Sometimes I get to thinking. This is rarely, if ever, a Good Thing; it's something that frequently leads to silliness of the sort that exceeds even my normal quotient thereof, which means that Some Folks Get Annoyed. Or confused. Or sometimes both. "Why did he say/do that? What could he have been thinking?" Today is one of those Thinking days, and you need to know up front that it didn't start out that way. It pretty much just happened.
This is the part where you get to ask yourselves what it is I've been thinking, although I doubt there's any way you could possibly know what it was, it being my thought and all. That's logic of a sort, right?
Anyway, what we're talking about is tooling for plastic model airplanes, mostly because discussion of same is a minor pet peeve of mine. You've seen it. We've all seen it: "Here's the Something Something Something and it's a New Tool." Or how about that apparently perenial Burning Question: "Is it a New Tool?" Either one of those statements has the potential to take us to a rather interesting place, because what if it is a New Tool, or maybe what if it isn't and it doesn't really matter? Think about that for a minute. It's a veritable philosophical quandry, isn't it?
In our hobby the word "tool" is used to define the machined (sometimes mechanically, sometimes via EDM) molds into which molten plastic is injected at some level of pressure in order to create those little parts we drop and lose on the floor. Somebody designs those molds, which includes concerning themselves with things you most likely have never heard of such as draft angles, etc., then somebody creates them, either out of a moderately hard metal alloy ("permanent tooling") or out of something softer ("short-run tooling") that won't withstand as much use as the other kind. It's moderately expensive to make an injection mold, since neither design nor tool and die work are particularly cheap, so whoever's making the mold wants to obtain what some might call The Most Bang for the Buck. That's how molds get rented out to other companies, and why they get sold off from time to time; that's also why you sometimes pop good money for a "new" kit in a fancy new box and end up with something that first saw the light of day when Richard Nixon was occupying the White House. You might, in simplest terms, call it Basic Economics.
So why should I care about whether or not a "tool" is new? The truth is that I shouldn't, and mostly don't, but sometimes it tickles me a little. By now you know what I'm talking about, because you've seen it yourself. A major manufacturer (as opposed to those guys in Eastern Europe who, quite honestly, are producing most of the really interesting stuff these days) issues a Brand New Kit of the Whatever It Might Be Mk VII and there, in the press release and maybe even on the box, is the statement "New Tool". Now there's never been a kit of the Whatever It Might Be Mk VII before, not in the entire history of Mankind, so how could it be anything but a "new tool"? There's something fairly obvious there, don't you think?
Then there's the Other Half of the Story; the Old Kit That's Been Reboxed. It's pretty obviously not a "new tool" but that may not matter very much, if at all, because some of those old kits were really good Way Back Then and, guess what; still are! Revell, or Monogram, or whatever that descendent of classic American model companies is calling itself this week, periodically re-issue their 1/48th T-6 kit, or their F-89, or any one of a couple of dozen simply outstanding older models, and then the hue and cry goes up: "Is it a New Tool?", or maybe "It's just the Old Tool so it's the Old Kit so it isn't any good because it's not a New Tool."
So here we are, all rambled-out and ready for The Moral of the Story, and this time it's a simple one; it's the model that can be produced from the kit that matters, not how old The Tool might be or whether or not it's "new". Think about that next time you're tempted to ask about That Tool Thing and go build something instead. It's a far more rational and productive thing to do.
Petting Another Peeve
If you have an interest in the SBD/A-24 series of aircraft you've probably seen references that state that the first 78 A-24s off the Douglas line were actually SBD-3As and that they were delivered in the then-standard Navy scheme of NonSpecular Blue-Gray over NonSpecular Light Gray. I've personally never bought into that theory for two reasons; first, there's a series of photographs of the Douglas/El Segundo ramp taken in June of 1941 that show Neutrality Gray SBD-3s interspersed with OD over Neutral Gray A-24s. That's the Proof of the Pudding to me and I honestly don't think we need to go any further trying to prove otherwise, but there's also a document in my files that pretty much defines things. That document is Air Corps Specification 24114, dated 24 October, 1940, supplemented with a letter from Commander J. E. Ostrander of the Bureau of Aeronautics dated 02 December 1940 and in response to a communication from the Chief of the Army Air Corps to the BuAer dated 22 November, 1940. The subject of the letter is "Camouflaging of Douglas SBD-3A and Consolidated PBY-5A Airplanes", and it refers Douglas to Air Corps Specification 24114. We'll skip the stuff about cleaning and testing (although we'll retain the parts regarding priming) and jump straight to the camouflage and markings---here's a copy of the relevant portion of 24114 and its accompanying letter for your consideration:
And finally, here's a poor photocopy of a photograph that sheds considerable light on the subject:
Noisemakers on the SBD
Here are a couple of photos of weapons and ordnance on the SBD that might might help you detail your next model of same:
Something That Isn't an SBD to End a Day With
It's That Time Already
Yep, it's time to go! With any luck ("luck" in this case being being defined as the lack of unpaid employment as an ad hoc tour guide for the next day or two) we'll talk again tomorrow. Until then, be good to your neighbor!