X-Winging It

Saturday, October 7, 2017. My big 1/32 Trumpeter MiG-23 had been plodding along, and was nearly at the painting stage. But I decided to take a week off for a little sidecar project – a 1/144 Bandai T-65 X-Wing.

Why? A few reasons.

First, the MiG-23 has been a slow, steady project, but one that’s nowhere near its endpoint. In fact, I’m just about to get into the fun stuff. But it’d be nice to make some quick progress on something.

Second, the annual Austin contest is on Saturday the 14th, and it’d be nice to have one more thing to enter I guess. I’m not really expecting a tiny X-Wing to do all that great against what will probably be a table stuffed with larger Bandai kits, but whatever.

Third, my project load at work is rather intense at the moment,  and to be honest I wasn’t sure I’d have the mental bandwidth to really focus on the MiG-23. But modeling is my decompression mechanism, so…something had to be on the bench.

Fourth, a model this small and simple gave me a great reason to sit at the kitchen table with the kids while we all did something crafty. I did the X-Wing while 2 and 3 painted. It was good fun.

Fifth, I wanted to see if I could take a kit from cracking the box to finishing it up in under a week. My build rate has slowed considerably in recent years, and even on something as small as a 1/144 X-Wing, that span seems daunting.

Sixth, I’d like to have a small model that I could plop on the desk at work, and a tiny X-Wing seems like a good choice.

Priming and painting the tiny X-Wing was a quick affair. And while I primed in black as per usual, I didn’t really focus much on tonal variation since the thing is tiny anyway.

Saturday

Sunday

Instead of white, I opted to use MRP-256 Clear Doped Linen, which is a lovely off-white shade with a hint of warm grey to it.

Monday

For markings, I decided to use Nicholas Sagan’s excellent Blue Squadron decal sheet. It’s a bit of a pain to carefully trim out the decals since the whole sheet is carrier filmed, but the decals themselves are thin-yet-tough and conform very well. Certainly better than Bandai’s decals.

The decals are also slightly translucent, which is fine considering the monotone nature of the X-Wing’s base paint.

Oh, and the various color patches are already chipped up, which is a huge bonus.

Due to the annoying nature of Bandai’s X-Wings, I had to do the wings first, since I wouldn’t be able to easily access the inner wings once the s-foils were locked into the fuselage.

The canopy on this kit is, annoyingly, solid plastic. The canopy decal fits excellently, and the black mostly looks the part, but in an ideal world this would at least be some kind of glossy black film that could be applied.

Tuesday

After the wing decals were all sorted, I closed the s-foils inside the fuselage and glued the bastard tight, then went back and touched up the affected areas with paint.

Wednesday

Next up came the balance of the decals on the fuselage. I went a little bit free-form with these and added some additional color splashes ahead of the cockpit.

Thursday

With all the decals applied, I moved straight into weathering. As it turns out, AK’s Engine Grime makes an absolutely ideal wash for the X-Wing.

While others have had issues with mineral spirits and Bandai plastic, it wasn’t an issue when I built the A-Wing, and it’s not proving to be an issue with the X-Wing either.

Friday

Some final weathering in the form of sponging some Ammo Medium Gray panel line wash on the surface. This is really something that would work better in larger scales, and here it does an okay job.

After the sponging, a coat of Gunze Mr. Color Flat Clear sealed everything up, and the diminutive Blue 3 officially moved into the Completed column.

And just to show how much of a lilliputian this T-65 is, here it is next to an SD card for scale:

Wrapping Up

I’m not about to call this X-Wing my best work – or even anywhere close – but it provided a nice change of pace from the protracted MiG-23 build. And maybe, just maybe, it’s opened the door to an antidote to my rather bad shelf-of-doomitis. Instead a of starting another project, getting lost in it, and repeating that vicious cycle, this is more of a quick breather before diving back in. I think I may well look at picking up a few other 1/144 Bandai kits, and perhaps some Eduard MiG-21s, which I’ve built before and very much enjoyed, and see if the “quick distraction” thing holds.

The Kit Itself

What did I make of the Bandai kit itself? Overall, it’s awesome. A miniature version of their already very good 1/72 X-Wing. In some ways, I think it’s better, since you don’t have the bullshit with the body being broken up with the different colored paneling (hey Bandai, cut that shit out). But the surface detail is exquisite and the fit leaves nothing to complain about.

There are, however, four things I’d put in the minus column. They’re small complaints, but complaints nonetheless:

  1. The solid canopy is kinda bullshit. If nothing else, give us a heavily smoked clear part, or a shiny black part, and then just decals for the framing. The decal works decently, but only decently.
  2. The fit is too tight. This is true of other Bandai kits as well. The press-fit idea is nice and all and good for novice modelers. BUT it doesn’t lend itself to test-fitting or modular building. When I built the A-Wing, this is something I ran afoul of, with a test-fit becoming a “well I’m never getting that back off” fit. The way around this is to cut, ream, and otherwise mess with the internal mounting lugs and holes so that they are looser and allow placement and removal.
  3. The s-foil/fuselage assembly is inconvenient. I don’t like having to trap the wings in the fuselage. I just don’t. It makes it tough to get at the inside of the s-foils, and it means you have this awkward break in construction to paint, and painting to construct. I’m told the Fine Molds kits have a different approach to this that works better, but I have zero experience with them so I can’t confirm or deny.
  4. The mold seams are annoying.  In 1/144, mold seams are rather noticeable, and for the most part they aren’t a big deal on the X-Wing. But when they are a big deal, it’s really noticeable, such as on the wingtip laser cannons. Frustratingly, the seams on the cannon housings are difficult because of the contours and details. And the seams on the laser barrels (?) are difficult because of how fragile those parts are. I’m not sure what all can be done here, but it’s an annoyance that should be taken into account. As I was moving fast and breaking things, I didn’t notice until I’d already started on a few of the barber pole decals, but I’d be more diligent there next time out.

So…that’s it. A nice, quick build and a good six-day distraction. Now back to Floggertown!

 

Tamiya’s New 1/48 Bf 109G-6 – Quick Thoughts

Every time a Shizouka Hobby Show or All-Japan Model & Hobby Show roll around, the modeling community gets all pins and needles in anticipation of the latest Tamiya release. There are other manufacturers, too, but for the most part their new stuff blows cover well before it’s shown publicly. Tamiya seems to be one of the very few that holds its powder for industry event reveals.

At this year’s AJMHS, the betting money was on a variant of their excellent F-14. Well, until the last few weeks, when work of a new 1/48 tooling squeaked out.

It turned out to be a new 1/48 Bf 109G-6.

Yay?

Unlike last year’s F-14, or even the Ki-61 (more on that in a minute), it seems like the 109 is receiving something of a muted reception. But I’m sure it’ll still sell like hotcakes.

With Tamiya’s 1/32 releases, I usually do a quick post on the kit and its implications.  Even though the 109 is 1/48, I figure that it’s a significant enough release to justify the same. So let’s get into it.

Great. Another 109.

This is the prevailing sentiment floating around the interwebs right now. And it’s valid. Usually, Tamiya does a pretty good job of wading into a subject area it can exploit. But with the 109G-6, the field is already littered with competitors. Many of them – like Academy and Arii – aren’t particularly great and can be more or less discounted. That still leaves the venerable Hasegawa and the newer Eduard and Zvezda kits, however.

What can Tamiya possibly bring to the table that’s not already there?

In a word – itself. Tamiya is one of the few brands that is an absolute guarantee of quality engineering and fit. I have no doubt this 109 will build beautifully.

And the Tamiya quality alone will ensure that they sell a ton – unless they do something crazy with the price and list it at $80.

The Price is an Open Question

Eduard’s Bf 109G-6 Profi-Packs have an MSRP of $50, and a street price of around $40. I’d expect Tamiya to show up at a slight premium above that, especially considering the included engine.

The similar-sized, DB 605-having Ki-61 has an MSRP/Street of $52/$42, for example. And the 109 will probably follow in its footsteps.

The Variants are Another Open Question

Tamiya sucks at covering off on variants. They’ll do a few and then move on, leaving us without, say, a P-47N or a Spitfire Mk.IX or an A6M2 Zero. Or the oft-wished for F-16D.

And if there’s one thing that the 109 is known for, it’s an absolute fuckton of variants. Even among the G-6, you’ve got the early short tail, the later with the taller tail and rudder, versions with the usual canopy cage, versions with the Erla Haube hood, and so on. Then you’ve got the various G-10s, the G-14, and the like.

It’s practically a given that Eduard will produce every single one of these. But Tamiya? Don’t hold your breath.

Granted, they have clearly designed the kit with provisions for additional variants. The cowl “cheeks” are separate, and the tail in particular is cut up to easily fit the tall tail and rudder if desired.

BUT the F-16 has provisions that set up a two-seater, so just because Tamiya’s laid the groundwork doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.

It Has an Engine

Like last year’s Ki-61, the new 109G-6 boasts an engine, something of a rarity for a V-arrangement engine in a Tamiya 1/48 kit, and something that will set it apart from the Hasegawa and Eduard kits (but not the Zvezda). I’d imagine this kit’s development is perhaps part of the reason that we got the DB 605 in the Ki-61 kit, and can’t help but wonder if it has implications for future larger scale subjects.

There are also separate parts for building the cowl panels opened up, or closed. A practice that Tamiya has used to great effect in the past (for landing gear doors, or for wing sweep components on the F-14), and that manufacturers like Kitty Hawk could stand to learn from.

New Paints? Maybe?

New Tamiya kits are frequently accompanied by new Tamiya paints. Frustratingly, those paints are often rattlecans. But while a rattlecan might work for, say, a 1/32 Corsair, it’s not going to cut it for 1/48 mottling. So we might – might – be seeing some new XF paints for RLM 74/75/76.

It May Portend Future 1/32 Developments. Or Not.

At this point, outside of timing, I have no idea what the fuck is going to happen with Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject. Precedent would have had a whole new subject landing this past May, but instead we got the F4U-1D. Next year, odds are we will be seeing a whole new subject.

What will it be though? If they keep going along their 1/48 release order, a P-47 or Me 262 still seems likely. But their 1/48 moves are muddying the waters. A case could be made for a new-tool 1/32 F-14 to replace their nearly 40-year-old original tooling.

And now, a case could certainly be made for a Bf 109. It would require some backpedaling from Tamiya in terms of pricepoints. I’ll buy kits at the drop of a hat, and even I’d balk at spending $100+ on a 109 kit, no matter how good it was or who made it. I can only imagine the reaction of those who think that Hobby Lobby’s kit selection is overpriced.

I’m pissed at the prospect of a 109 potentially bumping a 1/32 P-47 out of the way, but at this point, if we’re being honest, I’d have to say that a 109G-6 just became the favorite for Tamiya’s next 1/32 release. And I’d buy one, and build it up in Finnish or Romanian or Italian service. All the while stewing at not having my dreamed of 1/32 Tamiya Jug.

It’s My Model

Earlier today, a modeler posted a video to a Facebook group. A video of most of his completed builds making a trip into the trash can. He’s moving, see, and wants a fresh start with the new house.

If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you can guess where this went. Pearls were clutched. Virtues were signaled. Butts were hurt.

Look. Most museums don’t want your cast-offs.  Most hobby shops – if they’re still around – probably don’t have space to house them. Models are too fragile for kids to play with. Selling completed kits on eBay? I guess. But it’s a pain in the ass.

Look. I have a weird hang-up about giving away your cast-offs. If I’m going to give a kit to a museum, I want it to be the pride of my collection, not something I built years ago that I’ve long since progressed from.

Look. Ultimately, none of that matters. Because what you do with a model that you purchased is your business and yours alone. You don’t get to cast moral aspersions on someone else doing what they will with their own things. Fuck, how many kits never get built? How many only make it to the shelf of doom? At least a completed kit had its time in the sun.

But holding on to every one…for what? It’s like holding on to every picture you ever take, even the blurry ones or the ones that are poorly framed or the ones where you took five of the same damn shot to try to get the toddler to look at the camera at the same time as everyone else.

We cull the herd in almost every other aspect of our life. We even attach a kind of nobility to it. We call it “spring cleaning” or “decluttering”. But you toss a completed build, even one you’ve moved on from, or weren’t that proud of to begin with, and the knives of indignation come out.

Well fuck that. It’s my model and I can do what I want with it. And your model is your model, and you can do what you want with it.

Even if that means smashing the fuck out of them with a rock.

Does It Fit – 1/32 Academy F-16 Edition

Resin aftermarket often seems to exist in some weird fog, where you can’t find good, high-res photos or instructions online, much less actual thoughts from people who’ve used them. Even harder is finding a straight answer to the question central to many a resin purchase:

Does it fit?

This DIF series is my attempt to chip away at that fog, to the extent that I can. First up, I covered some goodies for Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-23s. This time out, let’s look at Academy’s 1/32 F-16s. Particularly the Sufa.

The Academy Sufa

For some reason, Israeli jets do nothing for me. It’s convenient, then, that the F-16I Sufa is basically the same aircraft as the F-16D Block 52+. This opens up some interesting possibilities for two-seater fun, including Polish and Hellenic Air Force schemes.

A few years ago, I had a solid go at Academy’s big Viper before just running out of steam. That run-out remains probably my biggest regret in modeling after buying Kitty Hawk kits thinking “this time it’ll be better”.

In the time since, two of my biggest gripes – the fit of the intake exterior and of the exhaust nozzle – have been addressed by aftermarket in the form of a one-piece NSI intake from Zactomodels, and a Pratt & Whitney exhaust courtesy of KASL.

But the resin that I did use on that first pass at the tandem F-16 gave me some

WOLFPACK #32030 1/32 Academy F-16I IDF ‘Sufa’ Cockpit Set

If you want an aftermarket cockpit for your Sufa (or Polish or Greek or whatever F-16D), Wolfpack is your only option. This is a bit odd, considering the sheer number of cockpit options out there for the single-seaters.

I originally turned to Wolfpack after ruining my kit’s cockpit. How did I do that? Simple. I sanded off the detail to (idiotically) use Eduard color PE. What looked gorgeous on the fret looked chintzy and flat once installed. So, off to pursue some resin!

To my surprise, the Wolfpack cockpit didn’t just fit. It fit perfectly. Without cleanup (though you do have to remove the pour stub on the bottom…and it’s mostrous).

Detail isn’t quite up to the standard of Aires on its best day, but it’s still a marked improvement over the kit plastic and includes plenty of detail to go to town on.

The sidewalls didn’t prove an issue, either, since they basically sit more on the main tub, and since the cockpit sills leave a nice overhand to work underneath. You can see the mounting locations in the pic below.

 

Another nifty feature? Those two holes at the very back of the cockpit. They fit exactly into locating post in the Academy kit. Imagine that – a resin cockpit that is straight-up designed to play nice with the kit.

Here’s the final, installed result.

Detail – Pretty good. A solid 7.5 or 8.

Does it Fit? – Yes. It’s a complete drop-fit. 

Worth it? – Absolutely

AIRES #2129 – 1/32 F-16I Sufa Wheel Bay Set (Academy)

I’m typically not a fan of aftermarket wheelbays. I just don’t feel there’s enough benefit for the level of effort many of them demand. But with the F-16, there are two considerations in play. First, it’s main gear bays are pretty visible. Second, the barrel shape of the fuselage means a lot of the grinding and sanding and thinning to fit wing-located bays wouldn’t be an issue. So I decided to take a change for all that delicious detail.

And wouldn’t you know it? Another drop fit.

Literally nothing to remove. The part just drops right into place. And painting it was a blast.

When I have a second go at Academy’s big two-seater Viper, I will be using the main gear bay again for sure.

Detail – Perfection in resin

Does it Fit? – Yes. It’s a drop fit. 

Worth it? – Oh god yes. 

Does It Fit – 1/32 MiG-23 Edition

Last night, I was scouring the interwebs investigating my aftermarket options for a potential project, and I kept coming up against the same basic image, repeated over and over again, probably associated with the item’s presence in a few dozen online storefronts. And…that’s it.

No deeper looks. No in-depth reviews. No advisories on what needs to be cut or filed away.

A few times, I was lucky enough to find a mention of a certain item in a forum thread. But the Photobucketpocalypse has basically crippled the utility of forums as project archives. Unless you like looking at dozens of images of an extortion message cuted up by a kitten.

Go fuck yourself, Photobucket

It’s amazing that, in 2017, it’s basically impossible to find detailed photos or a good look at the instructions, even, for most resin aftermarket items. Much less photos and confirmation of whether or not a thing fits.

NOTE 1: If you’re a resin manufacturer who is not Eduard (or a vanishingly few others like KASL and Zactomodels), do everyone a favor and pull your head out of your ass. Take high-res, detailed photos of your wares (imagine that!). Post instructions online. Maybe even include an idea of what work will need to be done to make a thing fit.

NOTE 2: If you’re one of those who likes to bray about modelers vs assemblers and basic modeling skills and who cares you’ll make it fit anyway, go fuck yourself. I personally would like to know what I’m in for before dropping $45 for an engine set. It all goes into my cost/effort/benefit analysis. And I know I’m not alone in that.

NOTE 3: If you are Eduard, for the love of god please stop shipping your really nice resin seats with those shit-ass color PE belts. Give us unpainted, malleable ones or take a note from the Aires/Quickboost division and sell an option with belts molded in.

The more you know

Anyway, as something of a public service and to hopefully help spare others from fruitless searching, I thought I’d start posting my experiences with various resin contrivances, detailing how they fit and whether I think they were worth the effort. So hopefully you can make a more informed decision where to spend your hobby dollars. Or not.

Up today – accessories for Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-23 Flogger series.

AIRES #2133 – MiG-23 Flogger Wheel Bay

Trumpeter’s big MiG-23 kits have a lot going for them. But their gear bays leave a lot to be desired. In addition to being rather spartan, they require assembly. The HORROR, I know. But if you could just drop in a one-piece replacement, that’s a step up in my book.

Aires’ gear bays are far, far more detailed than the kit pieces. And while my comparison to the actual gear bays shows some discrepancies in wiring, I wouldn’t really be surprised if that varied from Flogger to Flogger as they were wrenched on during their lifetimes.

To fit, the main think  you have to do is remove this little bit of plastic around the kit’s bay openings.

After those areas are cleared away (I found the back of a #11 blade the cleanest way to do this) and a very little bit of sanding along the bottom of the fuselage where the bay sits, the fit was almost drop-in. The bays are just ever so slightly short. Not enough to bother me much, but to each their own.

You will also have to remove the pour block on top, and a few square things on the wing part that drops down over the fuselage there. This is pretty easy and since they won’t be seen, doesn’t have to be pretty.

When you do commit to glue, I recommending doing so with the upper fuselage taped firmly in place. This will help with making sure things are aligned, since the mounting post for the main gear supports is past the resin in the upper fuselage/wing glove assembly.

Ultimately, the slight gaps on the sides got on my nerves, so they got filled with putty.

As for the nosebay? It’s a complete drop-fit.

Detail – Absolutely exquisite

Does it Fit? – Yes

Worth it? – Yes

AIRES #2134 – MiG-23ML Cockpit Set

As with a number of 1/32 Trumpeter offerings, the kit’s cockpit isn’t bad, per se. It’s just not that great. The instrument panel is done, annoyingly, as a clear part. This is by no means a dealbreaker, and with careful masking of the gauge faces these types of panels can look stellar. But the Trumpeter one has no gauge surrounds, and the rest of the cockpit is just so-so. Whereas the Aires cockpit is just gorgeous.

The question though – does it fit?

The kit helpfully has some location ridges, but Aires isn’t exactly known for being accommodating.

But a quick test-fit revealed that things weren’t so far off the mark.

The main sticking point is in the aft bulkhead’s “shoulders”, right around where it clears the cockpit sills. Fit was also a bit snug on the sides. Between scraping with a #10 blade and a microchisel, I managed to knock these areas down sufficiently.

Another thing that has to go is the interior portions of the cockpit sills. Fortunately, you don’t need to sand anything down to paper-thin translucency.

With everything cut and abraded, the fit was snug, but solid. A few comments told me to keep sanding, but with the way the sidewalls curve, I have a feeling that would have just caused more of a gap in the sills.

Those gaps in the sills? They don’t matter, because the MiG-23 has weatherstripping running around the entire cockpit, and that line is exactly where it’ll need to go.

Installation

Installing the cockpit was pretty straightforward. The starboard sidewall kind of plugs into the main cockpit tub so there’s no alignment fuckery on that side. The port sidewall is more free-spirited. So, using epoxy, I got installed the starboard sidewall (with the cockpit tub attached), then added the port side, slammed everything shut, and clamped it for the night to cure.

After that I was able to crack it back open and remove the cockpit tub for painting.

Painting is kinda outside the scope here, so…here’s how it came out.

NOTE: There are other elements that install into the canopy that are well-detailed and fit nicely. But let’s face it, it’s always how the *main* cockpit fits that drives concerns with resin. 

Detail – Absolutely exquisite

Does it Fit? – Mostly yes. You will have to do some scraping, and remove a portion of the cockpit sills (as well as open up space for the instrument panel/coaming), but at best a moderate amount. There is no sanding down to micron thickness or cutting away vast, important sections of the kit. 

Worth it? – Yes

HAD Models #132002 KM-1 Ejection Seat

Why in the seven hells would I buy a resin seat when one already came with the Aires set?

Because laziness. The Aires seat is exquisite. One of the prettiest ejection seats I’ve seen. But the PE belts are a nightmare. In 1/32, I love me some fabric belts for older aircraft. But when it comes to ejection seats, I much prefer my harness detail molded on. The HAD seat was insurance in case the Aires didn’t work out. Worst case, I thought, it’d give me justification to buy a MiG-21 or something.

As it turns out, the PE belts on the Aires seat soon had me pondering things like how “movie” probably sounded as stupid to people 100 years ago as “selfie” does to us today. Before I chucked my sanity into the abyss, I decided to go with the HAD seat instead.

So creamy…

The seat isn’t as slick as the Aires, but it’s still pretty nice. The headrest and footbox things are a bit clunky to install, but not in any way that is noticeable once it’s painted.

The cream-colored resin makes it really tough to get a sense of the seat, so here’s a shot if it after painting and weathering. The stencils are pulled from a Linden Hill decal sheet.

Detail – A solid 8, but not crisp enough to earn a 10 in my book. 

Does it Fit? – Yep

Worth it? – This is up to you. I feel that life is too short to go mad threading PE belts for a modern ejection seat. Your mileage may vary. 

The Academy Curse

There are plenty of modelers out there who will start a project and, no matter how shitty or dispiriting it proves to be, will see it through to the bitter end.

I have a healthy respect for those who do…but it’s not something I particularly excel at. For me, modeling is a hobby. And while I like challenges, there comes a point where the enjoyment slips away and the bench sessions become drudgery.

And for some reason, Academy kits always seem to drag me into that drudgery.

I’d hoped that the F-4C Phantom would be a way to break the curse, but alas, here I am, teetering at the edge.

Why? Not because of anything big. Not because the kit has “defeated” me. But rather, because compounding annoyances have worn me down, and because of swirlings in the larger market.

Let’s go through those annoyances first…

The Cockpit is Bullshit

My first annoyance with the Academy F-4C was the laughably spartan cockpit. After reading the horror stories of the Aires cockpit set for this kit,  I stayed well away, but maybe I should have taken the plunge, or at the very least used the resin to create a hybrid cockpit of sorts. I mean…the kit pit has no sidewall detail. At all.

Aside from the absent sidewall detail, the side consoles and IPs are no great shakes, either.

Seriously – the old Hasegawa and even Revellogram F-4s put it to shame.

Strike one.

The Surface Texture

The entire surface of the Academy F-4 is covered in a slightly gritty texture that has to be sanded away. And I thought I had, but well into the painting process, it keeps popping up in places. UGH.  Continue reading

WIP – 1/48 Academy F-4C Phantom II, Pt 1

It’s weird how ideas can snowball. That’s exactly what happened when Jimmy D proposed an informal F-4 buddy build over in SMCG. What started as “huh” quickly gathered steam, and suddenly the start date for this informal affair was bumped up to July 4th.

I was just coming off Bandai’s A-Wing and a rather epic bench cleaning and reorganization, and uncommitted to any particular project.

So I decided “fuck it, I’m game”.

My kit of choice? Academy’s 1/48 F-4C Phantom II. With some goodies.

Continue reading