Sunday, 20 May 2012

Build Review - Hobby Boss 1/48 F3H-2M Demon

This one is being built as a commission. Have heard great things about it, and it's a subject that has been sorely overlooked by most kit manufacturers in the past. And I do have something of a soft spot for the U.S. naval schemes, even if they are two a penny in the modelling world.

The box contents look very promising indeed. The mouldings are perfection itself and there is a bit of etch to keep the detail fanatics happy. Let's see if it builds to expectations.

In true Hobby Boss style, the instructions are really well printed and clear, and they are one of those manufacturers that takes the trouble to put the full colour name in the painting call outs! Listen and learn, Revell and Airfix. It really saves hassle looking the things up all the time.

In the usual fashion, we start with the cockpit tub. Decals are supplied for the instrument panels but the actual parts are well moulded with detail so I discarded these and went for dry brushing and picking out items with a fine brush. It all goes together very nicely but my one gripe is with the ejection seat. I had already read that it represented the early (and quickly rejected) type but my main concern is that its actually a very poor looking seat that still looked unimpressive even when dressed up with some etched belts. I could not live with this so promptly ordered in the fine Pavla resin replacement item that also represents the later, and more typical, seat. Otherwise I know I would be regretting it for ever more. Once painted up this finally looked the part!

The cockpit tub fits into a separate fuselage nose section which went together with no problems, and this then fits inside the main fuselage and creates the air intakes at the same time. This was a serious engineering risk on the part of the kit designers as if there were any fit problems it would be very tough to get right, but all credit to Hobby Boss, everything clicked perfectly in place! The only problem is the lack of vertical support for the nose wheel bay which I had to press down through the as yet unfitted radome whilst the glue set to avoid some major gaps. If you are building one of these - add something to press down on the bay before fitting the front of the fuselage, you will be glad you did.

I filled the radome with lead shot before fitting it - there is no mention of nose weight required in the instructions but my sixth sense told me I would need this. In the end, I was proven right and it still only just avoided sitting on its tail - you have been warned.

I gave the whole fuselage a good rub down to clear the seam lines, which were not bad but still noticeable, and next we came to the one real problem area with this kit - the wings. They can be built folded, but I never go for that. A minor gripe is that the etched wing fences supplied are a very nice idea and go on well, but they are far too tall. So I cut a significant groove into the wing to bed them down as best I could. But the main problem with the wings is that they do NOT sit on the fuselage properly and I have read similar comments from other reviewers. So my solution was to position them as best I could, which involved trimming down the locating lugs somewhat, then trickling glue into the (significant) seams, then setting it aside carefully strapped in position to dry. The seams (which were up to 2mm in places) were then filled with putty and filler and carefully sanded down. The tail elevators has a similar problem - now I know they are rotational but the size of the gap was just plain wrong so I had to fix and fill them as well.

Next on to the painting. The radome and glare panels were sprayed black and masked off. Similarly the leading edges of the wings and elevators were treated with Alclad aluminium and masked off. I also used dark aluminium for the exhaust area. Next the underside got a good coat of white. I never use pure white (this just doesn't appear in nature!) but always add a few drops of dark yellow to give a slight creamy colour to it, which is much more realistic. I don't know why, but this seems to make it cover much better was well. After masking off, the topside then got the gull grey coat (which I make myself from a 50/50 mix of sky grey and white with a few drops of yellow). Finally the tips of the wings and tail needed painting red. Annoyingly, Hobby Boss provide decals for the rest of the on body red flashing but not these and matching the colours is never an exact science, but Tamiya XF-7 was close enough. A couple of coats of gloss and she was ready for decaling.

The Hobby Boss decals are excellent, as usual. All main flashes are provided and the other markings are sharp, in perfect register and the decals are just the right balance of thinness for seamless appearance, and not so thin that the break into pieces. On first inspection of the sheet, I was concerned at the lack of stencils as I like plenty of such detail, but to be fair, have scoured the net for every image of a Demon I could find, they didn't really have any! I guess health and safety hadn't kicked in when these things were made. The decals went on like a dream and with a little Micro Sol they flattened down perfectly. Another gloss coat to seal them in and set aside to dry.

In the meantime I put the ordnance together. I mixed up a new batch of white for the missiles, this time mixing in a little blue and grey instead of yellow. This differentiates them nicely from the underside of the plane.

I then pin washed the whole plane with thinned lamp black oil paint, and this brought out the surface detail wonderfully. I cannot praise this aspect of the kit highly enough - the panels and rivet detail is simply perfect. Once dried, two coats of satin dulled everything down and everything was looking pretty good indeed.

The undercarriage is always a bit fiddly on the most basic of models, but this one breaks new ground for complexity. Great for the detail and realism, but a real chore to get installed. You cannot really build it in isolation either, most of it has to be put together in situ. But I got there in the end after a number of false starts and I have to say that the pain is worth it as it is one of the best detailed undercarriages in the scale that I have ever put together. Even the wheel bays are superbly detailed and to my mind could not really be improved. A thin wash of oil brought out all the details nicely, which is important in this paint scheme since everything is the same colour!

Finally, the ordnance was installed along with the other various little extras such as the lights, fins and fuel probe and she was done!

There is no doubt this is an excellent kit in terms of detail and engineering and was largely a pleasure to build. But the wing problems really are the elephant in the room, especially considering how well the rest of the plane goes together and I can only hope that this may be addressed in future variants since it spoils what is otherwise a superb product.

Something with propellers next time, please....

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Build Review - AFV Club 1/48 F5-F "Sundowners"

I bought this kit on a whim, have always loved the Tiger II and it is one of those rare planes whose looks are not spoilt, in fact are arguably enhanced, by the two seater version. Reviews are very positive and the in box paint scheme is absolutely gorgeous!

Having checked in the box, we have some lovely moldings, crisp and clean and it oozes quality. I hope this proves to still be the case once building starts.

As ever, the cockpit comes first. This is based on a pretty much blank tub structure that has all the relevant panels then affixed to it. The panels and dashboard are beautifully crafted. No need for etch or resin replacements here, just some gentle dry brushing and picking out some of the details with a fine brush. A blob of clear varnish on the dials completed a very convincing office layout. Similarly, the seats are wonderfully moulded, needing only the usual addition of belts which I sourced from some spare Eduard offerings in the spares drawer. I chose to leave off the canopy brackets until later, as these would undoubtedly become casualties during the rest of the build.

Being the two seater version of the F5, the nose section is separate from the body of the fuselage and needs to be built up from the provided panels as a discrete entity. There is, or was, I suspect, some intention to provide an avionics interior since the port side of the cockpit has a large panel that needs to be fared in. This is a little annoying as this is just something else that needs to be lined up correctly, but this was done with very little trouble.

The main part of the fuselage goes together next. There were no real fit problems but I felt that the rather large number of pieces needed to create the air intakes was excessive with no apparent reason. The kit provides a small number of etched parts, two of which represent grills within the intakes. Again, this is probably over engineered as the desired effect could have easily been moulded and it just adds something else to get fitting right - but mine is not to reason why, and I cannot fault the overall fit of the plastic parts. The elevators are designed to be movable but personally I can't be doing with that sort of thing so I set them flat and glued them in place. The wings are intrinsically part of the body in the kit so no problems with getting those right.

The cockpit end then plugged in seamlessly to the main body, and I really mean seamlessly. I have not built many models with separate front and back ends where the two go together without quite a fight, so all credit to the kit engineers for that one! In fact, and I know I keep going on about it, the whole fit was so good that virtually no filling was required - just a token primer dribble in a few places more for my own peace of mind than any obvious gaps.

I masked off the canopies and glued the front section in to place, then blu-tacked the two removable sections on to save having to mask the cockpit and to ensure accurate painting across them. After a quick rub down she was ready for painting. I sprayed the black nose cone first, then the rear section and tail pipes using a mix of Aclads, then masked these off. The chosen scheme required a three colour pattern - always a challenge. I mixed up the three colours all based on Tamiya XF-19 (Sky Grey) to maintain consistency. The lightest one went on first as a base. This showed up a few rifts around the intakes which I had to deal with, but otherwise fine. There then followed the tedious task of blu tack masking once, followed by the mid grey, and then again to get the last colour on. A very tedious and time consuming process, but the end result was worth it. The moment the masks come off is always one of my favourite points in the build, and when this scheme was revealed in its glory I was extremely pleased with the result. After drying, a couple of coats of Klear were applied and set aside to cure.

Decaling comes next. This is probably the only real disappointment of the kit. The decals have far more carrier film than is necessary, which needed to be trimmed. They took an age to loosen (which always drives me nuts) and they were incredibly fragile - breaking up just from a hard stare. But I had no real option but to persevere, which involved several "on body" reconstructions of broken decals. However, being so thin, they settled down very nicely with a bit of Micro Sol. The fin markings are provided as large decals. This always terrifies me, especially knowing how brittle they were, and I toyed with the idea of masking and painting but in the end thought I would give the decals a go - after all I could always use that as a backup plan if things didn't work out. As it happens, it all went pretty well, the only problem being that the decals are actually rather too large, necessitating quite a lot of trimming (I guess it could be worse and they could have been too small). Copious amounts of setting solution later they actually looked excellent, and far better than I could have painted it on, I suspect.

Another coat of Klear and whilst that dried, I set about the remaining bits and pieces, although since the undercarriage mostly needs to be fixed to the body there was not much to do except paint the parts up. I must say that the undercarriage and air brake doors are beautifully thin which makes them look so much more convincing than the chunky slabs one tends to get on most kits. I also put together and finished the external fuel tank, which I had decided to use, and the two sidewinders. The latter were not strictly called for in this version, but they were on the sprue and I thought they were far preferable to the orange pod that the instructions called for.

I gave the plane a dark grey oil wash which brought out the fine surface detail in this kit brilliantly, coated it with my Klear/flat base mix and attached the undercarriage and ordnance. That just left the canopies, which proved to be probably the trickiest part of the build. I had left them off from the initial cockpit build and getting the brackets in place and firmly attached to the canopies, and getting the whole thing lined up correctly, was something of a battle - but eventually I prevailed. Just the addition of the pilots ladders, which are always a really nice touch and she was finished.

I was extremely pleased with the result, with the exception of the decals, kits don't come much better than this one. Excellent engineering and fit and I will definitely be building another one of these in the future, although next time I'll probably try a single seater!

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Build Review - Airfix 1/48 Buccaneer S2

One of the most infamous, yet sought after kits around, this. It is the only option for the Buccaneer in 1/48 and this kit is one of the most uncooperative you can buy. Poor fit, warped parts, out of register decals. Just some of the delights that I knew awaited me.

BUT! I felt like a challenge. I built one a couple of years ago with some degree of success (maybe I got lucky) and now I was on a mission to prove once and for all that it can be turned into a presentable model. I decided to go for the grey/green RAF camouflage since I think this plane looks best in that scheme. The downside is that meant using the kit decals, since unless you want the "Desert Storm" colour scheme, third party decals are very hard to come by. Would the register problems be present in this batch? I would soon find out.

I also had an Airwaves etch set and a Pavla models ejection seat set in my spares drawer which I decided to use in order to bling up the model a little. With such a large removable canopy it's worth the extra effort.

So I started with the cockpit, as ever. The kit parts for the seats are actually not that bad as these things go, and would probably paint up very presentably, but I had the Pavla resin ones so I left these out. Otherwise, the cockpit is very basic and (horror!) relies on decals for the controls. I wish manufacturers would not do this - you can maybe get away with it in small WWII fighters but in a plane with so much cockpit real estate it is simply horrible. However, I installed them since then the dials would show through the Airwaves etch detail, and this worked pretty well. I left the seats out altogether for now. The etch, once painted up, actually gives just the right amount of detail and dimension to the result, which I was very pleased with.

The cockpit tub actually fits very well into the top half of the fuselage along with the navigators screen, so far so good. But next came the dreaded job of connecting this to the bottom half. From experience, I knew this would be "fun". The problem is, the parts are slightly warped and do not line up well at all. In fact, the top is ever so slightly larger scale than the bottom which means lining things up is nigh on impossible. But the way to deal with this is as per a tip I found on-line. Do it bit by bit. So after filling the nose cone area with lead shot and super glue to prevent tail sitting, I glued the front section only and let it set. When firmly fixed, I moved to the mid section, and finally the tail. This actually worked rather well, although there were some serious seams and ridges left due to the poor shape.

So the next few hours were spent filling, grinding and sanding away at the fuselage to blend the halves together. This is a job I hate, its messy and unrewarding, and those seams NEVER seem to disappear. But eventually I got there and was not at all unhappy with the result. The next stage was to attach the air intakes, which needed some serious surgery and much more sanding and filling to even remotely line up with the fuselage. But again, bloody minded persistence paid off. Same story with the tail pipes.

The wings are simply awful to deal with. Warped and ill fitting, but with much effort they went together and on to the fuselage, although it was quite some work to get them to stay in dihedral and subsequently to fare in to the fuselage in such a way as to appear correct in terms of the fold lines. To be honest, doing the folded wing option would have save a lot of effort, but that never appeals to me, I like to see the whole plane.

The tail section went on without trouble, but with horrendous gaps that needed more careful filling and sanding. A final overall sanding, re-scribing and washing, and with the canopy masked, she was ready for initial painting. I painted the intake edges and wing leading edges with Alclad aluminium and masked them off.

I gave an overall coat of dark sea grey and was pleasantly surprised at how few flaws were revealed. A couple of areas needed some extra filling and re-painting but otherwise it was starting to look rather good. I toyed with the idea of painting the green markings on freehand, since I was baulking at the prospect of masking the "all over" scheme required. In the end I bit the bullet and got through an enormous amount of Blu-Tack and masking tape, before finally spraying all over in an equal mix of Tamiya Black Green and Flat Green. I find this combination represents the RAF green rather well. Masks removed, she was starting to look the part. A couple of coats of Klear and all was ready for decals.

This was the stage I was not looking forward to, since I was expecting the decals to be out of register. Sure enough, starting with a wing roundel, there was a white crescent around the side. I had no choice but to use these decals so I had to carefully trim all the major markings before placing. The kit decal sheet is actually pretty comprehensive and it took the best part of a day to get them all on. Another coat of Klear to seal them in was followed by a black oil wash and finally a coat of my custom Klear/Flat base mix to finish. Things were now looking pretty good.

The undercarriage is pretty straightforward, but actually is a very good representation of the real thing. These were all sprayed light grey and likewise the wells on the plane. The wells are actually very sparse, and in an ideal world could do with some extra detailing, but in the end I painted in the engine housing and pipe and was pretty happy that it would stand up to reasonable scrutiny.

Under wing stores were next. I was in two minds whether to use the slipper tanks but when I installed the two Sea Eagles on the outer pylons I decided that they were needed to make thing look balanced. The kit parts used to make them up are really badly engineered and took much cursing, filling and sanding to get into place, but we got there in the end.

I had been saving the resin seats for the finale, as I really enjoy the way that resin seats come to life with a dab of paint. They did not disappoint and after an enjoyable hour or two they really looked the part. These then dropped in to the cockpit tub with no problems.

I am actually very pleased with the overall result, and this much maligned kit is definitely capable of being turned into a fine representation of this beautiful aircraft. I think so anyway - many people think it looks like a banana but to me it is one of the best looking planes every put together. Along with its contemporaries like the Hunter this is a product of an era when it seems to me that designers really did care about making attractive machines.

So this kit can be conquered and I shall be less fearful of building another in the future. But please, somebody produce some decent decals for it!