Sunday, 22 July 2012

Build Review - Eduard 1/48 Bf110C

I haven't make a Bf110 for a while, and so was very pleased to land this one as a commission build. I love making the Eduard ProfiPak kits, they have everything you need in the box, right down to the canopy masks. And this kit is arguably the finest available of this aircraft, avoiding as it does the inaccuracies associated with the older tools from other manufacturers. I'm also looking forward to doing a nice Battle of Britain era mottle pattern, it's what makes Luftwaffe modelling so rewarding!

So what's in the box? Well there are a LOT of parts. One sprue (G) seems to contain about a hundred empty lugs. No, wait, there is a tiny part on the end of each one. This could be interesting....

So we start, as ever, with the cockpit. On the 110, this is very large and very visible, so it needs to be good. It is made up of two separate sections, and each one involves a very large number of parts going together. This was a truly fiddly exercise. I cannot fault the quality of the mouldings nor their accuracy but it quickly became apparent that this kit is seriously over engineered. There seems to be a philosophy of "why provide one part when ten will do?" Many, many pieces that could quite adequately be single parts in the kit are made up of several smaller items each needing to be glued together. This was to haunt several elements of the build. Some manufacturers seem to think that a large overall parts count somehow makes their kit superior and more impressive. WRONG!!. You are just annoying the modeller. We enjoy creating models, not performing endless precision engineering. And what is more, there is more risk of losing these tiny bits and also of having integrity issues in the build.

But I finally got through the cockpit sections, giving them a base coat of RLM02 and picking out the details as necessary. This brings me on to my second rant. Eduard provide a lovely pre-painted etch instrument panel which looks great, going on as a two parter with dials underneath and surround on top. Brilliant, works great and looks fantastic. But why only the pilot's instrument panel? There are many other panels in the Bf110 cockpit and I defy the best of modellers to be able to paint them up to look as good and clean as the Eduard etch! So you are at risk of ending up with a mismatch in the look of your panels - I think this is a bit thoughtless on the part of Eduard. But I did my best and in the end I think they came up pretty well, I hope you agree.

The whole "office" slotted pretty nicely into the fuselage, subject to a few more tiny pieces needing to be secured to the fuselage walls. (If you make one of these, study the instructions carefully else you will undoubtedly miss something!) The cockpit section also includes the belly cannon array, which takes a bit of putting together, and I only realised afterwards that it would not be seen at all, once the fuselage is closed up. Why do they do this? "Modelling for God", is what we call it (i.e. only God knows it's there...). The fuselage halves went together with no real problems, only requiring minimal seam clean up.

The next task was to put together the nose section, which is separate. It contains the nose cannon array, which is lovingly detailed and I spent a fair amount of time getting this right since I was determined to leave the top nose cowling detachable to show off these guns. When it came to attaching the nose section to the fuselage, this took some doing to get it lined up seamlessly. I carefully slid the top cowling on (quite tricky to get the cannon through the cowling holes, but perfectly do-able) and secured it with Blu Tack to hold it in place for painting.

The wings went together very well, and Eduard have thoughtfully left the trailing edge on only the top half with an internal seam for the bottom to fit into. I have seen this on a few kits and it is great, avoiding problems with thick and/or "double leaf" trailing edges and leaving a flat seam that it easy to fill if necessary. The engine nacelles (which also incorporate the wheel wells) were a little trickier. You have to build the wheel well interior within the two halves of each nacelle and this can be a little tricky to get right. Once attached to the wings, there were also noticeable seams that had to be filled.

When it came to attaching the wings, I found that the wing lugs are far too large for the slots on the fuselage and a fair bit of filing and scraping was needed to get them attached. And even then there were significant seams needing to be filled, although that is not uncommon with many kits of this type. The tail sections, however, slotted on neatly with no problems whatsoever.

I masked up the canopy sections using the supplied pre-cut masks (what a life saver, especially on this plane!) and attached the fixed sections. I filled the movable sections with wet tissue to mask the interior for painting, and would attached these afterwards.

The whole model got a good coat of RLM65 lightened with a little sky grey (this appears much more authentic to my eye). I then masked off the underside and sides and proceeded to apply the splinter scheme in RLM02 and RLM71. When done, I then removed the masking and applied the mottling to the sides freehand using the same colours, ensuring that the mottles blended with their appropriate solid colours. Once done, she was sprayed with two coats of Klear and left aside to dry.

Decaling followed, and one thing that Eduard always get right are their decals. Thin enough to settle nicely but not to break apart, in perfect register and with nicely done stencilling. The only tricky part, as ever, is applying the tiny panel numbers along the side. If you've ever built a large scale Bf109 you will know what I mean, except in this case there are twice as many and they are on both sides! I applied another coat of Klear to seal them in.

The next stage was to apply a panel line wash using Lamp Black oils, which brought the details out really nicely. This was followed by a couple of coats of matt/satin combination varnish to give a very slight sheen whilst still being predominantly matt, which is how these should look. A little panel bleaching with pale grey and some oil and exhaust stains added a final touch to the weathering.

The undercarriage went on next. The Bf110 undercarriage has long been a tricky one for us modellers as it contains no rigid thick struts, but Eduard have engineered this fairly well, providing an almost invisible ledge piece inside the wheel bay to load the wheel braces on and this works very well with some careful gluing.

That left aerials, the rear gun and the engine exhausts to go on. The latter parts are a good example of my previous complaint. Almost all kits of any piston plane with a non-radial engine provide exhaust stacks in one piece. Not this one. Each exhaust pipe (and there are 24 of them all together) has to be individually attached to one of four base plates and carefully line up with its neighbours before attaching to the engine nacelles. Sorry, but this is totally unnecessary and very annoying.

Finally, I attached the rear gun to its mount and glued the remaining glazing parts in place, representing everything open to show off that cockpit assembly as clearly as possible.

Don't get me wrong, this is a great kit. It's accurate, well moulded, and the fit is good other than those points mentioned. And I am thrilled with the end result. But PLEASE, Eduard, stop trying to impress us with the parts count - it does not wash. Your Bf109 kit does not do this, and it's a joy to build as a result! This over engineering is unnecessary and adds risk to the build, and that's not just the risk of a nervous breakdown on the part of the modeller. Rant over.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Build Review - Hasegawa 1/48 RF-4B Phantom II

I just love the Phantom II. Of all the military jets produced this one just looks like it means business. Decent kits of it in 1/48 are few and far between, Hasegawa is really the only choice for the discerning modeller. I had this kit in my stash for some time and thought it was time to put it together. What really caught my eye was the El Toro all-black deactivation scheme offered in the kit. I don't normally go for "special" paint schemes but this one just looks so cool!

I had built a couple of Hasegawa F-4s before, so knew what to expect. The cockpit tub is nicely presented with well detailed sidewalls and control panels. They came up really well with some careful painting. I had a couple of resin F-4 seats in my stash so I did not bother with the kit seats, although I have to say they are not at all bad and would look perfectly acceptable if used, perhaps with the addition of some harnesses.

Being the "R" version, before closing up the fuselage there is some work to be done in the nose section. Specifically, some very nicely moulded camera hardware that can be clearly seen through the glazed sections of the nose so I took my time painting these up carefully. I also added some lead shot to the nose cone section, since although F-4s are not generally a problem when it comes to tail sitting, I never like to take any risks. The cockpit tub sits on the nose wheel bay, in common with so many jets, and this took a small amount of persuasion to sit snugly in the fuselage but it was nothing compared to the camera hardware in the nose. Since it sits astride the nose area, getting it lined up when putting the fuselage halves together was quite a chore, but I got there in the end.

I then spent a little time and effort cleaning up the fuselage seams, which are a little troublesome on this bird since there is so much real estate on the spine. It would be lovely if Hasegawa had taken a leaf out of Tamiya's book and done an "over and under" fuselage to avoid this problem.

Next the wing section goes on. The wings are put together "Spitfire Style", i.e. a single under plate with two top sections for each wing. This is not a problem, but there are a couple of large moulded blocks in the centre of each wing (I am sure someone could tell me what they actually represent) which need to be removed for this version. There were similar requirements for other protrusions on the model elsewhere and this does annoy me. It's all very well including a little "cut this off" symbol in the instructions but this is a big lump in the middle of an otherwise perfectly smooth wing section and cleaning up the mess afterwards is a right pain and I defy any modeller to make a perfect job of it. This is just lazy on the part of the kit manufacturer, I feel I am doing their work for them.

Anyhow, rant over. The tail planes go on with minimal fuss, although as always with F-4s, getting the correct angle is a bit tricky. I then gave her a good rub down all over ready for painting. I masked the canopies with Tamiya tape and a steady scalpel hand, and sprayed the undercarriage bays white in the first instance. These were then masked off using their own kit doors on Blu-Tack, always a good way to do it if you can as you have a ready made mask and you get the doors painted with the rest of the model.

Since this was an all black scheme, I took the trouble to give the whole plane a good coat of primer. This revealed a few blemishes which had to be dealt with. Next I sprayed her all over with black with a small amount of brown mixed in. Pure black is TOO black for this kind of scheme in a scale model and the brown just gives it a more convincing hue. Once this was done I had to mask out the tail and exhaust sections which are silver and steel, and used Alclad Polished Aluminium for the shiny bits and Dark Aluminium for the exhaust sections which gave a nice contrast. A couple of good coats of Klear later and she was ready for decals.

Decaling this scheme was a surprisingly simple affair, with one exception - see later. Since these "special scheme" planes are rarely, if ever, used operationally they don't tend to bother with many of the minor stencils and warning symbols that take us modellers forever to put in place. So only major markings are required and this job was a pure pleasure. However, "user error" came into play with the U.S.A.F. roundels. Hasegawa supply white "blanks" for these partly to mask the black and also to provide a white border around the roundel. Even with my years of building such planes I never actually realised that these are not quite symmetrical vertically. So the first blank one I placed on the wing went on upside down and until it was dry and I was ready to place the roundel over it I never realised. Fortunately this was the only one I had done so far but the only solution was to place it as best I could and then touch up the border with paint, which took me ages to get right. Beware! But otherwise the decals are very usable and bedded down beautifully.

Decals on and another coat of Klear later I considered my weathering options. Black colour schemes are very difficult to weather but it is also true that as previously mentioned, this plane would not have had much use since it was painted, and so weathering should be minimal. So in the first instance I gave the metallic areas a black oil wash which brought out the detail nicely. Some modellers treat the panel lines on a black aircraft with a grey wash but that looks unrealistic to my eye - just look at the photos of the real plane, you cannot see any panel lines against the black. So the only panel lines I treated were where they intersected the decals to help blend the markings in, and I was very happy with the result.

I then sprayed the whole plane with satin varnish. The actual plane is gloss black but in 1/48 scale a full gloss finish just makes it look like a Dinky toy, so this was toned down accordingly. Scale gloss is actually more like satin, for your reference. I then applied a minimal bleaching to the centre of the panels using a highly thinned sky grey mix. Again, less is more here since the plane should not look too weathered, but this really helps to make it look more realistic.

It did not take too long to construct and paint the undercarriage and fuel tanks, which again, got minimal weathering, and slotted nicely in to place. Fortunately, the undercarriage structure of the F-4 is rather more straightforward than many of it's contemporaries and thus presents relatively few headaches to the modeller.

The final task was to paint up the resin ejector seats and slot them in to the cockpit, before gluing in place the raised canopy hoods. This is a bit of a precarious operation that needs an incredibly steady hand, but when one has so much lovely detail in the cockpit it would be a crime not to show it off to its best advantage.

And so there we have it, a real beauty of a model if I say so myself. The kit is the best you will find in this scale (despite it's minor faults) and I will certainly be doing more "special" schemes in the future as they really do make a change from the norm. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Build Review - Italeri 1/48 Ju-87B Stuka

Italeri are a hit and miss kit manufacturer in my experience, often reboxing less succesful older mouldings from other companies. But when they make their own they are generally pretty good and all the promising signs are there with this one. Its a brand new tooling and looks to be of excellent quality from an initial inspection, including a brilliantly tooled engine. The Stuka is one of those planes that is so ugly its beautiful and I am really looking forward to putting this one together.

The kit starts, as ever, with the cockpit and overall this is of exceptional quality. The Stuka has a large and very visible "office" and so this is important. The kit includes etched parts for the instrument panel and (God bless them) seat belts but the plastic is also very finely moulded. I gave the whole interior a coat of RLM02 grey before picking out the details with other colours. There is some controversy over the interior colours of Stukas since so few examples remain but RLM02 is a good bet for any WWII Luftwaffe plane and looks right to me. 

The instructions also make the perennial mistake with the cartridge basket calling for it to be grey but these things were made of fabric and were usually cream or yellow in colour. Otherwise, I painted some detail onto the radio consoles and also the kit includes a lovely etched coping for the instrument panel that adds a great element of realism. Once put together, the whole cockpit basin fitted pretty seamlessly into the fuselage halves. Once the fuselage was together I spent a relatively small amount of time smoothing out the seams since the fit is pretty good overall.

The wings go on next, and they consist of a single underwing part and two over wing parts (similar to most Spitfire kits) which is great since it helps avoid seams and dihedral problems - the only issue I had was that there is very little purchase area when attaching to the fuselage to get glue onto but I did my best and it seemed to be secure once set.

Next the engine goes together. Italeri have really done themselves proud here, it is very finely tooled representation of the Jumo and is virtually a model in itself. The kit also includes some flexible plastic hosing for the pipes that it fits and looks so much better than the usual rather suspect moulded plastic efforts. I painted the engine black and used gun metal on the grills, before picking out the wires and leads in silver and brown. A burnt umber oil wash then gave it a "used" look.

The engine housing is made up of separate mouldings that need to be fixed around the engine and attached to the front of the fuselage. Also, and mercifully, the top cowling is designed to actually fit seamlessly with the full engine installed so that your model can be displayed with or without the engine visible. So many manufacturers so not bother with this and expect you to take one option of the other, so well done Italeri! However, this is the one area of the kit where I ran into some problems. It may have been my fault, but once the engine housing was fixed to the front of the fuselage, the top cowling was a couple of millimetres too short and left a noticeable gap in front of the canopy. My solution was to perform a little surgery on the cowling so that it would move back to fill this gap, but of course that then leaves an equivalent gap between the front of the cowling and the spinner. So I used some spare plastic and filler to extend the cowling by a couple of millimetres so that everything lined up. I'm pretty sure this a fault with the kit, so watch out.

Tail elevators and rudder went on with no problems, and I also put the undercarriage together (but did not attach) at this stage since unlike most planes the fixed wheels and large spats would need to be included in the spraying session. Needless to say, the canopy masking was a long, tedious and frustrating task - next time I shall invest in the Eduard pre cut masks which I only found on line after I had started.

So now for painting. I had chosen the StG77 scheme that demanded a yellow nose and tail so these got a coat of yellow first since generally I find it much easier to mask off the extremities and then paint the main colours. So this duly done, the underside was sprayed with RLM65 lightened with grey - all existing RLM65 paints are ridiculously bright blue and do not match reference photos. So I tone it down and it is probably closer to RLM76 but it looks much closer to the original sources to my eye. After masking the underside I sprayed the top surface RLM71 (dark green) and then masked out the splinter pattern which is done with RLM70 (black green). Once the masks were removed I had the usual reaction to the 70/71 splinter scheme, which is "why did they bother?" the colours are so similar it can be very hard to see the demarcation, but there we must go. A couple of coats of Kleer and she was set aside to cure.

Decaling next - the Italeri decal sheet is very good and includes a number of stencils which you don't often find in Stuka kits. However the decal placement instructions are, unfortunately, woeful. Other than the large markings, they contain no visual image of the in place marking and this means a combination of guesswork and reference photos is needed to make sure everything is going in the right place and with the right orientation. This is a bit annoying and should really be addressed.

After decaling and another coat of Klear, I used a black oil wash all over. The panel lines on this kit are "just right" and give just enough detail without being overbearing. A final coat of matt varnish finished things off nicely.

Finally, the "furniture" needed fitting. The undercarriage goes on very nicely and aligned itself perfectly. There are a multitude of "bits" on the Stuka and it did take a while to get everything on, including those frustrating dive brakes with their decals, and all the aileron linkages. Finally I put the rear gun in place and she was complete.

This is a fantastic kit despite those couple of niggles. I particularly like the placeable engine cowling so you can show off that engine, and the canopy is fully positionable as well, allowing a good look at the excellent cockpit interior.

Well done, Italeri - a desert version would be nice next!