Category Archives: Building

Hasegawa 1/48 Hawker Hurricane IIC: Part 2

I left you last time when I had applied the primer coat successfully. Next, I sprayed on the Temperate Land Scheme colours, using LifeColor paints. First, I applied Medium Sea Grey to the under surfaces, then masked that area off, applied Dark Earth to the upper surfaces, and then masked that off for a layer of Dark Green. The RAF had two standard patterns for fighter camouflage, factory applied—the A and B schemes, one the mirror image of the other. This plane, being an odd-numbered Hurricane, needed the A pattern.

Hawker Hurricane IIC Temperate Land Scheme 1
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Hawker Hurricane IIC Temperate Land Scheme 2
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Hawker Hurricane IIC Temperate Land Scheme 3
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Unmasking at this stage is always slightly anxiety-provoking, but on this occasion I managed to carry the whole thing off with only a couple of tiny, trivial leaks under the masking, easily fixed.

Then a coat of gloss varnish, to prep the surface for decals.

Hawker Hurricane IIC gloss coat 1
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Hawker Hurricane IIC gloss coat 2
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That red propeller spinner you can see above is something of a vexed issue. There’s evidence that coloured spinners were discouraged in the South East Asian Command theatre, but it’s also reported that 135 Sqn. RAF (which used the aircraft I’m modelling here) was using red airscrew bosses for A flight and blue bosses for B flight when they were issued with Thunderbolts just a little later in 1944. (I got this information from Geoff Thomas’s Royal Air Force Thunderbolts.) And I have a black-and-white photo (in Bryan Philpott’s RAF Combat Units: SEAC 1941-45) of a 135 Sqn. Hurricane from earlier in the war that seems to have a spinner that is neither black nor white nor metallic. On the strength of that, I gave this model a red spinner.

I used some of the original Hasegawa decals for detailing, but needed to add SEAC roundels and tailflashes, and the specific lettering for my aircraft, from other sources. I bought a very elderly sheet of SEAC markings by Almark Decals online, but struggled with them. They had developed a mottled appearance with age, and seemed to leak something white and slightly corrosive when treated with Microsol setting solution—this left me with a vague waterstained appearance on my varnish here and there, which has dogged me right through to the final model, although I could probably have sold it to you as deliberately simulated weathering. The lettering I sourced from the wide range at Fantasy Printshop.

Hawker Hurricane IIC decals 1
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Hawker Hurricane IIC decals 2
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The Rotol prop blades had their logotype labels added using Kora Decals.

Another coat of gloss to seal the decals, and it was time to pick out the panel lines. For this I used LifeColor’s Liquid Pigment, which was a great success—a gentle stroke of the brush along a panel line, and the pigment settles into it neatly, leaving almost no residue on the panels. Any pigment in the wrong place can be taken off using the removal solution, which works even after the pigment is dry. The only downside is that the Liquid Pigment separates and settles quickly—without regular stirring, I found my black panel liner turning blue and pale after just a couple of brushfuls.

Hawker Hurricane IIC panel lines 1
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Hawker Hurricane IIC panel lines 2
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The underside also got a little preliminary staining behind the radiator, so that I could glue the radiator cowling in place over the top of it.

More varnish to seal the panel lines, and it was time for some weathering. I used silver paint to add the appearance of fine chipping to the paintwork on the wing roots behind the propeller, to the access panels of the engine cowling and gun mounts, and to the areas that saw foot traffic as the pilot got in and out of the aircraft. Engine oil used to leak out of the underside of the engine compartment, and then blow back in the airflow, producing characteristic stains on the Vokes filter, and then in a fan across the undercarriage covers and the central wing section. And there was an exhaust plume down either side of the aircraft that was deflected downwards in the airflow over the wings. To these specific forms of weathering, I added a little grubbiness in areas where hands or feet would most commonly touch the aircraft, and some earth staining to the underside of the tail and the landing gear.

Then it was all over in a rush. Matt varnish over all, and I could finally put the undercarriage in place—I’d been holding off on that so I could airbrush even coats of varnish over the undercarriage covers and drop tanks, which sit quite close to each other in the assembled model. With the varnish on, I could also unmask the landing and navigation lights. The cockpit canopy was dropped into place, and the last job was to rig the radio antenna between the mast and the tail. There are various ways of doing this, but I chose to use stretched sprue*, cut to length and held in place with tiny droplets of Micro Kirstal Klear. You can find various instructional videos on-line, explaining how to stretch sprue—they show everything from people performing delicate manoeuvres over candles, to guys apparently trying to set fire to themselves and their workbenches. I use a tea-light candle, hold the sprue a few millimetres above the flame until it starts to go glossy and sag, and then pull firmly while lifting the plastic away from the flame and rotating it so that I’m stretching it vertically—that way I get long straight sections when it hardens.

There’s always a little sagging when you rig a long section of this stuff, so the final act is to tighten it up. I light a match, blow it out, and run the still-hot matchhead along the centre length of the stretched sprue, just a millimetre or so below it. Sometimes I need to repeat the process several times, but eventually the sprue gives a tiny quiver, as if alive, and pulls itself tight between its two anchor points. It’s one of the oddest and most satisfying moments in model-making. (Some people achieve the same effect with soldering irons or heated screwdriver blades, but I flinch at the thought of brandishing large hot metal objects near my delicate plastic model.)

So here’s the finished product:

Hawker Hurricane IIC final view 1
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Hawker Hurricane IIC final view 3
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Hawker Hurricane IIC final view 2
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Hawker Hurricane IIC final view 5
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Hawker Hurricane IIC final view 4
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Next up, another Hurricane, even more obscure than this one—a Mark IIB attached to Operational Training Unit 71 at Ismailia, Egypt, in early 1944. After that I’ll go back to my Saturn V, I think.


* Sprue is that framework of plastic to which the kit parts are attached, which normally gets thrown away after the model has been built. It’s there because it fills the channels through which the molten plastic runs when it’s injected into the mould. No-one knows where the word comes from, but it appears to be unrelated to the tropical disease of the same name.

Hasegawa 1/48 Hawker Hurricane IIC: Part 1

By way of a break from the slow building of my Saturn V, this one is an attempt to model one of the aircraft my father flew during the Second World War.

It’s going to be Hurricane LB545, stationed with 135 Squadron RAF at Minneriya, Ceylon, in August 1944.  It’ll be a reconstruction, rather than a reproduction—this doesn’t seem to be a very well-photographed time in 135 Squadron’s history, so I’m piecing together the likely appearance of the aeroplane from various bits and pieces of evidence that I can glean from books and on-line research.

I want to build it with an open cockpit, so I’m replacing Hasegawa’s moderately detailed kit cockpit with a more detailed photoetch-and-resin version from Aires. In particular, Aires provide a nice photoetch Sutton harness, something that’s missing from the Hasegawa cockpit. That also means I need to replace the cockpit canopy—the Hurricane canopy slid back over the fuselage, and the chunky kit canopy is too thick to do that. So I have a nice vacuform replacement from Squadron. Here it is, beside the Hasegawa kit part:

Squadron vacuform Hurricane canopy and Hasegawa kit canopy
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First thing, then, is to paint up and assemble the cockpit. Which I’m making suitably grubby for a tropical theatre, using Lifecolor’s Liquid Pigment range—a thin suspension of particulates that you can brush on. There’s a removal agent that lets you undo any mess you’ve made, which is a particularly useful thing for someone as thick-fingered as me.

Here’s the cockpit seat and harness, painted and dirtied:

Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane cockpit seat
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And here’s the Aires instrument panel, layered together from various pieces of photoetch and printed transparent film, with a coat of white paint to the back surface to bring out the instrument dials:

Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane instrument panel
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And here are all the bits that somehow need to be assembled so that they fit each other and the kit fuselage, without the aid of anything so convenient as locating lugs or flanges:

Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane cockpit parts
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It took a bit of effort, and a lot of “matchstick engineering” to space the parts appropriately and hold them in position while my epoxy dried. Here’s a view of the underside, through the wing roots:

Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane cockpit placed in Hasegawa fuselage
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And here’s the final result:

Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane cockpit in place 1
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Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane cockpit in place 2
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Aires 1/48 Hawker Hurricane cockpit in place 3
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Unfortunately, the Hurricane cockpit was so cramped, a lot of the detail around the floor is now pretty much impossible to see, and the lovely instrument panel is wasted, tucked away in the shade of the cowling. I think in future I might just add a photoetch harness to the original kit cockpit.

Before assembled the fuselage, I had one bit of external detailing to do. The Hurricane had a handhold built into the port fuselage near the cockpit, which pivoted open when a step under the port wing-root was pulled down. Since I’m modelling this aircraft parked up with the cockpit open, I need to have the step down and the handhold open. Although the kit comes with a step, its handhold is moulded closed:

Hasegawa Hurricane kit pilot's handhold
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So I need to carefully drill out, gently file to shape, and insert some plastic card:

Hasegawa Hurricane kit pilot's handhold, modified open
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Annoyingly, I’ve fixed the flap level when it should be slightly tilted. There’s always something, isn’t there?

One of the nice things about buying model kits second-hand on eBay is that you sometimes find the previous owner has tucked some detailing bits and pieces into the box, in anticipation of the day when the kit was to be built. With this kit, I found not only a set of resin wheels and control surfaces of unknown provenance rattling around loose in the box, but a detailed wheel bay from Brengun still in its wrapper.

The wheel bay turned out to be more trouble than it was worth. The trouble is, the floor of the Hurricane cockpit was the roof of the wheel bay (and there was just a void farther back, either side of the pilot’s seat, through which any dropped objects ended up rattling about inside the aft fuselage). To get the resin wheel bay to fit under the floor of my resin cockpit, I had to thin the chunky resin to within an inch of its life with my trusty Dremel. Most of the aft part of the bay is now so thin it’s translucent, and I actually transgressed a little on the deeper detailing around the emergency retraction air bottle:

Brengun 1/48 Hurricane wheelbay, sanded to fit
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With the availability of some free control surfaces, I decided I wanted to model the aircraft with a slight droop to the elevators, something that’s often seen in photos of the real machine when parked. (I pushed the stick slightly forward in the cockpit for consistency.) This meant I had to scribe off the kit elevators, which are moulded in one part with the tailplanes. Here they are before:

Resin 1/48 Hurricane elevators and Hasegawa kit parts
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And after:

Resin 1/48 Hurricane elevators and modified Hasegawa kit parts
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Having exploited the extras I found in the box, I also needed to add extras of my own. The aircraft I’m building needs a Vokes tropical filter under the nose, to protect the carburettor air intake, and a couple of long-range tanks under the wings. I got these from Red Roo and QuickBoost, respectively. The Red Roo filter needed a little detailing, with a panel line scribed across it.

Here’s the underside of the aircraft with everything finally in place:

Hasegawa 1/48 Hurricane ready for primer, underside
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And the topside—you can just see how I’ve replaced the tiny, delicate, styrene rear aerial mast on the tail with a bit of half-millimetre brass rod, which is more likely to withstand my handling of the model during painting and decalling:

Hasegawa 1/48 Hurricane ready for primer, upper
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It’s at this point I begin to develop “primer anxiety”. I’ve done a lot of filling and sanding and scribing, and it all looks a bit of a mess—once I get the primer on, and everything is a uniform shade of matt grey, will it look better, or will all sorts of dents and scores I haven’t noticed suddenly jump out at me?

As it turned out, the primer went on OK—I picked up a couple of tiny gaps I’d missed, but was able to deal with them using just a little extra primer on a brush and then some 1200-grit wet sandpaper.

The cockpit is being masked using the original kit canopy:

Hasegawa 1/48 Hurricane primed, upper
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I assembled the radiator fairing, but haven’t done more than dry fit it, for ease of painting, so it’s absent from this view of the underside, with the wheel bay masked with a combination of tape and Blu-Tack:

Hasegawa 1/48 Hurricane primed, underside
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I’ll report back after applying the camouflage and markings.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V: Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter & Instrument Unit

Having complete RealSpace ModelsBlock II Command/Service Module (CSM), I’ve moved on to the Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) provided in the Revell kit.

The SLA was a fairing that contained the Lunar Module (LM), and supported the CSM. It was composed of two sections, the upper and lower SLA, which sat on top of a highly technical guidance/tracking/communication interstage called the Instrument Unit (1.1MB pdf), which in turn sat on top the third stage of the Saturn V, the S-IVB (1.9MB pdf). Once the S-IVB had injected the spacecraft into a transfer orbit to the moon, the upper SLA was discarded as four separate panels, to reveal the LM sitting in the lower SLA, waiting to be picked up by the CSM.

Apollo Spacecraft/Lunar Module Adapter
Source

As supplied, the Revell version of the SLA is a pretty disappointing object. The upper SLA comes as a single unit with a transparent panel, which allows the kit builder to admire the LM inside at the expense of any shred of realism. The lower SLA is moulded as a single piece along with the Instrument Unit (IU)—which actually isn’t a great problem, because the lower SLA and IU always remained firmly attached to the S-IVB, and never separated from each other.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA parts
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There’s a little tab inside the upper SLA kit part which is supposed to help locate the kit CSM correctly—but it’s in the wrong place for the Block II, so it has to go.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA parts dry assembly
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Another problem is the lack of detail on the surface of the kit SLA and IU. This can be partially resolved using New Ware’s Saturn V detail kit, which provides a selection of additional photo-etched and resin parts, as well as some decals.

But first I had to get some primer on to the brass photo-etched parts. I didn’t want to clog any of the spaces in the fine detail, so I constructed a little corrugated cardboard frame that supported the photo-etched sheet vertically, allowing my primer spray to blow through the gaps, and then I misted the primer on in four or five delicate applications.

Priming photoetch sheet
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The transparent panel had to be fixed—I glued it in place with epoxy, sanded and filled around the edges, and painted the inside with primer, to stop a later internal coat of metallic paint showing through and darkening the external white. That left me with a clean, sanded external surface that would provide a firm bonding surface for the detailing.

There’s also a small umbilical port on the gantry side of the SLA that needed to be created. I found a suitably sized square in one of Verlinden’s scribing templates, taped it in place, and scribed my way through the kit plastic. Then I closed the hole with a piece of styrene sheet on the inside. (I’d embed a link to Verlinden Productions website, but it’s been flagged as containing malware for months now—you should be able to hunt down their products from your friendly modelling supply store, though.)

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA umbilical port
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After that, the photo-etched panel margins from New Ware were put in place on the upper SLA, along with the fairings around the spring ejector hinges at the base of each panel. This gave me a bit of a problem, because I wanted the upper SLA to still be detachable from the lower SLA, so that I can eventually put the LM in place. So the hinges and panel margins are glued only to the upper SLA, and lift away with it—it’s not an entirely realistic result, but it’s the best I could come up with.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA filled a partly detailed
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The detailing is panel-specific, and the kit has locator flanges that fix the orientation of the SLA relative to the whole Saturn V stack. So it can all go horribly wrong if you start the detailing without first checking the orientations. The LM faces towards the transparent panel in the kit SLA, which should have a personnel access port in the middle of it; the hatch of the command module faces in the opposite direction from the LM;  and the umbilical port is on the gantry side, which is the LM’s right. So I invested a bit of time with photos and diagrams before I took the major step of scribing out my umbilical port, and then used that as my anchor point for subsequent detailing.

The detailing was attached with a mixture of cyanoacrylate, five-minute epoxy and Microscale Kristal Klear. I used the Kristal Klear for the long, delicate brass strips of the photo-etch—it was forgiving for positioning and any residue could be rubbed off cleanly. Before the Kristal Klear dried, I tacked down one end of the strip with cyanoacrylate, let that set, pulled the strip tight and tacked the other end with more cyanoacrylate. The combination produced a nice flat, secure result.

Once the panel frames, hinges and hatches were in place, I moved on to adding detail of the structural framing with a variety of styrene strip from Evergreen. That structure then provides clear positional guidance for the remaining few pieces of detail from New Ware—a selection of covered elliptical ports  that were, to judge from photographs of the real SLA panels, connected to various pieces of internal machinery of mysterious function.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA detailed
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Next, I had to paint it. A few coats of base white, and then I needed to mask it up for the black paint on the Instrument Unit. I’m vaguely phobic about painting black on white—masking leaks somehow seem so much more catastrophic when the contrast is so high. So I decided I’d experiment with Bare-Metal® Foil—the manufacturers recommend it for tricky paint masking. It certainly did the masking job very well, but I’m not sure I’ll use it again—it leaves a horrible dark residue behind that needs to be removed with white spirit; the paint doesn’t adhere to it, so it can leave a ragged edge if you don’t carefully cut along the foil edge before lifting; and it is very difficult to remove, coming off in little bits and pieces. That said, the final result was perfect, so I shouldn’t complain.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V lower SLA masked
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I finished off with four resin antenna fairings from New Ware, and then four decals, before a final layer of varnish.

You wouldn’t think four decals could take two hours, would you? Here’s the problem:
On the real Saturn V, there were four letters stencilled on the Instrument Unit, marking the positions of its reference coordinate axes: +Y, +Z, -Y, -Z. On a black Instrument Unit, they were stencilled in white. The exception occurred with the Saturn V stacks that launched Apollos 10 to 17, when the IU had a white panel on the side opposite the gantry, requiring a black letter in that location. So New Ware, being thorough people, provide all four coordinate letter decals in white, and one alternative in black. So far so good. But they provide a black -Y.

Now, the coordinates systems used on the Saturn V and its Apollo stack are confusing. The Apollo stack used YZ horizontal coordinates, Y being the pitch axis (aligned north-south at launch) and Z the yaw axis, and in that system +Y was directed towards the gantry and -Y was opposite it, towards the white panel on the IU. But the stencilled coordinates on the IU actually indicated the direction the observer was facing, not the direction the stack was facing. To me, that’s so disorientating it’s a miracle they got to the moon at all, but I imagine the gyroscopes and accelerometers in the IU didn’t mind, so long as the IU was loaded on to the stack the right way round. Anyway—what I actually needed was a black +Y.

Just for confirmation, here are details from photos of the Apollo 11 Saturn V that I’m modelling.

Gantry side:Gantry side of Apollo 11 IU

Opposite side:Side of Apollo IU opposite gantry

So I had to cut a tiny sliver of black decal from my spare stock, trim it to the correct length and width, float it into position as a vertical crossbar on the minus sign of the black -Y, and settle it securely in place with Micro Sol. That’s what took the two hours. Pleasingly, I obtained that little sliver of black from a swastika decal I had left over from a previous WWII Luftwaffe modelling phase—so a little nod to Wernher von Braun, there.

Here’s the final result, with and without the CSM in place.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA complete
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Revell 1/96 Saturn V SLA with RealSpace CSM
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As a final tweak, during all my obsessive checking of the orientation of the SLA, I noticed that the locating flanges between the bottom of the IU and the top of the S-IVB were 10º out of correct alignment—the external tunnel of the S-IVB in the kit was lining up exactly with the -Y coordinate of the IU, whereas it needs to be rotated slightly to the right. So I sanded off the locating studs on the S-IVB and replaced them with some styrene in the correct position.

But that’s all for now on the Saturn V. I’m getting a little tired of detailing at 1/96 scale, so I’m going to take a break and start a 1/48 kit instead.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module: Part 3

RealSpace Models Apollo CSMIn the first two parts of this build log, I’ve been describing my experience with RealSpace Models1/96 Apollo Command/Service Module, which is intended to replace the CSM provided with Revell’s classic 1/96 Saturn V model kit. Revell unfortunately provides only a “Block I” CSM, which was never flown on a manned mission—RealSpace provides the Block II components I need to build my Apollo 11 Saturn V.

The final vital part in the RealSpace kit is a vacuformed Boost Protective Cover (BPC). In the real Apollo missions, this was a fibre-glass and cork heat-shield that covered the Command Module during launch. The BPC and Command Module were attached to the Launch Escape Tower, a set of rocket motors designed to whisk the CM out of danger if something went wrong during the early stages of the launch. Another problem with Revell’s kit is that there’s no Boost Protective Cover—the Launch Escape Tower simply cobbles straight on to the kit’s Command Module.

So here’s how the BPC comes out of the RealSpace box—it needs to be trimmed:

RealSpace Models vacuformed Boost Protective Cover
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In particular, there’s a notch in the back that needs to be opened to accommodate the umbilical that links the Command and Service Modules.

This needs careful measuring—if you cut out the whole raised area in the vacuformed part, you’ll find the hole is bigger than the umbilical.

RealSpace Models vacuformed Boost Protective Cover, trimmed
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I did this prep work before I covered the Command Module with foil, and was disconcerted to find that the nice friction fit between BPC and CM was lost once the foil was in place—the cover kept popping up and tilting to a jaunty angle, which was going to be hopeless once the escape tower was in place on top of it. The plastic used for the vacuform is thermosetting, so I had no luck trying to adjust the shape with some hot water. It looked like I was going to need to place a couple of vents in the sides and patch with sheet styrene, which was a task I didn’t really fancy. So by way of prevarication, I taped the BPC firmly in place over the CM and abandoned it for a month while we went to Wrangel Island … and (mirabile dictu!) by the time we got home again it had decided it was going to stay where it was put after all.

One final bit of cutting is required—the real BPC contained windows over the CM hatch and in front of the commander’s window (on the left side). I popped these out with my trusty hole punch, and glazed them with a couple of little discs cut from a sheet of overhead-projector transparency (I knew it would come in useful if I kept it long enough!)

RealSpace Models vacuformed Boost Protective Cover, windows added
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Now I needed to assemble Revell’s Launch Escape Tower:

Revell Launch Escape Tower
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This is a rather bland looking object—in fact, the whole kit lacks quite a lot of detail that should have been easily moulded. I used some fine styrene rod to add the ribbing on the structural skirt, together with two wiring harnesses:

Revell Launch Escape Tower, detailed
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Then it was just a matter of using some epoxy to get the tower centrally placed on the BPC, and correctly orientated with the wiring harnesses on the same side as the BPC hatch cover.

Launch Escape System (RealSpace Models / Revell)
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And here’s the whole assembly, in place on RealSpace’s CSM:

Launch Escape System in place (RealSpace Models / Revell) 1
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Launch Escape System in place (RealSpace Models / Revell) 2
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The next step is to detail up Revell’s Spacecraft Lunar Module Adapter (SLA) section—quite a complicated structure in real life, but just a bland cone in Revell’s kit.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module: Part 2

Having finished with the Service Module detailing, I had a little bit to do on the Command Module before I could start applying foil. I sanded down the original undetailed cabin hatch on the resin model, and added the photoetched detail from New Ware’s Saturn V Detail Kit. Then I added a hatch handle using a bit of styrene rod.

Bare-Metal FoilThen it was time for the foil—I’ve seen people use ordinary household aluminium, but I decided to try the self-adhesive stuff produced by Bare-Metal®Foil (as they seem to like to be known). I assembled it in panels, each panel taking in one bit of detailing—a window, a Reaction Control System thruster set, an S-band antenna. It minimized the amount of moulding and cutting I had to do, but it did produce an erroneous “panelled” look. The Mylar foil on the original CM was laid on in narrow diagonal strips, which would have been less than a millimetre wide if I’d scaled them down to this model. The folks at Bare-Metal insist it should be possible to make the junctions between foil edges invisible, but I failed miserably.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (3)
Adding the foil a panel at a time (Click to enlarge)

I trimmed the straight edges with a fresh No. 11 scalpel blade from Swann-Morton. You can buy these, unsterilized, surprisingly cheaply in packs of a hundred. They drift through the thin foil with almost no resistance. Properly mounted on the correct scalpel handle, they’re a great alternative to the traditional craft knife, with the advantage that you can dispose of them safely with Swann-Morton’s plastic remover unit.

For the little circular cut-outs around the RCS thrusters, I used a 2mm leather punch on the foil before I took it off its backing. This made slightly overscale holes, but had the advantage of making them neat, circular and reproducible.

The resin in the SpaceModels moulding has a slightly bobbly texture that isn’t really apparent until you start smoothing the foil. If I was doing this again, I’d sand the CM smooth and rescribe the small number of panel lines.

Quick Shine for canopiesFinally, some decalling with Space Model System’s Ultimate Apollo Command & Service Module Decals, which weren’t particularly keen to adhere to the foil. Once I had them delicately in place I carefully sealed them down with a couple of layers of trusty Quick Shine floor polish, the same stuff I use to restore scratched canopies.

Having used Ultra Bright Chrome for the Command Module, I turned to Matte [sic] Aluminum [sic] for the aft heatshield on the Service Module. This needed another circular hole in the foil (around the SPS engine nozzle), but considerably larger than those around the Command Module RCS thrusters. I used a circle-cutting compass while the foil was still on its backing. The circle cutter was used again to produce a couple of pieces of detailing—two arcs of heatshield that lie directly on the aft surface of the Service Module. (Because this is a pour surface of the resin model, there’s no detail on it.) The same foil was used to surface the umbilical cover that connects the Command and Service Modules, before that was glued into place.

Circle cutter and parts
Circle cutter with umbilical cover and aft heatshield components (Click to enlarge)
RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (4)
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Then there’s another piece to be added from the Revell 1/96 Saturn V kit—the Service Module’s S-band high gain antenna, which has to be placed in its stowed position, because it’s eventually going to have to fit inside the Spacecraft-Lunar Module Adapter of the Revell kit.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (9)
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So here’s the completed model.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (5)
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RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (6)
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RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (7)
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RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (8)
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Next up, the vacuformed Boost Protective Cover (from RealSpace) and the Launch Escape Tower (from Revell). The BPC was a nice friction fit over the Command Module in the orginal resin, but the foil covering seems to have reduced the friction just enough that the BPC now keeps popping off. That’s going to take a bit of fixing.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II Command/Service Module: Part 1

RealSpace Models Apollo CSM

So this is the first part of my slow assembly of the Revell 1/96 Apollo Saturn V.

Revell 1/96 Saturn V

One of several shortcomings in that kit is that the Apollo Command/Service Module provided is a Block I version. That kind of CSM only ever sat on top of a Saturn V for the unmanned Apollo 4 and Apollo 6 launches, which makes it a rather dull option for anyone who has gone to the length of going out and buying a stonking great Saturn V model kit. You’d have thought Revell might have fixed this for the 25th anniversary reissue of the kit, but they didn’t. Nor did they fix it for the 40th anniversary reissue, which actually has images of a moon landing on the box art.

So what’s a fellow to do? RealSpace Models to the rescue, with a 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM, the kind that flew men to the moon.

As a kit, it’s very simple, consisting of just three parts—the Command and Service Modules in a single unit, the SPS engine nozzle and aft heatshield, and the umbilical connecting the Command and Service Modules. It also includes a vacuformed Boost Protective Cover (you can see it in the box art, above) which corrects another shortcoming of the Revell model—that the kit’s Launch Escape System tower connected directly to the Command Module. There will be more on the BPC in a later post, but this one is about the CSM.

As a resin kit, there are some pour surfaces to deal with—the aft surface of the Service Module and the front surface of the aft heatshield need to be flattened and smoothed before the two parts can be put together. I wish I’d taken some pictures of the original resin parts for you, but I forgot, and there don’t seem to be any available on-line. RealSpace’s moulding is good and detailed, and I found only a couple of bubbles to fill. My kit arrived with damage to the delicate docking probe on the front of the Command Module—rather than try to replace the kit, I rebuilt the probe using some fine styrene rod. A certain amount of care (and some reference material) is then required to attach the aft heatshield in the correct orientation relative to the CSM. Although RealSpace provide a diagram that just about does the job, I found myself checking multiple photographs, too, to convince myself that the heatshield (and its associated fuel and oxidizer hook-ups) really was so rotated relative to the principal axes of the CSM.

New Ware Saturn V Detail KitThen there was a little detail work, using New Ware’s Saturn V Detail Kit (of which you’ll be seeing a lot more as I work my way through this build)—the semi-circular scimitar antennae on the Service Module were rather blunt and chunky in resin, so I removed them and replaced them with New Ware’s slimmer photoetched metal parts. I also added New Ware’s umbilical attachment point.

Then, after a coat of white primer, I masked the Service Module up for a layer of silver and some gloss varnish. Removing the masking gave me the white panelling I needed.

Space Model Systems Apollo CSM DecalsAfter that, more detailing, in the form of Space Model System’s Ultimate Apollo Command & Service Module Decals. This set includes every little warning panel visible on the outside of the spacecraft, and is probably overkill at this scale, since many are pretty much invisible unless you go looking for them close up. Nevertheless, there was a definite level of satisfaction to be derived from getting them all in place. This also made me commit to a specific mission, since there are small differences in Service Module labelling between the different Apollo missions. So, on the basis of couple of labels near the Service Module umbilical hook-up, it’s going to be the Apollo 11 mission.

And that was the point at which I remembered to take a photograph. So here it is, awaiting a coat of varnish to seal the decals, and then some detail painting. At this scale it’s just eleven centimetres tall, so for my presbyopic eyes, the fine work needs an illuminating magnifying glass.

RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (1)
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Painting turns out to be a little problematic, since there are various slightly different colour schemes described out there. Photos are less help than you might think, since some of the pictures taken in the high-contrast space environment render what is probably a shade of red as a rather drab brown. So I did my best, mixing up a reddish brick shade for the fuel and oxidizer connections in the base of the Service Module, and using bright red for the markings around the Command Module’s Reaction Control System nozzles. The Service Module’s RCS quads aren’t provided by SpaceModels, so you need to use the ones provided by Revell (which aren’t quite the right shape), or scratch-build something yourself. I took the lazy route and used Revell’s. I mixed up Humbrol’s gold and gunmetal enamel paints to get a dull gold sheen on the Service Module RCS nozzles—again, it’s difficult to be sure of the right shade when judging from photographs.

So here it is, so far. The next step is going to involve applying metal foil to the aft heatshield and the Command Module, so there’s some pretty splotchy paintwork in those areas—eventually they’ll be neatly delineated by holes in the foil (he writes, confidently). Meanwhile, the current appearance of the CM reminds me strangely of a six-year-old girl who has slapped on some of her mother’s mascara and lipstick.RealSpace Models 1/96 Apollo Block II CSM (2)I haven’t applied foil to a model before, and it is possible I’ve picked an overly challenging surface to start with. We’ll see.

Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King: Part 5

Well, if you’ve been fretting about what was happening with this kit, I can only assure you that I haven’t been frittering away my time.

Not been having a lot of fun, either.

You’ll maybe recall that I planned to use my own printed decals to put some thin yellow stripes on to the main rotor blades, as well as the red/white/red flashes on the tail rotor.  I printed these up with an inkjet printer on Experts-Choice® Decal Film from the Bare Metal Foil Company, then sealed them with Microscale Liquid Decal Film, thinned half-and-half with surgical spirit for the airbrush. (I find brushing it on tends to smear the ink.)Sea King tail rotor awaits decals

I printed on opaque white film, because I wanted a good solid yellow line without the gull grey base colour of the rotor blades showing through. I cut out the narrow strips flush with the edge of the inked area—and they promptly curled lengthways into narrow tubes as soon as I soaked them off the backing paper. I simply could not get them to stay uncurled and adhere to the surface.

Hmmm. Another printing, a little less decal film—same problem. OK, it looked like I needed to be able to leave margins on either side of the stripes, which meant I needed to print on clear film and accept that some grey would show through. That worked—with a margin as wide as the stripe, they had enough weight and adhesion to stay flat once applied.

My other Cunning Plan had been to line up all the rotor blades on a jig with the the stripe locations marked, drap a decal across all five blades, treat with a little Micro Sol to get good adhesion, and then slice the decal at the blade edges with a fresh craft knife blade. That way I would get my forty yellow stripes in eight decal applications …Decal jig

Nope, didn’t work. The decals were not adhesive enough, and too tough—I couldn’t slice them without dislodging them.

Forty individually applied decals later, I had my yellow stripes, although slightly greyer than I’d hoped for.

The good news was that the nice people at Old 66 Decals had supplied some tail rotor stripes in their Apollo 13 Recovery decal set, so I used those rather than trying to wrestle with any more of my own printed ones.

Now to assemble the main rotor. The Airfix kit is very badly designed for this—each rotor blade attaches to the central hub with a very short overlap and a single locating stud. So it’s very easy to end up with rotor blades that aren’t in the same plane, and/or don’t form a pentagon. I ended up tying each one in place with a loop of thread and making quick adjustments before the cement had cured.

Sea King rotor under construction
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At this point, when dry-mounting the rotor on the aircraft, I discovered that the rotor hub was distorted, so that the rotor lolloped around when rotated—one quadrant of the rotor disc drooping alarmingly over the nose and then sweeping round to foul the tail.

Aaaaaaaaaaaargh. And again, aaaaaaaaaaaargh. Very difficult to fix, with the delicate rotor blades already in place. Your correspondent indulged in a lot of dark muttering while heating and bending the hub, trying to keep the rotors in a common plane while shifting that plane to match the axis of rotation.

But, eventually, success. Like all kits, there are things I would do differently (read, properly at first attempt) if I was building it over again, but overall she looks not too bad at all:

Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King, Apollo 13 recovery
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But I believe I will never, ever, attempt another 1/72-scale kit of this vintage. Life is too short, and coronary arteries too narrow.

Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King: Part 4

So, much masking later, I got the black, silver and red detailing done on the body of the helicopter. Gad, that’s hard work on something with so much rivet detail—very difficult to mask effectively without one pesky rivet being right on the edge of the masked region, allowing a tiny leak of paint. I was a little busy with a scalpel blade and a toothpick tidying up edges, but I’ve drawn a veil over that part of the proceedings.

Here are the major components, sprayed up with gloss and ready for the application of decals:

Parts ready for decals
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You can see I managed to get a consistent curve on the main rotor blades.

Old 66 Decals Apollo 13 RecoveryThe “Old 66” decal set is very nice: a lot of detail for the Apollo 13 recovery, and a lot of spare bits and pieces from which you could turn out an Apollo 12 recovery version of the same aircraft. It’s an oddity of the Apollo 13 livery that the port and starboard sides of this aircraft are slightly different—the starboard side seems to have been repainted and then remarked with slightly different stencils, while the port side kept the original Apollo-12-vintage markings.

The decals themselves are quite thick, which is good news for those as hamfisted as me—I managed not to tear any of them! But it also makes them a little difficult to bed down. They also seem to be oddly water-repellent, so that they kept fixing in place just before I had them where I wanted them. Easily enough fixed, however, with another brushload of Micro Set for the final tweak, and then a little bit of kitchen towel to soak away the excess. At this point those damn rivets created more problems—the thick decals were a little reluctant to drape over them, and I got little silver patches of trapped air along the rivet lines. So lots of work with a fine needle, a little cautious thumb pressure to milk out the air, and several applications of Micro Sol. But at the end of the day the decals turned out really well, and I’d certainly rather have a bit of extra work with robust decals than have the things fall apart in my hands during application.

A quick rinse to get ride of the residue of all that Micro Sol, and then another couple of coats of airbrush varnish to seal the decals. This time, I added a little matt to my gloss varnish, to give me a silk finish.

Then the horror of removing the masking from the transparencies. It’s so much easier when you can mask and paint them separately, but it wasn’t really an option with this model. So the masks were thickened up with layers of paint and varnish, and there was a lot of scalpel work to get them off with minimal damage to the thin lines of the painted canopy.

So here she is, awaiting her rotors:

Port Sea King decals
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Starboard Sea King decals
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Rear Sea King decals
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She’s sitting a little nose down, which is irritating me slightly. The problem is the tail wheel, which in the real machine has a scissoring compression structure that partially collapses on the ground and dangles in flight. Airfix have tried for a one-size-fits-all approach, so the tail wheel assembly provided is neither collapsed enough for the ground nor extended enough for flight. I’m going to just look at it for a while, because I suspect I could do a fair bit of damage and come up with an even more unsatisfactory appearance if I try to fix this.

The canopy is going to take a fair bit of tidying up. The paint’s a little uneven, and there are slightly scadded patches on some of the transparencies that I can probably improve with another application of Quick Shine.

Cockpit Sea King decals
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I confess I find canopy painting at this scale a little demoralizing—there’s always something not right!

Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King: Part 3

So there’s another weird, reclusive model-builder featuring in Fringe, season 5, episode 11. But, hey, he’s helping to save the world, so that’s all good.

Here’s a good view of how the canopy turned out, after the blue glass paint:

Sea King canopy, blue stain
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Things have gone a little slowly since then, partly because I hate masking models up for spraying, and partly because I had to dismantle and clean the airbrush. It seems to have a remarkable number of pieces that are accessible to paint; and there seem to be several different ways of reassembling them once they’re clean. At one point I had an object that looked exactly like an airbrush, which contained all the parts of an airbrush, but which nevertheless generated no airstream whatsoever.

But we’re cooking now. The main colours are on – white above, gull grey below:

Sea King basic paint, starboard
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Sea King basic paint, port
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Now it needs a little black and red detailing before an all-over spray of gloss, ready for decals.

In other news, the main rotor blades were a bit wavy when they came out of the box:

Sea King rotors, variously bent
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I want them with a gentle downward droop for a static model, so they went into a little former built out of card and tape:

Sea King rotors being curved
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Now they’re ready to be dipped in some hot water and then some cold water. Fortunately I noticed that I had initially put them in the former upside down—it would have been a rather surprised-looking helicopter, otherwise.

The main rotors need some fine yellow stripes across the blades. I’m pretty rubbish at masking, or freehand painting, on the millimetre scale, so I decided to print up some decals to do the job. While I was at it, I printed up the red-white-red stripes for the tail rotor, too:

Sea King tail rotor awaits decals
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I now need to seal the decal paper with a spray of Microscale Liquid Decal Film, thinned in surgical spirit. Smells great!

Airfix 1/72 Sikorsky SH-3D Sea King: Part 2

I’ve just been watching the second episode of season four of Fringe, which features a serial killer whose apartment is stuffed with plastic model kits, for no reason that involves the plot. In fact, no-one comments on it. They’re just there, in the background on all the shelves, sending some sort of signal.

Well, the signal I received was, “Hey, good storage solutions!” Maybe that’s just me, though.

So far, I’ve painted up the interior of the Sea King I introduced in a previous post:

Sea King cockpit assembly
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Those of you who are on the alert (well, more alert than me) will have noticed that the cockpit interior is the wrong colour—more 1940s than 1960s. I managed to notice and fix this before assembly got too far along. Something I’d completely forgotten about kits of this vintage is that the control panel detail comes printed on the instruction sheet—you have to cut it out and glue it on.

The pilot is looking rather jauntily slumped. That’s partly the angle of the photo, but partly because of Airfix’s use of standard figures that sometimes don’t fit very well into the rest of the cockpit detail. So I’m imagining that his attention has been abruptly captured by something high up on the left side of the aircraft …

The rear compartment is supplied devoid of realistic detail, so I’m making it as invisible as possible with a matt black finish. The kit comes with a vertical cylindrical housing for a dipping anti-submarine sonar that wasn’t used in the Apollo recovery helicopters, so I’ve sawn the housing off flush with the deck and blanked the hole with a bit of plastic card. From the outside, this should leave the underside opening blocked at the correct level.

The transparent parts have suffered a fair bit of scratching after knocking about in the box for forty years, so I’ve revitalized them with a dip in trusty Quick Shine floor polish:

Dipping canopy in Quick Shine
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Quick Shine for canopiesIf the parts are carefully dipped, drained and blotted along the edges, this forms a nice smooth shiny layer that does a lot to conceal fine scratches.It’s a bit of a two-edged sword, though, because the resultant shininess does tend to emphasis any ripples in these old mouldings.

The blue glass paint for the upper canopy panels worked out well, after a stressful start. It’s pretty viscous and fast-drying, but it does tend to gather slightly along the lower edge of any surface that’s not perfectly horizontal. Because the panels I was painting are curved, there’s no way to prevent that happening. Picture my delight. So I ended up applying three coats, leaving the canopy to dry in a different position each time. The slightly increased density in each coat fell on different parts of the panels, and the whole lot evened out. There are still some slight variations in density across the panels when viewed against a white surface, but against the busy interior of the cockpit they’re effectively invisible. Hoorah!

Fitting the two sides of the fuselage together was time-consuming, with a lot of sanding and filling. The multiple rivet-lines make it difficult to get things perfectly smooth without creating visible gaps in the run of rivets. Various compromises were required. There was a truly horrible mismatch in the rear of the main engine cowling, and some distorted detail there that I’ve sacrificed—I’ll scratch-build a new wee panel to replace what was lost.

Sea King masking started
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Sea King canopy dry fit
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I find that even fine wet sandpaper leaves surface roughness that shows up when gloss paint is applied, so I’ve been doing final smoothing of the seams with a set of nail buffing sticks. I ordered these from Amazon in quick succession with some airbrush supplies and some printable decal paper, so Amazon’s idiot recommendation algorithm now seems to have decided that I run a nail bar. It’s difficult for me to describe how distressing I find that—serial killer, OK; but a nail bar?

So, the main fuselage is assembled, and I’ve started masking the transparent sections. The main cockpit canopy is just a dry fit in these photographs—it’s going to take a little more sanding a filling to get it to sit nicely, but you can see the effect of the overhead blue panelling.

More in due course.