Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Airfix 1/72 Curtiss P-40B - Preparation

You say Warhawk, I say Tomahawk...
Before I start I should point out an elementary faux-pas that I made. I thought it would be nice to buy the other Curtiss Hawk based kit in Airfix's catalogue, the Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 (#A01003) to go with my Christmas Curtiss Tomahawk IIB (#A55101) Both models sport the famous 'Shark Mouth' nose art and I liked the idea of a matched pair of 'sharks'...

The American Volunteer Group - 'Flying Tigers' Hawk.
The RAF's 112 Squadron  - originators of the 'Shark Mouth'.
However...It turns out that they are actually both (nearly) the same aircraft! Apparently - so I am told - the Curtiss 81A-2 is simply the manufacturers designation for the export model of what the USAAC called the P-40B model and what the RAF called the Tomahawk IIA (Tomahawk being the Curtis name for export models). The main difference between the Tomahawk A and B models was improved self-sealing fuel tanks which would not be visible in the kit form.

So don't make the mistake I made and think they are totally different versions of the P-40, from the Airfix model point of view they aren't! (I checked, they are indeed the same sprues!)

The Curtis P-40B (or export 81-A2) was the second model in the P-40 series with only
minor internal differences with the third - Tomahawk IIB - making the Airfix kits identical.

Confused? I was, but if you really want your brain to explode then consider this - Airfix have released the 81-A2/Tomahawk IIB kit as a Warhawk P-40B with USAAC Pearl Harbour decals in a 'Dogfight Doubles' set with a Mitsubushi Zero! So they are using the same kit for three - albeit very closely related - variations of the Curtis Hawk series of fighters!

...Sorry, can't resist and add that I've discovered there are actually FOUR Airfix P-40s! Airfix Club members had exclusive access to an additional P-40 scheme...

Research - Readying for the build
Right, variant confusion aside the first job is to start researching my build. I started with the Tomahawk as I am currently reading Derek Robinson's 'A Good Clean Fight' (boy's own adventure in North Africa in 1942 for grown up chaps).

Now, I've already mentioned in an earlier post that I have collected together some very nice book reference about the real P-40 series of fighters, of which I can thoroughly recommend Osprey's series of books on the fighter. But the most useful research I conducted was to see what other people had done with the Airfix Hawks, and we start with a real beauty...

This immaculate example of a Tomahawk IIA illustrates, as it happens, the variant
quagmire I outline above! Although the modeller has chosen to do a Tomahawk IIA
he has used the Airfix Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 (#A01003) to do it (which is technically
correct). Photo source: 'McCoy' from kiwimodeller.com
The above example - by 'McCoy' - is absolutely beautiful and something I could only aspire to in my wildest dreams. But it does give me a reference point to work towards and has some excellent touches that I may well wish to incorporate. See the full photo post here: Kiwimodeller - Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk IIA 1:72 (Airfix A01003 + Eduard #73427 PE).

Lovely clean build of the Airfix Tomahawk IIA by Paul A H.
Source: Britmodeller.com
The next example of an Airfix Tomahawk build I came across was on Britmodeller.com by Paul A H. Again it was a build of the Airfix Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 but it really shows Airfix's new tooling of this kit to the best advantage (a world away in quality from the old 1960s Airfix Kittyhawk). See the full photo post here: Britmodeller - Airfix Curtiss Hawk 81-A-2 build.

And finally, here's a lovely build by 'Yak Face' on Scale-Models.co.uk of the actual Airfix Tomahawk IIB. This is a nice illustration of an 'out the box' build of the Airfix kit...

Credit: 'Yak Face' over at Scale-Models.co.uk
She does look vert smart. But this all does fill me with a little apprehension as I have a lot to live up to as this subject has - as you can see - been done very comprehensively and by far better modellers than I. But, who dares and all that!

Out the Box or Accurised?
The last part of my preparation was to consider how much work to put into this kit. I don't mean how sloppy I intend to build this but rather to what extra lengths I might go to 'super accurise' the model by adding additional third-party accessories. As well done as this Airfix kit is said to be there are certain aspects that aren't - apparently - quite up to snuff as far as the purists are concerned.

Left: Osprey's 'Modelling the P-40' gives many examples of how basic models can be refined with third-party accessories in order to make more accurate variations of the Hawk series.

To be honest, this shouldn't bother the beginner or intermediate modeller - the Airfix Tomahawk looks great to me (bearing in mind what I remember of the old Airfix Kittyhawk), but display modellers and competition modellers might want to take the basic kit to the next level.

It didn't take me long to track down a plethora of add-ons and up-grade kits specifically for the Airfix Tomahawk, and this says to me that it is a kit worth accurising. A quick search over at Hannants.co.uk for 'P-40' at 1/72 scale will reward you with several pages of Warhawk and Tomahawk bits and bobs of all types - resin and photo-etched parts, decals, internal and external up-grades and even vacu-form canopies.

If you really want to push the boat out how about this Czech Master
kits P-40B/C resin interior upgrade kit. It's specifically made for the
Airfix kit but costs more than the Tomahawk kit itself!
Just the sort of kit 'bling' that advanced modellers like! This
replacement P-40B propeller kit is by QuickBoost and improves
the accuracy of this component - which is perhaps important to
the display and competition modeller.
In the end, as tempting as these parts would have been I decided that there was a greater appeal to simply making an Airfix kit as it was intended. It's been many, many years since I made an Airfix aircraft kit and the idea of recapturing my boyhood pass-time out-weighed any desire to make a 'better' Tomahawk. So this will be an 'out the box' build.

PS... I meant to add that for a laugh I popped all the relevant possible third-party upgrades that you could add to the Airfix P-40B into the Hannants shopping cart - the total came to forty-four Pounds! Ten times the price of the original Airfix kit itself.

What next?
Well, that's all my preparation thoughts laid out so it's on to the box review. And at this point I will get a chance to compare both of Airfix's Hawks side by side...Are they really identical?

Friday, 26 December 2014

Merry Day After Christmas!

...Just recovering from the Christmas Day so it's a late MERRY CHRISTMAS from me!

I would just like to add how pleased I am with my one model related Christmas present - it's something totally different from what I have done so far, but also something I have always been interested in. (I can blame Mr. Tim Gow for this, as he spotted these Airfix kits going cheap in Aldi of all places!)

This really is a blast from the past! I was in love with the original Airfix P-40 E A1 kit (in the old style plastic bag) when I was a kid so this was a lovely bit of nostalgia. Of course, the new Airfix Curtiss Tomahawk IIB is a completely new tooling and is pretty nice.

This is my Festive holiday project and will be a lovely change of pace. I've gathered together some interesting reference books, including a specialist Osprey modelling volume on the P-40 series...

I'm looking forward to relaxing with this project this festive holiday and I really hope you all have something similarly enjoyable from Santa this year...

Best wishes, and have a Happy New Year.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Mud, glorious mud

Fun with weathering powers
Something I've been meaning to do for a while now is make a set of 'mud' swatches to help me identify which weathering powders to uses for different jobs.

I bought a selection of Vallejo's powder pigments when they were offered on sale and added a couple of additional darker powders from the Humbrol range. But since buying them I have only scratched the surface of the variety of uses that they can be put to.

So while enjoying my relaxed Christmas break I though it was a good opportunity to experiment with the powders and examine their properties and possible uses.

I wanted a record of the results of my experiments and so thought I would make some swatches out of some spare MDF bases. These could then be sealed (with Johnson's Clear or varnish) mounted on a card and put in a book so I can refer back to the effects created.

There are several ways, off the top of my head, I could think of using these pigments so divided up the swatch into different sections showing these varying techniques. These effects included:

• Pigment applied with PVA glue for thick gloopy mud

• Pigment applied with PVA with fine sand added for gritty mud

• Pigment applied as a 'dust' with no glue

• Pigment applied onto a wet surface (water or thinners)

• Pigment mixed with water/thinners and applied as a wash

Order on swatch: PVA/sand | PVA | Wash | On water | Dust

Results - A few surprises
I was taken by surprise at just how much the various pigments changed colour when mixing with different mediums. PVA glue had a profound effect on the hue, mixing the pigment with water or thinners a similar - if not quite as drastic - effect.

I chose to paint my swatch a light olive green as I imagine this is the sort of colour that you would see these pigments used upon.

Vallejo's 'Green Earth

Vallejo's 'Light Yellow Ocre

Vallejo's 'Natuarl Siena'

Vallejo's 'Burnt Siena'

Vallejo's 'Natural Umber'

Vallejo's 'Burnt Umber'

Humbrol's 'Dark Earth'

Humbrol's 'Smoke'

So, there you go. Interesting to see them side by side. I concluded that to achieve a realistic mud effect on a vehicle I would have to 'mix and match' various pigments if I wanted a 'gloopy' effect next to a 'dusty' effect because of the hue change due to the medium I mix the pigments with.

Also, you can see which pigments might work nicely together to get a 'dry' mud and a 'wet' version of the same mud. It's not always the 'wet' version of the same pigment that's the best muddy companion!

Hope you find this helpful.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

1/72 Steyr RSO - Part 5

OK, a real post this time! I've been fooling around with some dry-brushing of the canvas tilt.

Now, I'm not a huge fan of dry-brushing - probably because I haven't mastered the technique - but it seemed such a logical effect to apply the my RSO's dark grey tilt cover.

I'm using this LIFE cover photo as reference, I really like the tatty nature of the canvas tilt on this RSO. It's also nice and muddy, which I will use as the contrast in colours will lift the plain grey canvas and add some character...

In the meantime, onto the cab interior. Now, I'm not spending a lot of time on this, just the bear minimum as it will only be partially visible through the cab windscreen. I gave the interior a mid-brown wash and did a passable job of the figure - just a bit of dry-brushing for highlights and then some black wash for shadows...

The Finnish vehicle didn't have unit or divisional emblems, the Finn's didn't seem to use them. All it seems to have had were Finnish military ('SA') number-plates and the factory applied vehicle ID patches on the driver's door. The ID patches contained weight data [shipping] for the vehicle and seem to have been applied to both doors, or sometimes just to the drivers side...

As usual I gave the base paint coat on the cab a light spray of Humbrol's acrylic Satin Varnish before applying the decal. I used Microscale's Micro Set as a preparation and placed the water-slide decal (from a Academy Opel Blitz kit) onto that then dabbed it dry. Once satisfied with the positioning I then gently moistened the edges of the decal with Micro Sol, just to ensure an seamless look between decal and the model surface.

And that's it for tonight. Next it will be back into the spray booth for another light dusting of satin varnish to seal the decal and prepare the model for a dusting of dust and pin-washing.

1/72 Steyr RSO - Part 4

[This is a 'note to myself' post.]

Part of the RSO job will be dealing with those rubber/vinyl tracks. I haven't painted rubber model tank tracks before, I've only done hard plastic tracks. So I've had to go out and do a bit of research and find some useful tutorials for dealing with these sort of tank tracks.

Here's the best I have found so far - it's on the www.militarymodelling.com site and although it's a 1/35 scale tutorial it seems to be just as suitable for Braille Scale models...

Picture source: Per-Erik Kristiansen via Militarymodelling.com
You can find the detailed tutorial here:

Painting Rubber and metal tracks...
A step by step guide from Per-Erik Kristiansen.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Bedford ML Ambulance conversion - Part 3

Onto the cab and bonnet. Now, this isn't going to be a complex conversion - nor the most historically accurate - it's just a simple 're-badging' job. The grille of the Airfix Austin kit will be replaced with the Bedford grille from the Cooper Craft kit. So let's do a test fitting to see what work this entails.

First of all I will put together the cab's front end, thats he windscreen section and bonnet...

Now this doesn't look too bad at first glance. But even if you build this kit as intended the original Airfix parts are a little vague in their fit, so you do have to do some 'jiggling' (and sanding and filling) to get the whole bonnet/front-end section to play together nicely.

Oh, so close, but I don't win a coconut! The Bedford grille nearly fits onto the Austin bonnet parts. Some more sanding and filling will be needed to make a perfect fit.

Accuracy note: As I said, this is a fudged conversion. To do this job properly you would need to modify the bonnet as well as the grille. The vents in the bonnet sides - for example - are different on the Bedford.

The bonnet planning done it's time to continue with the parts of the original Airfix kit that go together as normal. So, let's continue with the cab interior.

The Austin/Bedford is novel as the cab is semi-open (it just has some canvas covers that act as removable 'doors'). Therefore I think it is easier if you start the painting process at this stage without the bonnet section or some of the interior parts so that you can base paint the cab's rear wall properly...

You can see the amount of parts that have to be squeezed into the cab, so it's
probably best if you base paint the basic cab surfaces before fitting these.
Having sprayed the base colour onto the cab's back wall and floor you can now start to add some of the interior detail. This way everything get's painted correctly - otherwise trying to paint the interior with things like the spare wheel and driver in place would be a pain in the butt. But that's for another post!

Next: Cab finalised and bonnet/roof to add...Let's finish this thing!

Colour: The traditional colour that most modellers associate with the Austin K2 ambulance is a khaki colour (and that is what Airfix suggests), but it also came in green and - importantly - the ones supplied to the Soviet Union were all painted in green schemes, so that's what I am going for.

Note on Cooper Craft kit: You may well be thinking 'but what about the rest of the Cooper Craft kit?' Well, don't panic, it's not going to waste. I have another conversion planned where the remainder of the Oxford truck kit will be being used. I don't like waste either! :)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Bedford ML Ambulance conversion - Part 2

Good old Airfix! After my recent troublesome conversions and resin kits it's nice to get back to a good old fashioned simple straight-forward Airfix kit.

Airfix's Austin K2 in just 5 stages! Oh that's so nice!
(Note: In this example of the instructions stage 2 and
3 have been swapped. It works either way though!)
Now I was going to start by trying to put together the Bedford bonnet and grille and test fit them onto the Austin's chassis. However, after studying the instructions for the Austin K2 I realised I could follow the Airfix kit construction until the third stage before I needed to think about adding the Bedford bonnet and grille. So, let's begin...

The chassis went together very easily, there were only seven parts and there were no fitting issues. Well, aside from a bit of confusion about whether the exhaust assembly sat above or below the drive shaft...

I did a bit of trawling around the web and I plumped for laying the exhaust over the drive shaft. The few examples of this build that I found also went for this configuration. Note that I have only fixed the wheels on temporarily with some BluTack, I want to remove these for painting and weathering the chassis.

The third stage turns the chassis over and you begin to work on the body, beginning with the ambulance's rear compartment walls...

Things got a little tricky at this point as the fit of the side walls (particularly on the driver's - right - side) was a little shoddy. I had to trim and shave off some of the the wall next to the driver's seat to make it fit. But that was easy!

I'd just like to point out that this kit has been around for a while and is very popular. As such there are plenty of examples of builds on the web which show how you can add additional detail to the basic kit to make it more realistic. Also there are some accessory sets available for it, if you really want to push the boat out (Wee Friends has better wheels for example). But I'm happy with the basic kit.

Well, that's all for tonight. It's been a good start and it's been really nice to be building an Airfix kit. I'm enjoying this one (...you listening Yag-6)!

Next: Now I try adding the Bedford bonnet and grille...And the cab.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Finnish T-34/85 - PSC version revised/unearthed

In the beginning there was a PSC T-34/85...Then I got out my depth!
A long, long time ago...I began a project to make all the 'easy build' T-34s I could (by the likes of Armourfast, Pegasus and PSC) so I could compare them and see whether you could make these very basic kits look anything like a 'display quality' model. Anyway...

To be honest my lack of experience outstripped my ambition and I had to shelve the project until such time that my painting skills improved. Well, I *think* that - after my recent Finnish camo painting experiment - I have got to the point where I could do a acceptable job of my Finnish T-34/85 (famous last words).

To re-cap. I started to paint my PSC T-34/85 in 'Finnish colours' only to decide that they just weren't right...

That brown just isn't right!
But now, thanks to my Finnish camo experiment, I am more confident that I have the right colour combination this time. Obviously, though, continuing this project will mean I will have to resort to a simple over-paint job as I really don't think I am up to stripping the original paint job!

So...Out came the paint brush and I applied my new Finnish chocolate brown recipe!

That's better! ...Well, I think so (the grey is still a bit dark, but let's just pretend it's 'weathered').

In a way I wish I could start this one again and airbrush the camo properly but I think I can camo the camo with some judicious weathering.

Next: A light coat of varnish before applying some dust and then onto the pin-wash.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Finnish Bedford ML Ambulance

Under the Rapid Fire rules - which I am using as guidelines with which to construct my Finnish Continuation War collection - there is no requirement for an ambulance. However, while trawling through the excellent SA KUVA Finnish wartime photo archive I happened to come across an intriguing photo, which piqued my interest...

Picture source: SA KUVA 
This is, of course, a British Bedford ML ambulance...But in Finnish service! Quite how it came into Finnish use is something of an enigma, however there are two possibilities.

There was a short window of opportunity - before Finland joined forces with Germany - when they were technically in the Allied fold and Britain did supply them with a certain amount of equipment. However, there was a second way that the Finns might have got their hands on this British manufactured ambulance. The Bedfords could have been from Lend Lease vehicles supplied to the Soviets, and in due course they may have been captured by the Finns.

However the Finns got these ambulances it offers a nice opportunity to add something else that's a bit different to the already highly eclectic inventory of vehicle models that I am collecting.

Modelling the Bedford ML Ambulance
The fly in the ointment when it comes to the modelling of this vehicle is that - as usual for this Finnish project - an actual Bedford ML doesn't exist in 1/72 plastic kit form. But, the good news is that a closely related version of this vehicle - the Austin K2 - is available in the classic Airfix RAF Emergency Set.

There is very little differences between the Austin and the Bedford ambulances, they both used the Mann Egerton bodies built onto a common chassis. In effect the only noticeable difference, externally, was the different bonnet grilles.

The Austin K2 ambulance, compare the bonnet sides and front grille design
with that of the Bedford ML photo at the top of this post.
Picture source: Wikipedia - The Austin K2.
Now, while my Finnish collection has been based on the 1/72 scale the Airfix RAF Emergency Set is one of their models that has been variously described as both 1/72 and 1/76 in it's time (the latest box has settled on 1/76, which I suspect is correct). But, looking at the kit parts I think you could easily get away with squeezing into a 1/72 project. So, in the end, the key discrepancy is that Bedford bonnet (or lack of it).

Once again I was in luck - of sorts - as there are 1/76 (OO scale) Bedford ML truck kits available. I found a very cheap plastic model - made for OO model railway modellers - by Cooper Craft (4017 Bedford ML Flatbed Lorry, £4.40). This model can act as a donor for the bonnet and grille portion of the project.

Cooper Craft's 4mm/OO Bedford ML equates to 1/76.
I am hoping that this conversion will be as simple as exchanging the Austin grille with the Bedford grille and that's that. But come on...This is me! It's not going to be that simple, is it?

The Cooper Craft Bedford grille does look a tiny bit narrower, plus the sides of the bonnets have different vents but I am hoping I can easily fudge that.

OK, that's the plan. Hope you like the idea...It will be nice to have some British kit in this project.

And finally. One of the reasons that it will be nice to include the Austin/Bedford ambulance is because it was the star in my Dad's favourite war film - 'Ice Cold in Alex'.

Next: I begin the build with a test assembly of the bonnet.

Another example of a Bedford ML in Finnish service.
Picture source: SA KUVA

December 2014 stash additions - Finnish recovery trucks

This month's stash additions have arrived! I'm trying very hard t stick to the plan and NOT just get stash kits just because they look cool!

Not just any old truck could recover a Tiger!
Mr. Postman brought me a couple of very impressive super-heavy trucks which will make-up the armour recovery element of my Finnish Continuation War collection. The Finn's - ever short of specialised vehicles - purchased a couple of giants from the Germans - the Bussing-NAG 4500 heavy truck and the even more monstrous Sd.kfz.9/1 'Famo'.

The only wartime photo (1944) I can find showing the Sd.kfz 'Famo' in use
with the Finns gives a glimpse of the huge vehicle taking part in some sort of
army review in front of command staff. You can clearly make out the front of
the Famo on the left, but - tantalisingly - could this be a fleeting appearance
of one of the Finn's Bussing-NAG recovery cranes on the right?
Picture source: SA KUVA Finnish wartime archive.
Under the Rapid Fire war-game rules I am allowed to add one tank recovery vehicle to the HQ Company, however due to an interesting twist of fate I actually decided to purchase models of both the Famo and Bussing-NAG.

Oh my! Braille Scale porn! And, for the first time, a 'premium' display quality
kit...A real beauty!
Yet another cheap Altaya diecast model fresh off eBay!
As it happened, the only version of the mighty Famo that I could find in stock with my usual model retailers was the fully tricked out recover version with the Bilsden 6 ton Crane, while the Bussing-NAG model was the standard cargo version which I found going cheap on eBay. Trouble is that the Finns had the standard version of the Famo and the crane version of the Bussing-NAG!

The solution seemed simple - transplant the crane onto the Bussing-NAG and convert the Famo back into the standard crew-carrying version of the half-track. (Lucky for me Trumpeter include the parts needed to make the standard version of the Famo in the kit!)

Both kit and diecast model look very nice. Obviously the Trumpeter kit should look fantastic but what amazed me most of all about both kit and model was the sheer size of the vehicles! Thus far I have been making pre-war era medium trucks and these wartime goliaths dwarf my earlier models.

The big Bussing-NAG compared to a contemporary medium truck! Oh heck!
Really that big? Oh yes, they really were! OMG!