M41 Assembled and Some Primer Observations

This kit shows its age.  My theory is that as molds age in use, their alignment deteriorates and you are confronted with little ridges on all the parts.  However, there are nowhere near the number of parts you would encounter on a new modern kit, so the issue is not a big one.  Over several evenings, the parts were cut off the sprues, prepared and put in place.

My practice is to prime all my models.  There are many modelers who would say this is a waste of time and material.  I suppose it is a matter of taste.  Why do I do it?  On armor models, I am using various preparations to weather the model.  Some are solvent based.  I think the primer helps protect the paint finish by keeping it in place while weathering chemicals are being applied.  On aircraft models, I am so frequently masking camouflage and stripes of one sort and another with masking tape that I regard priming as a necessity.  I like to work with acrylic paints for colors.  Without priming, they are easily removed by masking tape being pulled off.   So, I prime models.

Here are some primer products I have used.

Vallejo Surface Primer comes in many colors, and I really liked it when I first started using it.  It is an acrylic-polyurethane.  However, over time I have been frustrated by the fact it can be the devil to clean out of my airbrush.  Maybe that is my issue, and not theirs.  I have tried everything, but it seems that sessions with this paint are marked with frequent needle build-up problems topped off with a full field strip of the airbrush for a thorough cleaning with lacquer thinner.

Stynylrez by Badger is also an acrylic-polyurethane preparation, and it has acted as the Vallejo Surface Primer described above, i.e., airbrush cleaning challenges.

Let me hasten to add that both these primers do their job very well when applied.  I have never had paint lift when masking tape is removed, and the finishes have been protected during weathering procedures.

My issues with these products may be due to my own lack of using proper procedures.  If I can be corrected, I would be grateful.

The final product I have used, and I really count on, is Mr. Finishing Surface 1500 thinned with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner.  I thin the primer until it is as thin as 2% milk, and I apply several thin coats.  It goes on beautifully, and totally does the job.  Paint resists masking lift offs, etc.  It come is black, white and grey.  It is lacquer based, and cleanup is a snap using regular hardware store thinner.  

Mr. Color Leveling Thinner has been described by Dave Knights on the Plastic Model Mojo Podcast as “unicorn tears”, i.e., a liquid with magical properties.  And he is totally correct.  Paints thinned with this thinner  form a perfect finish and resist running and dripping if you overspray.  As a bonus, Mr. Color Leveling Thinner works with alcohol based acrylic paints such as Tamiya’s.

The only drawback is that it is a lacquer type product, so there will be some odor using it.  But unlike old enamel based paints, that odor goes away very quickly.

The tracks were primed and painted with a mix of Tamiya Acrylics I use as a track base coat.  This base coat is the invention of Andy Klein of Andy’s Hobby HQ fame:  5 parts XF68 (Flat NATO Brown), 4 parts XF64 (Red Brown) and 1 part XF7 (Flat Red).  This base coat provides the perfect first step in weathering tracks as it covers up the color of the material the track was molded in and provides a nice base for weathering.

Next step – I’ll try to make olive drab look interesting.

Thank you for stopping by.

U. S. M41 Walker Bulldog, 1/35, Tamiya MM-55

Almost as soon as WWII ended, the U.S.Army was looking at a replacement for the M24 Chaffee Light Tank, which had served well in the European war, and later in the Korean War.

Wikipedia has an excellent article on the Walker Bulldog’s history, and there are many others just a Google search away.

Here a few things I found interesting.

The tank did not prove to be up to what the U. S. Army wanted, i.e., a small, easily transported, light tank with a gun that could kill any tank it encountered.  Various issues got in the way.  The stereoscopic sight was not successful, the turret rotation system was not what was wanted and there were some engine issues.  The tank was eventually given to allies such as the nascent German and Japanese reconstituted militaries in the 1950’s. 

While there have been some claims that early models of the Walker Bulldog were taken to Korea for combat testing, there is a lack of evidence that ever happened.   

As the war in Vietnam boiled over, the U. S. gave many of these tanks to the ARVN’s (Army of Viet Nam).  It proved a great hit with the Vietnamese whose small stature fit comfortably in this tank which had proven to be cramped for American soldiers.  Since armored formations slugging it out was not a feature of the Vietnam War, there is not much history left behind of even ARVN use.  From what I read, these tanks were widely used as patrol vehicles as well as infantry support.

And, finally, the U. S. Army was falling in love with the M551 Sheridan which was under development in the 1960’s and had a main gun/rocket launcher that could destroy anything on tracks, and it was deployed to Vietnam along with the M48 Patton tanks.

The frank fact seems to be that while the Walker Bulldog served in combat with some of the countries the U. S. sold the tanks to, there is no evidence it ever served in combat with the U. S. Armed Forces.

The kit was first produced by Tamiya in 1973.  A half century ago, it was battery powered like almost all the Tamiya 1/35 scale armor kits.  The sprues are marked “1973”.  The hull bottom is marked “1973 2019”.  I think that Tamiya reworked the hull bottom to get rid of most of the battery power necessities, probably c. 2019.  There are few parts compared to modern kits, but I submit adequate detail.  I do wish Tamiya had provided some clear lenses for the driver’s viewing ports.  The figures supplied were WWII American Infantry and a generic commander.  An ARVN commander or driver would have been nice, but one cannot have everything.

Sadly, the Walker Bulldog was less than successful, but still an important tank at the beginning of the Cold War.  And it contributed to successfully preventing the expansion of communism during the Cold War, as did the millions of Americans who served the country  in our Armed Forces during that not stressless period.

And now to the workbench to get the build under way.

These are all the styrene injection molded parts. In the upper left is the hull bottom. This is a single piece. Not like modern armor kits with hundreds of parts, is it?
This is the rest of the kit, i.e., vinyl tracks and caps, a small decal sheet. There are two Japanese markings and one U. S. Army marking (probably the occupation army in Germany).
Sprue A with the date engraved on it.
And, Sprue B dated.
The two dates along with the remnants of the battery configuration of long ago.

The Stash Is Thinned Down

We all have one. Older modelers like myself have kits that date back to the Reagan Administration and before. Some stashes get totally out of control. (I knew a guy in Maine who literally left a barn full of kits to be dealt with.) And some of us finally give up the pretense that we are going to build them, and we admit we have become kit collectors in addition to being modelers.

Why do we buy all these kits anyway? I actually had an intent to build everything I purchased, but then new things come along or older kits grab my attention anew, and that new kit starts to move into some dusty corner of my storage area.

Then someday we come to the realization that we have an actual life expectancy, and maybe it is time to thin down the stash and part with that kit you have had since Blue Bloods was in Season 1.

In a previous post, I discussed selling on eBay. In years past, that has worked fairly well for me. Not so much anymore. I wanted a more sweeping and immediate thinning of the stash that did not involve dumping a bunch of kits off at Goodwill.

Here in Arizona, there is only one real model show a year. That is Modelzona in Mesa on the first Saturday in November by IPMS-Phoenix. I was perusing the latest email from Rare-Plane Detective (one of my favorite vendors) and there was an announcement they would be attending Modelzona!

I sat down and examined my kit inventory list. In one ear, I could hear a little voice saying “Don’t be hasty. That is a really nice kit. You will regret selling it.” In the other ear I heard “Are you kidding? The chances you will build that kit are remote to nonexistent. You bought it before Y2K and you haven’t touched it since. Let it go.”

After much soul searching, I completed a list that was fairly long and listed the kits I knew darn well I was not going to build myself. I emailed the list to Rare-Plane Detective with a price I was looking for and we reached an agreement. Remember if you are trying to sell kits to a retailer, he cannot give you the same price that the kit might be worth at retail. He would not be in business very long if he did that. Think of it this way: you are selling a whole lot of kits at once without that hassle of an on-line auction or finding some venue where you can try to sell them individually to buyers. How much is your time worth to you?

I am so pleased. RPD teated me very well, and I am totally pleased with the transaction. The owner, Jeff, is a great guy to deal with. It was a very lucky break for me they were coming to town and I could fill the RAV4 with kits and drive right up there.

The most surprising thing to me is the sense of liberation I have felt reducing the stash to those kits I am really interested in.

Now, I am like that person who goes on a fad diet and loses a lot of weight, then they have to fight – often unsuccessfully – to keep it off.

It remains to be seen if I have the necessary self-control!

F-80C – Saggin’ Dragon Completed

This was a very enjoyable kit and renewed my faith in HobbyBoss products.  

One thing I learned in researching this project is that the first jet fighters (and the F-80 was America’s first active duty fighter) were real gas guzzlers!  Of course, the F-80C “Saggin’ Dragon” was first based at Misawa AFB in Japan and was flying missions the length of the Korean Peninsula requiring some extra fuel load.  Plus, it was often carrying a ton of bombs, not a light package for a single jet fighter.

The large tip tanks were dubbed “Misawa tanks” as they were produced locally from a field expedient design.  They were unique to the F-80.

When it came time for weathering, I only weathered the wheel wells.  This was not a matter of “end of the project laziness” (something I could rightly be accused of a time or two in the past).  It was from looking at the photos of the F-80 fighters serving in Korea.  There were no prominent panel lines, exhaust stains, etc.  The surface of the aircraft appeared to be flat dull aluminum.  I looked at mine which had been sprayed with Vallejo Satin Varnish (70.522), and I thought it looked quite like the actual aircraft. 

In three years of war in Korea (1950 to 1953), the United States Armed Forces suffered 33,651 battle deaths, tens of thousands of wounded and thousands more who died of accident or disease serving there.  The totals rival those of the ten year long Vietnam War.  Yet, calling the Korean War the Forgotten War is accurate.  I think it is time for me to do some studying and remembering.

I really like this model, and it will  be the first of several Korean War models I intend to build next.

I liked the color scheme, but the decal of the nose decoration was never going to fit correctly, at least if I was the one applying the decal. And I thought the decal was too light a blue anyway. It was more likely an insignia blue color. And the dragon design was separate from the blue stripe.
So, I photocopied the decals. I used the photocopy as a pattern to make a mask to copy the Vallejo Air Insignia Blue paint I sprayed on the nose and tail.
Being so used to seeing streamlined modern bombs on Vietnam Era aircraft, the old WWII type bombs looked out of place on this jet. I imagine there were thousands of the older bombs left over in 1950.
The decals went on perfectly and responded well to Microsol and Microset.
It was rare to see an F-80 with its flaps and dive brakes lowered while on the ground. However, the detail of the parts invited me to lower them rather than cover them up.
The seat belts were supplied in the kit on a photo etched fret.

Hobby Boss F-80C Shooting Star – Painting

A short entry today. I masked and painted over the past few days.

I am glad I cut some stencils, because I think trying to get that decal to conform with the forward fuselage may have bested me. And, I think it would have been too long anyway.

My chosen color was Vallejo Model Air Glossy Sea Blue (71.300). The brighter blue on the painting diagram looked nice, but in photos I have seen the color appeared to be darker. Also, I theorized that available paint stocks would have been darker like Insignia Blue which is very close or the same as Glossy Sea Blue.

I sprayed the nose and the rudder stripe area, and then I applied the masks I had made. To simplify painting, I left the horizontal stabilizers off.
The kit includes both standard wing tip tanks and the larger Misawa tanks. The F-80’s were stationed in Japan at Misawa AFB early in the Korean War, and there the larger wing tip tanks were apparently locally developed. It was a long way from Japan to the fighting as it moved north in Korea.
The masking has been removed on top and things are not looking too bad.

I think I will apply decals next and then a top coat to protect them. After that, some weathering will be in order.

Hobby Boss F-80C Shooting Star – Continued

Work has continued the past few weeks. I am somewhat in awe of many of the model builders I follow who have such high production rates. My life keeps getting in the way of modeling. But progress is being made.

At some point, I think HobbyBoss contemplated including interior detail with this model but dropped the idea. For instance, the rear fuselage section could have been built either connected or separated from the forward fuselage. The engine was in three pieces. The compressor and a two piece tailpipe with detail on the outside of the tailpipe, never to be seen once it was put in place.

I believe the old Monogram kit had a removable tail section with a more complete engine.

By the way, the outside of the engine compressor had to be sanded down quite a bit to make it fit inside the rear fuselage.

Attaching the wing came next. And here there were some fit problems not caused by me. None of these comments are meant to denigrate this kit. I am enjoying building it. And, I regard fit issues as part of the hobby and merely present me with problems to be solved. It is all good.

The first issue was the poor fit where the front of the wing meets the fuselage. This was solved by cutting a small piece of plastic card to be cemented to the fuselage to change to angle of the leading edge of the wing so that the bottom of the wing piece would be flush.

The shim solved that issue. Which left the second issue, the gap between the top of the wing panels and the fuselage. This was easily solved with some putty.

We have reached the stage where I have to make some decisions on how to paint the model. The scheme I chose was the one on the box top.

The decals provide the dragon and the Navy blue stripe as two separate decals. Not having total faith in how well the decal will conform to the model, and also how I would match the exact color of the decal with the nose section I would have to paint separately?

I decided that the best way to tackle this one was to paint the nose blue, apply masking and then paint the silver over it. What could possibly go wrong? That remains to be seen.

I scanned the decals and printed them at 100%. Using the copy as a stencil, I cut some templates from Tamiya tape. While I was at it, I cut some templates for the antiglare panel and the tail stripes.

And, I painted the wheel and flap wells along with the dive brake recesses interior green and have started masking them.

All in all, I am pleased with the kit so far. I am glad that HobbyBoss chose to kit this important aircraft from the Forgotten War in my favorite scale.

Hobby Boss F-80C Shooting Star (Kit #81725)

Now, I am onto an aircraft, a model of which I have wanted to build for years. I had two choices. One was the Monogram kit. Frankly I like Monogram kits and have built several in recent years. But I selected the HobbyBoss 1/48 scale Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star. I believe it may still be in production; I picked it up from Rare-Plane Detective at the IPMS Nats in Las Vegas last year. The kit is out of stock at SprueBrothers, and they do not have the provision for you to leave your email address for notification when it is back in stock. Perhaps our Asian friends are injecting plastic into other molds. Who Knows? Read about the kit on Scalemates here.

While I have built a number of Takom armor kits (which I think are generally excellent). The only Chinese aircraft kit I have built is a Trumpeter 1/48 scale MiG-3. It was a good kit, but I have been turned off by some others I have looked at. The HobbyBoss Hellcat looks like a Hellcat that had been mistakenly built by Brewster on the Buffalo assembly line. Tamiya, Eduard, Airfix and Monogram kits have always attracted me more, I guess.

None the less, I chose this one over the Monogram kit, and so far I am glad I did.

Here are the basic cockpit parts. The seat was assembled from six parts. The detail is passable. When I compared the instrument panel with a photo of the restored F-80C at the USAF Museum it was spot on. My painting may not have done it justice.

The seatbelt fret included with the kit is pretty nice. I sprayed it with Tamiya Grey Surface Primer which states on the can that it will prime metal. It does, but it also scrapes easily. I brush painted the belts Khaki with Vallejo Model Color, and later brush painted the buckles and such with Vallejo Model Air Silver. PE is not my friend, but I managed to get them attached to the seat with some CA

Taking a break from working on the cockpit, I decanted some spray paint to be used via airbrush later.

Good old Tamiya TS-17 Gloss Aluminum. I have done this before. All you need is an articulated plastic straw, some mounting putty (such as Loctite Fun-Tak or similar), and some newspaper or drop cloth to protect the work area in the event of some overspray (which I have not experienced). Oh, yes, a latex or vinyl glove for the hand holding the stray to the spray can nozzle. There may be a little leakage.

You can also wrap some masking tape around the assembly to further seal it. My experience is that this paint does not come out of the can with great force. It sprays into the bend in the straw, settles against the straw’s inner surface and drips into the bottle. Do not fill the bottle to the top. Fill the bottle leaving 1/3 to 1/4 of the space unused.

The paint will be loaded with what I understand is the propellant that was mixed with it to propel the paint out of the can. This gas must be allowed to evaporate out of the paint. If you put a wooden stir stick in the bottle right after decanting the paint, you will see a sudden burst of small bubbles, like foam, quickly rise to the surface. If you had filled the bottle, you would have an overflow.

My theory (please remember I am a lawyer, not a chemical engineer) is that there is a reaction with the stick that causes the propellant to gas out of the paint. I stir it a little, and then I put the cap on loosely so it is not air tight. I come back an hour or so later, and stir it again. There will be more – but fewer – bubbles. I have found that repeating this twice more seems to take care of that gas, and then I fully secure the bottle.

This paint airbrushes like a dream. Tamiya Lacquer Thinner lets you adjust the viscosity to the consistency you want, if needed.

By the way, you might skip all this if you simply buy the new Tamiya lacquer in a bottle, as I think it is very similar to the rattle can paint. However, I have some Tamiya rattle cans I intend to use up.

Returning to the workbench, I painted and assembled the cockpit module. Everything fit together as designed. I was assisted by photos of the F-80C restored by the USAF itself for their museum. The problem with cockpit photos is that you are often looking at a cockpit with modern avionics installed and military equipment removed, not to mention one or two less than color accurate repaint jobs. That is why the Air Force Museum restorations (or the Smithsonian) are to be relied on, in my view.

One final observation. The bulkhead in front of the cockpit has a cabinet/rack molded into it for electronic equipment, probably the radar, radio, etc. However, it is sealed into the nose of the model never to be seen again. It is as if the mold designer was getting ready to do a detailed nose bay perhaps with guns, ammo and other items. And, someone told him to go no further.

The same applies to that item on the left, which represents the front end of the jet engine. It is not very detailed, but it does not matter. It will be sealed in when the tail is attached. Unlike the Monogram model, which is designed to have the tail removed and even comes with a wheeled cart to mount it on, this kit is not designed to be finished in two large pieces.

Could it be that this model started out as a bit more ambitious a replica? Maybe, but I am glad it was marketed in the form it was. Thank you for visiting. Time to get back to the workbench.

The Arma P-51B/C Mustang – Completed

House quests having left and neglected matters having been caught up on, I was able to spend some time completing this model.

Arguably one of the most famous airplanes that fought in the European Theater, Col. James H. Howard’s North American P-51B Mustang “Ding Hao!” Col. Howard, who was awarded the Medal of Honor, was one of the relatively rare pilots who had the opportunity to down enemy aircraft in both the Pacific and European Theaters. On the nose was painted a phrase he had picked up while flying with the Flying Tigers — “Ding Hao!” — fittingly, it roughly translates as “Top Good” or “The Best”.

Now that I have had the entire experience of building and completing this kit, I am convinced that if Arma had made this exact kit in 1/48 scale, it would also have been a real winner. The engineering and the level of detail would have propelled this model to the forefront of P-51B/C models. The Accurate Miniature models would have been left looking at retirement after decades of service to the grateful modeling community.

On this project, I used the following Vallejo Model Air colors: Interior Green (71.010), US Olive Drab (71.043), Black (71.057) and US Interior Yellow (71.107).

I used Tamiya Lacquer Flat Silver (LP38), which is now my substitute for the no-longer-available Model Master Steel.

Mr. Finishing Surfacer 150 Gray thinned with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner was used as a primer.

Hataka Orange Line (Lacquer) was used for the overall colors, and were Olive Drab 41 (Early) (C004) and Neutral Grey (FS36173)(C265). These were thinned with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner. The combination of this thinner and these paints must be experienced to be appreciated. If Hataka was generally available here in the U.S.A., I would use it almost for everything, but alas it isn’t. At least yet. Hopefully it will be available soon in all of its many colors.

Finally, another product relatively new to me is Ammo Lucky Varnish-Mat (A.Mig-2051), which is acrylic resin, applies very easily and dries rapidly to a very flat finish. And, you can touch up with it using a brush.

I said in the recent past that I liked an occasional 1/72 scale project as they can be completed quickly. Well, not here. Arma kits in 1/72 scale take as long as the average 1/48 model.

And the result is a really nice model with tremendous presence on your display shelf.

The Arma P-51B/C Mustang – Painting

I selected the color scheme depicted on the kit box top – “Ding Hoa!” The main colors will be Olive Drab and Neutral Grey, both of which will be Hataka Orange Line (Lacquer) colors. Hataka lacquers airbrush like a dream when thinned with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner. The thinner prevents paint drying on the airbrush tip and allows the application of the paint wet and not drying before it touches the model (a problem with some paints).

The white stripes were applied first with Stynylrez white primer. I find that stripes like this are best applied first as this minimizes the amount of masking one has to do. If I paint the stripes last, I find myself doing a lot of masking to protect the rest of the model finish from overspray.

Lastly, I like to paint canopies separate from the model. It is easy enough to fill the cockpit with damp tissue or some other filler to protect it. No matter how hard I try, somehow on some models some overspray gets on the inside of the canopy. It is like a dust setttling and sticking there. I find doing them separately yields a much clearer canopy, at least it does for me.

The grandchildren are arriving next week, and my hobby room is needed for an adult guest room, so I may not be able to complete this project until they depart.

I was thinking of starting a recently acquired Tamiya Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IXc in 1/32scale. However, I would first like to add an aircraft from the Korean War, i.e., the Forgotten War, and a Hobby Boss F-80C Shoting Star I have will fill the bill nicely.

It is high time to start adding some Korean War aircraft, and I was able to purchase from Sprue Brothers the excellent 2022 IPMS Convention decal sheet “MIG Kills of the Forgotten War”. If you have any interest in the Korean War, grab these before they are gone. You get two F-86 one F-80, one Twin Mustang and two F9F Panthers, and they are presented in 1/48 scale and 1/72 scale. To top it off, they are printed by Cartograph.

The clip holder above from Sean’s Custom Model Tools has become an indispensable tool on my workbench. It is so handy mounting smaller pieces on sticks and keeping them out of the way yet handy to be worked on and painted. The CCI 22LR plastic cartridge box is a good size to apply some tape to and mount flat parts to be painted.

The Arma P-51B/C Mustang

Kit Box Top (C) Arma Hobby

In January, I wrote about Arma kits in a post. Shortly after that, I purchased this kit. This is nothing less than a 1/48th scale kit molded in 1/72 scale. Much has already been written and said about this kit by better modelers than I. At a local hobby shop, the proprietor told me that he could not keep the kits in stock. And from the attention this kit is receiving on the Internet and in the scale model press, it is clearly a real winner.

With all the zillions of Mustang kits out there one would think that more than a few would be the B or C model Mustangs. Most of what I see are re-pops of the Accurate Miniature kits and of course the Tamiya kit. These are all good kits, but they are in 1/48 scale.

There have been a number of P-51B/C kits in 1/72 scale, to wit: Academy (new in 1999), Airfix (new in 1978), Hasegawa (new in 1992) and Monogram (new in 1967). There were also some European kits during this period.

Not to criticize any of these past efforts (there is always someone who really loves any particular kit), but these older kits seem to have receded from the prominence they may have enjoyed in their heyday. At any rate, it is clear that Arma Hobby hit another homerun by bringing the modeling world a new, state-of-the-art 1/72 scale P-51B/C Mustang.

This kit is an Arma “Expert Set”, which means it comes with photo etch details, painting masks and six marking options. No need for aftermarket extras here.

This is where I am in construction at this time:

I sprayed the interior fuselage halves with Flat Aluminum Tamiya lacquer paint. The Interior Green and Zinc Chromate Yellow are Vallejo Air colors.
Notice the side braces on the seat. I have made 1/48 Mustangs with less detail. That seat will easily fit on a dime. I know this is not contest-winning building on my part, but there are seven (7) tiny parts there to make that much of the seat with a few more to come. I am very pleased with making it look that good.
The interior detail available in this kit far outdistances anything we were being offered last century. It shows how far consumer demand and manufacturing skill have come since then.
The stabilizer is one piece and fits perfectly into the top of the rear of the fuselage
Any putty seen here should be put down to builder error. A little panel line re-scribing will be called for.

As you can see, I am not far from the paint shop. Like my Arma Hobby PZKL P11c, I am really enjoying this build.