Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Revell-Germany Katyusha

I've been working on Revell-Germany's 1/35th scale Katyusha multiple rocket launcher lately, gluing it together while watching the Olympics on TV. I think it's a reissue of an older kit by someone else - Italeri, maybe - but I don't know that for certain. All I know is that it's hard. The engineering of the chassis and drivetrain is particularly difficult. Who asked for two-piece working universal joints? I certainly didn't, and wouldn't have wanted so many of them if I had asked! It looks okay once it's together, but putting it together takes some doing. The front wheel and tire assemblies are okay, but the duals are tricky; the outer and most visible part of the rims have four gates that are difficult to clean up because of their locations. I like the idea of the black vinyl tires, which seems to argue that painting will be simplified, but there's no way to fit the tires onto the completed rims, so I assembled them entirely and painted them as a unit and will repaint the tires by hand later.

It doesn't help that the styrene in the kit is kind of rubbery and strangely tough. I found it hard to shave cleanly with a knife, yet all too easy to tear. The two-part cab is hard to assemble cleanly and I had to resort to putty and sanding to get rid of the major seam where the roof fits onto the rear wall parts.

But it's coming together. I just came inside from painting, where I sprayed the completed chassis with hardware store flat black paint and the cab and rocket launcher subassemblies with Tamiya RAF green lacquer. Now I just have to finish assembling the sight unit and launcher pivot tube, and paint the tires and cab interior details. Oh, and install the steering wheel, which can't be installed until after the cab and chassis are glued together.

I don't think I'd characterize this kit as a lot of fun to build, but how many Katyusha models do you see?

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Academy USAAF Ambulance

Yesterday I finished Academy's 1/72nd scale USAAF ambulance. I'd already built the tow tractor a long time ago to pose with an MPM XF-85 Goblin. I don't have any photographs of it right now. I was going to photograph it today, but I became worn out from chemo and didn't feel like going through that cumbersome ritual. Maybe later.

The Academy kit is quite nice, and Academy's engineering solves a major problem I often have with small-scale trucks: how to deal with the windows. Unlike most small-scale trucks, which either feature no window glass at all, or which force you to install the windows prior to closing up the cab and painting, Academy's engineering allows one to install the windows from the outside, after painting. I quite like that feature - a few dabs of white glue to hold the glass in and I was done. (You may gather from this that I don't often spend a lot of time painting or detailing the interiors of small-scale trucks, and you would be right. Other people may see a painted instrument panel in a 1/72nd scale truck, but I certainly can't, and unlike a lot of modelers I don't derive any particular satisfaction from "knowing detail is there even though I can't see it.")

The decals were a little crispy and didn't react all that well to Micro-Sol, and I had to touch up the red with paint where the decal didn't conform to the rooftop vent and broke. But by and large the decals worked well enough to hold up their end of the kit. It's a nice addition to my collection of soft-skinned vehicles.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Some views of the Moebius Imhotep model I just finished, the first thing I've really finished since the transplant business started. It was fun to build (a mere handful of very large parts) but a lot of work to paint, mainly because of its great size. I used a variety of paints - hardware store metallic gold spray paint, hardware store "almond" spray paint, Krylon dark earth automotive spray paint, various craft paints, Liquitex burnt umber, raw sienna and parchment...

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Unfinished Business

Someday I'm going to have to actually finish something. I've always been the kind of modeler who is more likely to start something new than to finish something old, but lately this trait has really gotten out of hand. I build on something for a while, I leave it half-built in the open box, and I move on to something else. I'm not sitting at my workbench, but offhand, I know that in work I have five dinosaurs, two Airfix tank transporters (maybe three, it's hard to tell), two 1/24th scale drag cars, a WC63 truck, a Sukhoi Su-15 Flagon, a Roman trireme, two 54mm figures, a USAAF ambulance, a Moebius Imhotep, a... well, you get the idea.

How does this happen? In the fussy British model magazines I read, people often seem to abandon (or at least shelve) projects because of a lack of reference material or lack of suitable detail parts. The editors often speak of throwing away (or "binning") entire models because of a flaw in one part or another. That's not why I give up on projects. I enjoy making historically accurate models, but if I can't make it accurate, I'll make it inaccurate; it's not that big a deal to me (I'm fond of putting strange fantasy markings on airplanes, such as Belgian cockades on an F-16XL, or marking a natural-metal Mirage F1C for USAF aggressor service).

My problem, really, is that I like building more than I like painting. If you look at my collection of half-built stuff, you'll see that they're almost all stalled at the same basic point - the point at which I have to load up the airbrush. There's nothing wrong with my airbrush (a well-used Testors pre-Aztek Model Master) or compressor, nor is there anything particularly wrong with my technique (though I rarely spray acrylics and prefer Model Master enamels). And I like the actual airbrushing itself. I just don't like getting the thing set up to spray properly, and I don't like all the cleaning up afterwards. Every now and then I get the airbrush set up and paint a whole bunch of things at once, or I figure out a way to fake things with spray cans, but increasingly, stuff just sits in that ready-to-paint limbo.

I'm also a little scared of the airbrush, to be honest. Regular readers of this blog (assuming there are any) will know that I was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma and have been going through chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants. To date nobody really knows what causes Hodgkin's. There's a minor statistical link with the Epstein-Barr Virus, but it isn't an especially powerful link and fundamentally nobody knows what causes the cancer. Virus? Toxin? Bad luck?

Whatever, I think about all those years I've been airbrushing using lacquer thinner and I sort of wonder. No matter how good my exhaust hood is (and it isn't bad), I inhale lacquer thinner fumes. No matter how careful I am, I get lacquer thinner on my hands. Sometimes an awful lot of it. Can I say that years of exposure to lacquer thinner caused my cancer? No. But I can't say it didn't either. And now that my cancer appears to be beaten back and in remission, I'm a bit wary of exposing myself to massive doses of lacquer thinner fumes again.

The obvious solution is to stop airbrushing enamels and switch to acrylics. And I probably will, once I get over the shock of the idea. Another obvious solution is to wear a respirator and rubber gloves, and I probably should. But all of this represents even more bother, and makes me even less inclined to airbrush anything.

It's gotten so bad that I brush-painted the last few airplane models I've actually finished, which seems positively Paleolithic.

So that's my problem. I like to build things, but I just don't enjoy airbrushing that much. So the unbuilt stuff piles up, and as soon as something gets to the airbrushing stage, I get something new off the shelf. It's a habit I really have to break before my entire (and huge) collection of models ends up half-built. I vowed not to start anything new until I've at least finished the large and bulky Imhotep model, but my discipline is poor and that Lindberg Snark in my closet is calling to me...

But on the other hand, building models is supposed to be fun, and what's more important, having fun or finishing things? Well, both, I guess.