1/32 HK Models B-25J Mitchell – Part III – Markings
In Part I it was built. In Part II, it was painted. Now, it’s time to give the B-25 its proper markings.
The B-25 I’m building is “Bottoms Up II” of the 340th Bomb Group. There aren’t very many markings out there (yet) for the 1/32 B-25, but thankfully “Bottoms Up II” is available from KitsWorld. As is a desperately needed B-25 stencil set.
In addition to the KitsWorld decals, I’ve also decided to employ Maketar‘s paint masks for the national insignias and the tail codes. On telling Alek at Maketar about the circumstances of this build, he modified his B-25J set with the proper tail codes for “Bottoms Up II” and sent me the set gratis. Thanks, Alek!
October 15 – Maketar Masks
Paint is on and now it’s time to mask!
I’ve used paint masks before – my own homemade ones on the Hasegawa N1K1, and a Maketar mask on my Revell PV-1 to handle the octopus graphic. But this is my first time using pre-cut vinyl paint masks. Suffice to say, even though I’ve used masks a few times, it’s always a daunting prospect throwing paint at an already-painted kit. Especially one of this magnitude.
I decided to start with the “6V” tail codes. Nice and simple with no layers. I started by prying up an edge of the mask with a scalpel blade, and placing it on the tail fin. There are a few areas where the masks run over raised details that need careful burnishing with a toothpick.
Next, I loaded up the Iwata HP-C+ with Gunze C69 Offwhite and sprayed it thin over the mask. Viola!
Next up…the big 60″ insignias for the wings. These were so big they pushed to the borders of their masking sheet, so I had a lot of trouble aligning an “empty” mask. Instead I secured all the mask elements with Tamiya tape and transferred the whole thing to the underside of the starboard wing. Rinse and repeat for the upper port wing.
Once the masks were placed, I pried up the white elements and placed them back on the backing sheet.
And shot the exposed areas with Gunze C69 Offwhite.
After giving the Gunze a short while to cure (that’s the beauty of lacquer – it doesn’t take long!), I replaced the “white” masks. I won’t lie, this was fiddly work, but the masks give you tons of opportunities to try and try again.
Once they were in place, I removed the “blue” mask, loaded up a batch of Gunze C???? Blue, and sprayed away.
Once the blue was laid down, the masks were removed, revealing two beautiful stars and bars!
By the end of this whole ordeal, it was getting pretty late, so the rest of the masks had to be set aside for another day.
October 16 – More Masks
Paint masks definitely require that you go slow, check and double-check your work before committing paint. So the first night of masking got me through four of the eight painted elements – the wing insignias and the tail codes. A second night was devoted to the fuselage insignia – smaller than those on the wings, but a bit more tricky just due to navigating around the fuselage.
Once the paint cured, I went ahead and installed the wings. As during the various test-fittings, I found myself impressed with the effectiveness of HK’s slide-lock mounting setup. Just slot the wing on, then slide it back and it grips down and locks into place. I wish it were possible to mount and unmount the wings easily, but that hasn’t been the case on my example. Still it’s impressive how tight the fit is, and that it went on without scuffing the paint at all.
October 17 – Decal Prep
Once you hit this stage of a build, there’s a bit of autopilot that sets in. Decals are up next, but first the surface has to be prepared for them, which means a gloss clear coat. To me, this is more or less alchemy. Perhaps one day I’ll find a gloss clear that behaves perfectly (I’ve got some Gunze C46 and Gunze GX Super Clear III on the way, so fingers crossed), but for now it remains probably the single biggest leap of faith I take during any build.
This time around, I decanted some Gunze Super Gloss Clear from a rattlecan, thinned it down with Mr. Leveling Thinner, and laid it on. Eh. Not great. Fortunately, it did smooth out nicely with a few passes of 8000-grit micromesh.
October 18 – KitsWorld Decals
Whenever you use new decals, there’s always that bit of uncertainty. How will they go down? Will they be thin or thick? Will they immediately suck down to the surface and resist any effort to adjust their positions? Will they shatter? Will they refuse to settle and silver if you so much as look at them funny?
I’ve had experiences all over the place, from outright horror (Peddinghaus) to mild disappointment (Zotz) to great-but-frustrating (Barracudacals) and stunned amazement (Berna).
So when I pulled out the KitsWorld decals for the B-25, I was hesitant. What was I going to get? Something good on Berna or Cartograf levels? Or something painfully awful?
Fortunately, I’m happy to report that the KitsWorld decals are the former, and some of the best decals I’ve ever used. The print quality is outstanding – none of the dots that you sometimes see on close inspection of other aftermarket decals – and the performance of the decals moreso. They are thin, but manipulable. They don’t suck down right away and tear when you try to shift them. Instead, they happily move around for a minute or two, giving you plenty of time to get things aligned. And then, the suck into the surface details as well as any decal I’ve ever seen.
As happy as I am with the decals, there’s always room for a good rant, right?
So here’s mine.
Stencils are a pain, but they can make a huge difference in how a build comes out. I mean, real planes have stenciling all over them, and a model – especially in a larger scale like 1/32 – should have them as well. I want “No Step” warnings, data panels, warnings to push here, don’t push there, don’t touch this hot part, only urinate on this area, not that area, and so on.
HK’s B-25 totally drops the ball on stencils. Frustrating, since most aftermarket decals players suck at it, too, and stencils are often one of those areas where you have to grudgingly go back to the kit decals. What’s more frustrating is that the KitsWorld B-25 stencil sheet is barely that at all. It’s mostly USAAF insignia, a few fin flashes if you’re building an RAF Mitchell, prop logos, sortie stencils, and then one or two real stencils. Of them, I used the prop decals, the generic data panel outside the pilot’s window, the escape hatch stencils on the port side, and the filler caps. Weak sauce.
Honestly, next time around (assuming I go for the Strafer and build it as a PBJ-1J) I’m just going to jack one of those new Fundecals P-51 stencil sheets and fake it.
Okay. Rant off.
To finish out the night, since the decals only took a short while, I also hit a few smaller elements – the cowls, bay doors, and prop hubs – with Flory washes. The Dark Dirt is perfect for natural metal, but all but vanishes against the olive drab, so I used black instead to bring some depth to the rivets. As usual, it wipes off with a damp paper towel. Awesome stuff.
With that, I’m calling a wrap on Part III – Markings. Click on through for Part IV – Finishing to see the B-25 reach its end!