Thoughts on Tamiya’s Upcoming 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair

Well, it’s official…ish. Yesterday Hobby Link Japan posted a product page for TAM60324, effectively spilling the beans about Tamiya’s latest addition to it’s formidable line of 1/32 uberkits.

Speculation has been raging about this kit since, well, the announcement of the Mustang two years ago. “What next?” has been a popular topic on forums across the internet, with everything from the Corsair to the Focke Wulf Fw 190, P-38 Lightning, De Havilland Mosquito and really just about any aircraft you can name thrown into the mix.

In recent months, speculation solidified into rumor. The next superkit would be the F4U Corsair. Specifically, as it turns out, the F4U-1 “Birdcage” Corsair, so named for it’s framed canopy.

Birdcage

It’s obviously too soon to speculate about the kit itself. I think we can all guess that it will be amazing, and push the envelope of engineering even further than the Spitfire and Mustang. But exact features? For those we’ll have to wait for the first test shots to make their appearance. Personally, I’m eager to see how they plan to tackle the wing fold.

Instead of speculating about the kit itself, then, I figured I’d put forward some thoughts on what it means and yes, start the speculation of the next big Tamiya release!

1 – NOBODY EXPECTED THE BIRDCAGE

That Tamiya’s next 1/32 release would be a Corsair has been something of an open secret for a month or two now. But I don’t think anybody saw that they would lead off with the birdcage. If I were a betting man, I’d have put my money on the Malcom-hooded F4U-1A, but when you stop and think about it, leading off with the birdcage makes perfect business sense.

The birdcage is, I would argue, the least popular of the F4U-1 variants. Mainly because it’s slightly “off” the iconic shape represented by the F4U-1A and F4U-1D. If Tamiya released all three at once, I promise you the birdcage would be the worst seller of the lot. By releasing it first, however, Tamiya could potentially get two or three kit purchases out of a modeler, where with a different release strategy, they might only get one or two.

2 – YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT THERE WILL BE F4U-1A AND F4U-1D RELEASES

The external differences between the F4U-1 Corsairs are minor in the extreme. A slight repositioning of the cockpit and the Malcolm hood being the prominent features on the -1A, and the frameless Malcolm hood and rocket tabs defining the -1D. It is possible that Tamiya could release a single kit that could be built as either the -1A or -1D, but I would bet on two separate kits. Look for them to follow over the 12-20 months following the July release of the birdcage.

3 – DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP FOR THAT 1/32 P-51B/C MUSTANG

Tamiya has a terrible reputation for offering a variant or two of a subject, then moving on, gaps be damned. In their 1/48 lineup, they completely skipped out on the P-47N Thunderbolt and the F4U-4 and later Corsairs. In 1/32, they could have expanded their Spitfire lineup to encompass the Mk.Vc and Mk.XIV with minor changes and new parts forward of the firewalls, but alas.

A P-51B/C may seem like a no-brainer, but it would take a new fuselage and new wing (or gun fairings at the very least). I’d still hoped, but now that the Corsair is coming, it’s likely that Tamiya has moved on.

4 – TAMIYA CONTINUES TO PURSUE THEIR 1/32 SUBJECT-PICKING STRATEGY

So far as I can tell, Tamiya’s 1/32 subjects are chosen primarily by two factors. First – popularity. Developing kits of this magnitude can’t be cheap, so they need to sell at volume. The Zero, Spitfire, Mustang and Corsair all fit.

Second – an opening. Tamiya doesn’t avoid competition, per se, but they do seem to have an eye for subjects that nobody has nailed. Then they swoop in with the definitive kit. Trumpeter offers 1/32 F4U-1 Corsairs, but they don’t have the greatest reputation, so Tamiya has one hell of an opening.

5 – LET THE SPECULATION BEGIN

I’m going to call it right now. Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject will be the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. And it will be released in the summer of 2015.

Why the Jug? Four reasons.

  • First, with the Corsair, Tamiya will now have an exquisite Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the same engine that powered the Thunderbolt.
  • Second, Tamiya already has a strong foundation to build from in their 1/48 Jugs, which remain the best P-47s in any scale.
  • Third, the P-47 fits the popularity qualification. I’d say it’s as or probably more popular as a subject than the Corsair.
  • Fourth, nobody has nailed the P-47. The Hasegawa kit is spartan and a bit lazy in its engineering. And the Trumpeter kit, while detailed, is an absolute slog to build, with fit tolerances that fall well short of its ambitious engineering. It’s basically the Mustang situation all over again.

Why 2015? Basically, precedent.

Since 2009, Tamiya has established something of a release pattern, with new 1/32 subjects dropping in odd-numbered years, and new 1/48 subjects in even-numbered years:

  • 2009 – 1/32 Spitfire Mk.IX
  • 2010 – 1/48 Fi 153 Storch
  • 2011 – 1/32 P-51D Mustang
  • 2012 – 1/48 Il-2 Sturmovik
  • 2013 – 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair

The 1/32 follow-ons – the Spitfire VII and XVI and the PTO Mustang – tend to release about a year after the first variant. So I bet we’ll see the F4U-1A and -1D in 2014, along with something new in 1/48 scale. Then the Jug (fingers crossed!) in 2015.

1/32 Wingnut Wings Sopwith Snipe Part I – The Cockpit

WnW_SnipeLate_Log1

PART I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

As I was nearing the end of my long Trumpeter P-47 build, I was chomping at the bit for something quick and easy. A palette cleanser before diving into another ambitious project.

Then I got laid off.

The last time this happened, in the summer of 2011, Tamiya’s 1/32 Spitfire Mk.VIII went a long way toward keeping me sane during the ensuing job search. So I decided to pull another ambitious build out of the stash – Wingnut Wings’ newly-released Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe.

Without going too deep into the history (may I introduce you to my friend Google?), the Snipe was to the Great War what the Grumman F8F Bearcat or Vought F4U-4 Corsair were to World War II. In other words, a highly-capable successor to serving aircraft that arrived right at the tail end of the war, too late to really contribute. Like the later Bearcat and -4 Corsair, the Snipe went on to see spotty postwar service as more advanced aircraft and more advanced powerplants pushed the rotary-engined biplane into obsolescence.

The particular Snipe I’ll be building has an interesting backstory.

In 1919, the RAF dispatched twelve Snipes to serve on the side of the White Russians during the civil war against the Bolsheviks. At least one of the Snipes – E6351 – was captured in Poland and pressed into service by the Soviets. This Snipe was attached to the 1st Soviet Fighter Aviaotryad and flown by ace Grigoriy Stepanovich Sapozhnikov until an engine failure in September 1920 killed Grigoriy and destroyed the Snipe.

First Impressions

This isn’t my first Wingnut rodeo. About two years ago, I tackled their 1/32 Sopwith Pup and found it to be an exceptional, if demanding kit. On cracking the Snipe’s box, it was immediately apparent that they have not been sitting on their hands. Everything about the Snipe is a bit crisper, a bit more defined, and in some places a bit better thought-out. The evolution between the two kits is most apparent in the Vickers machine guns, which I found to be one of the few weak points of the Pup. On the Snipe, the distinctive ribbed jacket of the Vickers is molded in two halves, allowing for a hollow opening not present on the Pup’s lone machine gun.

The Cockpit

As with most aircraft, this build begins in the cockpit.

Prep for Bracing Wires

When I built the Pup, I foolishly did all the wood graining first, then tried to go back and drill holes for the cockpit bracing wires. Having been around the block once before, this time I knocked out the bracing wires first thing.

The Snipe’s cockpit sides, like the Pup’s, are difficult to navigate with a drill of any kind, so I used my trusty old Iwata 0.35mm needle to punch the necessary holes.

With the holes made, I moved on to the wood graining.

Wood Grain Effect

Replicating wood grain is one of those things that sounds terrifying at first, but once you do it once, it’s a walk in the park.

Step 1: Lay Down Your Base Color

Since the interior wood is relatively light-ish, I started with a base of Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow. The brand doesn’t really matter, so long as it can withstand oil paints.

Step 2: Apply Your Oils

This part’s easy! Load up a brush with some artist oil paint and paint it on. For this step, I’d recommend using Raw Umber, but depending on the wood look you’re going for, or the darkness of the base color, you can certainly vary your oil shades as needed.

Step 3: Scrape the Grain

Replicating wood grain is as easy (and as hard) as scraping away the oil paint you just applied. Personally, I favor using the black packing foam that comes with many aftermarket accessories (such as Aires sets and Eduard Brassin products). Take said foam and drag it across the “wood” to create a streaking grain effect. If you want you can even jink the foam  a bit to create some waviness in the grain.

For smaller sections where the foam won’t work, you can also make due with a stiff brush.

When you’re done scraping, you’ll end up with something like this:

Step 4: Varnish It!

Next, apply a coat of Tamiya Clear Yellow or Clear Orange (I personally use a mix of the two). This will replicate the shiny, varnished look found on most Great War aircraft. Mind you – it might look out of place on say, fence posts.

And that’s all there is to capturing that woodgrain effect. Seriously, it seems daunting as hell until you try it. And after that it’s a breeze.

Rigging the Bracing Wires

Once all the woodgrain was down, I moved on to the bracing wires. For these I used 0.3mm EZ-Line and some short lengths of Albion Alloy 0.5mm silver-nickel tubing that I had left over from my Pup build. For something with a more exposed cockpit, I might consider upgrading to the fancy new Gaspatch turnbuckles, but the Snipe’s cockpit opening is very small, so why bother?

Rigging the wires was as simple as dipping an end of the EZ-Line in CA glue, then shoving it into one of the holes I’d made at the outset. Once once side was fixed, I threaded on two lengths of tubing, then fed the other end of the line through the proper hole, CA’d it in place, then glued the tubing down at each end. This was way faster than the monofilament “bolo” technique I used last time around. All hail EZ-Line!

Once the lines were in place, I painted them with Model Master Metalizer Dark Anodonic Gray.

Painting Things

Next came the fun task of painting, well, the rest of it!

After masking and painting the rest of the interior (Alclad Aluminum ahead of the wood paneling, Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan aft), I painted the cockpit deck and sides with a base coat of black, and then went over them with Tamiya XF-82 RAF Ocean Gray. The oil and petrol tanks got the same treatment, as did the frame for the Vickers guns.

The wicker seat was painted with Vallejo Khaki and detailed with Vallejo Flat Black and Leather Brown, with a raw umber oil wash and some Model Master Dunklegrau drybrushing on the leather cushion. The belt is the photo etch one that comes with the kit. this was annealed (i.e. held over flame) to soften the brass and make it easier to bend. It was then painted with Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan and given a heavy raw umber wash.

The metal elements – the rudder pedals, control stick, etc, were painted with Rub ‘n Buff Silver Leaf, then buffed with Hawkeye’s Aluminum Polishing powder and a Dremel cloth wheel. Black was covered with Liquitex Carbon Black acrylic ink. This stuff is very thin, doesn’t obscure detail, doesn’t run, and dries to a sheen that somehow really evokes the enameled-metal look of the real thing. Copper and brass metallic paints were used on various wiring and tubing. Finally, the Vickers guns were painted black, then drybrushed with Model Master Metalizer Magnesium.

Kit decals were used to finish things off on the instrument panel…the various gauges are cool, but to me the real standouts are the decals representing brass data plaques. So cool looking!

More EZ-Line was used for the control cables routing under the cockpit frame – there’s a nice little add-on piece beneath the seat and the tank it rests upon that allows you to easily route the cables aft with proper spacing, but really once you get to the end of the cockpit frames, you can just snip everything off since it will be invisible anyway.

A Word About Assembly

The Snipe’s cockpit is remarkably well-engineered and is indeed a press fit. However, there are a LOT of parts that have to be pressed,  and that can really complicate matters. I’d highly recommend using some sort of white glue (I prefer Gator’s Grip) on the inside of the cockpit just to get some hold, then using CA on the outside (all the mounting holes are open) to really lock everything in place.

Up Next…

And…the Snipe’s cockpit is done! Coming up next, insanity! No, seriously. Biplanes are weird beasts, and the nature of the build process literally screams that massive blocks of the actual painting be done before assembly. So Part II will focus on the pre-painting that has to go on before true assembly can begin. Stay tuned!

PART I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

1/32 Trumpeter P-47D “French Jug”, Part VI – The Long Goodnight

Trump_P-47_C9-ILog_Pt6

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V |PART VI

When we last left the Jug, the French markings had been applied and the paint lift from the masks had been corrected.

So let’s move into the long, arduous process of finishing this bastard off.

Gloss coat and stencils

I’ve had an absolute bear of a time with gloss clear coats of late. Future never seems to work for me. Vallejo’s gloss varnish has worked well in the past, and also nearly ruined builds. Gunze Super Clear eats the underlying paint, and Tamiya discontinued the only gloss I’ve ever truly liked, TS-13.

After many test sprays with many different glosses, I finally found a Krylon clear gloss varnish that worked quite well when decanted and shot through the airbrush.

With a good gloss coat, the Trumpeter stencils went down quite well, with no silvering.

Once they cured, they were sealed, and then the fun began…

Salt Fading

This is the same salt process I’ve used on several recent builds. Spray the entire aircraft with warm water cut with a dash of dish soap to kill off the surface tension, then grind salt all over it and dry it with a hair dryer. Once it’s set, spray it with a very thin gray/tan mix, wash the salt off, re-salt it, and spray it again with a thin, grimy brown/black mix.

After the rinse off, the “first time you see it, it’s terrifying” salt fogging showed up. And was quickly knocked down with a misting of Gunze Semi-Gloss.

With the salt weathering done, the next item on the plate was oil dot fading.

Oil Dot Fading

The idea behind oil dot fading is a simple one. It provides localized color modulation that can add visual depth and interest to monochromatic slabs (and it can also, oddly, help unify polychromatic camoflage schemes).

Start the process by dabbing tiny dots of oil paint all over the place in a randomized pattern. I’ve found that a toothpick works well for this task. Then, dip a smallish, round brush into thinner (I prefer Mona Lisa Odorless Thinner), wick most of it away on a paper towel, and start working the oil in. It’ll look hideous at this stage, but it’s supposed to.

I found it worked best to start with the lighter oils – transparent white and yellow ochre – and then move on to the darks once the lights were worked in.

After the initial work-in, I took out an Aqualon Wisp brush, again dampened with thinner, and pulled back along the direction of airflow (and on the fuselage, gravity) to create some streaking.

Everything was then blended together with a broad, flat, dry brush.

The end result is a subtle color modulation.

Final Weathering and Assembly

After giving the oil a night to set up, I hit the Jug with Flory Dark Dirt wash. As usual applied in sludge-fashion, then wiped off with damp paper towels.

This left a TON of paper towel lint all over the aircraft. A dryer sheet was used to wipe it off and neutralize static cling. Then I applied Alclad’s clear flat to deaden everything down.

From here I was able to start adding chipping effects with my trusty Prismacolor silver pencil, as well as a few oil and grease stains courtesy of MIG Oil & Grease Stains.

Next up came the landing gear, using SAC metal struts and Barracuda’s excellent new 1/32 block tread wheels, plus the gear doors, nav lights and pitot tube.

Finally, the thing was put on its feet, the blast tubes were (finally) installed, and after 118 long days on the bench, the French Jug was done.

Thank you so much if you’ve followed along this far…this was certainly a torturous, but highly educational, build!

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V |PART VI

1/48 Hobby Boss Me 262A-1a/U4 Part IV – Finish Out

HB_Me262A-1A_U4Log_Pt4

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV

With the main scheme laid down, I moved on to gloss “Wilma Jeanne” ahead of decal work and immediately ran into problems.

I’ve never been able to find a clear gloss that I without reservation love. And yes, I’ve tried almost all of them. Tamiya X-22 doesn’t get the job done. Gunze C46 and GX100 clears eat through underlying paint. Vallejo and Future aren’t consistent enough to trust. Alclad’s Aqua Clear is the same, and their Gloss Klear Kote takes approximately 1.8 years to dry.

Ultimately, I used Tamiya X-22 as the least-bad option. The result? Silvering on the wing stencils and wingwalk lines! Sweet!

Now, I didn’t apply all of the decals at this point.

My thinking? The U4 obviously had an existence before the U.S. forces overran Augsburg, and it would already be somewhat weathered before the captured markings were applied.

Thus…on to weathering!

Salt Weathering

I’ve done salt weathering a few times now, notably on my Dewoitine D.520, and it seemed a perfect technique to bring out of the 262.

With a spray bottle, I soaked the build in warm water cut with just a bit of dish soap to kill the surface tension and let it flow across the entire plane. I then applied salt from one of those salt grinders that allows you to control the coarseness.

The warm water partially dissolves the salt crystals for a nice, random pattern.

Once the salt dried, I used a very, very thin mix of Gunze RLM 02 and Offwhite as a filter. Whatever paint you use, be sure to test it first. Fogging or clouding isn’t a concern, since it vanishes under the next clear coat, but some paints (I’m looking at you, Tamiya) seem to absorb the salt and end up with permanent discolorations. I’ve found that Model Master enamels an Gunze lacquers work well.

I found the effect a bit too pronounced for my liking, so I went back with a filter of RLM 81, again heavily thinned, and blended the weathering back into the main scheme.

Next, I sprayed the olive drab used to cover up the German insignia and swastikas.

Then applied the “Wilma Jeanne” nose script and USAAF insigina (taken from a P-38 decal sheet) shot a protective coat of Gunze Semi-Gloss Clear, then got to work on the Flory Dark Dirt wash. The stuff beaded like crazy at first ,but as it dried I was able to spread it more and more.

After wiping the Flory wash away with damp paper towels, then removing the paper towel lint, I moved on to the final stuff – the Alclad Matte clear coat, the landing gear, canopy, oil stains and minor chipping, installing the big 50mm gun, and stringing up the aerial wire. If that all sounds rushed – it was. This all happened in the night or two before ModelFiesta.

But with those last steps, the Me 262 was finished.

Part I | Part II | PART III | Part IV

1/32 Trumpeter P-47D “French Jug”, Part V – Masks + Pain

Trump_P-47_C9-ILog_Pt5

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | PART V

In Part IV, the French Jug got its stripes (and its Olive Drab):

Now, it’s time for the main markings.

When I first set out to build a French Jug, I had my sights set on a completely different P-47 that I was going to tackle in 1/48. Then I came across C9*I and was smitten. But…there are no markings available for C9*I, so I contacted Joe at Scale Precision Paint Masks. After some back and forth, we determined that the mission stencils were just too small to reproduce as paint masks, so I opted to upscale to 1/32.

That seems like forever ago, but now it’s finally time to break out the masks and go to work…

Step 1: Apply Masks

Applying vinyl paint masks is rather easy. Just lift them from their backing and place them on the model. The difficulty comes in getting them aligned just so, but you can lift and replace them over and over again. Once the mask is in place, burnish the edges down to prevent paint from bleeding under. Though…if you’re spraying that much paint at the mask edges, you’re doing something wrong anyway.

Step 2: Paint

Once everything is masked off, it’s time to paint! In this first stage of the masking process, I had to paint the fuselage and tail codes, as well as the yellow outer rings of the French roundels. So I started with a highly thinned Gunze C69 Offwhite, followed by C4 Yellow. Everything was looking awesome until I went to remove the masks.

Step 3: RAGE

That’s right. Paint lift. Frustrating, crazy paint lift all over the place. And not just paint. The Mr Surfacer 1200 primer lifted off the plastic.

I’ve had some minor problems with Mr. Surfacer 1200 and lifting from plastic before, something that’s never happened once with Model Master gray enamel primer or another, less obvious primer – Tamiya’s AS-12 Bare Metal Silver.

I will be using either of those on future builds.

Step 4: Masks, Round Two

While I formulated a plan to deal with the paint lift, I went ahead and started working on the rest of the roundels, since until they’re done I’m stuck anyway.

The red went down well enough, except for the lower starboard insignia, which suffered even more lift.

Step 5: Masks, Round Three

While laying down the masks for the red portions of the roundels, I realized that the cowl text “Sch HURTIN” was oversized, and after a few back-and-forths with Joe at Scale Precision had a corrected smaller version sent my way, as well as some new ultra-low-tack masks for the roundels.

The letters in the cowl text were tiny and a bit of a frustration to work loose from the outline mask, but once they were, everything sprayed down beautifully.

The low-tack roundel masks also went down quite well – no lifting this time – but they proved to be ridiculously low-tack. As in, a post-it note was enough to lift them. Still, they got the job done.

Step 6: Masks, Round Four

The last step in masking the roundels was the blue dot that sits at the center. Nothin’ to it.

With the roundels finally completed, I could shift my focus to cleaning up the paint lift.

Step 7: Repair the Damaged Roundel

Most of the paint lifting occurred around, rather than on, the roundels. Not so the roundel on the underside of the starboard wing. Here, the lifting was particularly nasty.

To fix things up, I first masked off the white and blue inner circles, and shot some white and then yellow.

I then took masked the yellow outer ring and shot the red.

It’s not perfect, but eh…after the weathering this thing is going to get I doubt it will be a big deal.

Step 8: Fixing the Lift

The low-tack replacement masks were a godsend here. Honestly, as I mentioned above, they’re a bit too low-tack, but they absolutely eliminated any risk of paint lift.

Once I had everything masked, I hit the lift areas with some Gunze C2 Black.

Then some Alclad Aluminum.

The original idea I had was to use some liquid frisket to mask off some of the Alclad to simulate chipping, but, to use the scientific terminology, it looked like ass. So I just painted over with olive drab (and neutral gray on the bottom).

And with that, the arduous masking experience finally wrapped up. Now I can focus on the stencils, weathering, and final put-together of this Jug that’s taken so friggin’ long to come together. Stay tuned.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | PART V

On the Bench: 1/35 AH-1W Supercobra

OnTheBenchAH-1W

I’ve had some weird modeling urges of late. Jets. Ships.

Helicopters.

Well, when I scored a backup 1/35 MRC/Academy AH-1W at ModelFiesta for a paltry $15, I decided, what the hell, it’s time to put one of these to the test.

To be honest, I have little-to-no idea what I’m doing. The extent of my helicopter expertise is having watched Airwolf as a kid and having seen Firebirds and Blue Thunder loads of times. Oh, and I played that Comanche helicopter sim (which was awesome). I can name most chopper models to a reasonable degree of accuracy and the AH-1W Supercobra is hands down my favorite of the lot, even if it is based on a 50-year-old platform, but don’t be expecting any “the kit cockpit is missing this whirlydobber, so I scratched it out of the Force” nonsense. I’ve got Eduard’s PE set and I’ve got an Osprey book, but I’m not planning to invest any more time or cash into research.

I will, however, be attempting to build this scheme.

It’ll probably take printing some custom decals, and lots of swearing. Stay tuned!