Saturday, November 14, 2009

Beer Wagon

Here's my stab at Monogram's rerelease of the Beer Wagon show rod. I don't know how the picture got to be so fuzzy; perhaps I'm not as good with the new digital camera as I think I am.

I don't build an awful lot of car models, mostly because they're a lot of work. There's a lot of painting, a lot of in-process painting, and a lot of general fiddling. And then there's all that chrome to deal with... Nor am I much of a car expert. I can look at an armored vehicle and tell you if it's a BMP-1 or BMP-2, but I can't tell a 392 Hemi from a 426 Hemi, and I'm really bad at identifying the make and model of any given car - I can usually identify a VW Bug, but past that, I generally assume that all hot rods are Ford Deuces until proven otherwise.

This kit is fun and simpler than most car models. Including the injector stacks, the engine consists of three parts, and the suspension is easy to paint and install after the fact. There is no glass to deal with it, no radiator hoses, no interior bucket. The hardest part, really, is painting the transmission and differential detail on the one-piece frame part. Critics of this kit contend that it is "toy-like", and I suppose it is, but the engraving (what there is of it) is pretty nice and it didn't assault me with a lot of difficulty and complication.

I left off the collectors on the ends of the headers because I thought they were oversized and clunky. I drilled out the tops of the injector stacks. I lost the gearshift lever and hand starter crank and obviously left them out. I stripped off most the chrome with Easy-Off oven cleaner and after cleaning up the parts repainted them with Testors Chrome Silver. I left the wheels chromed and did a lot of sanding on the vinyl tires to try to make them look more like real tires. I also left the steering wheel chromed, though I painted the rim a leathery brown color. The instrument panel is provided as a decal, but it is black with no white backing, so the instruments would get lost on the dark blue dash. Instead of applying the decal in the normal fashion, I cut it out and glued it to the dash with the paper backing in place to provide the white background. The decals, by the way, were thick but sturdy and worked pretty well.

I painted it using the famous Whudigot method. I didn't like the bright yellow of the original model and was going to paint it metallic green, but I couldn't find my can of metallic green. So I browsed my spray paint collection and found two cans of Tamiya dark metallic blue, and decided that that would do. The seats, headrests and bed stakes were painted Testors AMC Big Bad Blue lacquer out of a spray can. The detail paint was mostly craft paint (for the wooden bed floor) and Testors acrylics (mostly silver and semi-gloss white) and Tamiya (mostly NATO black). I painted the beer kegs a dark brown color from a Krylon spray can, and drybrushed them with "antique gold" craft paint. And that was pretty much it.

In general I enjoyed building the kit. The kit doesn't appear to pass muster with experts, and I'm sure my execution of it won't pass muster with experts either, but it was harmless fun and best of all, I didn't have to do any engine wiring. It was a fun break from 1/72nd scale armor, and who can ask for more than that?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Lately I've been reading a lot of model magazines. Between cancer and a particularly unpleasant course of chemotherapy I haven't really had the gumption to build anything. I'm starting to work on things again - a Revell 1/72nd M40 self-propelled gun, say, and a Monogram 1/24th Beer Wagon show rod, for another. But for a long time, my involvement with modeling was largely limited to reading magazines.

Often British magazines, especially SAMI and SMMI. And over time, I've come to note a marked anal-retentiveness about certain things that I can sum up with the following line: "I can't build model X until someone makes a replacement detail part." The kit cannot be built until someone offers a replacement set of exhaust nozzles, or a new drawbar, or an antenna., or whatever. Or they get completely wrapped around the axle about paint colors, to the point that a kit cannot be attempted until someone produces a color photograph and a paint chip showing exactly what color of grey the thing was painted.

This anal-retentiveness doesn't irritate me - everyone enjoys the hobby in their own way, and that's their way. But it does make me shake my head sometimes. Producing an authentic model is nice, but to me it's the building that's the fun; absolute authenticity is not an absolute requirement. Is the sand color I painted my Crusader III absolutely correct? Nah. Do I care? Nah. I had fun building the Crusader and if the sand color is a little too light, well, who cares?

So here's a list of stuff I hardly ever do when building models.

Detail Parts. I almost never buy detail parts. If a kit comes with photo-etched or resin parts, I'll use them, but I almost never buy them separately. In fact, the only detail parts I can remember buying in the last few years were a couple of metal distributors for car models, and even then, after I bought the limited stock at the hobby shop, I went back to my old distributor technique. (Actually, this isn't quite true. I have bought several detail and replacement-part sets for the old 1/96th scale Saturn V booster, but I haven't used them yet so they don't count... Right??)

Panel Lines. I almost never rescribe panel lines. In fact, in 1/72nd scale I never rescribe panel lines at all, and only rarely in larger scales do I bother. I have sanded off raised panel lines and rivets, but I almost never scribed new panel lines afterwards. Nor do I accent panel lines if they exist. I think this produces a harsh, extreme appearance that is highly unrealistic. It demonstrates excellent craftsmanship and skill, but it isn't how real airplanes look at all.

Cockpit Interiors. My airplane models are mostly 1/72nd scale, and I find that I can almost never see cockpit details through the canopies. Unless I'm going to build the model with the canopy open for some reason, or the model is 1/32nd scale, I just don't bother with a lot of cockpit detail. I paint the interior roughly the right colors and I'll do a little paint detailing and throw in some masking tape seat belts, but film-and-photoetch instrument panels? Pfft. Can't see it, so why bother?

Replacement Tank Tracks. I dislike link-and-length tracks immensely, and I find individual-link tracks almost insuperably fiddly. I'll use them if the kit gives me no other option, but by and large I prefer one-piece vinyl tracks. Modern vinyl tracks are about as detailed as any other kind, but ever so much easier to work with.

Plugging Motorization Holes. A lot of armor modelers spend a lot of time plugging up the various motorization holes that infest a lot of older armor models, but I can't remember ever doing so. Sometimes I don't even bother to paint the bottom of the tank. Can't see it, so why bother? If you're going to make a diorama of a tank that rolled over, or is otherwise exposing its belly, then sure, I can see taking the time to do that. But otherwise? It gives me no satisfaction.

Spanish Weathering. Harsh, extreme weathering, sometimes described as "European style" or "Spanish style", is something I never do either. Really extreme Spanish weathering demonstrates excellent craftsmanship and attention to detail, but I don't see that it's any more realistic in armor modeling than accented panel lines are in aircraft modeling. I weather my tank models, sure, and sometimes it's fun to go mad and pack a bunch of mud into the tracks and suspension. But the heavy chipping and weathering done in the Spanish fashion? Not for me.

Preshading. I've never preshaded anything, and I can't say in looking at photographs of finished models that I can even see what good it does. More than once I've read comments like "The preshading produced a very subtle effect that is not apparent in photographs." Well, if a camera can't detect the preshading effect, my eyes aren't likely to either.

Modeling is no more immune to fashion than anything else. Right now, the fashion is for preshading, accented panel lines, heavy Spanish-style weathering, and dot filters. I must be extremely unfashionable because I don't do any of them, but I'll wager that I have about as much fun building models as anyone. I may be an unfashionable troglodyte, but I have fun. And that's the main thing.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cancer Update

I've been dealing with cancer and chemotherapy for about a year now, and in that time I've found that I have basically no interest in large modeling projects. My oft-discussed "Ultimate Saturn V Project" has been put on indefinite hold, and I can't even seem to find the energy to finish a 1/35th scale tank any more. I can't even face the prospect of a 1/72nd scale airplane if it involves a cockpit interior, and as a general rule anything that requires me to airbrush anything is deemed too much effort. It isn't that I don't want to build anything; I just can't seem to scrape up the energy. Leaning down to turn on the air compressor is too much work for me, apparently.

But I haven't been totally inactive. I find that 1/72nd scale armor is doable. I can assemble a typical small-scale tank in an easy day, and as long as I can use spray cans to do the base color, finishing isn't too big a deal either. The resulting models aren't great by any means, but they aren't terrible and they help to keep my hands busy.

One of these days when I don't feel like such abject crap I'll post a few pictures, but for now you'll simply have to imagine the latest additions to my small-scale armor collection, such as the Airfix Sherman Calliope, the Emhar A7V, the Revell M40 155mm self-propelled gun, and the Academy "Dragon Wagon" tank transporter. I've also got three Airfix Scammel tank transporters partially built, but the suspension elements are so fragile they never seem to survive final assembly and one of these days I'm going to have to craft some replacement axles out of paper clips... when I have the energy, that is.

But for now, being sick really sucks.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Two views of the completed New Ware Lockheed Starclipper. I finished it quite some time ago, but technical problems prevented me from posting any photographs - mostly, my USB floppy disk drive croaked, and since my digital camera only saves on 3.5-inch floppies, well, I was sort of stuck (yes, I know my camera is obsolete, but I'm fond of it anyway).
Not readily apparent in any of these views, but perhaps guessable anyway, are the smooth and blemish-free nature of the castings and the crisp, thin decals. This was a pleasant kit, far more buildable and "finished" than most of the other resin kits I've attempted in the past, and if it is any guide to New Ware's other products, I'd never hesitate to buy one of their kits sight-unseen.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

New Ware Starclipper

The Lockheed Starclipper was an SSTO (Single-Stage-To-Orbit) design that got kicked around a bit around 1966. It amounted to a lifting body spacecraft equipped with a pair of very large fuel tanks, "drop tanks" in effect, that were so large the vehicle actually nestled between them. The rocket engines in the lifting body drew fuel from the drop tanks, which were jettisoned when empty and went into the ocean while the spacecraft itself went into orbit. Though it was never built, some aspects of its design were incorporated in later proposals, and as far as I'm concerned it has a nice shape.
The New Ware 1/144th scale kit is a marvel. The parts are extremely well cast in hard cream-colored resin. Try as I might I couldn't find a single air bubble, and the only surface flaw I could find was a vaguely circular rumpus around the nose gear bay on the underside of the lifting body, though the flaw is minor and appears to be highly vulnerable to sandpaper. As can be seen, the kit consists of a half-dozen major parts and maybe a dozen smaller parts. Pour stubs are minimal and the external tanks, for example, fit together without any joint preparation at all. Panel lines are recessed, and mainly outline the payload bay, the gear bays, and the canopy. The panel lines are so finely drawn that they might well disappear under a coat of paint; I propose to scribe them a hair deeper before painting.
A small decal sheet provides some "UNITED STATES" and "NASA" markings, but no meatballs or wurms. The instructions are a single sheet of paper, with the assembly sequence on one side and the painting instructions on the other. As is nearly standard with US spacecraft, the paint scheme is mostly white, with black on the high-heat areas of the spacecraft, grey on the highest-heat portions of the spacecraft, and black roll markings on the external tanks. There are no metal parts or transparencies, and frankly none are required. The only thing I could say that isn't in the kit that I'm likely to miss would be a decal for the windshield.
I'm looking forward to finishing this kit. Further bulletins as events warrant.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Arado 234 Madness

Somehow I ended up in possession of no less than three Arado 234 kits - the conventional bomber, the Ar 234P night fighter, and the B29/X1-like contraption with the "Julia" rocket fighter riding under the Ar 234 bomber. Just to get them out of the way so I could move on to my project of modeling big chunks of the Finnish Air Force during the Continuation War, I built them assembly-line fashion, and the same basic remarks apply to all of them.

Fit is good, with the exception of the clear piece that houses the reconnaissance cameras in the rear fuselage, if you use that option. Assembly of the cockpit is fiddly; I found the tiny offset instrument panel and the rudder pedal mounts particularly difficult (in the end, I had to carve the mounting slots for the rudder pedal mounts wider as no end of shoving seemed to get the mounts to lock into place). There's a lot of glass and the quality of said glass is good, however, so the cockpit does repay the effort. The only thing I really did cockpit-wise, other than painting, was add seat belts. (It is my reasoned belief that the only thing I can ever really see through the canopies of 1/72nd scale aircraft are light-colored seat belts against darker-colored seats. Everything else, including film-and-photoetch instrument panels, may as well not even exist.)

I had to use a little filler where the fronts of the engine nacelles met the wings; otherwise the fit was good enough that only mild sanding was required. The clear light on the top of the rudder wouldn't fit and I had to widen its mounting recess. I knocked every one of the rudder and elevator control horns off every one models during painting, and frankly, I think the planes look better without them (better, but inaccurate).

I painted the bombers in the standard RLM 65/70/71 scheme using Model Master acrylics, and did the Julia in RLM 74 and 75 (I think; it's lichtblau and grauviolett, whatever those RLM numbers are). The night fighter was done with hellgrau with darker-grey mottle; I color I chose for the mottle was too dark and stark, but I decided that since the Ar 234P is pretty provisional to start with, my botched color scheme is no more wrong than any other. The paint worked pretty well and left a nice gloss finish for the decals, which also worked pretty well. Some of them had gotten pretty fragile in storage but I managed to stitch the broken ones back together, all except for the ones on the sheet for the Julia, which fell apart entirely (of course). The sheets don't include swastikas, so I added them from an aftermarket sheet, and put entirely fictional unit markings on the Julia. The Ar 234P includes small "Englandblitz" shields, but the red lightning bolt and stooping eagle seem to have encountered problems; the eagle looks like a squiggle and the lightning bolt seems to go sideways, but you get the idea anyway.

Here's a curiosity. As molded, the Ar 234 cannot extend its landing gear with the Julia attached, and that's a shame because the kits do feature nice landing gear. In the end I cobbled up a stand using what I think are VEB/Plastikart parts from an ancient Tu-20. I cut a slot in the transparent panel and glued the combination atop the stand, which doesn't look bad. It's a little overbalanced so I had to put a dot of 3M double-sided foam tape under the back of the stand to prevent the Ar 234/Julia from taking a header off the shelf. It looks better than all the chopping and changing that would be required to move the Julia far enough for the Ar 234's main landing gear to extend, and that's a fact. One minor irritation is that I couldn't find crew figures that would fit in either the Ar 234 or the Julia, so they're flying ghost planes.

Here's another curiosity. No nose weight is required to get them to sit on their landing gear properly. They seem perfectly inclined to behave like "real aeroplanes" without resorting to coarseness like lead sinkers or handfuls of air rifle pellets.

But can I say, I'm getting pretty sick of Arado 234s at this point. That Fokker D.XXI in Finnish marking is starting to look better and better every day.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Representational Collections

I've been thinking a lot about I was call representational collections, an attempt to capture an entire nation's aviation effort in a single collection. One of the easiest ones to think about is the classical "Luftwaffe in Ten Models" collection. If someone was going to pay you to select and build ten models that would best capture the scope and sweep of the Luftwaffe in World War Two, what would they be? And perhaps as interesting, what famous airplanes would you leave off?

It turns out that it's hard to whittle the Luftwaffe list down to just ten airplanes. I can usually come up with good arguments for at least fifteen, but in any event, here are my representational model lists.


Spitfire I
Spitfire IX
Hurricane IIC
Mosquito B
Mosquito FB

P-38 Lightning
P-40E Warhawk
P-47D Thunderbolt
P-51D Mustang
B-17G Flying Fortress
B-24J Liberator
A-20G Havoc
B-25J Mitchell
C-47 Skytrain/Dakota
B-29 Superfortress

That's my guess, anyway.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

MPM XF-85 Goblin

The XF-85 was a corpulent little fighter designed to be carried beneath the belly of a modified B-36 Peacemaker heavy bomber. The idea was that the short-ranged little fighter would be carried by the bomber until enemy airplanes were sighted, whereupon the Goblin would detach, defeat the enemy, and then return to link up with the B-36 again. Though the Goblin was said to be a pleasant enough airplane to fly, despite its short stubby nature, the business of linking up with the B-36 via a giant hook never really worked reliably and after a few accidents the Goblin and the idea of the parasite fighter was officially dropped.

MPM's kit is typical of limited-run kits. The plastic parts have large sprue attachments and no locating pins, but the surface detail is pretty good. The kit includes a small fret of photoetched parts, a film instrument panel, and a cast resin cockpit interior that replaces most of the photoetched and film parts should you choose to use it. I did choose to use it; it makes building and painting the cockpit interior much easier.

I had fit problems when adding the compressor face to the nose, which was undersized and ended up with the centerbody off-centered, so to speak, and when adding the jet exhaust pipe at the rear, which was oversized and called for extensive reaming of the fuselage. The fuselage also required heavy clamping to get the seams to close, I suspect because I didn't sand the interior of the fuselage quite enough to provide clearance for the cast resin cockpit tub. The whole nose area seems a bit fiddly to me - there's the plastic compressor face, the cockpit tub, and the fold'n'scream photoetched hook bay to get installed in a fairly small space. I'm not sure that my alignment is right, but everything eventually went in and the fuselage halves closed up, so...

The wings and empennage are all butt joints to the fuselage, so fit and alignment are strictly up to the modeler. The ventral strakes are supplied as plastic and photoetched parts, but I used the plastic ones; I felt they had a more pleasing cross-section than the dead-flat metal parts. The elevators are trickiest to install - the mounting points are just raised bosses on the fuselage and it's easy to get things seriously out of whack. My elevators are set with a large nose-up angle, but that's okay; it looks "candid", whatever that means.

The airplane doesn't have landing gear, so once you're done adding the wings and tail, that's pretty much it for the airplane. Next comes the transport cart, which is blocky and crude. I replaced the misshappen wheels with better wheels taken from my scrapbox, and I subjected the I-beam parts to heavy sanding to true them up. After that, the main task is getting the uprights on the cart to touch the tiny fold'n'scream photoetch brackets on the nose of the Goblin itself. That proved to be difficult; the uprights seemed disinclined to incline far enough inboard to meet the airplane.

Painting was a simple matter of a coat of Testors two-part lacquer in Plymouth Silver, with a little black acrylic on the anti-glare panel, yellow acrylic on the fin tips, and various acrylic paints shoved "down the barrel" into the cockpit. The vacuum-formed canopy was thin, clear and kind of wobbly, making it difficult to cut out. I masked it and sprayed it silver before I cut it out of the vacuum-formed sheet. I could have refined the fit if I'd worked at it longer, but I got it close enough with sanding sticks and filled the gaps with white glue and touched them up with a bit of silver paint caught in a Solo cup. The decals worked very well, though I managed to break one of the red turbine warning stripes and spent a tense few minutes teasing it back together.

In general, I enjoyed the kit. It wasn't without snags, like the tiny photoetched nose brackets and the offcentered compressor face, and the ground handling cart required more work than expected. But it was a fun model of an unusual airplane, and it looks good on my shelf.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Acryl Update

I've been using five colors of Model Master Acrylic paint for a few weeks - neutral grey, aircraft interior black, semi-gloss white and so forth - and I still like the way the paint brushes, but I have finally discovered something about the paint that I don't much care for. It seems that no matter how diligent I am at wiping the threads and the top of the bottle, the cap still sticks to the bottle and tears off the foil gasket. I find that kind of annoying, and I'm not sure what I can do about it, since once I've wiped the threads and the top, the result seems to be out of my hands.

But the paint itself, as paint, still works very nicely.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Loft Insulation

Like a lot of modelers (most, I would wager) I buy many times more kits than I actually finish. This leads to the steady accumulation of a backlog of unbuilt kits that grows over time. In British model magazines this collection of unbuilt kits is known as "loft insulation", probably because most British modelers tend to store their stash in their attics. Me, I used to store mine out in the garage, but it turns out that this form of storage can be lethal to models, especially aircraft models.

Many of my airplane models are very old. I can't remember when I bought my OEZ Su-7, but it's been decades. I have a Heller Potez light bomber that may be the oldest model in my entire collection, a conclusion I base on the antique style of decoration used on the Heller box top. I have several old Monogram X-15s that date from the previous release of the kit, and... The point is that I have a bunch of old airplane models, and they are becoming almost impossible to build.

Not because the plastic is going bad. I find well-aged styrene that has been stored for long periods of time in my garage to be workable. A little more brittle than usual, but entirely functional in every other respect, and most of my models don't even show much warpage. And, since I've been building models on a fairly consistent basis since 1966, what kind of modeler would I be if I couldn't handle a few warped parts? I mean, really. Model reviewers have heart attacks when they find warped parts in review kits, but come on, just deal with it already.

No, what goes bad are the decals. I can usually build car or armor models without decals, either by substituting other decals, going without, or masking up my own. But an airplane model is often very difficult to finish in any kind of convincing way without decals, or even with fake decals. Sure, I could finish an Su-7 by slathering USAF decals on it, but how convincing would it be? And there's something about storage in the garage that ruins decals. Sometimes the decal becomes visibly ruined. I was just reviewing the contents of the Italeri 1/72nd scale B-26K Counter-Invader I had in my garage and found that the decal carrier film had "granulated" and turned into something resembling 120 grit sandpaper. That's ruined, me buckos, in any language. Other times, the carrier film breaks up when wetted and the decal breaks up like the sub-Arctic ice pack in late spring. Sometimes the decals just go haywire - I had one a while back where the carrier film remained intact, but all the ink washed off.

I'd guess that three-quarters of the models I've tried to build out of my garage stash have suffered from bad decals in one way or another, most of them unrecoverable. In those cases, I selected incorrect but functional decals out of my stash just so I could finish the clunker model and hang it from the ceiling of the garage. Some of these "just so I could finish it" schemes are attractive, but they're all bogus. A Britten-Norman Islander in gloss orange with Finnish Air Force markings? I don't think so, but it looks nice. A P-63 King Cobra in markings permanently borrowed from a Fighter Command Tempest V? Again, it's not likely, but it looks nice.

Looks nice, but it doesn't pass muster as a real model.

So what's a boy to do? I had (at last count) about 12 aircraft models in the garage that I was pretty sure had suffered from decal damage. Leaving them sit wasn't going to make them any better, so I decided to just knuckle under and build the things. I got me a big ole bottle of MEK, a trashed paint brush, sidecutters and a knife, and I built them. I built them all. Models piled up in one box, and expended sprues piled up in another box, and unused parts populated a new annex of my spare parts collection. I picked schemes that were simple enough that they could be done with spray cans or an airbrush without masking. I didn't bother with excessive anal-retentive cockpit or landing gear detailing, and in most cases I - gasp! - built them with their landing gear up in the first place. And then I coated each and every decal sheel with two coats of Microscale decal film, and I applied the decals with mild decal solvents.

The results are mixed. Some of these garage-stored kits turned out very nicely. MPM's XF-85 and XP-55, for example, turned out so nicely that I backtracked and detailed them for more intimate viewing. Others, not so much. The Algerian Su-7 that I so had my heart set on turned out all right, but only if you stay about eight feet away from it. My old Israeli Neshr didn't turn out so hot, but it captured the critical recognition feature of the original - those funky black and yellow triangles - so it'll do. And my PV-1 Neptune? That was a complete disaster, decal-wise. I couldn't even salvage the decals after I'd coated them twice with decal film - they would simply never release from the paper, even after an hour of soaking, perhaps because the paper had turned porous and the decal film had cured in the voids, permanently bonding the two together. Either way, I found bogus decals and it looks okay, but only if you stay about ten feet away (the numbers on the rudders are, amusingly enough, from a BRDM-2 armored car model).

So I'm in the process of cleaning out my old garage-stored kits, and I'm hoping that my decal woes will now end, because I now store decals in the cool darkness of a plastic shoe tote in my closet, where I'm hoping they'll last a usefully long period of time without going to pot. I'm also breaking down and storing any reasonably high-grade kits in the closet as well, such as the rather expensive Fw-200 Condor and He-177 Greif kits I laid in, not to mention the spanking-new Italeri XB-70 and the Lindberg Snark.

But you know what? I don't mind that much. Like a lot of modelers I suffer from a syndrome where I plan a lot of models, and I even start a few, but I rarely finish any of them. This business of sitting down and getting these old garage-stored models out of the system has been fun because I've actually been building, and finishing, and that's what modeling is all about, at least in part, isn't it? I've finished, or am very close to finishing:

Special Hobby I-15 biplane
MPM XF-85 Goblin
MPM XP-55 Ascender
Academy PV-1 Neptune
PM Models Neshr/Mirage V
Academy Me-163B Komet
Academy OV-10A Bronco
ICM Il2-M3 Sturmovik
Lindberg XFY-1 Pogo
Dragon Ar-234 with Julia parasite
Heller Potez light bomber


Monday, March 2, 2009

Acryl II

I'm not normally a big fan of acrylic paint. I've never had any success airbrushing the stuff, and when it comes to brush-painting, I approach the substance with extreme caution. Even the apparent gold standard of acrylic paint, Tamiya, comes off a distant second place in terms of handbrushing performance compared to, say, an egg wash. The stuff is awful, just awful, and I fail to understand at this point why anyone bothers with it.

Well, I'm not above experimenting, and my dissatisfaction with Tamiya's brush-painting performance led me to buy a few experimental jars of Model Master Acryl II acrylic paint. Now, I'm not even going to try to airbrush with the stuff - I've finally figured out how to airbrush Model Master and Humbrol enamels, and I'm just not going to unlearn how to do that. But I do have intentions of handbrushing with the stuff, and I've actually made a few token attempts already on an Academy PV-1 Ventura. No pictures of the model will be presented as its decals underwent a horrid transformation overnight and folded up like tacos, and I don't need this model seeing the light of day. But as a test bed for acrylic paint, it did pretty well.

I have to say, these Model Master acrylics brush-paint many times better than the Tamiya paints, and that's groovy. Even the semi-gloss white brushed pretty well, requiring only two coats to get good coverage over a dark sea blue background. I sprayed the propellers a nice yellow color called Marigold, then used acrylic silver and black on the hubs and blades. Result? Good coverage, quick drying, and none of that Tamiya pudding-skin effect.

It's good! But it's also very early.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Today I sent an order to Squadron for about $120 in various models, mostly 1/72nd scale airplanes and 1/72nd scale tanks. I do this sort of thing fairly often, usually because I see something that I can't miss (such as the Lindberg Snark) and bulk out the order with other stuff so I get free shipping.

But I notice lately that several collection ideas are starting to prey on my mind. One of them is the classic 109 smorgasbord - that is, to build one model of every major Bf 109 variant that I can. For now I've limited myself to the E, F, G6 and G14 variants; later I'll get a K and some of the earlier models. Why? I don't know; I just had the sudden desire to build some 109s.

I also started to collect MiG-21s again. There was a time when I had every commercially available MiG-21 kit there was, and this was in the Bad Old Days before Kopro and others started making a lot of MiG-21s. You were pretty much limited to the large-scale Revell PFM and a 1/72nd scale F. But now I've laid in a classic MiG-21MF and MiG-21SMT; I'll fill in others later.

Mirages also appeal to me. There hasn't been a Mirage that I haven't liked, and the king of the heap is the Mirage IVA. There's something very appealing about that aircraft, something in its shape, stance, tandem cockpits and slightly bulbous nuke that give it a powerful and aggressive air. The Heller kit is no great shakes, but I've built it enough times I should be able to handle it this time, yes? I also like the Lesser Mirages, notably the Mirage IIICJ and the Neshr. I especially love the high-viz markings the Israelis used with the huge black-bordered triangles on the wings of their Mirages. And the Mirage F1C, that's another one that's hard to beat.

So what have I got in the mail? Some 109s, some MiG-21s, some Mirages, and a bunch of engineering armor like the Sherman Crab and Churchill AVRE. Where am I going to put any of this stuff? Beats me, but I just feel better knowing that soon my box will arrive. In fact, I feel so much better that I'm trying to convince myself that a second $100 order is right and proper as a kind of consolation prize for being diagnosed with cancer and going through chemotherapy. In fact, I've already started planning the purse. So far I know I want a Polish 7TP light tank, something in the T26 range, and the Fokker D.XXI in Finnish markings.

Cancer sucks, but spending an evening on the Squadron website, yeah, that does make it seem a little better, doesn't it?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Not All Of Them

I'm a notorious sucker for nostalgia kits, but it turns out that not every nostalgic blast-from-the-past kit is fun to build, or worth building.

I bring Glencoe's "Convair Satellite" kicking and screaming to the stand.

The kit? Rough, afflicted by ill-fitting parts, gaping seams, steps and other tomfoolery. Have plenty of filler on hand, and you may want to consider an investment in 80-grit sandpaper or maybe even a four-and-a-half-inch angle grinder. The recessed seams in the inner tubes simply can't be addressed at all; the best one can do is fill them with white glue. The yellow plastic is extremely difficult to cover - mine's got about six coats of Tamiya white primer on it, and it still looks yellow.

The decals? Useless in the first case; mostly useless after one coat of Microscale decal film; and it remains to be seen what a second coat of decal film will do for them. This is especially disappointing as the kit itself is rather bland and featureless and would benefit from the application of the fairly colorful decals, but there they sit, fractured and curling back on themselves...

Better luck next time, I guess.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Aeroplast 1/35th BM-8-24 Rocket Launcher

The Soviets, among others, made heavy use of rocket artillery in World War Two because rocket systems were generally simple, light, mobile, and offered enormous firepower in the opening salvo. Rocket artillery has certain disadvantages like long reload time, highly conspicuous smoke trails, and relative inaccuracy, but as a shock weapon in breakthrough battles rocket artillery can be pretty devastating. Most Soviet rocket artillery took the form of the truck-mounted Katyusha, but here's a piece of pocket artillery in the form of 24 launch rails for 82mm rockets mounted on the chassis of a T-60 light tank.
The Aeroplast kit comes molded in medium-soft dark grey styrene. The kit includes the normal sprues for a T-60 light tank supplemented with two sprues for the BM-8-24 version. Both solid and spoked road wheels are provided; I used the spoked versions because I liked how they looked. The tracks are link-and-length, not normally my favorite things, and as usual the teeth in the drive sprockets didn't fit though the holes in the tracks.
The kit is reasonably well detailed. It isn't on the level of a Dragon or late Tamiya kit, but it isn't bad. The rockets are a little chunky and the stabilization fins in particular are thick, but if you squint it isn't too noticeable. The worst part of the kit are the instructions. They cover the assembly of the basic chassis well enough, but when you get to the launch rail assembly, the instructions turn maddeningly vague. In the end I worked out the assembly sequence on my own because I couldn't make heads or tails of the cramped, overly-busy drawing Aeroplast supplied. An annoyance is how the elevation links for the launch rails limits you to the maximum elevation shown in the photograph. Someday I'm going to cut out the short link so the rails can be elevated higher, but not today.
I painted mine Krylon olive drab and sprayed the undercarriage with medium-brown acrylic paint with a toothbrush so I could reasonably claim that the vehicle had driven through fresh mud and thus didn't need to have its tracks painted. It could probably use a bit more brown sprayed on the undercarriage, but it isn't bad. Otherwise, there isn't much to finishing the vehicle: a little scrubbing with some pastels, a little pencil lead rubbed on the launch rails, and Bob's your uncle. The instructions do not specify a color scheme for the rockets so I hunted around on the Internet and found a picture of a Soviet rocket launcher with silver rocket tubes and black fin and nozzle assemblies. I went with the photograph even though my hunch is that the rockets probably should have been Russian armor green as well.
All in all, it's a nice small kit (almost 1/72nd scale in size) of an unusual subject. The rocket rails aren't easy to assemble and I don't like link and length tracks, but other than that, it went together fairly nicely and it adds some much-needed novelty to my shelf.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Trumpeter 1/35th SA-2 Missile

The SA-2 "Guideline" has been a staple of Warsaw Pact air defenses since the earliest days of the Cold War. The effectiveness of the missile is debated by experts, but it can be said that an example shot down Gary Powers's U-2, and another shot down an F-117 over Serbia, the two incidents separated by some forty years...

I really wanted the SA-2 missile mounted on the trailer with the ZiL prime mover, but my local hobby shop didn't have that kit. All he had was the SA-2 on the launcher, and he looked like he needed a sale, so I cowboyed up and bought the one I didn't really want. This was my first Trumpeter kit, and it reminded me quite a bit of Dragon - excellent detail coupled with a strong tendency to over-engineer. But with such a simple kit, the over-engineering never got too carried away, except for those molecule-sized knobs that were supposed to go on the access panels on the launcher. I can't see things that small, let alone handle them, so I declared them to be officially over the top and left them off.

Still, the missile didn't take but an hour to assemble, and the launcher not much more. Fit was excellent throughout, the missile requiring only a few desultory swipes with a sanding stick to erase the seams entirely, and the launcher's square-sided boxy nature made seams irrelevant. A couple of hours of assembly and we were on to the painting stage, which took about fifteen minutes - a coat of light grey on the missile and a coat of desert yellow on the launcher (Egyptian service, doncha know). The paint callouts were a bit amusing. Trumpeter has occasional problems with translation like the really old Tamiya and Bandai kits, and among other things the instructions called for the use of "Nary Grey" and "Stian White". I especially like nary grey, which to me suggests such a lack of grey it must be yellow...

The decal sheet contains about four evening's worth of stencil decals, a mixture of actual stencils and bands that wrap around the missile. Something went wrong with mine because the decals kept breaking into chunks, and as I attempted to maneuver them back together, they broke into sub-chunks. I was able to salvage most of the decals, but nevertheless the tedium of having to reassemble each and every decal out of three or four jagged hunks left an extremely sour taste in my mouth. Is this characteristic of Trumpeter decals, or did I just get a bad set?

Still, for all the pain and aggravation the decals caused, they really sell the model - the missile is plentifully covered with stencils in Cyrillic and they really look good. Missiles often end up looking like featureless painted telephone poles, but this one has some nice visual interest with the red and black stenciling. Curiously, one stencil is in English: there's a band at the top of the rocket, just below the radome, that reads "No Photography". Never one to disregard instructions, I elected to not take any photographs. (Actually, my camera battery is dead.)

In conclusion, it's an easy kit to assemble and it builds into a large, striking and nicely detailed model, but I found the decals tedious and annoying.