1/72 Bandai A-Wing – The “Jakku Bandit”

If it seems like I’ve been somewhat quiet of late, well, I have been. In part thanks to a combination of work, travel, work travel, and being glued to the twists and turns in the Trump-Russia scandal. But also in part to behind the scenes work on a project for an upcoming issue of Weathering Aircraft magazine.

The theme of desert weathering happened to line up nicely with the release of the final novel in the Star Wars: Aftermath trilogy. While not a particularly good book, it’s notion of a protracted Battle of Jakku gave me the idea of Rebel fighters forward-deployed planetside to cover ground forces. And Bandai’s A-Wing seemed like a fun subject to mess around with.

And, well, here it is:

The mental narrative I worked from is that a forward-deployed A-Wing squadron found it necessary to paint over the deeper red markings with something more suited to desert operations, inspired by the photo recon Spitfires the RAF flew in North Africa. At some point, a hit from a TIE fighter took out the starboard engine, necessitating a cobbled-together field replacement. And of course, grinding service in a hostile desert environment means sand, dust, and all that good, delicious weathering.

The blow-by-blow will have to wait until the article drops, but I will say two things.

First, I used plenty of enamel weathering products on the A-Wing and it did not explode.

Second, there are some tricks to building these Bandai kits that I frustratingly discovered too late in the game. While overall the A-Wing is an excellent kit, the press-fit nature of the assembly is problematic. It makes it very difficult to test fit. In several areas, like the central fuselage, the parts went in and there was just no going back. Toward the end, I started cutting off various lugs and found that this made test-fitting and removability of parts significantly easier. And the fit is still damn good. For example – the engine assemblies and rear bulkhead fit snug, but can be teased off with a small amount of wiggling. Next time I tackle a Bandai kit, I’ll be better prepared for sure.

Tamiya’s New 1/32 F4U-1D Corsair – Quick Thoughts

UPDATE: Additional photos, some formatting fixes, one or two additional thoughts

Tamiya’s next 1/32 kit has broken cover, and I believe Marcus Nicholls deserves credit for sharing the first photos of the new F4U-1D Corsair chilling at the Tamiya booth at the Shizuoka Hobby Show.

While the -1D is hilariously being greeted with yawns of disappointment, I find it fascinating in a number of regards. And so, as I’ve done in the past, I wanted to share some quick thoughts and speculation about Tamiya’s latest.

One Precedent Holds

Tamiya has a now well-established history of releasing new 1/32 scale kits at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in odd-numbered years. In 2009 it was the Spitfire, followed by the Mustang in 2011, Corsair in 2013, and Mosquito in 2015.

Less than a week ago, I was wondering whether this precedent would hold. The new Shizuoka kits typically make themselves known a couple of weeks before the show, but this year April came and went with no news.

But it did hold. Kind of. We do have a new 1/32 kit debuting at Shizuoka in an odd-numbered year. We do not, however, have a new 1/32 subject. Continue reading

No New 1/32 Tamiya Kit for Shizuoka?

It’s no secret that I love to analyze Tamiya’s releases and release patterns and speculate what they may mean for the future. I’ve done it HEREHERE, HERE, and most recently HERE.

There’s a lot to wade through in those links, but the TL;DR version is pretty simple. Going back to 2009 and the Spitfire IXc, Tamiya has established a pattern of releasing a new 1/32 subject in odd-numbered years (Spitfire in 2009, P-51 in 2011, Corsair in 2013, Mossie in 2015), and of debuting those new subjects at the Shizuoka Hobby Show in early/mid May.

By all accounts, we should currently be losing our collective shit over Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject. But we’re not.

Why?

Continue reading

Gratitude

There seems to be an awful lot of negativity swirling around the modeling community at the moment. And I certainly bear at least some of the responsibility. Kitty Hawk, it seems, has become a lightning rod for a fissure that has riven the hobby since I came back to it, and doubtless long before then.

So taking on a build review of the Su-17 was bound to cause a stir. And straight-up anti-recommending it, even moreso.

I probably could have predicted the way things would go. There are plenty of people in this hobby who can’t seem to understand that kit quality and user ability are two completely separate things. It’s not like scratchbuilding intuition and airbrush experience come in the box, bagged up nicely next to the decals.

Call out a kit for being bad? They attack your ability. That’s the way it goes. And I’ve written about it before.

Ultimately, it’s the same shit in a new dress. It all comes back to the same “modeler vs. assembler” broken record. God forbid we acknowledge, respect and even celebrate the spectrum of preferences and talents that are encompassed by this hobby. Instead by all means let’s reduce it to some meaningless binary bullshit. Let’s deflect any critique of kits, of paints, of decals, and throw it all back on the modeler (exception: bashing Trumpeter for accuracy issues).

Anyway…

As fun as wading through sludge can be sometimes, and as hilarious and pathetic as Facebook protest groups can be, I thought I’d swim upstream a bit and talk about the things I’m grateful for in this hobby. Or a few of them at least. Continue reading

Review: 1/48 Kitty Hawk Su-17M3/M4 Fitter

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Welcome to the third entry in the Contributor-Funded Kit Review series! This time out, the subject is Kitty Hawk’s new-tool 1/48 Su-17M3/M4 Fitter.

Want to skip all the pesky words and just head over to the review videos? CHECK OUT THE REVIEW PLAYLIST.

Want to just watch the closing thoughts? Fine…

Curious about contributor-funded thing, or want to see past reviews? HIT THE REVIEWS PAGE FOR MORE.

Attracting Flies

You know that old saying “you attract more flies with honey”?

It’s false.

If the conversation that’s swirled around this build review is anything to go by, you attract more flies with a steaming pile of garbage.

As this third installment in the CFKR series wraps up, I can say with 100% confidence that it has been the subject of more pissing and moaning and more apologist angst than the Hurricane and the Hornet combined. Hell, it might even outstrip the various bleats and swipes that accompanied my original proposal for this effort.

Kitty Hawk, it would seem, brings all the boys to the yard.

It’s Like a Band-Aid

You know how most reviews string you along until the very end, and then drop a “highly recommended” in your lap?

I’m not going to do that. I’m going to take a more direct approach. Tell you my take on this kit, and then we can get into the whys of how I came to my conclusion.

So here we go.

Continue reading

Talking with Tanmodel – 1/32 Su-33 Sea Flanker Edition

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Back in the fall of 2015, I conducted an interview with Baris Tansoy, founder of the then-largely-unknown Tanmodel. This was just as they were starting to really share details of their RF-84F Thunderflash, which has gone on to earn plenty of praise for not only its design, engineering and fit, but accuracy as well (see my review HERE).

Since then, we’ve become friends and I’ve been fortunate enough to be privy to some really cool developments going on behind the scenes. Now that Tanmodel has pulled back the curtain on its next kit – a 1/32 scale Su-33 Sea Flanker – I’m thrilled that I can finally share some of the coolness.

After our 2015 interview, Baris and I decided it could be a fun format to revisit – so here are some questions – and answers – about the Su-33 project. Enjoy!

DM: Your publicly available roadmap has been available for some time – and the Buccaneer and 1/32 F-5 Freedom Fighter and F-4 Phantom have all drawn a lot of excitement. Where did the Su-33 come from? Why it? Why now?

We received numerous new project suggestions after we launched our RF-84F kit. Everybody thought we had a challenging project list; however they counted on us because we used 3D laser scanning technology. We have an expert design team and modeller friends throughout the world with whom we have good relationships.

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Su-33 aircraft are still operational and allow limited access to information. We thought that this would be the most challenging project in order to demonstrate what Tanmodel brand is capable of. We think that we made a perfect design (especially in terms of modelling engineering).

DM: The RF-84F Thunderflash and the other kits you have in development were all 3D laser-scanned. Is the same true of the Su-33?

We of course did not have the chance to scan the Su-33 aircraft with 3D laser (because access to the aircraft is limited – ed). Then we reviewed more than 4000 pictures and numerous technical drawings. We checked every part maybe 100 times.

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We are very excited that we will have the remarks of our modeller by sharing our design with them prior to production.

DM: Were any lessons from the development of the RF-84F applied to the Su-33?

We applied some solutions like the fuselage-wing joint channel, special windshield design, part refractions away from panel lines in our Su-33 design like we did in our RF-84F kit.

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Every windscreen should be designed this way. It’s a little thing that really does improve the build experience.

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We think that these solutions will be liked a lot. We also applied some different designs which have never seen before.

In addition, our Su-33 kit will have the biggest one piece intakes in the industry.

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DM: Buildability is always a hot topic – but it seems to be moreso recently, particularly with the release of Tamiya’s F-14. Can you discuss any particular areas of the kit where buildability led to some interesting engineering solutions? 

The only thing you need to consider is the high applicability of the kit when you create such a gigantic kit design. Modellers never want any part to get damaged when working on the kit in this scale. (Too true – nothing more frustrating than being forced to install parts early that will doubtless get knocked around during construction and painting – like gear struts). We are modellers as well and we considered the size of the model in the design phase. For example, horizontal stabilizers are the last parts to mount on the kit.

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The spade support on the nose gear strut should provide a convenient and sturdy installation.

We also designed the support parts in order to avoid bending of the upper and lower fuselage parts, and provided Tanmodel-specific specially designed parts for the details of raised rivet parts and vertical stabilizers at the tail area. We kept part refractions (where parts join – ed) away from natural panel lines for nose part, and added design-specific special support parts in order to avoid elevation differences in this part.

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Essentially, by keeping the part joins away from natural panel lines, seams can be cleaned up without sacrificing and having to restore the kit’s surface detail.

DM: The kit renders show the Su-33 with the wings folded. How are you approaching the hinges to maximize detail while still ensuring strength and (hopefully) ease of assembly?

We made a great design for the opened-closed wing option to modellers. We already designed the design prior to starting the project and solved this issue during pre-design phase. You will understand what we mean when you start building the model.

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DM: Any interesting provisions for wings extended? Hobby Boss provided some interesting spar pieces in their 1/48 A-6 Intruder that proved very helpful in this regard, but for some reason Trumpeter left them off the 1/32 Intruder.

Fuselage parts are 2 separate parts – upper and lower. You need to make a choice during construction: folded or flat (open) wings. Thanks to our 3D design, modellers will have the best outcome whichever way they choose to go. 

From this view it looks like the extended wings will have some nice spar supports

From this view it looks like the extended wings will have some nice spar supports

DM: Great Wall Hobby and AMK have made splashes with excellent one-piece injection molded missiles. Granted – that’s in 1/48 scale – but will we be seeing any interesting approaches to the armaments?

This is a 32 scale kit. If we want to give one piece missile, it creates sink marks as the part will be too thick. We think that molding one-piece missiles in this scale may technically not be possible.

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DM: I hear this kit will have one piece intake trunks. Can you elaborate a bit?

We reviewed similar kits before we started this project and decided that the intakes would be one piece. We knew that it would be the biggest [intake] part in the industry in terms of scale, but we are modellers too and we desired to provide you the same kind of things we wanted for ourselves. We hope to be pleased that we made this decision after the production!

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DM: A lot of 1/32 kits are notorious for shipping with vinyl tires. Will Tanmodel be taking a more modeler-friendly approach?

We all agreed on the materials to be used during the production at the design phase of the design before the project. We hate vinyl tires. Usage of metal struts (for the landing gear – ed) was like an obligation, but the tires needed to be plastic.

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DM: What would you say was the single biggest challenge in pulling this kit together?

If we could have used the 3D laser scanner, I think we would have suffered less.

DM: I noticed that you 3D printed parts of the kit for test-fitting – can you describe the process a bit? 

We enlarged some joint pins. We are very pleased that we projected our thoughts to our design.

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Due to the size limitations of 3D printing, parts had to be sliced up for test-fitting.

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DM: I mentioned to a friend that we were going to be doing a follow-up on the RF-84F interview, and he said I had to ask this. So, “where the fuck is the Phantom?”

We are already working on a multi-option F-4E project. 2017 will be hot.

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DM: When do you expect the Su-33 to be available?

Presumably in about 4-5 months.

Judging kits and the judges who judge them

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Kitty Hawk’s new 1/48 Su-17 has hit the market, and now that the plastic’s in the hands of various reviewers, thoughts are starting to trickle out.

My own copy – destined to be the third subject in the Contributor-Funded Kit Review series – should be arriving on Monday. The timing is fortuitous – my long, long build of Tamiya’s F-14 Tomcat is in the home stretch and should be wrapping up probably Sunday or Monday, so I’ll be able to crack into the build review pretty much the moment the Fitter shows up.

So close now...

So close now…

Personally, I want this kit to be awesome. I’m pulling for it, and I’m pulling for Kitty Hawk.

But I have my reservations, because come on, this is Kitty Hawk we’re talking about. They can do some good detail, and they can do some good kits as well (I really enjoyed the AH-1Z Viper), but more often than not, they shoot themselves in the foot with somehow overdone-but-poorly-thought-out engineering and the aggravating fit issues that engineering causes.

Anyway, that’s where my head’s at. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst. But apparently I don’t even have to do a build review at all! Because in a guest post over on Scale Model Soup, Red Star Models’ Paul Cotcher has proclaimed that any negative take on the kit is not only something he disagrees with, but is also, get this – incorrect.

Subjective vs. Objective

Okay, first of all, I’m not really sure how an impression of a kit can be incorrect. We’re dealing with inherently subjective takes. Like film reviews or car reviews. There are some objective points – how long a movie is, who stars in it, how fast a car goes from 0-60 and so on – but there’s so much subjectivity wrapped into it that it’s not a matter of correct or incorrect.

Even accuracy…no kit is 100% accurate. Something will be off. So it becomes a question of inaccuracy tolerance, which is a subjective thing. The threshold for what you’re willing to accept may be different from mine. Hell – mine varies based on the subject and how many fucks I give about it. I can live with an A-7’s intake being a bit too “square”, but I will get pretty punchy about small goofs on a P-47.

Different Strokes

I’ve written about it before in a number of ways – but, basically, different people like different shit. When you think about the four main “pillars” of any kit – detail, accuracy, engineering and fit – you have people who literally only care about accuracy, and you have others who are interested in engineering, or only have eyes for fit.

There’s also what I’ve taken to calling the “Primer Divide”. Think about what you like the most about modeling. Does that aspect come before or after you lay down primer? Some people love the building and scratchbuilding aspects. For me, it’s painting. I do enjoy building, but it’s definitely more of a means to an end. So a kit that gets a scratchbuilder’s juices flowing may leave me completely turned off, and vice versa.

Again…it’s subjective.

“Here’s Why You’re Wrong”

So why does Paul declare negative takes on the Kitty Hawk Su-17 incorrect? In his own words:

Here is why the negative point of view, relatively speaking, is incorrect. Let me make this VERY simple:

You ready?

Gonna be hard for some of you to comprehend, but…

IT’S NOT THE OEZ/KP/KOPRO/KARAYA/EDUARD KIT.

End of discussion. Somehow we’ve gotten ourselves into the practice of comparing every kit to some idealized non-existent kit that can never be achieved.

Okay, I’m going to make this distinction right now.

Just because a kit is better than a shitty, older kit, does not mean that it is a good kit. Continue reading