, and I advanced toward it, consumed with fear and anger.

And then I started airbrushing.

You have to remember that this airbrush and I have a classic love-hate relationship. I will not brush paint exterior surfaces, because the best quality is less than a decent spray job. It wouldn't take much of an online search to verify that opinion. Some modellers can produce decent results with the hairy stick; I can not. So for better or worse, I have had to learn airbrushing technique.

In the early days, my problem was that I was not thinning the paint enough and was getting lots of orange peel surfaces. Some helpful advice from fellow IPMS Seattle member Andrew Birkbeck got me past that issue, but there have been others to replace it. They seem to revolve around mechanical and cleaning problems. I had a tiny o-ring dissolve in the airbrush nose without even knowing it, which caused a loss of pressure and subsequent lack of paint flow. It also is very hard to clean the deep internals of a dual action internal mix Iwata, and dry paint buildup was giving me grief as well. I sent it down to Iwata in Portland for a few weeks a number of years ago, and the problem was temporarily solved by a good cleaning and refurbishment. But like most problems in this hobby, it gradually returned.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached tonight's session. But I am delighted to announce that things went pretty well. Despite using paints that needed a long stirring (since I have not used them in 18 months) the brush seemed to be pushing paint through. There was only one model - that AS-6 Kingfish - that might need a little buffing and reshooting with a surface coat due to some pooling. But painting the white bits (wheel wells, intakes, main landing gear and doors) on the two Eurofighters and the XB-47 went just fine. Emboldened, I moved on to reshoot the fixed gear on my desert snake Ju-87 that I had masked earlier in the evening. I was also able to get a coat of dark green on the AS-6 and the mottling on the landing gear of the aforementioned Stuka. The last color was a coat of Sky on the lower surfaces of two early Tamiya Spitfires that have been sitting around my construction bench for literally years.

I was not able to complete all the items in the queue, but I decided to use a famous military strategic concept: declare victory and get the hell out. Later in the week I'll do some spraying on the Huma P-1106, a repair job on a Hasegawa B-26, the Lockheed D-21 drone, and (once I mask off the upper surfaces) I can make some progress on the world's largest what-if project.

So far I have to count this session as a win. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Major construction on Eurofighters

Much of what I have been working on for the last spans of free time in the evenings has been completing major construction on the two Eurofighters. And I discovered something rather interesting: these Revell molds have not aged well.

It has been 18 months or so since I last worked on a Revell Eurofighter. This is the revised Revell mold, not the repackaged Italeri kit (kit number 4317 if you're keeping track). I remember it, possibly through the post-trauma haze of amnesia, as fitting fairly well and having good detail. But building these two, more recently purchased, have been a major trial. There is quite a bit of flash, the fit is tougher than I remember, and while the detail is still there, it sometimes becomes obscured in the repairs needed to cover the seam sanding required.

I do know that Revell is advertising a new mold Eurofighter for 2016 which incorporates any tranche 3 changes, though I don't know whether it is a completely new mold or just some additional plastic. Revell is occasionally somewhat mysterious about the word "new". I've seen reboxed Matchbox kits thus described. Did they realize that their mold had deteriorated badly and wanted to produce a new one (perhaps to take advantage of all the special schemes the plane has been seen in during the last couple of summers)? I don't know.

But I can tell you to beware of the seams around the airbrakes and spine, the attachment areas of the lower wing piece, and where the upper wings and fuselage come together. These seemed rather disastrous on my examples. Perhaps it is just ring rust from not having modelled much in the last year or more; I do feel like I've had to relearn a lot of techniques that I haven't used in quite some time. But I also feel that there has been a qualitative decline in the kits I recently purchased versus the ones I bought when the 4317 kit first came out.

In any case, the models are mostly together and seam work is ongoing. The next step will be to finish the painting on the aft of the cockpit and mask/attach the canopy.

And then... confront my nemesis of 2014: the airbrush. My last experiences with airbrushing were both frustrating and maddening. The thing obviously needs a more thorough cleaning than I can currently provide; I suspect there is dry paint buildup in the interior where I can't get at it. What it really needs is another trip to Portland for an Iwata corporate refurbishment. I did that a number of years ago and was very pleased with how the brush came back. Alas, that is financially not in the cards right now (medical copays and 20%s are eating up all available cash and more). Still, if you hear a huge scream one of these nights echoing from a distant point in the far western US, you'll know that I braved the winter elements and went back to the battlefield. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Missile search

Once I knew the missiles I had, I was able to look up the AS-6 and C-601, once again on Google, and get some decent photos. That gave me at least a potential colour scheme for both. The AS-6 kit from A Model comes with full decals, but I could at least cobble together the color stripes from the spare decal box for my Trumpeter version. Color scheme appears to be a medium green with a dark grey nosecone. I'm out of luck with all the Cyrillic stencils, however.

For the Chinese one, I found a picture of a white missile with red pinstripes of all things, a medium grey nosecone, and a C-601 designation on the side in red.

As I am painting the two, I will be working on constructing a little informal stand for them. It is sort of like the displays I've seen in many museums, with related ordnance being shown next to a relevant aircraft. One of these days, I'll spring for that Tsar Bomba monster from A Model.

Not much to show on the missiles, and I don't want to get into copyright issues by displaying the photos I copied for personal use off of my Google search, so here is a shot of the (minor but unexpected) snow we received here in Western Washington a week or two back. 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

British cockpits and Russian missiles

The answer to the impromptu ordnance quiz is: the Raduga AS-6 Kingfish missile, the CHETA C-601 Kraken missile, and the Lockheed D-21 drone as attached to the SR-71.

When I first started looking for ordnance to tackle, I happened to be going through the box of a plane that is stranded on the Shelf of Shame, the Trumpeter Tu-16 Badger. I found a couple of sprues of large wing-mounted missiles. The kit identified the Chinese C-601 missile by name, but the larger one was only described as "only used by Tu-16". So off I went on the customary Google search to see what I could find. One of the links I found actually identified the usual wing-mounted missile as an AS-6. Further research showed that A Model did a kit of the type, and I could visually confirm that it was the same one. Now the quandary. I wouldn't have minded building the A Model kit, since it comes with a nice little bomb trolley to display the missile on, but cost and time - plus the fact that the Trumpeter bits were already to hand - made me decide to press on with the kit plastic.

More discussion later about the colour schemes I decided on. Other work that was done was mostly drudgery: puttying seams, sanding them when dry, shooting a coat of spray can primer on to spotlight areas that needed work. Plus I did get the two Eurofighter cockpits assembled and painted. I'll be proceeding on with general assembly of the airframe over the next few days.

Also included in the group of models are those waiting for my future combat with the airbrush. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

Brushing off the dust

I didn't think I'd get much of a chance to slip into the modelling room while I was recuperating from the first of two surgeries. However, since around Christmas I have been feeling pretty good, so I snuck into the vicinity to see if there was anything there that didn't have 3" of dust on it.

First of all, as a medical update, I have a second surgery coming, which has been rescheduled to 1-27. This is to complete work on the implanted pacemaker/defibrillator that was put in on 12-9. Apparently this is a lesser job and will not require full anesthesia (just lots of good drugs to fuzz me out and make me not really give a rip what is going on). This device has 3 leads, two of which were installed in the first surgery (though they do want to re-position one of those) and one that they were unable to install to the surgeon's satisfaction, even after 8 hours of OR time.

While in the surgeon's office the other day, they were doing some tests on the device, and were able to speed up and slow down my heart rate wirelessly from across the room. It is more than a little disturbing to realize that your heart now comes with a remote control.

Anyway, I went to scope out what modelling projects were in the queue. I am not one of those fellows that builds one kit at a time in a linear manner. I generally have a large number on the boil at any one time, filling in the spaces for glue drying and paint curing with work on another project.

I think I have mentioned that I have picked up the last two Xtradecal RAF special schemes sheets, both of which come with Eurofighter squadron anniversary markings. At this point I am just putting together the two cockpits. Both are the Revell 4317 kits - not the Italeri rebox. I really do like the kit; it has decent fit and detail, and is not overly complex except in the places that you would expect, like the ventral intakes. So work will be continuing on these two.

I've also started a little side project I've been considering for a while now: a big display of aviation ordnance. I rarely ever put a bomb or missile load onto the planes that I build. The models are there to highlight the aircraft itself. So I have boxes of missiles and other things that have collected up over the years. Why not build and paint them and put together a little history of aircraft equipment. The items themselves tend to be simple - at most a few parts - and the hardest part may be finding decals for some of the newer types. There has been a huge explosion in aftermarket production of ordnance in the last decade. A Model has a whole range of big Soviet items, Hasegawa has their (nine?) weapon sets, ICM has a couple of their own, and many kits come with at least a basic representation of some sort of loadout.

So I have the first three assembled and I'm working on paint. These happen to have come from kits, not solo weapon sets, and they are positioned with the Eurofighter cockpits.