Monday, March 15, 2010

More of Dora Than You Probably Wanted, and Turkey Feathers

Reducton to Production: The Dismantling

Here we are, movin' right along with the rebuild of Black 12. Before we start in on the hulk let's discuss how we got here and why I picked this particular airframe to model. The story starts back in the mid-60s, when Lindberg issued a quartet of Luftwaffe subjects in 1/72nd scale. One of those kits (all of which were molded in a stomach churning yucky green color) was a Dora, the second kit to be released of that variant in 1/72nd scale and seemingly an improvement on the aging Airfix offering. We thought the Lindberg kit had everything going for it because it had, among other "improvements", a blown canopy. In retrospect it was  pretty poor but it was what we had, and it was cheap. Kookaburra released their monographs on the Fw190 series shortly thereafter, and I discovered Black 12. I have absolutely no idea why I wanted to model that particular airplane but I had to do it, and model it I did, religiously following the color plate in that little book. That particular Dora had a place of honor on my display shelf until late 1982, when my 2-year old son rearranged the components of approximately 60% of my miniature air force. Black 12 was one of the models that ended up being scrapped, but I was still fond of it.

There was a period of hiatus from modeling during the late 90s, after which I rediscovered the hobby with a vengeance. By then Tamiya had released their 1/48th scale Dora, and The Modeling World had yet to tag it as a poor model. (It does have its faults, and we may even fix a couple of them in this R to P project although the jury's still out on that.) I bought one, drug out that old Kookaburra pub, and built myself a brand new Black 12. Then came JAPO and Jerry Crandall, each offering a two-volume set of books containing anything anybody could possibly want to know about the camouflage and markings of the Fw190D series. Volume I of both sets included Black 12 in considerably more detail than we'd been privy too before, and both proved the aging Kookaburra monograph to be in error in regard to colors. "Live with it", said I, but it was a bitter pill to swallow. The time would come when I'd fix the thing, do it right. After a little bit of thought I came to the conclusion that the Production part of the R to P deal would result in the rebuild of my old friend, Black 12. The die is cast. Black 12 it is.

Here are a couple of photos to show you what I'm doing with the airplane. It's not a major sort of rework and, with any luck at all, will show just how quickly you can accomplish such a task (and don't anybody even think about using the word "makeover"; not now, not ever!).

Here we are, all disassembled. The transparencies came off easily because I always attach that sort of thing with white glue, while the prop was easy to pull off thanks to those nifty little nylon bushings the Japanese are so fond of putting in their kits. The spinner fell apart when I took the prop off, thus saving me the trouble of separating it later. One of the exhausts fell off too, as did the cowl ring which I'd apparently never bothered to glue in place. (Laziness has some virtues, don't you think?) Neither of those things was in The Plan but it's ok. It'll all turn out ok in the end.

The belly of the beast. The undersurface color is RLM 76 and not the late-war greenish tint of same, although the lighting (it's always that darned lighting, isn't it?) makes it look that way. There's an issue with the kit down here in the form of inaccurate cartridge case ejection ports, but we'll fix that (or maybe just ignore it, since it's almost impossible to see if you've got the drop tank installed as we go long. There's no plan to detail the wheel wells or add an engine. This is going to be relatively quick and dirty.

There will bit quite a bit done on the paint, but the intention is to salvage as much of what's there as possible. The interior would be a bear to re-do so the only thing that'll happen in that department is the addition of the ubiquitous Eduard belts and harnesses and maybe, but only maybe, a better gunsight. Most of the work on this rebuild will occur in the paint shop. Stay tuned...

Sometimes We Get There Before We Should

Whch means that I'm here by myself, never a good idea in the best of circumstances. I'm supposed to be cleaning the garage (my Sunday Project, but not particularly one of my choosing), but we're piddling on the Dora instead. Since last we spoke (a mere column-inch or so ago) I decided that taking the air scoop off the starboard nose would be a really good idea. The panel around the exhaust stacks needs to be painted black, and the masking thereof will be substantially easier without that Big Ol' Honkin' Scoop in the way. It popped right off of there, so the masking will be easy. We're going to talk about what I've been doing for a minute or two, because the techniques used might be of use to you on one of your own projects.

Black 12 was a pretty famous Focke Wulf; the very first D-model to fall intact into Allied hands. Its pilot whacked a bird during Operation Bodenplatte, thus turning himself into an instant PoW and his aircraft into an Object of Affection for the RAF. The airplane was studied in considerable detail and notes were made that, with a tiny bit of circumspection, serve us well today. The wings and horizontal tail were noted as being in a dark green and a lighter shade of same, with the light color described as substantially brighter than normally observed. The fuselage was in the late-War Focke Wulf treatment of RLM 75/83, although most of us didn't snap to that fact Way Back When, which resulted in a lot of green on green on blue renditions of Black 12. To make things worse, the demarcation lines of those two greens were poorly defined by almost everybody. The JAPO and Crandall books come close to agreeing on the color separation, etc., making that part of the job pretty easy to figure out. First, though, let's talk about those techniques.

This is a rebuild of an existing model, and my personal philosophy on that sort of thing is to try to preserve what you can and only rework or replace what actually needs fixing. With that thought in mind, there seemed to be no great need to remove most of the existing decals. True, they're Tamiya kit decals and therefore on the thick side, but DullCote hides a multitude of sins and we're going to do some sin-hiding on this particular Dora anyway. Let's salvage what we can.

First there are those underwing crosses. They were a little bit wrinkled on my model, mostly due to poor application when it was originally built. (Put those decals on the bottom of the wings, then turn the thing over and start on the top---NOT!!!) A light sanding with 2400 grit polishing cloth knocked down the wrinkles, and application of succeedingly finer grits of cloth completely restored the surface finish with no need for a repaint or different decals.

The crosses on the top wings are next, and they have to go if we intend to correct the upper surface paint demarcation lines. The crosses that used to live there have therefore been sanded off, and the model will have its plastic surface restored to like-new condition with applications of polishing cloth, once again starting with 2400 grit and working up. When the polishing is finished the wings will be repainted and new crosses applied. It doesn't get a whole lot easier than that.

The fuselage is next, and that's where we get to have some fun! Not a week goes by that you can't find a discussion on the relative merits of different airbrushes someplace on the internet. You'll find proponents of just about any brand you can imagine and, as is usual with internet discussions, things can get a little bit passionate as folks write in to extoll the virtues of their particular favorite. My weapon of choice is the Omni 3000, a Thayer and Chandler design now sold by Badger. You can, and this is no exageration, get a line with that brush that's so fine it's almost impossible to detect the overspray. By using a combination of that Omni plus low air pressure and really thin paint, I was able to add the RLM 74 around the cockpit area by painting around the numbers on the fuselage. It was accomplished without compromising those numbers and very little was masked. I can't recommend the Omni strongly enough, especially since street price is generally under a hundred bucks. Anybody who sells Badger can get one for you, although they may not know that since Badger really doesn't press the issue. Let me know if you want one and can't find it; maybe I can help.

The underwing crosses sanded smooth. Nothing had been polished out when this was taken. Note the Big Nasty Fingerprint under the starboard wing (that's the one on the left side of the picture). That smudge is the result of a messy thumb and lack of situational awareness; looks like there's a little unscheduled sanding in my future!

The upper wings have had their decals completely removed by sanding. Polishing is underway but not yet completed. Some of the upper fuselage has been repainted in RLM 74 and 83, but it's not finished yet; final demarcation will come after careful study of JAPO/Crandall to make sure everything's where it should be. Look at that Shiny Propeller at upper right. That's Testor RLM 70 Black Green over a dark blueish-black base. Mr. DullCote will be our friend!

The port side of the fus showing how fuselage colors have been sprayed around the existing markings. There's still a quite a bit to do here to match existing photos of Black 12, but we're well underway. The RLM 76 blue areas will need to be repainted too, once again to match the photos. That washed-out yellow on the rudder and under the nose will stay as-is; they were applied with a temporary paint on the actual aircraft and the RAF report states that the original colors were showing through. No reason to change that.

And the starboard side. Lots of work yet to do, but you can get an idea of how easy it is to paint around things. Get yourself a decent airbrush and practice, then go practice some more. It's easy to do once you get the hang of it!

Turkey Feathers

It seems like a lot of folks were interested in last Friday's photo essay on the EA-6B nose art, so I figured we'd do a reprise to apologize to those of you who don't care about Luftwaffe subjects. Today's offering is another from Rick Morgan (you can all say THANK YOU, Rick!), also from the Roosevelt while she was involved in Desert Storm.

A semi-Easter Egg in an age of TPS. Here's BuNo 162689 "Queen of Spades" from Fighting 41. The artwork is best defined as restrained.  Rick Morgan Photo

Remember that part where we used the word "restraint"? Looks like we might've been mistaken! Here's "Queen of Spades" in all her glory. There was a time when the Air Force had most of the good nose art. Those days are gone...  Rick Morgan Photo

Anytime, Baby! This is what the Tomcat's all about. Check out the weapons load and the gas bags; defense of the Fleet is the name of the game, and 162692 "Cat Snatch Fever" from VF-84 is ready to make it all happen.  Rick Morgan Photo

A great shot of the verticals on BuNo 162692. Fighting 84's Skull & Crossbones looks particularly menacing in this shot. Of interest is the considerable paint touch-up at the base of the fins. TPS works well as a camouflage system but the corrosion control guys don't care for it very much---as this photo proves, it's a first classs booger to keep clean.  Rick Morgan Photo

Here's the office of 162692. This is a well-used Tomcat and provides an excellent example of the way TPS fades and discolors. Sometimes the paintwork gets so nasty you'd swear it was a deliberate attempt at camouflage. Does anybody besides me miss the old Easter Egg Navy?  Rick Morgan Photo

You know, we really don't need to say anything here. FLY NAVY!!!  Rick Morgan Photo

Be good to your neighbor. We'll see you tomorrow! 

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