Category Archives: Uncategorized

Going From Point Z to Point A

For the sake of discussion, I’m of the opinion that modelers, regardless of what type of models they do, tend to fall into one of two categories. There are assemblers and builders. And before we go any further with that notion, I don’t think one is better than the other. People tend to forget this is just a hobby. We do this (unless one is a professional modeler, of which I am not qualified to comment upon) because we enjoy it. An assembler is someone who puts together what’s in the box. Out-of-box, or OOB. Builders start with what’s in the box (usually) and then fix what the kit manufacturers got wrong (often), add what they left out, take out what they put in that doesn’t go with the particular variant, and rework or scratch-build the parts they think they need (even more often). Assembler or builder, I judge not and care less. It’s a hobby and you should build what and how you want. It’s your game.

I like to think I’m a builder (and copious examples have shown me other things I thought I was capable of and discovered I wasn’t capable of). In essence, and I’m only speaking for myself, here, I’m after what I want and will do what I must and/or can to get it. I’m not big on settling for something less than that. The two questions I get asked most often are, “How did you do that?” and “How did you know how to build that?” (The first question is my favorite.) This post is to address the second question.

I like combat aircraft, armor, cars, and whatever else catches my attention. So like most of you, I buy a kit of what I want to have sitting on my shelf when I’m done. That’s the easy(er) part. With sweaty, shaking, hands, and a gleam of ill-concealed anticipation in my eye (whichever one is working that particular day), I can’t wait to get home and open the box (even if that journey is only from the front door where UPS/USPS/FedEX delivered the package and across the house to my shop).

Generally, by the time I get to the box-opening point, I have as many reference photos and kit reviews as I can find on the subject of the box’s contents. I frequently find that what’s in the box isn’t exactly what I want to build…sometimes it’s not even close. Take for example the M3 I did. The box states that it’s an M3A1. When I opened the box I found a couple of reasons that it wasn’t AT ALL an M3A1. In the case of this example, the rear hull was wrong. The M3A1 has a curved transition from hull top to hull rear and the kit had a definite sharp angle. But the kit also wasn’t an M3, either. The interior was of a late-production M3A1 as was the turret. Before I even picked up sprue cutters, I had my first decision to make. Which variant did I want to model? If I wanted an M3, I had to change all of the interior. If I wanted an M3A1, I had to change the rear hull. If the amount of work was the driving factor, then I would do an M3A1 because that would have taken less work (I assume, not actually having done that). But what I wanted to build was an M3 as the Marines used on Guadalcanal in the summer of 1942. That meant that not only did I need to redo the entire interior, I also had to back-date the turret since the exterior of what the kit offered was an M3A1 turret. As it turned out, Tiger Model Direct (TMD) offered a complete resin interior of the Marine version of the M3.

And while all this was going on, I was working on the build order. In order to do that, I needed to build the model backwards in my mind. I open the box, examine the supplied parts closely, and then read the directions. Sometimes the directions are mere guidelines, other times the directions are necessary to follow exactly.

I knew what I wanted the finished project to look like. I didn’t even need to close my eyes to “see” the thing finished. There it was, clearly defined in my mind, worn, dirty, stained, and used. The last thing I would do would be to apply those stains, the dirt, and chips/wear. But before I could do that, I had to paint it with a clear flat paint. But before I could do that, I had to apply decals. But before that I had to put down a coat of clear gloss where the decals should go. But before I could do that, I had to paint it OD Green. But before I could do that, I had to add this and that detail and get that painted. But before I could do that

And the list of “before I could do that” kept having prerequisite steps added onto the list. I kept adding the steps I would need to take backwards from the finished model I could see in my mind until I got to a step that didn’t require any prior steps. By the time I reached that point, that being where I was, not where I intended on going with it, I had a fairly detailed series of steps and tasks already defined in my mind. And the point where I was at before doing all the subsequent steps is often driven by the realities of construction. That being, if your model has an interior, whether it’s just (he says as if “just” means easy…and it’s not, always) the cockpit of an aircraft or the interior of the fighting compartment of an armored fighting vehicle (AFV), it means I have to build all the subassemblies that I need unfettered access to so that I can then close the fuselage and/or hull permanently (fixing unplanned excursions to the floor not withstanding).

Well…okay. Since I can do this step, that’s where I start…almost. Since I’m old and my memory rolls as well as a cart with square wheels, I make notes on the instructions. I make notes about what parts I don’t need. I make notes about what parts I have to modify. I make notes about which parts I need to completely replace. I make notes about what parts I want to add. I make notes about which parts I can buy. I make notes about which parts I have to make. I make notes about what gets painted and which color that paint has to be. I make notes so that once I’m earlobe deep into a build, some of which take a very long time to complete, I don’t forget where I wanted to go (which is easy for me to OH LOOK A SQUIRREL!).

Having an understanding of what I needed to do next, which is what building the model backwards in my mind engenders, enables me to get there more-or-less efficiently (defined as not having to take something apart to do something I hadn’t considered, yet).

If I’ve created the erroneous impression that the path in my mind is THE PATH to completion, please consider that erroneous impression to be a limitation of the written word. It’s rarely (okay, okay…never) that simple.

As I start trimming resin, folding PE parts, cleaning up parting lines from kit parts, THE PATH often gets modified. I thought this part would fit…and it doesn’t. That means a step gets added while I solve that particular problem (my builds have problems, not “issues”…I’m not a publisher putting out a periodical and I don’t have to worry about savaging someone else’s tender sensibilities). As those of you know who have followed this blog have likely noticed, some of the problems I encounter are mistakes I make along THE PATH because perfection still eludes me…and at my age, Brain Fade is always one blink away from happening (and I tend to blink a lot). So fixing errors (like dropping a cordless vacuum onto a build in progress) is just a manifestation of the absence of perfection (like the rest of my life is).

Sometimes THE PATH changes a bit because I’ve uncovered a fact or reference that shows me that I’d gone off in a direction that would have resulted in me either totally screwing up the build or ending up with something that falls outside my target of 90%-95% accuracy (like the Gemini build which barely made it to 50% for a few interlocking reasons). So though THE PATH is my intended method, reality shows me that in order to get what I want, I have to drop back, reassess and re-engage, and sometimes even junk the kit and start over from the absolute beginning.

So to summarize, I build the model backwards in my head first. This gives me an understanding (variable, of course) and awareness (even MORE variable, I’m afraid) of the steps involved and allows me to prioritize these steps to set me up with the minimum order of the building process.

And in the way that theories should be reworked and/or tossed when the facts no longer support the theories, THE PATH is also a variable. THE PATH will get modified as the build itself shows me what I really need to do next instead of what I thought I needed to do.

P-38F (Tamiya) Build #1 – The Parts and Construction Goes Quickly Because of EXCELLENT Parts Fit

I had originally intended on using Eduard’s limited edition of the Academy P-38. You can find my opinions under “Opinions, Reviews, & Tips,” under the title, “A Big, Steamy, Cup of Disappointment. My Experiences with Eduard’s Limited-Edition Early P-38 Kit. It Ain’t Pretty.” To summarize, if you really want a P-38 kit sitting on your shelf, don’t bother with either Academy’s kit or Eduard’s limited-edition offering, “Early Lightings.” Both are a waste of money individually and together they’re a waste of too much money.

Moving on…

When I opened the box, this is what I found:

The AM parts I’m pretty sure I’ll be using are seats and wheels/tires from UltraCast, machine gun barrels from Master,  E Z Line Fine antenna lines, and possibly oxygen lines from Model Design Construction:

Construction begins as it usually does for me when I’m doing an aircraft, with the cockpit. What drives the build at this point are the things I need to clean up, paint, and install inside the fuselage so that I can assemble that fuselage. In this case, it starts on the left side of the cockpit, especially featuring the throttles/propeller controls. As provided by Tamiya, they’re out-of-scale and inaccurate. Each of the molded on control levers is a single and they should be doubles (twin engines, y’know):

The seat that comes with the kit is okay, but the decals intended to be used as the seat belts and harness are just not acceptable. Instead, I’m using the UltraCast seat:

And preparing all the kit parts (with a few simple modifications, starting with cutting off the incorrect control levers) and then painting them is where it starts.

Speaking of painting, a word about “cockpit green” and Tamiya. Stated simply, Tamiya doesn’t offer the US cockpit green as a paint option. However, since this kit calls for that color, and what’s Tamiya going to do…call out another manufacturers paint? Guess not. What they did do was supply the mix formula! Two parts XF- 3 Flat Yellow and one part XF-5 Flat Green will get you to cockpit green:

 

Then all the parts that need to be (or mostly be) black were done with Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black mixed with 25% Tamiya XF-2 Flat White for scale color correction after I used double-sided tape to fix the parts to a scrap of cardboard. Some of the parts should be semigloss black but since all the parts regardless of color have to be hit with a clear gloss for a wash, using semigloss made no sense. It’s all getting covered with clear flat after the wash; I can hit the parts that want semigloss black later:

Once the cockpit green sat overnight, I detail painted black (XF-1), flat aluminum (XF-16), and light sea gray (XF-25):

Some of the radio parts, which had been covered in flat black, needed to be aluminum. I used the flat aluminum from before on those parts and detailed some of the black sections with a silver pencil. The knob on the end of the emergency hydraulic pump handle was touched with red:

The seat was its own special paint challenge. The harnesses were painted XF-49 Khaki, and the hardware was painted X-11 Chrome Silver. After a clear gloss coat, the wash, a clear flat coat, and worn areas touched with the silver pencil, this is now the seat:

I’ve seen a number of modelers who paint the small parts while they’re still on the sprues and that hasn’t been my choice until now. I decided to try it and see how it worked. For the landing gear and their bays (and all the assorted bits that go into those areas), I wanted to preshade with black and then just mist flat aluminum over the black. The first step is the black:

With the cockpit parts painted, washed, and worn, then they were assembled and glued into place. The gauges on the instrument panel are done with a decal (that aligned perfectly), overshot with flat clear, and a drop of clear gloss replicates the glass gauge faces:

The fit of the parts was flawless. What a lovely thing!

Since I had the radio parts (as well as the support arm for the control yoke) decaled, it was time to add the wiring harness. I used 48 awg. wire, doubled (and tripled where necessary), stuck the ends into drilled out locations and held in place with superglue. The resulting wiring harness was painted dirty white:

The nosewheel bay was painted black, assembled, and installed in the lower half of the fuselage pod (the masked area at the rear of the bay was painted khaki and masked):

Tamiya not only provided three places for weights, nose and inside both engine nacelles, Tamiya also provided three steel balls (11.5g each) as weights, the first of which was superglued into place:

Then the lower half of the fuselage pod was cemented to the upper half and thus the cockpit parts were (mostly) in place:

I then started work on replacing the kit’s machinegun barrels with Master’s amazingly machined brass replacements:

The machinegun barrels were all of one part, the cannon barrel (the one furthest forward) was separate. To replace those with those tiny barrels required (by me, anyway) them to be individually mounted. I used scrap .015″ styrene, drilled to accept the barrels, and the barrels aligned to be as vertical to the styrene mounts as I could get them.

But before I could do that, I needed to color them. I used this stuff to color brass machinegun parts:

It’s acidic enough to dissolve aluminum, so if you decide to use it, pick something it won’t react with. I use an old paint jar because it’s glass.

The barrels before color:

Experience has shown me that they have to be colored unassembled. When they’re assembled first, the chemical doesn’t get into the cooling jacket (the tubes with the holes) well enough to cover completely, so clean them with denature alcohol, drop them into the jar of chemical, and shake them vigorously:

The liquid turns progressively darker the longer they stay in there. After about fifteen minutes, I use tweezers to remove the parts and drop them into water to neutralize the caustic elements of the compound:

I drop them onto a paper towel, dry them, and then buff them. As they come out of the chemical (and water), the surface is powdery. Buffing them removes the surface powder:

Frequently, as was the case this time, the parts go back into the chemicals to either darken the finish, cover the spots that didn’t color…or both. One application may not be sufficient.

Then the butts of the barrels were superglued into the styrene mounts, the mounts were trimmed to fit inside the nosecone and not protrude far enough to interfere with the nosecone’s fit. In this case, I had to use my Buffalo Model #15 to grind away some of the backs of the barrels to get the fit I wanted:

It took a bit of time to be certain that the barrels came out inline with the long axis of the fuselage and parallel with each other. The time spent was well worth it:

Then I added the skins to the upper wings:

The early variants of the P-38 had the intercoolers for the turbochargers located behind the skin of the leading edges of the wings. Not a particularly inspired design feature and before the J model was a limiting factor as to how much boost the engines could have and consequently how much power they could reliably produce. Supply too much boost and the intercoolers had a tendency to explode. Doesn’t do good things for aerodynamics or keeping the pilot from an involuntary stint with the infantry…or worse. The entry for cool air were holes just outboard of the engine nacelles where they joined the wing. The exit point for the hotter air was a port on top of the wing near the tip. The actual ports were shaped differently from the way the kit had the ports. I made a template from some scrap .010″ brass shim stock and carved away (LOVE that Buffalo Model #15 for things like this!) what was incorrectly molded:

An “interesting” feature of this kit are parts that fit in the main landing gear bays that are evidently air filters for the air intakes of the carburetors. I’ve not seen any references that show these things used in the field, so I decided to not include them. That required me to resculpt (Buffalo Model #15 again!) the mounting point to an air intake (mounting point on the left one, opened intake on the right one):

With the upper fuselage and wings in place, I finally noticed two spots that will need a tiny bit of filler. I added tape around where the filler would have to go to keep from removing any more surface detail than I absolutely had to. This had to be done on both sides:

And since handling this bird was going to become more cumbersome as parts get added, I taped the canopy parts (another job of beautifully molded parts that fit perfectly) in place to protect the tiny bits. Since I had to do that, I decided to add the rest of the cockpit parts (seat and radios):

I didn’t take any photos of the landing gear bay parts as I assembled them. Again, they went together flawlessly and fit where they had to go with equal aplomb. I did, though, take photos of them after painting:

With the main landing gear bays mostly assembled (fit is wonderful…this really could spoil me, y’know), it was time to assemble the booms. The parts (times two):

And the assemblies:

These were done twice, of course.

The radiator areas were painted Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab and the kit supplied decals for the radiator faces. The decals were a bit thick so I used Walther’s Solvaset to get them to snuggle down (took two applications):

With the interior of this area painted and the decals set, the shrouds went on (they fit better than they show in the photo due to the paint inside covering the mating surfaces):

Now that the booms are built, they get added:

Having gone this far, I added the elevator and rudders:

Yeah. That’s definitely starting to look like a Lightning.

P-38F (Tamiya) A Brief Overview

The P-38 Lightning was designed by Lockheed (Hal Hibbard was the lead designer working with chief engineer Kelly Johnson) to fit an Army requirement for a high-speed and high-altitude interceptor that was intended to shoot down enemy bombers.

There was a very interesting procurement officer and his name was Benjamin Kelsey. That the US Army Air Corps had the fighter it needed in spite of nobody’s interest in developing it (yes, I’m talking about the P-51) is due in large part to Lt. (at the time) Benjamin Kelsey. He was a very creative and inventive gentleman (because, by an Act of Congress, all officers are gentlemen) (back when Congress was capable and interested in acting) who used some very fancy verbiage to find funding at a time when Congress and the population was not at all interested in getting drawn into another European war, and thereby provided profoundly little money to upgrade our 1920s level of a military. Lt. Kelsey was joined by Lt. Gordon Saville in a dance around a recalcitrant Congress in actually convincing the Army that they really did need a modern fighter.

The word “fighter” wasn’t used. As far as the Brass was concerned, their tactical paradigm was firmly rooted in the 20s, and that was in spite of some lessons that should have been taken from what happened during the Spanish Civil War (and that was true for more than just the Air Corps…armor ignored these lessons as well). The Brass really did want a single-seat fighter, armed with .30 caliber machine guns that were restricted to 500 pounds of arms and a powerplant less than 1000 hp. Kelsey and Saville were thinking more in terms of .50 caliber machine guns, 1000 pound of arms, and a 1500 hp.

A two-part proposal was solicited, one part for a single engine fighter…er…interceptor, and a twin engine interceptor. To give you some idea as to the thinking of the dinosaurs in charge, drop tanks were administratively banned. (I have no idea why, but yeah…they were banned. I think the only reason the US wasn’t rolled over as quickly as France was when WWII kicked off, because the Brass in both countries had their heads stuck firmly in WWI doctrine, was because France wasn’t separated from belligerents by an ocean or two the way the US is.) Tricycle landing gear and a large fuel capacity were specified as preferred.

These were some of the basic design ideas for this new aircraft:

There is a fascinating analysis of the P-38 here: http://www.ausairpower.net/P-38-Analysis.html

The single seat fighter contract ended up going to Bell who produced the P-39 (and history has not treated that aircraft kindly), Lockheed’s proposal, Model 22, was awarded the twin engine contract.

The first prototype, a hand-built aluminum beauty, the XP-38 was trucked to March Field on December 31, 1938 and flew for the first time January 27, 1939.

XP-38

She was sleek, shiny, and fast. Armament was intended to be four fifty caliber machine guns and a 30mm cannon. All the guns were to be in the nose of the pod between the two engines and this meant that if the pilot were hitting with one gun, he was hitting with all his guns, something that aircraft with their armament in the wings couldn’t count on. With the guns in the wings, they had to be aligned so that they aimed slightly towards the center of the flight path at a place called the point of convergence…and if the guns were fired too close or too far away from that point, not all the rounds could hit the target…circumstances the P-38 never dealt with.

It was decided that this shiny, radically different, and FAST aircraft was to attempt to break the cross-country speed record. (Something that some sources have said was decided at the last minute…like when Lt. Kelsey landed in Dayton, Ohio to refuel, he was told to hurry it up, get back in the air, and try to get to March Field and break the transcontinental record kind of last minute.) (Interesting note…the transcontinental record is held by another Lockheed/Kelly Johnson creation, the SR-71 Blackbird.) A long approach to March Field ended up icing the carburetors resulting a consequent loss of power when the carburetors didn’t respond to the throttles, and Kelsey bellied in on a golf course (sustaining minor injuries), wrecking the prototype:

The Brass, however, was suitably impressed by this new interceptor that they ordered thirteen pre-production aircraft for further testing based on tests already completed. This model was designated YP-38 and any similarity between the YP-38 and the XP-38 was incidental. They were two very different aircraft utilizing different engines (Allison engines in both variants) and engine cowlings.

YP-38

The British and French were both very interested in this hot new aircraft and placed orders for them, looking for a non-turbocharged version using the same Allison engine, the V1710 (neither the British nor French seemed to understand that using the V1710 without turbochargers and without the counter rotating propellors would result in a very different aircraft with very difference performance characteristics). This variant used engine cowlings that were more like the XP-38, being tightly wrapped around the V1710 engines. The Brits ordered 667 (Lockheed thought that, maybe, the US would order about 60), the Lockheed model number M322B, and the French version was M322F. France was overrun by the Wehrmacht before any M322F was delivered and the Brits (who, thankfully, called it the Lightning instead of the Atlanta that Lockheed was using) cancelled their order after only a few M322B Lightnings were delivered in their caponized state. The Luftwaffe’s air assault (eventually called the Battle of Britain) showed the British that a low altitude fighter, which the Curtiss P-40 Tomahawk was well known to be, was of no use in the present war. The majority of the British order was retained in the US for training low-hour pilots in the demanding task of handling this complicated, hot, and huge, bird. Some of the 322B Lightnings had their same-rotation engines replaced with counter-rotating engines (the latter requiring different engine cowlings than the 322B’s same-rotation engines…none of the 322s were turbocharged).

The first production Lightning was the P-38 with no suffix. It was armed with four .50 caliber machine guns, carried 200 rounds for each gun, and though intended to also be fitted with a 37mm cannon, few were. 29 were produced and assigned, along with YP-38s, to testing and training duties. They were eventually redesignated RP-38, restricted to non-combat dues and were not considered combat capable.

The first Lightnings that were deemed “combat capable,” though that wasn’t really the case due to various tactical equipment requirements not installed, was the P-38D. The D model didn’t have the cannon fitted, though it did, unlike the earlier variants, have a low-pressure oxygen system, armor plate, and self-sealing fuel tanks. It was armed with four .50 caliber machine guns but they all extended the same distance from the nose, unlike all subsequent variants that had the guns mounted in a staggered fashion. The D also saw the addition of wing-root fillets that, unlike the mass balancers that the Army insisted be added to the elevators, solved the elevator buffeting problem (just as Kelly told the Army it would, though the mass balancers stayed on every variant of the P-38). 36 D models were produced as part of the initial order of 66 aircraft and were assigned to 54th Fighter Squadron and sent to Alaska and some were sent to Iceland with the 27th Fighter Squadron. 36 were produced.

The P-38E was the first fully equipped and combat-ready Lightning, having had over 2000 changes to get the aircraft to get to this state. The 37mm cannon was replaced by a 20mm cannon, the electrical and hydraulic systems were improved, better radio and communications equipment was installed, as were better flight instruments. The drag link on the nose gear was redesigned, moving it from the front of the nose gear strut to the rear, a move that allowed the ammunition load to increase from 200 rounds to 500 rounds per gun. Single scoops over the turbocharger intakes were replaced by smaller individual scoops.

This was to be a continued state with the P-38. Each subsequent variant was improved over the previous variant. The canopy was changed to open rearward instead of to the right side. The main wing spar was strengthened (to carry drop tanks and bombs and even torpedoes were tested), engine controls were simplified to lessen the pilot’s workload (and on this aircraft, the workload was high), the turbo intercoolers were moved from inside the leading edge of the wings to a more functional location in chin scoops under the propeller spinners, resulting in the ability to use the later, more powerful Allison engines at full rated power, instead of choking them back so as not to overtax the intercoolers (which could explode if pushed too hard…not a good idea in general and a bad idea given that they were located at the leading edge of the wings…and the space formerly used for the inefficient intercoolers was instead used for additional fuel), the P-38 could dive so fast that compressibility, where the airflow over the top of the wings delaminated and caused a high pressure area over the wings instead of the lift-producing low pressure area, which resulted in large, P-38-shaped craters in the ground when pilots ran out of altitude before they could regain control. With the L variant, electronically operated “dive flaps,” more like small flaps, were installed that eliminated the airflow’s delamination and subsequent loss of pitch control.

P-38F

P-38J

P-38L

The P-38L was the last production variant (the P-38M night fighters were conversions of P-38Ls) as well as the most numerous with 3924 produced. It was visually very similar to the J variant, the primary difference being a pair of 1600 hp Allison V17140-F30 engines, hydraulically boosted ailerons, and “dive flaps” to counter the compressibility problems that had plagued the P-38 from its beginning.

Also, using lower engine speeds with higher boost settings and coarser prop settings, the P-38 was able to almost double its range (It seems that this was at the suggestion of Charles Lindberg who operated as a civilian tech rep for United Aircraft).

As the most recognizable allied aircraft, the P-38 was tasked with air cover over the Normandy beaches on D-Day.

The P-38 Lightning was the only US fighter that was produced before and throughout WWII.

A Big, Steamy, Cup of Disappointment. My Experiences with Eduard’s Limited-Edition Early P-38 Kit. It Ain’t Pretty.

P-38 Build Notes

347th Fighter Group, 339th Fighter Squadron

Guadalcanal, April 18, 1943

“Miss Virginia” 147, Tail #32264

Technically, this is the Eduard limited-edition kit, “Early Lightnings,” #1174. In reality, it’s Academy’s P-38E, kit #2144 with AM resin, PE parts, and AM decals from Eduard. The kit itself was produced in 1994 and so far the fit of the parts shows it. The kit also follows Academy’s tendency to be soft on details in general and too often incorrect with them (more on that later!). Another problem that I may encounter is the fact that this kit is infamous for having the vertical stabilizer/rudders significantly angled off vertical the way they’re supposed to be (yeah…much more on that later…). Most of the builds I’ve found online show the builders assembling the booms and then cutting off the stabilizer/rudders and positioning them so that they’re vertical the way they’re supposed to be.

Eduard sold their limited-edition kit, “Early Lightings”, in 2012, a full eighteen years after Academy released their flawed kit. The Eduard limited-edition kits are snapped up by collectors, certainly before I find out another one has been released. When I try to find one of them on eBay, I often find price tags in the $250-$350 range and higher. No. I’m not a collector and I’m definitely not going to pay collector prices for any kit.

My favorite WWII warbird is the P-38 and I’ve wanted one on my shelf for decades. I’d gotten my hands on one of the ancient Monogram kits and that’s exactly what they are. Ancient. Raised panel lines, absence of details (accurate or not), there would be many hours of work necessary to bring that ancient kit into modern times. I have read too many horror stories about trying to build Hasegawa’s kit to want to try it. All that essentially meant I was going to start with the Academy kit as my base and then use AM and scratch-building to build something I would be comfortable putting on display. I figured I’d get the kit and then go to Eduard and see what resin and PE goodies they have available. (Yes, I could have also checked out True Details but I’m almost always disappointed with their product line…particularly the over-bulged way they do their resin tires.) While looking for P-38 aftermarket parts on eBay, I found one of Eduard’s 1174 kits that had been opened (and thereby ruining it for the collectors). The price was $124 which, though far in excess of the original $74.95 Eduard wanted for this kit, was A LOT less than the $250-$350 range usually seen for this kit.

[Sidebar: The day this kit arrived at my doorstep, Tamiya released their P-38 F/G kit, #61120. So I bought that kit, as well. I’m thinking of doing Gerry McDonald’s bird because that boy was crazy!]

My intent is to build the famous aircraft that Lt. Rex Barber was flying when he, not Lanphier, accomplished the Yamamoto shoot-down (regardless of how the fornicating Air Farce refuses to accept the proofs that Barber shot down Yamamato, not Lanphier).

I opened the box and laid out the resin parts and received my first disappointment with this kit. The control yoke (or steering wheel, for those of you who don’t fly) in the resin parts is the wrong version. The early yoke was the bottom two-thirds of a steering wheel. The late yoke was two joystick grips at the ends of a figure eight laid on its side. I checked the Tamiya kit and they got the early yoke correct. I cut it off, took a mold of it, and cast a resin copy.

My next disappointment came when, after painting, adding wear and dirt, to all the cockpit parts, I discovered that the seat doesn’t fit the mounting frame. Well, it fits, it’s just that the locating tabs on the frame don’t like up correctly with the slots on the back of the pilot’s seat. Since these parts are obviously molded from high-quality 3D prints as well as being from the same manufacturer, this is utterly and completely unacceptable. Computer graphics are necessary for 3D printers to make physical copies. The lousy fit of something as sodding simple as alignment of tabs and slots is just unacceptable and massively disappointing. (If I wanted this kind of garbage, I could have just purchased True Detail parts.) I’d made a basic error in assuming that Eduard would make their own damned parts fit each other. (Silly me.)

During the construction phase of the cockpit, none of the major parts fit with other major parts. The separate side panels of the cockpit did not align with the floor. With the exception of the radios (which were also incorrect for an early Lighting but were instead intended for a later variant) I did not find ONE PART that fit where it was (theoretically) supposed to go without having to be modified to do so.

So since this is the first construction of a subassembly for this build, I think it’s already off to a disappointing start. For what this kit cost before collectors inflated its value, $74.95, this is to be blunt, just bullshit.

I’m also already disappointed in that Eduard did nothing to replace the minimally acceptable canopy that Academy provided. All I can do at this point is, a) hope that things get better (without believing that they will), and b) be glad it’s not the Italeri/Testors SR-71 Blackbird.

Fast Forward to the Steamy Cup of Disappointment

The last sentence of the paragraph above started with, “All I can do at this point is, a) hope things get better…” They did not. They did not in a clashingly emphatic manner. Here’s how it went…

As stated in sufficient detail already, I have not been impressed at all with either the basic Academy kit nor Eduard’s AM set, and both for essentially the same reason. Fit…the absence thereof. Both Academy and Eduard are professional organizations, commercial companies, who clearly expect that people will spend money for their goods…which I have done. Had they presented goods that were professionally produced, I would have dealt with the fit situation(s) because in my experience, all AM parts, resin especially, require to be fit to the kit they are intended for. And it’s that last part that has really gotten my back up.

After getting all the parts of Eduard’s resin cockpit set to finally fit and work with each other, it became time to fit this subassembly to its location and get them to work with what Academy produced. Time. Time to fit. Time to have a fit. The reason(s) being that the damned subassembly did not fit. I don’t know what kit Eduard intended this set for but it’s obvious to me (and since it’s my damned build, that’s all that matters to me) that it wasn’t the Academy kit. Yeah, sure…I got the damned cockpit subassembly fitted and glued in place, relatively. To do that was a very long chain of compromises and lowered expectations from “Oh goddamit” to “well, that’ll have to do.”

Before I went any further with this Frankensteinien build, I decided to check the dreaded Academy Twist of the vertical stabilizers/rudders. I cut the parts from their sprues, taped them together, and then taped them to where they mount. With everything snugly taped in position, I stepped back and looked at alignment.

I.

Was.

Appalled.

It’s not that the vertical stabilizers/rudders aren’t vertical (which they are not, the tops of them are rotated about 3-5 degrees outward at the tops off vertical and are as obvious as a hooker’s wink), it’s that the whole fornicating boom on both sides was rotated. All of it, from engine cowlings to rudders was rotated off vertical.

Who markets a damned kit that is that wrong?!

Academy does, evidently.

The “fix” I’ve seen is where the builders have cut the vertical stabilizers/rudders off the booms, rotated them so that they are vertical, and then glued and finished them. Sure…that gets the vertical stabilizers/rudders correct. However, the entire boom is rotated! That means that the radiator housings, turbochargers, engine cowlings, landing gear bays and the mounts for the landing gears, are still rotated. To my eyes, the rotation is SO obvious…and utterly unacceptable.

I’d even (VERY briefly) considered cutting both of the booms away from the upper wing surfaces that the mounting points are molded to, rotating them THE WAY ACADEMY SHOULD HAVE. Failing that, Academy should have re-cut the dies involved, fixed the rotated booms, and MADE THE NEW PARTS AVAILABLE at a reduced price to people who had already bought a kit expecting a greater degree of accuracy than Academy produced.

Clearly I expect too much. And I get that. I tend to expect too much. I’ve even been accused of being a perfectionist (which I am not) in that regard. My take on this is that the money I spent on their product was real…I expect their product to be equally real.

HAVING A MAJOR FEATURE OF A KIT BE SO FUNDAMENTALLY WRONG IS NOT EQUALLY REAL.

Well, what to do about all that?

Stop building this thing and simply accept that I wasted my money on a garbage product. Actually, I wasted my money on two garbage products; Academy’s ridiculous kit and Eduard’s inaccurate AM set (it’s probably accurate for a late-production Lightning…not an early-production Lightning the way the box states it is…inaccurately as so much about this kit is).

This build stops here at about 25 hours of work (and I’m not wasting any more time editing photos to post…why fornicating bother?). What I have to do to bring this build to my acceptable levels isn’t worth it. I have Tamiya’s P-38 F/G Lightning on the shelf. I’ll build that.

I will be MOST reluctant to purchase anything else that Academy offers (I already have too many of their armor kits in queue) and I will be most critical and picky about which Eduard products I acquire also.

I don’t mind amateurs. We all have to start somewhere. I DO mind amateurs who masquerade as professionals.

P-51 (Accurate Miniatures) 1/48 Scale

P-51 (Accurate Miniatures) after-action report

Total time building 421.0 hours (that’s about 17.541 24 hour days, 10.525 work weeks).

Begin date December 12, 2015; work suspended August 20, 2016; resumed work September 20, 2020, end date November 11, 2020.

Vendors:

Accurate Miniatures

P-51 Kit #3400 1/48 scale

Elementy

Photo Etch Set #S48-111

Verlinden (out of production)

P-51A Cockpit & Moving Surfaces #1789

Model Technologies (out of production)

American WWII Seatbelt Buckles and Mounting Hardware (PE)

MMD-Squadron Products

Vacuformed canopy #SQ9553

Ultracast

A-20 Havoc Props & Spinners #48242

EZ Line

Fine black

AeroMaster Decals (out of production)

Early Mustangs #48-106

My Opinion

This kit was produced in 1994, about the time that recessed panel lines were becoming the standard and not the exception. If you want to build this Out Of Box, don’t count on having a show-winner. There are a few inaccuracies, notably the guns (way out of scale and inaccurate) and the almost-standard landing gear bay that follows the opening of the landing gear doors instead of the main wing spar. The cockpit is also dated and the canopy needs to be cut open if you want to display it open. There is an enclosed Malcolm hood but it doesn’t fit. The tail wheel is molded as a single piece (lazy, in my unasked for opinion). The flaps are molded in the up position so unless you want to cut them free, that’s what you’re stuck with. Still, if you want an Allison Mustang, this is the only game in town. Yes, ICM has a kit but it’s a re-box of Accurate Miniatures so that won’t help.

At 421 hours, this was a long build for a small model. A large bulk of that time was spend scratchbuilding a correct landing gear bay and then making molds of it and casting the parts in resin (I have other Allison Mustangs I want to do, all of them Accurate Miniatures). There was also a four-year hiatus taken due to me screwing something up that I didn’t know how to fix. Once I figured out how to fix it, the finish was relatively quick.

It feels good to have this finally done. I had wanted an Allison Mustang since 1991. I started with a resin conversion of the Monogram P-51B that replaced the fuselage with resin modifications. I scratchbuilt the cockpit just before I noticed that the cowling around Allison engines was much different than the cowling around Merlin engines. Whoever had built the masters for the resin copies didn’t correct the engine cowlings; I had Allison carburetor scoops on a set of Merlin cowlings. Before I could figure out how to fix that, I found the Accurate Miniatures kits but before I could get back to the build, I moved and lost space for my shop. Then, life took me off in different (sometimes very different) directions. So now, in my twilight years, I finally have the early Mustang I wanted 29 years ago.

P-51 (Accurate Miniatures) Build #16 – Painting, Final Details, and DONE

Getting ready to paint things is what is driving the build at this point. I needed to add fasteners that had been knocked off during handling and once that was accomplished, I protected the fragile resin decals with a coat of Tamiya XF-28 Medium Gray (15 parts) and Tamiya XF-2 Matte White (2 parts):

Everything I’d already painted was masked off so that finish colors could be laid down:

My usual method of doing antenna wires has been the classic stretched sprue “fun.” Time marches on (quoth the old fart in the mirror who is really surprised at the “old” part of that) and technology evolves. Rather than take the stretched sprue path (which isn’t really all that smooth and hassle free in general, and often very annoying in specific), I had a roll of EZ Line delivered (“fine,” .02″ black). I needed to drill out the tip of the antenna mast and vertical stabilizer to accept the line. In doing so, I discovered that the front upper half of the leading edge and about half the top of the vertical stabilizer hadn’t been glued! Easily fixed, and I added a small piece of stainless steel wire to keep the opening to socket the EZ Line into:

The leading edge of the flaps where they rotate into the wings is unpainted aluminum. Since I’m dealing with a resin part, that area was painted Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum. I’d also painted the interior framework of the drop-down left side of the canopy using a mix of Tamiya XF-71 IJN Cockpit Green (3 parts), X-5 Green (1 part) and XF-2 Flat White (1 part):

To prepare for wear and chipping, I put down a coat of XF-16 Flat Aluminum in the areas I thought would need it:

Part of the markings that the 154th Reconnaissance Squadron used starting when it was based in Tunisia in 1943 and continuing through its move to Anzio in 1944 were yellow bands on the upper and lower wing surfaces (I’m thinking that was to help differentiate it from the BF-109 which, if you’re scared enough…and I certainly would have been…look much alike). The kit supplied decals for these bands; I decided to paint them on instead. Tamiya XF-3 Flat Yellow is (unlike myself) FAR too bright. I added one part of Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow to three parts of the Flat Yellow and ended up with something VERY close to the color of the decals. Once the paint set up overnight, I added the 18″ (scale, obviously) masking for the bands:

With the yellow masked, I shot the underside with the same medium gray/white mix I’d used to protect the resin decals:

I wanted the gray to sit overnight before I turned it over for the OD Green. While that was set aside, I painted the prop and spinner (the previous day using Tamiya’s rattle can flat black TS-6 and the toned down yellow of the ID wing bands on the tips; the spinner was 4 parts Tamiya X-7 and 1 part XF-2 flat white), which is more satin anyway, (which is what I wanted ) and assembled them:

I then cleaned the tarnish off the brass barrels of the cannons and treated them to a soak in Birchwood Casey’s Brass Black. Once they were out of the soak and lightly buffed, I painted the muzzle bands Tamiya’s XF-69 NATO Black (which is more of a dark gray):

The next day I put down a coat of Tamiya’s XF-XF-62 Olive Drab on top. The demarcation between the two colors is simple so I used a tight spray pattern at a lower air pressure:

It took a couple of back-and-forths between the gray and OD to eliminate what little overspray occurred.

My one reference photo of this aircraft shows that its original rudder had been replaced with a different rudder (most likely from the base’s boneyard) and the OD was a different shade. I added 2 parts NATO Black to 15 parts OD:

The one photo I have of this aircraft (from P-51 Mustang in Action, by Larry Davis; page 12) isn’t exactly conclusive as to color (no surprise since it’s a b/w photo) or tint (the rudder is deflected to the left and catches sunlight more directly). After unmasking the vertical stabilizer, I was unsure as to whether or not I’d gotten the difference right…something that would mostly fix itself shortly. (Ominous thunder on the soundtrack.)

I unmasked the yellow bands and landing lights and put down Tamiya’s X-22 Clear Gloss where I was going to put decals, which in this case were on the fuselage and upper wings. The lower wings didn’t get any markings other than the yellow bands:

I had taped the flaps into position so that the bands would align and I painted the exhaust tips Tamiya XF-68 NATO Brown (14 parts), XF-69 NATO Black (3 parts), and XF-7 Red 9 (1 part) and removed the masks from the drop-down canopy side:

After letting the clear gloss sit overnight, I started adding the decals. I was using an old Aeromaster decal set,”Early Mustangs, #48-106″ as it had the markings for “Betty Jean” that I wanted to use (to match that one reference photo). The only kit decal I used was for the data panel on the left side of the fuselage. Yeah…the serial number on the panel doesn’t match the serial number of “Betty Jean,” but one would need a loupe to see that and I am NOT letting anyone get that close to this. The kit’s decal and the clear-backed Aeromaster decals settled down nicely with Micro-Sol. The stars-and-bars did not, requiring Walther’s Solvaset to behave the way I wanted them to…multiple applications of Solvaset. However, in their defense, these decals did not behave like they were over 20 years old:

The only problem I had with the decals were that they were too large. The fuselage insignia could have been 10-15% smaller as could the insignia on the wing (I used a smaller one of the same set intended for a different aircraft).

Remember the ominous thunder of earlier? Here it comes…

I got lazy. Brainfade. Caffeine deficiency. Or perhaps just plain dumb. Dunno. What I did, however, was use Tamiya’s rattle can TS-80 Flat Clear. To say that it didn’t play nicely with the clear gloss would mistakenly lead one to think that it played at all with the clear gloss. As it dried, it shrank and cracked. Not fun. What was REALLY fun was that the TS-80 also dissolved the decals a bit:

I usually read all and every direction on a product I’m going to use and I thought I’d done the same with this fornicating TS-80. Guess what small print I missed on the top of the cap:

I doubt you can imagine how FORNICATING THRILLED I was to read that…after it had dissolved the decals. (If you can imagine that, you have my sympathies.)

That was JUST what I wanted to see happen to an old, out-of-production decal set. I went online and the first set of these decals I found were over $50. After changing my knickers, I came back and found an Etsy vendor, WingsAndRails.com who had a set for about half that.

I almost sprained my fingers ordering a set.

While I was waiting for them to arrive, I started a process that I’d gotten quite used to during the SR-71 build…stripping paint and repainting things. You know…mix and paint the yellow (didn’t shoot aluminum this time), mask the landing lights and bands, etc.:

One of the other differences in the second paint job is the color. I noticed from a couple of WWII color photos that the Olive Drab was more green than the first Olive Drab I used. For the second painting, I mixed Olive Drab (6 parts) with Yellow (1 part) and Flat White (1 part). All looked okay until I looked at the fuselage seams in bright light. Either I had not done a proper job the first time (like that ever happens) or the denatured alcohol did more than just remove paint. Regardless of the cause, I found these two spots:

I removed the paint (and probably more putty) and redid the seams:

Better:

Since I had such a grand time (sarcasm…just another service I offer) (constantly) with my first attempt at doing decals properly, while I was waiting for the next set to arrive (a habit I really have to get away from) I decided I needed a bit of practice. I painted fuselage parts from the spare kit:

I went through the decal process of clear gloss, decals (avec solvent), and clear topcoat. This time, however, I used Tamiya’s clears (more on all that in a bit). Instead of putting clear gloss down first, I recalled having very good luck with the SR-71 putting decals down directly on top of a flat color coat (it was heresy then, it’s heresy now…all I can say in my defense is that it worked). Instead, I put down Tamiya’s X-35 Semi Gloss Clear first on both sides:

Then I used kit decals that I would not have otherwise used (they have the markings for Operation Torch which is a yellow band around a round insignia and no bars) and used Walther’s Solvaset on them:

After letting them sit overnight, I shot the Semi Gloss Clear over the left decal and Tamiya’s XF-86 Flat Clear over the right decal:

I decided I like the clear flat better than the semi gloss and decided to go with that.

Now…a bit of a digression about clear flat paint and why I seem to be struggling with it.

Prior to my present stint at modeling, the last time I did any of this work was in 1991. In that year, Polly S was still producing paints (and I recently found out that Polly Scale, primarily rail road paints, has also shut down) and their clear flat was magnificent. Thinned with water, it went down perfectly and left an outstanding, even, flat finish. When they closed operations of their S division, that wonderful paint vanished. When I picked this hobby back up in 2014, I found out that Micro-Mark had gone to Vallejo with color chips to replicate some of Polly S paints, and one of those was clear flat. Vallejo’s clear flat is NOT Polly S clear flat. It really requires being run through a fine screen to remove chunks that form (and I can stir that stuff for AN HOUR and still have my airbrush spit chunks…another reason I quit drinking tequila) all OVER a mostly finished and decaled model. Very displeasing. (The only thing I liked about it was that it leaves a MATTE finish.) I wanted a different clear flat. Tamiya’s clear flat paints and covers as well as all their other paints that I’ve used. The only problem with it is that it’s not flat, it’s satin.

::sighs::

Fine. I’ll deal with a satin finish on this build. I’ll pout and stamp my little footies about it, but I’ll deal. Poorly.

With all that said, I put down clear semi gloss where decals go:

After waiting overnight, I put down the decals and treated them with a few applications of Solvaset:

Again, after letting it sit overnight, I overshot the olive drab areas with semi gloss and then added the exhaust nozzles and flaps:

Then I let it sit for two days.

I gave the upper surfaces a misting of Tamiya’s XF-57 Buff mixed with about two-thirds XF-2 flat white to replicate a dusty surface. After letting it sit for about an hour, I used a cotton swab slightly moistened with denatured alcohol and picked up the dust coat in areas where people would walk and/or work:

I weathered the surface with with pastels and discovered that the semi-gloss doesn’t pick up the pigment dust as well as a true matte finish does. When I used a silver-colored pencil to add chips and wear, I discovered the same thing; true matte picks up pigment better:

Fine. I’ll deal with it and I am NOT going to strip this again and buy another set of decals.

As you can see in the above photo, I pried the landing gear doors free. The Allison Mustangs had another trait. Their inner landing gear doors had mechanical locks that kept them up when the pilot or crew chief dumped the hydraulic pressure. Unlike the Merlin Mustangs, those doors stayed in the up position unless the mechanical locks were released manually to work in there. And with the landing gear doors out of the way, it was time to add the landing gear. I used masking tape to hold them at the proper angle as the mounting socket wasn’t snug enough to do it alone:

Typically I’ve used stretched sprue to make the antenna run. The kindest thing I can say about that is that I’d never stretched the sprue thin enough on the first pull to use it. (The most accurate thing I can say about that is that I spent a great deal of time cursing.) A more accurate thing I can say is that I would stretch a lot of sprue to get something useful. THOSE DAYS ARE OVER!! The EZ Line worked MAGNIFICENTLY. I superglued one end into the vertical stabilizer and after waiting until the glue set, I threaded the other end through the antenna post (not easily but nowhere near as much of a pain as I thought it would be…certainly much easier than the stretched sprue path). A very nice feature of the EZ Line is that it stretches. A gentle tug on the very thin line and a dab of superglue held it in place nicely. I cut the excess from in front of the post and used it as the feed line into the fuselage. Once the glue had set, I used base-mounted tweezers (why is that word plural when I only use one tweezer?) to align the feed line to its location:

The formation lights received a little dab of the appropriate paints and, without the trumpet fanfare I think I deserve…

IT’S DONE:

P-51 (Accurate Miniatures) Build #15 – Adventures in Forensic Modeling…Picking Up Where I Left Off

I have now discovered that “for now” can mean four years because that’s how long it’s been since I worked on this one. I knew when last I screwed this thing up what I needed to do to fix it…well…most of what I needed to fix it. At the time I crashed this build, I didn’t have my lathe, so I hunted eBay to acquire another Accurate Miniatures P-51. Took a couple of months of sporadic checking but I did find one and shortly it was on the shelf along with the box the aborted build was on. The big stumbling block for me, though, was how to do landing lights, or more accurately, landing lights with covers. Another problem was after I dropped the model (rarely does the build any good) and broke the propeller mount off, I tried to insert a short section of brass tubing to accept the brass post I planned on adding to the prop. The mistake there was in using a Dremel tool with a cutting disc. Cutting discs make heat. Heating a brass tube socketed into a plastic surround can (and in my case did) get you something like this:

While I was looking the model over, I noticed that the watch crystal adhesive I’d tried had failed. I don’t know how long it actually held the film with the gauge faces on it in place, but it was evidently not four years. Look under the instrument panel to the left of center:

Yeah…they’re obviously not supposed to be there. I needed to get behind that panel and the only way I could think of was to cut the nose off and I made the cut(s) along panel lines :

With the nose off, I encountered a couple of features I’d forgotten about; the tubular spacer I’d inserted to help the wings fit tighter to the fuselage and the forward bulkhead of the AM resin part:

I drilled a hole large enough to insert the tip of a saw blade into and gained access to the rear of the instrument panel:

There are many benefits to using acrylic paints. After four years, I could just dab the back-painted gauge faces with a cotton swab soaked in denatured alcohol and the white paint just came off. That enabled me to line things up nicely. Having discovered that the watch crystal cement is not what I want to use again for this task, I drilled a couple of holes in the film so that I could wick small drops of superglue in between the film and the panel. Then I reapplied white paint to the backs of the gauge faces:

I opened the second P-51 kit, assembled the wing, and then cut the cannon shroud from it. Then I (gladly) cut the shroud that I’d melted the tip of off:

Then it was a simple matter (and I certainly appreciated that novelty!) to graft the new shroud in place, shim it into alignment, and then glue the hell out of it:

The kerf was puttied and over the course of a weekend, managed to get this build back on track (the vacuformed canopy is taped in place to protect the cockpit…particularly the gunsight) (which I managed to snap off anyway, lose completely, and made a replacement for):

Well…that was easy…

The only modeling magazine I subscribe to (and recommend) is FineScale Modeler. A GREAT many of my modeling techniques have been pulled directly from their pages (the colorful invective is of my own creation). In the October 2020 issue they have an article on page 18, “Age Before Beauty.” The article is about taking one type of aircraft, the F8F-1B Bearcat, and using two kits to compare those kits. The interesting thing is that one kit is 40 years old (Hawk) and the other is modern (Hobbyboss). The intent is to see what is required to bring an old kit up to modern standards. (A LOT!)

I told you that to tell you this…

One of the things the builder did to the old Hawk kit was to replace the wing-mounted landing lights. (I was going to say, “Just like I did,” only he was successful and didn’t melt anything.) That was just the information I needed to pull this kit off the shelf and get on with it, which I did as soon as the build I was working on at the time was completed.

The idea was to take a solid piece of clear acrylic, cut/shape/polish it to shape and then drill the back of it slightly to replicate the light itself and then paint it silver or chrome…and that’s what I did:

With all that done, the back of it was painted black, it was then glued into place (a bit prematurely, as I will point out shortly), and then filed/sanded/polished into an adequate representation of a landing light behind a clear cover:

Shortly after that was glued…PERMANENTLY…into place, I decided that I could have used a slightly larger drill. But I didn’t, can’t get the part out, and had to do the other one the same way. Even so, it was a magnitude better than what I’d tried originally. (“Originally” didn’t work, this way did. I’d say that’s better.) I used the spare kit’s landing light sections as a template to make the masks for the landing light. Where the tape is stays clear, what’s around it gets painted:

The area behind the acrylic insert, being round, doesn’t quite match up with the upper wing surface. I added plastic and sanded it all smooth, scribing in the necessary panel lines.

While I was at the site of past trauma, I decided to stay there and get the shrouds ready for the cannon barrel analogs. One of the thing I’d noticed is that most of the cannon-armed P-51s had barrels that free-floated inside their shrouds. I drilled away the mounting collars (the white plastic) I’d originally installed, then used the same diameter styrene rod to stuff into the holes of the shrouds:

After cutting the rod flush with the shroud, I used the rod to push the stub inside the shroud in a wee bit and then glued it. Once I treated all four shrouds that way, I drilled a hole in each to slide the barrels through. The result was nicely floating cannon barrels (the tape on the nose in the lower photo is to protect it from the putty I added when I corrected the panel lines under the nose of the fuselage):

Having done that, I was now completely recovered from prior oh-gawd-dammits and the “forensic” part of this build was done. On to new stuff!

“New stuff” started with the canopy. One thing I noticed with some of the earlier P-51s (and others…the P-38 did it the same way) was that the armored glass wasn’t a part of the canopy but instead mounted on brackets behind the front canopy section. To do that I used the canopy I’d tried to vacuform a canopy over and cut the section out between the two framing sections:

With that section cut out, I used .010 styrene scraps to form the mounting frame and then sanded and polished it, resulting in a to-scale thickness “armored” panel:

Now all I had to do was to glue the armored glass inside the canopy and then add all these delicate and thin parts to the fuselage:

“All I had to do,” he says as if it were simple. ::giggles::

My original intent was to use the vacuformed rear canopy sections. After carefully trimming them and noticing how FREAKING THIN they are (which is actually the point to vacuforming to begin with), I realized that I had an incredibly small contact area for adhesives (and yes…I did realize that I would have that same problem with the rest of the vacuformed canopy…but I’d bridge that cross once I got to it). Once again my original intent was discarded and I tried something else. Instead of the vacuformed parts, I used the kit parts. The fit wasn’t the best, which is why I tried using putty to make up the difference (the white stuff around the top of the part):

Then I figured I’d deal with the very thin canopy and see what I had to do to get that part glued into place (other than virgin sacrifice…at my age I don’t have the time to find one of those). I used superglue and it worked, after a fashion (no frosting), resulting in the application of more putty:

While the glue was curing, I turned my attention to the propeller and spinner. The kit’s propeller blades aren’t at all representative of what the P-51 used; they’re more like ungainly canoe paddles. Instead I used a set of props I bought for an A-20G Havoc I have in queue. I took molds of the props/hubs and cast resin copies to use. The P-51’s prop was 10’6″ long and the A-20’s was 11’3″ so I shortened them slightly:

I cut the kit’s paddles…er…props from the mount and added pins to glue the resin prop blades more securely:

And what’s a propeller without a spinner? (Oh, I dunno…a drag, maybe?) While cutting the parts from the sprues, I cut just a wee bit too closely and flat-spotted both the base and nose of the spinner, which required me to add styrene scraps:

Perfection still eludes me.

With the glued canopy now cured, I opened the parts box and realized that yes…perfections ELUDES ME. There are PE frames in there that I wanted to use! Well, okay, then…let’s get these things to work. Shortly after my initial attempt to fit them, I realized that once again my “error” saved me from AN ERROR. Or if not having saved me from AN ERROR, the “error” actually saved me a metric tonne of hassle. The vacuformed canopy (courtesy of Squadron Products) is very thin. Trying to bend PE parts to conform to them without deforming them would have been OH such a joy. It was enough of a “joy” with the bottom of the canopy glued into place, offering much more rigidity than would have otherwise been possible had I not “erred.”

I started bending, fitting, and bending some more. (Repeat those steps a lot so I don’t have to write them out.) Eventually I got the right side frame in place (totally ignoring…by intent…how much fun I was going to have getting that thing painted):

Then I had to form the outside frame, which also included the top of the canopy that swung open to allow the pilot to get in and out of the kite, as well as the left side of the canopy that hinged downward to enable such access:

In my attempt to add the inside PE frame to the hinged top I realized that the result of two PE frames and the plastic between them would result in something far too thick. Bugger that. I didn’t add the inside frame, figuring to replicate it with paint. Some detail would be lost but it struck me as an adequate trade-off to a part that was ridiculously thick. To avoid the same problem with the open side canopy, I used some .005 thick acetate. Still a bit thicker than I would prefer but it falls within the 90-95% tolerance.

The rear sides of the canopy also has PE frames:

Though not especially large, these frames are not the smallest part I’ve used. They’re also not the smallest part I’ve dropped. My ability to find this PE part that I dropped indicated to me that SOMEwhere on the floor of my shop is an inter-dimensional portal. After I dropped it, I spent the next hour crawling around on the floor, moving everything movable (my drawer units are on wheels enabling that to be accomplished easily) out of the way and, as I sit here typing this, have STILL not found the [EXPLETIVE DELETED] thing. And while I’m on that topic…

Four years ago when I was constructing the cockpit from AM resin parts, I discovered that the joystick had a bubble in it just below the grip of the joystick. I discovered this by snapping the Damned Thing off. That part, also, eluded recovery. Lost and gone. Alas. Then four years passed. During that time the shop floor has been swept (relatively frequent occurrence) and vacuumed (I do that at the end of every build). Four years. Frequent sweeping and not infrequent vacuuming. While I was down there looking for another part I’d dropped (I’m old and feeble…I drop things) (so far not me, but I’m sure that’s coming), guess what my frail and ancient eyes did spy.

The grip of the joystick!

Go figya, because I certainly can’t…because the Damned Thing was right out in the open and not in or under anything else. (And don’t go there because I DO know how to vacuum and sweep!)

Moving on.

Since that PE part is in some undiscovered dimension elsewhere, I used the remaining PE part as the template to copy another one. That’s why the photo above has an aluminum background, because my first attempt was to use thick aluminum from a disposable baking pan…which created many more problems that it would have solved:

Yeah…go ahead an trim that for size and smooth edges! I’ll sit and watch. I tossed it and used .005 styrene instead (yeah….005 styrene was a better choice, that’s how difficult it would be for me to clean up the aluminum copy):

I added the frames to the rear canopy sections and fared them into the fuselage with putty:

While the putty was curing, I went back to diddling with the PE canopy frames. This time I got smart (or more likely less dumb) and didn’t add these parts before I masked them (A quick word about Tamiya’s masking tape. It’s great. It’s thin and a little stretchy, enabling it to be curved around shapes, and isn’t highly tacky, enabling it to be removed without taking off what it’s stuck to. End commercial.):

Having gotten those parts masked, I added the side/top framework to the canopy. With those in place, I started building the framework for the front canopy using .005 scrap:

With the canopy frame built it was time to mask it, and this is where I found a pothole in the path of my build. Just the wrong amount of pressure (with a very sharp knife) at just the wrong point of the canopy exceeded the gripping strength of the superglue and the whole fornicating thing popped off:

I was so thrilled.

And then I looked a bit closer at it. Y’know…I’d totally overlooked the fact that the INside of white plastic strips is also white. But the INside of the P-51’s canopy framing wasn’t white. It was the same color green as the rest of the cockpit. Well, well, well. Dodged another one! It will be SO MUCH EASIER to mask and paint the inside of the canopy with it off the fuselage than it would be on the fuselage.

Yep…sure was:

It’s true. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky rather than good (assumes the person who’s still working on “good”).

Before the canopy can go back on, it needed to be painted the green of the cockpit. While I was at it, I filed/sanded down the added chunks of styrene to the spinner, used white glue to hold the parts together, and painted both parts:

I glued the canopy back onto the fuselage and then turned to the PE rear-view mirror. I put a tiny drop of superglue onto the PE part and then pressed standard (aka, thin) aluminum foil into the depression and then trimmed the foil and painted it semi-gloss black before adding it to the inside of the canopy:

The canopy was glued back onto the fuselage and gaps around the edge was puttied:

I usually don’t remove the masking tape until after painting has been done but this time I removed it to be certain that I’d trimmed the putty back far enough…and it looks like I had:

A friend of mine’s father used to be a dentist. He retired, moved away, and my friend was getting his house ready for the market. Any modeler will become emotionally erect when the phrase, “dental tools” is mentioned. Yes…they’re that handy. And all of the hand tools my friend passed on to me are that handy. But the really BIG SCORE was this little beauty:

It’s a Buffalo Model #15 electric grinder. Zero to 25K RPM controlled by a foot switch. It also came with a lot of really small burrs (grinding tips). Some of which are REALLY SMALL.

Those aren’t even the smallest burrs. What that lovely little machine allows me to do are things like this:

In 1994 when this kit was copyrighted, slide-molds weren’t used in making model kits (I don’t know if slide-molds even existed at the time). That means the outlets for the exhaust tips, which is what those two parts are, were molded solid. If you look closely at the strip of tips to the upper right, you can see where I used that LOVELY little machine and the smallest burr to depress the surface of the exhaust tips. They’ll look great once they’re painted!

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 scale

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) after-action report

Total time building 320 hours.

Begin date January 12, 2020; end date September 24, 2020

Vendors:

Bronco

Kit #CB35069 – M-24 Chaffee (Early Production)

Tiger Model Designs (TMD)

Set #35-70023 – Tie-Down Cleats, Small

Verlinden

M-24 Chaffee engine compartment set #2728

M-24 Chaffee interior details #2735

Dry Transfer WWII US Army-type Stars #DTM1305

Tamiya

Infantry Equipment Set #35206

Archer Transfers

Set #AR35209B – Gauges and Interior Stencils

M&Models

Set #GM-34-005 – .30 Caliber Barrels (s), turned brass

The Scenic Factory Mud

Set #MK-02 – Ardennes Forest Kit “Dry”

Lots of solder, wire, lead foil, paint, and sprue

My opinion

I really wanted to like this kit…but I really do not. These notes are my experience with kit number CB35069 which is the early production US version, 1944 – 1945.

This kit is definitely a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s finely molded (which creates problems of its own, as I’ll get into in a bit). On the other hand, once building starts it quickly becomes evident that in far too many situations, location indicators for subassemblies aren’t poor, they just aren’t there at all (more on that later, also). If you’re hoping that the instructions that come with this kit will save you, you are SO out of luck. Given the kit’s initial production date, none of these problems should exist.

According to Scalemates.com, this kit has a production date of 2012 and has six variants.  The kit is molded in light tan, has a small photoetch (PE) fret, and two decal sheets. One decal sheet is of rank and unit patches for the nicely cast crew figures, the other decal sheet offers markings for three different tanks (interestingly, they’re all for vehicles from March 1945); option one is for Company D, 36th Tank Battalion, 8th Armor Division (Rheinberg, Germany, March 1945) and is the one I used I this build, option two is for the 81st Reconnaissance Squadron, 1st Armor Division (Northern Italy, March 1945), and option three is for the 37th Armored Battalion, 4th Armored Division (NW Europe, March 1945). The decals were a mixed bag. The large ones did not go down well and ignored ANY decal solution I threw at it, including Solvaset (they just laughed at Mircrosol). The decals were less like commercial decals and more like the horrible home-printed crap I tried to use on another build.

It seems as if Bronco couldn’t decide what “early production” meant. The lower front hull is accurate, providing the stirrup-style steps frequently seen on early production tanks to make getting into them easier. The rear hull, however, does not have provisions for mounting the steps (though they’re provided in the kit) and it should. What it has instead are provisions for attaching the mounting pads for the float assemblies that ended up not being used (developed for the land invasion of Japan, which thankfully for us didn’t need to be used)…and this is a feature of later production tanks.

The tracks are individual track shoes. They are, as are most parts of this kit, nicely and delicately molded. I am not ham-handed when dealing with delicate styrene parts, yet during the assembly process I managed to break two tracks shoes to where they cannot be used. Not an auspicious beginning, to my mind. I replaced the kit’s tracks with those from Fruilmodel, part number ATL-39. Well, I thought I was going to but the suspension when assembled is so fragile that I couldn’t be sure that the suspension parts would support the weight of metal tracks, so I wasted the money on Fruilmodel parts and used the kit’s tracks anyway.

When I started assembling the suspension is when I realized that Bronco had designed these parts, the road arms, torsion bars, shock absorbers, and compensating idler wheels, to be operable. I’m trying to figure out some manner that I can use to express my reaction to that that doesn’t involve profanity. Operable “features” on model kits were okay 55-60 years ago. Back then the kits weren’t really miniatures representing actual equipment as much as they were toys that had to be assembled. It was about this point that I discovered that Bronco included a plastic spring that was intended to go into the main gun assembly so it would have a recoil feature! Okay, so this is really very weird to me. Weird segued into annoying when this whole “operational” notion dictated a needlessly high part count combined with little delicate plastic parts in order for things to be “operational.” The tracks, the suspension, and the main gun all have problems directly caused by some moronic engineer (or project manager) that decided “operational” was a good idea.

Since I’ve mentioned high part count…

The breech of the 75mm gun is comprised of TWENTY-THREE parts. Well…okay. Hopefully the instructions will show me where these damned parts go because there are NO indicators on the parts. I hope you don’t have any problems fitting parts to the right side of the breech because there is no illustration for the right side. Clever.

Each road wheel and return wheel is comprised of six parts. Why?! Each shock absorber is comprised of two parts (plus two more for individual mounting bolts for each shock absorber) so that they’re “operational.” WHY?! Each suspension arm that road wheels attach to has its own torsion bar. Yes. Really. An individual, thin, torsion bar that’s supposed to be “operational!” Why?! If Bronco’s engineers/project manager wanted these parts to be posable, okay. That makes sense. Aircraft kits have canopies that can be posed open or closed. They often have flight control surfaces that can be posed as well as landing gear with the same option, to name only a few. But operational?

It’s freakin’ stupid and complicates the model needlessly.

And since I’ve mentioned the torsion bars…

No matter how much I tried, I was not able to get all ten torsion bars mounted identically. They must be mounted identically because there’s a little square extension on the end of each torsion bar that the suspension arm mounts to. If they aren’t all exactly aligned, then the suspension arms that attach to them won’t be exactly aligned. If the suspension arms aren’t exactly aligned then the road wheels won’t be at the same height relative to a flat surface, which is what I want this thing to sit on. Sure…were I doing a diorama where the tank is sitting on an uneven surface, then having the ability to pose the road wheels at different heights would be of benefit. But does each suspension arm require an entire torsion bar? [REALLY FOUL LANGUAGE DELETED] A simple mounting stub would be sufficient and a lot stronger. Since that’s now how this kit was engineered, I took advantage of the flexibility of plastic by dry-fitting the suspension arm over the protruding mounting stub. I cranked the arm past the position I wanted to fix it at, used the shock absorbers to determine how far each suspension arm had to hang…and then glued the arm in position. It took some doing to get all five suspension arms per side to hang at the same angle so that all of them touched a flat surface equally. It took some more doing to get each suspension arm to be laterally identical so that when the road wheels are attached, they are all the same distance from the hull and will therefore sit in the tracks along the same line.

It’s freakin’ stupid and complicates the model needlessly.

Small parts, and there are many of them, are a stone bitch to clean up. They’re often tiny and don’t offer much in the way of grip. Ghastly.

2011, when this model was copyrighted, is well within the 21st Century. CAD/CAM is widely used. Dies aren’t being cut by hand anymore, computers attend to that. As a result, fit tolerances are much tighter than they were before the advent of CAD/CAM…or they certainly should be. That is not always the situation with this kit.

The upper hull parts, which are comprised of seven parts (of course…isn’t every armor kit engineered like that?), don’t fit the lower hull very well. Either the seven parts are too wide, or the lower hull is too narrow at the top. 1/16th of an inch is too large an error for a kit produced by CAD/CAM, I don’t care what the scale is…and that’s how far off the upper hull parts, plural, PARTS, were off. I checked to see if perhaps the box the parts were packed in was too crowded, resulting in pressure deforming the lower hull. No. Not at all. That means the lower hull was built too narrow. (I managed to reduce, not eliminate, the size disparity by submerging the lower hull in hot water while the upper hull’s front part was taped to the lower hull to spread it. The rear parts required very careful sanding for them to fit, particularly as the end of the lower hull was approached; there was no easy way to spread the end of the hull whether it was the front or the rear of the lower hull.)

The front of the upper hull was mostly one piece assuming one doesn’t count the transmission cover plate at the front because it’s separate. The one piece upper hull ended just after the turret ring, where six separate parts have to combine to create the upper hull aft of the turret ring. This is a nice feature if the builder is adding interior parts and/or wants to build a diorama of the tank undergoing servicing and adds an engine bay, fuel tanks, and batteries. The problem with that is that as of this writing, only one aftermarket vendor ever made a detail set to enable that. Verlinden. The same Verlinden that closed its doors and went out of business three or four years after this kit was released. If someone has the Verlinden parts to add the engines and engine bays (plus associated parts), that’s good. As of this writing, good luck finding any of these aftermarket sets. You will, however, find Bronco kits with six separate panels aft of the turret ring in every M-24 kit…

And after whining about the high parts count and how complicated Bronco has made just about the simplest tasks, there is one place they could have engaged in their preference for complications…the M2 .50 caliber on the turret roof.

The gun as molded is quite nice. The top where the breech opens is molded as a separate part (of course) but there’s no bolt or chamber detail in the receiver, so if you want to mold this open, you’ll have to supply that yourself. The carriage the gun sits in can be built relatively easily if you look at the illustrations in the “directions” closely. (Whoever authored the instructions should have used the instructions as written. Maybe after trying that they would have rewritten them to be useful.)

PE parts. Bronco seems married to the idea that the more parts needed for a subassembly the better. The PE fret and the parts supplied takes that notion to stupid lengths. And as far as the rear basket that attaches to the rear of the hull, I would like five seconds with the idiot that engineered this part as two pieces. (The last three seconds would be spent gloating over his cooling body.)

The PE fret also includes VERY SMALL numbers for the casting numbers on the final drive cover…well, most of them. There are two sets, but one set doesn’t include the numeral 1. I managed to get one set of numbers glued on but with the second set of numbers (for the other side) I managed to launch two of those VERY SMALL numbers into oblivion. That means I’ll only have one set of casting number in place, unless I decide to tear the DAMNED THINGS off.

I do NOT like this kit at all and as such do not recommend it. It’s needlessly fussy, parts are ridiculously delicate and there are LOTS of them. Fit is lousy. Of course there are inaccuracies…it’s a kit, after all. If you absolutely MUST have an M-24 in your collection, look around. Yes…it will build into a nice looking kit if you take your time, enjoy a warm, steaming, cup of luck, and I don’t know as you’ll enjoy the process of building it. I CERTAINLY would not recommend it for any but an experienced modeler! I was SO ANNOYED AND ANGERED by engineered-in problems that the bloom was off that rose right quickly. I am SO put off by having to wrestle with problems that were engineered into the kit at the basic level that there are two things I will not be doing with Bronco kits.

1 – Show mercy

2 – Ever buy another one (or even accept one as a gift…eBay is my friend)

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #8 – Dealing With Suspension, Tracks, Adding LOTS of Small Details, Wrestling With Decals, and DONE!

I was correct; this has been an interesting month. I didn’t realize how close I was to the end of this when I started this month’s work. The finish always seems to take me by surprise (largely due to my difficulty switching from micro to macro view).

Frankly, I dreaded doing the suspension. I had started assembling road and return wheels early in the build and was impressed by Bronco’s ability to over complicate anything! The “Uh oh” alarm started going off about then because not only were things needlessly complicated, the parts were very, very, delicate. I’m all for scale fidelity, but there comes a point where practicalities have to take precedent over scale. Odd times like actually building the damned thing. (I will go into all that in the After Action Report. Preview: I’m less than complimentary.)

Yeah, so, the suspension. Finicky. Far too delicate (more on that when I get to the tracks). VERY ANNOYING to get everything in place and aligned.

I started with the drive and idler wheels. I wanted to pin the drive wheels to make getting the tracks less annoying to put on:

The came the joyous event of attaching the suspension arms and shock absorbers. There was no definitive, and aligning, points for the suspension arms to attach to. Due to variances in how I mounted the torsion bars (because who freaking needs torsion barsthey will never be seen), the rotational alignment of the arms were all over the place. I rounded off the square ends of the torsion bars where they extended from the hull because as location devices (which I mistakenly assumed they would be) they were as effective locating the arms as a screen is in holding water. I used the lines on my cutting pad to align the arms longitudinally and my Eyecrometer to align them vertically. What “helped” was the limited stroke of the shocks because Bronco molded them as two-part items (not counting the top and bottom mounting bolts which were STUPIDLY delicate):

While waiting for the glue to cure completely (because these parts are delicate enough without having to dick around with them to realign them if they get bumped/nudged out of place), I did something I wish I’d taken more photos of.

The .50 caliber on the turret roof has a travel lock. That’s a hinged arm with a clamp that will swing up and hold the 80 pound machine gun in place so that it doesn’t brain someone during travel. The kit offered the travel lock, but they set it up so that it’s not holding the gun in place, it’s down with the clamp lying on the turret. I wanted to show the gun in the locked-for-travel position. That turned out to be easier than I’d thought it would be. All I had to cut open was the clamp and then add a small piece of stretched sprue to replicate a longer bolt. I liked how Bronco did the machine gun and used it instead of going to AM parts for this. Slide molding provided a hollow cooling shroud and a muzzle bore:

Bronco did not provide the “butterfly” trigger so I made one out of heavy aluminum foil:

Having done all that, in order to keep from snapping the gun and its mount off, I sawed it off and set it aside to add later on when the amount of handling will be much less.

I’ve seen a number of builders who will assemble the tank and then paint it. I am in awe of their masking skills (I assume because I don’t know how they do it). Mine aren’t of that caliber; I have to paint before assembly. I painted the road and return wheels black first:

Then added what will be lighter areas using flat white, “masking” the rubber portion using an artist’s template:

Finally dusting OD Green over it all, using the artist’s template again:

Once I was totally convinced (and so far so good) that the cement had set up completely, I preshaded the tank using flat black, then lightly misted OD Green over the black under where the fenders will be:

Then I glued the wheels on. Six little words that took a looooong time to get everything aligned for the same reason(s) I had to work to get the suspension arms aligned. There are no positive alignment aids engineered (if I dare use that term) into the kit:

During the fitting of tracks, I broke two wheels off once and one wheel off twice. It’s nice to see that engineers that flunk out of college can still get work.

I had intended to use the metal tracks from Fruilmodel. Yeah. NO. No, no, no, no, NO. I don’t think this delicate suspension is up to supporting the weight of them, so instead I went back to the (now familiar) delicacy of the kit’s tracks. I started by painting them Humbrol Steel (using double-sided tape to hold the track runs in place). The long runs are what Bronco suggested, 72-73 shoes per side. When I fitted them to the suspension, it was more like 75-76 shoes per side. The “extra” links came from the short run of track below:

Once the paint dried, I buffed the faces of the shoes where they would contact (and thereby wear) the ground:

 

With all the contact points buffed, I painted the tracks a brown/black/red mixture (which has become my go-to mix for tracks) and used a chisel-tipped toothpick to remove the acrylic paint from the enamel of the steel paint:

I love the look of individual track shoes, I don’t like the tedium of getting them to the way I want them.

That led me to the point where there was nothing left to do but mount them onto the suspension. There was about 15mm worth of play in the tracks. What that means is that if I compressed them longitudinally, stretching them out to the extent of their play gave me 15mm, or a little over half an inch. That enabled me to get the tracks as close as possible to being almost sag-free and aligned on the sprocket wheels and road wheels before gluing the pivot points of the shoes. Having separate fenders made putting the tracks on MUCH easier than trying to snake them under sponsons, over return wheels, and aligned on the sprocket wheels:

With the tracks on, it was time to mount the fenders, mask the suspension and tracks, and paint them black:

Then it was time to start adding all the surface details. I started with my traditional two-piece antenna mount:

And then I encountered THIS little lovely. The basket on the rear of the hull. Bronco TOTALLY screwed this part up, making it a two-piece part because why would they ever do something FORNICATING GODDAMNED SIMPLE?!? It simply bit and gnawed on the short curlies and what I ended up with was better than nothing (I assume, because it’s fornicating there) but NOwhere near “good”. This part should have been produced in ONE piece so that the long edge where the body of the basket mounts to the back of the basket (or at least tries to) would be a simple damned fold, NOT A LONG PART WITH NO REAL SURFACE FOR EITHER GLUE OR SOLDER TO ADHERE TO. In the process of finishing the kit after this piece of garbage part was “attached,” I got to REattach it several times…and each time I did it looked worse and worse…all because some beef-wit couldn’t engineer the damned part correctly:

I assure you, in case you missed the subtext here (and in several other places), I am not remotely fond of how Bronco engineered this kit. I have no tolerance for amateurs that masquerade as professionals.

The remainder of the small detail parts had varying degrees of ease and annoyances, but I adjusted my medications, then waited until I was (somewhat) sober, and persevered:

There is a large fire extinguisher that mounts to the bulkhead between the crew and engines compartment. There is also an external T-handle that someone outside can use to activate it. The kit provided the shroud, but amazing me completely, missed an opportunity to make a RIDICULOUSLY small part that’s a sodding NIGHTmare to remove from a sprue and clean up…so I made one from stretched sprue:

Amazing myself completely, I did not break these delicate headlight assemblies during construction, attachment, or painting. Amazing:

With the headlights in place, it was time to do the same thing with the headlight guards:

More from dogged persistence than for any other reason, I eventually got all the small bits on and the whole thing was ready for paint (which is another way of saying, “Discovering the small things I forgot to add before painting”) (the engine cover is just placed in the closed position to serve as a mask for the engine compartment):

Right! Well, now that it’s been pre-shaded (all the tan parts were hit with flat black), it was time to add the highlights:

Time for the base color coat (so that it blended in with its new home, at this point I reattached the .50 caliber and masked it with aluminum foil):

It was about this time that the novelty of having an operational commander’s hatch wore off. It’s not a toy and it was a gimmick. A touch of glue fixed that.

I mask where necessary to get the results I want. Sometimes I don’t mask at all because the mere attempt, usually with something very small, is more hassle than the results are worth. I can adopt that attitude because I paint with acrylics and they are relatively easy to scrape off what I would otherwise have masked…like the vision blocks of the commander’s cupola. I use a toothpick that’s been sharpened to a chisel point to remove paint from unwanted locations:

The paint/decal call-out shows this for the star over the engine deck:

It’s not centered or aligned vertically. Screw that. I was going to do mine centered and not rotated off vertical.

For the decals, clear gloss goes down:

Then I applied decals. This is the star over the engine compartment. More than half of the decal is supposed to rest on top of the vent grate. One would think that whatever [DELETED] made the decals knew that it would need to be slit to replicate paint on the grill, not bridges over the grill openings. Well, I would think that…that’s not how it was done. The decal went down, Microsol went over the top of it, and I waited:

I waited a loooooong time. I waited for nothing. Even using the hottest decal solvent I have, Solvaset, and multiple applications, and waiting another loooooong time only resulted in this unacceptable outcome:

Which resulted in me doing this:

The stars on the turret’s sides weren’t any better. They refused to snug down. The grill and the turret sides got the same treatment as the engine cover above:

Then I laid down more OD Green:

Having destroyed (gladly!) the decals in the process of removing them, I resorted to dry transfers for these markings. Decals and transfers each have their own quirks. I figured the transfer for the engine deck would most likely shatter in the process of being laid down and that’s what happened:

I pressed the transfer down where it had lifted up, then used a sharp single-edge razor blade to clean up the areas over the grill, then used white paint (flat white) to retouch the areas that need to be white:

Because of the camera’s magnification, the above graphic looks much rougher than it does to the eye. It’s certainly better than the decal Bronco provided. Oddly, most of the small decals went down well. The major exception was on the left front side of the turret where there are states painted onto the turret. In the gap between “Maryland” and “New York,” there is supposed to be “Calif.” I have NO idea where it ended up. It was on the carrier film when the decal went into the water. When I applied the decal, it was missing. It’s not the first time I’ve had a decal come apart on me and normally, though a hassle, is often not insurmountable. Not this time. I’ve NO idea where “Calif” went. It was not in the water, on the paper, or anywhere I had the wit to look. Okay. Moving on…

It’s got its decals:

I rarely like kit-supplied tarps (or even resin AM tarps) and prefer to make my own. It starts with a dilute solution (suspension, actually) of white glue:

I get paper towels and toilet paper from public restrooms. Why? Because it’s cheap and has no embossed texture. I laid out a sheet of it, ironed it (y’know…with a steam iron) to get rid of unwanted wrinkles and folds, then used a scale ruler to define a 25′ x 50′ “tarp.” I folded it lengthwise in thirds, then rolled it up. I waited a few minutes for the fibers to take a relative set, then unrolled it and ran it through the diluted white glue. It gets rolled back up and I use wire to form the tarp to conform to the straps I’ll put on later. Since I want the tarp to fit over an uneven surface, I used aluminum foil as a mask to keep the glue from staining and adhering to the paint, then waited for the glue to dry (in this case, three days, which is typical):

After it had dried, I painted it OD Green and then added straps made from lead foil (from a wine bottle neck):

Then it was time to weather and wear the beast.

I discovered that if I moistened a cotton swab, NOT wetting it as that leaves stains, I can replicate areas where generic surface dust and crud are worn away by the crew using that area. It’s a subtle effect and it’s very easy to overdo. If you think one more pass will do it, it’s time to STOP right there. If you look at the texture and reflected light, you can see the darker areas delineated by the alcohol:

The effect is more subtle than the above photo would suggest. I took that shot for reflectance and ease of seeing.

I don’t use dot filtering because my color vision isn’t ideal. But I get good service from using pastels and the added benefit of ease of removal if I screw it up. I also use color pencils for bare metal wear if the area is REALLY small, and I use a regular pencil for that dark worn-surface look painted armor often has.

That blood pressure raising basket on the rear was becoming more and more abysmal as I had to reattach it over and over. To hide the absoLUTEly lousy job I did with it, I made another small tarp to drop in there to obscure as much as possible.

The paper, measured and rolled:

The paper soaked, rerolled, dried (instead of waiting three days for that, I hurried things along with the microwave and it worked perfectly), and painted:

And once in place in the basket, it goes a LONG way in hiding the rotten job I did with that basket:

The last nightmare was adding the pioneer tools. Again, Bronco over-complicated things and made the job magnitudes more annoying than it needed to be. I mean…four hours for this (and above the tools on the hull and next to them on the fender you can see how alcohol replicates the surface dirt being worn away by traffic):

I wanted to replicate a pipe being used as a prop-rod holding the engine cover open. Initially I was going to use plastic rod, paint it steel, and then dry-brush surface rust onto it. Then I saw an old paperclip sitting on the bench. It was steel, old, surface discolored from age, and the exact diameter I wanted. Clip, snip, file, fit, dry-brush red, and it’s done and glued on.

Finally the next thing was…erm…ah…sacred excrement! This thing is DONE:

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #7 – Finishing the Interior of the Turret, Gluing it Closed, and Some Hull Details

There are a couple of minor errors on top of this turret (I said “this” turret because the early kit production turrets had the welding seams incorrectly placed; later production kits, as well as some aftermarket companies, issued the correctly configured turrets). The small hole in front of the hatch openings is where the vent cap goes. Early production M-24s didn’t have the bullet splash ring around the opening so that has to go. Once it’s gone, the weld seams have to be reworked to accurately reflect what rolled off the assembly lines. The weld seams at the rear of the large round hatch opening were incorrect so I used .005″ strip styrene, half dissolved them with styrene cement, and then used a toothpick sharpened to a chisel tip to replicate weld beads:

Once I’d carved away the bullet splash ring, I added more .005″ styrene to fix the missing weld beads:

I suspect they will need more blending in but the difference in plastic color hides that from me presently. This area will get hit with primer and the weld beads adjusted accordingly.

At this point I kept trimming the sides of the engine cover so that it would settle into the space provided for it. I have no intention of modeling this cover closed, it just annoys me to know that it wouldn’t fit if I did. So 400 grit sandpaper on a flat surface with a lot of rubbing and checking removed said annoyance.

The engine cover is molded to scale in thickness as well as hinges. That means the hinges will snap off if a mosquito (the insect, not the DeHavilland) blows its landing. Several bugs landed on those hinges and they all needed to be replaced. I used thin slices of .025″ styrene rod to replace them:

Since this will be modeled in the open position, I had to add the latching tongues to the underside. I used stretched sprue for the shafts and .010″ scrap as the tongues:

There are PE screens that go over the air inlet vents. There are also VERY small parts that get added to them. It took patience but I managed to get the straps that hold the screens in place where they were supposed to be. Then I noticed that of the M-24s that still had the screens mounted, almost all of them were deformed from weighty objects being placed on them. Once I had the PE parts in place, I waited overnight for the superglue to cure more completely and then GENTLY pressed down with a fingertip to give the screens’ surfaces the bowed appearance:

There are a couple more items that get added to the screens but I’ll wait until later to lessen the chances of knocking them off.

Brain fade struck again. I removed the armored gas cap covers from the sprue, and then mistakenly removed the parts that were supposed to stay on and left the sprue attachment points instead. Of course I didn’t realize the error until it already happened, so those parts get replaced:

::rolls eyes::

There are some details in the turret that Bronco didn’t provide and they should have. The control box that sits under the turret doesn’t have a turret basket to mount to. Instead, it’s mounted on a pedestal and has an arm to attach it to the turret. The arm turns the control box with the turret as well as providing a conduit for wiring. It should be there. I started making it by approximating dimensions and cutting its profile from .060″ styrene (that’s the L-shaped part in the photo below). The turret rotates by electrically pressurized hydraulic fluid. Bronco added most of the turret’s rotation hardware but left out the hydraulic oil reservoir (those are the two rectangular pieces in the photo below). So I’m going to make them:

Scratch-building seems to intimidate modelers and I don’t think it should. Plastic is inexpensive and it’s not difficult to work. Scratch-building something just takes time and looking at pictures…lots of pictures. If one screws the thing up, it can either be fixed or tossed and the project started over. Remember, this isn’t engineering where things have to be correct. This is modeling where things just have to look correct. Keep working the part until it looks correct to your level of acceptance. When scratch-building, sometimes a person simply cannot get it 100% accurate, largely due to size (though with the dropping prices of 3D printers, I expect that’s changing even as I sit here typing…and if I were twenty years younger I’d git me one).

So I decided to scratch-build the oil reservoir, and here’s how I did it.

These are the parts that Bronco provided:

When glued into place, they give me the dimensions and space my scratch-built part has to conform to (and of course I didn’t take a photo of this area with these parts in place before I started working). Putting these parts together was a very Chinese interesting due to an almost TOTAL ABSENCE of indicators showing where things are supposed to go. (And as it turned out, that notion is something I needed to get used to because I found that lack in other places.)

I took those two pieces of rectangular plastic in the above photo and glued them solidly together because I didn’t have anything thick enough to use as is. I smeared glue liberally over one part, aligned the other one on top of the glued surface:

Then after waiting a couple of minutes for the glue to dissolve the faces, clamped them together in my vice until the squidge oozed out. The goal is to make these two pieces ONE piece:

I left this assembly in the vice overnight to insure the two bonded into one. The next day I took the bonded plastic out of the vice and started truing up the sides so that everything was square (in a rectangular sort of way) and perpendicular (in a 90 degree sort of way):

Then I used the assembled (but unphotographed so far) gunner parts to determine how tall, wide, and deep the reservoir had to be. Once I was satisfied with the dimensions, I rounded all the edges and corners as the actual reservoir has them. There are two large nuts on the upper front of the reservoir. I scraped some sprue into an octagonal shaped, stretched them slowly (ends up with a thicker result, which is what I wanted), then sliced them and glued the slices onto the front of the reservoir:

While the glue was curing, I started making part of the brackets that mount the reservoir to the motor’s mount:

There is a fill port that I replicated by using two different sized styrene rods. The smaller one made the filler tube, the larger one made the cap; I rounded the edges of the cap to match the original. Then I started adding stubs of styrene rod to replicate the fittings where hydraulic lines are attached. Once the glue cured overnight, I drilled out the stubs. Most of them were drilled for .010″ solder or wire (haven’t decided yet which to use):

 

With the fittings in place and the side of the reservoir scribed to replicate the oil level window (that will never be seen once built), the part gets mounted in place:

Because there is SUCH a small contact area for glue and the fact that the brackets are cosmetic, not structural, there is a small wedge of styrene between the reservoir and the motor mounting bracket. No, it’s not there on the actual tank. But since this will all get pre-shaded black and it’s under the gun (so to speak), nobody will ever see it.

And aside from paint, that’s a scratch-built hydraulic oil reservoir. As you can see, it’s not difficult or really very complicated. Don’t let your apprehension hold you back! (This seems to happen often when dealing with PE parts…and just because the kit supplies PE parts, doesn’t mean you have to use them. As you’ll see shortly, sometimes PE parts are just stupid; use them as templates to replace them with plastic.)

With the fluid reservoir done and in place, it’s time to add other tiny parts where the hydraulic lines and electrical conduits attach:

Speaking of PE parts, Bronco decided that the feed chute for the coaxial .30 caliber machine gun needed to be PE (parts 33 a and b). Note the penny behind the PE fret. These parts are stupid small! I just imagined how much expletive-filled fun bending the bottom of the chute to conform to those really small J-shaped sides would be:

My imagination was good enough to decide not to play Bronco’s stupid-ass game. Instead, I used these PE parts as templates (and didn’t even remove them from the fret, because you remove them and then try to trace them onto plastic) and traced them onto .005″ scrap, then glued them together:

 

MUCH EASIER!

A large part of July was spent wondering just how I was going to mount the coaxial machine gun to the place it was supposed to go. Bronco does not supply much in the way of attachment points. And though I’m all for scale sizes, there comes a point where practicality has to replace scale “purity.” The solution to the conundrum of how to get this subassembly correctly positioned (because it’s not just the gun, there’s also the ammo tray/box, link chute, and mounting plate) on such an incredibly TINY mounting point stalled me for a couple of weeks. Finally I realized the obvious. I couldn’t use just the mounting point because it really was too small. In dry-fitting the machine gun, I discovered that the cooling jacket of the barrel just fits through the mantle. Well, duh! GLUE IT THERE. This photo is of the dry-fit:

And this photo is with all the other parts added to the machine gun to see if it still fit:

Not a lot of extra room, but that’s how they built these things.

A recurring problem with this kit (and only time will tell if that’s typical of Bronco’s kits) is a lack of definitive attachment points. That problem is compounded by the knowledge that some of these vague subassemblies determine where subsequent parts can go and fit later on. (No pressure!) And Bronco seems to be totally committed to the maximum amount of individual parts to make any subassembly. Getting the gear quadrant correctly attached to the gunsight parts took more effort than it should…except that there was no clear indication as to its proper location:

All that for one relatively inconsequential part, and when it came time to add these subassemblies into the turret, I still managed to get the quadrant mounted in the wrong place. Thanks, Bronco. Next time have the engineers that decide what goes where and how build the sodding thing themselves so they have SOME DAMNED IDEA as to how to do it…and then modify things so things can be done.

With the scratch-building done at the gunner’s station, it was time to start running hydraulic lines and electrical conduits. Solder of a few different sizes were used, from .010″ to .020″, depending:

Belatedly it occurred to me to actually check to see what could even be seen. As it turned out, not everything I added would be:

It looks as if most of it will be seen, but these views are without the main gun and that blocks most of it. See the nice details I added to the front of the gunner’s controls? The only way they will ever be seen again after this is built is if the turret is taken off:

So all that was an utter waste of time. Yes…I’ve heard comments to the effect of, “Well, you will know it’s there.” Why yes I will! And I’ll know how much time I wasted putting it there. I really must stop doing that! These builds take long enough without spending time on things that will never be seen.

The L-shaped bracket that attaches the turret/gun control box to the turret so that everything rotates as a unit needed to be fitted and then detailed. I’d originally hoped that I could attach the control box to the L-bracket and then everything would turn as a unit. Uhm…no. Things are really snug in terms of space at the forward edge of the turret ring. So tight that it showed me that I had mistakenly put the driver and co-driver’s seats too far rearward. Unfortunately trying to dislodge the seats and move them would result in lots of broken resin parts and no easy way to replace them (big difference in working room once that upper hull is on, y’know?):

Checking how much I can see of the L-bracket saved me a lot of work. Not much can be seen. There is a metal panel that attaches the control box to the bracket on the actual tank. Had I added that, kiss goodbye the ability to ever remove the turret without breaking things. So I checked to see if it was visible:

Nope. Not easily seen at all. So I moved on to something that would be seen…

There are easily seen gussets around the base of the turret. I used .030″ scraps to make them and used .010″ scraps to make the shelf in front of the dry-fit radio as intercom junction boxes get mounted there:

I also glued the gunsight assembly in place (which is actually incorrectly done; the mounting bracket was molded at the wrong angle but that’s one of those things that will never be seen). And yes…there is a pad for the gunner’s forehead that Bronco decided needed to be a separate part. In this case, it’s white plastic because the kit’s part departed (no pun intended, this time) for sections of the shop that are also unseen:

There were a number of things I had to do before I started populating the turret interior with bits. I thought I’d taken care of adding them, however I have discovered a sure method of discovering what I forgot to add. Paint it. In the spirit of discovery (snark), I put down the pre-shade flat black and painted the radio and intercom junctions olive drab:

Worked like a charm! I immediately discovered I’d forgotten to add the conduit that runs from the elevation wheel to some Mysterious Place under the main gun. It’s the only thing not black in the following photo:

With the pre-shading done and the forgotten part discovered, it was time to mist the color coat on the highlighted areas and then start populating the turret ring with AM resin, run the electrical lines, and touch things up and/or paint little details. Speaking of little details, there is a first aid box on the bustle floor next to the radio (not fitted, yet). Neither the kit nor the AM set provided it, so I scratch-built it and its mounting bracket:

 

Before the radio could be fitted, the main gun and coaxial machine gun needed to go in next. The territory where the radio sits wouldn’t allow room or the necessary angle for the main gun to be added. I also discovered that, for whatever reason and also not showing at all any time I dry-fit the gun, once the gun is in place, it’s in place. And good sodding luck getting in there to glue the face of the gun to the mantle. This one is held in place with only one gluing point! Once I had the main gun (precariously) mounted, I applied chipping, wear, and dirt (Humbrol Metal Kote #27003 for anything that was exposed steel, a silver pencil for where edges of small things rubbed through, and pastels for the grunge):

Various boxes, canteens, and holders populated the interior of the upper turret as well as the gunner’s periscope. I taped over the hatch openings from within the turret to keep subsequent painting sessions from intruding into where it (they) are unwanted. With all that painted, stained, and worn, it was time to glue the turret (with the bustle box added) top to the turret bottom:

Having completed that milestone, I detailed the commander’s cupola a bit. There is a pad that goes around the inside of the cupola so that the commander doesn’t brain himself looking out of the view ports while the tank is bouncing across terrain. I used two pieces of .020″ scrap for the pad. The kit provides clear parts for periscopes, headlights/spotlight lenses, and the view ports for the commander’s cupola. That was a very nice touch and the parts fit so snugly that they make the south end of a north-bound bull in fly season seem loose:

That will get painted OD on the outside, white on the inside, with the pad painted “black” leather (the color is in quotes because it’s two parts semi-gloss black, two parts flat brown, and one part gloss white).

But I’ve been dodging this next step as long as I can. It’s time to paint and attach the suspension, road wheels, idlers, return wheels, and sprockets.

Should be a fun month…

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #6 – Small Details Find a Home and More Small Details are Produced

Now that many (but certainly not all) of the small details have been painted, it’s time to put them where they’re going to stay. The .30 caliber ammo stowage racks were mounted to the sides and the M-3 “Grease gun” and canteen were mounted to the side of the driver’s position:

The pin-up (Rita Hayworth) and canteen were mounted next to the co-driver’s position and behind it in addition to the .30 ammo stowage, the signal flag bag was slid in (barely) underneath it:

I turned my attention to the rear of the tank and discovered that the engine cover was just a bit too wide, so that will get taken care of later:

One of the prominent features in the engine compartment is the throttle linkage. The first step to making that part was to find out how long the cross-shaft that connected two carburetors to one lead foot had to be and a compass with two points did that well:

There is a linkage arm that’s attached to the cross shaft and to replicate that I used a #75 (.025″) bit and center drilled the end of .035″ rod to make the attachment base of the linkage arm:

To make the linkage arm, I used a piece of .005″ scrap and used a #65 (.035″) bit to make a curve where the arm mounts to the cross shaft:

The styrene was cut across the hole leaving a semicircular cutout to glue to the mounting base of the linkage arm:

A small section was cut off the drilled out rod and slid over the rod that will serve as the cross shaft:

Then the length of the cross shaft was transferred to the rod and the cut was made on the mark:

The arm’s base was centered and clamped in locking tweezers on a base, then the trimmed linkage arm was aligned in another locking tweezer on a base and both parts glued to the cross shaft:

While the glue was curing, I started assembling the main gun since work inside the turret is rapidly approaching. A part of me really appreciated the very fine molding of very small parts that inhabit this kit’s box. A part of me wonders why the aerial intercourse a sub-assembly that could make do with three or four component parts needs TEN OR TWELVE component parts! Really…too much of a good thing is more annoying than merely “too much.” An example of this is the main gun (though it is far from the only example in this kit). This thing is comprised of twenty-three separate pieces (it would have been twenty-four if I’d used the gimmicky recoil spring that allows the barrel to move backwards in the receiver). I neglected to take a photo of all the parts laid out; here it is with construction already started:

If having twenty-three parts to this gun wasn’t enough pleasure (spits), there are no location marks or pins. None. Sherlock Holmes, Hercuile Peroit, Travis McGee, and my mother would have been impressed by my investigative efforts to get (what I hope is) a reasonably accurate representation of the T13E1/M5 gun (the two rings cast around the barrel show this, correctly, to be the 75mm tube from the ground attack variant of the B-25 it was taken from). I was impressed that Bronco also molded in rifling in the muzzle (sorry but this was the best photo I could take of that given the light and the autofocus’ unwillingness to focus where I wanted it to focus):

Masking and painting this thing will probably drive me to drink (so I guess it’s not all bad…)

Oh. And as if there weren’t enough parts, I discovered that Bronco, in all the parts they made for this thing, actually forgot two! They forgot the breech opening lever and the bracket it stows in when not in use. So I had to make them.

The socket was made from a piece of sprue chucked into my lathe, turned to the appropriate diameter, and the edges of the nut cut (CAREFULLY) in. A scrap piece of .015″ styrene provided the handle:

I used a piece of aluminum to make the stowage bracket, and although pleased with my efforts, I realized later that where I have the bracket is too high. It should be centered on the rear of the recoil guard and later I moved it down to a less incorrect location:

After dealing with the main gun for a couple of days, the glued parts of the throttle linkage was thoroughly dried and cured, so that got installed. It had aspects of trying to give a snake an enema and several of the delicate solder “wires” were dislodged, but obviously I don’t know when to quit so the installation was accomplished:

The next serious test of patience and commitment was installing the mufflers and exhaust tips. I’m very glad I decided not to mount these parts before engine installations because had I gone ahead and mounted them, the right engine would never have fit…not even remotely. A little foresight helped a bit when I drilled out the parts that had to be mated and added pins. But to get the right (or starboard) muffler to sit where it needed to (more on that shortly), I had to grind away substantial portions of the inner bottom of the muffler and the outer side of the oil filter. The good news is even knowing that moderate surgery was necessary to get the starboard (or…well, never mind…you get it by now) muffler into position isn’t evident. It’s a tight space and the black pre-shading hides the butcher…er…surgery. But it turns out there was one more tiny little thing.

Getting the exhaust pipe to exit the upper hull where it has to is that “little thing.” If the exhaust pipe lines up along the vertical axis, it doesn’t even come close to the opening provided for it. (Part of me wonders if that’s because the engines are probably misaligned…another part of me doesn’t give an intercourse.) I rotated the muffler/pipe around the pin glued into the cross-pipe until the tip of the exhaust pipe was under the little square opening. Now (as it is in other things), I just needed a longer pipe.

It turns out that .062″ solder is the exact diameter I needed to lengthen the pipe! (Would that other lengthening were that easy, or even possible.) I drilled out the ends of the solder and resin pipes, added a wire pin, and then glued the solder to the resin:

A little paint, a little glue, and that problem was solved! (One cannot count on luck, but it’s sure nice when it shows up.)

With the “pipes” correctly aligned and installed, they needed to be cut to the appropriate length and the ends drilled out so that they look like pipes (alignment where the solder meets the resin is slightly off, but once painted with the top hull plate in position it’s unnoticeable):

I GLADLY turned my attention elsewhere! The next major step is to get the upper hull glued down to the lower hull. There were still a couple of items I needed to attend to before that could happen, the primary one being the bow machine gun. The kit parts are fairly decent and given the location of the bow machine gun, it’s not going to be easy to see the receiver. But the barrel will certainly be easy to see, so I worked those next.

My go-to for machine gun barrels has become Birchwood Casey’s Brass Black Metal Finish. The Polish company, Master, makes exquisitely turned and drilled, two-piece (separate barrel and cooling jacket), brass barrels in their Ground Master series for 1/35 scale machine guns. They’re so finely constructed that paint plugs things up. When I was building the M-3 Stuart, I ran across BC’s blackening compound and discovered that it does a BRILLIANT job of coloring the brass without adding perceptible mass to the barrels.

Use of these barrels requires that the molded on barrels be cut off, a socket be drilled for the pin on the end of the barrel, and the barrel glues on. So far, so good. However, the bow machine gun is slightly different from the co-axially mounted machine gun. There is a ball around the base of the barrel and a sleeve that connects the ball to the gun (allowing the machine gun to traverse and elevate in its mount). So, yeah…I had to drill that out, too:

Whew. Nerve wracking.

The barrels were masked (I used a tube of paper) and the receivers painted with five parts Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black (X-18) and four parts Tamiya Medium Gray (XF-20). I like this combination SO much better than any “gun metal” paint I’ve yet encountered. It has just enough sheen to look metallic and avoid the toy-like appearance “gun metal” paints strike my eye as:

Other than replacing the barrels because they’re visually evident, I didn’t do much detailing on the .30 cals because they’re not easily seen. (Of course I did some because, well, I HAVE TO!) So far in my experience, I like how Bronco does their .30s. It’s nice not having to add those tiny, sodding, triggers myself…

One last look at the innards before the upper hull goes on. Dirt and wear were added, things were chipped and worn. And in the first photo below you can see the crew’s microphones “hung” from the upper hull supports. There are NO words that can convey the ABSOLUTE FRUSTRATING TEDIUM involved in getting the solder “wires” connected to the ends of them:

I sprayed the rear upper hull flat black (Tamiya rattle can TS-6) to pre-shade all the louvers and grills:

And the major step of marrying the upper hull to the lower has happened:

Now to work on the turret…

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #5 – More Small Details

Before the upper hull can be mated to the lower, there are a fair bit of small items that have to be worked and painted:

I decided that either I overdid the preshading or I under-did the color coat on the differential/transmission assembly, so I hit that again with white after this photo was taken:

My initial intent was to have all of the upper hull panels be removable. As I tried fitting things together I came to a couple of realizations. The first was I was disappointed with how the parts fit. Good thing I don’t smoke cigars because it was a matter of close but no cigar. The second was that I thought having them removable was too much of a gimmick and that I was just begging for something to break. The more things get handled, the greater the opportunities for things to be damaged.  I taped the forward section of the upper hull into place so that I had a reference point to align things as well as they could be, then set about gluing, aligning, and using scrap stock to fill gaps. I started by filling the gaps:

Then making the engine cover fit, which if you look to the left of it you’ll see it doesn’t really:

And done:

The upper hull was set aside to let the glue cure completely:

Then it was time to see how well, or not, the engines would fit. I started that by first dry-brushing Italeri’s “Flat Rust” (#4675P) onto the exhaust manifolds and pipes, and then touched up the spark plug wires:

If you look closely at the above photo, you can (barely) see where I added pins to the exhaust parts to make aligning them easier when it comes time to put them together. I also added pins to the transfer case where each engine joins it:

I needed to finish the radiator/fan assemblies as well. Dry-fitting showed that the fans dropped too deeply into the radiator shrouds:

I made spacers from styrene scrap so that the fans would sit at the correct depth and glued them under the fan where they can’t be seen:

I used 18 gauge solid strand wire for the mounting brackets (and I dry-brushed aluminum onto the radiator faces in case it can be seen…which it cannot, of course):

With the necessary alignments done, the fans were trimmed and their edges thinned, the U-shaped hose manifolds were aligned and glued to the radiators, then they were glued in place. Once the glue had set a bit, things were painted:

Now to see if the engines fit…and no. Not quite. Either the space allotted is just a bit too narrow or my detailing took up more lateral space than existed. I couldn’t get them to sit straight:

There are raised ridges next to the cylinder heads of the engines and I realized I could probably get just enough space to get the engines in place if I removed some of them. I got lucky:

I walked away with the pressure relieved, took the next day off as reward, and came back to realize that yes…they were indeed in straight. And yes…they were indeed too far forward. I walked away for the remainder of the week.

It’s quite vexing to make a mistake like that and not know how it was made. I thought I’d checked fit and alignment along every axis involved. Clearly not and no answer to “why,” meaning at some point I could do it again. Quite vexing.

I had been making a video of this particular step; fitting, aligning, checking (giggles), and gluing. Much gluing. Enough so that as soon as I realized the error, when I tried prying the engines and transfer case free, I don’t know if it was plastic or resin that I heard creak. Regardless, that ended the notion of prying anything out of there. In the process of editing the video, I saw exactly what I did that resulted in a major Brain Fade.

I was having problems getting the transfer case to fit between the gap of the bulkhead on top and the torsion bar housing underneath. Very early on in the fitting and head scratching phase, unnoticed by Yours Truly, I reversed the transfer case. I certainly did get it to fit nicely, though, I just did it with the part backwards. Then when I added the engines to the mix, I had to put the transfer case in correctly due to the engines and pins needing to meet. That meant the transfer case wasn’t fit correctly, it was too far forward. Attach the engines to it and they were also too far forward.

The angels didn’t exactly sing, but there was much melodic giggling heard from On High when I finally realized how the mistake happened.

The first domino after that mistake was the fit of the floor inside the crew compartment. The forward end of the transfer case extends into the crew compartment and has a raised section of the floor to accommodate that. With the transfer case in its new position, it didn’t allow the floor to set down where it should. It’s not blatant, but if you look at the semi-gloss black ledge that extends from the rear of the diamond tread floor, it isn’t parallel with the openings and boxes of the bulkhead as it should be:

Not thrilling but neither unexpected nor insurmountable. The solution is to simply grind away however much of the transfer case I need to in order for the floor to settle into place. The areas removed will be never be seen again after the floor is glued in:

Once the resin in the three locations had been ground away sufficiently, the floor was glued down.

With the engines in place (permanently) I was able to install the radiators. The two lower support arms for the fans were dry-brushed black to blend in with the pre-shaded engine bay:

With the upper hull in place, not much will be directly seen. What can be seen is as correct as 90-95% allows for:

Next I had to connect the hose attachments on the radiators (the inverted U-shape at the top of the radiators) to the attachments on the coolant manifolds. Once again, solder came to my rescue. I used .062″ solder to fabricate the “hoses”:

Sometimes one must persevere. None of it happened the first time:

A quick coat of Tamiya’s Rubber Black (XF-85) and the “hoses” settle in visually:

With the floor glued in place, it was time to begin populating the crew area. Seats, pedals, control levers, seats, oil can, and fire extinguisher were glued in, not to mention the differential/transmission:

Then the list of what needs to be worked, made, and painted starts to grow. There are many things all competing for limited space inside a tank. One of the complaints about the M24 was a lack of stowage space and a small ammunition load. I needed to make racks to stow cans of .30 caliber machine gun ammo. 0.015″ sheet and 0.010″ brass sheet made the brackets, the ammo cans came from spare parts:

With the exception of the helmet that I decided to not use, here’s what has to go either inside the tank or tied to the outside grouped by the paint color(s) they get shot with:

Bronco provides figures and their gear for the kit. I’m using Bronco’s M3 “grease gun” submachine gun (for the driver) and Tamiya’s M1A1 Thompson (stashed in the turret) and M1 carbine (for the co-driver) (and couldn’t the Army call their hardware something other than M1?!).

The M3’s barrel and sliding stock were plastic and definitely out-of-scale. Instead I used a hypodermic needle for the barrel and 24 gauge wire for the stock (Tamiya’s small arms were fine to use as-is):

One of the things I wanted to do was to fill the hollow backs for the rucks and pouches. I used Apoxie Sculpt as filler:

I let the putty cure overnight before refining its shape and making it look like the rest of the item. The small parts were glued (small dab of superglue) to bamboo skewers and the base colors were put down. Tamiya Olive Drab (XF-62) for ammo cans and the spare .50 caliber barrel bag, and Tamiya Khaki (XF-49) for cloth items:

After sitting overnight, I hit them with Tamiya Clear Gloss (X-22) and let them sit overnight again. I used Testor’s Gloss Black for a wash and hit all items before the last coat of Tamiya Flat Clear (XF-86) finished it:

Generic dirt/grime/wear will be added with pastels.

The small arms were painted with five parts Tamiya Semi Gloss Black (X-18) and four parts Tamiya Medium Gray (XF-20) where metal would be exposed (The M3, not having wood parts, is all that color). The wood parts were painted with Heller Natural Wood (sorry, no part number). Heller Natural Wood does NOT mix well using denatured alcohol as a thinner…unless you want something that looks like wood-colored cottage cheese. The sling for the carbine is lead foil painted with Tamiya Khaki (XF-49):

There are (and will be in the model) brackets to hold the crew’s small arms. As they were probably issued M3s, the co-driver having an M1 means it won’t fit in the M3 brackets. Were I sitting in the right seat, I’d want my piece close to hand (in this case, leaning to the left of the seat):

From here, what drives the build is what I have to do next to be able to put the upper hull on permanently. And speaking of that…here comes the next domino.

With the engines sitting too far forward because of the transfer case error, that means the radiators should be sitting too far forward also; the location of the engines dictates the placement of the radiators. It was with no small sense of trepidation that I put the upper hull in place. There is a raised area over where the radiators should be and I wasn’t sure how badly the misalignment of the radiators would be.

There wasn’t any misalignment of the radiators! What I lack in quickness I like to think I make up for with thoroughness (but then, we all have our illusions). I made sure the upper hull was where it has to be. I checked quite closely to see where the raised area lined up. I even walked away for a couple of days before checking it again with fresher eyes.

Nope. No misalignment. Falls WELL within the 90-95%.

That leaves me with the conclusion that where I had intended to put the engines was inaccurate. Serendipity saved me much vexation by having my “mistake” counter my MISTAKE.

Just about the time I’m arrogant enough to suspect I know what I’m doing, something like this happens. So no…I’m not being humble when someone tells me how good I am at this and I demure. I’m not humble.

I’m experienced.

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #4 – Small Details…Many, and a Useful Track Trick.

Sometimes I build myself into an impasse. “Well, gee…how the aerial intercourse am I going to do that?!” Most times, rather than sit here and rock back and forth (at my age, that time is quickly approaching anyway…why rush the matter?), I’ll hare off and do other things. Unless I’m right at the end of the build when the Ohgawdammit moment shows up (y’know, like after having painted something that took me a couple of years to build and then having the decals flip me off), there’s generally many other things I can do while I figure out what to do about the Ohgawdammit moment.

That’s what this post is…my rocking back and forth substitute(s).

Dry-fitting showed me that the transmission/differential was too narrow. To fix that I determined what the measurements were (about .060″ per side), punched out a couple of discs from scrap, and then glued them in place:

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One of the things I noticed about Bronco’s individual track links is that they’re very refined and detailed. Maybe they’re a bit too refined (unlike myself) and detailed; I broke a few while assembling two 74-piece tracks. A crazy friend from England suggested Fruilmodel’s metal tracks. If you go this route, don’t buy them directly from Fruilmodel. They’re expensive. But you can find them quite reasonably priced on eBay, which is where I got these:

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If you go this route, check the track shoes carefully. Sometimes they’re “handed”; one set goes on one side, the other on, well, the other. The M24 tracks aren’t handed, but now you know. They’re also not as difficult to assemble as I’d heard. I used my Panavise as the assembly jig and did them in sections of five and then joined the sections:

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The person who suggested these to me (THANK you, Al!) also informed me of a very handy item, track burnishing liquid. I ordered some and stayed relatively busy awaiting its arrival.

Sometimes in spite of all attempts to keep it from happening, bubbles end up in a cast resin part. I had been considering just recasting them. But I’m a parsimonious git. The minimum quantity of resin that I can mix is an ounce. Doesn’t sound like a large quantity until I only need to recast a few small parts. That annoys my parsimonious side. When I discovered a few small parts that had bubbles that were too large to ignore, this time I tried something I learned on a previous build (Gemini Capsule); plug the hole with plastic.

The bubble in the separate part is easy to see. If you look closely at the part still on the pouring block, you can see a light spot in the shadow. That’s the other bubble:

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It’s easier to fit a plug into a square hole than a randomly curved one. So the first step is to open up the bubble hole and square the socket. The second step is to fill that opened and squared gap with plastic and a generous amount of super glue:

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Superglue hardens the longer it sits. So that I don’t have HARD superglue and soft plastic and resin bordering it and run the risk of the superglue holding up to sandpaper better than plastic or resin does, once the superglue is hard enough to work (gave them about an hour), I start trimming the plugs until they’re flush:

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Since the parts weren’t usable as they were, I had nothing to lose by trying to fix them…and I didn’t waste a large amount of resin to fix a small problem. I did the same to the binocular case:

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With the parts plugged, it was time to put some of them in place. The first parts I plugged are supports for the upper hull where the turret sits. I taped the upper hull in placed and then diddled mightily until the supports fit where they (relatively) go. I used denatured alcohol to strip away the paint I’d added prematurely and glued all four of them to just the lower hull:

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With the transmission/differential adjusted for fit, I added the other parts that go with it. Experience has shown me that really small parts are easier to align and stay glued better when they’re pinned. The two holes on the trans/diff will match 24awg copper wire pins:

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And now it’s ready for paint:

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The two seats in the front of US WWII tanks, for the driver and co-driver (aka bow gunner, loader, ammo mule) adjust. They’d raise upward so the crew members could ride with their heads out (of the hatch…where else they may keep their heads isn’t mine to fix) or drop quickly down into the hull and under cover (as much as “cover” can be used describing something as obvious as a sodding tank). I’d never modeled a seat in the up position, and I’ve not noticed that anyone else had. When one can cast one’s own parts (parsimonious or not), a certain ballseyness shows up. “Well, let’s try this. If I totally bitch it up, I’ll just pour another one.” (And then whine about having to waste resin.)

The first step required me to cut apart the adjustment arms of one of the seats (which I’ll probably use in the driver’s position). Once cut apart, I QUICKLY realized that with only two hands, there was no way I’d be able to hold these small and difficult to grasp parts AND assemble them. I drilled out the arms and their mounts to the seat (the white plastic) and added pins to the base: