Thursday, 22 March 2012

Build Review - Tamiya 1/48 A-1J Skyraider

Cluttering up the workbench recently has been Tamiya's masterful 1/48 rendition of what is arguably the ugliest (yet somehow rather appealing) and testosterone fuelled plane to have been designed since the Stuka, or maybe some of those WWII Italian efforts. But don't criticise it's looks to it's face, this is one seriously tooled up trooper.

I've took the trouble to order in the Eduard photo etch detailing set for this one, I think she needs all the make up she can get. I was really (not) looking forward to tackling the three tone camouflage, but these U.S. brown/green tricolours are definitely worth the effort as they look great when done well.

The kit is classic Tamiya. Clean, just crisp enough in its detail, with clear instructions and detailed colour call outs. The decals are slightly disappointing on first inspection, consisting of the main markings and very few stencils. I don't know about you, but I like a lot of stencils in this scale, they add a lot to the final authenticity (even if I usually end up regretting it spending hours and hours battling with tiny decals). But I had decided to do this one out of the box and so resisted the temptation to go to the market.

As usual, we start with the cockpit.  A bit of sanding down was required to bed in the Eduard etch details on the dashboard but otherwise they slip in very well. The tub fitted into the fuselage perfectly and in no time the halves were together.

Following the instruction sequence, the engine went together next. It is a pretty good representation, could probably be improved with some additional detailing if you are that way inclined, but personally I was quite happy with it, giving it a coat of Tamiya XF-56 followed by some vigorous dry brushing with chrome silver to give some highlights. Finally I smothered it in a lamp black oil paint wash and when dry, put the whole nose section together. I didn't bother painting the exhaust stacks since they are semi-exposed and will be impossible to mask - so I would have to take my chances after the main painting.

The wings and tail sections went on pretty darn near perfectly. Overall, very little filler was required. A little Tamiya primer was dribbled into the wing roots and there was a small ridge under the front air intake than needed filling and sanding to dispose of. Otherwise very little sanding was needed either, much less than most kits, to be honest.

I sprayed the underside with Tamiya XF-19 which is a near as dammit to U.S. light grey. Then the undersides were masked and the top side sprayed with Tamiya XF-78 which is a pretty good approximation to the U.S. Tan specified. Then the fun job of masking in two stages for the tri-colour camouflage. I used the Blu-Tack method since I wanted sharper lines than freehand airbrushing would allow. This was a painful process done first to accept XF-58 followed by XF-27 as the third and final layer. A little cleaning up was required once the masks were removed, as usual, but the result looked just right to me.

After a couple of coats of Klear and an overnight set, the decals were applied. The tail decals are very delicate, as I found out to my cost, but managed to piece them together again, and I don't think anyone noticed. Micro Sol was used to bed them down, and as ever, this performed perfectly. Another coat of Klear and a good few hours curing.

I then applied my traditional lamp black oil pant wash to the panel lines and left to dry for a couple of hours before wiping down with thinners, kitchen paper and a vast number of cotton buds. Its a really messy process but it pays off. Once dry, a couple of coats of my custom mix of flat base and Klear gave the final finish.

While all the drying was going on, I set about the slightly tedious process of putting together the undercarriage and the vast array of ordnance. I have yet to find a manageable method of holding bombs whilst painting them but I did my usual method of painting on the sprues and then touching up later - still tedious but gave the right results. All the ordnance and tank slotted into the underside just fine and with the prop inserted all was done.

I can find no faults worth mentioning with this kit - no flash to speak of, perfect fit and all that ordnance really makes this plane look the business. Only thing I would like to see is more detail on the decal sheet, but this is by no means a deal breaker - there is always third party stuff available if you really want to go mad.

Another thumbs up from me!

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