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FT-17 (Meng) Build #2 – PE Parts Arrive and Time is Consumed With Small Parts

After much waiting for the PE parts to arrive, they finally did. Some of the PE replaces kit parts (actually, all of the PE replaces kit parts, I’m just not going to use all of it to replace kit parts) and there is about 16 ¾” (42.54cm) of chain that was supplied with the PE frets. (I’m not exactly certain where it goes but it’ll go someplace interesting.) What it enabled me to do was to have the dimension that I needed to turn acrylic rod on the lathe to (what I hope is) the proper dimension for a mine:

The rack will hold a dozen mines. rather than waste acrylic rod and frustrate myself to incontinence (always a possibility) trying to machine a dozen identical parts, I decided to make a mold…well…twelve molds, and cast the mines using resin. (Though I have a lathe, I’m not a machinist. Perhaps a real machinist could crank out a dozen of these things…that ability is beyond my skill set. Making one acceptable part and then pulling molds from it is within my skill set.) The mines are small. In order to make molds, I will need a master first. I started with .25″ (6.35mm) acrylic rod and turned the master until it would just fit inside the openings of the mine rack:

Using silicone molding rubber to make a dozen SMALL molds would be very time consuming as well as a waste of a relatively expensive material. However, I do have this stuff:

It’s a solid at room temperature (assuming one doesn’t have their room on Venus), but if heated in a microwave, becomes liquid at about the viscosity of honey. Not as time consuming OR expensive a process, I just had to do it a dozen times. I mounted the master inside the lid of an empty paint jar, heated the mold making stuff, and poured it into the cap and covered the master. I went through the process a dozen times. (Just be VERY CAREFUL to not overheat the molding material…the plastic cup it comes in can and will melt.) (Don’t ask.):

Once I had twelve molds, the resin was mixed, molds filled, and the whole messy assemblage placed into my pressure pot for six hours.

Evidently the resin was a bit too old. Yes…it worked as I’d intended. But instead of curing in six hours, I needed to let it sit overnight. It still hadn’t cured totally but it had gone far enough down that path to demold the parts without deforming them. Letting them sit overnight again resulted in them being properly hardened. One of the mines was unusable (don’t know what happened…if I did it’s possible it wouldn’t have happened), three others had LARGE bubbles in the resin. I used cut off pour stubs from other mines to fill the bubbles after I’d opened the bubbles up and squared them off:

Having eleven mines to use, I cut the PE mine rack from its fret and folded it. To make assembling the mine rack and mines to the inner hull easier, I used a section of scrap 0.010” (.254mm) styrene to make a backing plate for the rack, then I used more 0.010” (.254mm) styrene and punched out discs to glue to the back of the resin mines. The backing plate will be glued to the mine rack and with the styrene discs glued to the back of the mines, I can use styrene cement to glue the mines into the racks, allowing me time to be certain things are properly aligned:

Of course, painting all that will be interesting.

With the mine problems solved, I needed to assemble the ammunition rack. Here’s where things got a bit odd. If I’d assembled the ammo rack as the PE manufacturer suggested, I can’t see how it would function as an ammo rack. As directed, there wasn’t enough room between the shelves to load/unload the ammo as the rounds would be too long. Instead I only used two of the three (or four…the illustration cannot be correct!) rack shelves:

Each rack shelf would hold 26 rounds. I want to model this tank as if it’s just come back to friendly lines after being Out There, so I made 17 rounds, leaving empty spaces for rounds that had been “shot”. I used .035” (.89mm) styrene rod as the rounds. I used the assembled (such as it was) rack to determine how long the rounds had to be, then used 220 grit sandpaper to taper the tips of the rounds to replicate the projectiles:

Once all 17 were done, I stuck them flat side down onto double sided tape and painted them using Tamiya XF-6 Copper (six parts) and XF-2 Flat White (one part). Once the paint dried, I mixed Tamiya XF-25 Light Sea Gray (three parts) and Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black (one part) and painted the projectile section of the rounds (after the paint cured, I popped the shells off the tape and touched up the bases):

Painting the insides of the two racks and the items racked is going to be even more interesting.

The PE parts offered nice alternatives frequently to the plastic parts of the kit (which is their function, yes?) and are sometimes better than the PE parts that came with the kit (sometimes, not always). On the outer sides of the suspension frames there are oval Renault logos. The AM PE parts replace the molded-on details with something finer, so I carved off the molded details and replaced them with the PE details. I also added the strengthening plates to the lower front corners of the suspension frames (these PE parts were provided by the kit):

The AM PE set provided grab handles for the mines. Those were folded and glued into place:

This little brass bit of origami will end up being the support linkage for the driver’s upper hatch. I had such fun getting it together (and then STAY together) that I’m not going to trim any of the hinge pins until the last POSSIBLE second:

The AM PE offered better interior bits than had been molded on, so I carved away the molded on bits and replaced them with PE. I also glued the backing plate of the mine rack into position (that’s the large white part). Thinking about using plastic glued to PE parts away from and off the model to ease installation later on appeals to me. I’ll be using scrap styrene glued to the back of the PE ammo rack and then using styrene cement to attach the rack to the inner hull side. This gives me more time to position parts before the adhesive sets up:

The AM PE set also offered a PE replacement for the unditching skid that mounts on the rear. I briefly considered using those PE parts but I liked the kit’s parts better so I assembled them:

My next challenge will be to figure out how (or even if) to preshade the interior paint and with the mines and ammunition painted prior to installation. I’m thinking that I’ll paint the interior parts (and yes…there are more of them to come) before I assemble the hull.

FT-17 (Meng) Build #1 – Parts Layout, Assembling Tracks, and Marking Time Awaiting Parts

Once upon a not-so-long-ago time, I had a notion to do a model of each tank that the US Army deployed. (I may still have that notion…check back and see if I live long enough.) (At 70, that’s a factor.) The first tank deployed was the Renault FT-17, not the M2 or M3 Light Tanks or Combat Cars.

Meng makes two kits of the FT-17 in 1/35 scale. #TS-M008 (has an engine for the engine compartment) and #TS-011 (no engine). Since I didn’t want to model it with the engine compartment open, I’m building the TS-011 kit.

Here’s what the kit offers:

Since this has individual track links, I started by assembling them. I was going to do that with my new traditional method, assemble track links while having my tea and waiting for my brain to start functioning. They were so easy to assemble that rather than do ten a day, the second day I just finished them all; the instructions state there’s only 32 links per side. They were cleanly molded with only a few instances of flash. There is a nipple in the center of each link that needed to be sanded flat and a circular depression around the nipple that needed to be filled (the white dots you’ll see in the photo):

If I have a choice, I prefer to start with the most annoying and/or difficult tasks first while my enthusiasm for a given project is at its greatest. In this case, perusal of the instructions indicated that the suspension was going to be that job this time. LOTS of little wheels and other metal bits:

Painting them is going to be so interesting.

When Meng decided to release a FT-17 kit without its engine, evidently they didn’t include the frets that had the engine parts. Logical. Unfortunately, it seems as if in so doing, Meng didn’t provide significant interior details, either. There’s no bulkhead between the crew compartment and the engine compartment. There are no ammunition racks on one side of the commander/gunner position. There are also no (what appear to me to be) mine racks on the other side.

I actually considered buying another kit, the TS-008 kit with engine and missing interior parts. While thrashing about on the ‘Net, I found a firm in Australia that makes a PE update set that happens to include the ammunition and mine racks. Of course, there’s no mines OR ammunition included with the set. I’m guessing that I’ll have more than a few days to decide if I want to add the ammo and mines, and if so, just how the intercourse I’m going to. But in the meantime, I decided to make the bulkhead. That started with taping the sides of the hull and floor together so that I can fit .020″ (.508mm) styrene to make the basic bulkhead:

There is a protrusion on the bulkhead with details. One of the details is the crank used to start the engine. The other detail I have no idea what it is and I haven’t found any reference photos that will tell me (my suspicion is that it’s part of the transmission), but since it’s there and visible, I make the attempt to include it. First, let’s start with the bulge itself. After laying out the design on the .020″ (.508mm) that will become the bulkhead, I used .080″ (2.032mm) and .040″ (1.016mm) scrap styrene and bonded them together:

After spending the night clamped into a vise, I squared all the sides and then transferred the measurements on the bulkhead to the laminated plastic and started cutting (double-sided tape applied to a welding mask shield enable me to cut just the plastic and not my precious, if scarred, fingertips):

The starting crank was made from various scrap bits of styrene (because who throws anything out?!) and then drilled the depression for the Mystery Part using a 3/16″ (4.76mm) bit, then checked it all for fit and alignment:

My first attempt to make the Mystery Part was to use 3/16″ (4.76mm) styrene tube, fill it with Apoxie Sculpt epoxy putty, and then I would turn the end down on the lathe once the putty cured (an overnight process):

Almost a nice idea but the putty didn’t adhere to the inside of the styrene tube. The next attempt used clear acrylic rod in the lathe and that worked well enough:

Test fitting it does what I wanted it to do (and here’s hoping what I wanted it to do was correct) so I superglued it into place:

Dry-fitting again showed me that it’s what I wanted (with the same caveat as before):

Since I’m waiting for parts to come from Australia, and I don’t expect them to arrive quickly, I started working on other things. That started with the gun assembly, assembling parts and adding putty where needed:

While the putty cured, I started assembling the turret:

There were some small gaps between the panels that were puttied, then I test fit the top and realized that I’ll be adding more putty when that gets added later after painting the interior:

I wanted to assemble the muffler next. Before I did that, I decided to thin the exhaust tip to something a little more scale:

I assembled most of the upper hull. The open slot in front of the rectangular part sticking up wasn’t assembled because another part that goes there is supplied on the PE fret that’s coming from the other side of the planet. I want to see which one looks better before committing to it:

This is where liking something sort of slopped over onto something it should not have. I liked how the exhaust tip turned out so much that I decided that I would treat the bore of the cannon the same…without checking references before I did so:

Sure…it looks good. But once I finally checked references, that good look is also wrong. It’s a thick-barreled cannon. ::sighs:: Okay, so I filled it with styrene rod:

Then I drilled the bore back to where I should have left it. Well, almost, anyway. Sodding thing was off center. Filled the hole, glued more rod, and it was off center in the other direction. Of course the THIRD attempt was off in another direction and the small, frail, piece of plastic that should have been left alone to begin with told me that it was no longer interested in playing my stupid game. Fine. So I cut it off and made a new one on the lathe from acrylic rod:

At this point the gun barrel looks better than it has since before I “improved” it:

Belaboring the point, the FT-17 was a very small tank. It was so small that to traverse the turret, there were two leather handles the commander/gunner grabbed and then he pushed with his feet to rotate the turret. Instead of fins, there should be leather straps instead. I carved away what had been molded on and replaced both of them (one on each side of the turret) with lead foil (it’s the yellow part left of upper center in the photo):

I added the “mushroom cap” hatch to the turret top and removed molded-on location marks on the inside faces of the turret’s doors to add more lead foil “straps” later:

I mixed a batch of my home-brewed “gunmetal” paint (5 parts Tamiya X-18 Semi Gloss Black and 4 parts Tamiya XF-20 Medium Gray) and painted the gun and all the suspension wheels:

It’s likely I’ll probably diddle around some more while I’m waiting for the PE parts to arrive, but essentially, the build is on hold until they arrive.



Renault FT-17 – A Brief Overview

When I used to hear, “WWI tanks,” I would think of the British rhomboid-shaped tanks. They were, to my way of thinking, fairly task specific. After the outbreak of hostilities, in short order both sides had dug into trenches that stretched for ridiculous distances. Between the two trench lines was “no man’s land,” an area of shell holes, barbed wire, and little cover. People would go over the side (up the trench walls and onto no man’s land) and charge the other trenches. Barbed wire restricted access, forcing attacking forces into choke points where machine guns would pile bodies high. When the attackers had enough, they’d make for their own lines. Less came back than went out…and this went on for years.

The Brits came up with a solution. They developed a mobile armored strong point that could lead attacking troops across no man’s land, offer some cover during the crossing, and then straddle the trenches and open fire. If you look at the placement of the armaments on the British tanks, that explains their placement:

British Mk I

They were large and since they were intended to support infantry, they didn’t move faster than a walking pace. They were also complicated for the time and as new technology frequently is, they were also mechanically unreliable. The Brits’ code name for the new project was “tank,” implying that it was a water storage device.

The French had a different idea (what a surprise). Designed in 1917 and the project overseen by Louis Renault, their machine was much smaller and from what I can tell, much more mechanically reliable. What was also interesting about the FT-17 is that it seems to have become the first tank with the layout that has come to be almost universally adopted (Israeli armor excepted). The engine was in the back, the crew (driver and commander/loader/gunner; there were only two) in the front, and the armament in a fully traversing turret. The armament during WWI was either a Hotchkiss machine gun or a small 37mm cannon.


As you can see, it wasn’t a very large machine.

During WWI, the US Army was ill prepared or equipped for the European war. As with the aircraft the American Expeditionary Forces used, its armor was also equipped from external sources. The US built a licensed version of Renault’s tank, being slightly larger and a little modified version of the FT-17 and named it the M1917. As far as I can ascertain, no M1917s saw combat. The AEF used the FT-17 with the riveted turret and was armed with the 37mm cannon.

During the 1920s, M1917s were deployed with the Marines in China and, oddly enough, some FT-17s were used by the French in the opening months of WWII, even though obsolete. The Germans used captured FT-17s for basic sentry duties and the cast version of the FT-17 turrets were also used on fixed fortifications.

P-38F (Tamiya) after-action report

P-38F-5-LO Lightning Serial Number 42-12652 Nose 33 (White 33)

Total time building 117.25 hours (that’s about 4.89 24 hour days, 2.93 work weeks).

Begin date November 27, 2020, end date February 15, 2021.



P-38F/G Kit #61120 1/48 scale


P-38 Lighting Seats #48223

P-38 Lighting Wheels (Block Tread) #48219


P-38 Early Lighting Armament #48114

EZ Line

Fine black

My Opinion

This kit is so good that I can see at some point I’m going to end up hating it. It’s so well engineered that other kits are definitely going to suffer in comparison. I’m not talking about 20–50-year-old kits, I’m talking about other modern kits that also (at least theoretically) enjoy what’s possible with CAD/CAM. Tamiya’s engineers have raised the bar with fit and the speed and ease with which a nicely done model can go from box to cat-magnet.

It’s still a commercial kit, however. One place that needs fixing if you want a shot at winning your class at a contest is the propeller and engine controls. They’re inaccurate and out-of-scale. They’re also a bitch to fix. The pilot’s seat is merely adequate without a harness and all that Tamiya’s provided for the harness is a decal. Not acceptable, which is why I used Ultracast’s P-38 seat (harness is molded with it).

If you want to model an early P-38F, you might want to consider using Ultracast’s wheels/tires with the rectangular-block tread; diamond treads, as provided with the kit, were used later.

There are air intakes inside the main landing gear bays that I’ve not seen any references showing. I modified mine by removing what’s probably the air filter assembly. Speaking of air intakes, the intercooler vents near the upper wing tips are incorrectly molded rectangular. One side (towards the leading edge of the wing tip) should be rounded.

There is a prominent antenna mast under the nose where earlier variants of the Lightning had their pitot tubes mounted. The F/G models should have the mast there as the pitot tube is under the wing, so you’ll need to make one.

Due to the kit’s engineering, adding engines and/or the gun bay will NOT be easy.

And there it is. This kit only (all terms being relative…I’m not a fast builder) took 177.25 hours. Filler was needed in a couple of minuscule areas and that was it. It’s not that I skimped on detail this time, it’s that this is what can happen when the builder isn’t fighting fit problems. It was such a pleasure to build that I’m sorry it’s done. HEARTILY RECOMMENDED!

P-38F (Tamiya) 1/48 Scale

P-38F (Tamiya) Build #3 – Painting, Decals, Final Assembly, and Done

With most of the assembly done, the painting starts (generally) with light colored paint first and working darker. The underside was painted with Tamiya XF-25 Light Sea Grey and 25% Tamiya XF-2 Flat White for scale color correction. The top was done with Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab, also with 25% Tamiya XF-2 Flat White for scale color correction. The main landing gear doors were just dry-fit in place so that I could mask the landing gear bays:

This particular aircraft, “White 33,” on December 31, 1942 collided with a Ki-43 Oscar which damaged the right wing tip (tore it mostly off) and right aileron. Here’s where imagination kicks in… White 33 was stationed at the 14 Mile Drome located at Papua, New Guinea. That’s a really long supply chain from Lockheed’s plant in California to get spare parts, things like wing tips and ailerons. However, being at war, some aircraft, though they made it back to base, had been damaged enough where they ended up being worth more as parts (White 33’s ultimate wartime fate). So my imagination decided to model this aircraft after repairs were done using parts salvaged from the boneyard. To indicate that, the right wingtip and aileron are painted slightly different shades than the rest of the aircraft.

My first attempt was just wrong:


Glaringly wrong. My second attempt was a little less obvious (the splotches are where clear gloss and decals were done):

The locations for decals were all hit with Tamiya’s X-22 Clear (gloss), all 139 places. Just the application of decals took 16.5 hours over four days (small decals, diddling them into position). The decals I was most concerned with screwing up were the shark’s teeth decals. Each set of teeth were two parts, plus the eyes, plus the brow. The surfaces that the eye decals had to conform to were a more severe curve and the process of getting MicroSol decal solvent to get them to conform to the surface caused them to tear and wrinkle (and one of the lower sets of teeth also wrinkled, as evident in the upper photo below):

Once the decal solvent had completely evaporated and the ink of the decal was firm, the wrinkles were (mostly) dealt with using 2000 grit sandpaper to lightly sand most of the wrinkles out. Where the decals tore, an application of Tamiya XF-2 Flat White fixed those. And decals, decals, decals:

And then I screwed up. For whatever reason, the clear flat I’d been using started blowing chunks. Since the result wasn’t useful at all, I tried using a cotton swab lightly moistened with denatured alcohol, to remove them. You can see how well that didn’t work:

Since I had the denatured alcohol handy…:

Which leads to repainting things:

And finally, they were all on:

Even fresh off the assembly line, these things didn’t look that clean and the finish wasn’t that uniform. Time to add wear and staining. All of where the OD has worn away to show aluminum underneath it was done with a silver pencil (turns out the undercoat of aluminum was a waste of time and paint).

I added the antenna wires to the vertical stabilizers and ran them forward to the canopy, then added .015″ (.381mm) solder for the brake lines on the main landing gear. One section of the brake lines was painted Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black to replicate the rubber section of the brake line. Then the landing gear and gear doors were added as well as the extended boarding ladder, and just like that, it was done:


P-38F (Tamiya) Build #2 – Painting Parts and Preparing to Paint

With the major bits glued together, I turned my attention to the smaller bits that need paint. Before I could attend to that, I realized that the turbos don’t have the butterfly valve that control how much boost the turbos provide. Open the valve and exhaust gasses simply exit. The more that valve is closed, the more exhaust gasses are routed through the turbine housing, spinning it faster, and providing more boost thereby. Tamiya didn’t mold in or provide those butterfly valves so I used my punch/die set and .005″ (.127mm) styrene scrap to make them. A small section of stretched sprue provided the shaft of the valves and then they were glued into place:

To paint the propellers, I started with a 1/1 mix of Tamiya’s XF-3 Flat Yellow and XF-60 Dark Yellow because the flat yellow alone was too bright to my eye. Then I masked off the tips and used Tamiya’s rattle-can TS-6 Matte Black because it’s more of a satin finish than a flat finish and that looks to my eye more like what the actual props looked like:

The gunsight was painted and then I tried to glue it to the inside of the windscreen and here’s where things took an unfortunate (or, more accurately, a distracted) turn. I’ve gotten pretty good at getting a very small amount of styrene cement on the applicator brush…if I’m paying attention. Somewhere between dipping the brush into the glue and wiping most of it off on the neck of the bottle I was distracted. My brain, however, lovely little lump of jelly that that thing is, told me once I’d turned my attention back to the task at hand…wiping most of the glue off…that I’d already done that. At the instant the brush touched the parts I could see that I had not wiped most of the glue off and it flowed onto the clear part:

I was indescribably thrilled. (Sarcasm. One of the many services I offer.)

Could I fix that? Yeah…probably. But I was so upset at ANOTHER case of brain fade that I got emotional. Emotions are wonderful things when a person needs to feel something, they are not wonderful things when a person needs to solve a problem. Being emotional, I didn’t really solve the problem. Instead, I went online and purchased another kit. This time it was Tamiya’s P-38H kit. No, that’s not the F/G kit I’m building. But it was much less expensive than the F/G kits available and the windscreen of the H variant was identical to the F/G windscreen. About a week later the kit arrived.

I should have realized when it arrived in a white box without the full-box graphics production kits come in that Something was different. I cut the wrapping, opened the box, and realized that this kit was a limited run kit (complete with the card from the CEO). Well, intercourse and excrement. I didn’t want a limited run kit! I wanted a spare parts kit. Now I felt (that whole emotion thing, y’know) lousy that I’d taken a limited run kit and ruined it for some collector somewhere by opening the box. So, rather than trash an entire kit for just one part, I decided (rational mind, this time) that what I should have done from the outset was to pop the gunsight off the windscreen and sand/polish the glue over-spill away. So I bloody did:

[Sidebar, obviously: Now that I’ve successfully fixed the glue spill, I have an entire P-38H kit in the stash. The H model was a stopgap model between the G and J models and wasn’t produced in very large numbers. It looks like a G model but inside it’s more of a J model, including the uprated engines. However, the uprated engines couldn’t use the additional power because the old style intercoolers inside the wings’ leading edges couldn’t keep up with the additional heat and had a disconcerting tendency to explode when taxed too far. That meant that the pilots had to be CAREFUL not to over-boost the engines if they didn’t want to swim or walk back to base. So all of that means that I’m not especially interested in building a P-38H at this time.]

With the windscreen repaired, I masked off the canopy parts and set them aside for a bit:

With the paint now dry on the props, the faces of the blades were clear coated and the decals applied. I used Walther’s Solvaset to get the text near the hubs to wrap snugly around the props, then came back the next day to shoot the blades with Tamiya’s Semi-Gloss clear to maintain the satin finish I wanted:

While the semi-gloss was setting, I used the mix that Tamiya suggested on the spinners of five parts Tamiya XF-14 Sky Blue with one part Tamiya XF-1 Flat white. When the paint dried, I assembled the spinners and props, then used a silver pencil to replicate chipping of the spinner parts:

Back at the beginning of this build, I’d cut off the kit’s propeller control levers because they were not only out of scale but were also incorrect. That meant I had to come up with something in scale and less incorrect. Unsurprisingly, nothing that I tried to correct those two deficiencies pleased me very much (or at all). Once again, while looking for something completely unrelated to modeling (and my present problem of just how to make in-scale propeller controls), I encountered glass beads on a crafting website. I mean BLOODY SMALL glass beads…so I ordered the minimum amount I could (or, in other words, a METRIC BUTT-LOAD of ’em). And, boys and girls, these things are really small. As it turns out, they’re also of varied sizes, which meant I picked through them to get the ones that were sized correctly:

For the levers I used the aluminum from a disposable baking pan. To have enough surface area to glue the beads onto, I put about a forty-five degree bend on one end, then dipped that bend into a small puddle of superglue, then touched the bent part to the beads:

I was pleasantly surprised at how smoothly that went, so I figured getting seven levers into the cockpit would be equally smooth. If your idea of “equally smooth” encompasses FIVE HOURS OF TEDIUM trying to get these things into position then it was indeed, equally smooth.

But now that they were in place, I could glue the canopy parts that could be glued at this point into place(s). As the P-38s left the factory, they had a glare shield installed. It was canvas and came back just short of the yoke, which made it difficult to see the gauges without having to jack the head around to see underneath the shield. In the field, these canvas shields were removed, so I didn’t add the part that replicated that canvas shield:

Now that the control levers are in place, I could glue the front and rear sections of the canopy in place:

With those in place, I dry-fitted the canopy sections I’ll be using to see how they fit (wonderfully):

Then I took the canopy section I won’t be using, masked it off in case I want to use it for something else later on, and used white glue to hold it in place to mask the cockpit:

Since the parts are clear, and the inside of them were painted cockpit green, in order for that green to be visible, the canopy parts were painted cockpit green (the wire sticking out of the top of the rear canopy section is where the antenna mount goes and that wire is there to keep paint out so that it’s one less thing I have to clean later):

With that section out of the way, it was time to turn my attention to the wheel/tire assemblies. As with the pilot’s seat, the parts are from UltraCast and they’re excellent; zero bubbles and the tire stems. The bottoms are slightly flattened and painting was straight forward. I used Tamiya XF-57 Buff on the tread face to replicate mud/dirt stuck deep in the treads. Then I used Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black for the tires (though to my eye, Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black is also pretty close) and Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum on the wheels. I finished off the tires with a misted-on pass of Tamiya XF-1 Flat White over the tread face to replicate wear:

Once the tires were painted and mostly cured, it was time to mount them onto the landing gear struts. Since the tires are flat on the bottom, I needed to dry-fit the struts and slip the tires onto them so that I could align the flat spots on the bottom. Here’s the bird on her feet for the first time:

At this point what’s driving the build is what needs to be added so that painting can begin. It was at this point that I noticed an odd omission from Tamiya. There is a prominent radio mast under the nose where the pitot tube used to be (it was moved to the underside of the left wing). Knowing my penchant (nay, avocation!) for knocking parts like this off (OFTEN AND FREQUENTLY AND A LOT), this time after making the part, I added a pin and drilled a hole so that the thing could be removed without going through the breaking part. And so that the wire would fit snugly into the hole, I flattened the end of it (this was done by gluing the pin into the mast, a piece of .020″ (.508mm) scrap, and then using a drift pin on my jeweler’s anvil to flatten the copper wire and not the plastic part):

It was at this time that I masked off the gun barrels. What fun. No, the tape didn’t do it. Small, curved surfaces are like that. What I ended up using was the kit’s parts as mandrels and wrapped aluminum foil around them. Then I slid the tubes off, slipped them over the darkened brass barrels, and then glued the nose into place. Oddly, that part required a bit of putty to make the transition from nose to fuselage sides smooth. No, I forgot to take photos of it.

All P-38s from the first through the H models had the turbo intercoolers located inside the leading edges of the wings. What worked for a 1938 design, when the Allison V1710-C put out 1150 HP didn’t work so well for any of the later variants and particularly the H model with the V1710-89/91 engines that produced 1425 HP. Pilots of the H variant were restricted (by use of RPM and manifold pressure) to only using 1240 HP to keep the intercoolers from detonating. It wasn’t until the change to chin-mounted coolers, both oil and inter, that the P-38 could use all 1425 ponies. That said…

The intakes for the intercoolers in the leading edges of the wings had intake scoops (more like simple holes) at the outer wing root where it met the engine nacelles. There was an outlet scoop (more like vent) on top of the wings near the tips. The vents near the wingtips were squared at one end and rounded at the other. I have less than no idea why but somehow while changing from what the kit molded (a simple rectangle) to what was more accurate (one side rounded), I managed to cut them (nicely) in. The unfortunate part is that the rounded end should have been at the front of the vent, not at the rear of the vent which is where I cut them:

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit that I actually spent a couple of weeks thinking that nobody will notice that so I’m just going to leave it that way. I apologize and abase myself.

Moving on.

Seemed logical to plug the holes (that should have been vents) with with epoxy putty, so I did:

Then when I tried to carve out the curve on the correct side, both putty plugs popped out:

Sometimes a problem is more the result of how the problem is perceived than it is how the problem actually is. Okay, so the putty doesn’t work, well, square off the holes and stuff them with scrap styrene and carve them down and rework the curved depressions:

And now that I have the curved sections correctly aligned, I’m positive nobody will notice them.

The last thing I needed to do before tossing paint on this thing is to make sure everything is masked underneath and that the small breakable bits are temporarily attached (white glue). Before I took care of those tasks, I used Humbrol’s #56 Aluminum enamel to put a coating along the leading edges of the wings, horizontal stabilizer, leading edges of the vertical stabilizers, and most especially on top of the wings by the cockpit pod where period photos show the paint being worn off down to the aluminum by walking on it:

It does appear to me that I’ve chased down all the tasks I had to do prior to painting. Next month we’ll see how accurate that assessment is.

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 Design (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. (Yes, that’s a direct reference to Eduard’s “Early Lightnings” debacle.)

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 as my next build. 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 Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black, Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum, and Tamiya XF-25 Light Sea Gray:

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 Tamiya XF-49 Khaki, and the hardware was painted Tamiya 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 Tamiya XF-1 Flat 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 48awg. 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″ (.381mm) 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″ (.254mm) 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:

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.


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.


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.




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.




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.


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.


Accurate Miniatures

P-51 Kit #3400 1/48 scale


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


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″ (.508mm) 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″ (4.572m) (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, who had a set for about half that [EDIT: Guess what decals came with the rebox of Accurate Miniatures P-51 from ICM. Betty Jean.].

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:


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.


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 (Or the ICM kit).

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 method). 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…


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″ (.254mm) 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″ (3.2m) long and the A-20’s was 11’3″ (3.43m) 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″ (.127mm) 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″ (.127mm) styrene instead (yeah….005″ (.127mm) 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″ (.127mm) 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



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

Tiger Model Designs (TMD)

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


M-24 Chaffee engine compartment set #2728

M-24 Chaffee interior details #2735

Dry Transfer WWII US Army-type Stars #DTM1305


Infantry Equipment Set #35206

Archer Transfers

Set #AR35209B – Gauges and Interior Stencils


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, 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 unintended 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 (12.7mm) 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 (36.2874kg) 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 Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab 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 Metallizer #27003 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 using Tamiya XF-68 NATO Brown (14 parts), XF-69 NATO Black (3 parts), and XF-7 Flat Red (which has become my go-to mix for tracks). I 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, aligned on the sprocket wheels, and then adjusted for sag:

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 (the small gray cleats are TMD parts):

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 Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black), it was time to add the highlights (Tamiya XF-2 Flat White):

Time for the base color coat (so that it blended in with its new home, at this point I reattached the .50 caliber (12.7mm) 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, Micro Sol 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 Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab:

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 Tamiya XF-2 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′ (7.62m x 15.24m) “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 Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab 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 with denatured alcohol, NOT wetting it as wetting it 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 how the light reflected and ease of seeing. In reality it’s a bit more subtle.

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, re-rolled, dried (instead of waiting three days for that, I hurried things along with the microwave and it worked perfectly, 30 seconds at a time), 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 M24s 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″ (.127mm) 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″ (.127mm) 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″ (.635mm) 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″ (.254mm) 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 M24s 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″ (1.524mm) 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 (mostly already assembled):

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″ (.254mm) 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 (7.62mm) 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″ (.127mm) scrap, then glued the pieces together:



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 (less in the way of indicators). And though