La-5 – Baby Steps into Scratchbuilding

As a kid, I never descended into the scrappy art of scratchbuilding. I was impatient enough as it was, and the idea of slowing down to play that game never entered my mind.

These days, I’m a bit older, a bit more patient, and far more in tune with my inner perfectionist. I still don’t go in for too much scratchbuilding, and honestly I’ll still spring for a photo etch or resin solution if it exists. But sometimes…it doesn’t.

Since my return to modeling, my scratchbuilding has consisted of seatbelts. I’ve been making them out of Tamiya tape, supplemented with buckles either snipped off of PE belts, or just fashioned from spare PE bits.

With the La-5, though, that’s starting to change.

Scratching a Seat Cushion

Zvezda’s La-5 is a marvel of a kit. It does a lot of things really, really right. Sadly, the pilot’s seat is not one of them. It’s smooth and plain and boring.

Now…I have a beautiful aftermarket seat. Part of Vector’s resin cockpit set. But I’m saving that for another La-5 I’m planning to go all out on at some point in the future.

Rather than pilfering the seat, I decided I’d go ahead and make my own seat cushion. After agonizing over materials (tape? putty?) I finally decided to try cardboard. Literally a small piece snipped from the Yak-3 box lid. I filed the edges round and glued it in place.

It looked chunky and gross at first, but after paint, a wash and the addition of seatbelts, it came out a lot better than I’d planned.

Replacing the Aerial

My first foray into scratchbuilding was intentional. My second was the result of my own clumsiness.

While masking the La-5 for painting, I managed to snap off the kit aerial mast. Not sure what an aerial mast is? It’s the tall pointy thing just behind the cockpit.

Before:

After:

Yeah, oops.

I would have just glued it back on, but it has to support antenna wiring running back to the antenna mast on the tail. Such a weak joint would almost certainly snap, so I had to turn to scratchbuilding to fix things.

I got several suggestions over at the FSM forum, from using photo-etch to folding some brass wire to drilling holes or cutting notches in the kit mast and using brass strip or wire to mount it back to the fuselage.

Ultimately, I went a slightly different route, and cut a new aerial from a piece of flat brass stripping. The cutting curled the brass, so I used pliers to work it back flat, and files to sand it smooth. I cut out the lower section into a mounting pin. Drilled out a hole where the old mast broke off, and superglue the hell out of it.

The result?

Overall, it’s pretty close, certainly close enough for inefficient Communist government work. It’s rock solid, too. The plane will come apart before that mast comes loose.

After these forays I’m looking forward to getting way more ambitious with the next two builds.

 

 

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