Monday, 30 September 2019

Monogram 1/72 B-52E Stratofortress

There's something about building a really "BIG" model. All practical considerations go out of the window in favour of an imposing monster that you'll never find space for. Not that I need to find space, except in a big box to ship this one over to my customer.

Anyway, this one is BIG. I believe it was, for some time, the biggest mainstream model kit out there until Revell pumped out their enormous 1/48 scale B-1. These days of course, the likes of Hong Kong Models and MPM are busy trying to "out big" everyone anyway, not sure where it will end. But this one hails from the mid 70s I believe. And it shows. Big, chunky plastic, very basic engineering and not a lot of exquisite detail, and of course raised panel lines. But let's be honest, the "BUFF" (at least in it's earlier incarnations, which is the subject of this build) is not smothered in much detail, and also raised panel lines hold few fears for me these days. I have moved on from the "fill the panel lines with dark wash or it's crap" school of modelling (at least in the smaller scales) and am now more into making a model that actually looks like the real thing. Which generally does not look like an ill fitting jigsaw. A bit of sanding down to just leave a suggestion of the line and perhaps a little post shading are all that is needed in my book. Maybe some extra effort around control surfaces and doors is warranted but otherwise go with it, that's my advice.

So back to the kit, and it's not actually that complicated to build. Although the parts are large, there aren't that many of them (at least by modern standards). There is, however, plenty of flash and sink holes. Fortunately, in my example, (although I may have been lucky) there wasn't much warpage. This can be a particular problem in the wing parts and one of them did need a little heat treatment but I've dealt with worse in much smaller models.

There isn't much in the way of after market for this kit, however I did manage to acquire some engine exhaust sections from Shapeways, a couple of ejection seats and I also used some brass gun barrels from Master for the rear guns. My customer also provided the Black Dog Resin bomb bay (which is meant for the newer Italeri kits - more on that later) and a couple of Mk41 nuclear bombs from Spectre Resin to go in there. The obligatory SAC metal undercarriage also found it's way into this project.

The build started with the undercarriage, which slots nicely into the fuselage halves. Not that it will be particularly visible, but I did feel the urge to dress things up a little with some spare etch as there is no detail whatsoever in the kit parts.

The cockpit went together next, again very little detail in the kit but I used the resin seats and carefully applied the supplied decals for the consoles. Not exactly state of the art but given the poor visibility it was perfectly adequate.

Fitting the Black Dog bomb bay was rather tricky. The kit comes with one of those "loose" design bomb bay door sets that were so popular before we started wanting realism in our models, which found the waste bin quickly as decent double fold doors are provided by Black Dog. However, I did have to cut out the top part of the doors from the fuselage halves and also had to reconstruct the fuselage at each end of the bay since it is slightly shorter in length than the kit represents. It was a bit of a chore, but I got there in the end. The Black Dog bay is beautifully detailed which is a bit of a shame in some way because again, once the Mk41s are in there not so much is visible, even if you did manage to turn the model upside down.

The fuselage goes together surprisingly well, even with that alien bomb bay in there (I had to fettle a bit of the resin away to allow the wing spars to fit properly by the way - if you ever do this make sure you test fit the wings before sealing up the fuselage).

The wings fitted together nicely and are surprisingly rigid given how large they are. I did, however, have to heat treat the starboard wing as it was a little warped, and getting the wing droop right is one job that anyone who has built a
B-52 in any scale will never forget.

I put the engines together next - the Shapeways exhaust cones required that the rear section of each pod had to be cut away and as you can see, I needed to re-construct them with Milliput. That was a job I had not anticipated and was not the most enjoyable part of the build to be honest.

Once the engines and fuel tanks were installed along with the tail section (no problems there) it was time to start painting. The paint job in itself is not complicated, however when the model is so big that only one wing at a time will fit inside one's spray booth it became a total nightmare. But I managed eventually to get the main painting done with a combination of impressive bodily contortions and incredibly careful handling. How I got through this without dropping it I don't know. I applied my usual aluminium base coat with some slightly darkened panels to add a little interest.

While the paint was drying I built the Hound Dog missiles, which had been provided by my customer from a different kit (which one I'm not sure). Each of these is as big as some 1/72 aircraft I've built in the past. The size of this thing is incredible.

The decals from the kit are a waste of time, fortunately I had been provided with a plethora of decals from various sources, one sheet from Wolf Pack containing the necessary shields and numbering, and all stencils came from various other sheets.

A satin finish and a bit of post shading and staining finished things off nicely. I also scratch built the array of antennae unique to the "E" behind the rear undercarriage. I also added, for interest, the little MA-1A start cart from CMK.

So, what an experience. But it has certainly resulted in a model that nobody can ignore, and if I do say so myself, for a kit that is not much younger than I am, it has scrubbed up rather nicely.

Full progress photos can be seen here.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Wingnut Wings 1/32 Jeannin Stahltaube

One of the high points of late 2018 for me was bagging this commission, I absolutely adore Wingnut Wings kits and get to build them far less often than I'd like. The sheer quality of the package and the passionate attention to detail in the documentation is second to none and, of course, the subject matter is never less than fascinating.

This one, in particular, is superb. From the days when aircraft really did look like birds - this has to be one of the most beautiful aircraft designs ever. They certainly don't make them like this anymore.

Anyway, on to the build. These kits are NOT for the fainthearted if you want to do it properly, if only because of the enormous amount of rigging that goes in to them. And in this case, on the inside as well as the outside.

The quality of the parts in this kit makes the modeller go crazy for perfection, even in those parts that won't be seen. Masking up and painting internal ribbing is not something that I would generally bother about but in this case it's definitely worth it. And then installing all the control cables and bracing wires is intensely fiddly but very satisfying when complete.

As ever with WW kits, the engine is a work of art in itself, although my one criticism is that lack of plugs and HT cabling. It seems a glaring omission given the attention to detail applied elsewhere. But a bit of scratch work on my part soon dealt with that.

The engine cowling demands the "fish scale" effect which took a bit of practice and more than one attempt to get right, but is worth persevering with because it looks really special in my humble opinion.

A bit of careful shading on the wing parts transforms solid lumps of plastic into delicate wood and fabric structures, but one bit of this build that does need care is the attaching of the wings to the body. It's a positive fit, but needs 24 hours of glue setting to be secure - so be patient.

Another tricky area is creating the spoked wheels from photo etch. The kit contains alternative plastic moulded wheels for the lazy modeller but I not going to allow myself to give in to that. It was tough, but I got there in the end. And one other warning, the wheel struts are not terribly stable when attached to the fuselage and supporting the model. SAC do produce a metal version which should help, but to be honest I did not like the look of them. So I cheated a little and used thin brass rod as the cross brace rather than the elastic rigging used elsewhere. This has made them much more stable.

Some significant weathering was applied as my customer's request, in particular muddying up the wheels and underside but also a touch of rusty oil around the cowling and some exposed patches of fuselage fabric, along with an overall oil wash to grubby things up a little.

I am, if I say so myself, delighted with the results and am very proud to present this model for your viewing pleasure. Full progress photos can be found here.