IPMS Middle TN, 2018

My fourth year back in the hobby, and my fourth year at the IPMS middle Tennessee show. The guys and gals that put on this show every November do a stellar job; it’s consistently organized and efficient with logical categories, fair judging and a great atmosphere. I have to give a great deal of credit to this show specifically for reigniting the flame I have for this hobby.

I don’t understand why this show doesn’t have significantly more entrants given its proximity to a major market like Nashville. That said, there seems to be a core group of attendees that consistently enter the quality of work that would be competitive at any of the “bigger” shows I have attended. Beyond them, there are always a few new people attending that bring their work from other major markets. Yesterday, for instance, I overheard a group of modelers say they had driven the four hours from Atlanta to attend.

One of the things that impressed me was the amount of youth involvement. The youth table was unusually full when compared to any show I’ve been to. This was further evident by the number of grasshoppers I saw during the awards announcements. I’m happy to see that interest in the hobby is growing among the younger crowd as I know how important this hobby was to me at their age. Even at my age it still gives me a sense of challenge, accomplishment, and a connection to history that was as equally important to me then.

For the second year in a row, and by some unbelievable miracle, I won best aircraft. Last year the 1/32 Tempest Mk V won, this year the 1/32 FW190A-7 took the prize.

All of the entries were great, some were outstanding. Here are just a few that caught my eye for any number of reasons.

 Lord willing and the creek don’t rise, I will definitely be back for the 2019 version of this show.  Apparently 2019 will be the 40th anniversary of the Middle Tennessee Model show, and as that will also be my 40th year on this planet, I don’t think I can miss it.

Congratulations both to the IPMS Middle TN chapter for their hard work and a successful show, and to all of the modelers who put their work on the table to be judged.   Great job everyone!

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Adequate is the word: Airfix’s “new tool” 1/48 Sea Fury.

Like most modelers I spend a great deal of time online reading reviews of kits.  I  do this from the planning stages of a build through the build itself. This exercise helps me decide between different kit manufacturers for a specific subject, and to try to streamline the build process while avoiding any unknown potholes.  I have some reviewers whose evaluation I trust completely (ex: Brett Green) and others whom I won’t mention that I will not even click a link if I see their name (either because their build quality is consistently low, or my experience shows their evaluations of kits are consistently off the mark). The one thing I’ve noticed is that we, as modelers who write reviews, tend to fall into an easy trap: social media has lead us to believe being interesting is being hyper critical and negative.   I try to avoid that, but it’s easier to point out the things that go wrong, than the things that go right.

Writing about this Airfix kit it would be easy to come off as too critical. And, perhaps being too critical is fair in an instance where the kit is newly designed and released in the past year.  The first issue with my kit was that it was one of the kits with the short shot tail.  This is nothing more than poor quality control, in my view, but is not in any way a difficult thing to fix if you have worked with gap filling super glue and a sanding stick before.  Otherwise, the quality of the moldings, at least for the large parts, was very good.  The choice to make the panel lines trenches, and to mold in rivets that would be golf ball sized if scaled up is very questionable, but cleanly molded. The fit of the parts is generally fantastic and it required very little in the way of filler. Small parts, on the other hand, still show signs of comparatively mediocre molding quality with numerous seam lines that will need to be dealt with.  Good luck trying to get anything cylindrical to look like a cylinder in cross section after dealing with the molding issues. Similarly some of the sprue gates are more reminiscent of a short run kit than the quality that should be expected from a major manufacturer like Airfix.  In other words for a kit issued so recently, it is very clear that Airfix has made huge strides in the design department but their molding process, while better than some of their other offerings, is not progressing anywhere near as quickly. I’m hopeful that they keep going in the direction they are, because this, like their newer Hawker Hurricane Mk 1, are very satisfying kits to build and to display.

On to the build…

20181006_150957What I learned from building the Special Hobby Tempest Mk V was that the cockpit in a Tempest, or a Tempest derivative like the Sea Fury, is very difficult to see once completed.  That’s good because the stock cockpit is what I would only call adequate. The Sea Fury’s cockpit is basically black, instead of the grey green one is used to in other Royal aircraft of similar vintage, making any detail, or lack thereof, even more difficult to see.  I built the cockpit out of the box, assembling it completely,  then painting it a warm dark grey, dry brushing everything with a neutral grey, then picking out a few details either per the directions, or by looking at references.  I used a little silver dry brushed on the floor to simulate wear, then gave it all a dark wash. The instrument faces are the decals provided in the kit, allowed to settle in, then drops of Bondic were used to create the lenses.  The only aftermarket parts I used were Eduard fabric belts. I did buy a set of Quickboost gyro gun-sights with plans of using them as the kit does not include one, but they didn’t arrive in time for me to use.

20181007_231607Assembly after the cockpit is quick and easy.  In a few short steps one has the fuselage together and the bottom of the wing with gear bay and wing spar installed. Fit is excellent, in my view.  The issue comes with building the cowling. Molding here is not as exceptional and some of the detail is too soft.  There are replacement corrected cowlings coming to the market to fix this, but I went with the kit parts. Getting these together was the only part of the build that took any effort at all.

I opted for the folded wing version so I cannot discuss the fit of the wing should you want to go extended. Simply following the directions here will result, unsurprising, in a Sea Fury with folded wings.  I like that look.

20181021_181728From here it is just an exercise in following the instructions. There are only a few issues that one should be made aware of as far as fit. First, the wing tip navigation lights do not fit spectacularly.  I drilled holes in to each to replicate bulbs, painted them green and red, installed them with a liberal application of gap filling superglue, then sanded the lights/superglue to the contour of the wing tip.  After that it was just a matter of polishing up the lights and masking them for paint.  Second, the rockets that I was excited to display are molded as halves of a pair of rockets on each rail.  It was going to take more effort than I wanted to clean up the seams of the rockets due to being molded as pairs so I elected to simply cut off the rockets and install the empty rails. I did purchase an Eduard Brassin set of rockets but they arrived all sorts of mangled and that idea was ultimately jettisoned.

After that, it was simply a matter of priming and painting the clean two-tone Extra Dark Sea Grey over Sky. I use Mr. Paint lacquers. Photographs of Sea Fury’s in the Korean theater, as is the marking option I decided to use, indicated that beyond some exhaust staining, and typical prop wear, weathering is relatively light. The Airfix decals are…adequate.  I’m not sold on the color on the roundels, and to get the bigger decals to settle required multiple applications of Solvaset and an X-Acto knife. I opted to use a subtle dark and medium grey pin wash from Mig’s naval aircraft weathering set to add a patina of use and to tie everything together. Finally, some highly thinned Tamiya smoke built up slowly for the exhaust.

Then it was time to add the landing gear, gear doors, prop and pitot.

Bing. Bang. Boom.

Sea Fury!

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Revell of Germany’s 1/32 FW190A-8: Not bad, not bad at all.

Having recently finished Revell of Germany’s (“RoG”) 1/32 Spitfire MKIIa, I decided to crack into their 1/32 FW190A-8. The 190 was a far more ambitious effort by the German manufacturer, with a full engine and mounts included.

Part of what made the Spitfire a fun departure from my still in-progress Tamiya Spitfire MkIX was the simplicity of the build. Simplicity that was in no small part caused by a lack of cowlings to assemble over a complex engine like that found in the beautiful Tamiya Spitfire kit. Getting a perfect fit with those Tamiya parts is a chore that while undoubtedly better than most other kits could dream of pulling off, I’ve rarely seen executed flawlessly on a built model.

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Eduard’s Brassin Cockpit

Like the Spitfire, the detail in the cockpit is adequate, but this time I opted for Eduard’s Brassin replacement cockpit and HGW belts. The substantial but largely hidden increase in detail probably won’t be worth the cost to most builders, but I loved it. And, it fit perfectly. HGW fabric belts are the industry standard, in my view, and are a must-have purchase for any model I want to display with an open cockpit.

I also opted to replace almost anything that RoG intended to mold as a cylinder. As much good as can be said of the quality of the kit, RoG just hasn’t figured out how to mold small parts, particularly cylinders, in a way that won’t require prolific scraping of the mold seams to get something that resembles a circular cross section.  This means I ordered Master Model turned brass barrels and Eduards Brassin landing gear struts and wheels. All fit and worked as intended and added a splash of much needed detail in those areas. The metal landing gear were beautiful, added much needed strength, and fit perfectly.

The RoG propeller and spinner, to my eye, was wholly inadequate. This was replaced by what was ostencibly Eagle Parts resin.  After further review, I think my eBay purchase might have been a knock off of the Eagle Parts parts. Regardless, these look far better in accuracy than the kit parts, but they had their own issues. My resin props were tricky to assemble giving no real positive placement for the blades. You just had to plug the blade in to a hole on the spinner and try to align it correctly in all axis before the CA glue dries, while also doing the same to two other blades and hoping to get them aligned in a way that looks symmetrical. If you end up with the same blades and spinner I did, I’d suggest you make a jig, somehow, to get the blades aligned (or just buy the actual Eagle Parts, as it appears from the picture on their website that they have this issue solved).

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I initially contemplated having the engine completely closed in the cowling or I would have spent more time detailing, weathering, and wiring the thing.

Finally we get to the engine and cowling. Alignment issues here tend to propagate and magnify from the fire wall to the spinner. Then, you have to essentially build the cowling around the engine that likely isn’t aligned perfectly. This isn’t truly difficult, but is by far the most tricky part of the build. Its tricky enough that it will likely turn off many modelers who would find gaps and misalignment abundant if put together without multiple dry fit runs. Even so, I elected to display a cowling panel open, in part to display the better-than-average but could-be-better engine, but also to hide the gaps and misalignment that appeared around that final panel when everything else was aligned as good as I could get.

If I had to do this kit over again, I would certainly opt for the Eduard Brassin engine set. I think the substantial increase in detail, even if only visible through an open cowling, would really add that final pop to an otherwise very solid kit. And, if Eduard’s Brassin cockpit is an example, the fit of these parts would probably be better than the kit parts.

I wanted to do my 190 as one flown in the ETO. As such, I opted to use Kagero’s phenominal “FW 190s over Europe, part II“. I chose to do a FW190 A-7 as flown by Lt. Hans Ehlers, of 3./JG 1, from late 1943. To my eye, the back dating to an A-7 from the A-8 required moving the pitot in-board and leaving off the prominent upper wing bulges that would go over the cannon. I am certain that both Luftwaffe fan-boys and academics heads are exploding by my severe simplification and lack of understanding of the nuances between the two marks. Paint was Gunze RLM 74, 75 and 76 thinned 50/50 with Mr. Leveling Thinner over Mr. Finishing Surfacer black. Multi tone camouflage was completed using the Sotar 20/20 and free-handing the markings eyeing for a tight feather between the colors. Decals were a combination of those supplied in the Kagero book as well as HGW wet transfers and the kit decals.

With the RoG 190 as with their Spit IIa, the parts were well detailed and of generally high molding quality. The construction was a breeze with no real fit issues along the fuselage and wings, and the instructions are clear. A modeler with moderate skill, and significant patience, would be able to build this kit and end up with an impressive model capable of being displayed in flight with RoG’s included stand, or displayed in the usual parked configuration.

In sum, like RoG’s Spitfire MkIIa, this is a good kit, with some problems already addressed by the aftermarket. It’s generally a fun build that with an extra investment of time, and the sacrifice of some money to the AM gods, can really build into a stunner. In fact, my experience with these two Revell kits has been so positive, that I’m considering jettisoning the Tamiya 1/32 Mustang in my stash for RoG’s new tool D, ‘Stang.

A full photo journal of the build process is available here.

 

 

Huntsville Plastic Model Society Show 2018

Today I made the trek to Huntsville, Alabama, to participate in their 42nd annual model show. It was my second time attending. I had almost decided not to waste a good summer Saturday with a trip down into the gaping maw of the Crimson Elephant, but I’m glad I decided to go. This experience was far better than my first sojourn to the Rocket City in 2017.

The official announcement, last I heard, was over 500 entries. The skill across the board was as high as I’ve seen in my tri-annual circuitous route spanning from just outside Nashville to Chattanooga to Huntsville. I’m now in my 4th season into the world of “competetive” model building, and have made several pleasant acquaintances and recognize some familiar faces that seem to be travelling the same circuit as I.

Huntsville, at least in my experience, is a relative oddity when it comes to judging. The aircraft categories are grouped into 1/48 and larger, or 1/49 and smaller. This means that 1/48, 1/32, 1/24 and even larger builds will be grouped together based on being divided into columns such as “single engine, axis” or “single engine, other”. If it’s not readily apparent, my feeling is that the categories, especially the ones I’ve listed as examples, are both too narrow and too broad simultaneously.

With the amount of entries, it seems Huntsville could follow a more generalized pattern of 1/72 and smaller, 1/48, 1/32, and larger than 1/32 (or other) categories. The eye for detail, complexity of the build, and the ability to obtain realism where those factors intersect, seems to me to vary greatly between those common scales.

Regardless, I was lucky enough to take home a gold medal for my Trumpeter BF109F-4 “Yellow 14” as flown by Jans-Joachim Marseille. My 1/32 Revell Mk IIa Spitfire and 1/32 P-40N didn’t make the cut. C’est la vie, say the old folks.

That said, there were a few builds that caught my eye for any number of reasons.

First was this fun scene from Top Gun. It certainly got a chuckle out of me. Notice Goose keeping up foreign relations.

Next was this ambitious monster showing off the internals of the Nazi’s “bat wing”. Very well done from my glancing birds eye view.

Third was this paper space shuttle. It really was jaw dropping in scale, and its paper. I guess that’s what the P stands for in IPMS? I’ve been doing it wrong!

Next was this 1/32 Mosquito. I didn’t look to see if it was the HK or the Tamiya, but I believe this is the first big Mossie I’ve seen on the tables.

Finally, in reality, there were just too many good builds to try to list all of the eye catching workmanship. Browse through the photos and see for yourself.

To those that spent the time organizing the contest, you should be proud. The turn out was great and the atmosphere pleasant. Thanks for having me.