Aerospatiale AS350 Ecureuil in 1/72 by Mach 2 – another one bites the dust

I had hoped that M. Palix, our beloved French artisan who makes Mach 2 kits, had improved his work over time. It is true that some of his most recent creations have looked a little better than some of his earlier ones, but I was disappointed with his recent kit of the Aerospatiale Écureuil because what looks to be promising in the box turns out to be a honey trap, if one can use such a term in modelling. It looks enticing and promises so much, but at the end of the day it’s nothing but trouble, with a capital T. It now resides in my rubbish bin.

The trouble is, I quite like the look of the Écureuil, it is an elegant little helicopter. It is also popular with people who buy and fly real helicopters so there are plenty of them around and I had planned to make an Australian one painted in a nice yellow scheme. Consequently, I put a lot of effort into making this kit work and every time it disappointed me with its most recent failure to live up to even minimal modeling standards, I resolved the problem and hoped things would be better in the future.

M. Palix is moving with the times in one way, his kit offers a lot of optional extras so that you can make a few different versions with the parts in this kit. Of course, his post-modern instruction sheet leaves one more mystified than enlightened about which parts go with a particular version and those which should be discarded, but this is an issue that a few glasses of vin rouge would probably resolve.

Ecureuril b

Ecureuril c

So, with a heart filled with hope, I set off on this project. All the bits and pieces necessary for a reasonable cabin interior are there, in their usual lumpy and half formed fashion. (I sometimes wonder if M Palix runs any quality control over his product to make sure what he’s putting in the box is up to scratch. If so he has different standards to mine, he does his quality control after a long liquid lunch or what he discards is even worse than what he keeps.) But this is what one has to learn to live with when making Mach 2 kits, so we grit our teeth and continue on.

Having achieved a reasonable looking cabin with what we find in the box, we then discover that finding where to put the floor and the rear bulkhead are a matter of sheer guesswork because there is nothing in the kit to indicate where they should go. Fortunately there are plenty of photos of Écureuil interiors to be found on the interweb, so this is not an insurmountable problem. Of course, a lot more work is then necessary to make sure that the two cockpit halves go together with the cabin in place, but we know that the end result will be beautiful, so we battle on and console ourselves that the gap between the halves won’t be too hard to fill and sand.

The cabin windows are not too bad, by Mach 2 standards. They are thick with plenty of flash and need a lot of cleaning up. Any blemishes in the molding are taken care of with a thorough sanding and polishing of the window interiors before gluing them in place. I considered crash molding new windows but that was going to be difficult with the cabin interior in place, and not something that I’ve had much success with, so I soldiered on using what was in the box. Having achieved something that you might actually be able to see the cabin interior through, it was time to glue everything in place. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the fit of pieces was less than ideal. Still, there isn’t a gap in modeling that can’t be filled one way of another, though the challenge in this case was to do the filling without making a total mess of the cabin interior in the process. Oh well, another challenge to overcome, which I eventually did.

Ecureuril d

 

Next came the process of masking the extensive windows. There were two problems with this step. The first was that some of the window outline detail had disappeared in the process of merging the fuselage and the transparent parts and second was the not surprising discovery that, using the kit as a guide, the windows on one side were not quite the same as those on the other side. The additional problem was that the window framing was far too thick for the scale and something would have to be done about that.

After mulling this one over for a couple of weeks I came to the conclusion that I would have to make my own window masks and then sand back and polish the transparencies. Using the window outlines as a guide I traced the shapes from one side onto some paper masking tape, scanned that, flipped the image over to give me the same outline for both sides and then printed the resulting images onto some more masking tape. I would have helped had I better vision and a steadier hand, but I figured a way to resolve that problem too when I got to it.

Ecureuril e

I have to admit that I was feeling rather pleased with myself at this stage; having met and overcome so many obstacles and with the image of a beautiful little yellow model helicopter still fixed in my imagination. More work went into resolving other problems with the fit and shape of the fuselage, but eventually they too were all overcome. Then it was time to dive into the box of diverse parts to see what I needed and begin the work of turning the vague suggestions of shapes into pieces that might go at least some way to looking like the real thing. The exhaust is an example. It took some time to divine which parts on the sprue might have an exhaust nozzle hiding in them and then liberating that shape from those parts. I could go on …

Eventually I was ready to tackle the rest of the larger parts. I put aside the rotor blades and hub parts for later, shuddering at the work they would require, and turned my attention to the landing gear. The kit offers two versions, one with long legs and also the standard shorter ones. It only took a couple of hours to make the shorter legs look something like landing gear. Then came the problem of refining their location on the fuselage, which is only generally suggested by the kit parts and the instruction sheet.

At this point my heart sank yet again. There was no way that I could make the landing gear and fuselage go together in any way that resembled the look of the real thing. No matter how I fiddled with the parts and test fitted them, the result was always something that sat tail down.

Having got this far I decided that I’d have to live with this compromise. (If I didn’t mention it nobody else would notice.) So I glued the undercarriage legs in place and then the final horror hit me, they were not the same shape. They are curved more on one side than the other so that on the port side the skid stands out from the fuselage and on the right it is under the fuselage.

Ecureuril f

Ecureuril g

As I contemplated this disaster I was reminded that it was time to go and watch the spectacle of men on bicycles riding through the French countryside, an annual visual feast that I always enjoy. But while I sat there watching, mental images of brass rod and soldering, bending plastic rod or resin casting replacement parts floated through my mind. Such a solution would be difficult, but not impossible to achieve. It would also resolve the problem of the way the model sat, push me out of my comfort zone and take a lot more time…

I gazed at the tv while considering the options. A lot of the vision is shot from helicopters, modern two engined versions of the Eceureuil that I was trying to replicate. ‘What beautiful machines,’ I thought as I watches them fly around the sky over the bike racers and thought about the little monster waiting for my in my room. I could conceive of no way in which I could make it look as good as the real thing. Maybe the best thing would be to put it out of my misery and move on to something easier – after all I have hundreds of kits in my garage all waiting to be made. Still, the Écureuil is such a beautiful little aircraft and I would love to have a model of one.

Ecureuril h

Still unresolved about what to do, I decided to see how my masking attempt had gone. The resulting bleed through was not as bad as I had expected but worse than I had hoped, and easily fixed with a day’s work with some very careful sanding and polishing and another bout of careful masking. But it was the final straw. The nice, clean and simple Matchbox kit of the Aerospatiale Dauphin 2 was sitting on a nearby shelf, it’s siren song calling to me. I heaved the bastard little Écureuil model into the bin with great relief, and reached out for the new kit.

(August 2018)

Aerospatiale SA316 & SA319 Alouette III in 1/72 by Heller

I ended up with two kits of the Heller 1/72 Aerospatiale Alouette III, one the original boxing from 1980 and the other the 1989 boxing with lots of additional bits and pieces to make one with a winch and other civil additions. I never intended to have two kits of this particular aircraft but you know how it is, being French aircraft I probably saw them at Swap n Sells where one tends to get a little excited. I do anyhow.

Alouette b

Alouette c

Originally I thought I’d just make one of them and pass the other on to some lucky modeler, for a small consideration. However, a little research showed me that the kit contains options for two versions, the kind of thing Heller was doing in the 1980s when it was making some excellent kits. The Alouette III comes in two versions, the SA.316 and the SA.319 in which the only significant difference is the engine. Since, however, the engine of these helicopters is located on the back of the airframe right out in the open, it is a visible difference, so I decided to throw caution to the wind and make both kits.

Alouette a

It also turned out that I had acquired decals for the three Alouette IIIs that had flown for the RAAF in a simple white scheme. I had hoped to make one of the Alouettes as a lovely deep blue Aeronavale model but since the RAAF versions were SA.316s and since I could find no decals for an Aeronavale SA.319 I was forced to make the SA.319 as one flown by the Armee de l’Air in a dull khaki scheme. Things could have been worse, I suppose. Since one kit was made in blue plastic and the other in red I amused myself by mixing them up so that, underneath all the paint, both models exist in the colours of the Melbourne Football Club. Doing this turned out to be a tactical mistake because it confused me about how some of the details in the kit worked as the kits were not identical. However, in the end things worked out okay.

The real difficulty with this kit is the cabin canopy which comes in three parts. When I test filled them they went together perfectly but when it came time to get serious they didn’t. I have no idea why, perhaps the modeling gods did not approve of my mixing kit parts for the mere fun of doing so. There are, as we all know, several ways of gluing transparent canopies together and to models. Using real glues such as polystyrene dissolving glue or superglue are not a good idea as their fumes attack the plastic and the result is hazing on the inside of the canopy. Some folks say they use white glue, some of us use GS Hypo-Cement which is a jewelers glue and I bought a bottle of something called ‘Formula 560′ the last time I was in Hearn’s. I don’t know about the white glue but the other two that I have used work very well … so long as there are no problems. But since there were problems, both of these glues gave me problems. The trouble is that while they can fill gaps very nicely, that only works if there are small gaps, and on anything larger it turns out that when they dry they are still a little flexible, which makes them very difficult to shape and sand. This led to some soul destroying moments that only modelers whose model has been prefect up to that point can know and the insides of the canopies are not the perfection I would have liked. If it were not for the fogging problems with superglue the fit problem could be fixed in a jiffy. Any suggestions?

Alouette d

Apart from this, both kits went together with few problems. Looking at photos of these two helicopters I noticed that there are exterior steps that the kit doesn’t supply, so obvious that not even I could ignore them. I checked to see if there were any etched metal sets for Alouettes and since there aren’t I had to make them myself. Because of their tiny size, my less than perfect eyesight and big fat fingers the steps are only an approximation of the real thing, but necessary. In the process of trying to make the canopies look good all the raised panel lines disappeared so I had to mask them again, using the canopy on one to give the measurements for the other. That turned out rather well and I think I’ll probably do it again because it looks a lot better than the hugely over scale results if the raised panels remain.

Apart from that, the real challenge for me, as a person who has no great love for things like weathering, was to make the engines mounted so prominently look good. I think I used five or six different shades of metallic paint on the engine on the SA.316 to make it look reasonable before running a couple of light washes over it.

In the end. I’ve made much better models but the Alouette is still one of the nicest looking helicopters so I’m happy with these two models, if I look at them with my eyes closed.

Alouette f

Alouette e

(April 2018)

Beech UC-43 in 1/144 by Anigrand

Some people become stupid when the get old and senile, others were born that way and others again attribute the condition to strong drink. I don’t know which of these you would attribute my current state of stupidity to, but I admit to having had an attack of it.

Anigrand resin kits are a bit like Mach 2 kits, only worse. We can attribute all the faults and difficulties confronting the maker of a Mach 2 kit to a kind of Frankish bravado or perhaps post-modern over intellectualization of the kit making process for, while most modelers these days expect Germanic precision in their kits and complain bitterly about the slightest seam line or gap, M Palix expects those who make his model kits to do some of the work too so that the finished model if a collaboration between kit maker and modeler. Either that, or M Palix is partial to a little too much vin rouge with his lunch.

In comparison to this understandable deviation from contemporary kit making practice in rural France, one can only wonder what is going on in Hong Kong that Anigrand kits are the way they are. Perhaps it is some fiendish Chinese plot for world domination by exporting model kits to the world that drive those trying to make them bonkers.

The evil mind behind Anigrand makes his model kits tempting by offering kits of aeroplanes that are otherwise unavailable, and adds to that by providing three ‘bouns’ kits with the main kit in the box. As far as I can tell (from experience) the only real bonus to be had from these additional kits is that they will drive you nuts even quicker than if there was only one kit in the box.

Of course, there is no rule saying that one has to actually make these tiny little bonus kits, but one has paid good money for them and they are tempting because there are no other offerings of these kits in 1/144. My excuse is that I treat these little kits as exercises in various modeling techniques. What they really are is exercises in futility and madness.

UC-43e

Take, for example, the tiny little kit of the Beech Staggerwing which comes in the box that offers to give you an early model Boeing B-17. This B-17 B, C of D is irresistible because modifying one from a standard B-17G kit in this scale is all but impossible. That fact that the Anigrand kit is almost impossible to make well anyhow is not something that need detain us here.

The components for the Staggerwing are in the lower left hand part of the picture, there’s not many of them which also adds to the temptation to not throw the lot in the bin because one thinks, in a moment of folly, ‘How hard can this be?’

One is lured further into a false sense of security because the fuselage and the lower wing fit together without a hint of trouble or need for filler. A test fit of the top wing, always a problem with biplanes, shows that it too fits snugly and so one is lured on into the web is insanity that lies ahead.

These days Anigrand offer clear resin parts rather than the old vacformed parts they once offered. This too is an inducement into folly because it seems so simple, but when one discovers that the resin is warped and leaves large gaps under the top wings, it is time to pack it in. Not I, though. I decided to fill the gaping gaps with some clear resin – which did not go as well as I had hoped.

Moving on from that because, I say to myself, it will be hidden under the top wing, we put that on and decide to have a look at some pictures of real Staggerwings just to make sure things are going along alright. To our horror, we discover that they are not. I can only think that the reason the kit provided one with a square rear fuselage while the real aeroplane has a delightfully rounded rear fuselage, is some kind of observational or intelligence test. It has to have been done deliberately, nobody could make that kind of error by mistake.

UC-43d

Here is what a real Staggerwing looks like and here is what the Anigrand kit offers instead. What do you think is going on here, and I wonder how many little models are out there in the world looking so wrong? Will the thought police come around one day to check on who passed the test and who didn’t?

The resin is very thick in the rear fuselage so it was only a few minutes work to rasp away at the offending square edges – taking care to avoid breathing in all the resin dust floating in the air, of course. The result didn’t look too bad, so I pressed on. At this stage I was thinking of making the kit as a Beech GB-1, the US Navy version of the Staggerwing, but there were already too many problems with the kit that a bright metal finish would have shown up that I decided the only viable option was the dull drab olive of the USAAF UC-43. That would tend to camouflage the multitude of problems with the kit, and besides, that was what the kit decals offered.

UC-43a

Pushing on, against all the odds, it was time to attach the undercarriage. At this point I discovered what must be the second deliberate mistake with this kit. The kit offers undercarriage that it attached to the rear spar rather than the front one, by the stabilizing arms rather than the load bearing legs that should be attached to the front spar just behind the leading edge. There is no sign of either the undercarriage legs in the kit and the doors are missing the covers for the legs. This mistake must have been deliberate, I hope that the evil kit maker in Hong Kong got a chuckle out of giving modellers like me this headache to resolve.

UC-43b

The simple thing would have been to toss the little monster into the bin at this stage but, ‘In for a penny, in for a pound’, as they say and, besides, I’d already squandered so much time on this kit that the trouble of carving openings for the front spar undercarriage legs seemed little in comparison to what I’d already gone through, or the modification of the kit undercarriage to make it all look half presentable. Which was not easy for such a small scale kit.

In the end, the little monster was completed, and here is what it looks like.

UC-43c

(March 2018)

Douglas DC-1 in 1/144 CMR conversion

In 1933 the Boeing 247 revolutionized air transport. It is said to be the first modern airliner and it demonstrated what the future of air transport could be like. It immediately drew the attention of America’s airliners who wanted them, but the production of 247 was reserved for United Airlines, which was part of the same company that owned Boeing. Needing something similar TWA approached the Douglas Aircraft Company to design an airliner that would allow it to compete with the 247. Douglas was not keen but in the end gave in to persuasion and invested $350,000 in developing the Douglas Commercial in direct competition to the Boeing 247. The first Douglas Commercial 1, the DC-1, made its first flight in July 1933 and it’s performance was so good that TWA ordered twenty more of them. For the production model Douglas made several modifications, the major one being addition of two seats to bring the passenger capacity up to 14, and renamed this version the DC-2; which began the revolution in air transport that the larger DC-3 continued.

There was only one DC-1, it made its maiden flight on I July 1933, entered service with TWA in September that year and was later sold to a Lord in Britain before being sold on to an airline in Spain where it was damaged beyond repair in 1940.

DC-1a

In my research into the DC-2 I realized that it would not be too difficult to convert a DC-2 kit into a DC-1. The major part of the exercise would be to remove a row of seats from the fuselage and to make some minor modifications to the engines. The main challenges would really be in finding decals for this new model. As it turned out, one version of the CMR 1/144 DC-2 kit included decals for a TWA DC-2 which looked as though they might by appropriate for the TWA DC-1 as well. It turned out that there were no kits of the CMR TWA DC-2 kit available anywhere (not even on ebay) but I mentioned this on the Airliners and Civil Aircraft forum and one of the members said that he had the kit with those decals and kindly offered to give them to me. The project was on!

Converting the DC-2 kit into a DC-1 was not terribly difficult. I did the calculations (always a risky business given my lack of arithmetic skills) and eventually found that if I removed a slice of fuselage from the leading edge of one window to the next everything would come out alright, just doing the opposite to what Douglas had done in adding two seats to turn the DC-1 into the DC-2. So that the one piece lower wing would fit into the shortened fuselage some major surgery was required to the lower fuselage, which was preferable to messing around with the wings themselves. By my calculation, the wings should be set back a millimeter or two to be completely accurate, but that would have entailed some life threatening surgery on the kit so I decided to pretend I never knew of that little challenge.

DC-1b

DC-1g

DC-1d

The job was achieved with lots of hacking away at defenseless resin and then the application of more than several coats of filler before everything looked smooth and whole enough to proceed with painting. For some reason – the hot and humid weather I suspect – the first attempt to achieve a decent polished aluminum finish failed miserably and I had to strip the whole thing back and try again, this time with more success. The nice shiny finish was achieved by scrupulously smoothing the surface of the model for any imperfections and then painting it all over with the Tamiya Black and then TS-83, which gives that nice polished looking finish. The decals came partly from friendly Graeme in far north Queensland and the rest from my trusty computer printer. The major registration on the upper starboard wing went hideously wrong and so badly effected the wing surface so I had to be stripped off again, which did not end entirely happily. Something also went wrong with a little blemish on the top of the fuselage which my attempts to put right only made worse. Then there was the problem with the broken propeller blade that was eaten by the carpet monster which I finally resolved by raiding a rather nasty DC-3 kit in which the propellers were about the only useful parts. It wasn’t the perfect solution but by they I was getting exasperated by the entire process. I decided to finish the model as best I could even with its various problems and hope nobody noticed.

DC-1e

When I declared it finished I took it out for some photos, it doesn’t look too bad. Then I thought it might be interesting to compare the DC-1 to its children, the DC-2 and the DC-3. Now I can feel some more Douglas airliners coming on to make a complete set of them. Arrrrgh!

DC-1f

DC-1h

(February 2018)

 

Fokker 70 in 1/144 Revell conversion

Earlier this year I completed 1/144 scale models of some Fokker jet airliners, F-28s and Revell kits of the Fokker 100. At the end of that item I mentioned the shorter version of the Fokker 100, the Fokker 70, and that Alliance Airlines seemed to be the only airline in Australia flying it. I then mused on whether or not I’d be able to make a model of that airliner since I would need another Fokker 100 kit to convert and some Alliance decals for it. You might say that since then my fortunes have changed and I’ve now made a model of the Alliance Fokker 70.

This project became possible while I was perusing Ric Warcup’s list of the decals he has made and noticed that he has decals for the Alliance Fokker 100. I sent him a message saying that I’d like a set to use in making an Alliance Fokker 70 and he obliged, throwing in registrations for an Alliance Fokker 70 as a bonus.

Making a Fokker 70 out of a Fokker 100 should be simplicity itself, just remove plugs from the fuselage fore and aft of the wings. If you are fussy you might also source slightly different engines to replace the kit engines, though only a purist would notice the difference. You know me however, if there is an easy or a difficult way to do something I will find the more challenging way.

I blame all the following problems on the fact that I had bought the Welsh Models conversion kit for the Fokker 70 and that set me on the wrong path. Looking at the Welsh Models fuselage halves it soon became evident that this kit was designed to convert the Welsh Models Fokker 100 kit, not the Revell one. The simple solution was to simply use the length of the Welsh Models fuselage halves to show me where to make the cuts to reduce the length of the Revell kit, which is a fairly routine process. Some people recommend making the cuts for the fuselage plugs on the fuselage halves before gluing them together and then gluing the resulting parts together, but my experience has been to glue the fuselage halves together and, when they have set, mark where the cuts are to be made with masking tape and then make the cuts. If I am patient and work slowly the resulting cuts are nice, clean and square, if I rush the result is otherwise.
Working slowly and patiently the necessary cuts were made and the resulting fuselage sections went together nicely. Put alongside the Welsh Models fuselage halves the result was exactly as it should have been. Then I did what I should have done at the beginning, which is to count windows.

Fokker 70 a

Fokker 70 b

Fokker 70 c

We modellers should always be guided by the evidence of what the item we are modelling looks like, and so it is with airliners. Many versions of airliners are defined by their length with means the number of passengers they carry and the number of windows they have. For the Fokker 70 I found some good photo of Alliance Fokker 70s and counted the number of windows on each side (they are often not the same). For this airliners the count is six windows behind the over-wing escape window and fifteen in front. I then scanned the Ric Warcup decal sheet for the Alliance Fokker 100, did a bit of editing and produced an image of what the windows on the Alliance Fokker 70 should be. Then I printed that out and held it against my model. Quelle Horreur!! The model fuselage halves seemed about a centimeter longer than they should be if the decals were to look accurate. (I’ve since discovered that a slightly wider gap between the windows on the decals for the Welsh Models conversion kit mean that they fit very nicely on that kit, but using them would have been difficult because the airline livery was printed on the same decal as the windows.)

Fokker 70 d

Approaching the problem scientifically with a ruler and calculator I found that the Welsh Models Fokker 70 – and therefore my model – is a bit over scale and therefore needed more cut out of it to make an airliner to the right scale length. I measured the additional cuts and started to make them, which were this time neither slow or careful, but when I came to the necessary cut for the forward fuselage I found myself trying to cut through the lead weight I’d put there to keep the nose on the ground. Annoyed and frustrated I hurled the lot in the rubbish bin. Fade to black.

Some time later I found another Revell kit of the Fokker 100 on ebay, and in Australia too so the postage would not be outrageous. When it came time to mark and make the cuts this time I measured carefully using nothing more accurate than the number of windows in the kit, six after the escape window over the wing and fifteen before, which is not quite so simple because the Fokker 100 has two escape windows and the Fokker 70 has one, so that was another problem to resolve.

Fokker 70 e

Fokker 70 f

Fokker 70 g

This time I was not so patient or careful in making the cuts so the joints of the remaining fuselage sections was not so easy to line up, but with a lot of jiggling I finally got the nose and the wing sections lined up perfectly. Only then did I notice, Quelle Horreur!, that I’d glued the center section on to the nose the wrong way around. I’ve never seen a Fokker 70 with forward swept wings and I don’t suppose you have either.

Everything went back in the box while I regained my equilibrium and I was ready to approach the problem a few days later, razor saw in hand. It is easy enough to butt join the nose and center sections together because they have the same cross section, but cutting in the same place twice did not result in a nice smooth joint, so there was plenty of filling and sanding before the end result looked reasonable. The cross sections between the center and the tail section have little in common so I used some quick setting epoxy putty to make a plug to hold the two parts together, give the joint strength and back up the part of the bottom central section that was sanded away in merging the two parts. The end result worked out better than I had hoped.

I’d saved the resin engines from the Welsh Models conversion kit and they took to the modified Revell kit much better than I expected. There are, however, two problems with the Revell kit that really annoy me. One is that the flap tracks at the rear of the wings are moulded as separate items and the very slight indications of where they should go disappear in the slight cleaning up that is required to make the wings look presentable. You have to get them in exactly the right position because there are indentations in the wing walk lines where the flap tracks go, and if you don’t get that right the tracks and the decals don’t line up when you try to apply the decals. This has annoyed me with previous Fokker 100 models but I had a brain wave here which did not quite work as I had hoped. The walk lines on the Ric Warcup decals are for the Fokker 100 and those for the Welsh Models Fokker 70 are therefore more appropriate – remember that the Fokker 70 has only one over-wing escape window. So I scanned the Welsh Models decals, printed them on paper and carefully cut them out to use as a template when attaching the flap tracks. This worked out okay for the flap tracks but I used some SMS Extra Thin Cement to glue them in place and, of course, it also ran under the paper templates, gluing them to the wings as well. Quelle Horreur encore!

Fokker 70 h

The thing that I really don’t like about this Revell kit is the undercarriage. While it might be to scale it is also extremely fragile. Knowing this I took as many precautions as I could and only attached them when I could delay doing so no longer. Even so, the nose wheel and one of the main wheels broke off. I replaced the nose leg with something more sturdy that is not to scale, but you’re not going to notice it, and I still had the undercarriage parts from the earlier Fokker 100 I’d thrown in the bin. But if I were to make another Fokker 100 (or 70) which I’m not planning to do, I’d try to find some replacement metal undercarriage legs for it.

Which brings us to the final stage of applying the decals. Ric Warcup produces some very nice decal sets, often of unusual or neglected types, so they are worth looking at and I have no troubles in using them. In fact, in most cases I would recommend them. On this sheet he offers a full tail decal of blue with the yellow stripe and, in addition, just the separate yellow stripe. I’ve had a lot of trouble with full tail decals that don’t fit properly so I decided to paint the tail blue and then apply the yellow stripe. When I did that, Quelle Horreur!!, the yellow simply disappeared into the blue, leaving it a slightly different shade of green that you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know to look for it.
To resolve that problem it was an exercise of masking and airbrushing the yellow strip (thankfully the Alliance logo is simple) and finally the whole nightmare was over. The model actually looks quite nice, which is more than you can say for the process of getting there.

Fokker 70 i

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to Peter of Hawkeye Models, purveyor of fine decal sets, who tells me that demand from overseas for his Australian decal sets has kept him busy during this COVID inspired stay-at-home. He also tells me that he is almost ready to release sets of decals for various Fokker 100s including, Flight West, Qantas and Alliance. After my experience with the Ric Warcup decals this time I’d advise people to wait for the Hawkeye decal sets when they arrive, which may overcome the tail problem. And if you’re going to make these Revell kits again I’d do a better job with the flap tracks than I did and ,do yourself a serious favour, get some after-market metal undercarriage legs for them. Apart from that, it’s all fun, so they tell me.

Models for June 2020

Let’s begin with something in 1/72. This is the Kora model of the Dewoitine 53. I seem to be having a slight obsession with Dewoitine these days, and this is the latest product of this fixation. The Dewoitine 53 was not a particular success and only a few were made before moving on to more advanced fighters. This model is an reminder that one should always do some research and read the instructions fully, even if you think you know what you are doing. Only when I had finished the model did I find that the Armee de l’Air only took delivery of one of these aeroplanes and did not accept it into service. Consequently the scheme offered with the kit that I decided to use – because it was more colorful – is what they call a ‘what if scheme’. As a result I am not really happy with this model but I’m not going to repaint it, that would be too challenging.

202006 a

202006 b

F-RSIN make some beautiful little resin airliner models and this is one of them. The deHavilland DH-91 was a late pre-war design and only flew in service for Imperial Airways for a year before the Second World War over took it. Only seven were made and five of those were either destroyed by enemy action or in accidents. When it was discovered that the final accident was caused by failure of the wooden construction the other two were grounded and scrapped. A pity. This is a simple little kit but has to be put together carefully. It also lacks any of the exhaust pipes the original aeroplane had so I had to scratch build them. I experimented with AK Xtreme Metal’s paint for this one and was only later reminded that it is an enamel and not as tough as a lacquer paint. As a result it suffered from handling during applying the decals, though you can’t really see the damage in these photos.

202006 c

202006 d

This little Fokker 70 was made by cutting plugs out of a Revell kit of the Fokker 100 to reduce it to the appropriate length. It was a trial by ordeal that I’ve written about separately. The decals come from Ric Warcup and, although they are designed for the Revell Fokker 100, are mostly useable for the Fokker 70.

202006 e

202006 f

 

 

Here are two models of Airbus’s A.321, a stretched version of the Airbus A.320, made from thr Revell kit. Somehow, in my scrounging around at Swap and Sells I ended up with two A.321’s when one would have been sufficient for my purposes. The decals for both these models are from F-DCLS, the same people who produce the F-RSIN kits, and they are very high quality that I would recommend to anyone. The only warning is that I always apply a light coat of gloss clear varnish over all the decals I use and on this occasion it effected the red which blurred a little. Not the other colours, but this could be a problem in using these decals, so proceed carefully.

202006 g

202006 h

202006 i

202006 j

Finally, another Revell 1/144 Airbus A.320, this time in the early livery flown by Air New Zealand before they moved over to the newer black and white schemes. The decals are from Oldmodels, a New Zealand company.

202006 k

202006 l

Since I usually finish with something I made earlier, here it is.

This is a Revell 1/144 Airbus A.330-300 kit converted to an A.330-200 by removing fuselage plugs before and after the wings, much as I did for the Fokker 70 this time. I made this model in 2003 which was about when I began trying to make models of airliners. I had a few things to learn here; the first one is that white enamel paint yellows over time, which is why I now use lacquers which don’t appear to suffer from this problem. For some reason I don’t understand the white on this model is matt rather than gloss, perhaps I only had matt paint on hand at the time or perhaps something has happened to the paint between then and now. With this one I also filled the windows with white glue to simulate the appearance of windows, which I don’t really think works in 1/144. There are several other problems of technique that I have, hopefully, improved over time. When I’ve finished making all the A.320s I’m currently planning I’ll move on to some more A.330s which will, I hope, be an improvement on this one. I will keep this one as it is, however, as a reminder that even my model making improves over time, a little at least.

202006 m

202006 n

Dickson Oh makes and paints a Hobby Boss 1/72 FM-1

Let me introduce Dickson Oh, a good modelling friend who is at the other end of the modelling spectrum from me.  I knock them out while Dickson makes little works of art.  Hopefully Dickson will allow me to show more of his work here in the future but in the meantime, here he is with a recently completed project.

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HobbyBoss
1/72 FM-1 “Wildcat”

The Kit
Very simply engineered, with less than 10 parts required to complete construction. As a result, there is an expected lack of detail, especially within the cockpit and in the some of the exterior panel lines.

Layout
Being a figure painter, there was no way I could justify spending the money or effort painting a 1/72 scale pilot for a kit of this quality. Even more so given the lack of detail in the cockpit. There was only one option – depicting it in its final throes, abandoned by its own pilot.

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Construction
The main body comes in two parts. Huge gaps where they go together, requiring filling with epoxy putty followed by re-scribing of panel lines over the belly of the fuselage. Otherwise straightforward with the bulk of your time spent correcting the former imperfections. I added some bullet holes on the fuselage where the fire was to lay, with some minor thinning of the hole’s edges with a Dremel tool. Some seatbelts needed to be made and I stumbled onto a useful video on youtube, modifying this modeller’s approach to suit my needs. See link below:

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Painting
SMS paints used after priming, with Light Gull Grey followed by Dark Sea Grey after masking the areas off with SMS masking putty. The putty was easy to use but should be painted over as soon as possible to prevent sagging and loss of contours. The paints were lightened with Radome to highlight panels after the base coats were applied. About 2-3 coats, each with a subsequently higher concentration of Radome (i.e. subsequent coats lighter than the last).

Details were then painted in with a variety of acrylic paints (Vallejo mostly), including impressions of meters and cockpit details, followed by chipping with an acrylic metallic paint, with heavier applications on areas of higher human traffic. Final touches were then applied with a general raw umber oil wash (light), pinpoint washing with black oil paints, followed by rendering with various hues of blue and yellow oils to vary the tone of the greys in random panels, breaking up the monotony of the base colours. These planes saw heavy use after all, and I sought to introduce as much variation in colour within a small area to elicit interest in an otherwise boring subject. Exhaust streaks and the like were also applied at this stage.

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The canopies were of course masked and treated as per the body. Once the masks came off, a mist of Tamiya buff was sprayed over the clear parts followed by a rough clean up with thinner on a Q-tip to complete weathering.

The seatbelts were then constructed, mostly from thin graphic tape and copper wire, looped around a thing Evergreen styrene strip then cut and superglued together to form the buckles. Graphic tape was then threaded through these buckles and secured in place with a single pin (copper wire once again) before further gluing and trimming. The graphic tape was tough enough to hold a shape of “blowing in the breeze” to achieve display purposes. These were then primed and painted by brush.

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Finally, once all the elements were put together, a tuft of cotton wool was manipulated into shape, then airbrushed with red, increasing amounts of yellow towards the centre of the fire, then finally black around the periphery and in some random spots over the fire’s centre. It was attached with thin strips of double-sided tape, further manipulated to achieve the final look, then secured on it’s loosest edges with white PVA glue. Care with amount of glue used is critical to prevent bunching or clumping of the cotton wool.

Overall impressions
As the first aircraft model I have constructed in the last 15 years, this was a fun re-entry into this field. I think with the right finish, even a kit of this dubious quality can present some fun. More so arm one with the confidence to experiment with various modelling techniques you would otherwise refrain from executing on a good kit you’ve been dying to build. This was a shit kit but I levelled up. Conclusion: win.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKeep growing in the hobby and stay safe, everyone.
And FFS, be excellent to each other!

So Much Effort, So Little Result

Some modellers make one masterpiece at a time, lavishing infinite skill and patience over every tiny detail and finishing their creations with the skill of master craftsmen. Then they spend as much time again giving it the patina that turns their model from a simple plastic scale model to a likeness of the real thing bearing the marks of time and use bestow on things. Some of them then go on to locate their creations in a base that tells a story about a moment in time which creates a relationship between the people it to a location where it was used. The result can be a work of great artistry and beauty.

I am not one of those modellers. I like sticking pieces of plastic (or resin or metal) together and applying paint to the result to make it look something similar to how the original item looked. I might have the skill and patience of master modellers but exercising it does not interest me. When those modellers go to a competition they are inspired to make even better models, I am inspired to make more models. This sets me counter to current trends in modelling which emphasize the finished item as a work of art, is a trend that I am quite happy to look at but not to follow.

Many modellers, I suspect, have two or three kits on the go at the same time. It is necessary to give work to idle hands while glue, filler and paint is drying or while the modeller waits for a necessary component to arrive in the mail. Having more than one model to work on also means that if a modeller feels like sanding and scribing they have a model at that stage in the process or if they feel inclined to putting some decals on their model they can do that too. Most modellers might also have a model or two that they have become bored with that sits at the back of their shelf while they find newer kits more appealing.

Normally I would have five or six models in various stages of preparation, one or two on the verge of completion and another in the early stages of construction. This means that if I don’t want to have to face up to checking for seams and imperfections I can instead do some masking or some decalling. That’s the theory anyhow. This way I can usually count on having completed two or three models to a standard that pleases me every month, one or two of which are worth writing about. But that hasn’t happened this month. Sure, I have a couple of newly completed airliners that are not worth writing about at the moment and a little French fighter that was such an annoying kit that I refuse to mention it again. Then I look around my room and see that there are another ten or so models in various stages of completion, which means I’ve been busy this past month but have yet to see any finished models as a result. Of course there are excuses, or reasons, that none of them have been completed.

So much effort a

First off there are three Revell 1/144 A.320s that are almost completed but need some decals to complete them. Two simply need some decals for the tail markings but the ones that came with the decal sets were too small and I’m waiting for replacements. I attempted to fill the white spaces that should be covered with decals with paint mixed to the right shade but I failed in this process on both occasions, partly because the areas that need filling are not one single shade and new decal sheets will fill the gaps nicely to the right colour intensity. The third one waits because the decals for it I got from my usual source were so brittle that they cracked rather than settling down well, and I’m hopeful that decals from another supplier will take a greater liking to that model. However, during the current crisis mails are annoyingly slow, so those three models sit on the shelf, waiting patiently.

So much effort b

Another three models are three more Revell 1/144 airliners, an A.320 and two A.321s. They have gone through the process of construction and refinement to the stage that they have now entered the painting process. The engine pods are already painted, masked and mounted to the models and the first stage of painting, the metallic leading edges has been completed and allowed to sit for a day or two to set. Next they need careful masking, and have I told you before how much I dislike masking. So it might be a few days before I push those three models on to the next stage.

So much effort c

Next come three models that have all arrived at the verge of the painting stage at the same time. First is a F-Rsin 1/144 resin airliner which, being designed and built before World War II, is in an all metal finish, so that part of the process will not be difficult. I stalled on this one because it occurred to me that while the air intakes and radiators are nicely formed on this kit there were no exhaust pipes. (Such omissions are not unusual from this kit maker but if you want to make the models they offer you have to deal with them.) It took me a couple of evenings to figure out how to overcome this problem and to do something about it, and an evening of drilling holes and bending pieces of wire to replicate exhausts has now made that model almost ready for completion.

So much effort d

Next we have the new KP 1/72 MiG-19S which only arrived here a week ago. I’ve been wanting to make a decent MiG-19 model for many years and here at last is the kit to do it, more or less. However, having reached the painting stage, I now find that I don’t have the stainless steel lacquer paint to replicate the blast panels on the sides of the fuselage which are a prominent feature of all bare metal MiG-19s. That model now needs to wait until I can order the necessary paint and it arrives.

So much effort e

After that is the little Kora 1/72 Dewoitine 53 which is one of those limited run kits that emerges from eastern Europe to annoy modellers. By the standards of kits from this source this is not so bad and it amazed me by having a cockpit interior that actually fitted inside the fuselage halved snugly, until I tried to install the instrument panel as well. That was discouraging enough to set the model aside for a week or two but the delay also came because the kit offers options for models in either silver or green and silver schemes and I would have liked to make the green and silver one. However, that would have meant painting the model first and then joining the parasol wing to the fuselage, a nail biting task at the best of times and only to be attempted by geniuses when faced with a Kora kit. Eventually I decided that I would have to settle for the all silver model and yesterday went about the process of attaching the wing to the fuselage. All I want to say about that is that during the process I wished that I had more words of profanity in my vocabulary than I currently do because I needed every one of them. When a few days have past my mental equilibrium might have returned sufficient to continue with this model.

 

Then there is the Fokker 100 kit that sits unopened at the moment. It replaces the previous Revell 1/144 kit that I was in the process of converting to a Fokker 79, which is basically a shortened Fokker 100 with different engines. That kit ended up in my rubbish bin because, when I cut two chunks out of the fuselage of the Fokker 100 kit, I used the Welsh Models conversion kit to judge the amount of plastic to be removed. That process went very smoothly until I decided to prepare some decals for the windows of a Fokker 70, which I usually do by counting the number of windows on a photo of the real thing and creating a decal to match. Upon holding the new decal against the fuselage I discovered that it was still far too long and needed to be shortened further. A ruler and quick research into the length of a Fokker 70 confirmed my discovery. I started cutting more chunks out of the fuselage but then came across the lead weight that I’d carefully glued in the nose, lost patience with the whole thing and disposed of it. I found another kit on ebay at a reasonable price and bought it, and I’ll get around to making a Fokker 70 properly sometime soon, probably.

After that are the tiny Arctic Decals 1/144 resin kits of the deHavilland DH-86 1930s airliners which are necessary for my plans to make all the flagship airliners that Qantas flew, starting with the DH-86. (I bought two kits because I can also make the second one which was ANA’s major airliner until it was replaces by the DC-2, which I’ve already made). This is not a particularly challenging kit to make except that it lacks propellers, which is a challenged, the need to extend the tailplanes to make a DH-86 rather than a DH-86B, and the kit maker tell me that he is planning to release Qantas Empire Airways decals for this kit later in the year, so there’s no rush on that one.

So much effort f

Finally there is the 1/144 VLE Models kit of the Sikorsky S-38 flying boat. This has been haunting me for many years and one of these days I will finish it. Every so often I take the kit as I’ve made it so far out of its box, look at the plans, ponder the whole thing for an hour or two and put it back in its box which goes back on the shelf again. The real problem is the amount of strutting that needs to be done to install the engines between the two wings, I’m beginning to think that I will have to simplify the struts it just to get this project finished and that nobody will notice the difference, given the scale of the thing and the fact that nobody I know, or am likely to know, knows what a Sikorsky S-38 looks like anyhow. In a year or two I might be able to bring myself to do such a terrible thing to this little model and in the meantime it goes back into its box again.

So much effort g

So, that’s what’s holding up my modelling progress at the moment. What’s your excuse?

Models for May 2020

The Minicraft 1/144 Douglas DC-8 kit is about the best game in town though there are Welsh Model offerings, if you like resin and vacform, and there is probably the old Revell kit too. The nice thing about the Minicraft kit is that there are indentations inside the fuselage halves to show you where to cut to make the versions with the shorter fuselages, though which cuts to make is left up to the modeller. There are also wing tip extensions so that, after a bit of research, you can work out how to make all the different versions of the DC-8. The engines are a different thing and though various versions of the kit offer engines for the -60 and -70 versions, you have to go to aftermarket sources for engines for the earlier versions.

For this early -10 version I used Contrails engines and Vintage Flyer decals. The Contrails engines and the kit wings wanted nothing to do with each other and that was a problem long in the resolution. On the other hand the decals were excellent and went on with no trouble. The decal set also comes with some paint masks which help make the demarcations between the white and silver much easier than usual to work out. After having applied the decals I found out that the option I had made, Delta Air Lines N801E, had made the first passenger carrying DC-8 flight on 18 September 1959.

May a

May b

This Revell 1/144 Airbus A.320 kit is straight out of the box though with the CMF engine option. The paint scheme is over all white, which is how the Ansett A.320s appeared. The only thing that is unusual about this model is the decals which represent the first livery that Ansett A.320s appeared in. Hawkeye make decals for almost all post-war Australian airliner liveries but not for this first iteration of Ansett’s A.320s. Around the same time as that airline introduced the A.320s it also introduced to service Boeing 737-200s and I hoped that if I bought the Hawkeye decal set for that airliner it might fit on the A.320. Unfortunately it did not, the A.320 being a generally bigger airliner than the 737-200. However, I scanned my copy of the decals and, after some experimentation, enlarged the tail markings to 106 per cent and the fuselage logo to about 125 per cent, printed them out and they fit very nicely. (By the way, I well remember my first flight in an Ansett A.320, on the long flight from Melbourne back to Perth. After the sardine can experience of a 737 flight across to the eastern states the A.320 was spacious and very comfortable, even in cattle car, and the Ansett cabin service was excellent, as always.)

May c

May d

The Dewotine 551 was the military version of the Dewoitine 550 which was built to make an attempt on the air speed record. That was, in turn, a conversion of the Dewotine 520 fighter with reduced wing span and weight and more powerful engine. When the test pilot took the Dewoitine 550 up for its first flight in October 1939 he was astounded at its performance and naturally the military took an interest. By the time of the French defeat in June 1940 a handful of prototype Dewoitine 551s had been made but they never flew and the Germans ordered them to be scrapped. However, this fighter would probably have been France’s front light fighter had the war started a year later and so it is interesting from that point of view.

This fully resin kit comes from the group of enthusiasts calling themselves FGM who came together after Jean Pierre Dujin died to reissue some of his kits. Although they are resin kits, their Dujin reissues are fairly easy to put together once you get some experience in the processes involved. This kit, however, is not a produce of the Dujin workshop and is, if nothing else, a reminder of what a skilled craftsman he was. I had to extensively extend my vocabulary of foul language while making this kit. It is a real pain to assemble and would have met its fate in my rubbish bin at almost every stage of construction had I not really wanted to add this model to my collection of French aeroplanes. Let’s not go into detail, suffice it to say that the end result looks reasonably like a Dewoitine 551 might have looked like.

May e

May f

Here are three I made earlier.

I don’t know if there is another kit in 1/72 other than this Airfix Hawker Siddley Gnat T.1. It is ancient by almost any standards and needed a lot of work to make the end result look as though it had come from a more modern kit. This is also your classic tail sitter with almost no space in the nose for weight to counter the trend, but a couple of white metal after market seats helps make the inside of the cockpit make more realistic and keep the nose down. Looking at the model now I suspect that the red I used while making it is more scarlet that the Red Arrows colour scheme actually is.

May g

May h

Here is another ancient Airfix kit, the 1/72 Dassualt Super Mystere. I think that Special Hobby make a more modern kit but kits from that manufacturer are not the easiest to make. In any event, I had bought this kit many years earlier and it is like a lot of Airfix kits from this era, good honest kits but lacking a lot of the detail and fineness of more modern kits but not to be laughed at. The decals came from one of the Model Art sets, a company that specialized in French aircraft.

May i

May j

The Boeing X-32 was a concept demonstrator built to compete in the competition that was eventually won by the Lockheed Martin X-35, which became the F-35 that many people love to hate. The X-32 might have been an excellent aircraft but it is also one of the more ridiculous looking ones and it is probably just as well it did not go into production because who could take seriously an air force what flew aeroplanes looking like that. In any event, this is the Italeri 1/72 kit made straight out of the box.

May l

May k