Category Archives: Building

Revell 1/72 Junkers F13W: Two Builds – Part 1

Revell Junkers F13W box art
Revell 1/72 Junkers F13 boxart

So here I have two slightly different editions of the same kit, because I intend to build models of two distinctly different versions of the same airframe—specifically, Junkers Construction Number 650, which went into service as a float-plane in May 1923. (The “W” in “Junkers F13W” stands for Wasser, which is German for “water”, designating the float-plane version of this aircraft. The second kit, despite the wheeled version on the box art, includes all the necessary parts for the float-plane, too.)

This aircraft first saw service as part of the Junkers Spitsbergen Expedition, under German aircraft registration D 260.

Junkers F13 D260, Svalbard
Source
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It then knocked around Germany, Estonia and northern Norway for almost a decade before ending up in the hands of Norway’s pioneering aviator Gidsken Jakobsen, registered as LN-ABH to her Nord-Norges Aero company.

Junkers F13 LN-ABH, Balestrand, Norway
Norsk Luftfartsmuseum public domain image NL.04060001
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Unable to obtain a licence for a commercial air service, Jakobsen operated the aircraft on sightseeing trips until June 1934, when it “lost its engine” near Balestrand on the Sognefjord. Literally lost its engine, which fell out of the aeroplane into the fjord below, somewhere between Hella and Vangsnes. The pilot restored the trim of the aircraft by encouraging the front-seat passenger to climb out of the open cockpit on to the engine cowling, and then glided to a safe landing. The airframe was reportedly still airworthy, but the plane never flew again.

So I want to build two versions of this aircraft, as D 260 and LN-ABH, at the beginning and end of its eventful life. Its configuration changed considerably between these two incarnations—its paintwork was revised; it lost the aerodynamic fairings around its float struts; it may have had its engine replaced (but certainly had the engine exhausts rerouted); it lost the original boarding step on the fuselage and gained a short fixed ladder instead; and it had the factory-fitted rudder replaced with a large home-grown version that seems to have been built of wood and fabric.

Both versions of the aircraft are fairly well documented photographically, but many of the images of LN-ABH are copyrighted by the Norsk Luftfartsmuseum (the image above is a rare public-domain photo). My aim is to represent LN-ABH in flight just before its fateful accident, and I’m therefore planning on giving it the all-black rudder that’s visible in this copyright photograph, purely on the assumption that someone is more likely to paint a white rudder black than a black rudder white.

As well as building a new rudder for LN-ABH, I also needed to replace the narrow ailerons moulded into the kit wings with the extended versions that were fitted to this aircraft in both its manifestations. I contacted Master-X, who make resin conversion kits for this model, with the plan of purchasing two of their cheapest conversions from which I could extract the necessary ailerons for my own models. Picture my surprise when Lumír at Master-X not only agreed to send me just the necessary parts, but did so free of charge despite my protestations. I also order up a set of decals for LN-ABH from Lima-November Decals, but noticed that they didn’t reproduce the idiosyncratic shape of the letter “N” on the real aircraft. I was all set to revise this by hand, but when I posted about the problem on the Britmodeller website, I was contacted by Mika Jernfors of Arctic Decals, who had designed that decal sheet. He offered me a new, revised edition with the correct letter “N”, and threw in a set of decals for D 260 as well!

So I started with LN-ABH, because it needed a lot of revision to the kit parts, and I used the older Revell kit (the upper box image at the head of this post) because it has a particularly inaccurate rudder, which I would be putting in the bin anyway.

First, I thinned down the float struts. The top set are the originals, and the lower set have been thinned.

Revell 1/72 Junkers F13 struts thinned
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Then, I filled the hole in the kit’s engine cowling, which accommodated the original “rhino horn” exhaust. Here’s a “quotation” from the original copyright photograph I used as reference, which I trust falls in the “acceptable use” domain:

Junkers F13 LN-ABH cowling
Detail from Norsk Luftfartsmuseum image NL.04120003

Notice the tie-downs crossing the cowling, which I’ll add with stretched sprue in due course. Here’s my best effort (right) at filling the hole:

Revell 1/72 Junkers F13 cowling
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This was never going to be perfect, given the difficulty of reproducing the corrugations that were characteristic of this aircraft. In retrospect, it occurred to me that I might have been able to fashion a plug from the discarded rudder, but I was a little too slow with that idea.

I also fashioned a little array of exhausts from styrene rod, to depict the rather informal-looking exhausts on the real aircraft:

Junkers F13 LN-ABH exhaust and propeller
Detail from Norsk Luftfartsmuseum image NL.98140008

And I carved a new rudder out of styrene sheet. Here’s my replacement exhaust stack and rudder:

Revell 1/72 Junkers F13 custom rudder and exhausts
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I’d already primed these parts when I realized that the little triangular support under the tail needed to be removed—it’s appropriate for an aircraft with a tail-skid, but not for the float-plane version.

Also, since this is going to be a flying version, I needed to depict a rotating propeller, a pilot and a front-seat passenger. Here’s the propeller:

Custom prop disk for Revell Junkers F13

I designed and printed this according to the method I’ve outlined in my post about modelling rotating propeller discs, banding it in alternating shades of light and dark brown to reproduce the appearance of a laminated wooden Heine propeller.

For my pilot and passenger, I heavily modified a pair of PJ Production Word War I pilot figures. To get them to fit into the cockpit, I need to bend their legs (and clip off their toes), as well as removing extensive areas of buttock and dropping the kit seats somewhat. Their arm positions also needed to be adjusted to avoid fouling the cockpit sides (and each other), and the kit’s control yoke ended up being levitated slightly. All of that mutilation should (he says confidently) be unnoticeable once the aircraft is assembled around them.

Here they are in position. I omitted the kit engine, since the engine compartment will now be entirely sealed, and only roughly painted the passenger compartment, which will be almost invisible through the kit’s very poor-quality windows.

Revell 1/72 Junkers F13 interior 2
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Revell 1/72 Junkers F13 interior 1
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Next time, I’ll start putting the fuselage, wings and floats together.

Eduard 1/48 Westland Lysander (Special Duties In France): Part 4

By the end of my previous post in this build log, I’d managed to get the aeroplane mostly assembled and primed. The next task was an all-over coat of Tamiya gloss black (softened with a little white and blue), ready for decals and weathering. Once that was in place, I was able to add the engine cowling and slats.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, black coat 1
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, black coat 2
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The kit decal sheet provided pre-1942 roundels and flashes, appropriate for this aircraft, and I used a sheet of red 8″ RAF letters from Fantasy Printshop for the tail number.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, decals 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, decals 3
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, decals 1
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I also added white rungs to the ladder—in the real aircraft these were painted for easy visibility in moonlight, as people scrambled in and out of the rear compartment during a frantic few minutes on the ground. You may also notice see the little scrawled “4” next to the ladder. In her marvellous memoir French Resistance In Sussex, Barbara Bertram recorded that the number of packages in the rear compartment was always marked in chalk on the side of the aircraft, to ensure that everything was unloaded.

Next, marking up the panel lines and adding a little light weathering and a few paint chips around the removable panelling. I used some LifeColor Liquid Pigment for this, switching from pale shades on the black paint to dark shades on the roundels and flashes.

After a coat of matt varnish I removed the paint masks and the two canopy sections I wanted to model as being open.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, matt 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, matt 3
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, matt 1
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Then some small parts were put in place—the front cowling and exhaust, the message hook, and a radio aerial under the fuselage. Most Lysander III’s had a radio wire running from above the cockpit to the tail, directly above the rear compartment. This was omitted in the Special Duties Lysanders, presumably to avoid garotting passengers in the dark, and to allow this sort of thing to go on unimpeded:

Loading casualties into a SD Lysander, Italy 1945

Then the long-range fuel tank under the belly, which (judging from photographs) had a rather shinier finish than the fuselage.

The side window is easily modelled in the down position, since it slid down into the side of the fuselage. So I portrayed its upper edge with a styrene strip. The sliding overhead cockpit canopy is tricker, because it slid on rails to lie over the central part of the canopy, like this:

Lysander sliding canopy

The thick kit parts don’t fit snugly one on top of the other, so I resorted to a little visual cheating, sanding off the moulded frame of the cockpit section, and extending its edges downwards with a little styrene—I’d rather have the canopy a little oversized than teetering like a small hat on a large head. Here it is, with the rails attached:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, revised canopy roof
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As a final touch, I added some luggage designed for O-gauge railway layouts, to portray those four items that needed to be unloaded.

So here’s the final product, as close as I can get to a Special Duties Lysander on the ground in a French field.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 1
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 3
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 4
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 5
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 6
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 7
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 8
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 9
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, completed 10
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, close up
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, with Nesbitt-Dufort's book
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Eduard 1/48 Westland Lysander (Special Duties In France): Part 3

By the end of my previous post, I’d adapted all the major bits and pieces that needed to be adapted. The next thing was to get the fuselage halves closed around the interior, which was less straightforward than usual because the Eduard kit doesn’t provide any sort of locating pins on the fuselage halves—you’ve got to press them together and then nudge them into the correct alignment before the styrene glue takes effect.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, fuselage and tail assembly 1
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, fuselage and tail assembly 2
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Then things get even more tricky, because the wings need to align with the V-shaped struts which need to align with the undercarriage, and the locating positions for the struts on the undercarriage legs are exiguous, to say the least. And the wings also need to be correctly spaced to allow the upper part of the canopy to fit tightly between the wing roots. So while trying to come up with a solution to this four-way simultaneous positioning problem, I managed to spring the set of flanges for the wings free of the rest of the interior assembly—which made things much easier, because I was able to assemble both wings into a nice solid construction on a flat surface, before starting to jiggle wings, struts and undercarriage into place. So I’d recommend not following the kit instructions, and actually assembling both wings on to their flanges before attaching the whole wing assembly to the rest of the model. Here’s the result:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, general assembly 3
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, general assembly 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, general assembly 1
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And then I slotted the tailwheel into place, briefly, so that I could orientate the fuselage correctly and place the rear compartment access ladder vertically:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, ladder installation
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The kit provides no locating holes for the ladder, so it’s very much a freestyle event, using reference photographs to get the location correct.

Meanwhile, I was painting some of the minor bits and pieces that will go on later:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, sundry parts painted
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The front cowling and exhaust were a peculiar metallic shade on these aircraft, which I’ve mixed up from Tamiya Titanium Gold, Bronze and Chrome Silver. Below the propeller and engine is the message hook—the idea with this contraption is that people on the ground would attach a package or message to a loop of cord suspended between two poles, and the aircraft would fly low over the poles with the message hook extended, snatching up the package without ever having to land. These were removed or omitted from later Special Duties aircraft, but Nesbitt-Dufort’s Lysander still had it in place—it’s visible in one of the crash photographs in Part 1 of this build log. (The kit provides the hook and attachment arm, and leaves the modeller to provide a suitable length of rod to connect the two.)

And below all that are the cockpit canopy parts, all painted on their inner surfaces with Interior Green. I used Montex masks for this, since the kit provides only exterior masks. I was tricked by the masks into creating one transparent panel which is not transparent in the real aircraft—the lower square panel in the port window assembly. I rectified that later. Also, just after this photograph was taken, I took a razor saw to the port-side windows and separated the sliding pilot’s window from the rear transparency.

Then I placed (almost) all the transparent parts in their closed positions, using a thin smear of white glue to position the side window and sliding canopy—they’ll seal off the cockpit while I’m painting the exterior, but should then pop off fairly easily so that I can put them in the desired position on the finished model. The exception to this plan was the rear canopy, which is clearly intended to be modelled in the open position, and which doesn’t work very well in a closed position. So I had to mask off the rear compartment, and paint the rear canopy separately.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, masked 1
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, masked 2
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(Because of the complex curvature of some of the transparent panels, some of the corresponding paint masks have holes in the middle so that they can be applied without wrinkling. I’ve filled the central spaces with Humbrol’s purple Maskol, which brushes on as a liquid and then sets to a sticky gel.)

And here it all is with a coat of primer.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, primed 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, primed 1
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For the sake of complete paint coverage, the slats and cowling are being painted separately and will go on late in the assembly process.

Next time—paint and decals.

Eduard 1/48 Westland Lysander (Special Duties In France): Part 2

At the end of my previous post, I’d completed the assembly of the cockpit and rear compartment of this aircraft. Some more bits and pieces needed to be modified and detailed before I could begin assembly.

First, wheels. The Lysander had a spatted fixed undercarriage, with landing lights recessed into the front of the spats. The kit provides locating holes for the wheels which correspond to the position they occupy in flight—but they sink a little deeper inside the spats once the shock-absorbers are loaded on the ground. So I needed to adjust the wheel position with a little judicious chiselling. Here’s the before (left) and after (right) view:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, undercarriage revision
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And the corresponding before and after wheel positions:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, wheel repositioned
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The landing lights proved problematic. A parabolic reflector needs to be fitted inside the spat, with a transparent cover fitting flush over the top of it. There seemed to be no discernable way the kit parts could be made to fit inside the spats in the way the instructions portrayed. I ended up removing a lot of plastic before I could get things to go together neatly, like this:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, spats assembly
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The rear wheel likewise needed to be adjusted. First to remove a large fairing that doesn’t match the appearance of the Special Duties aircraft, and secondly to shorten the oleo to depict its compressed position on the ground. Here’s the original part:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, tail wheel part
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And the trimmed part in the final wheel assembly:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, modified tail wheel
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I also want to model this aircraft with the canopy open—top panel slid back, port-side window slid down. This requires a bit of work with a razor saw, because the transparent parts in the kit are not designed to allow open sections. Here’s the tricky upper canopy as supplied:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, top canopy
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And once I’d divided the two sections:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, top canopy divided
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Next, the wings. The Lysander had an innovative set of automatic flaps, connected to leading-edge slats, which deployed in response to reduced airflow over the wing. So when it was parked on the ground, both slats and flaps were fully deployed. The Eduard kit doesn’t provide any sort of option for this—flaps and slats are moulded in the stowed position, as if the aircraft were in flight. I got hold of a CMK Lysander detail set, which provides, among other things, a set of slats and flaps. But, amazingly, only the outboard slats. Since the inboard slats were mechanically connected to the flaps, it’s actually impossible for the aircraft to have flaps down without inboard slats deployed. So if I wanted to model this aircraft at rest on the ground, I was faced with building my own inboard slats. After a bit of hunting around for ideas, I used some 0.1mm aluminium sheet to reproduce the missing slats. First I applied some Tamiya masking tape to the inboard leading edge of the wing, and traced out the shape of the slats. Then I peeled off the tape and and stuck it to my aluminium sheet, so that I could cut out the correct shape. Then I taped the flat aluminium sheet into place on the leading edge, and gently bent it into shape. Presto, I had a slat.

Then I needed to remove most of the leading edges of the wings, and cut away the kit’s moulded flaps. Here’s the result of that:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, wings trimmed
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I was certainly beginning to feel a little committed at this point. I applied CMK’s replacement outboard leading edge, and improvised an inboard leading edge using the material I’d cut away from the outboard leading edge. So here’s how that all looked:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, wings and slats
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CMK provide slat supports for their outboard slats, with enough spares to allow me to add them to the inboard wing, too. I’m going to leave the slats off until late in the build, for ease of painting. But here are the flaps in position:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, CMK flaps
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Eduard provide some photoetch flap hinges, but of course they’re intended for flaps in the stowed position. They were easy enough to split and position correctly on the lowered flaps. The inboard hinges are in position, above; the outboard hinges need to wait until later in the assembly, because they attach to the wing support struts.

Next, the tail, in which I installed CMK’s replacement control surfaces and tailplanes. The Lysander tailplanes were (rather notoriously) adjustable, and needed to be cranked slightly downwards at the leading edge for take-off and landing. The kit, of course, doesn’t permit that adjustment.

Life was complicated somewhat by the fact that I seemed to have two port tailplanes from CMK:

Czech Masters Lysander tailplanes
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They’re identical top and bottom, and since I was adjusting the position of the locating tabs anyway, in order to tip the tailplanes forward, I simply sawed off the tabs and repositioned them:

Czech Masters Lysander tailplanes fixed
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More complications, however, because there’s a plate attached to the upper surface of the tailplane, which tips with it, and this plate is inconveniently moulded as part of the kit’s tail:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander tail
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I traced the plate on to Tamiya tape, again, and transferred the shape to some thin styrene sheet, before sanding off the moulded part and scribing in the missing panel lines:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander tail revision
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You can see I’ve also carved away the kit rudder, in preparation for replacing it with the CMK version, slightly deflected to the right to match my rudder pedals. The CMK rudder looked like a good fit when held against the intact model, but ended up needing a little filler to make a snug fit. Here it is, dry-fitted, with the tailplanes attached and the styrene plate in position:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, CMK rudder fitting
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So that’s all the bits and pieces ready to glue together. More next time.

Eduard 1/48 Westland Lysander (Special Duties In France): Part 1

Eduard 1/48 Lysander box art

This is Eduard’s reboxing of an old Gavia kit, which has gone through a number of iterations. This “Limited Edition” contains the original Gavia parts, along with additional parts to build a number of different aircraft, together with Eduard’s resin and photoetch detailing, and a welcome set of paint masks for the extensive canopy. (I’d just like to say, though, that whoever chose that typeface for the box lettering should be shot. Seriously. It’s not bloody Lord Of The Rings, guys.)

The kit contains few locating holes and pegs, and the instructions don’t offer many hints about correct positioning of parts—so it’s one to build with photographs of the real aircraft in front of you.

That’s slightly problematic for me, because I’m aiming to build an all-black Lysander III of the RAF’s 138 (Special Duties) Squadron. These specially modified aircraft made top-secret “pick-up” flights into Occupied France during the Second World War. (I wrote a lot more about those missions when I reviewed three memoirs dealing with the Special Duties flights to France.) The specific aircraft I want to depict is T1508, in which Squadron Leader John Nesbitt-Dufort made a forced landing in bad weather on 29 January 1942. The aircraft tipped on its nose in a ditch, and Nesbitt-Dufort was unable to set it on fire, as was the standing order. He and his two passengers, members of the French Resistance, then spent some time on the run in Occupied France.

What I have to work on are just two photographs, both of the crashed aircraft, which hardly provide extensive coverage. So I’m going to be (as seems to be almost routine for my model-building efforts) using a bit of inference to come up with a sort of “artist’s reconstruction” of the real aircraft.

John Nesbitt-Dufort's crashed Lysander, T1508
John Nesbitt-Dufort's crashed Lysander, T1508

I bought the Eduard kit because it provides some necessary Special Duties parts—the big long-range tank, and the ladder that provided rapid access to the rear compartment. Unfortunately, Eduard don’t provide any sort of depiction of the heavily modified (but poorly documented) rear compartment itself. In the real aircraft, this was effectively gutted to save weight, and passengers travelled in an out of France perched on a rear-facing plywood bench, which could fit two at a squeeze. If three or four passengers needed to be transported, someone had to sit on the floor.

The first task was assembling the various parts for the cockpit and rear compartment. The pilot’s seat had a basket base, to accommodate his parachute, and the flat photoetch part needed some careful bending:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, seat parts assembly
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The kit instructions call for the rudder pedals to be glued directly to a transverse bar in the open framework that passed for the cockpit “floor” in this aircraft. But I want to depict the aircraft with a slight rudder offset, so I built myself a little rudder bar out of brass and styrene rod. Also attached to the floor structure are the control column and the base of the seat, which has a height adjustment wheel on its right side. (Rather typically Eduard provide the wheel, but leave it to the modeller to provide the transverse rod on which the wheel is mounted.)

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, cockpit parts assembly 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, cockpit parts assembly 1
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I removed the original single seat from the rear compartment and replaced it with a sheet-styrene depiction of the notorious plywood bench. The floor of the rear compartment is also said to have been extended at the sides to meet the surrounding framework, so I added this detail with more sheet styrene.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, rear compartment floor and bench
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And finally I added a bit of wiring, using stretched sprue, to the rear of the instrument panel, which will be just about visible in the assembled model.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, instrument panel wiring
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The kit’s radio sits on a shelf in the rear compartment, but this was apparently replaced, in Special Duties aircraft, by a smaller model on a sliding shelf. This certainly makes sense, because there would otherwise be no room for anyone to sit on the floor. Since the radio itself would be out of sight in the completed kit, I contented myself with adding the rails on which the shelf slid. I also removed the gun-mount paraphernalia on the rear cover of the compartment. Some more photoetch parts needed to be added to the interior framework, and then it was ready for painting and assembly.

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, general interior parts assembly
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Here’s what it turned out like, with just a little simulated scuffing to the rear compartment’s paintwork, which in early 1942 hadn’t seen much traffic:

Eduard 1/48 Lysander, interior assembled 1
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, interior assembled 2
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, interior assembled 3
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, interior assembled 4
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Eduard 1/48 Lysander, interior assembled 5
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The unsightly unpainted flanges will eventually support the wings.

There are some more modifications to be made to other kit parts before I can start gluing the big bits together. More on that next time.

Sharkit 1/72 Edgley EA-7 Optica: Part 2

At the end of my previous post in this build log, I had the basic colour scheme and much of the detailing in place. But there was a significant challenge ahead. Because I’d chosen to build the Optica that appeared in the cult-but-dire science fiction movie Slipstream.

"Slipstream" titleAnd I probably should have researched this a little better before I started work. When I started out on this project, I recalled the livery as being pale grey with random dark grey streaks, but when I rewatched the 4:3 pan-and-scan DVD which represents the film’s only English-language release, it became evident that the upper surfaces and under-wings were patterned with a stylized pattern of feathers.

Edgley Optica "Slipstream" aircraftSliptream Optica upper sideSliptream Optica undersideOops. So it was time to start printing some custom decals, producing my best “artist’s impression” of the patterns on the original aircraft, using only the blurry views available from the DVD.

Here’s an early test printing of the planned decals. (Given that I was going to use up an entire sheet of Experts-Choice decal paper, I planned to print multiple spares on that sheet.)

Sharkit Optica decal sheet test
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I got the shape for the wings by scanning and enlarging the plans from the kit to match the size of the model, and then sketching my patterns on top. The nacelle pattern was tricky, because the nacelle curves in two dimensions. I ended up measuring the nacelle circumference at various points along its length, drawing and patterning a narrow polygon with those proportions, and applying multiple copies around the curve of the nacelle. I also sketched a version of the peculiar symbol that is visible on the tail in some scenes. My first attempt (above) was too small, and the final decal sheet included an enlarged version.

Once I was as happy as I could be that everything would fit together, I printed the decal paper and sealed it with Microscale Liquid Decal Film, thinned half-and-half with ethanol-based surgical spirit and airbrushed on in a thin layer.

Here’s the result:

Sharkit Optica decals, upper surface
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Sharkit Optica decals, under surface
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After that, I placed the cockpit/engine assembly into the fan nacelle, and added the wheels. The engine needed a little more scratch building to provide the four stator struts that hold it in place in the real aircraft—the kit has it levitating within the nacelle.

Sharkit Optica assembled 3
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Sharkit Optica engine struts
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Sharkit Optica assembled 2
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The only thing remaining was to add a few more details constructed from styrene and fine brass wire—various aerials, a pitot tube, flap levers—and to slip a fine transparent rod under the rear of the nacelle to stop the thing toppling over backwards.

Here’s the final result:

Sharkit Optica completed 2
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Sharkit Optica completed 1
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Sharkit Optica completed 8
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Sharkit Optica completed 7
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Sharkit Optica completed 4
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Sharkit Optica completed 6
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Sharkit Optica completed 3
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Sharkit Optica completed 5
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I also acquired a Coastal Kits “abandoned airfield” display base, and tried a few poses on that:

Sharkit Optica completed 13
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Sharkit Optica completed 12
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Sharkit Optica completed 11
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Sharkit Optica completed 10
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Sharkit Optica completed 9
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All in all, a tricky kit to build—in part because of how basic the resin parts are, and also because of the poor fit of the vacuform canopy. But mainly because I was using the kit as a basis for an aircraft it wasn’t intended to represent.

Sharkit 1/72 Edgley EA-7 Optica: Part 1

Sharkit Optica box art

This is a resin-and-vacuform kit of the extraordinary Edgley Optica, an aircraft I’ve wanted to model for a while. The Sharkit kit is the only one currently available, though there has been a cycle of rumour and hint from other manufacturers for a while. It’s pretty basic, to the point of being sparse. Below, you see everything that comes in the box, with the exception of the instruction sheet:

Sharkit Optica parts
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There are two vacuform cockpit canopies, but one of mine has a nasty fold in it, which limits my scope for error while fitting the canopy over the cockpit. The cockpit itself is depicted by three seats and an instrument panel—no control columns or rudder pedals. The fan nacelle has five pour stubs awkwardly positioned inside it, but the resin is soft enough to allow these to be clipped out with a side-cutter. Apart from that, the resin seemed to be in fairly good condition, with only a little filling and sanding required.

The resin frame of the cockpit canopy did need a bit of work. Firstly, I used some styrene strip to add an overhead central bar. This was an internal structure, but it’s not clear to me why it isn’t moulded into the kit resin. Instead, the kit instructions simply point out where it should go and tell you to add it yourself.

Secondly, the frame provided in my kit had a nasty skew to it:

Sharkit Optica distorted canopy frame
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It looked as if the canopy strut at the left had been stretched and thinned at some point. I clipped a millimetre out of it, sanded down an awkward knee, and filled out the thinned part with epoxy. With this done, it popped fairly neatly into the vacuform canopy:

Sharkit Optica added canopy fit
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Sharkit Optica added canopy bar
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You can see the additional bar I added.

Then I assembled the wings, nacelle and tail booms, and dry-fitted the cockpit floor and engine. I had a strong suspicion this one would want to sit on its tail, so I taped a cocktail stick rocker along the line of the main undercarriage:

Sharkit Optica undercarriage rocker test
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Then I balanced the thing on the rocker, and tested to see how much lead I’d need to load into the cockpit to get the model to rock forward on to its nose wheel:

Sharkit Optica check balance
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With the cockpit furniture roughly in position, I added lead shot. It turns out it needs much more weight than I would be able to conceal in the Optica’s very open cockpit, with a thin base and a canopy that extends all the way to the floor.

So it wasn’t going to sit on its undercarriage without some sort of support at the rear. This actually wouldn’t have been a problem if I intended building the yellow prototype G-BGMW that the kit is intended to depict. This had a little fold-down stabilizing leg under the nacelle, which you can see here:

Edgley EA-7 Optica by Steve Fitzgerald
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Photograph copyright Steve Fitzgerald, used under GNU Free Documentation Licence 1.2 from this source

The kit models this in the stowed position, as a rather amorphous lump on the underside of the fan nacelle, but it could easily be modified to depict a parked version of the aircraft.

Unfortunately, I’m planning to build a later design, which lacked the parking support—presumably later models had a centre of gravity that sat farther forward than the prototypes.

Plan B, then, was to go for an in-flight depiction. With a fixed undercarriage and the fan concealed inside the nacelle, there would be no problem with portraying the aircraft in flight, if I could install a pilot. I started knocking one together, using two pilot figures from PJ Production—the body of a First World War aviator, and the head of a transport pilot, with a little polythene to give him a longer coat.

Modified PJ Products 1/72 pilot
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The reason for this eccentric mixture comes from the particular aircraft I want to build:

Slipstream Optica 1
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Some Optica enthusiasts will recognize it immediately, but more on that in due course.

I drilled out locating holes for the undercarriage, and then went on to modify the fuselage and wings to depict my aircraft of choice. I removed the lump from the underside of the nacelle, added a couple of shrouds around the undercarriage roots, extended the elevator trim tab and the back of the nacelle, and placed a couple of wing fences on the upper wings. There are other details (flap control levers, pitot tube, etc) that will come later.

Sharkit Optica mods, top view
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Sharkit Optica mods, bottom view
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I also rescribed the panel lines, which were rather faintly moulded. Some needed to be added to the area where I had removed resin from the underside of the nacelle.

The main undercarriage acquired some brake lines fashioned from stretched sprue, and the nose wheel a little stone-guard made out of epoxy and styrene strip.

The fuselage then got a coat of primer, and was marked up in the basic livery of my aircraft. I used a little LifeColor Liquid Pigment to darken the panel lines.

Sharkit Optica basic paint 1
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Sharkit Optica basic paint 2
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The cockpit was detailed with control columns and rudder pedals made from brass rod. I added the instrument panel between the seats, widened the kit’s instrument panel to match the larger unit in my chosen aircraft, and installed an overhead control box (visible in the photograph of the real aircraft, above). The pilot meanwhile acquired his wet-look drape coat and raised collar.

Sharkit Optica cockpit and PJ productions modified pilot
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And it was at this point I found that the 1/72 scale pilot didn’t fit the 1/72 cockpit. Even after carving a chunk of his buttocks away, to simulate the natural compression of seat cushions, his head would have been pressed against the cockpit roof. Sigh.

Plan C therefore involves coming up with a way to display this thing standing on its undercarriage, despite the kit’s desire to fall over backwards. I’ll let you know how that goes.

So I added the canopy frame to an empty cockpit. Before adding the vacuform bubble over the top of everything, I used the assembled canopy frame as a template for some paint masks, to be supplemented with liquid masking agent to deal with the two-plane curvature of the canopy bubble:

Sharkit Optica cockpit and paint masks
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(The kit instructions suggest just leaving the vacuform bubble shiny and pristine over the painted canopy frame, but that seems like a very ugly and unconvincing approach.)

Then the canopy went on—a process that involved trimming the rear of the bubble very carefully to butt against the nacelle supports behind the cockpit, and then carving a smooth lower edge to suggest the bottom of the cockpit doors. The fit was bad at the “chin” of the aircraft—the moulded canopy had a couple of creases that forced me to trim it alarmingly close to the edge of the cockpit floor, and it also had the wrong curvature, sitting with a gap between vacuform and resin. I eventually solved this by slitting and overlapping the vacuform at the point where the real aircraft mounted a pair of landing lights. That let me tightening the vacuform into a snug fit, with a seam that I could conceal later.

Sharkit Optica canopy in place, masks ready 1
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Sharkit Optica canopy in place, masks ready 2
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It all looks nice and smooth and shiny, but you can see how it really needs some surface paint to give the appearance of real canopy struts and doors. Before masking, I added a little stub antenna to the roof, a couple of blobs of cyanoacrylate to simulate the cockpit door hinges, and a pair of landing lights which also served to obscure the seam I’d carved in the vacuform.

When my hand-carved masks went on, they needed to be supplemented a little—because the vacuform stands out a little from the frame I’d used as a template, the masked area needed to be extended around the lower part of the canopy.

Sharkit Optica paint mask
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But they did the job. A very little tidying of edges using a cocktail stick to gently lift paint runs, and the cockpit is complete.

Sharkit Optica painted cockpit 3
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Sharkit Optica painted cockpit 2
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Sharkit Optica painted cockpit 1
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The landing lights should really be recessed flush with the canopy, but I didn’t want to risk damage to an already precariously botched-together area, so I left them standing proud. In the lowermost photograph, you can pick out another little bit of scratch building I added before closing the canopy. The real aircraft had a mesh “cargo net” just behind the seats—I modelled this with a scrap of polythene and some stretched sprue.

Next time—home-made decals and more detailing.

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V: Part Three

By the end of my previous post in this build log, I had my Space Station V model almost completely assembled and coated with primer. I decided to keep the station in two halves for ease of painting—the rings would mutually block access to each other once assembled.

The first decision was to settle on colours for the completed and uncompleted sections of the station. Fantastic Plastic’s box art goes for a rather lurid red-and-white combination:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V Box ArtThat doesn’t really reflect the subtle shading of the station depicted in the film:

Space Station V from 2001 A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey reference 1

So I mixed myself up some very light grey, from Tamiya White and Light Gray, and an unsaturated red-brown from Tamiya White, Red Brown and Red. (Don’t ask me the proportions—it was very much an experimental mixing process until it came out looking the way I wanted it.) After hand-painting a few details in dark grey and white, to produce a little tonal variation, I airbrushed on my pale grey mixture. The red-brown was hand-brushed on to the girder-work, taking care not to clog any of the small holes in the stringers.

Here’s the result, after picking out all the windows in black:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V paint and wash 1
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V paint and wash 2
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You’ll see I’ve deviated from Fantastic Plastic’s paint plan in another way—in the movie, only three sections of the incomplete ring are painted grey, and one “under construction” section is still coated with the “red oxide” finish of the open girder-work.

Then I coated it with gloss acrylic varnish, and brought out some of the moulded detail with LifeColor “Liquid Pigment” washes—two shades of grey for the completed sections, and some Burnt Umber for the red-brown paintwork.

After that, I printed myself a decal sheet full of random little shapes in various translucent grey shades, to add some “greebly” detail in emulation of the appearance of the model in the film. I also designed and applied some decals to the featureless interiors of the docking ports. These were quite busy objects in the movie, as you can see from this interior view:

2001: A Space Odyssey - docking bay interior
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I couldn’t hope to match that in detail, but I was able to suggest some of the internal structure. Here’s the active docking port of the functional ring:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V active hub decals
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And the inactive port of the partial ring:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V inactive hub decals
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Two other tasks needed to be completed. The first was to assemble Marco Scheloske’s lovely little display stand for the kit:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V stand by Marco Scheloske
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The parts for this are quite a loose fit, so it needs to be propped vertical while the glue dries. (It’s also, as you’ll see from my photograph, a bit of a dust magnet.)

I also needed to set up the Orion space clipper, somehow. As previously reported, the kit comes with three different sizes of Orion, and only the smallest seems to be a reasonable match for the docking sequence in the film. It’s pretty small:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V small Orion clipper
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The one that came with my kit was also missing a chunk of its nose, as a result of a moulding problem, so I had to rebuild it with a little epoxy—you can just about make out the translucent tip, above.

I’ve seen builds of this kit that attempt to position the Orion on docking approach, as in the film, but it always ends up looking like it’s just stuck to the end of a stick. I decided instead to emulate Robert McCall’s classic movie poster, with the Orion leaving the station.2001 movie posterThis gave me a “realistic” reason to have something connecting the back of the Orion to the station docking port—a drive plume, of some sort, as in McCall’s painting.

I took some Plastruct 1/16″ clear acrylic rod, notched the end so that it could align neatly with the Orion’s two engines, and tinted it lightly with white and yellow. After using a very fine paintbrush to suggest the location of the Orion’s windows and Pan Am logo, here’s the result:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V Orion clipper mounted 1
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With all that ready, it was time to connect the two halves of the station. I had to build myself some little corrugated cardboard spacers to ensure the two rings were neatly aligned:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V final assembly
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And then place the departing Orion perpendicular to the docking hub, held in place with tape while the glue dried:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V with Orion spacecraft
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So here’s the final result:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 6
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 7
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 8
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 9
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I tried some shots with a black background and high contrast to suggest space, with variable results:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 1
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 2
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 5
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 4
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V complete 3
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And finally, here it is on its stand:

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V with stand by Marco Scheloske 1
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Fantastic Plastic Space Station V with stand by Marco Scheloske 2
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It’s certainly the hardest build I’ve ever done, in terms of just getting everything to align with everything else. Time for something straightforward, I think.

Fantastic Plastic Space Station V: Part Two

In my first post for this build, I described assembling the resin parts of the kit. As a little addendum to that process, I added some little rectangles of styrene sheet to the kit. These were to reproduce the appearance of structures that are readily visible in the film, but not included in the kit. You can see them in the screen-grab below—raised rectangles on the outer rim opposite the points where spokes join the inner rim. There are also similar plates halfway between spokes on the completed ring.

2001: A Space Odyssey reference 1