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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Italeri Lockheed D-21 drone

Another in the series of drone aircraft comes up in today's completion. This is the Lockheed D-21, a pure recon drone that most of us will have seen as part of the Italeri kit of the SR-71. It had a rather troubled history. First off, each D-21 was considered expendable; once the film was shot, the cartridge ejected from the drone and the aircraft blown up while the film was recovered. If that wasn't bad enough, the fourth test launch separation struck the SR-71's tail fins, crashing both aircraft and killing the Launch Control Officer. The rest of the testing was rather sensibly done from a B-52, where the drone could be dropped from under the wing rather than from over the fuselage.

The kit is very simple, with only a few parts to put together. And the paint job is pretty simple too. In fact, this one have been a truly short job if I hadn't spilled part of a bottle of Tenax on my workbench that caught one part of the lower wing surface. I had just been reading about a fellow modeller on 72nd Scale Aircraft who had experienced this particular disaster, so I am well and truly empathetic. Nothing to do except wait for it to cure, sand off the damaged section as thoroughly as possible, apply a coat of thick black paint, and move on.

This is completed aircraft #444 (#8 for the year), finished in February of 2016.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Platz Raytheon GBU-27 Paveway 3

Just a quick addition to the completed column today. This is the Raytheon GBU-27 Paveway 3 missile, a part of my ongoing ordnance project.

The GBU-27 is probably most noted for being dropped repeatedly from F-117s in the first Gulf War. It is laser-guided and known for packing a pretty serious punch. If you want to mount one under your Cessna 172, they run approximately $55k apiece.

The plastic came from the Platz kit of the X-47B that I recently completed. It was painted an Olive Green, and the decals came from the kit. The yellow stripes absolutely did not want to curve around the small circumference of the missile throat, and lots of setting solution only led to the decal tearing. That's why you're only seeing one view of the completed model. That and, y'know, it's a missile.

This is completed ordnance  #3 (#7 of the year), completed in February of 2016.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Heller Fieseler Fi-103R5

Today's completion has something of an odd history. Well, don't they all around this place? In 2009, I built the Bachem Ba-349 that was in a Heller two-kit boxing, along with a Fieseler Fi-103 manned V1. The Fi-103 sat around long enough that I decided to go ahead and finish it so that it would stop staring at me from the workbench. The problem was that, somewhere in the intervening years, the canopy had been devoured by the Carpet Monster. I rummaged through the spares box and found a strange little clear fragment that was quite pointy. No idea what the donor kit was. But the rear of the clear bit, once trimmed, was fairly close to the dimensions of the back wall of the Fi-103's cockpit space. And thus the Fi-103R5 was born.

This is of course a whif, since the Fi-103 series only got to an R4 version before the new owners came calling in Berlin. It is a high-speed streamlined version of the manned V1, a weird concept no matter how you look at it.

If you're looking for information on the other versions of the Fi-103, there is always the Schiffer book by David Myhra. It's not long on text, but it does outline the looks of the various manned versions, mostly by way of digital art.

This is completed aircraft #443 (#6 of the year), completed in February of 2016.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Painted prop day (Spitfire, Hurricane, XP-56, Blenheim, B-36)

Here is the promised view of the recent airbrushing session. You can see that prop tips dominate the proceedings. There are something like 8 aircraft types that were given the treatment. Unfortunately, I'm not yet sure how many will need repair and thickening of the color coat. In order to go through the airbrush, the paint had to be thinned, and although coverage wasn't awful, it is always challenging with gloss versions of light colors like Yellow and White. I'll wait until the tips are fully cured before deciding whether they need a surface coat.

I also got matte top coats on two items that are cruising into the completed column: Lockheed D-21 and Messerschmitt P-1106. Greater details as those get their day in the spotlight shortly.

Finally, I had to do a repair job on the underside of one of the Hurricanes. A bit of overspray found its way on to the lower surfaces, so I had to give it a light coat of Azure Blue to even out the colors. Some of this found its way into a wheel well, so some touchup will be required there as well. But that is the majority of painting on this model, excepting the red prop spinner, which I will likely do by this weekend.

My neck was complaining by the time I finished this work (insufficient napping, I say!) so I decided to conclude this airbrushing session at a later time. It was generally a successful bit of paint work, and you have to celebrate those when you get them. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

More construction (Blenheim, XP-56)

Just a quick update tonight on some construction progress. I didn't feel quite up to an airbrush session this evening, although that is holding up a lot of work. But I did get some bits glued together and some edges sanded down.

The items in the following photo - lots of grey plastic there - are the opening stages of the relatively new Airfix Blenheim, the Airfix ragwing Hurricane (now with canopy masks in place) and a partially constructed MPM XP-56 Black Bullet. The XP-56 has its wing leading edge intakes in resin, which did mean I had to wait for some additional superglue to come in the recent Sprue Bros box before I could finish the wings. But they fit quite well, and the wings are now ready to get stuck to the fuselage.

Both the Blenheim and Hurricane are prime examples of new Airfix. Excellent fit, lots of detail, but a bit fiddly in some of the smaller bits. I have their Do-17 waiting in queue for some workbench space. It's pretty crowded at the moment, so I will wait for some of the items that are far along to move out before bringing more in.

That's why I end up with things on the Shelf of Shame sometimes - overambitious project beginnings which lead to frustration and despair. But they usually find their way back into the work stream eventually.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Prop Day

It is prop day here at the 72Land modelling dungeon. As usual, I have a number of prop projects on the go, and it struck me that it would be wise to get some props painted so that I wouldn't have to hold up the process at the end (which is when props typically get added).

So, out came the Insignia Yellow, and props for 2 Spitfires, 3 Hurricanes, a Blenheim, an XP-56, an A-129 helicopter (just the tail rotor and not the top one, apparently), and a B-36. I also figured I might as well paint the yellow chevrons on the upper flying surfaces of the Tucano that I have pretty much completed except for decalling.

A rare box arrived here from Sprue Bros, after being sat on by the USPS for a couple of extra days. I decided to use the Surepost method of shipping in order to save a few bucks. The tracking was available on the UPS site, but it showed a target delivery date of 2-16, which turned out to be when they delivered it to USPS. USPS then sat on it for two days and finally delivered it earlier today. Now, were there life-supporting items in this shipment? No. Is two extra days a hardship in terms of receiving modelling supplies? Again, no. But I suspect I will spend the extra couple of  bucks to stay with only one shipper next time. Sprue Bros was very on the ball and gave me an additional link to the USPS tracking (I originally only had the UPS tracking number), so kudos to them for good customer service response. They are my go-to supplier for US based orders.

On a tangent to that last thought, I have been considering trying Hobby Terra for a load of A Model kits. Anyone have experience with them?

I should be able to move a few items into the completed column in the next few days, once I spray on some matte sealer coats.

Also, thanks to Ray Seppala, an Australian modeller who took pity on my lack of a nuclear option when I went begging for it on the 72nd Scale Aircraft boards. I have had a number of Academy B-29s (including one that I will probably build as an RAF Boeing Washington) but none of the Enola Gay boxing that contains mini-kits of Fat Man and Little Boy bombs. Man, be careful when you do a Google search on those two phrases; you never know what might come up in the search. I told Ray that the world would shun him for giving 72 Land a WMD. Tomorrow the world...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Catching up on construction (Tornado, Hawk, ragwing)

I've gotten a few days behind in keeping the blog updated, and there has been a fair amount of activity on the workbench. I'm hoping to get some airbrush time tomorrow, but I'll report on that later. Right now I'll catch up on recent construction.

One of the great things about actually finishing projects again is that it frees up space on the work table and allows you to consider what should be coming along next in the queue. I tend to have a number of models in process at once; I've never been one to stick with one from beginning to end in a linear stream. I inevitably get bored or run into a roadblock that requires some thought to get around (or some time to get over a high level of frustration) and it is nice to be able to work on some other kit while the first one sits idle for a while. And since my production rate has improved dramatically since the two surgeries I am starting to be able to consider which kits should move to the front of the line.

As longterm readers know, I am a big fan of new Airfix. I was really bummed reading the recent news about Hornby's financial struggles. The implication is that most of the problems were caused by Hornby management's rather bumbling efforts to redesign their distribution systems (and in the process, managing to piss off retailers, customers, and the bean-counters in equal measure). The rumor is that the Airfix brand is basically providing most of Hornby's cash flow at present, but that won't help them if the parent company tanks. It will also likely mean less money for new tooling investment, which is what has been driving Airfix's success in the last years. I can say that I've done my part, having bought a lot of their 1:72 kits lately. Blenheim, Do-17, ragwing Hurricane, Tiger Moth. Getting the Whitley and Shack are on my short list. And of course I seem to buy BAe Hawks with some frequency. Looking forward to the Victor, too, and hopefully it won't be a casualty of the corporate belt-tightening.

In this spirit, I have four Airfix kits entering the build queue. The Hawk T1 is mostly built, waiting for canopy masking and attachment before entering the paint shop. I've just started work on the Blenheim Mk 1, and the Do-17 will be joining it soon. I've got Eduard masking sets on order for the Blenheim and Do-17 (the Hawk I can manage with Tamiya tape) so there should be no slowdown when I get to that part of the process. I also have a Spit 22 that will joining in the near future.

Beyond that, I decided to put together a Hasegawa Tornado GR1. I'll be using one of their IDS kits, but luckily the ventral nose radar/sensor/whatever is including on the clear sprue no matter what the mark. I would prefer a GR4 to take advantage of the special scheme decals I have, but Freightdog seems to have run low on their GR4 conversions lately, and they are no longer available on the website. I suppose I'll have to break down one of these days and buy a dual boxing of Hasegawa GR4s. They ain't cheap though.

A bit further down the line, I'll be working on the last two Eurofighter kits I have. These are both twin-seaters, which limits the markings options. All the cool new specials are single seater fighters (as would be expected; that's by and large what is in squadron service) and the kit is the old Italeri mold in a Revell box, and my experience with them has been spotty at best. So I did some surfing about and finally decided upon two schemes: the first development aircraft that the RAF used, and a what-if Red Arrows version. Eurofighter as Red Arrow seems to have caught a lot of people's fancy, including non-modellers. I've run across them in a couple of places, and have even seen finished models in places. Airfix Tribute Forum? Britmodeller? Can't remember tbh. But sooner or later you'll be seeing them here too.

The photos below show some construction progress. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Hasegawa Martin B-26C "Thumper 2"

Next on the completion list for this week is a model that has been in process for a loooong time, and even spent some months on the Shelf of Shame. Not from any problems in construction, but (you knew this already) painting issues. A couple of years back, I was having severe problems with coverage on Alclad metal paints. It seemed that a number of bottles I got at around the same time were all carrier and no pigment, and would not adhere to the surface of the model. I still suspect a bad batch or incorrect chemical mix, and the fact that others seem to be having similar issues recently might support that. I imagine these are people who bought the same batch(es) I did, but just don't use them as quickly as I do.

In any case, the result on this model was not all Alclad's fault. Some of the trouble came from insufficient surface prep on my part. I don't like using a black primer - it seems to make the resulting NMF seem too chrome-like for my taste - and a myriad of small sanding scratches made themselves apparent. I fiddled about with it for ages before just putting the thing aside in consternation.

When I decided to reactivate my hobby status this winter, one of the goals was to get some of the stalled projects off the Shelf of Shame. Everybody makes this vow periodically, but I've gotten a couple of them moving, with plans to jumpstart a few other projects as well (Bv-222, Super Connie, Tu-16, 707). High on this list was the Hasegawa B-26. It was entirely built and had a coat of Alclad on it already, but as mentioned above it needed some work before it would be ready for decals.

I buffed the surface out some more, and reshot the Alclad Aluminum, using a new bottle that appeared to have enough pigment. The result was an improvement, though it still isn't something I would want going to a contest. But as I have said, my goal at this point is to get back in practice so that the ring rust gets knocked off. And the only way to practice is to actually build and finish something.

The decals, for "Thumper 2" of the 441 BS, 320 BG, USAF. Flown by Chris Steir in 1944. The markings were on an Iliad Decals sheet of B-26s. Looking back, I should have used one of the olive drab and neutral gray versions when I reactivated the model, but that is just hindsight.

This is completed aircraft #442 (#5 of the year), completed in January of 2016.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Super Bowl Day progress

One of the things I like to do is organize paint sessions around colors that are needed for multiple projects. A good example is the matte White gear wells, doors, and main landing gear on most modern jet fighters. I do a lot of British types, so I can usually arrange to have multiple models needing RAF Dark Green, for instance. That probably sounds a little anal, but remember you're dealing with a long-term IT Project Manager here.

The one under discussion at present is Black, always good for nightfighters, WW2 bomber undersides, and modern RAF trainers. I had been working on a Tucano in special markings (on the same sheet as some of the Eurofighters I have targeted), the D-21 drone from the SR-71 programme, and the underside of my world's largest whif project. Plus the spinners from the two early Tamiya Spitfires needed a coat as well.

Given that I am almost out of my supply of Xtracolour black, I've been working with Testors Gloss Black in the glass bottle. It shoots fairly well and dries quickly, always a good thing. Even the airbrush behaved itself, and sprayed enough color to get the job done. Things were going well enough that I got a surface coat of Middle Stone on the Eurofighter and desert Hurricane, a surface coat on the Huma P-1106, and finally, the top coat on a Fieseler F-103X (an unintentional whif, the whole sordid story of which will be coming shortly). Overall, an enjoyable daytime airbrushing session. It was even sunny outside the garage!

Today is the unofficial US holiday known as Super Bowl Day, but I have to admit I've lost interest in this contest. I seriously dislike Denver, have for years, and probably would have rooted for Carolina if Newton hadn't been such a total dick when they beat Seattle in the divisional round. At least it wasn't New England again. But chances are I'll be watching the Puppy Bowl for most of the time...

Friday, February 5, 2016

Trumpeter CHETA C-601 missile

This completion is another part of the ongoing ordnance project. It is the CHETA C-601 missile, as used by the Chinese Air Force with their Tupolev Tu-16 bombers. My example came from the Trumpeter kit of the type. Keeping track of missile derivatives of the Chinese seems to be a rather confusing task, if the entries I was able to find in an online search are any indication. It appears to be an air-launched version of a Seersucker missile and mostly connected to Tu-16s and Il-28s. But I could be corrected on that.

The missile itself was easy to assemble and painting was simple as well. I used Xtradecal red stripes, which did not adhere particularly well and needed some work with diluted white glue and gloss clear coat to make sure everything stayed where it was supposed to be. I just used some Luftwaffe red lettering to duplicate the C-601 on the side of the body.

As with the AS-6, I built a little support stand to hold the missile up in the display case. All in all, a fairly quick and easy job.

This is completed ordnance #2 (#4 of the year), completed in January of 2016.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Platz Northrop/Grumman X-47B

The first completion that I'll be posting this week is one that I'm rather happy with, which wasn't the case with the desert snake Ju-87. This is the Platz X-47B carrier drone. I've got a nice little collection of completed drones going, having already finished the RQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, and RQ-4 Global Hawk. They're fun little distractions - no canopies to mask, generally only one color to spray, and there are a number of models out there to choose from. I'd probably have more in my stash, but so many of them are from Unicraft, and... well. I do plan on picking up an RQ-7 from Attack Squadron the next time I buy from Hannants. I know the thing is tiny, but it is part of the series and only about $10. It is also 3D printed, and I'd like to see the quality of that process for myself.

But back to the X-47B. Platz released this kit a few years back, and it really is a well molded little wonder. Nice detail, excellent fit, smart engineering. About the only complex part of the process is painting and then masking the intake, since the demarcation line is somewhat inside the body of the intake. I would probably have been better off masking it prior to assembly, but if you go that route make sure you don't trap the mask between the pieces when you do finally assemble it. I decided to have the bomb bay doors closed, and the fit there was exquisite. No filler, and you can barely tell that there is anything there other than a panel line. That did require removal of the braces that attach the (open) door to the fuselage, but that is only tedious, not difficult. I bought the GBU-27 version of the kit, and one of those missiles will soon be part of my ongoing ordnance project.

I would say that the biggest hurdle to a world speed record  for completion of this model lies in the decalling step. There are a lot of decals. All those walkways and stencils? They are individual pieces, and will punish the unwary if you allow them to curl or get out of place. Still, it makes for a nice busy surface on the finished product. The decals themselves are very nice, though the larger markings on curved surfaces did require a setting solution. I managed to overlook the reference on the sheet to the strip of manufacturers logos, etc and finally resorted to an online search on Northrop/Grumman's website. I discovered they were on the nose gear doors, and as soon as I looked back onto the instruction site... there they were all along. <Sigh>.

If you are looking for a simple mojo-restoring project, you could do a lot worse than the Platz X-47B. It is definitely a unique shape for your display cabinet. I'm tempted to start work on the Testors B-2 if only to display them next to each other. But I've been hoping that someone would grant us a better kit for that type.

This is completed aircraft #441 (#3 of the year), completed in January of 2016.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

More airbrushing questions

My airbrush saga just gets curiouser and curiouser. Monday night I decided my left arm was doing well enough that I could tolerate a short round of airbrushing. The arm did fine, but I'm not sure my blood pressure was within proper limits the whole time.

Same old problems; the brush would not push paint through in sufficient quantities. Pure thinner seemed to go through well enough, but add some paint and things just stopped. If I thinned it to the point that it would move through the airbrush, then it was too thin to add any tint whatsoever to the target model.

Out of desperation, I found a workaround, but it is the sort that just emphasizes the problems you are having. If I loosen the needle chucking nut and manually pull the needle back a tad, paint comes out in a strong stream. It works well enough when you are painting large areas, but as you can imagine, you have to be extremely careful not to apply the paint too thickly or allow it to pool or run. And this technique wouldn't work if the task at hand was fine Luftwaffe mottling. But it does seem to get the paint on to the model more efficiently. This paragraph probably contains the root cause of my issues, but I am just not enough of an airbrush engineer to know what is going on. I'm like that with cars too: if it runs, great. If it's broke, find someone to fix it.

But I did get a definite color coat of Middle Stone on one of the Eurofighters and the desert Hurricane. And I got sufficient matte sealer coats on three completions, which will be debuting here over the next few days.

Next up in terms of paint is the surface coat of the Middle Stone. My definition of that is a relatively well thinned coat meant to restore the surface level after a bit of fine-grade sandpaper buffing. It's an extra step that can be eliminated if you get a nice smooth gloss first coat, but that doesn't seem to be where I'm at right now. Plus I have lower surfaces on a whif Messerschmitt P-1106 and uppers on a Fi-103X that need the same sort of treatment.