Category Archives: Reciprocating

P51 (Accurate Miniatures) Build #6 – Fixing Cockpit Detail Errors, Canopy Fitting

One of these days I sincerely hope and intend to take my own advice. That advice is, refer to references often. Doing so has the potential to save me self-created work.

After doing the modifications (I thought were) necessary to the cockpit’s sides, I actually did check my references. Had I done so before gluing the side panels in, it may have been easier to do the other modifications I needed to do. And what modifications were those? Well, nothing really major, just taking the details that are accurate for a P51B out and putting in the ones that are more accurate for a P51. In short, don’t take the printing on the package as factual. Verlinden’s details are good for a P51B but are mostly inaccurate for a P51. That meant I had to remove the incorrect details and put in the ones that are more accurate:

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I used the Polish PE set (which were the easiest set I’ve yet worked with; the really small parts were pre-scored to make the bends easy):

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The holes in the various panels and boxes in the photo are places where there are toggle switches. I rummaged around in my wire inventory and found the correctly sized wire (.006″) to replicate the toggles. The real trick was getting them aligned and glued in. Much colorful invective later, I got them glued in, let them sit overnight, and then trimmed them to length the next day (with much more colorful invective required), and then added the electrical conduits:

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I’m also going to be vacu-forming a new canopy from .010 clear styrene. I’m going to need a form to pull the clear plastic down around and I’ve previously had good results using the kit-supplied canopy as my form. In order to do that, I’ve found it works better if I fit the kit-supplied canopy better than is allowed for in the kit. So the various parts were dry-fit first to get an idea of what needed to be fixed:

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Then after determining where the fit needed to be adjusted, I added 010 sheet styrene behind the front canopy section, to the fuselage, and then determined which areas of the canopy itself needed to be filled for a smooth transition between sections and added putty:

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 With all that taken care of and set aside for when it’s time to paint, I decided it’s time to address that instrument panel. I have a few ideas…some of which may actually work.

P51 (Accurate Miniatures) Build #5 – Cockpit Work

My initial intention was to scratch-build the instrument panel. I don’t think either the kit-supplied part or the resin AM replacement offered anywhere near enough (accurate) details. There’s a company in Poland, Elementy Do Waloryzacii Modeli Plastikowiych, that makes a very nice photo-etched detail set for the P51A (#S48-111). Since the differences between the P51 and the P51A cockpits are minor (no bomb/drop tank release, as the P51 had provisions for neither), I picked up a set. I like PE parts for some things and I don’t like them for other things. The determining factor is the thickness of the metal being used. Sometimes it’s spot-on, other times it’s too thin. But since it was my intention to scratch-build the instrument panel anyway (using the Waldron instrument faces), I didn’t really think that would be a consideration. I used the PE part as the template and used my (freshly sharpened) panel scriber to cut closely around the PE template to create the panel’s frame and inner panel (they’re separate on Mustangs). To keep things from moving around, I taped the PE sheet to the plastic sheet and had at it:

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Waldron’s punch and die set was a bit more than my wallet would bear, but Micro-Mark offered a cheaper set which I bought. I checked as closely as these 66-year-old eyes would allow seeing if the punch sizes worked with the gauge diameters (and they do) and then started punching holes in the plastic panel:

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“I didn’t really think” is the operative phrase, there. The short-form of the problem is scale thicknesses. I came up just short of the room required to make an accurate representation of the locations of the gauges. I needed a few scale inches more width than reality provided to get everything to fit that I didn’t have. I briefly considered thinning the plastic on the fuselage sides to get those inches back and then realized that that would be SUBSTANTIALLY more hassle than simply using the PE set’s instrument panels (and beautifully reproduced gauge faces) and create other problems that I needed like I need a third buttock.

In looking at the brass and gauges, I realized I have no idea how to paint it and put it all together, the problem is in masking the three freakin’ tiny gauges that are located in the panel’s outer frame. Well, while (what’s left of) my brain worked on that conundrum, I started work on getting the rest of the cockpit to play well with each other and fit inside the fuselage.

As stated in other places, I use copper wire, solder, and lead wool to replicate lines and conduits. Copper wire, solder, and certainly lead wool are not provided in straight sections, which are much more handy to work with and are often required to be straight. So how do I get from this:

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To this:

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By using these. The clear pieces are old acrylic covers to welding masks (the type that doesn’t auto-darken). I tease the wire, solder, lead wool, into roughly a straight section, then I lay the piece I need straightened on one surface (usually the acrylic plates for solder and lead wool and the metal plates for copper, though I will use the metal plates for thick solder and the acrylic plates for thin copper) and gently rub the two plates against each other:

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Once I had the copper wire straight, I folded it in half and twisted it:

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The lower radio shelf was glued to the floor section and conduits of copper wire and solder were added as well as adding the rollover brace to the armor plate, adding the junction box (the white part) to the brace, and then wiring them up:

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The cylinder on the floor to the right of where the pilot’s seat goes is the emergency hydraulic pump and as such it gets a handle. I drilled it out to accept a copper wire (cleverly straightened out as mentioned above) and then needed to make a knob for the end of it. Often white glue is used to make knobs of this sort, but the actual knob has a flat end which I could not replicate with the white glue. So I dipped the end of the wire in a small puddle of superglue. One of the interesting things about superglue is that when not used to bond things together (hides scarred fingertips behind back), it takes a while to harden and goes through a semi-hard stage. When the blob of superglue became milky, it wasn’t hard yet but had gone past the liquid state. At that point

, I pressed the end of the blob against a flat surface and the result was a knob with a flat end just as I wanted:

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Sometimes not having four hands (or more) to dry-fit parts is a genuine annoyance. The work-around is to tack things in place with an adhesive that allows easy removal of parts only temporarily in place. If I’m dry-fitting resin, Contact Cement is good for that. But the solvent in Contact Cement will attack and dissolve styrene (don’t ask how I found that out) so when tacking styrene parts together, I use white glue, which is how I attached the two side panels of the cockpit to the fuselage halves:

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It didn’t take long for fit problems to show up. You’ll note that the bottom of the side console is straight and flat. But the floor section it’s to meet with isn’t flat and straight. And in the lower right photo, you’ll see that there is a substantial gap at the front (to the left in the photo) where things are supposed to meet:

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And not only that but the bottom of the side console also doesn’t match the face of the floor across its surface, as evidenced here (I drew a pencil line, only barely visible in the photo, at the bottom to show what needs to be removed):

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And yes, I have the same problem on the other side, too. And in addition to that, there’s NO WAY the carefully constructed pump handle will fit, either:

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So much hilarity, gaiety (and invective) ensued as I trimmed, sanded, filed, heated, and bent various resin bits to play well with each other:

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And I also had to get creative to get the pump handle to fit around the box on the cockpit side. No, the original handle isn’t bent. Then again, the original handle doesn’t have to fit inside something a half inch wide by three-quarters of an inch long, either:

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Another fit problem was created by the molded-on oxygen hose, so that had to be carefully removed:

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I found a great replacement, it’s actually a rubber-like material, and will conform to the space it has to occupy:

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 Looking at reference photos (something I did merely for the novelty of it), I see that the wiring looms/harnesses are quite evident as well as being absent from the resin part. I have a spool of 40 gauge magnet wire that I’m using to create the wiring. And 40 gauge is REALLY small stuff:

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By folding the wire, I created two lengths of eight wires each and twisted them into one cable:

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An eight-wire cable is attached to the electrical breaker panel:

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The other eight-wire cable was split into two four-wire cables and attached to the radio control panel (on the left) and the microphone panel (on the right). The oxygen hose will be attached later:

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P51 (Accurate Miniatures) Build #2 – Working Cockpit Parts, Adding Details

Once I demolded the resin parts, I noticed that there’s a battery that sits on the shelf in front of the radio. It’s a prominent feature that wasn’t supplied with the detail set so I made one (and took a mold of it):


I’ve noticed that my (old) eyes are having difficulty with seeing the surfaces of the resin I’m using so I picked up some black resin dye. I was cautioned that it was highly concentrated so I tried adding a little bit. The effect, though better, wasn’t what I was looking for so I added a lot more. Below you can see the three pours; undyed on the left, lightly dyed in the center, and black on the right:


With the parts produced I want to use, it became time to start checking fit. The rudder pedals are a bit tight to the lower panel of the instrument panel but not so much that I’m willing to jump (crawl and stagger) through the hoops necessary to fix it. But the raised rectangles on the cockpit floor are skid plates for the pilot’s heels and as such should line up with the rudders…which they don’t, so that will need fixing:

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In checking the resin seat against photographs of actual seats, the depression at the top of the seat where the shoulder harnesses are isn’t there. That’s an easy fix…just take down the corners:


Since I’m going to be using my rollover brace I carved/sanded/filed the brace molded to the armor plate off as well as removing the raised area on the back (from what I can tell from photos, that’s supposed to be flat). Once the molded-on details were removed, I applied a coat of putty to remove depressions:


Not only should one always check fit, one should check often. Evidently the resin I’m using is very sensitive to heat, even the heat generated by warm hands (of which I have two). The photo on the left below shows that the curve of the “floor” (in quotes because the actual floor of the Allison P51s is the top of the main fuel tanks) has flattened out. The part I’m holding (with my warm hand) over it is the side panel. The floor is supposed to follow the curve of that panel so I checked one of the side panels of the cockpit to make sure it was supposed to be curved that much…and it is. A quick session under hot water put the curve back that the floor is supposed to have:

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I’ve decided to scratch-build an instrument panel instead of using the resin part. Any “detail” on the resin part is rudimentary and I want to kick that detail up. Since I don’t have quite all the gauge faces I’m going to need with the old Waldron set (pity they’re out of business), I ordered another set of gauge faces from Roll Model (I’m told they bought the rights to Waldron so it will be interesting to see what they have available).

P51 (Accurate Miniatures) Build #1 – Parts Layout, Copying Parts, and Wing Modification

This build will be an early P51 with the Allison engine (though I won’t be adding an engine to the build).

I’ve seen a number of Accurate Miniatures’ P51 models online and if there’s an exception it’s escaped my notice, but they’re all done with the kit decals that shows a P51 of the 154th Reconnaissance Squadron out of Tunisia in 1943 with the name, Mah Sweet. As it turns out, there aren’t a lot of decals for the P51 in 1/48 scale. (Yes, yes…I can hear y’all jumping up and down; of COURSE there are lots of P51 decals available in that scale, but most of those are for P51B and P51D kites. I’m doing a P51 with no suffix. Different bird.) I did manage to find an out-of-production decal set for early P51s from AeroMaster (Early Mustangs #48-106). As it turns out it has markings for another P51 from the same unit, the 154th, but with different numbers and name. That’s the set I’ll use for this build.

This is what I’m starting with:

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This is where I want to go with it, which is another P51 from the 154th (decals from AeroMaster Details set #48-106 “Early Mustangs” and the photo is from P51 Mustang in Action from Squadron/Signals Publications, Aircraft #45, page 12):

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And these parts are what I plan on adding to the build:

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Back in the early ’90s, P51D kits were made by seemingly everyone in many different scales; there were a few P51B kits, but nobody was making any Allison-engine P51s. So of course I wanted to build one. I found a resin conversion kit that replaced the fuselage halves of Monogram’s P51B and started work. But just before I had to move and lost shop space, I noticed that the sides of the nose had a different cross-section between the Merlin engine and Allison engine Mustangs. Construction stopped while I figured out a way around that problem, and then moving really stopped construction. However, some of what I had done I would be able to use with this build.

The Verlinden set offered me the resin armor plate and A-brace but I don’t think it goes quite far down enough. I pulled my scratch-built piece out and compared them:

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I decided to use the A-brace and its assorted bits. But since I’m going to be doing a few Allison Mustangs, I didn’t want to have to scratch-build that assembly again which meant making a mold of it to cast those parts in resin. It was heartening to note that when I glue something together, I glue something together. It was more heartening to not break anything while separating the parts for the molding process:

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 Once separated, the parts needed to be gated so that I could pour them. I also added plastic to the back of the instrument panel so that it would pour easier:

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I also took molds of the other parts in the set:

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I think it’s safe to say that pretty much all kits have something wrong with them. In this situation, I’m encountering the commercial balancing act between engineering and producing an accurate kit and yet still keep the final cost of the kit reasonable, and the Accurate Miniatures kit, though quite a leap forward at the time (the early ’90s), was no exception.

The first thing I noticed is that the landing gear wells are going to need to be reconstructed (and yes, once they have been, I’ll take molds of them and use resin castings in the builds). The rear of the landing gear wells is molded pretty much the way everyone else at the time molded them in this scale. And pretty much like everyone else producing these kits, they’re wrong. The rear of the wells doesn’t follow the openings in the wing surface the way the kit parts do. If you look into the landing gear well of a P51 (which I have), you’ll see (like I did) that the rear of the well isn’t V-shaped as it’s been molded but is open all the way back to the main spar. And the ribs are not only not that thick (they’re aluminum stampings), they have lips around their edges for rigidity. The kit has none of those features so most of the molded-in wells are going to be cut away and replaced:

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The top of the wells (or bottom, as you look at the above-left photo) are actually the underside of the upper wing surface of the actual Mustang. That means I have to blend the lip below into obscurity:

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To do that, I’m going to need to follow the inner curves of the wing so that the parts fit. But to get that inner curve, I’m going to have to assemble a wing and then section it so that I can trace the inner shape. I only have one P51 kit, but I have a few P51A kits, and though the armament of the two variants was different, the wing is the same. So one of my P51A kits has become the donor kit:

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The lower-right photo has arrows pointing to the rib I’m going to want the shape of:

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The wing was cut just short of the rib so that I could get in there with a pencil. The inner protrusion is part of the section where the landing gear leg attaches and I’m going to want to keep that for structural strength when the landing gear is attached, so the rib has to be built around that protrusion. Once I had the section I wanted cut free of the rest of the wing, it got taped to a sheet of .040 styrene and the inner shape traced:

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Once I had the rough shape outlined, I cut, carved, cursed, filed, cursed some more until I finally got an adequate fit. This piece will form the outer end of the well:

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While I was working on that, I was also pouring resin into my new molds (the Lego blocks were taped to the edges of the molds to see if I could get a better reservoir for the resin and though I did, the “benefit” of that reservoir wasn’t worth the hassle of it all):

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With the parts out of the molds, trimmed, sanded, filed, and cursed at (really, I’ll take any excuse to exercise my ability with colorful invective), the dry-fitting began by tacking things together with white glue and contact cement:

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