Sprue Cutters Union #6 – Preparation



The Combat Workshop recently kicked off an interesting idea called “The Sprue Cutters Union”. Basically, the idea is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. Every week, a new topic will be tossed out, and participating blogs will each write their own post on that topic.

This week’s topic:

How do you prepare for your next build?

This is a tough one for me, since my preparations are often driven directly by whatever it was that inspired me to take on a certain build.

When Inspiration Strikes

Inspiration for the next build usually strikes when I’m part way through whatever my current build happens to be. And that inspiration can come from a number of different vectors.

Sometimes, it can be the kit itself. Screw it, I’ll figure out the exact scheme and so on later, but I just have to build this exact kit here that I’m holding in my hands. Such was the case with my recent Revell Bf 109G-6, or the Hasegawa Ki-84 I’m finishing up right now.

Sometimes it can be a specific subject. I feel like this happens frequently. I’ll stumble upon a subject I just HAVE TO BUILD, and then back my way into a kit. This was very much the case with my French P-47 and my Swiss Bf 109 and just so happens to be the case with my two upcoming aircraft builds, as well.

Sometimes it’s a need for a break into a different scale or genre. Sometimes it’s dictated by an enticing group build.

Each one of these sets me on a slightly different preparation path, since the initial givens vary,

For the sheer sake of keeping this somewhat manageable, I’m going to proceed from the inspiration = a specific subject angle, since that’s what I’m literally in the middle of right now.

Usually, when I’m inspired by a specific subject, it’s because I’ve either seen a picture of said subject, seen a profile of said subject, or read something about said subject (which leads to a search for pictures…).

Recently, I encountered just such a photo.


Cool, huh?

With initially very little information to go on – that this F6F-3 Hellcat with over 200 bullet holes was patched up and flown to the Grumman plant around the end of 1943 – I turned to Google and forums and ultimately discovered it belonged to none other than Butch O’Hare, the first American ace of World War II and the man for whom Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport is named. I also unearthed a spread in a wartime paper – The Carrier – providing more details and multiple shots, including views of the port side, detail of the tail, and so on.

Armed with that, I’ve got enough to go on to start preparing a build. So let’s get to it!

Kit Selection

With a subject in hand, landing at a kit is generally easy. To wit, in 1/32 scale, we have two options for the F6F-3 Hellcat – Hasegawa and Trumpeter. Well, I have two Trumpeter F6F-3Ns that can easily be built as -3s, so Trumpeter it is.


After a kit, the next most important consideration, to my mind, is the markings. Are they available as decals? If so, by a decent brand? If not, are the markings something that could be done up as paint masks? In the case of this Hellcat, I’ll be getting some custom masks cut for the insignias and K-29 codes, and using decals for the rest. I’ll need to figure out how to custom print the Bu.No. on the tail as a decal…but now that I’ve got a laser printer and the number is black, that’s easy.


Kit and markings sorted. Now it’s time to look into the goodies. Usually for me, this involves studying to kit to get a sense of what needs help and what doesn’t, then looking to see what’s available, then merging the two.

Trumpeter’s Hellcat is, overall, pretty solid in the detail department. It’s got some issues that drive the rivet and millimeter-counters mad, but for some reason minor overall shape problems bug me so much less than bungling the little details. Go figure.

But yes, the Trumpycat doesn’t need much help, so I’ve decided to go with a targeted aftermarket approach:

Seatbelts and canopy masks – these are basically mandatories for all of my aircraft builds. This time out I’m using the Eduard/HGW belts designed for the new Tamiya Corsair (close enough) and Eduard masks (obviously).

Cockpit – There’s a resin cockpit that’s available, but I really hate fighting resin pits, and besides, the cockpit aperture is so small, and the fuselage so rounded, that you don’t really see all that much of it. So instead of resin, I’ve opted for the Eduard interior PE set. It brings some serious detail to the headrest and bulkhead area, as well as the canopy sills and the gunsight.

Engine – I’ve built Trumpeter’s Pratt & Whitney R-2800 before, when I built their P-47. What a mess. If you care about accuracy, it gets enough elements wrong that you’ll want to bang your head against your bench. And if you care about buildability, the exhaust pipes will make you want to bang your head against your bench. So I’m going to try out the R-2800 Quickboost makes for Trumpy’s F4U-1D Corsair. We’ll see if it can fit the Hellcat. If not, oh well, I can suffer the kit engine.

Guns – I have Trumpeter’s F6F-3N. Why the -3N? Because it was selling on Amazon for stupid-cheap. But the -3N only ran four .50 cals, replacing the inboard guns with heavier cannon. So. I need gun barrels. Profimodeller makes a .50 cal set for the Hellcat, so those will absolutely be in the mix.

Wheels – Trumpeter wheels are generally bad. And Roy Sutherland just came out with new Corsair/Hellcat wheels. Yoink!


Generally at this point I try to make sure I have the right paints to do the job. At this point, I have more or less what I need for the Hellcat’s tricolor scheme, particularly considering how faded out it’s going to be. No action required this time out – but I can’t say the same for my about-to-start Greek F-16 build!


Sometimes yes, sometimes I just want to wing it. Depends on the mood and the build. With the Hellcat, I’ll be more focused on the weathering and the patches, probably.


As the build gets closer, I always tend to start thinking through my approach. Not the standard cockpit – build – paint – weather workflow, but little things. Can I install the guns at the end, or do I need to put them in before I close up the wing? If I go with the Quickboost engine, how will I manage routing the exhausts? What should I do to replicate those 200+ bullet holes and all the patches?

I’ve found thinking through these issues well in advance usually does a great job of preparing me once I actually encounter them during the build.

And…that’s it! After the prep work, the battle is usually getting through the cockpit. If I can do that and close the fuselage, odds are great that I’ll finish it. If not…


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Steve says:

    Wow, I’ve seen this photo before and thought it would make a great model! Can’t wait to see you tackle this one!

  2. Paul Fiore says:

    Do you have the extra photos/information of the F6F above? I can’t find any information on the paper you referenced (The Carrier.) I would appreciate any info you might have. Thanks.

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