Friday, March 12, 2010

A Trip to the Overhaul Facility, A Dirty Bird, and How They Done It

Reduction for Production

You know the feeling, don't you? You're admiring your completed work one day (and I'm presuming here that you belong to that group of modelers who actually build things, as opposed to the folks who get the Brand New Kit, open the box, criticize and complain their way into the belief that the model contained therein is totally worthless, then put it on a different kind of shelf to wait for that far-away day when the kit magically morphs into A Collectible That's Worth Something) and you decide that most of the collection is pretty darned good, but that model of the fill in the blank here just isn't up to snuff and doesn't really belong on public display. It happens to us all and, like most things in life, you have choices you can make to correct the problem.

Your first choice is probably the easiest one of all to arrive at; don't do anything at all. Leave it there, right where it sits, and live with the warts. It's your model, after all, and those shelves don't bear a whole lot of resemblance to the Smithsonian, now do they? Fact is, the only people who will notice the substandard piece on the shelf (and "substandard" is most assuredly a subjective term in this case) are your modeling friends. We all know how much of your life is in that little assemblage of plastic, but the sad truth is that nobody really cares but you. Once you accept that as a working premise you can just live with what you've got. I wouldn't, mostly, but it's ok to do it.

The second choice is also relatively easy to make, but a little more difficult to live with---take the offending object de art  and introduce it to Mr. Trash Can. You might want to take off any pieces that are potentially worth salvaging, but once that's done (if you even do it!) just trash that Bad Boy! Be sure, though, that you won't go getting all goofy about it later on; when it's gone, it's gone.

Choice number three is the one I like to refer to as The Ego Saver. "I really didn't want it anymore so I donated it to the fill in the blank one more time and they loved it. No, they didn't love it, not really, and they probably put it in a box in storage right after you left (I worked in a largish museum right after college and I know of which I speak in this case, having performed the function myself on more than one occasion) or, worse yet (from your perspective, anyway) threw it away the instant you got out of sight. Museums don't keep everything they have donated to them, conventional wisdon notwithstanding. Save yourself some grief and skip all the middlemen; just give it away to somebody who's admired it.

My personal choice in all this goes back to something a friend of mine used as a catchphase long ago; reduce to produce. If the model's good enough, and the basic hulk usually is, just strip it and redo the thing. Carefully remove anything that can be removed, but only if it stands in the way of such things as bodywork or painting, add those details you forgot about when you did the original build, didn't know about, or were just too danged lazy to do the first time around and, in essence, make yourself a Brand New Model. (Remember that second P-40 we looked at twenty or so installments ago? The one called "The Rebel"? That model was my first stab at "Stardust"; I built a New and Improved "Stardust" and did the reduce-to-produce number on the old one. The result doesn't look too bad, maybe...)

Howzabout we actually do something along those R to P lines while we're waiting for me to get off my Dead End and finish that A-4? Right! I thought you'd never ask, so here's My Next R to P Project; an old 1/48th scale Tamiya Fw-190D that I built straight out of the box about six years ago. I like the scheme, although I may not keep it thanks to the combined research and publications of the JAPO team and Jerry Crandall (and if you're interested in the Dora you really need to get both sets of books---it'll set you back a fair chunk of change but when you're done you'll never again have the need for a long-nosed Fw-109 camouflage and markings tome). We'll see how things shake out.

The Tamiya Fw-190D as it sits right now, built straight from the box and with kit decals. The kit instructions were probably right at the cusp of our knowledge regarding the painting of the Dora when the kit came out and the scheme is really well-known too, but time and research have passed it by. When I finish today's ramble I'm going to go pick a scheme, then remove the prop & spinner, windscreen, and canopy. The Plan is to keep the landing gear in situ, but that may not be possible. Whichever way it goes you'll find out. This should be a quick project---let's see how long I can stretch it!

Sometimes Less is More

There are many different notions on how to finish up a model airplane. Most of them produce really nice results but some don't accurately reflect the way a real airplane looks in service, and I'm one of those folks who doesn't go in for the "shade, countershade, pre-shade and post-shade  every single part of the airplane" school of thought. It's ok to highlight things, and sometimes a little shading helps create useful artificial shadows that really enhance the completed model, but it's possible to take things a little too far in my never-humble opinion. My personal preference is for understatement, and I'd like to offer up the following model as an example of that philosophy.

The Tamiya F4U-1 done as Wilbur Thomas' Guadalcanal bird. Panel lines have been washed with oil paint (over a clear-coat of acrylic) and there's a little bit of deliberate streaking along the fuel tank seams on the upper fuselage decking. There's absolutely no pre-shading, and what little bit of post-shading that exists here was done with pastels. All chipping was done with a silver pencil.

The other side. The discoloration aft of the cowl flaps was done with pastels, as was the "dust" on the wheels and other minor weathering. I'm not entirely certain Thomas' aircraft had kills on the port side; the Marines and Navy generally manned-up from the starboard side of the aircraft and they often put their kills on that side only. And no; the interior green isn't really that bright. It's the result of a lighting system I no longer use.

This shot is included to show the way the weathering looks from behind, and also to lead us to a quick discussion of color. The ANA 603 Non-Specular Blue Gray used by naval aircraft early in the war was a lot more gray than it ever was blue, but this photo blues things out quite a bit, the direct result of a lighting change. The "real" color should be closer to that of the top two photos. Most of the off-the-shelf paint you can buy gets the Blue Gray wrong and moves it substantially into the blue spectrum. Custom mixing is the way to go.

A 3/4 nose shot to show light abrasion to the prop blades and moderate chipping. The MLG wheels were airbrushed with Floquil Old Silver (the real ones were usually silver from the factory on this variant) then lightly airbrushed with Testor Interior Black to dirty them up; Corsair wheels were nasty things!

This photo was taken about an hour ago, outside but in moderate shade to eliminate shadows. Notice how the paint has magically turned blue? That's lighting and nothing more; it's the exact same model in the shots above! (That's the Paint Thing. What I really wanted you to notice was the modest chipping on the prop blades but I just couldn't resist talking about the color shift caused by a difference in lighting.)

And finally, here's what the bottom looks like. The panels have been outlined and weathering has been accomplished  with pastels. One area often overlooked by modelers is the staining that appears behind the engine panels due to oil leaks. Look at any photo that shows the undersides of an operational piston-engined aircraft and you'll see what I'm talking about. It's a mess down there! And speaking of paint colors, which we really weren't this time; Chance Vought used a goofy-looking red oxide primer early in the war and Conventional Wisdom now says it was visible in the wheelwells of the early Corsairs. I'm not entirely convinced that it wasn't usually painted over with the undersurface color, but here's my interpretation of it, colloquially known by the modeling fraternity as "salmon pink". It might have been lighter, it probably wasn't darker, and it might have been overpainted and not visible at all. It's your choice, Gang!

How to Put Nose Art on a Real Airplane

Rick Morgan and I go Way Back. Rick still in aviation and does books too, and those books are just about as good as it ever gets if you're interested naval aviation. He's one of my go-to guys for NavAir and pretty much always has been . During Desert Storm he was aboard the Theodore Roosevelt with VAQ-141 and managed to bag a SAM site or two with HARM, although that's a story for another day. I don't think Rick ever went anywhere without a camera, and his photography has always been on the high side of excellent. Let's round out our Friday with a series of photos he took of EA-6B BuNo 163527 getting her nose art just prior to the opening of hostilities:

First you get a drawing of what you want, then you transfer it to the real airplane. There are different ways to apply the art, but masking is a pretty good idea if you're going to do it with air instead of a hand brush. Look closely at the artist's right hand and you'll see---an airbrush! Note also that the artist is wearing a cranial, which is the norm when working on the flight deck.   Rick Morgan Photo

The figure's done; now it's time to add a HARM to the art. The original sketch of the artwork is taped to the fuselage for reference, and everything is being carefully laid out before painting begins. I don't know who the artist is (How 'bout  it, Rick?) but he's good!   Wonder how the guy in the green shirt got there without some sort of head protection....   Rick Morgan Photo

And here's Deception Lass/Eve of Destruction in all her glory! A little risque maybe, but certainly not lewd! She was crewed by Cdr Frank "Axel" Folly, pilot and squadron CO; LCdr Rick "Flash" Morgan, ECMO 1; Lt Steve "Psycho" Schwing, ECMO 2; and Lt John "Gordo" Gordon, ECMO 3 during the Gulf War.   Rick Morgan Photo

And a final photo to illustrate a practice and prove a point. Note the red paint inside the open crew access door. That's the norm for Navy aircraft and is also found inside the slats and slat bays; I mention it to provide graphic reference for all Navy aircraft in general, and specifically to that Scooter model we may finish someday. As for that point to be proven, look at the staining on the aircraft. It's an operational bird (Boy, howdy!) and shows it, but there's nothing here that much resembles the overdone pre-shading we see on so many models. The Nav's TPS is a notoriously "dirty" camouflage system, but the grunge is from normal operational wear and tear on flat paint.    Rick Morgan Photo

And so we end another week. It's beautiful in South Texas; time to get Jenny, crank up the Miata, and go meet Frank and Pam for some serious roadstering! Be good to your neighbor and we'll see you next time.

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