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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Hasegawa’s F-104C quick build and review.

I had been promising to build an F-104 for my father, a retired aerospace engineer, but could never get the proper motivation to build the lawn dart.  About two weeks from his birthday I decided that I would finally dig into Hasegawa’s oft-lauded 1/48 F-104c and do a simple canopy closed type build for him as a gift.  Three weeks later, only a week after his birthday, he had a reasonable representation of an interesting aircraft for his collection.

Like I’ve often stated, most online reviews are hyperbolic, either drastically over or under reacting to the quality of a kit.  The reviews of Hasegawa’s Starfighter are no different.  I have read that it was one of the best kits, ever. It apparently would fall together with no issue, even under the intense magnification that points out all flaws that appear under a natural metal finish.  It isn’t that, exactly, but it’s not bad, at all. In fact, it’s a quite good and enjoyable kit, with a few flaws that can be addressed with minimal effort and skill.

IMG_0736.jpgThe cockpit is quite simple and Hasegawa provides decals for the instrument panels. These don’t actually match the contours of the side panels, but look convincing enough with some Solvaset.  The ejection seat is wholly too over-simplified and I opted for the Quickboost seat instead. Some paint and a wash, and the seat is a stunning and visible addition to the kit.

The fuselage and wheels bays go together very well. The first problem comes from the intakes.  Try as I might, the intakes had a minor step that would require some shaping and re-scribing to deal with.  There is some detail that I obliterated and could not reproduce quickly, but luckily a great deal of that will later fall under the Star and Bar decals and won’t be noticeable.  Another issue is the turtle deck insert that also had an unavoidable step between it and the fuselage.  This also took sanding and filling, and some minor detail obliteration, but ended up reasonably well.IMG_0553.jpgIMG_0554.jpg

The wings come with position-able slats, ailerons, and flaps.  One of my wings came with a broken wing tip pylon that required acquisition of replacement parts and explains most of the week long delay.  Once assembled, however, they fit perfectly and can be left off until after paint, without any fear of needing to fill and sand. The wing tip tanks also fit perfectly onto the wing and are almost snug enough to not require any glue.  Almost.

 

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Once assembled, primed, masked, and slightly polished, I decided to use Tamiya’s AS-12 silver spray right from the can as a base.  This is an exceptional product. It goes down wonderfully, dries quickly, and appears to be exceptionally durable.  On top of that, I masked off several individual panels around the exhaust to attempt to reproduce the multi-colored hues of my reference photographs and sprayed multiple colors of Alclad in different locations (aluminum, dark aluminum, white aluminum, anodized aluminum, steel, and burnt iron). The effect is convincing enough for me.

Now I was ready for markings.  The worst part of this kit were the decals.  I don’t know if it was simply a matter of them being almost 15 years old, but they were thick and resisted both Solvaset and Microset.  The curved markings for the nose band and the shock cones in the intake were terrible.  The nose band was so bad that I decided to simply mask and paint that instead of risking an issue with such a visible part of the aircraft. At this point I decided to abandon the stock Starfighter used on the box art and found a line 104 from the same unit that wouldn’t require the garish stripes on the back of the fuselage or on the nose.IMG_0611.jpg

One of the final steps was to button up the canopy.  I should have mentioned earlier that the canopy left about a 1/32″ gap between it and the glass covering the turtle deck making it unusable in the closed position.  Instead I posed it open and used Eduard’s PE for the canopy rails.  And, that makes me even more thankful for the Quickboost seat.

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I finished it up with the prominent pitot tube from MasterModel, put in the resin intake covers with Eduard “remove before flight tags”, the various other probes, and called it finished. This was a quick and an enjoyable build of an historically important aircraft, and a perfect gift for a retired aerospace engineer.

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And this reminds me of my favorite joke about the Starfighter, at least as it pertains to its initial troubled service with the Luftwaffe.

Q: How does one go about getting a Starfighter?

A: Buy a couple acres and wait.

 

You say you want to build a 1/48 Marauder? You’ve been warned.

 

In the early summer I was contacted about building a Martin B-26 Marauder as “Flak Bait” for a family friend who wanted it as a Christmas gift for a family friend of his (this family friend had actually flown on Flak Bait in December 1943).  After discussing some general parameters, such as scale, detail level, time investment and cost, we were set.

I found the options in 1/48 were a Monogram kit from 1978 and an Escii kit.  Having relatively recently built the re boxed Monogram 1/48 B-25 from the same vintage, I thought I knew what to expect. But, a Google search revealed there were only a half dozen or so build reviews, mostly from the early 2000s, and this lack of return was unusual if not concerning.  I ordered the Hasegawa boxing of the same. Thus began an odyssey that would last six months.

I began, as per usual, by reading through the few builds I could find of the Marauder online, and found that most builders, as per usual, complained of some considerable trouble with some part of the build. The gripes seem to cluster around the tail to fuselage joint and the issues with the clear parts in that area; the engine nacelle to wing joint; the lack of guidance or space to effectively fit enough weight forward of the gear to make it sit on its nose; the fit of the multi part cowlings, and; late 1970s soft detail (generally correct shape, raised panel lines, some detail inside but nothing spectacular).

For the first time in memory, and surprisingly, all reviews were correct. Not only correct, but they seemed to actually be too kind to the overall build process of this kit.  I’m used to taking the typical modern review and discounting most of it as incessant whining about how [insert kit here] isn’t on par with one of Tamiya’s recent master works that fall together leaving the modeler as little more than a painter of a three dimensional object. No, this kit would test almost every skill that I had.  The oddest thing about this relic is that a beginner with little experience and time could end with something that reasonably resembles a Marauder that would look to the uninitiated as being similar to the product that they would get out of a Tamiya Mustang/Spitfire/BF-109 in the same scale.  Conversely, to build this kit into something that an experienced modeler would get out of a similar Tamiya kit, takes an intense investment in time, effort, money, patience, and tears. I’m not sure I succeeded, either.

I could spend paragraphs griping about all of the issues I had, but I will just try to boil it down. Here are the main issues, and how I believe the intrepid modeler can deal with each.

  1. Cowlings. Throw the kit parts away and look for the Loon Models corrected version. You’ll still have some sanding to do and careful fitting to get it to join the nacelles properly, but you won’t have to deal with trying to maintain the shape of the cowling after filling the huge gaps left by Monogram. Note the fantastic Quickboost engine above the Loon cowling.

2. The nacelle to wing joint.  Good luck.  You’re just going to need a great deal of patience to fill and sand this area.  As I had decided to scribe the whole model, I wasn’t worried about obliterating panel lines here.  I used my trusty quad grit sanding stick, sanding sponges, several layers of gap filling super glue followed by a couple layers of Bondo to assure a smooth transition.  Patience and time here will go a long way to assuring the model builds into something nice. Without a great deal of work, especially around the nacelle tips that in places had a gap of a 1/4″ or more, there is no way to build the model without considerable gaps and steps.

IMG_10243. Weight.  I bought three bags of fishing weights and installed one each in the front of each nacelle and behind the cockpit bulkhead in what would be the radio room. Luckily I ended up with a spare kit, and used the spare cockpit bulkhead as a rear face on the weights in case anyone could actually peer into the radio room through the two tiny windows. As I found in the completed build, you can’t see anything inside there, so don’t be too worried if you don’t have an extra kit. The good news is it sits on its gear perfectly (I would also suggest using SAC metal landing gear to help bear the increased load).

IMG_10534. Fit of clear parts. If you aren’t already comfortable sanding and polishing clear parts, you will be after this build.  Beyond the canopy, nose cone, and tail gunner’s glass, there are no fewer than 8 other windows that will need to be installed before you close up the fuselage. Most of these clear parts had sizable gaps around them requiring some gap filling super glue and lots of sanding and polishing to return them to clarity (be careful not to sand flat spots on the fuselage).  The canopy, nose cone, and tail gunner’s glass all needed the same treatment. In fact, when I was done with the canopy glass I had sanded and polished off all of the raised detail.  To get the windows in place on the canopy, I carefully created the canopy ribbing with Tamiya tape and used Eduard’s & Montex masks as guides. It took a great deal longer than I had expected and the results were adequate.

There were other more minor issues, to be sure.

-The kit decals were 13 years old and had been destroyed necessitating finding the aftermarket decals for Flak Bait.

-The wings are supposed to have a 1 degree anhedral but sag a bit if allowed to rest on the kit spars. I got as close as I could.

-The tail to fuselage joint is an odd step. Use your imagination here when trying to figure out a solution. I’m not sure that I did.

-The bomb bay doors were clearly not designed to be displayed in the closed position.  Spend the extra time to build out the bomb bay with the doors open. It will take less time than trying to fill the odd gaps left by the kit parts fitting into the openings molded into the fuselage.  Also, the crew apparently accessed the rear of the ship through the bomb bay so sitting with the doors open could be an accurate portrayal of a parked Marauder.

-The landing lights are laughable but provide a good base for some scratch building. Check your references and go to town.

This was a process that just took time, patience, ingenuity and some old fashioned luck.  Unless you are an absolute beginner and gaps and weird fit aren’t an issue, or you are a relatively skilled B-26 fanatic and must build a B-26 in 1/48 scale, I would suggest you steer clear of this kit.  Anything in between will end in tears and disappointment.

Speaking of tears and disappointment, the day after I delivered this kit to my customer, who was going to deliver it to the man who flew on Flak Bait in December 1943, I was told that the latter had been admitted to hospice with only days to live. The intended recipient might not ever get to see the model built in his honor. To Mr. Greer, and those quiet souls like him who risked and gave so much in their youth, I say godspeed and thank you for a life well lived.

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