Friday, June 26, 2015

Airfix Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 (1/72nd Scale)

Remembering the Airfix kits of long ago, I became interested in what I was reading about the new Airfix kits of today.  (I know it is fun to kind of trash these old kits.  When I was a kid, they looked pretty darn good, and we happily handed over 50 cents at the corner store to get our hands on the latest release.)

Generally I do not build in 1/72nd scale.  However, Airfix is producing so many interesting subjects that I have added a few to my stash in 1/72nd and 1/48th scales.  Having finished the abovementioned Bf109, I was looking for a project when I saw this one in the closet.  My original thought was to brush paint it as reproducing the sharp-edged camouflage in this small scale was too challenging for me right now.  I sprayed the entire model with grey Vallejo Surface primer (as I do with all my models now).  I find this primer provides an excellent base for color coats, particularly acrylics.  I can mask the color coats with Tamiya or Frog tape, and there is no danger of lifting the paint underneath when I remove the tape.  It is great stuff.

Anyway, I decided to simply free-hand with the airbrush, and I can live with the results.  I used RAF Dark Brown and RAF Dark Green, both from the Model Master Acrylic lineup.  They may not be the most accurate, but they were the closest I had.  I left the lower surfaces in the light gray Vallejo Surface Primer, and that color seemed appropriate.  (Obviously from the picture below, the brown color was lighter, but how much of this was sun fading?  Hangars were generally not in use on these WWII operational airfields.)

The Airfix decals went on very well, but I had to deviate from my usual application method.  Normally, I brush some Super Microsol on the model, and then I slide the decal on and position it.  After that I smooth it down with a brush and more Microsol.  The final step is to put some Microset on top of the decal and wait for the solutions to do their magic.

I found that by applying the Microsol to the model before I positioned the decal that the decal stuck fast to the model as soon as it touched the model.  Getting it loose again was very difficult.  I found that the best way to deal with the Airfix decals was to position the decal on the model with plain water, and once it was in the final potion, to simply dab on some Microsol with a brush and let it dry.  If it was not completely snugged down, gently prodding it with a brush soaked in Microsol would loosen the decal and let it snug down perfectly.  Problem solved!

The decals are very well printed and in register.  (This kit only gives you one choice, but most Airfix kits give you two.)  I have my doubts about the very light blue color on the Chinese nationalist insignias, but I really do not know what the correct color was.  Sky blue?  Maybe.

The parts fit well with only a little Perfect Putty needed at the wing root.
For me this was a nice change-of-pace build, and I know I will build some more.  The current crop of 1/72nd scale kits is certainly inviting.  And, maybe I will not run out of shelf room as quickly.


The markings for this kit were of the Hawk flown by Lt. Charles H. Older of the 3rd Squadron, American Volunteer Group, Kunming, China in 1942.  Lt. Older left the military after the war, obtained a law degree, and served as the presiding justice in the Charles Manson Trial in 1971.  He passed away in 2011.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Tamiya Messerschmitt Bf109E3 – 1/48th Scale

After a brief hiatus away from the building table while I attended a family reunion on the Outer Banks in North Carolina, I needed to start another kit.  One of my areas of great interest is the Battle of Britain.

Since my current collection did not include any German aircraft, I pulled this kit from the stash.  It is a typical Tamiya kit, i.e., finely molded and well-engineered.  I did add an aftermarket resin seat with molded-in seatbelts.  I was planning on using some Xtradecals I had purchased for the German aircraft of the Battle of Britain, but then I noticed that the kit decals were for Adolf Galland’s Battle of Britain mount.  Passing them up was not an option.  I had never used Tamiya decals, but I was pleasantly surprised that they were at least okay for the job.

This is the first model I have finished with Vallejo paints, and I really liked working with them.  I have been using the Vallejo Surface Primers for some time, but not the Model Air paints.  What really impressed me is the little waste that you have using these in a gravity fed airbrush.  All you have to do is put a small amount of paint in the cup (you can feed the paint a drop at a time), thin it and go to work.  If you gauge things correctly, you will have no leftover paint.

The paint flows very well, and with the Surface Primer underneath, masking is no problem with either Frog tape of Tamiya tape.  I will be using a lot more of the Vallejo line of paints.

I read in Clash of Wings by Walter Boyne that the yellow noses were not added to the German aircraft until just at the end of the Battle (July 10 to October 31, 1940 according to Wikipedia) and after.  These were applied to stop trigger-happy German AA gunners from firing on Luftwaffe aircraft!  After October 1940, they became rather standard all through the Luftwaffe.

The model recreates the appearance of Galland’s aircraft in August 1940 at the height of the Battle.

I did see some posts on the Internet (mostly the scribblings of outraged rivet counters) stating that the nose of the model is all wrong, Tamiya should be driven out of business and all of their molds should be impounded in a salt mine. 

Maybe they are right about the shape of the nose.  However, the finished product looks good to me, and that means to me that it is good.  Besides, who knows at this point?  It was three-quarters of a century ago.  If one reads about the harrowing mess the German aircraft industry was in during the war, some variances must have been introduced.  (See The Third Reich at War by Richard Evans for a fascinating glimpse into the confusion of German production after the war began.)

I had fun building it, and the model looks great on the shelf in the growing Battle of Britain section of my collection.