PART I | Part II
It seems silly to start with a dedicated “cockpit” section for 1/144 scale, so instead Part I of the MiG-21 builds is going to be straight-up construction – or everything that comes between opening the box and being ready for primer.
I’m going to skip the “test-fit” section, since pics of one of the MiGs taped together litter the “on the bench” post. Suffice to say, the small wonder fits together with a precision kits far larger would envy.
After satisfying myself the thing would actually go together, I took it back apart and prepared to get down to business with the interior. The cockpit is no great shakes compared to what I’m used to in larger scales, but it’s downright amazing in 1/144.
First – it HAS a cockpit.
Second, it has a multi-piece cockpit consisting of a floor (with the base of the ejection seat molded in), a two-part seat back, control stick, instrument panel, panel combing, and sidewall/side controls. Detail on these is vague at best, but all told this cockpit is about the size of a gunsight on a 1/32 kit, so I’m not going to complain!
First thing I did with the cockpits was to isolate all the pieces. These were snipped from their sprues with the sprue tabs intact for gripping. I then got about mixing the MiGs’ rather vibrant blue-green interior color. Lacking the necessary Gunze paints referenced in the instructions, I turned to my Tamiya stockpile and pulled out X-14 Sky Blue and XF-3 Yellow. I’d read online that these should be mixed 50/50. Yeah no. More like 1 part yellow to 4 parts blue. At least if you’re trying to get close-ish to the color of the photo etch included with the larger Eduard Fishbeds.
With the color mixed, I lit up the cockpit areas. I usually use a primer, but at this scale, meh.
Next, I busted out the Vallejo Light Gray and Black Gray to paint up the ejection seats. While I’m not the biggest fan of the stuff through the airbrush (or rather, I’m just a much bigger fan of Tamiya and Gunze), nothing brush paints as well as Vallejo. Not even close.
Next up, I “detailed” the instrument panels and side consoles with some Vallejo Black, added belts of ultra-thin-sliced Tamiya tape painted Vallejo Gray Green, and went ahead and assembled the interior walls of the main gear bays, since these will have to go in ahead of closing up the fuselages. The cockpits also got a raw umber oil wash to add some depth and dirtiness.
Continuing in the do-it-before-you-close-it vein, I shot the fore and aft openings with Tamiya Flat Aluminum. God I hate this stuff, but I already had the Tamiya paints out, and these will hardly be visible anyway. Just…visible enough that I don’t want bare plastic showing.
While I had the airbrush out, I also sprayed the nosecones with Gunze Bright Green as called for in the instructions.
Being used to tail-dragging props, I eye any tricycle-geared contraption with wariness, expecting that I’ll have to cram weight somewhere to make it all work. Unfortunately, Eduard provides ZERO information, one way or the other, about whether or how much weight these little MiGs need. And the landing gear isn’t exactly the sort you can test-fit to figure it out for yourself.
Well, better safe than sorry. To add some weight, I turned to Deluxe Materials’ Liquid Gravity.
Now, this stuff isn’t liquid. Instead, it’s made up of a ton of tiny metal spheres, sort of like miniaturized buckshot. It’s got a nozzle up top not unlike what you’d find on a squeeze bottle, and lets these spheres careen out in a controllable fashion. So controllable that I was able to pour them right into the tiny nosecones of the MiGs.
To lock the Liquid Gravity in place, I put a dollop of Deluxe Materials’ Rocket Rapid medium-viscosity CA glue over the spheres and let it set.
First – will this be enough to keep the MiGs on their feet? No idea! It’s very hard to find any drawbacks in Eduard’s offering here – but the lack of weighting information is surely one of them. I could have added more Liquid Gravity, as there is ample room in the fuselage, but was hesitant considering the tininess of the nose gear. So I’ll just have to hope…
Second – what do I make of Liquid Gravity? Quite simply, I love this stuff. Now, I think it’s probably overkill if you’re trying to weight something larger, with plenty of nooks and crannies to hide big fishing weights or whatnot. For for smaller kits, or for subjects like a glass-nose B-25 where hidden space up front is at a premium, this stuff is a lifesaver! If so inclined, you could literally hide it everywhere, up under cockpit floors, in tiny recesses, you get the idea. Heck, if you find at the end of a build you didn’t add enough weight, you could easily inject some of this stuff through a tiny hole and then plug it up.
With the nosecones weighted, it was on to putting the MiGs together. There’s really not much to this. The cockpit basically consists of the floor, sidewalls, a teensy little control stick, the instrument panel and panel combing. The floor and bits that stick to it slot in perfectly up under the sidewalls, and it’s easy to glue in one side with some PVA glue, then just tape the fuselage shut to let it set. Ditto for the nosecone. To be honest, I didn’t even bother with the little engine fan piece in the aft…the only way anybody would ever see it would be with a penlight right up the blowhole anyway.
Once these pieces are set, it’s a simple matter of mating the fuselage together. I used Tenax 7R with a microbrush and knocked this out in minutes.
Next up – the tail and fuselage spine. This is easily the trickiest bit of the entire build. Basically you have one piece consisting of the tail and the port side of the spine, and another that’s more or less the starboard half of the spine.
These have to be mated, then placed atop the MiG. To approach this, I pinched the pieces together at the tail, and hit their undersides with Tenax to weld them together. Once that set – a few seconds, basically – I placed the spine on the fuselage, pinched it together, and did the Tenax + microbrush thing to the top seam.
Now the real treat – how to get the spine onto the aircraft? Tenax sets so fast that you can’t really apply it and then join pieces together, and on something this small I didn’t want to be running the microbrush across any more areas than absolutely necessary. Superglue is too one-shot-and-that’s-it. And PVA glue has too much flex.
So I decided to try out some Deluxe Materials Rocket Plastic Glue.
It comes in a cyanoacrylate-style bottle, but don’t be fooled. This stuff is a solvent-type glue, but amazingly non-toxic. Not that I’d go mixing cocktails with it, but still. What I find interesting is that it comes with a micro-applicator and that it works a lot slower than Tenax and other solvents.
90% of the time, Tenax is awesome, but 10% of the time it’s a sledgehammer that’s too hot for it’s own good, and applying it can often mean losing precious detail.
Well, I can now speak from experience. The Rocket Plastic Glue is for the other 10%. It’s too slow to my liking for, say, a big fuselage join, but for the delicate stuff, it’s greatness. For the MiGs spines, I just ran the micro-applicator where I wanted the stuff to go (be careful…it flows just like other solvent glues), flipped them over and pressed them down onto the fuselages. Held them for about a minute, and everything was good to go.
I’ll definitely be using this stuff in the future, and can already think back to where it could have saved me on some other builds (cough…cowling of the Zvezda La-5…). I imagine it could also be useful when you want a really deep weld, as with wing-to-fuselage joins…using the Rocket Plastic Glue on the inside faces, then Tenax on the outer wingroots.
Anyway, with that the spines were in place. There were still some seams visible along the port/starboard joins, so I dabbed them with Mr. Surfacer 500, deeming putty overkill at this scale, then sanded the 500 down with fine and ultra-fine sanding sticks once it set up.
Lastly, I glued down the canopies with Micro Kristal Klear. I typically mask canopies before attaching them, but with ones this small, I figure that’s a task that’ll be easier to handle with them on the models.
And…that’s it for construction. There’s still some masking, still some minor cleanup, but for the most part, it’s on to the paint shop!
My sincere thanks to Deluxe Materials and Horizon Hobby for the review samples of Liquid Gravity and Rocket Plastic Glue!