Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lindberg Star Probe

Various views of the Lindberg "Star Probe". It must drive kit collectors halfway bonkers to see hacks like me actually build vintage kits like this one. Or maybe every time I ruin a vintage collector kit, the value of theirs, hermetically sealed in dry nitrogen in a radiation-proof safe, goes up.

Either way, I like models like this. I can't get enough of that vintage future-factual space stuff, perhaps because it takes my mind off our current near-futility in space. (And it probably drives the fans of unmanned space exploration bonkers when I say things like that, because unmanned space exploration seems to be enjoying a sort of Renaissance. And that's cool. But for me, anyway, what's the point of having a space program if somewhere in the fine print it doesn't have a manned landing on Mars as a long-range objective?)

I didn't use the kit decals, obviously. They'd become as brittle as the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the only way to save them would be scan them, clean up the digital image, and reprint them on decal paper. Given that my printer is being stubborn and my scanner went to its reward ages ago, I figured I'd use scavenged decals for the time being and, when I've worked out my office problems, I'll repaint the Star Probe and apply the refurbished decals. And I painted the portholes blue instead of red because I think the red ones are altogether too insectoid.

I love the little "specimen" (if you've seen The Right Stuff you know what I'm talking about) in their metalized Michelin Man suits.

One question, though: how exactly do the little specimen get from the habitation part of the ship to the ground? Am I to presume that somewhere there's a really long ladder lashed to the outside of the ship? Or maybe they shinny up and down on ropes? Probably no big deal on the moon; even I could handle that. But suppose Commander Falcon lands the thing on Mars - four tenths of a gee might be more than my slack forearms could deal with. But the alternative, I suppose, is to imagine a tunnel going through the middle of the propellant tanks and emerging somewhere between the clustered rocket engines, which doesn't seem like a good solution either.

Maybe the best approach is to open a beer, forget about it, and leave it all in Commander Falcon's capable hands.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

General Viers

Considering how the desert planet Tatooine always sneaks into the Star Wars movies, I felt that the Empire would be well advised to adopt desert camouflage for its heavy weapons. So here's my stab at desert camouflage on an AT-AT, employing counter-shading akin to British armor at Alamein. The photos were taken on the desert planet of Wittmann, Arizona, in the wash that runs behind my house.

I thought that General Viers, the most successful of Darth Vader's subordinates (in fact, maybe the only successful subordinate of Darth Vader) should have his own specially-marked command AT-AT. Note the kill markings on the nose (really a "mission tally" from an A-26 Invader) and the yellow tactical markings (really half of a "USAF" decal cut up a bit so they don't look like English letters from the same A-26). And in an egregious example of mixing up universes, I applied Star Trek "mirror universe" markings to the side - inappropriate, but too cool not to use. Meantime, a snowspeeder (now a sandspeeder?) zips past. Ha! Who's wearing the wrong camouflage NOW??

Sharp-eyed viewers may note the bird crap on the side of the AT-AT just below the mirror universe decal. I was going to clean it off, but became amused by the thought of some huge pterodactyl-like flying dinosaur pooping on an Imperial AT-AT and left it in place. But bird poop does seem to be a recurring theme, doesn't it? I really must remember to close the garage door more often.

Sandspeeders on the attack. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but I think the counter-shading actually sort of works.

"What did you do at work today, dear?"

"Oh, I attacked General Viers's command AT-AT in a sandspeeder and got my ass shot off in the process. You know, the usual. How was your day?"

Nature Has Spoken

I went out this morning to see what I could do with the wretched Defiant, and lo! At some point one of the little birds that go through my garage hunting for moths and other insects reviewed my Defiant model, found it wanting, and crapped on it. When even the birds don't like your model, it may be time to give up.

Ignominy. This is the roundel that I blew off the wing, resting on the floor of my garage like a dead butterfly.

When Kits Attack

There are two items of interest regarding this 1/48th scale Monogram F-101 Voodoo. The first is that it's the first model I built after my chemotherapy treatments ended. My skills, as it turned out, had atrophied at least as much as my muscles had, but it didn't turn out too terribly badly - though the bright silver on the exhausts still bugs me, and whatever color I painted it, it isn't Air Defense Command grey.

But mostly, I show the F-101 to highlight the fact that isn't the subject of this post, which is the Airfix 1/72nd scale Boulton-Paul Defiant.

I'm bad at remembering anniversaries, and though I fully intended to build a couple of RAF models to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, I forgot. As it turns out, I didn't even have a Spitfire I and a Hurricane II in my collection, and kept forgetting to buy any. (I have Bf 109E, but it seems somehow wrong to honor the RAF by building a model of a Bf 109.)

But I did have an Airfix Boulton-Paul Defiant, and the Defiant did fight in the Battle of Britain, and the Defiant is just odd enough to be cool. And I decided to build it.

That was my first mistake. I build a lot of Airfix kits and I generally know what I'm in for, but the Defiant was pretty bad. I think my model is about 80% Squadron putty by weight. I worked on it on and off for two months, trapped in the endless cycle of filling, sanding, priming, re-filling, re-sanding, re-priming... Time passed. Continents moved. Other kits came and went, and still the Defiant was covered with putty. Finally I decided to just move on for the sake of sanity, and painted it with my dwindling stock of Humbrol dark green and dark earth. Then came the decals.

They didn't just break, or fall apart, or fracture. They exploded. Violently. And because I am by nature inclined to experiment with the most important decal first (the fuselage codes, in this case), I couldn't easily recover. But the decal sheet had markings for a black night fighter version. I hastily repainted it flat black, overcoated the decals with decal film, and tried again. The decals didn't explode, but they wouldn't stick. At one point I blew lightly on the model to dislodge a bit of fluff, and a roundel peeled off the wing and simply fluttered away.


In the meantime, I broke off the tail wheel, broke off at least two of the .303 machine guns, broke a propeller blade trying to make something vaguely propeller-shaped out of the mass of flash, and completely failed to find a way to erase the glaringly obvious ejector pin mark inside the canopy.

So now what? I don't know. I should just throw it away. I've thrown better models away, after all. I botched the assembly of an Italeri Me 410, and threw it in the trash without much complaint. But somehow I just can't trash the Defiant, even though it richly deserves to be buried deeply and quickly in a landfill. I did a quick search of the Squadron Shop and couldn't come up with aftermarket decals for a Defiant, but I did have decals from the old Airfix Westland Whirlwind in my decal box. I'm tempted to apply them just to get the model off top dead center, and then hang the finished model from the ceiling of my garage like the F-101 above, the true home of the crappy model.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lindberg Space Stuff

Unsorted views of the Lindberg USSS Explorer and wheel-shaped space station. These aren't the originals; they're the reissues that came out not so long ago. They both required a good deal of sanding, filling, filing and clamping, and if I were building these professionally I'd have serious heartburn with the fins on the various heat exchangers on the space station in particular. But they were still fun to build - I generally speaking can't get enough of that "future factual" space stuff.

White models present a serious challenge to me - I have a hard time keeping them clean during the construction process. I don't know what my problem is. I wash my hands before I work on models, I don't eat anything while I work on them, and they still come out covered with grubby fingerprints. Maybe I have bad karma.

Airfix Boeing Clipper

The Airfix 1/144th scale Boeing Clipper. Though I don't normally build airliner models, I realized the other day that I had quite a few "strange airliners" in my collection, and I've decided to finish some of them. It's a pretty nice kit - I built most of it while watching TV with the wife, and other than the Tamiya "bare metal silver" out of a spray can, it was largely hand-painted too. Except now that I see the photographs, I see that I did a crappy job of cleaning the wash off the aileron hinge lines. MEPS! Why do I never see such imperfections BEFORE I post the pictures?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Yellow Wings

These are the Accurate Miniatures re-issues of the ancient 1/72nd scale Monogram F4B-4 and P-6E fighters. I remember these fondly from the dime store days, when stores like TG&Y still existed and where cheap models could occasionally be found. These were among my favorites at the time, surpassed perhaps only by the Monogram Messerschmitt Bf-110E.

They're still fun models. Detail is mostly raised and there is no cockpit detail at all, not even the instrument panels on the decal sheet like in the old days. But they're easy and fun to build. A novel feature is that the cabane struts are molded into the fuselage halves. I think I like that feature, though I'm not a biplane expert and will defer to those with more experience.

I'm not wild about the decals. I think the red meatballs in the pre-war US insignia is far too muted, so I replaced them with decals from my spares box. The wing chevron and fuselage for the F4B are printed in black, but I *think* they're supposed to be red. Reputable sources seem to disagree, so I went with the more colorful option and painted them myself. The decal sheet is also missing the thin red stripes for the P-6E's upper wing, which I cut out of an ancient decal sheet from the DS9 Runabout.

Otherwise, good clean fun and a nice addition to my growing collection of biplanes.