Saturday, December 12, 2015

Revell-Monogram B-25J Mitchell – WIP Part 2

I have collected a few aftermarket items to enhance this project.  With all the glass, I had to have some Eduard die-cut masks (EX119).  These masks are so useful and time saving.  Because of the size of the model, I have opted for a metal landing gear set from Scale Aircraft Conversions (48055), which I thought was a prudent investment.  And, in my decal collection, I have some really nice markings from AeroMaster (I really miss these folks).  My set is Mitchell Collection, Part 2, 48-134.  Not that the kit decals do not look pretty good and much better than the decals Monogram used to include in kits.  To keep the model from tail-sitting, I obtained a nose weight from Terry Dean.  If this weight proves to be insufficient, I will add lead shot in front of the engines.  I don’t think that will be needed, however.

This is a 1977 kit.  I forgot how many mold release pin marks appear on these older kits.  There are many bumps and indentations to deal with.  The unfinished wheel well photo shows two rather large ones, and the photo of the inside of the left fuselage shows two on the right front. 
My option has been to leave any alone that are not right on the surface where they can be seen.  By the late 1990’s, it appears manufacturers learned how to not create so many of these annoying marks, and it is rare to see them in a prominent position on a modern kit.
The interior parts have been painted green zinc chromate primer and olive drab.  I am using Model Master Acryl for this part of the project.  I prefer Vallejo Model Air paints, but there is not reason to let the existing stock of MM paints go to waste.  Much of the detail would not be seen once the fuselage is assembled.  I have already dry-fit the fuselage together and determined which areas will not be seen.  They will not be detailed.

When I have some more done, I will post again.  Meanwhile, I still need to post something on the Eduard Yak-3 I finished in October.



Saturday, November 21, 2015

Revell-Monogram B-25J Mitchell – WIP Part 1

The B-25 Mitchell has always been about my favorite WWII aircraft ever since I read the Landmark edition of Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo by Ted Lawson way back when I was in maybe 5th grade.  I have made several models of B-25’s, but none are still with me.  I always wanted to make the Monogram B-25J in 1/48th scale, so I have decided to get going on the one I have in my stash.

How long this project will take, I do not know.  It is now just a week before Thanksgiving, so with the Holidays and year-end matters to attend to, this may take some time.  Which is a good thing, since I do not have a shelf wide enough right now to display the finished model.  Something will be arranged by the time it is completed. 

The first step is to clean off my workbench, and then open the box, take the sprues out, and wash them off to assure that mold release agents are cleaned off.  At the same time, I have examined the sprues to make sure all parts are present and properly molded.  Have you ever gotten part way through a model only to discover that part of the tail empennage or something else was only partially molded?  That is a bummer.

I have also gotten together the material about the B-25 I have in my personal library.  That Camouflage and Markings is sure an oldie.  I have quite a collection of similar books I acquired over the years.  

This is sad, in a way.  Made in China?  I bet it used to say Morton Grove, Illinois, which was the home of Monogram Models the original maker of this kit.  Alas, Monogram was bought out by Revell, their main rival.  And then the combined companies were purchased by someone else, and now are owned by Hobbico.  Raised panel lines abound, but so what?  They are not that prominent on the finished model.

The preceding three photos show the very nice detail Monogram achieved in 1977.  The instrument panel has excellent raised detail in the dials, the control columns and center console are well-detailed, as are the ammo boxes.  Too bad some of this nice detail will not be seen once the fuselage is assembled.

One thing I do when starting a kit is to make a copy of the color list on the instruction sheet, and then I tape it up over the workbench.  It helps save time constantly turning back in the instructions to find out what color is being suggested.

Next, I will be painting the interior spaces zinc chromate green and starting to paint and mount the interior detail pieces.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Airfix Messerschmitt Bf 109E-7/Trop 1/72nd Scale, Kit #A02062

This is my third new Airfix 1/72nd scale kit this year.  They are such a far cry from the mid-20th century vintage kits many of us grew up on.  They fit together fairly well, and the quality of the parts is definitely up-to-date.

I was attracted to the desert camouflage scheme on the box art.  I found a photo of the original aircraft which I have included here.  I am sure it was originally a black & white photo that has been colorized.  This “Emil” is marked as it appeared in the Western Desert in April 1941.

My only gripe about this kit is that Airfix refuses to include swastikas, which were clearly a part of the historical markings of this and other WWII Luftwaffe aircraft.   (Without ranting anew here, I refer readers to my July 10, 2015 post entitled The Swastika & WWII German Aircraft Kits.)

Luckily, I obtained two swastikas from a friend who had some in his spares box, so I was not forced to purchase aftermarket markings which might have cost more than the kit itself to obtain a complete set of markings. (They came from an Fw190 kit, and are a little large for this model, but no matter.  Better than none.)

By the way, the decals Airfix did supply went on flawlessly with Microsol and Microset.  They are very well printed.

The panel line engraving on this model is much more delicate than the engraving on the two previous kits I built, to wit:  the Spitfire Mk.I and the Tomahawk.  The molding on this kit was a definite – and welcome - improvement.  I hope the fine engraving on this kit is indicative of what we will see on future releases.

The clear parts are okay, but thicker than you will find on most modern Asian kits.  One reason I chose to leave the canopy closed is that if left open, the thickness of the canopy moldings really shows and look out of scale.

The kit was painted with Vallejo colors over a coat of grey Vallejo Surface Primer.  I use Vallejo Surface Primer on all models.  It lets me paint with acrylic paints and use masking tape (mostly Tamiya tape) and never have an issue with the color paints lifting when the tape is removed.  Vallejo Surface Primer applies easily via airbrush with just a little distilled water as a thinner to help the paint flow.

The finished model looks like a Bf 109.  The proportions just seem correct.  Airfix is getting that right.  It looks good, and therefore it is good (to paraphrase Duke Ellington).

I realize my paint finish does not do justice to the original, but I did as well as I can with the airbrush.  If I had it to do over, I think I might just brush paint the green spots.  I still like it.

Due to incomplete markings, I would give this kit a grade of A-.  It would have been an A+.  But be warned.  If you purchase an Airfix WWII Luftwaffe model, be prepared to deal with the incomplete markings Airfix offers.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Airfix Supermarine Spitfire MkIa, 1/72nd scale, Kit # A01071A

Some of us older modelers have fond memories of the Airfix kits of the 1960’s.  They were of a uniform scale (1/72nd – sometimes referred to as “The One True Scale”), they had much more detail than the contemporary plastic kit offerings, and the range included many aircraft we all wanted to model, i.e., WWII fighters and bombers.  Today, the old Airfix kits are invidiously compared to modern kits, but back in that day, they were superb.  And, the single engine models were 50 cents, well within our reach as kids.

This Spitfire is one of the newly designed kits in the Airfix range.  It comes with markings for one Battle of Britain machine.  You get two gray-blue colored plastic sprues, and one clear sprue.  There is a decal sheet with full stencils and a complete instruction sheet.  The back of the box has a nicely detailed color four view of the machine.

Here are my thoughts on this kit:

The Good

·         One of the all-time favorite subjects – the Supermarine Spitfire in a Battle of Britain version.

·         Excellent instructions and color guide.

·         Fairly well detailed cockpit for this scale.

·         Realistically flattened tires.

·         Generally good fit of the parts with a minimum of putty and sanding (some of which may have been caused by my own clumsiness).

·         Not over-engineered, meaning you do not need an electron microscope to see the parts you are working with.

·         The decals are very well printed and appear to be the right colors.  Extensive stencils are included.  They apply well with Microscale solutions. 

·         Rational pricing, even if you pay list.

The Bad

·         The sprue gates are somewhat thick.  This means that it is hard to cut the parts off the sprues, since the plastic is at the same time soft and slightly brittle.  Parts must be very carefully cut from the sprues to avoid unwanted gouges and indentations.

·         The surface detail while not having been made by “The Mad Trencher” of Matchbox fame, the panel lines and surface details may have been done by his cousin.  The panel lines on Asian kits are much more subtle.  These lines are not terribly prominent with flat, camouflage finishes.  I have not built a new Airfix kit in a natural metal finish where such details would be far more noticeable.

·         The canopy is fairly thick, but is therefore not as extremely delicate as some kits in this scale and easier to work with.  It just is not as petite as it could be.  It is one piece.

·         Only markings for one machine are supplied, the 610 Squadron at Biggin Hill in July 1940 – the height of the Battle of Britain.  One more choice might have been nice.  The red patches over the gun ports are too small and hard to apply over the wing leading edge.  They are square and should have been rectangular.  Painting them on would be better, or some solid color decal cut up.

If I were to give this kit a grade, it would still be a solid A.  It was just plain fun to build.  The “bad” things I point out apply to the other new Airfix kit I built (see post below on Curtiss Hawk), and appear to obtain to several other new Airfix kits in my stash.  They do not at all outweigh the good qualities of this kit.  I fully intend to keep buying and building these kits.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Eduard Spitfire Mk. IXc – early version, ProfiPack edition, Kit #8232

To me, the Spitfire was the most attractive aircraft to come out of WWII.  One can easily see its parentage in the racing aircraft of the 1930’s.  The legend of this aircraft will never be forgotten.  It served on all fronts in many different versions. 

I have made only one ProfiPack edition before, and it was a joy to work with.  I love having the choice of markings, the PE detail parts, and the canopy painting masks all in one box.  I admit that I do not try to use all the PE parts as some of them are so tiny that I really have trouble working with them.  The pre-painted PE parts are wonderful, although I suppose some purists think that they should come plain so the modeler has to color them.  I cannot say they would be wrong, but then neither am I.  These models are made for my enjoyment and not to become a contest winner.  The hobby is for enjoyment and that enjoyment is where you find it.

This Spitfire was flown by 1st Lt. Leonard Helton, 52nd FG, 4th FS, La Sebala Airfield, Tunisia, and June 1943.  The background on the Eduard instruction booklet is as follows:

“The US Army Air Force was one of the Spitfire MK.IX operators in the Mediterranean Theatre of Operations. The 52nd Fighter Group flew Spitfires till March /April 1944 when it was re-equipped with the P-51 Mustang. The Group came to northern Africa as a part of the invading Allied forces during Operation Torch that was launched on November 8, 1942. The British camouflage is topped up with US national insignia. At least one British roundel was left on the left wing underside. The former markings were over painted with fresh colors that seem to be darker than the rest of the camouflage. The new code letters were added then. The yellow outline of the national insignia was applied during Operation Torch to distinguish US aircraft and frequently seen in the Mediterranean during the following months.”

We are used to seeing American aircraft in the marking of another country, e.g., Great Britain and USSR.  However, I was immediately drawn to the American markings on this Spitfire.  It was one of five versions available in this kit.

Here are some photos of the completed model:


Here are some of the construction photos:
The instrument panel comes on the PE fret, and has raised detail and is colored. It is made up of two layers.  Exceptionally nice.
The cockpit details are very nice, particularly the armor plate behind the seat that is a more scale thickness than the plastic piece that was included (They can only make molded plastic pieces so thin).  The seat belts are also pre-colored.
I am not sure what those tiny PE hooks are used for (tie down?), but they look neat.  Eduard’s PE details really add a lot to the finished model.
I masked camouflage paint job, and it worked out okay.  Trying to reproduce the demarcation lines around the sides and over the top to the other side is a challenge.  I used Tamiya tape and filled in the larger gaps with Frog tape.  The model was primed with Vallejo Surface Primer first and the color coats are all Vallejo Air paints.  The Colored paint sticks very well to the primer so there were no issues with color lifting from the plastic when the tape is removed.
I cut masks to cover the area where the RAF markings would have been placed.  These areas were painted Olive Drab.  Presumably the USAAF had plenty of that color on hand.  The camouflage finish is RAF standard desert pattern and color.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Some Modeling History

In my wanderings around the Internet, I came across this very interesting item: 
 Craftsmanship is a web magazine which they describe as follows:
“This magazine was created to explore the ethos of craftsmanship in its widest sense—a journey that we take primarily through stories about the most interesting people in the world who work with their hands."

So, it is not a scale modeling website per se.  The article I have linked to Parts and Recreation by Jeff Greenwald is a wonderful, detailed description of the design and production of plastic models by Monogram and Revell over the last 70 years.  There are interviews with some of the original artisans in the field.

In the beginning, the molds were produced with much handwork here in the USA.  Today, they are cut in China based on computer directions sent there by Revell.

If you have any curiosity about how our model kits have been and are produced, and all the work that goes into them from concept to store shelf, this article is really worth reading.