Sunday, 16 July 2017

Tamiya 1/350 Yukikaze

Always keen to add a string or two to my bow, I have recently been seeking warship commissions and this one fell into my lap just at the right moment. A change is as good as a rest, as they say, and I must agree that building this little beauty has re-invigorated my modelling mojo no end.

The kit itself is pure Tamiya excellence, the fit and detailing is exemplary. However as any of you who are in to this field of modelling will know, in these scales injection moulding juts doesn't quite provide the level of detail required to build a truly spectacular model. And so to the base kit were added the brilliant Infini Model photo etch and brass set, and one or two other extras to really lift things. To someone used to working in aviation scales, the photo etch parts in this scale really do test your eyesight and tweezers but it is worth it, I hope you agree, this results in a truly awesome model.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Tamiya 1/32 DeHavilland Mosquito FB. Mk VI

Some interesting activity in the 1/32 scale modelling world over the last couple of years. First, Hong Kong Models (rapidly gaining a reputation as the home of the spectacular model kit) throw out a 1/32 Mossie, the first modern tooling in the scale finally replacing the venerable but primitive old Revell kit. And just as the modellers of the world were starting to calm down from their excitement the most respected name in plastic kits suddenly adds one to their superlative 1/32 Warbird range. And, in the humble opinion of this modeller (and many others), it ground the HK kit into the dust. The Hong Kong team had certainly introduced some innovative moulding technology and produced an amazingly well engineered kit, but it soon became apparent that the Tamiya version was far superior in the areas that count, such as detailing, accuracy and display flexibility.

And, lucky old me, I just had a commission to build one.

Just rummaging through the plastic on opening the box, you know you have something special here. The mouldings are crisp and refined, not a hint of flash anywhere. The detail on the parts has to be seen to be believed. I had a full Eduard set of etch to go with this kit, however in the event much of it was left off because it simply adds nothing. Also, it had to be said, for a kit of this size the Eduard etch is pretty limited, I guess they new there was not a lot they could do to improve things. Indeed, Tamiya themselves provide two frets of fine photo etch metal (one of which is magnetic as part of the cowling grip system) which are of a quality and scope that easily stands up against the likes of Eduard and were used throughout this build.

In common with other kits in this series, the engine cowlings are designed to be removable, and as such a moulded extremely thin and should be handled carefully. But this does preserve the integrity of the scale of the cowlings and their contents. Tamiya's mini magnet system is used to hold the cowlings in place, however I found that the bottom cowlings on the engines still did not quite grip with sufficient force and I had to improvise some additional support for them. This is one of the very few failings of the kit I came across. The other significant one is that I found that the top cowling for the nose gun compartment did not fit quite flush and some fettling was required to get this sitting correctly. It's not impossible that this may have been my fault for not installing the firewall perfectly, however.

The two Merlin engines are works of art, and take up four pages of the instructions just on their own. One point I would mention, however, is that given the wonderful kit detailing of these power plants it is a shame that they do not include the spark plug wiring harness. This is often the case in smaller scales or more primitive kits for practical reasons, but it was a slightly jarring omission on a kit of this sophistication. Eduard provide an etch harness (the only engine item in the etch set) but to be honest it looks pretty awful and so I fashioned my own out of styrene rods and fuse wire.

One final point (and it's minor - that's how desperate I've become to find fault) is that the ammunition belts feeding both the nose guns and belly guns could have been given a bit more authenticity in that there is no representation of the bullets, they are entirely smooth inside the holes in the casing. Surely given the finesse of the rest of the kit they could have moulded something resembling an actual ammunition belt.

I'm struggling to find any more notable problems with the kit than those few already mentioned. The detail is excellent throughout. I opted to use the Eduard cockpit panels to replace the Tamiya ones but that is more my lazy habit - with careful painting the kit panels will be truly excellent. The only scratch work I undertook was to add some wiring to the cockpit and the engine bays, but other than that, there is simply nothing further required unless you want to go completely nuts, and I didn't - someone is paying for my time.

Decals for three machines are provided, usual high Tamiya quality, but the after market is already bubbling with 1/32 FBVI sheets for this kit, so fill your boots. In this case my customer was after a Banff (Scotland) machine for which decals were provided by XtraDecal (Hannants).

So hats off to Tamiya who have once again proven that no-one can touch them when they are on form, and they certainly were when they produced this kit. A model I am personally very proud of.

Full progress photos can be found here.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Trumpeter 1/32 AV-8B Harrier II Plus

As I have said many times before, you've got to hand it to Trumpeter for supplying us keen modellers with plenty of large scale jets. And they are always well moulded and generally well fitting, with plenty of ordnance options and often some really nice interior detail. That's the good part.

On the other hand, they also have a dark side to their reputation. The lovely interior detail is often a waste of time as it can not be seen, they suffer from some (occasionally crazy) accuracy problems, and their decals are often only fit for the waste bin, being inaccurate in colour and artwork and generally minimalist, with rarely any useful stencilling. Although to be fair, in more recent releases, the decals have been improving in quality.

If you want any kind of Harrier in 1/32 this and it's sister kits are the only option. The rivet counters have, as ever, already gone to town on it and pointed out accuracy problems in their usual manic "end of the world" screaming argot. But you know what, it's not actually that bad at all. It certainly looks like it's real world counterpart, just some doubts about the shape of the nose, gun pods and wing kink may be justified, and the ordnance selection is problematic, both in terms of accuracy and also what options are appropriate for this aircraft.

The relatively well detailed internal engine is a complete waste of effort and only needs to be built to provide support for the outlets. The cockpit is not quite right, and given it is extremely visible under that canopy I elected to replace it with the rather wonderful Aries resin set. The only other significant shape corrections I employed were to use the Wolf Pack Harrier II + air scoop set (as these are a distinct feature of the "Plus", not catered for by the kit) and I also scratch corrected the gun pod link housing but otherwise I left things as they were. I used the SAC metal undercarriage set to replace the kit plastic - less because of accuracy or detail but more because I find metal undercarriages are pretty much essential on larger models for stability. Also check your references for the ordnance carried by this aircraft, not everything offered in the kit is appropriate. Some additional detailing to the exterior and undercarriage was provided courtesy of photo etch from our friends at Eduard.

The plastic goes together very well however, no real fit problems and only a little filler required in a few places. The only other area worth mentioning are the kit supplied markings. There are three options, two USMC machines and an unidentified Spanish aircraft. The two USMC schemes are more or less identical and I opted for the main (first) one. My internet research failed to find any example of the particular machine represented but I decided to go with it regardless. It may be accurate, or it may be made up by Trumpeter, who knows. I am sure someone out there can tell me, but it's too late now anyway. I opted to re-generate the "dark" markings myself. This is because the decals provided by Trumpeter are black, they should be low visibility mid grey according to every other example of the AV-8B I have seen. Even Trumpeter's own box artwork agrees with me. Black mark (literally) against them for that one.

But the end result pleased me immensely - as a Brit I am very proud of this unique and ground breaking aircraft design which is (to my mind) rather poorly represented in the plastic kit world, certainly in modern toolings. And to build a large scale once like this is very satisfying and I hope you enjoy the end result.