There won’t be a second 1/32 Tamiya Mosquito



Back in April, I posted a lengthy analysis of Tamiya’s 1/32 release patterns (LINK). If you have’t read it yet, I highly recommend it to at least get a sense of what the precedents are.

In that post, I put forward three predictions (among others):

  1. We would not see a new 1/32 Tamiya kit this past summer
  2. A second Mosquito variant – likely a B.IV or NF.II – would be announced this fall, likely at the All Japan Hobby Show
  3. The next 1/32 subject will be announced in April 2017, shown publicly at the Shizouka show in May, and released later in the summer

The first has borne out. But it’s the second I want to talk about.

Because I’m starting to think we’re not going to get a second Mosquito kit. That the FB.VI will be a one and done.


Because the All-Japan Hobby Show, the show where Tamiya unveiled its last two 1/32 “variants” – the F4U-1A and the Pacific Mustang, has just come and gone.

It was a busy show for Tamiya. They showed off not only their new 1/48 F-14A, but their new 1/24 Acura NSX, a new Kawasaki Ninja H2R bike kit, and an out-of-nowhere new-tool 1/35 M40 Big Shot that, honestly, looks really damn nice.


But…there was no Mosquito B.IV or NF.II in sight.

Now…it is possible that Tamiya is waiting. Maybe to let their F-14 and other new releases have the limelight.

The Spitfire XVI was first announced, after all, in November 2010, well after the late September timeframe of the F4U-1A Corsair and Pacific P-51.

So it’s totally possible that we could turn around tomorrow, or two weeks from now, with word of Tamiya’s next Mossie.

But I’m starting to doubt it.

It’s time to consider that maybe – and maybe even probably – there will not be another Mosquito.

Seems impossible? Seems absurd given how little tweaking it’d take?

Well where’s that 1/32 F-16D? Where’s that F4U-1D Corsair? Spitfire Mk.V or Mk.XIV?

Tamiya has a shitty history with filling in variants – they’re like the anti-Dragon. We’ve known it for years. Where’s the obvious late-block P-47D with the tail fillet? Where’s the early-block P-51D without it? F4F-3 Wildcat? Any of the four-bladed Corsairs?

The signs are there in 1/48 scale, in 1/72 scale, in older 1/32 kits (look at the Phantom family…).

Tamiya sucks at variants, and they very rarely go back to “fill in”. The only instance I can think of is the retooled 1/48 Zeros – but those were replacing some of Tamiya’s oldest efforts.

Where does that leave Tamiya’s 1/32 efforts?

It leaves them exactly where they are now. Tamiya’s Zeros, Spits, Mustangs, Corsairs and their Mosquito are among the best kits on the planet. If we only get one Mossie variant it’s not going to change that.

And next summer, we’ll get something new to salivate over.

I’m still predicting either a P-47 or Me 262 if the established precedents hold.

If they don’t?

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tamiya veer away from World War II. Whatever they do – it would be in keeping with their general approach though – a highly popular subject that would sell at volume and that would be sufficiently large and complex enough to justify a pricetag well north of $100.

If they’re going to left field us like that, I think the smart money would be on a new 1/32 F-14A Tomcat. Similar to the one-two punch of new 1/32 and 1/48 F-16s back in 2007/8. Their current F-14 dates back to 1980 and is far and away the weakest of their 1/32 lineup. And it’s honestly hard to think of another jet that would sell at a similar level of gangbusters.


The Hubris of Hobby Boss


When Hobby Boss let it slip that they would be releasing the Flanker family in 1/48 scale, the news was met with guarded excitement.

On the one hand, the Flanker – in its many guises – is a fascinating subject for modern aircraft modelers. It’s big. It’s got perhaps the best lines of any modern fighter. It’s seen wide service. It’s worn a variety of schemes and markings, and the more worn down examples present some interesting challenges to the weathering-inclined.

Note the pilot - this is not a derelict

Note the pilot – this is not a derelict

There also hasn’t been a truly good Flanker in 1/48 scale until this year. Academy’s wildly inaccurate effort was the only game in town until the arrival of Kinetic’s Su-33 Sea Flanker. But the Sea Flanker is just one variant in a, uh, sea of Flankers.

On the other hand, Hobby Boss – with its sister brand Trumpeter – is a favorite punching bag of the forum pitchfork brigades. Some of the hostility is well and truly earned thanks to sloppy execution and “how could they not see that?” accuracy slips.

But Hobby Boss seems to have an A Team and a B Team. And when the A Team is on a project, even if there are accuracy slips the result tends to be a nicely detailed and well-engineered kit. For example their F-14s. When all of the stars align, we’re blessed with some truly good kits in every regard – such as the recent A-6 Intruder and A-37 Dragonfly.

The Su-27 Kit

So when the first of the Flankers, the Su-27, finally made its way out toward the end of the summer, there was a huge sigh of relief. There were a few very minor accuracy slips that 99% of modelers will never notice (and there’s no satisfying the other 1% ever), but aside from those, the Su-27 is an absolutely gorgeous kit that finally gives us an alternative to the Academy plastic.

The only downside? The relatively steep $80+ MSRP.

But…the Flanker is a BIG jet, and that’s not an unheard of price for a well done 4th-generation fighter. Besides, street price is something more around $66 generally. Still pricey, but reasonable in the larger context of the market.

With the first hurdle cleared, a lot of eyes turned to the Su-34.

The Duckbill

The Su-34 “Fullback”, if you’ve never heard of it, is a dedicated strike variant of the Flanker platform. Instead of the usual tandem arrangement for two-seat aircraft, it puts the crew side-by-side, a la the A-6 Intruder or F-111 Aardvark. This gives the forward fuselage a weird, ungainly look utterly at odds with the sleek fighter body behind it. And modelers tend to love weird and ungainly.


Unlike the Su-27, the Su-34 hasn’t been done before in 1/48. At all. Not even poorly. So while it’s honestly more of a novelty than the Su-27, it’s nevertheless generated a lot of interest among online modelers.

The problem is…problems.

Problem 1 – Dat Nose

The Su-34’s most distinguishing feature is its nose – as you could guess by its nicknames – the Duckbill and the “Flying Platypus”. So if you’re going to really fuss over any part of a kit, it’d be that, right?



Hobby Boss has been on damage control, but let’s face it: the nose is fucked. Fortunately, being the nose, it should be relatively easy for the Quickboosts and Wolfpacks of the world to churn out a correct version in resin that we could swap in.

But, compared to the excellence of the Su-27, still a disappointment.

Problem 2 – The Price

Quick. Given the Su-27’s $80ish MSRP, what do you think the Su-34’s pricetag is being set at?

Assuming a slight premium for the redesigned upper fuselage, more cockpit to fuss with, and the addition of a shitload of bombs, I don’t think $100 would be out of the question.

But apparently Hobby Boss does. Per Paul Cotcher of Red Star Scale Models, the price has been set at $166. Yep. You read that right.


That’s more than TWICE the price of the Su-27.

Apparently they feel they can charge this because of the demand for the subject.

Well, fuck them.

Anybody who’s followed this blog for any length of time, or followed my builds or many comments elsewhere knows that I’m generally not one to complain about the price of modern kits. In fact I’ll happily pay more for excellent detail, engineering and fit. I have zero problem rewarding good execution and evident passion.

But $166? Twice the price of what’s a very largely similar kit? For a kit that’s totally missed the ball on its subject’s defining feature?

Hobby Boss has done the impossible. They’ve got me doing something I swore I would not do again. Actively consider a Kitty Hawk kit.


Thanks a lot, assholes.


The Problem with Panel Line Shading – 1 Year Later


One year ago today, I hit publish on a rant against pre-shading – specifically pre-shading panel lines.

I also hit some nerves, judging by the storm and fury churned up in the post’s comments, on Facebook, and across various forums.


This hobby is about relaxation and decompression, sure, but for many of us it’s also a journey of constant improvement. Of new techniques and new understandings. It can be easy to forget that, and to fall into the complacency trap. To follow the same rote modeling cookbook over and over and over. Which is how things like pre-shading become so commonplace.

The rant bowled straight into that complacency. It knocked cobwebs loose. Even, amazingly, among the knee-jerk brigade (and there’s always a knee-jerk brigade).

And amid all the epithets hurled my way, and the admonitions of why couldn’t I have been gentler and more equivocating, something happened.

It made a fucking difference.

Continue reading

Airbrushing – Cleaning the Damn Thing

After my deep dive on airbrushing, I’ve received several requests asking for me to discuss my cleaning process.

I get it. Cleaning sucks and it seems like it’s probably one of the top three stories people throw out about why they don’t like airbrushing.

So what the hell. Let’s talk about cleaning.

First, a story

About six years ago, I was building Zvezda’s 1/48 La-5. Lovely little kit that even my newly-returned idiot self couldn’t fuck up too bad. But in the days before AKAN and Mr Paint, decent World War II VVS colors were hard to come across. I decided to order some White Ensign Colourcoats.

Screw these Humbrol-like tins, by the way

Color-wise, the AMT-4 and AMT-7 were gorgeous. As paints, though, they left a lot to be desired. Purportedly enamels, they thinned pretty much the way that sand thins in water – not at all. Mineral spirits, Testors enamel thinner, lacquer thinner…whatever I tried, the paint would basically swirl around for 30 seconds and then fall out of suspension and gather at the bottom of whatever container it was in.

My dumb ass decided to put this through an Iwata HP-C+.

The result on the kit was okay, but the process was an utter mess – I had to stir and dump small amounts constantly and by the end the needle channel and nozzle were packed with AMT-7 sludge.

Then, after a half-assed clean, my dumb ass decided to pull the needle and nozzle and drop them along with the airbrush body into an ultrasonic cleaner.

Are you wincing yet? You should be. The ultrasonic basically just distributed the White Ensign sludge EVERYWHERE. Including past the paint cup and all around the trigger, the air valve, the needle spring.

Despite more than five following years of strip-and-cleans on that HP-C+, and replacement of nearly every single internal part, the air valve STILL sticks regularly.

The moral of the story? Don’t do stupid shit, and don’t stick whole airbrush bodies into ultrasonic cleaners. If it’s clean enough that you’re confident you won’t have problems, it’s clean enough that it doesn’t need to go into the damn thing to begin with.

The Anatomy of an Airbrush and Where It Gets Dirty

I won’t lie, I’m having a hard time figuring out where to start here. But I guess understanding how paint moves through an airbrush and where it goes and doesn’t go is kinda important. So…this handy cutaway:


See that o-ring between the trigger and paint cup? Unless we really fuck things up (like, by putting an airbrush body into an ultrasonic cleaner), we shouldn’t have to worry about anything aft of that o-ring at all.

Forward of the o-ring, here’s what happens. You put paint into the paint cup. Gravity (or suction, with side and siphon feeds) pulls the paint into the needle channel. This is the hole in the airbrush where the needle resides. Paint flows along this channel, down the needle to the nozzle.

The nozzle cap sits over the nozzle. It’s job is essentially to channel airflow over the tip of the nozzle, which sets off the venturi effect that pulls paint off the end of the needle and sends it flinging toward whatever you’re aiming at.

Paint can buildup on the needle, of course, from the tip back to the o-ring. It can also pack up inside the nozzle – particularly thicker paints and those with larger-sized pigments. It can also build up, over time, in the needle channel or in front of the o-ring. On side- and siphon feeds, you have the addition of whatever the “transfer tube” mechanism happens to be to worry about.

But basically – that is our universe for the purposes of this post.

Paint – It Fucking Matters

When talking about paint, a lot of modelers (myself included) focus heavily on spray performance, reducability, and other factors. But paint choice matters just as much when it comes to cleaning.

Some paints just clean up a lot easier – both immediately after use and days or even weeks later.

I’ve found that many water-vinyl acrylics – Vallejo and similar – may seem like they clean up easily, but can actually leave a lot of little deposity crud deep in the recesses of your airbrush – packing into the nozzle in particular.

Many metallics are similar – especially Alclads. While they seem to clean up fairly easily, it seems like you’re never quite done. Fill the cup with thinner a fifth time and there’s still little metallic bits floating around in it, like when you wipe and wipe and wipe and realize your journey is still not at an end.

Most lacquers that I’ve used, though, they clean up very quickly and easily and rarely pack up in the dark places.

Thin is Good

Do you like strip-cleaning your airbrush? I don’t. It blows. It’s tedious, it risks damage to tiny, delicate parts that can be easy to drop (looking at you, HP-C+ nozzle), and it takes away from more enjoyable bench activities.

Good news is, you can reduce the frequency of those strip cleans by thinning your paint. I tend to spray very small and very thin – 2:1 thinner to paint is my starting ratio for Tamiya and Gunze – and I’m frequently playing closer to 3:1 or even 4:1. When I clean and flush at the end of a session, well, think of how much easier it is to flush diarrhea than, uh, chunky style. Same principle.

Lacquer Thinner is the Honey Badger of Airbrush Cleaning

Lacquer thinner doesn’t give a shit. Vallejo? Ammo? Model Master? Tamiya? Lacquer thinner will destroy it and send it flying out of your airbrush.

Yeah, with acrylics that whole “water cleanup” thing is nice, but it only goes so far. And some paints that say that have a bad tendency to skin over in the cleanup process.

Want to stick with water or Vallejo Airbrush Cleaner or whatever? Cool. You do you. Nobody is twisting your arm.

But if you wind up with stubborn bits, introduce them to your friend Mr. Lacquer Thinner.

Clean with the Well Liquor

I’m a big advocate of thinning your paints with quality thinner. It’s not the place to skimp with potentially harsh, potentially inconsistent hardware store thinner, much less your cat’s fermented piss or whatever other homebrew solutions get tossed about.

“But Mr. Leveling Thinner is expensive!”

And a bottle, properly tended and cared for, will last you for a good long while. I just cracked a new one – my last lasted me better than a year.

But for cleanup? Bring out the bargain shit.

How I Clean My Airbrushes

So. Let’s say I’ve just finished an airbrush session at it’s time to clean up. The paint on display here isn’t even paint – it’s Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500. A very tiny bit more of a challenge than Mr. Paint or heavily thinned Gunze.

Step 1 – Remove the excess paint. Either dump it back into the mixing container or, if it’s Mr. Paint that I didn’t have to thin, return to its bottle. This way you have a lower volume of paint to clean up.


Step 2 – Add a small amount of lacquer thinner. Just enough to cover the needle, basically. Crank up the air pressure. Direct the airbrush into your cleaning pot or the eyes or nasal passages of your enemies and let fly. This flushes out the low-hanging fruit of the paint still in the needle channel and nozzle.


Step 3 – Fill the paint cup most of the way with lacquer thinner. With a q-tip, scrub out the paint cup. It should be obvious what this does. If your paint is smeared all over or being an asshole, rinse and repeat.


Step 4 – Fill the paint cup about halfway with lacquer thinner. Q-tips are great at “wiping the bowl” but they suck at doing any kind of cleaning work up under the needle and into the needle channel. So get a trusty old paintbrush – I have a flat brush expressly for this task – and scrub around under the needle. When you’re done with that, very gently clean around the needle/nozzle tip. Flush.


Step 5 – Feeling frisky? Remove the needle, wipe it down with a q-tip soaked in lacquer thinner, dry it off and replace. But honestly I rarely do this and will usually pull and wipe down the needle at the START of a spraying session instead. With Tamiya, sometimes skipping this step will mean that the needle will stick and need a tiny bit of effort to remove. With Gunze and Mr. Paint, that’s not an issue I’ve ever had.

You’re a Damned Barbarian!

What? I don’t strip and clean my airbrushes down to their component parts after every color, or every session?

Fuck no. It’s overkill. It’d be like changing the oil in your car after every day’s commute.

But I’ll fully admit that spraying thin and using paint that is extremely cleanup friendly are two things that make my downright Visigothic cleaning regimen possible. In the last year, I’ve performed probably two deep strip-cleans.

Bet he didn't strip, either

Bet he didn’t strip, either

So – with the right paint and high thinning ratios, you probably don’t need to worry about spending a half hour after every paint session cleaning your airbrush. There – that’s one less excuse not to pull it out.

Airbrushing – A Deep Dive

This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a long time. After all, airbrushing is probably my favorite single aspect of modeling. And, with all the airbrushing talk that’s been swirling about the interwebs lately, it seems like the time is right.

So what is this? It’s a deep – I hesitate to say exhaustive – dive into many, many facets of airbrushing, from airbrush selection to paint selection to mixing paints to spray discipline.

Here are some in-post links if you want to skip ahead:

Part I: Choose Your Weapon

A – Do I even need an airbrush?

In my opinion, yes. It’s possible to limp along in this hobby with paintbrushes and rattlecans, and even thrive in certain genres like figures, but the atomization, precision, and layering capabilities of an airbrush simply cannot be matched by other means.

B – I’m just going to buy a cheap knockoff. High-end airbrushes aren’t worth the money.

Uh, hold on there, chief.

Think of airbrushing like driving, and airbrushes like cars.

If all you’re doing is driving to and from work each day in traffic, you’re not pushing the performance envelope of any car at all. You can get by just fine in any random shitbox. The same goes for airbrushing. If you’re going to setup at standoff distance and just hit a model with a single color of paint, yeah, pretty much any airbrush will do. A nicer airbrush is kinda like a nicer car. It’s a hell of a lot more pleasant to sit in traffic in a Mercedes than an early 90s Kia, but nothing about the drive will really change.


The difference comes with specialty work.

To keep the driving analogy going, let’s pretend that broad work – laying down primers and clear coats for example – is the equivalent of hauling a trailer. And fine, detailed work is like carving corners on a winding country road.

An early 90s Kia is going to suck ass at either of those specialized tasks. For towing, you’d want a truck with the power and gearing to haul the appropriate load. For cornering, you’d want something small and nimble with a finely tuned suspension and excellent steering feel.


If you’re learning or seeking out something of a more general purpose airbrush, a knockoff will probably work just fine. But as you start to push against its performance limitations, that’s when you want to consider investing in something higher end. Continue reading

Bench Maneuvers


Benchtime is usually pretty sedentary, right? We sit. We maybe raise or lower our seat to get a better angle on certain tasks (I frequently lower my chair as far as it’ll go when I’m dealing with landing gear alignment fun-time).

Well, last night, I found that wasn’t working.

I’ve been taking my sweet time with Trumpeter’s SBD-5 Dauntless, and last night it was time to mask off the recently-painted walkways so I can get on with the rest of the painting.

Sitting while trying to get my hands into position without bumping the horizontal stabilizers and getting the tape lined up properly just wasn’t working.

So I stood up. That small change – standing, looming over the aircraft – made the taping a total breeze.


And it got me thinking about the other times I engage in weird bench maneuvers to tackle random tasks:

  • Rigging. I will frequently tackle rigging of all kinds while standing (or sometimes straddling my chair in reverse).
  • Buffing. If I’m using the Dremel and a buffing wheel, I’ll usually wander away from the bench while I do. Those cloth wheels fling shit everywhere.
  • Masking prop tips. I don’t know why, but I do this better on my feet.
  • Fill-and-Dump Intake Painting. This necessitates standing, since I use a vise on the farthest end of my bench to hold the intakes.

What about you? Any weird bench maneuvers or habits you find yourself doing?

Not counting crawling around on the floor, swearing and looking for that tiny little part that you can swear fell right by your fucking foot but now it’s apparently vanished into another dimension…

“It’s the modeler at his bench…”


Topics tend to come back around in the modeling community. And for the past month or so, it seems like the crosshairs have landed on airbrushes.

Please allow me to contain my boundless enthusiasm.

See…discussions about airbrushes…or any other tool or material (or hell…any kit) will inevitably result in someone wandering in and dropping this gem:

“It’s not the quality of the tool, but the modeler at his bench”

First of all

Fuck. Could these words possibly be rearranged to sound any more pretentious? It sounds like some pablum that a fedora-wearing, Ayn Rand-worshiping college freshman would write.

Quality of the tool, indeed.


As with other modeling catchphrases that make my right eyelid twitch – “it’s just a hobby”, et al – “the modeler at the bench” is an un-argument.

That is to say, it contributes exactly nothing to the discussion.


Here’s why it adds nothing.

YES, a modeler’s talents and experience and so on matter a great deal. Of course they do, and nobody is suggesting otherwise.

You can’t go throw down on a 1/32 Tamiya Corsair, an Iwata Custom Micron and *poof*, suddenly become an amazing modeler.

BUT, this idiotic saying contends that the quality of tools, materials and kits doesn’t play any kind of a role. Which is just staggeringly incorrect.

Here’s the deal. Lots of things matter. And lots of things come together to make a model.

  • A Modeler’s Skill – I would define skill in this instance as the product of 1) raw talent and 2) experience/knowledge.
  • Kit Quality (or “Medium” Quality) – The quality of the kit in question. Yes, there are kits that are objectively better than others.
  • Materials Quality – The paint and glue and pigments and whatever else gets thrown at a build. Yes, there are objectively better materials. Gunze or Tamiya or Mr. Paint are objectively better – in terms of modeling – than craft acrylics. They have better spray properties, they don’t lift if you look at them funny, and so on.
  • Tool Quality – Again, there are objectively better tools, be they sprue cutters or airbrushes or paint brushes.

Are these all equal? Not really. If I were to break them out on a 100 point scale, I’d say:

  • Skills = 55%
  • Kit = 10%
  • Materials = 20%
  • Tools = 15%

Now, these numbers are mostly there to keep the math easy, so no need to get all bent out of shape. We’re just illustrating a point here, after all.

A truly expert modeler coming in with all 55 Skills Points will have a distinct leg up on a modeler with 15 or 20 SP. If a 15 SP modeler had top-of-the-line everything to throw at a project, their upper bound would still be a total of 60 points.

What tools, materials, kits etc do is extend the upper bound.



Opinion Time

There’s another thing that quality tools, materials and kits do. They make it easier to access and hone skills.

A good pair of sprue cutters gives you cleaner cuts, leaves you spending less time cleaning up parts, and can often mean less chance of breaking delicate parts.

A good airbrush – that feels good in your hand – can let you focus more on applying paint than on getting things dialed in.

Good cement – a solvent welder like Tamiya Extra Thin or MEK – lets you be more precise in your construction, and not as reliant on clamps and rubber bands and other goofy contraptions to hold a part just so.

The modeler matters. Skills matter. But so does the quality of what you’re working with.