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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Academy Republic P-47 (captured German)

This is the first completion of 2014, and it is a type that I have a lot of experience with. It is an Academy P-47 razorback. Though I would say that the Tamiya kit is the gold standard for P-47s, the Academy version has the advantage of being generally available and fairly cheap as well.

As happens so often - see the entry concerning the Desert Snake Ju-87 that I currently have in the construction queue - this project was inspired by a decal sheet. While rummaging through the decal stash looking for another sheet, I ran across an older Three Guys set for a Tbolt that was captured by the Luftwaffe. Well, captured is probably being generous; the poor fellow landed at the wrong airfield in France and quickly discovered that all the people staring at him from the ramp were wearing the wrong uniforms.

The P-47 had quite a career. It was examined by the research staff at Rechlin, and even starred in a German propaganda film. The Three Guys sheet gives you markings for all the incarnations, including the fake US markings that were used in the film. The nice thing was that the Germans apparently liked the nose art, because they specifically did not paint over it while adding the yellow testing squadron patches to nose and tail. Sounds like even the Hun had some art sense once in a while.

Though I am very careful with Three Guys decals to keep them away from setting solutions, the markings settled down just fine. An earlier experience with colors running has made me cautious with them. About the only problem I had with the decals was that they didn't quite fit between the yellow patches on the port side. No reason to assume this was the decals fault; it is just as likely that my painting the yellow parts was not exact. The solution was to fit tiny slices of white decal stock to cover the shortfall between the white stripe (actually a white cowl marking on the original plane) and the yellow part. Hopefully it isn't too noticeable unless you are looking for it. In any case it is a unique set of markings to set amongst all the nose art examples in my display case.

This is completed model #436 (#1 for the year), finished in January of 2014. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Stukas are multiplying

There are dangers to having a stash that is large enough that the contents verge on the unknowable.

I was just finishing up the construction phase of the Fujimi Ju-87B Stuka when the time came to mask the canopy. I thought I had an Eduard set somewhere in the stash, so I set about searching for it. This entailed not only going through some of my workbench, but the downstairs library room and the stash shelves as well. I ran across a Testors boxing of the Fujimi kit from long ago (maybe the early 90s?) Knowing that there might be items other than the kit in there, I opened it up and was surprised to find an mostly built Ju-87G.

I'm not at all sure when I built this, or why I put it back in the box. It wasn't that I found the freehand masking job to be intimidating, because there were two masking sets in the box as well. Unfortunately, they were the old dark grey vinyl versions, not the current yellow tape versions, but beggars, as they say, cannot be choosers.

So, with a bit of free time, I finished the construction, including those gigantic tankbusting cannons under the wings. I also have the canopy masked for the desert snake, though I haven't found the time to finish the G yet.

Quite a turnaround. From having only a bad old Ju-87 in the display case, I will apparently be able to replace it with two before long, including one with an attractive set of markings. Not a bad way to begin the early part of 2014.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Building a Stuka

I have enough ongoing model projects that I could be easily said that I have no programme at all. My interests can flit around the entire history of aircraft development, from biplanes to the most current jet fighters. I probably find the 30s to 50s to be the most interesting period, with lots of interesting little dead ends especially in the conversion periods (e.g., biplanes to monoplanes, prop power to jet engines). But one era I seem to come back to frequently is the early WW2 years.

Much of this is on the Allied side (Hurricanes and Spits, with the occasional Stirling), but even I succumb to the fascination of German aircraft. It's easy to pick a Bf-109 to do, but perhaps not quite so easy to get some of the others. We've only gotten a really nice Bf-110 and Ju-88 in the last few years. The Hasegawa He-111 is extremely nice and the Italeri Ju-86 is serviceable, and Airfix is diving into this pool with 2014's Do-17. And of course there is the Ju-87, probably the best symbol of why the Luftwaffe caused such concern in the late 30s.

I built a lousy kit of the Ju-87 back when I first restarted modelling again in the mid 1980s - and built it lousily as well. I have a few copies of the range of Ju-87 produced by Fujimi, and decided that one day I would replace that old Stuka with a newly produced one. Then, somewhere in my travels, I ran across the Tally Ho decal sheet that featured the famous Desert Snake paint scheme, and the project moved up to the front burner.

The Fujimi kit, like most of its stablemates from that era, is a wonder to put together. Nice fit, nice detail, nice panel lines. It really did not take long to get the model to the state that it is in now, most components together and waiting for some canopy masking. Not every modelling project needs to be an epic journey - sometimes it is completely worthwhile to build a kit that is actually engineered to fit.

I suppose these may be the aircraft modeller's equivalent of the car modeller's slammer: a quick and easy build to prove, at least to yourself, that you can actually get something finished. But they are no less worthy for being less challenging. We all know that even what appears to be an easy job can become a trial in a real hurry. 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Green day

All right, all right. Enough of the color-related puns in the blog header. But it was actually a day of multiple greens in the 72 Land airbrush bunker. Two of which went onto the same aircraft.

First of all, I was making some good progress on the Luftwaffe-captured P-47, so I wanted to get the upper Olive Drab topcoat on. Luckily this went on pretty smoothly, so it doesn't appear I will need to do the buff-and-repaint-with-surface-coat process that is sometimes necessary.

The other color that went into the airbrush was an Italian green for the upper surfaces of both the Italeri SM-82 and the RS Models Ambrosini SAI-207. I was using a White Ensign paint for this green. As I mentioned before, when painting the lower surface grey, having become so used to Xtracolor gloss paint, the semi-matte surface of the WEM paint was a little jarring, and I wasn't sure how the decals would react to them.

But what was more immediate was how I reacted to the plane once it had dried a bit and I saw it in the brighter light over my workbench. It was the wrong green! At least it really didn't look right to me. On further review - as they say in the NFL - I realized that the green I was using was one of the camo colours (as in green and red-brown over dark yellow) that the Italian AF used in WW2. It is considerably lighter, more yellowish, and a starker green than the olive that I was really looking for. When I bought the paint from WEM, I tried to get ahold of their entire Italian line, but many were out of stock. This was in fact the only Italian green that came in the order.

So, the quandary. Ignore it? Repaint? There are in fact some things I can pretty easily ignore, but that green wasn't one of them. So I searched my existing paints for a new colour.

I ended up using another of Xtracolour's choices: X112, which is the British version of ANA613 Olive Drab. I use their Faded Olive Drab for US WW2 aircraft that need it, so I had one available. The airbrush actually coooperated this time and the model is currently recuperating quietly. I'm not sure if you can tell the difference in the two pictures accompanying this blog entry, but I think the olive color looks considerably better in all respects. It almost looks grey in the second picture, but it is solidly olive in person. 

As you might expect, I've been keeping tabs on the Seattle - San Francisco NFC Championship game as I have been typing this. Congratulations to the Seahawks for beating the 49ers and earning their second trip to the big dance. I was really sweating with the score at 23-17 and the 49ers driving. But despite some weird calls - seemingly a requirement whenever the Hawks get into the championship realm - they came through in a big way. Good luck against Denver and GO HAWKS! NFC CHAMPS! 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Prepping the SM-82 for more paint

Very often, when I manage to make some time for modelling activities, if I am not airbrushing, I am doing some things to prepare for an airbrush session. That is where most of today's work falls.
The primary actions revolved around getting the Italeri SM-82 ready for paint. I have already gotten the undersides painted, so this meant I had to get the fuselage/wing masking done, and add all the little bits that need to be there prior to the paint job. I have to say that the SM-82 has gone together pretty well so far. Just a bit of putty to hide a couple of seams. There is a lot of good detail both inside and out. I've heard some grumbling about the Sunderland - haven't seen one in person myself - but based on this kit, I have high expectations for the Stirling. Assuming that it hasn't been derailed, of course.

I've already mentioned that the Luftwaffe P-47 is just waiting for a paint session. But since I will have a paint cup full of Italian Green, I want to get the Ambrosini SAI-7 (RS Models) ready as well, since it requires the same green. Most of the construction is complete, so only the canopy masking remained. Not having an Eduard set, this meant manual cutting, but most of the panels are rectangular, so it went fairly smoothly.

And of course I continue to work on the Hasegawa B-26. It is still waiting for some more masking, the addition of some dangly bits, and a serious session of surface prep in anticipation of a natural metal finish, via Alclad. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Progress on the B-26

The Seahawks got past the Saints on Saturday, setting up a return match with their NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers. This is a bloodfeud; expect no mercy from either side this weekend. At the beginning of the season, most had picked these as the best two NFC teams, and it looks as though they were right.

Back in the modelling dungeon, I have made some progress on the Hasegawa B-26. This is a . fairly complex kit as these things go, with much detail inside and out, down to the wingtip static wicks. One oddity of construction is that the horizontal tailplane is molded in clear plastic. This I gather is to accommodate the two small plastic windows on the upper surface at the base of the vertical tail. It does make for an odd looking model until the primer goes on.

All of the major construction is complete. The engines are painted, drybrushed and installed, along with the nacelles. The wheel wells - which are very detailed also - are in and painted.  I have even discovered that I had an Eduard masking set for the B-26, so I have completed masking the upper canopy and nose.

There are still some small bits to add, such as the upper dorsal turret and the tail transparencies. There is also a round of cleanup that will need to be done to the surfaces, since I have a NMF finish coming on this one. Hopefully, the last bottle of Alclad I bought will not exhibit those under-performing tendencies of some that I have had.

Beyond that, I have finished masking the lower surfaces on the captured German P-47, so it is now ready for an upper surface of Olive Drab. The SM-82 will be next for the masking treatment, as will the SAI-7, though I need to add and mask the canopy on that one as well. All in all, progress seems to be decent on the production line for the new year so far. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

A grey day in Seattle

As in Neutral Gray. As in Italian underside grey. Well, to be honest it is weather grey in Seattle too, today, but I was specifically referring to the painting session that happened last night.

Whole lotta grey going on. First up was the underside of the P-47 that will be getting captured German markings ("Beetle"). The coat went on smoothly and should not need a surface coat before masking and painting the upper surfaces.

The second color used was a light Italian grey for the undersides of the SM-82 and the Ambrosini SAI-7 from RS. This was actually my first experience airbrushing WEM Paints. Though they do need a serious amount of thinning, I thought the paint went on smoothly. I'm not sure the satin - tending toward matte - is going to work well, though. I am so used to Xtracolour paints, with their gloss surface, that I have no glosscoat paints on hand. And I don't think that this surface will prove to be decal-friendly. I guess we will have to wait and see on that one.

The other problem that came up is an airbrush issue, not a paint issue. My Iwata continues to have trouble pushing paint out. I'm pretty sure this is a cleaning issue. I am just not very talented at breaking down the brush and getting all the bits of dried paint out. In past years I would have sent the airbrush down to Iwata in Portland and gotten it deep cleaned, but that is not feasible at present. So I am just sort of muddling along until I can figure out how to do my own deep cleaning. Wherever the partial blockage is, it is deep inside the body, and not in a place that is easy to reach. More info as the story develops.

Next up will be the Olive Drab uppers on the P-47, Italian green uppers on the SM-82 and maybe the underside of some Hobbyboss Hurricanes.

As the grey days in Seattle convert themselves into what I am hearing is a pretty formidable winter storm, it should be interesting to see what effect this has on this Saturday's Seahawk playoff game. It should be a wild one in any case. The statistic that has me worried is that the #1 seed is 2-5 against the #6 seed in the last 7 years. Yikes! Nonetheless, GO HAWKS! 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

2014 new model releases in 1:72 (3 of 3)

There is some consistency with this entire recap so far. Not a lot to look forward to. But that all stops with the Airfix future productions list.

I have grown to love Airfix. Fellow fans know the reasons: decent product, a real effort to improve their technique (such as panel lines) and innovate construction process (Swordfish wing struts), good value for money. Plus, they still realize that 1:72 is a viable scale, which some manufacturers seem to have forgotten.

That ragwing Hurricane looks like a solid winner, and I am hoping that they will follow up with a metal-winged F1 sometime in the near future. F2s are thick on the ground, and I have run through most of my Mk 2 decals. I still have a number of markings sets for Mk 1s, however. Plus the ragwing provides the basics for a Hurricane prototype (once I figure out how I want to handle the exhausts and canopy). And same with the Lightning; I'm hoping for F1 and F3 issues at some future date.

The four new molds that have gotten me rather excited are the C-47, Blenheim, Do-17 and Tiger Moth. I think the Italeri and ESCI DC-3s are definitely still usable, but I want to see what a modern redo of the type would be like. The Blenheim and Do-17 fit in well with my ongoing twin-engined theme. And I've already mentioned my love for trainer and light aircraft types.

I'm a bit more ambivalent about the Swift, but that is only because I built the Xtrakit version a couple of years back. Maybe the release of a new mold will inspire aftermarket creators to produce some variant conversion sets and I can justify another model in the display case.

I have been pretty enthusiastic about a number of Airfix releases during their resurgence. I loved the Valiant, the Nimrod, the Gnat, Spitfire 22 and the Swordfish. And one interesting thing about new Airfix kits - they rarely go into the stash. Most get built as soon as they arrive in the mail (as will the Lightning and Hurricane when they get here).

So although I led this post with disappointment that there wasn't much to look forward to, I'm not to the point of despairing about the hobby. Not a lot of flashy, attention getting releases on the schedule (like, say a 1:72 injected plastic C-17 would be) but there are a number of good, interesting, workmanlike models coming. And I think the business model for announcing releases has changed forever. We'll no longer be finding out about them at trade shows or even in annual lists. All the promotion is done on the internet, where the timing is under control of the manufacturer, and an announcement can get its share of attention with its audience without any filters.

And be fair. Even if no new model is released in the next 25 years, I still have more than enough of a stash to build at my rate until I am 100. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

2014 new model releases in 1:72 (2 of 3)

I do love the Czech modelling industry. Those guys have really grasped capitalism with both hands since the end of the Cold War. It is one of the few real hotbeds of 1:72 modelling releases (I think Airfix would be the other) in the last years. Sometimes the atmosphere gets a little heated, and competition is clearly brutal - what is going on between MPM and AZ? - but the proof is in the releases. For my purposes here, I am thinking as "the Czechs" in examples like MPM, AZ, Sword, Eduard and Czechmaster Resins.

Not a great deal of personal interest from the MPM brand announced. I might eventually pick up a Fouga Magister, but I'm less interested in the AH-1 variants. The Canberra and early Lightnings seem to have disappeared from the project plan, possibly due to concern about what Airfix is going to do with their Lightning molds.

Special Hobby has always been the most interesting part of the MPM empire to me, if only because they tend to release the unusual - and sometimes formerly unkitted - types under this brand. But even this seems somewhat underwhelming. The Grunau Baby glider maybe, and I would say the Vampire looks nice. I've already built a Heller example, but this would be a more sophisticated version than that 40 year old kit. One of these days, I presume MPM will issue one of those "five year plan" documents that outline their long-term releases, unless they are keeping the cards close to the vest due to competition.

At present, the MiG-15 is rolling out from Eduard, and they have not announced what their next 1:72 kit will be. But given the quality of the Hellcat and Bf-110, it should be a stellar effort.

AZ Models has been remastering a number of earlier Pavla releases, which is a worthy endeavor given Pavla's general fit and media issues (too much in vac and resin bits IMHO). There are some light Cessna types on their list and a new Chipmunk as well. Light aircraft are an area that never has been mined deeply, so hopefully these types will be successful enough to inspire more releases.

Sword's models are a bit of struggle for me. I can't fault their type selection, but I at least have found their execution to be less than adequate. Mostly just fit issues; my most recent one was their P-47N and it was a fight the whole way. But you can't complain with an F3D Skyknight. I'm not enough of an expert to know if the Hobbycraft F2H needs replacing, but I suspect that it will be adequate for me. If they continue with their series of Japanese WW2 types, I'm sure there is something I will find interesting.

Not really much in the CMR future world I'm fancying at present, either. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 new model releases in 1:72 (1 of 3)

It is traditional in the modelling blogosphere to give some thought to kits that will be issued in the coming year. Besides a keen fascination with the new, an unissued model allows one to believe that this will be a great release, finely engineered and accurate, with wonderful decals. More to the point, any new model allows us to fantasize that this will be The One, the model that outshines all others in the display cabinet and will attract circles of worshippers at the next IPMS show. That it will more likely be an effort consistent with all the others is pushed out of the mind, at least until plastic is actually cut and glue applied. So what has been announced so far that gets the 72 Land authorities smiling?

Um, not a huge amount, actually. Since 1:72 is no longer the premier scale, we have to share release schedules with scales both larger and smaller. But that doesn't mean there aren't interesting bits out there to focus on. Now, don't forget that we haven't heard anything about Nuremberg or Shizuoka plans yet, but with the internet grapevine most of those releases are at least in the rumor stages by now. I'll be looking at new 1:72 aircraft releases in three groups: Airfix, the Czechs, and everyone else. This is mostly anecdotal, since I haven't seen any comprehensive release lists (like Mike McEvoy used to do in SAM), and Cybermodeler has only listed the new Hobbyboss items and Hasegawa re-releases. If I've forgotten any big news, let me know.

We'll start with "everyone else" first. Very little from Trumpeter (except maybe the Bv-141). Hobbyboss has revealed some A-4s (only of interest if you don't have access to the Fujimi ones), and I haven't heard anything from Zvezda. A-Model released a long list in later 2013, with some very tantalizing items (Do-26, XB-60, Tu-134). I have seen a lot of improvement in A-Model's efforts over the years, and they do not shy away from the large or the odd.

Revell released their "list" - consisting of one new Corsair - to a resounding thud. Is this just blowback from the consolidation/merger/re-alliance with Revell USA? Have they abandoned 1:72, considered a European scale, in favor of the USA's 1:48? Is this the lead time of the Great Recession finally having a chilling effect on new product coming out the pipeline? In any case, I can't imagine a new Corsair 1D making a big splash or replacing the Tamiya kit that has been out there for ages. I know that if I'm looking for WW2 Corsairs, Tamiya would be my first (well, only) stop. Not that I wouldn't consider some later variant Corsairs. But after years of adventurous releases like the Bv-222, Ju-290, Ju-88, B-17 and Lanc, this is all we get?

After a promising start, Meng seems to have cooled a bit, at least in terms of actually announced items, to concentrate on armor. Tamiya hit a couple of 1:72 items out of the park but I don't think they were very adventurous (Zeros, Il-10). Though with their commitment to quality of engineering I would seriously consider anything they put out.

I've heard good things (well, except for the price) for Hasegawa's recent Eurofighter and V-22, but there likely won't be anything on their radar til we get closer to May.

Italeri does seem to have recently drawn the attention of the nay-sayers for some reason, and there are rumors that the Stirling has been scuttled - say it ain't so! I was really looking forward to that one! And I can't say another F-35 stirs my blood very much, though I suppose it would be all right if they released B and C variants. Hopefully more will come out as Nuremberg approaches. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Production summary for 2013

2014 was a fairly miserable year for me in terms of modelling output. I only completed 16 models total. I realize this may sound like a lot to some, but compare that to 2012's 44, 2011's 39, and 2010's 27. One advantage of coming to grips with your status as a Profoundly Average Modeller is that you tend to be able to push through some of the psychological barriers that affect those with more talent, or at least more ambition. I try very hard to work within my own limitations (though I do try to keep pushing those limits higher) and prevent "perfect" from being the mortal enemy of "good enough".

But the summertime was just a wasteland. I won't rehash the issues, but 2013 will be remembered for a major modelling funk that descended on me and wouldn't let go. In fact nothing at all was completed between the end of May and the beginning of November. The usual end-of-year adrenaline kicked in to allow some completions just before the final bell in December, but not enough to do much for the grand total.

Most of the ones I did finish fell into one of my established categories. It began with three P-47s and a Tornado, both of which I have multiples in the display case. Then a couple of A-Model Rutan types (Voyager and Global Flyer). There was an F-4 of all things - not my first but a relatively rare foray into Phantom territory. Three BAe Hawks in anniversary markings followed in quick succession, with a B-57 to accompany last year's Airfix Canberra PR9. I completed a C-46 to pal around with a long line of C-47s (part of a personal enjoyment of transport types), and then a DML Sea Vixen to include with my other postwar RAF/FAA lineup. By year's end I was back in familiar territory with a couple of Hasegawa Hurricanes, but managed to revitalize another theme - twin-engined WW2 bombers - with a Wellington. All of these have been featured on the blog, so I won't reprint all the photos, though if you are interested in seeing them all in one place I will be entering them in the "completed in 2013" section of the 72 Scale Aircraft forum. (BTW, if I haven't plugged it lately, that is an excellent group to hang around with, and I thoroughly recommend that you check them out if you haven't already). Here is a link: 72nd Aircraft

Which one was I most happy with? I think that honor goes to the A-Model Rutan Voyager. A very unique shape, a pretty decent kit (some A-Model efforts can be considerably more challenging), and a general feeling of accomplishment that came with it. For workmanship value, I would probably go with the anniversary Hawk T2. Those Airfix Hawks are really fine little kits in terms of finesse, buildability, price value, and breadth of markings options. I've added a couple of photos of these two models below. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

And a beginning to 2014

So this is 2014, huh? Looks pretty much the same to me.

What will be coming up on the blog, besides the usual build reports and photos of completed models (like another P-47, an SM-82, an SAI-7, and an Il-28)? How about a summary of 2013's production, a look at what I'll be working on in 2014, my thoughts on the new models coming out in the coming year, and whatever else takes my fancy. Just about what you were expecting, I should think.