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.