Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts For a Friday

Progress on the Scooter

There's been some of that. Progress, I mean. All the big pieces are on the fuselage and the wings are together, and the parts that are going to end up being Insignia Red have all been painted without getting an undue amount of red paint on me. That's quite an accomplishment, although there's no way you could've possibly known that. I rarely spill anything else, but red paint is, and pretty much always has been, an invitation to complete and absolute disaster as far as spills in my house are concerned. Give me a bottle of red paint and I guarantee you that I'll end up wearing some significant portion of it, almost every time. It never fails. Of course, the worst thing I've ever managed to do with red paint doesn't even come close to the time another one of my mentors from The Good Old Days managed to tump (that's a word, "tump", because I'm using it---if I wasn't using it it might not be one, but I am so it is) a nearly-full can of Floquil DioSol into his waiting lap, thus inducing a physical reaction that we shall call The Diosol Boogie and Subsequent Maddened Dash to the Showers. And you didn't think modeling was a risk sport!

But we digress. The interior is in place, the model has been ballasted, and most of the sanding is complete. (Yes, that was accomplished in less than 3 days and yes; I probably do have way too much time on my hands!) I've learned a couple of things about Hasegawa's A-4 family along the way, and I'd like to share them with you:

  1. Everything fits just fine if you treat the kit as if it were a 1/48th or 1/32nd Hasegawa P-40. It's modular to an extent, and careful pre-fitting is your friend. So is attaching the halves of the nose to the appropriate halves of the fuselage before joining said fuselage. Care in fitting will minimize the putty/sand/curse part of the evolution.
  2. The tub for the interior and nose gear bay fits farther forward in the fuselage than you might expect. That gear bay has to end up all the way forward, and the detail that Hasegawa provided to attach to the aft side of the cockpit bulkhead has to be visible; if it's hidden inside the fuselage you've got things too far back. Fix it now or forever hold your pieces. (I had to say that---this is, after all, a scale modeling forum! Apologies all around.)
  3. Hasegawa may well have provided us with every single projection, lump, and bump that could possibly be found on the Scooter, the vent tubes on the auxiliary tanks (henceforth to be called "gasbags")are a fine example of that. They're represented by tiny pips that you'll inevitably sand away when you get to that part of the build, thus causing you to do an insignificant amount of scratchbuilding to replace them. There are other, similar features on the model and you might want to be prepared to make up a few tiny bits as you go along, because you'll almost certainly sand something off. This is one kit that requires you to pay absolute attention to what you're doing. Forewarned is forearmed.

Building this thing really isn't that much of a deal if you aren't opening panels, adding loads of scratchbuilt parts, and so on. We aren't doing that, or at least I'm not doing it, so it's not much of an issue. Instead, we'll spend most of our time talking about finishing the thing; that would involve paintwork, markings, aircraft configuration, weathering, and ordnance. Maybe someday somebody will do one of those "Modeling the ..." books on the Scooter. It won't be me, but maybe somebody will. That's a rambling way (and I have no other way, as I'm certain you've discovered by now) of telling you that we'll discuss the potential pitfalls and problems with the build, but we aren't doing a blow-by-blow account complete with annotated pictures, background music, and dancing girls. When we're done we ought to have a pretty fair Scooter. That accomplishes the purpose, I think, and we'll do a little more on that next week, but for now:

We Never Had It So Good

It's not unusual for us to complain about one thing or another on the kits we have available to us nowadays. Way back when, a long, long time ago, there was no such thing as an authentic, easy-to-build plastic scale model. That sort of thing came to us in 1939 with the advent of Frog's very first plastic kits, but prior to that display models were made out of wood. Some were carved from scratch, and some were from boxes full of miniature lumber that we're going to call "kits" (it's a humor thing, that, and highly optimistic to boot), but whatever they were made of, they were all wood, with maybe the odd bit of wire or acetate thrown in for good measure. What you started out with wasn't very much, and what you ended up with was entirely up to you and your skills, or lack of same. Funny how some things never change, huh?

Anyway, you see before you in the pictures a fine example of 1940s modeling at its best. The model is a more-or-less Martin B-26MA Marauder (note the short wings and empennage, spinners, and tail turret!) with package guns more appropriate to the later variants of this aircraft, and that's pretty close to being in 1/72nd scale. It was built during WW2 by my First Former Father-in-Law, Jim Denson, and he did a good job of it, all things considered. Notice that the "scribing" was done with a knife and is limited to just a few significant features such as control surfaces, cowling panels, and canopy frames, and that some details (mostly the gear doors) were done from stiff paper. I have no idea who manufactured the kit; Strombecker comes to mind as a possible culprit but there were other companies doing this sort of model too. May you know who's kit it was. I don't have a clue.

What I do know, however, is that Jim painted the thing with real Olive Drab and Neutral Gray paint direct from the paint locker on the flight line. It looks odd under artificial light, but out in the sunshine (the absolute best lighting you can possibly have for color fidelity) it all comes together. Markings were apparently done with cut-out-and-color paper images from the instruction sheet that were glued to the model and they haven't withstood the test of time very well, joining such items as propeller blades and gun barrels in a departure from contribution to the scale effect. (Huh?) Still, the model survived not only 66 years of existence but also the play habits of Jim's kids. Most of it is still there, and it's in good shape too.

Jim isn't with us any more; fewer and fewer of The Greatest Generation are. He left a treasure behind in his Marauder, though. It holds an honored place in my collection, and just may be the model I'm proudest of. Thanks Jim!

Old Dogs

Ever have one of those models sitting on the shelf that you liked but not really? You know the kind; it's too bad to brag about and too good to throw away. We all have them, and we all, sooner or later, end up wishing we didn't. The Spitfire you see before you is one of those models. It's the respected Tamiya Spitfire MkI, uncorrected wing-to-aft-fuselage curvature and all. It was built four or five years ago, but the best I could ever say for it was that it was OK. Not good, and certainly not great, but OK.

It finally got to me a couple of weeks ago, and I decided to do something about it. There were options, of course. I could've just scrapped the thing out and pitched it, but that was a little too severe. I could've taken it apart for pieces ("reduce to produce" is the operable phrase here, I think) and thrown away the hulk, but I didn't want to do that either. That left me with what was behind Door Number 3: a general freshening up coupled with some weathering (the model as-built was pristine and suffered because of it) and a little bit of additional detailing. That was the path taken.

The model was originally completed as Robert Stanford-Tuck's GR+P N3249 as flown with No. 92 Squadron in May of 1940. That particular scheme had been chosen because I had a decal sheet for it (Victory Productions VP48006) and I liked the markings. Those markings were left alone, and the cleanup began.

First off was a good coat of Testor Metalizer Sealer. It's acrylic-based and doesn't mind moderate applications of oil paint thinned with turpentine, which is what was used to accentuate the panel lines that I'd ignored when the thing was built. That was followed by an application of DullCote, which provided the base required for moderately heavy weathering with pastels and a silver pencil. ("Gee Phil; I bet that airplane was beat all to hell in real life. Why's it so clean?") That took care of the airframe.

The interior was ok, having had the addition of the ubiquitous Eduard Zoom set at the time of initial building. Exterior detailing was mostly ok too, with a couple of caveats. When the thing was built I made the decision to use True Details wheels. Unfortunately, a great many of their wheel sets offer what can only be described as pre-flattened tires, and the set for the Spitfire was no exception. Even more unfortunately, said wheels were attached with 5-minute epoxy because I got sick of knocking them off (all the cyanoacrylates are great in tensile but lousy in shear, and I'd drilled the holes a little too big when prepping them, setting up the tiny bit of play necessary for them to be knocked off, hence the expoxy). I suspect it will now take something approaching thermonuclear war to separate those accursed wheels from the airframe so they're still there. Live and learn.

The final detail was the antenna wire suite that I'd been too lazy to add when the model was initially built. N3249 apparently had a UHF radio fitted (the mount for it is that little "tab" thingy that sticks off the back of the radio mast) so that wire was added along with a set of antennae for the IFF set; those three little extra pieces of stretched sprue added quite a bit to the final appearance of the model.

There are still a couple of little things yet to do, presuming I ever get around to them: Those red patches over the guns are missing, and there's a small brass placard that needs to go on the starboard cowling just below the hole for the starter crank. It's possible that there are other issues as well, since I saw a feature on this very aircraft a while back that noted more problems than I fixed. Maybe I can find that article some day. It'll be a dandy excuse for another rework of this airframe!

Why There Isn't a Forum Anywhere On This Blog

Nobody asked but somebody will. (Sounds like a song title, doesn't it?) Where's the forum? Howcome we can't engage in free and open discussion on this site? Why can't we share ideas? Why is there air?

Well, Gang, I thought about adding a place for public discussion but decided against it after looking at all those forums on other sites (not just modeling-related). Things get a little sporty in those places sometimes, and the friction created, intentional or otherwise, just isn't anything I want to have here. I'm extremely interested in what you have to say, though, and am going to invite you to e-mail your comments to . I can't promise I'll post them, although I might, but what you think is important. Just remember, it's only me over here and the chances that I can maintain this site, learn how to do it better (and boy do I need to learn how to do that), answer all the possible correspondence, and still build the occasional model is problematical in the extreme, so you may not always receive an answer. Your message will be read, however; I can guarantee that much anyway.

Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo

Since it's Friday and we're in a kicked-back mode over here, let's consider something of a tangent for a minute. Back in 1966 or so there was a song on what was then called an "underground" album entitled "Ode to a Hawker Hurricane". I can't remember the band (Mr. Aging is not our friend) or the album name, although The Peanut Butter Conspiracy's "Is Spreading" (a real band and a real album; this ain't no joke, ya'll) comes to mind as a possibility. Then there was a song in the 80s that seemed to be about the debt owed by the British to the guys who fought the Battle of Britain (I can remember the video, done back in an era when MTV actually showed a lot of music videos, but not the name of the song or the album) and I think the band might, might have been FM, but I'm not sure of that either. I do know, with absolute certainty, that Captain Lockheed and The Starfighters (a project name for a couple of the guys from Hawkwind about the Federal German F-104 scandal of the 1960s) is a real album and one well worth obtaining if you can find it. Are there others? Does anybody know? (Does anybody care?) It's always been odd to me that anybody in popular music would write about military aviation at all, but people have obviously done that.

This particular aside wasn't/isn't any sort of test or anything. It's just that kind of day around here. Still, there must be other songs about airplanes out there. Anybody know what they are?

Farther On Down the Road

Finally, although I think I might have sort-of mentioned this before, my intention with this site is to build it into something similar to what I think the original RIS would have been had we stayed around a little longer. I can build and I can write, but the rest is going to be learning and evolution, and it's going to evolve as quickly as it can given the limited (!) staff, lack of knowledge of the medium, and the constraints of the blog environment. Just thought you ought to know that.

That's it for now. See you next week!

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