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.