Perfect in Every Way
Well, they've gone and done it. The folks at Eduard, the very ones who had given us the world's best and most absolutely accurate 1/48th scale Me109G-6 a year or so ago have, with minimal fanfare, re-tooled and reissued that tragic kit to a by-now heavily jaded modeling public and it (the kit, not the jaded public) has every appearance of having been re-worked and turned into the edifice that was originally promised to us all those months ago. Hard tooling isn't cheap, and it says a lot for Eduard that they were willing to do the things they've done to correct that model. Most people wouldn't have bothered, and we're truly impressed that the Czechs listened to the wailing and gnashing of teeth coming from the scale modeling community, and that they did what they did to fix things. Way to go, Eduard!
With that statement as an introduction, let's take a ride, you and me, to those fabled days of modeldom past, and let's consider where we are, how far we've come, and how truly appreciative we should be to The Big E.
There was a time, and it really wasn't all that long ago in the grand scheme of things, when the plastic aircraft modeler was literally out in the wilderness, taking and working with whatever kits he or she could find and doing their best to create something decent from them. Let's take that notion and run with it, and see if there's any relevance to what we're discussing today.
Take scale, for instance. That Czech 109 was out of scale in a couple of areas, and it's now been fixed. I can remember building Nichimo's generic more-or-less Spitfire Mk V way back in the late 60s, and being truly happy to get the kit because it had cannon and cannon bulges for the wings. The fact that it was actually 1/70th scale rather than 1/72nd didn't bother me in the slightest---I built the kit and displayed it proudly in my 1/72nd scale collection. That same company also offered a Mitsubishi A5M4 in 1/70th, and I built more than one of those as well. At the same time I was doing that, my friend Frank Emmett was building a Revell F-89D to go with his 1950s USAF collection and no; I don't mean their relatively modern (1990s) Scorpion, I'm talking about their original mid-50s release, which was a whole lot smaller than it should have been to be anywhere close to 1/72nd scale. That said, the kit had one irrefutable advantage when all was said and done: It was available, and if you squinted your eyes just a little bit the size was close enough, because if you wanted an F-89 it was the only kit of that airplane that was even remotely close to 1/72nd scale.
Or how about detail? OK, how about detail? Let's see now...
Hawk was an early manufacturer in the world of scale model airplanes, and for years their F4U Corsair was the best kit of the fabled F4U out there in 1/72nd scale in terms of dimensional accuracy, although there was no cockpit, no wheel wells, and no detail to speak of. The same was true of almost all of Hawk's other kits until the 60s when their P-47D, F8F, and Lysander became available, but even then there were no cockpits and little significant detail anywhere else. Hawk wasn't alone, either, because all the other guys who were making plastic kits during that time were pretty much in the same boat. Detail was highly objective, and the kit manufacturers gave us what they thought we wanted and we were glad to get it, too, whatever it was, because there just wasn't that much available to the serious modeler until things started improving in the late 1960s.
You say you don't like Eduard's 1/48th scale Bf109E? It's definitely got some problems, but there was a time when the best Emil in that scale came in a box that said "Monogram" on the top and not only was it the best 109E out there, it was the only 1/48th 109E for a number of years.(And No, I'm not counting the Aurora "Bf109". You can. I'm not.) If we wanted an Emil in that scale, that's the kit we built. We tried to figure out what the interior looked like, and then tried to fix it. Some of us tried to detail the landing gear, and a few intrepid souls attempted to put in wheel wells. We sanded off rivets. We did everything we could, with varying degrees of success, to turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, not just with that kit but with almost every kit we had available to us at the time.
Or maybe take things a step further. One of the Chinese manufacturers released a couple of kits of Grumman's Cougar a year or so ago. The pieces in those kits don't fit together very well, and there are some accuracy issues too, but there's an old close-enough-if-you-squint Revell F9F-6 sitting in my storage building (the one Jenny calls The Hangar) at this very moment. There was a time when it was waiting to be combined with a Monogram F9F-5 Panther to produce what would hopefully have been a decent replica of Grumman's seminal swept-wing naval jet fighter. Now it's just sitting out there, a fine example of a first-release Revell Cougar, and I can look at it and remember the days of my childhood instead of arguing with it in an attempt to build a decent model. With that for a perspective the Kittyhawk F9F-8 doesn't look quite so bad, does it? (Maybe you'd like to go kit-bash yourself a Cougar. I'd rather not, thank you!)
And the list goes on and on. Technology truly has evolved by leaps and bounds, and there's now precious little reason for any manufacturer with decent funding (a significant caveat, that) to produce an inaccurate model airplane. They can mostly do better than they presently do, and that's what they should do. In the meantime, nobody's making any of us go out and buy those kits. I'm not saying we should be grateful for any old piece of horse poot that gets itself put in a box and called an authentic scale model, but I am saying that it's possible to raise the bar so high that very few horses can jump over it.
We live in a culture of instant gratification and that's what makes scale modeling such a neat hobby, because we have to put a little bit of ourselves into each model we build if we're going to end up with anything worth having, and if we're going to grow and become better modelers. If something about a kit bothers or offends you, don't buy it, and with that statement we've come full circle.
When Eduard released that first Me109G-6 I took a close look at it and decided the pain wasn't worth the gain although I did buy a "Royal Edition" of that kit, but only because I collect that series. I've seen the newest Eduard Gustav and the difference between the two kits is night and day, although I'm more than certain someone will eventually find something to complain about in the revised issue. Let's put a positive spin on it, though. There was "something to complain about" with that original kit; in point of fact there was a lot to complain about, and Eduard listened to the modeling public, spent a lot of money, invested a lot of time and effort, and fixed the kit. That's virtually unheard of in our hobby, at least on such a significant scale, but Eduard did it and my hat's off to them for having the moxy to do it.
In the meantime I'll continue to build, continue to comment when I think something is worthy of same, and cross my fingers that all of the manufacturers will man up and take Eduard's approach to things when there's a significant issue with a new kit, although we all know that probably isn't going to happen. At the end of the day, I truly hope I can remember that this is a hobby, and that I can have the good sense to build what I think is worth building and ignore what I think is not. It can't all be the kit, ya'll. At some point the modeler has to do their part as well. It's the singer, not the song.
Takin' it too easy,
Takin' things for granted...
The Fabulous Thunderbirds
One We Always Forget
It's always easy to forget the trainers (unless, of course, you happened to actually train in one) and it's particularly easy to forget some of the less-glamorous examples of the species. That's the fate that's generally befallen the Beechcraft T-34B Mentor, a late 1940s design of Walter Beech's originally done as a private venture since the immediate post-World War 2 American military wasn't particularly interested in funding a new primary trainer for the Navy. Logic and, perhaps, a smattering of good sense dictated that the NAV couldn't keep the increasingly-dated SNJ series on line as their primary trainer forever and the T-34B was eventually accepted for the task, going into service in 1955. Operated primarily out of the Navy's 1950s training facilities, the piston-engined T-34 Bravo stayed in service through the early 1970s.
Last issue we took a look at some yellow SNJs. This time around we're going to examine some yellow T-34Bs. We think you'll agree that it's an airplane will worth our interest.
In so many ways the T-34A and B would make the ideal private airplane, presuming your druthers ran towards F4Fs and F4Us rather than Cherokees or Acclaims. They would also make ideal subjects for large-scale model airplanes, but it's highly doubtful we'll see a kit anytime soon!
That Magnesium Cloud
If you happen to be interested in American military airplanes of the 1950s, you've got at least a passing familiarity with Convair's B-36 Peacemaker. They were immense, they were powerful, they were complicated, and they would have been, in all probability, meat on the table for the various designs of the MiG Bureau that would have attempted to counter them in any sort of shooting war.
Designed in the dark days of the Second World War, when the United States presumed that it would end up fighting the Axis alone, the airplane was highly impressive but also obsolescent the day it went into service. It was, in every respect, an anachronism, but the USAF had a bunch of them and they held they line until the far more modern, not to mention capable, B-47 and B-52 phased into the bomber fleet in the early through mid-1950s. In spite of that they were America's "big stick" for several years, and they served in Curtis LeMay's Strategic Air Command, thus falling under restrictions as to what could and could not be photographed by service members---that's the reason we see so few photographs of operational B-36s. We were going through the archives the other day, looking for something entirely different (which, of course, we didn't find!), when we came across these images. They tend to be more evocative than informative, but they're worth a look because of their relative rarity.
Many thanks to the late John Kerr for spending a lifetime actively pursuing images such as these, thus adding tremendously to our knowledge of American military aviation. John Kerr Collection
How Come It Worked So Well For Them?
We don't know the answer to that question, but the simple fact of the matter is that the Japan Self Defense Force was a prime operator of the Mitsubishi F-104J Starfighter for a great many years, and were one of those nations who not only got all of the performance originally promised by Lockheed out of the airframe but also did it with an enviable safety record, that latter being a feat not often accomplished by air forces using the once-berated "Widow Maker".
A complete operational history of the type in Japanese service is beyond the scope of this occasionally humble blog, but a collection of photography isn't. Toshiki Kudo, a long-time friend of contributor Rick Morgan, provided Rick with the majority of the images you're about to see back in the 1980s, while one of them was supplied to your editor by a retired blue-suiter many years ago. Let's take a look:
One thing we didn't mention in any of our photo captions, but something that very much is worth mentioning, is the appearance of the sheet metal covering the afterburner section of all of the aircraft shown here. We've seen quite a few scale models depicting this area in every color under the rainbow, but the reality is somewhat different. Just sayin'...
Many thanks to both Toshiki Kudo and Rick Morgan for making it possible for us to share these images with you.
Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best
Or at least I think so. You don't have to buy into the concept, of course, but there was a time when we didn't have aftermarket anything and detailing necessitated a substantial amount of scratch-building, and we honestly weren't all that badly served by having to do things that way. Take, for example, a colored (or clear; it really doesn't matter) cover for a wingtip navigation light. Nowadays a lot of model companies provide them, almost as a matter of course, but some still don't.
There are a couple of reasons for that state of affairs, all of which are rational and make a great deal of sense. On the most basic level there's cost to the manufacturer, a piddling amount in the wide wonderful world of tool and die making but an extra cost nonetheless since a certain amount of design time is involved in addition to that whole tool-making thing. Then there's size; sometimes those lens covers are just too tiny to make their incorporation in a kit worthwhile, since not all modelers are sufficiently skilled to deal with installing itty-bitty parts and the companies who sell the kits want everybody to be successful with them so they'll continue to purchase such things. That philosophy is why you'll often see the positions for those wing-tip lenses scribed into a given kit's wings, leaving it to you, the modeler, to paint them or otherwise make them look like what they're supposed to represent.
We've discussed the reasons; now let's discuss the options available to apply to a wing that's got the wing-tip nav lamp covers represented by lines scribed into the solid plastic of same.
The easiest thing to do is to simply paint the appropriate area of the wing silver, then over-paint it with a clear acrylic such as that sold by Tamiya (Clear Red, Clear Green, etc.). That actually works pretty well if the lens cover is colored on the real airplane, but on most airplanes those covers are clear with the bulb underneath being the thing that makes the lamps flash red or green (or, in some cases, blue), which in turn means you're still going to have to deal with some sort of lens that isn't solid plastic, or at least that's what you're going to have to do if you want the cover to appear the way it's supposed to on the real airplane. If that doesn't matter to you then you might want to stop reading at this point, although the skill we're about to discuss is one you really ought to have in your bag of tricks anyway, just in case.
So we've just dismissed The Easy Way. What's next? The answer to that question ought to be obvious: Let's cut out the opening for those pesky lamp covers with a razor saw, or shape them out with a jeweler's file, making certain in either case that we've got a properly-sized and cleaned up opening, one that's in scale (which the manufacturer's scribed opening might or might not be, by the way), and then put something in there to simulate the plexiglass that generally covers such things on a real airplane. I've read in other places that some people actually go to plastic supply houses and buy pieces of real plexiglass in order to simulate those covers, but that's not necessary. Think about the problem for a minute, with an eye towards what you can use, and neat things will happen!
One material should jump into your mind almost immediately, since your authentic plastic scale model airplane will probably come with a canopy if it's modern enough to also have navigation lamps built into the wing-tips, is clear sprue and that canopy comes on clear sprue---all you have to do is cut a piece of it that's long enough and file it to shape on two sides so it will fit into the opening you've just put in the wing-tip, then cement it firmly in place, let it dry thoroughly, sand it to shape, and polish it out.
What if the covers are colored instead of clear? What do we do then? Well, for starters you could just over-paint the clear covers you just made with some of that Tamiya clear paint we discussed a minute ago or, if you don't want to go that route, you can cut and install tinted plastic, and old toothbrush handles can be a fine source for that. My personal favorite material, however, and the one that we're about to show you, are the colored pegs that come in those Hasbro Lite-Brite sets that have been around since at least the mid-1960s if not before. Here's what I'm talking about:
And that's all there is to it! You could, if you wanted to and if the airplane you were modeling had a clear cover with a colored bulb, vacuum-form that cover and put a colored "lamp bulb" under it, using a piece of stretched transparent red or green sprue or, if the scale were large enough, one of the tinier MV lenses, or maybe just drill a hole in your solid lamp cover and stick a piece of colored sprue up there. There are all sorts of ways to skin this particular cat, but the one we've just discussed is exceptionally easy to do and works extremely well on 1/48th or 72nd scale model airplanes, although you'll probably want more detail if you're building in 1/32nd or larger. This particular Old Guy tip is pretty useful for the smaller scales, though, and I think you'll like the results if you try it. Just take your time...
It's been a while since we've had a Happy Snap, hasn't it? Let's end that particular drought with a photo I like a lot:
Thanks for this great shot, Morgo
The Relief Tube
Yep, we actually have something to add to an older article today (look for "Not Bored With Fords" in our archives), submitted by a reader known only to us as Big Red Lancer:
VF-154 F8U-1s were on their maiden cruise in 1958, aboard USS HANCOCK, not USS Hornet... Photo is from Hancock's 1958 cruise book...
Thanks for the correction, Lancer! Folks, keep us honest over here---if you see something you know to be wrong, drop us a line at replica in scale at yahoo dot com (run all those words together, but you already knew that, right?) and let us know about it!
That's it for today, ya'll. Be good to your neighbor and we'll meet again soon!