Bristol’s Esoteric Blenheim – Part 1 – The Box

Built by the Bristol Aeroplane Company, the Blenheim was initially designed as a fast passenger airliner for the civilian world.  First flying in 1935, the Type 142 so impressed the Air Ministry that they ordered a modified design as a bomber.  Initial deliveries came in March of 1937.  The Blenheim served faithfully from the start of the war in September 1939 until 1944 in the RAF.  Finland kept them in service until 1948 when they were prohibited from flying bomber aircraft by the Paris Peace Treaty.

There have been many releases of the Blenheim throughout the years, but Airfix had set the bar with their 2014 release of the Mk.I and Mk.IVF in 1/72nd scale.  Now they’ve released the Mk.IF in 1/48 scale and it looks like it’s going to raise the bar even higher.

In this first part, we’re going to take a look at what comes in the box and what options there are for making the kit even better.

The first thing you see when opening the box are the sprues, 7 of which are molded in light gray.  The clear sprue looks beautiful.  The windows are crystal clear and the edges separating the windows and framework are very crisp.  One half of my canopy was separated from the sprue but it doesn’t appear to have any damage.

As you can see, the clear sprue is excellently molded.

In some early reviews, using test shots, it was mentioned that there was a shortshot in one of the wings.  It appears that this has been rectified in the production sprues.  The wings do have some raised rivets that are nicely molded, but there doesn’t appear to be any recessed rivets across the wings or fuselage.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that the massive trenches that usually appear as Airfix panel lines are nowhere to be found. They may be a little bit bigger than I would expect on a 1/48 kit, but they are very reasonable.

The oddly arranged Blenheim cockpit is also molded rather well.  The instrument panel and radio stack is crisp and Airfix includes decals for the instrument faces.  About the only thing missing are seat belts, but Eduard already has a few photoetch sets planned or already released that will fill that gap.

Airfix even includes a pilot figure that seems to fit the bill in quarterscale, but I’ll be leaving him out of this build. For those of you who like to pose your aircraft in flight, this should be a welcome inclusion.

So what about the marking options?  Honestly, I’m not all that excited by them.  Airfix gives you two options out of the box, one of which is an early Battle of Britain scheme that appears on the Blenheim currently being flown by the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford.  It’s a great looking plane, but I like my builds to have some wartime significance.  The other option was flown during the war but is in a night-fighter scheme flown by an operational training unit.  Doing the night scheme intrigues me but I have plans for a night-fighter P-61 in the near future and I don’t want to burn myself out on one scheme.  I’ll most likely do a variation of the Battle of Britain look but not the markings for the ARC plane.

The decals themselves appear to be printed well, all in register, and with thin carrier film.  I’ll minimize their use as I often do but I’ll still need them for aircraft stencils.  Fortunately, the number of stencils on these planes is minimal.  Roundels and squadron letters will all be masked and painted.

When the Plastic Advocate asked me to review this kit for him I was super excited.  It’s not every day that you get to do a build and write about it for a friend, but I’m happy to do it here.  The Blenheim has its own little niche in the history of World War II and I can’t wait to build one of my own.  Stay tuned here, and at Life in Scale on facebook over the next few weeks for my in-depth look at the construction of Airfix’s new 1/48 Bristol Blenheim.

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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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