Saturday, September 29, 2012

AMT Boss Nova

AMT's Boss Nova drag car kit.  I've always liked this kit and I've been meaning to build it for a long time.  I stripped the chrome parts with oven cleaner a few years ago, but other than that it's been sitting in its box for ages.

It's a mixed bag, really.  Most of the chassis is simplified to the point of being toylike, and the tires really deserve to be replaced.  But the engine has nice detail, and I really liked the "Chrysler Firepower" engraving on the hemi's valve covers.  It also comes with a variety of induction schemes, including a blower and crossed fuel injection, but I selected the eight-carburetor setup because I like that "forest of carburetors" effect (and the carbs aren't bad - all I did was drill out their throats).

I wired the distributor, but routing spark plug wires in a realistic manner isn't my strong suit.  I added a few other details - some entirely bogus fuel tank plumbing, a coil, and a tank of some sort I found and glued to the back of the firewall.  It could have used better seat belts and cans/wiring on the back of the instrument panel, at least, but I didn't get that far.  Most of the decals are what came with the kit, the only exception being the Goodyear tire markings that I got from a Slixx sheet.  I also drilled out the headers, but otherwise they're as they were supplied by the kit.

The paint is mostly Testors two-part lacquer spray paint, with various metallic paints on the engine (burn iron metalizer on the headers and Humbrol bronze on the carburetors), brass metalizer on the wheels, and Bare-Metal Foil for the window trim and rocker panels.  I tried to save the chrome plating on the grill and bumper parts, but I ended up having to strip, sand and repaint the grill insert.

The best part of the kit is the Chrysler hemi engine; the rest is downhill from there.  But it was still fun.

Mirage T26S

This is the Mirage 1/72nd scale Russian T26S tank - probably a medium tank in its day, but more like a light tank by the outbreak of World War Two.  It's quite a kit, comprising just about a million parts and incorporating a lot of detail for such a small model (64 parts in the running gear alone).  

It isn't fun to build.  The plastic is very soft and easily damaged with solvent cement, and the profusion of small parts makes patience not just a virtue but an actual necessity.  I needed extra light, reading glasses, and better tweezers to finish this kit.  And there are fit problems - in particular, a gap where the upper glacis meets the front of the hull, and another wide gap between the halves of the driver's hatch.  But these fit problems may have been self-inflicted; there aren't a lot of positive location pins or tabs and it's entirely possible I misaligned something while I was building it.  The tracks are also hard to work with.  I'm used to vinyl tracks, and actually prefer them over link-and-length styrene tracks, but these seemed especially slippery and disinclined to hold paint.

But while it isn't exactly fun to build, it's pretty satisfying to build.  There's nothing simplified about it and when one finishes it, one has a sense of actually having struggled and overcome.

I was going to paint it green and then give it a winter whitewash, but I liked the green (I used Model Master "Soviet Armor Green") so I killed the gloss with Dullcote and brushed on some ground-up pastels and called it good.  The kit contained no decals and I chose not to try to paint any patriotic Cyrillic slogans, mostly because my eyes still hurt from assembling the suspension.  (I really wanted to paint it as though it were a Republican T26 in the Spanish Civil War, but I don't think they used any T26Ss.)

Viewing my unbuilt kits, it seems that I must have had a thing for Vickers Six-Tonners at some point.  I have four Mirage Six-Tonners, a 7TP (a Polish derivative of the Six-Tonner) and this T26S (a Russian derivative of the Six-Tonner).  

The brief summary:  tricky and kind of difficult to build, but I'm glad I built it.

Those Horse Guys

I've always liked painting 25mm figures.  Back when I played Dungeons & Dragons, back in the late 1970s and 1980s, 25mm figures were not especially common - at least in my neck of the woods - and I hadn't really discovered tabletop wargaming (I was still playing Tobruk and PanzerBlitz with cardboard counters, and liked it that way).  But since, I've found that I like itty-bitty 25mm figures, even though I don't really play D&D any more and haven't done any tabletop wargaming since I got out of the hospital.

(Explanation:  While I was in the hospital waiting for my transplanted bone marrow to start making blood cells again, I made some trireme and bireme ships out of pieces of paper, and drew rulers and dice on other pieces of paper and amused myself for several days refighting the battle of Actium.)

Anyway - I have no idea where these figures came from.  I just painted them, glued them to a piece of wood, and made landscape with model railroad stuff.  I don't even cut off the bases; I just build up the ground with putty or drywall compound until the bases are hidden.  All I really know about them is that they're 25mm figures, and they were fun to paint.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Lindberg Interplanetary UFO

Lindberg's "Interplanetary UFO" model.  I believe the decals used to be for the "USS Leif Ericson" but now it's the "USS Yuri Gagarin".  Which is okay with me.  The model came in greenish glow-in-the-dark plastic and I was tempted to leave it that way, but the fit wasn't good and I had to do some advanced filing, filling, sanding, and screaming to erase the seams, and that ruined the glow-in-the-dark effect.  So I painted it Fifties-style, all bare metal.  I also plugged the see-through engine nacelles with plastic bulkheads and glued science-fictiony doodads to the bulkheads (domes from an AMT Romulan Warbird on the front, and sprockets from an M113 to the backs to simulate "plasma thrusters" or something).  The paint is highly generic hardware store silver spray paint that I bought to cover up welds on fence panels - it works for models too, but MAN it goes on heavy.  Maybe that's a good thing.

The decals weren't bad.  A little fragile, but workable.  I sanded the raised windows off, knowing that I'd be using the window decals anyway.

A view of the shuttlecraft bay.  The decal sheet includes decals that simulate machinery on the shuttle bay bulkheads, which was nice of them, because the kit parts had scribbly engraving and looked troublesome to paint.  I scratchbuilt new shuttle bay doors out of sheet styrene and bits and pieces of Evergreen strip styrene, as the kit doors lent new emphasis to the term "clunky".

I still have some work to do.  The green paint on one of the engine domes is horribly smeared, and the model needs to be cleaned and overcoated, but by and large, it's pretty much done.  The one-sentence summary:  fun, but stock up on clamps and sandpaper before you start.

Airfix Roland

This is the venerable Airfix 1/72nd scale Roland CII "Walfisch", which must be one of the easiest biplane models to build (no cabane struts!).  I'd been feeling stuck in the middle of too many difficult projects and thought I'd just "do some Airfix", to quote James May.  The Roland isn't a great kit - no interior, and the machine guns are at best vague approximations of armament - but it isn't bad.  The pilot and gunner figures are a little odd-shaped but not bad, and the fit is generally pretty good.  And the decals are quite well-behaved.  I built it over the span of a weekend, a task eased by the fact that I could brush-paint it with Model Master acrylic RLM65 and not have to worry about much else.

Another notch in my "Aeroplanes of the Great War" collection.  Notable gaps are now things like the Gotha, the Handley-Page 0/400, the DH4, and Spads.  I have no Spads.  Why is that?  Poor planning on my part, probably.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Vision Check

Roden's itty-bitty 1/72nd scale SdKfz-234/1 armored car.  I included my hand mostly to show the small size of the finished model.  There is a staggering quantity of parts in the kit - 153, according to the Internet.  I found it a hard build.  Not because the fit is bad, or the kit is badly engineered.  It's just that it consists of a lot of parts, and many of them are desperately small.

Here is a brief summary of the modeling tools you'll find useful in building this kit:

1.  Tweezers
2.  Binocular magnifiers
3.  Roughly a quart of Old Grand Dad
4.  A CD of soothing music

The suspension is particularly alarming, mostly because the wheels appear to want to float on just the central half-axles, and there's no solid connection between the upper and lower control arms and the wheel backing plate.  I attached my wheels with copious quantities of super glue and managed to get them half-assed aligned, but for a while, despair was on the menu and I didn't think I'd ever get them on.

I painted it with Model Master acrylic panzer yellow, but it looks awfully green on the finished model, at least to my eye.  The same paint looks okay on 1/35th scale models, so I think it must be a scale effect.  Next time, I'll lighten it with radome tan or something along those lines.

And there will be a next time, because I also happen to have a Roden 1/72nd scale SdKfz-234/4 "PAKwagen" in my stash.  But I don't think I'll start on it any time soon.  At least not until my eyes uncross and I replenish my supply of whiskey.

Fujimi P-51D

The oldest kit in my stash:  an ancient Fujimi 1/48th scale P-51D Mustang.  It's pretty primitive by modern standards, and the alleged detailed Packard-Merlin engine is pretty laughable, but hey, it's progress.  Mustang aficionados will recognize the markings as Big Beautiful Doll, and will remark "Hey, isn't it supposed to have white and black checkerboards on the nose and wingtips?"  Yep.  But the decal sheet didn't offer them, and I didn't feel like masking and painting them myself.

I'm experimenting with a new phase in my modeling career called "Just build the damn thing already."  I know some people who suffer from terrible cases of Advanced Modeler Syndrome, where they can't start a kit until they have at least three different detail sets and twenty reference books.  I don't suffer from that syndrome, but I DO historically have problems deciding what to work on.  I don't know how many unbuilt kits are in my collection - too many, surely.  And sometimes I catch myself standing and looking at my collection and whining because I have "nothing I feel like building."  It's like the old Bruce Springsteen song "57 Channels and Nothing On" - I'm so spoiled for choice that I've become practically inert.

So the new phase:  whenever a kit slides off the pile and falls on the floor, I build it - whatever it happens to be.  Whether I feel like building it or not.  Whether I have detail parts for it or not.  Whether the decals are any good or not.  Whether I can find my airbrush or not.

So here it is.  It slid off the pile, and I built it.  It's brush-painted with Humbrol 56 (flat aluminum, I think) and a little Model Master olive drab.  It doesn't have the checkerboards.  It doesn't really pass muster.  And I didn't even bother with the pilot, who was misshapen to the point of resembling Zira in Planet of the Apes.  But at least it's done.

(I've had the kit for decades.  It's so old that the plastic bags containing the parts were breaking up into millions of tiny iridescent flakes.  I got the flakes all over myself, and when I saw myself glittering in the sun, I thought I was turning into a vampire.)  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Oh, Someday

I've been reading Finescale Modeler and Scale Auto magazines for about a thousand years, and over those years, I've been exposed to a great many really excellent modelers:  Paul Boyer, who I think deserves some kind of Lifetime Achievement Award for consistently great work.  Tony Greenland, whose weathering of German armored vehicles suggests that he applies paint with molecule-by-molecule precision.  Alex Kustov, who makes me want to build cars, and Juha Airio, whose cars are so good they look like miniature people could drive them away.

But today I speak of Lewis Pruneau, who is (deservedly) famous for building very large dioramas to a staggeringly high level of craftsmanship.  Pruneau's work is astonishing, but I rarely want to try to emulate it - it's just so damned big!  The thought of painting 100+ figures for one diorama daunts me, to say nothing of having no idea where I'd find a home for a diorama on such an epic scale.  I say rarely, because I once saw a Lewis Pruneau diorama in FSM that I really did want to emulate:  a diorama of a typical afternoon at the drag races, with a bunch of cars, a bunch of mechanics, a bunch of fans, and a bunch of general drag racing appeal.  Ever since, I've wanted to build something like that.  Not a part-for-part recreation, but my own take on a local drag race, such as those seen at Speedworld in Surprise, Arizona (near enough my house that I can hear the V-8s roaring on Saturday nights from my workbench).    

So here's my starting point:  two drag cars staged on my workbench.  I can't remember who made the kits.  One's a hatchback Nova (a car I'm quite fond of) and the other is a Chevelle, but past that, things are a blur. They've actually been quasi-finished for a long time, but the other day I happened to remember that the Slixx decals I'd ordered had long since arrived, so I washed the cars off and applied the desired Slixx offerings, mostly tire decals.  So there it is.  Not quite a drag racing diorama, but it's a start.

Drag aficionados will note many problems with these models.  The Chevelle has no side windows, and I think that's against the rules.  Neither has a fire extinguisher inside the car.  And there's a dead moth in the Chevelle that would be about three feet long in scale.  And I have no idea how to make sense of NHRA classes; I jotted down some classes and numbers the last time I was at the drag strip and painted them on, but who knows if they're right or not.  Certainly not I.  And certainly not anyone I know.  And if you look, you'll see that the Chevelle has a bracket time of 9.97 seconds, but the driver is wearing a short-sleeved shirt.  I think if you go that fast, you need to be wearing a fire suit.  Or at least should be.

The Nova is painted Testors Fathom Green, and the Chevelle is painted with some kind of dark grey metalflake, but it has a very rough finish and the flakes are way too big - the perils of hardware store metalflake, I guess.  Both have flat black hoods, and drivers cobbled together from Fujimi and Tamiya figure sets.  And just the other day I bought a reissue of the "Mongoose" top fuel dragster, and found that the kit came with an actual 'Christmas tree'.  So I have that going for me too.

The point is, someday I'll get around to building more cars.  I'm not sure when, but hey, I have to start somewhere.

Monogram P-39

To paraphrase The Most Interesting Man In The World, "I don't often build 1/48th scale airplanes - but when I do, I often build old Monogram 1/48th scale airplanes."  This is, of course, the rather elderly but still quite nice Monogram 1/48th scale P-39 Airacobra, which has a reasonable amount of interior detail, pretty nice fit, and raised panel lines.  It even has flattened main tires, but to me they don't just look flattened, they look flat.  

This was supposed to be a P-39D, with the four .30-caliber machine guns in the wings.  Which, after I'd assembled the wing, I realized that I'd forgotten to install.  DOH!  I read somewhere that the Soviets generally removed the wing armament from their P-39s to improve their roll rate, and maybe certain USAAF pilots did the same.  I couldn't find my airbrush, so I brush-painted the model with Model Master acrylic olive drab, and used some old Humbrol paint for the interior green.  How does one "not find" their airbrush? I store it in a little box, and I think I accidentally threw the box away during one of my intermittent declutterings of the workshop.  Well, since my airbrush was a pre-Aztek Model Master job, maybe that's for the best...

I think there's a goof in the instructions.  This same kit can be built as a P-39D or a P-39Q.  The P-39D markings are for a USAAF unit in North Africa, and the instructions say it should be painted olive drab.  The P-39Q is marked for a unit in the Pacific, and the instructions say to paint it sand.  I think that's backwards.  But since I had olive drab but didn't have sand, I rolled with it.

There are a couple of problems with the kit.  One is that you can't install the nose landing gear after the fuselage is assembled.  Another is that I just couldn't get the car-door windows to fit properly, and in the process of trimming and carving, I dropped the left-side window.  I have a hard enough time seeing dropped model parts on the floor, but a clear part?  Fuggeddaboudit.  I'll find it the next time I sweep the concrete - or not, I'm good either way.

It's not going to win any awards, but it was fun.  And I can't ask for more than that.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finished Black Widow

Done.  More or less.  I'm not too excited about the kit-supplied base, because it makes it seem like she's off to visit the doctor.  And I swear I put the right boots on the right legs, but they still look like they're on backwards.

The paint is mostly Testors flat black, Testors metallic grey metalizer, and some anonymous dark grey acrylic (the label fell off the bottle, so I don't know what it is).  For the flesh, I generally prime with white spray paint of some sort, then apply a base coat of Delta "AC Flesh", and then apply selective washes of Testors rust.  For the hair, I applied base coat of very dark brown (Testors rubber) and then did a whole lot of drybrushing with various shades of craft paint.  The boots and eyes got a coat of Future floor wax (yes, I know, in the magazines they call it something like "Pledge with Future Shine", but to me, it's Future floor wax.  Period).

In the movie, Black Widow has hair so red it's almost orange, which I personally am not a big fan of, so I gave her a darker reddish-auburn hair color.  Hey, it's my universe.

The FAMAS rifle didn't come with the kit.  Years ago my brother and I went to Home Depot to get some boards for his patio cover, and as we were walking across the parking lot, I saw a plastic rifle on the ground.  It turned out to be the FAMAS, made out of some kind of stiff vinyl-like material, and surprisingly well detailed.  It was probably a weapon for an action figure, perhaps a French commando, and some kid dropped it.  Sorry, kid, but it will comfort you to know I still have the FAMAS and used it to give Black Widow a little more punch in the automatic weapons department.  And I happen to like the FAMAS.  I have no idea if it's any good as a rifle, since I'm not really a firearms expert, but I think it has a groovy shape.

If I were to do this kit again (and I will; I have a second one in the pile o'kits) I'll modify the boots because I think they look pretty awkward, and I'll make a different base.  And I already have a weapon for the second version, an M203 from an old Glencoe paratrooper model.  (I read a Black Widow comic some years ago where the KGB sent a new blonde Black Widow to find and kill the old red-haired Black Widow.  Why not?)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Moebius Black Widow

Does this picture make my head look huge?

This is my not-quite-completed take on the Moebius "Black Widow" model, which unlike a lot of figures is an actual glue-together thing in styrene and not solid resin or metal.  Styrene figures get a bad rap for not having particularly crisp detailing or sculpting, and the assembly process causes gaps and seams that (some) metal and resin figures don't have.

But with that said, I quite enjoyed the Moebius "Black Widow" kit.  Reasonably easy to assemble, though  you'll need a couple of pretty serious clamps to hold the body halves together, and don't even bother trying to figure out how to salvage the pin on the right-side hair piece - the pin is pointed in the wrong direction and all you can do is cut it off.

I'll post more pictures later, when I'm fully done with the figure, but this'll do for now.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Revell's 1/40th scale (or thereabouts) Corporal missile carrier and launch stuff.  I built this model more or less on a dare.  Every now and then I go into these strange modeling phases where I buy as many kits as ever, but I don't actually build anything.  I buy kits, books, magazines, paint, and tools.  I lie in bed and think about building something.  But I never actually do build anything, and meantime the collection of unbuilt kits stored on the upper shelves of my closet grows and grows and grows...

Eventually the collection of kits started to slump.  I'd go in the closet to get fresh clothes for work, and the disturbance would cause a kit avalanche.  At one point I conceived the idea of building MiG-21MFs in every scale from 1/144 to 1/32nd, and one day all my MiG-21s rained down.  Another time the Renwal Atomic Cannon slid off the top of the pile, and it's a sufficiently husky kit it actually hurt when it landed on my foot.

I decided after that the next kit to slide off would be built, come Hell or high water.  And it just so happened that it was this kit, the Revell Corporal and launcher, that slid off.

The kit comes with the Corporal missile, the weird four-wheel-steering carrier, a launch table a la the V-2, and a selection of crewmen, including this guy, who appears to be gesticulating in disgust because the launch controller isn't working right.  The only significant molding flaw I found in the kit was massive sinkage on the figures; practically every one of them had hollow backs.

It's actually a pleasant kit to build.  It isn't going to stagger those used to modern Dragon kits with its detail or engineering, but it was actually a lot more fun than I thought it would be.  There were some tense moments getting the elevating missile cradle to mate with the chassis, because you have to get a set of gears to mesh, and the ladders on the missile cradle were somewhat troublesome.  But on the whole, it was surprisingly easy and fun to build.

I'm sort of used to the idea of the decals in old kits being horrid, but these were quite nice - thin and crisp and amenable to Micro-Sol.  The US Army stuff on the cab settled down over the access hatches quite nicely, and the Corporal itself comes with a reasonable quantity of stenciling.

I experimented with the paint.  I often use spray cans to paint monochromatic kits, especially armor models.  But most of the olive drab spray paints I've used seem very dark to me (or maybe it's just my eyesight going south; that's also possible).  So for this kit, I used a vaguely olive-drabbish color from Krylon called "Oregano".  It's a little lighter than I expected, and more like khaki than olive drab, but overall, I'm not displeased with it.  Or at least not displeased enough to repaint the whole thing.

Not bad for a dare, and now that I've actually finished something, I'm starting to have more ideas.  Why, even now, I already have two more kits in work - the old Lindberg "Yuri Gagarin" spaceship (the one with the opening hangar bay on the top) and the Moebius "Iron Man" version of Black Widow.

And there are always those MiG-21s, lurking, lurking, ever lurking...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sob Story

Italeri 1/72nd V-22 Osprey

Now I need a 1/200th scale Storey Musgrave

I'm not dead yet! I haven't even been sick. I just took a break from modeling for a couple of months, mostly because I seemed to be spending every waking moment involved with work. "Yeah, yeah," you say. "We all have our problems and we all have to work, so cry me a river..." But I wasn't complaining, really. Too much work is infinitely better than not enough work. But it does tend to leave one (meaning me) without much time to do any modeling.

To make this state of affairs seem even worse, I confess that over the last six months or so, I've become slightly intimidated by some of the new kit releases. A few times over the last few months I went into my friendly local hobby shop hoping to find something new and fun that would give me incentive to blow the dust off my workbench and start working again, but man, everything looked so hard. Armor kits with a THOUSAND pieces? Oh my God. 1/32nd scale airplane kits of surpassing detail and accuracy that would take me six weeks to finish? Oh my God. It all seemed so... well, intense is the word I'm looking for, I think.

I actually had a good cry with the proprietor over this. Remember back in the 1970s and 1980s, when Tamiya kits were the last word in detail, fidelity, and fiddlesomeness in armor kits? Tamiya was the top of the line, the sort of thing attempted by masters, not the kind of thing that rewarded the efforts of duffers and hacks. And now, those old Tamiya kits are actually considered vacations! After tackling a thousand-piece modern armor kit, we go back to those Tamiya kits and say "Wow, less than 120 parts? This is EASY!"

And unfortunately, my pile of unbuilt kits wasn't much help, because I'd pretty much cleaned it out of easy, cheap, borderline-throwaway kits like my much-beloved Airfix WWI fighters. Practically everything in my unbuilt collection was something I wanted to do well, and I was pretty sure my skills had deteriorated over the last few months and the last thing I wanted to do was ruin my Atomic Cannon because I had devolved to being a sixth-rate modeler (as opposed to a third-rate modeler, which I normally am, and am perfectly comfortable with). I have many lovely models in my pile of unbuilt kits, but not many that would serve as introductory fodder.

So as the demands of work let up and I felt the desire to inhale methyl ethyl ketone fumes grew, I went to the hobby shop hoping to find something cheap and easy and fun, like a Hobby Boss P-39, or the "Tijuana Taxi", one of those dreadful-but-fun "theme rods" that I had such fun with as a boy. Alas, I could find neither one. (Really, I was hoping to find two Airfix kits: the HP-42A and the Handley-Page 0/400, but I knew better than to even dream of finding them there.)

But I did find a Hasegawa Shuttle and Hubble combination which I didn't even know existed, and that was enough to push me over the top and get me building again. But build WHAT? The Shuttle and Hubble? No way - I wasn't going to start it, for the same reason I wasn't going to start the Atomic Cannon: I felt I needed to build a few junk kits first, just to regain some basic competency with brush and knife. So that's where the Italeri V-22 Osprey comes in: it was the least interesting, most expendable kit in my collection, and that's what I started with (I haven't finished it yet, and I may not either, but I have to start somewhere, right?).

So now I'm learning how to build models all over again, and have made a few interesting discoveries along the way.

1. Knives that were dull when put them down months ago don't get any sharper in the meantime.

2. Paint that was thick and gooey when you last opened it turns to shoe leather in the meantime.

3. That odd fluffy mass behind a paint jar may not be dust; it may in fact be a spider's reproductive effort and prodding it may release a horde of tiny white spiders the size of grains of sand.

4. MEK can magically evaporate right out of sealed glass jars.

5. Skills that you thought were long dead actually come back pretty quickly. I started the weekend as a sixth-rate modeler, and I feel that I'm already up to a fifth-rate one, and by the time I put the decals on the Osprey, I might actually be fourth-rate again.

And then? Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of the Atomic Cannon, most likely. Unless rumors of the Airfix reissue of the Handley-Page 0/400 are true, in which case all bets are off.