Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 2.

Last week I began the build of Tamiya’s new tool P-38 (see: Part 1). With only a few hours invested I had gotten the build to the point that it was time to start assembly of the twin booms, a place in the construction that makes most who have ever cracked the box of a P-38 model at least a bit anxious. But, this is Tamiya, and Tamiya doesn’t allow for antiquated ideas of fit and engineering.

Since my return to the hobby, I have built two 1/48 P-38 kits, both Academy plastic and generally regarded (until now) as the best in this scale. Much has been written about the difficulty of alignment of the booms to the wing, to the tail, and each other. Otherwise well regarded builders have found these kits to be tricky. In fact, Paul Budzik’s alignment jig instructions were a necessity. Needless to say, getting an above average result of the complicated alignment has been a tricky process, until now.

Tamiya’s fit and design is so spectacular as to be unspectacular. Everything fits, and there are no alignment issues. Those who have never built a P-38 in 1/48 before will wonder why people had so many problems. This is a game changer for P-38s and I hope it portends a 1/32 kit in the near future.

The wheel bays are well detailed, but the linkages for the main gear will be difficult to protect from breakage during painting and handling.

That said, there is always room for improvement. I am not a fan of kits that require building up parts that dangle outside of the wheel bays throughout construction. Tamiya has done that here. If I had another one to build I would experiment to see if you could wait until after paint to get the linkage arms and other bits into the wheel bays. I think you can. The wheel bays are beautifully detailed and have pre made weights that fit into cups in what would be the engine compartment. Based on my unscientific balance tests, I think it’s safe to assume this will not be a tail setter.

Further, to pose the canopy open on the G (if you build the F, the canopy has a particularly interesting and easy to build option) to show off all of the exquisite interior detail (as long as you use some good seat-belts and not the kit decals) requires installing the headrest with a part that protrudes outside of the cockpit and canopy. This is the attachment point for the open canopy on the G but complicates masking during paint. I elected to cut that piece off and for masking will temporarily use the closed canopy option to cover and protect the exposed cockpit. I will manufacture a hinge from some spare photo-etch later. It goes without saying the clear parts are beautiful, distortion free, and fit perfectly with no effort.

The clear parts are beautiful, and I highly recommend HGW fabric belts for WW2 American fighters.

The most difficult part of the construction, to date, has been fitting the armored glass to the gun-sight and that assembly to the wind screen in a way that is a strong bond but doesn’t mar the crystal clear plastic. I used super thin CA a glue looper, and prayer.

It feels weird complaining about these issues, given the substantial ease of construction of the rest of the kit. The perfection of the boom to wing and tail fit is enough to make up for any of the other minor flaws I’ve noted here.

In less than two weeks linear time, and only a handful of hours invested (I’ve spent significantly more time painting and weathering the cockpit and wheel bays than I have for construction of the entirety of the model), I have a P-38. In other builds, at this point, I’d still be building jigs, arguing with boom alignment, and getting ready for significant filling and sanding. Here, I’m looking at a bit of Mr. Surfacer 500 on a few spots, and some primer.

Note: test fitting of the nose/gun assembly shows a typical clean fit, but I am trying to determine if I want to replace the barrels or move forward with the kit barrels and decals.

Unless there are some unforeseen issues, update 3 will be beginning paint and the multi-step process to heavily weather the whole thing.

As always, I keep the photo build log updated in real time.

Advertisements

Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 1

Last weekend at the IPMS Nationals held in Chattanooga, I was able to get my hands on a pre-release boxing of Tamiya’s new tool P-38. As a lover of all things P-38, I enthusiastically shoved everything on my workbench onto the floor and dove right in.

Having been on this a week, there is already so much to discuss (beyond my unbridled enthusiasm from being one of the first in the world to build a kit).

  1. The cockpit detail out of the box, is fantastic.
  2. The fit and finish is typical Tamiya, if not even better. There are no flaws in the plastic, and the typical issues with building a twin boom fighter appear to have been addressed by some clever engineering.
  3. As great as everything is, at least so far, there are some head-scratching issues. Tamiya has decided, and this might be a pre-production issue that will change in the production kit, to rely too heavily on decals for details. The instrument panel decal is fantastic, and not unusual in this scale, so I’m not complaining about that (although I would have liked Tamiya to do the clear plastic IP with decals for the dial faces that go on the back, like their big kits). But, the decision to use decals for the radiator grill faces that sit on both sides of the booms and to create the holes in the cooling jacket of the prominent gun barrels protruding in the nose, is disappointing, at best. Don’t get me started on decal seat-belts (I already ordered HGW fabric belts to replace them). I’m certain that the aftermarket will quickly fill this space, so I suppose none of this is a huge issue.
  4. Everything has gone together in a way that is mind blowing and easy easy. Even with multiple panel inserts, leading edge inserts, and other pieces that have obviously been created in a way to release several different variants of the Lightning, it just falls together with no issue. I’ve been working on this sporadically for only a few days this week and already have the fuselage and wings together.
  5. Tamiya appears to have engineered a brilliant solution for a notorious tail sitter. They have provided three metallic spheres that sit on cups built and hidden in the model; one in the nose, and one in the engine compartment of both nacelles. I’m sure they’ve made and checked their calculations, but I still can’t help but be a little concerned that the end result will fall back on its tail.

Hopefully mid-week I will have an update with the boom assembly which is where the trouble begins with most other P-38 kits. If you have any other specific things you would like me to focus on, or discuss, let me know.

Until then, I keep the in-progress album updated.

2019 IPMS Nationals: Chattanooga Choo Choo!

961 people entered.

They came from as far away as Japan.

They came from cultures as different from Chattanooga as Argentina, Canada, or Palo Alto, California.

They were young, old, men, women, and any variation in between.

They brought over 3000 models to be judged.

Two even got engaged during the show.

The quality was stunning, and the experience was phenomenal. I have never been as humbled walking through a show and looking at the models on display. I was certain that I was, at best, only average. To leave with three awards and two models to be featured in Fine Scale Modeler magazine was something that left me swollen with pride.

And then, my wife said “Is that good?”. :/

As if I needed further proof that we are not normal. We don’t need proof that as different as we all are and from many varied backgrounds, we share something that most people don’t understand.

We’re mutants.

We get “it”, and for a brief moment in Chattanooga, Tennessee, we celebrated that together.

Speaking of celebrating, I took over 350 pictures and didn’t come close to getting a shot of every model on the tables. Of those all were fantastic, but a few, for any number of reasons, stood out to me and were interesting. Check these out.

As with anything that relies on subjective criteria, there were choices made that could be debated. That said, there weren’t any choices made that I could say were wrong insofar as what I could see of the awards given. The quality was so good, the top 3 in almost any category could be interchangeable. In fact, the top ten in most categories were probably close enough to be argued to be the best. The overall quality was astounding and I don’t envy the job of the judges.

As well as this show was ran, however, I think there is still room for improvement:

One thing that bothers me, and it isn’t unique to this show, is when models are moved in favor of others, especially late entrants. I purposefully got to the venue early enough on Wednesday to make sure I could put my models on the table. When I returned on Saturday, my models had been moved and shuffled around. Three of them suffered minor damage in the move (pitot tubes were knocked wonky, and one set of aerials was stretched and sagging). To be fair, one had a judges note that they pitot was misaligned but it didn’t affect the judging, and it wasn’t difficult to fix when I got home. But still, damage from third parties due to a move is avoidable. Could the pitot or sagging aerial have affected the judging? Of course. In fact, one could argue that in a contest with quality this high, those things should have mattered. I think the solution is that tables can be marked off in grids, and pre-registrants buy a space. Late entrants can still get a spot in any unsold spaces, or at an overflow table that can be scaled infinitely.

Another thing is how some modelers demand more space than their model requires, further exasperating the point above. They do this by using bases, and pedestals, often that the model is not affixed to. Some are the size of server’s trays. Others raise the model off of the surface in an unnecessary way that tends to just obscure models around it. Some bring paperwork and literature that stands up off of the table like a science project tri-fold board. Models should not be moved to make space for that, nor should (at least in my view) people be allowed to put their model on pedestals or to have literature surrounding their model, that obscures other models or takes up a disproportionate amount of space. This issue would get fixed by my grid suggestion above, with a statement that any additional materials have to be attached to the model entry form, can be no larger than letter size, and must lay flat on the table, under the model.

Another issue I had was the length of the Saturday portion of the show and the awards. At 4pm I could not get back into the venue to get my models as the judges were putting the awards out. At 7:15pm the award ceremony started. At roughly 8:30 they finally got into the actual awards. At roughly 10:30pm I was back in the model room. At 11:45pm, after three long trips to the parking garage, I was finally loaded up and ready for the two hour drive home. That’s a very long day. To make it worse, as I was trying to burn several hours in Chattanooga, the vendors had mostly evaporated well before the doors were locked in the model room. My suggestion, as the judging occurred Friday night, would be to put out the awards in each category, after judging but before the venue opens on Saturday. That way the Saturday visitors can see, and appreciate, the best three in each category. An awards ceremony should absolutely be held to announce special awards winners, best of category winners, best in show, and all of the ancillary congratulation and business meetings that are required for a show of this scope, but I don’t think a 6-8 hour block in the schedule is requried.

Finally, and probably the most controversial, is a discussion about the merits of the so-called “Spanish School” of building. I define the “Spanish School” by comparison: it is the difference between Picasso and the later realist movements. It has taken over so much of the hobby, and when done well is gorgeous, interesting, and provides a pop that certainly stands out. But, I wouldn’t say it is particularly “real”. It is weathering and tonal variation overdone to the point of looking like the picture of an average looking person who is made up then ran through instagram filters until they look like someone different. It looks like the expression of an emotion instead of a nod to reality. It is a mood, not a visualization. It seems like what armor builders imagine of aircraft. I can appreciate the skill of the work, and the effort involved, without agreeing with the merits. To me, a significant nod should be given to realism. A picture of the model next to a picture of the real thing, should find little difference. Ironically, a great deal of the people who practice in the Spanish School would also tell you that they want realism in panel lines, rivet count, engine wiring, and other shape and visual indicators. They will argue endlessly about the correct shade of a color on some obscure Russian Yak, but then want to wipe all that away with exceedingly exaggerated color saturation, shading, weathering, and otherwise. I understand this is a wholly subjective critique of what is essentially a hobby of art…now get off my lawn!

In all, this was an amazing event. My criticisms are merely suggestions on how to refine something that is stellar already. My thanks to IPMS Chattanooga, and my congratulations to everyone who attended. You inspire me.

Putting the “special” back in Special Hobby: Building the 1/32 “Hi-Tech” Yak-3.

spe-cial

adjective

  1. better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual (emphasis mine).

By now, I am pretty confident with what I am going to get from a Special Hobby kit. In this case, as with their Tempest V, “special” means short run. Short run means an interesting and often under represented subject, with engineering that goes from as good as can be expected to sloppy, with detail to match.

Their kits are relatively simple in execution, which is great when one is looking for an escape from Tamiya or more complicated and ambitious builds, as I was.  But, while there should be a time cost savings in parts simplicity, there is a time penalty when some things need significantly more attention.

There were three significant issues with this build.

20190329_225255.jpg

The first is that the kit came with multiple broken parts including, astoundingly, parts of the wing.  To compound this issue, I either had to wait on the U.S. distributor of the kit to get replacement parts from the manufacturer, or buy a new kit.   I opted to buy a replacement kit and was going to use the replacement parts from the manufacturer to refill the parts in the kit, and then re-sell the unused kit. I’m still waiting on the replacement parts.

The second is the wheel wells.  Like the aforementioned Tempest V, Special Hobby has an almost singular ability to make construction of the wheel well as frustrating as possible.  It’s the worst combination of bad design and poor parts fit.  My solution, after ruining one set of wheel bay inserts, was to simply leave the parts that run along the leading edge of the wing out until the wing was closed, and then trim, sand, file those to fit.  Good luck. Also like the Tempest V, this seems like it could be easily remedied with resin replacement wheel bay inserts.  Note that the issues with the wheel bay parts also throw off the construction of the little intakes on the leading edge of the wing.  Be prepared to play some jazz here.

Third are the instructions.  Special Hobby’s instructions are beautiful, but sometimes utter and complete nonsense. There is no guidance I can give here except to read the instructions enough to commit them to memory so you understand what they want you to do, and then disregard all of that using your experience and constant dry fitting to determine the build sequence.

I wish I could say those were all of the problems, but they aren’t.  Those are just the problems that are unusually difficult for a build of this scope.

All of that said, this model was a fun and worthwhile departure from the meandering and ambitious P-61A I’ve been building for almost 8 months.  And, one of the weaknesses mentioned above, that of the wheel well and landing gear, turns into one of the best aspects of the build (after you’ve pulled all of your hair out getting it together).

20190508_081326.jpg

Similarly, the cockpit was well detailed out of the box and fun to build, paint and weather.  I hand painted the whole thing except for the individual cockpit dial decals. I knew that would be good enough given that I intended on closing the cockpit and a close inspection would be almost impossible. Note here that there is very few in the way of positive location features and good fit/alignment comes from lots of test fitting and patience.

20190406_130147-COLLAGE.jpgThis kit took significantly less time than other builds I have done in this scale, a mere 40 days from start to finish, even with some extra time being spent to work with the problem areas.  It’s a good kit of an important subject that builds into an impressive addition to my World War 2 fighter collection.

20190508_081736.jpg20190508_081653.jpg