Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lindberg Stagecoach

As I'm getting fairly far along in construction of the Lindberg Concord Stagecoach, I thought I'd post a few thoughts about it.

The most obvious thought is that it's big and eats up a lot of parts. I decided to break it into subassemblies which will be assembled, finished and weathered separately. They are:

1. The chassis and wheels, which are dark yellow with dark metal hardware
2. The body, which is a dark barn red with various detail colors
3. The horses
4. The figures
5. The luggage, including what came in the kit and what I'm scratchbuilding
6. The harnesses themselves (is that a britchen or are you just happy to see me?)

The kit is an odd mix of things. Most of the parts sport pretty good detail, but most of the parts also sport heavy pin marks and fairly impressive sink marks. Not so much flash, but plenty of sink. You'll spend some time filling and sanding all of this, but once that work is done and the parts have a coat of paint on them, they look pretty nice - I was especially pleased with the square nut/round washer detail.

The figures are also a mixed bunch. The kit comes with six figures, which are cast solid in a grade of fairly brittle styrene. They remind me more of resin figures than plastic figures, which are typically hollow multi-part contraptions. The figures include a driver, a shotgun rider, three passengers (a gussied-up man and woman from town, and someone who appears to be an Army officer) and an outlaw. In its first incarnation the stagecoach was clearly being ambushed by the outlaw, considering that the driver is hauling back on the traces and the horses are in full panic-stop mode. But I guess that didn't pass the sensitivity test, because now there's no mention of the outlaw and the box art shows the drivers offering a friendly greeting to someone I assume is a hitchhiking cowboy. The passengers don't bother me, and maybe I'll make something out of the outlaw. But I really don't care for the driver and shotgunner. The driver looks like Gabby Hayes and the shotgunner looks like he'd be more comfortable with a pool cue than that Winchester rifle. I see these guys as hard-looking men in worn dusters, so there's going to have to be surgery.

The horses are also something of a disappointment. They have too many teeth in their mouths, and I never could get them to fit seamlessly - I just laid on tons of liquid cement, mashed them together with clamps, and figured I'd fix the booboos later. And booboos there are, gaps on the one hand and heavy, heavy parting lines on the other. They're going to require hot knife work on the manes, tails, ears, fetlocks and elsewhere to eradicate the mushy plastic look, but at least their proportions look right (at least to me). They have no under-hoof detail at all, and I'm not sure I feel like carving in all that detail and making all those horseshoes...

The only part of the kit I haven't dabbled with yet are the harnesses. They look complete, but just like harnessing up a real horse, harnessing up the 1/16th scale horses is liable to be a chore. I don't think I like the fairly thick vinyl ribbon Lindberg supplied for the traces and whatnot; I think I'll replace all that with either paper or doubled electrical tape and either make new buckles or salvage the old ones.

On the whole, it's a good kit. It's unique, so we cut it some slack, and the actual chassis and body aren't bad at all. Clutter them up with luggage and cargo and I think they'll do just fine. The horses and figures aren't great, but can probably be salvaged. The harnesses look good in principle. The only real engineering problems with the kit are the sink marks and pin marks, which require a good deal of eradication.

The instructions are long and contain a mixture of diagrams and written instructions. They aren't bad. They're a little busy, and the diagrams could have been larger and more numerous, but at no point did the instructions completely buffalo me. Sometimes it took some dry-fitting and head-scratching to figure out just exactly what the instructions were saying, but not to excess.

The decals aren't bad as far as they go, which isn't far enough. They consist of gold scrollwork for the body panels, and one US Mail sign. What, no Wells-Fargo Overland markings?? You're on your own to represent the stagecoach's commercial affiliation.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Split Personality

I'm often heard to describe myself as a "Rockets, Missiles and Spacecraft Modeler". But if you look at the kits in my unbuilt pile, I appear to be an armor modeler. If you look at the kits I've actually finished, I show a definite weakness for Cold War jet aircraft and close air support aircraft of any epoch. But I go through phases where I am a very dedicated figure painter and pretend that if I simply "think real hard" I'll develop the skills of a Shep Paine or a Bill Horan.

Taint likely, but I try. This 200mm Verlinden Roman bust is pretty typical of my figure work - undershaded, workmanlike, and not likely to win any contests.
What bugs me about it (though it doesn't bug me extensively) is that I've slowly assembled a fairly large population of unassembled 54mm Old West figures, mostly marshals and gunfighters, and I sense with a kind of nonverbal cellular awareness akin to ESP that I'm about to go whole-hog into the Old West... Again... Good thing I finished Herr von Braun's rocket, eh?

Von Braun Finis!

Well, I think I'm finally done with the Von Braun Three-Stage Ferry Rocket. This is as done as it's ever going to get, anyway. Please ignore the dinosaur in the upper right corner; he was cautioned several times about not blocking the shot and there he is...

Anyway, what's relevant? Note the cut-down delta wing and the end caps on the shuttle itself, which I think looks better than the humungo-wing on the original part. Also note that I finally did add instrumentation pods to the tips of the first-stage fins. Two of them are cut-down bits of anonymous 1/72nd scale AIM-7 Sparrows; the other two are cut-down 5-inch "Holy Moses" rockets from a Monogram 1/48th scale P-38 Lightning kit. They're faired into the fins, and the fins are faired into the fuselage itself, with multiple layers of white glue.

What else? I lost the tube that represented the third stage, so while I was looking for stuff to make the pods from, I kept an eye out for tubular plastic. I used a 500-pound bomb from a Monogram 1/48th scale B-29 Superfortress; all I did was saw the fins off. It's slightly larger than the couplers and gives the third stage an appealingly chubby look.

The original kit decals failed in a weird way that I've never seen before: the ink was water-soluble, so that by the time the carrier had released from the paper and was ready to go onto the model, about seventy percent of the ink had washed off. I ruined enough of the decals finding this out that I threw them all away and grubbed around in my decal collection until I find a sheet from an old AMT 1/200th "Man in Space" set, which donated some of its Saturn V markings to the cause.

The paint is mostly of the hardware store variety. The yellow is "Marigold", while the white is plain old hardware store semigloss white, and the red is hardware store barn red. The black is Tamiya semigloss black lacquer, while the silver is Testors two-part lacquer, a color I believe is called "Plymouth Silver" or something like that. I'd go look, but last time I checked, there was a wasp buzzing around in the garage and knowing the exact paint color isn't worth risking getting stung.

By the way, I like the Testors two-part lacquers a lot. They spray nicely even out of a spray can, they cover well, they have a good semigloss sheen without the gloss sealer, and they are hard and durable once dry. I especially like them on natural metal aircraft models, where they are much tougher than Metalizer and dry much faster than Chrome Silver.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Von Braun Shuttle

Here's an in-progress shot of the shuttle from the 3-Stage Ferry Rocket, with a finger included gratis to show scale. Note the unnatural area of the original delta wing, and the lines I've scribed to show the proposed planform of the new acutely swept wing with end caps. I think most of the engraved detail will end up being filled, though I'm tempted to add aft landing skids in the fashion of the X-15, and will probably scribe in new flaps.

Von Braun 3-Stage Ferry

Time passes. Here's the main fuselage of the Von Braun 3-Stage Ferry Rocket temporarily mounted on the base. It's been through a couple of fill-and-sand cycles (note the red auto body spot filler and the white Squadron putty. I recontoured the small third stage coupler because the original had an odd trumpet-like flare that seemed out of keeping with the general design ethic, so I converted the trumpet flare into a straight conical section with more Squadron putty. This is the kind of work I can do while watching funky horror movies like The Ruin. Notice that I haven't added any external details like conduits or anything yet, as this is work that I cannot do while watching funky horror movies like The Ruin.
Upon thinking matters through, I think I've decided to add combined instrument pods and anti-flutter weights to the fin tips.