Going Totally Mersh

Well, the FM-2 looks to be stalled as I get Obscureco stuff done for the nationals. We’ll have three new 1:72 products, two of which were mastered by Roy Sutherland (and the third by Mike Laxton). Now, it’s up to me to make up the instruction sheets. My wife has been on me about why I haven’t replaced my ancient Macintosh G3 with the shiny new PowerBook she got me in March – it’s for reasons like this. I can’t learn a new operating system – not to mention new graphics software – during crunch time before the nationals! Plus, I’ll have to re-do all my existing instruction sheets from PageMaker (!) to InDesign. That’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Plus my printer is acting psychotic. I’m also sweating an inventory crunch; I’m hoping Bill Ferrante can get me a bunch of stuff before Monday so I can have it at the nationals. I think we’re as low on inventory as we’ve ever been right before a show, except for P-51D wings. We have lots of those. We’ll do all right, but not as well as we could.

I am looking forward to leaving for the show Tuesday – that’ll mean that all this hurrying stuff is behind me! And I did, in fact, get the FM-2’s pitot probe installed, so all is not lost on that front…!

By the way, the title of this post is an homage to the Minutemen, whose considered their album of songs longer than 90 seconds to be “totally mersh,” or commercial in Mike Watt-ese.

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Tomorrow, 64 years ago…

The 378th Fighter Squadron, 362nd Fighter Group flew two missions in the vicinity of Vire, France, bombing one Tiger tank and setting a second ablaze through strafing. Lt. Charles Naerhood and Lt. Andrew Sunter were shot down by flak; Sunter recalled that he followed his leader, Naerhood, to strafe a truck. Although Naerhood was able to radio that he had been hit and was on fire, and his plane made a long, skidding crash-landing north-northwest of Percy, Naerhood was killed. Sunter was hit on the same pass. “On pulling off the target, I felt three distinct flak hits on my plane, my right foot was knocked off the rudder pedal and either pieces of flak or floor (started) rattling around the cockpit,” he said. “I recovered control and thought I was all right until flames started spewing up around my legs and it got unbearably hot. I rolled my trim tab back, pulled the plane up to approximately 1000 feet, opened the canopy and dove out the right side. I cleared the plane and pulled the ripcord. I glanced at my watch, it was 2015. Then I heard popping noises and glanced down over my right shoulder. I could see German soldiers firing at me with rifles. All I could do was swing my chute as much as possible and swear at the Germans. I was too angry to be afraid.

“After what seemed like minutes to me, but no doubt was only a few seconds, my chute drifted into a tree where I hung two feet off the ground. I could hear the Germans yelling at one another behind a hedgerow and knew they were after me so I quickly unhooked myself.” Sunter ducked the Germans by hiding in a haystack; the farmer whose field the stack was in gave him some civilian clothes and took him to his house to dress his leg wounds, walking him right past the German patrol. Hiding with the farmer’s family, Sunter endured American shelling of some nearby Panzers by hiding in the cellar, where he was joined several times by German soldiers. Eventually, a German officer tried to question Sunter, but the farmer explained that Sunter was a deaf mute. Finally, the officer ordered the family out of the house in order to set up a machine gun position in the upper floors. The next morning Sunter stumbled across some American infantrymen advancing toward his former hiding place. They had orders and couldn’t stop to cater to the pilot, so they gave Sunter some grenades and he brought along a captured German Schmeisser machine-pistol and went with them. Only after several hours of combat was Sunter returned to regimental headquarters and eventually back to the 362nd.

The second mission for the 378th was equally eventful. Col. Morton Magoffin was flying with the squadron, and near Beaumont-sur-Sarthe he “sent Yellow Flight into a patch of woods to scare something out,” reported Lt. Donald Stoddard. At about that time, Magoffin spotted an Fw 190A-8 “blue 20” flying north on the deck, piloted by Fw. Rudolph Rauhaus of Stab.I./JG1. “We were at about 10,000 feet,” Stoddard said. “The flight got into a string formation and went down on the Fw 190. I made one pass at the Fw 190 and overshot.” Stoddard chandelled to the left to get on the German fighter’s tail, but by this time Magoffin had him in his sights. “The Colonel, from about 2300 yards to the rear, fired one long burst, giving it some deflection,” said Lt. Arthur Staples, Magoffin’s wingman. “He secured strikes all over the cockpit and the engine, The plane broke into flames, rolled on its back and went down.” Rauhaus was killed in his planes’ crash.

By the way, this is my model of Magoffin’s P-47D, from the Tamiya kit and sporting Eagle Strike decals:

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Not-very-arty shot of Magoffin's "Carol Ann II" in 1:72

Stoddard, meanwhile, had spotted a second Fw 190. “I made two turns with him to the left, giving him a couple of bursts, but observed no strikes. I pulled in a little more and gave one good burst from about 250 yards and saw strikes all over the fuselage. He straightened out and was rocking. About this time the canopy came off and the Hun bailed out. The Fw 190 crashed and was burning when I left. The Colonel took pictures of the Hun pilot in his chute and the burning plane.” This was probably Ofhr. Karl-Heinz Schaper of 2./JG6; despite bailing out, Schaper later died of his wounds.

By the way, I’m writing a book about the 362nd FG, and hopefully Osprey will ask for it if I pester them long enough. If you get a chance, head over to their website and put in a good word for a book about “Mogin’s Maulers.”

Birthday in Y-town

Not much modeling was done this weekend – unless you count stuffing resin parts into bags and boxes modeling – but I did go to the IPMS/Dragon Lady contest. The show had about 85 entrants, and a very good turnout of modelers. The club’s guys did a good job of organization, and I was impressed by how many wives and kids also helped out. The talk is of a two-day regional at the fairgrounds next year, and I can hardly wait.

I won a first and a third in small-scale military vehicles, with the Harley Davidson winning first.

More memorable was the cake my friends brought up to celebrate my birthday (which is actually today) – that was a real surprise! They dropped it on me at the restaurant after the show. Mike Burton, Randy Ray, Mike Meek, Woody Yeung and Bill Ferrante were among those in on it, I would suspect; we had several other local guys (and a couple from Fresno!) there as well. It was a very nice little party.

FM-2 Deja vu: the feeling you’ve done something before, only easier

Two frustrating things about the FM-2 gear:

1. Getting all my scratchbuilt additions into the bay around the rest of the struts is a huge pain. At least the styrene rod flexes – I was able to squeeze the A-frame truss into the bay and only lost one easily-replaced strut in the process. Now, getting CA glue to the proper attachment points is the next big challenge – it’s not easy. I have three little struts to add, followed by some solder “hoses;” none of this is made easier by the dark sea blue color. It’s like a black hole in there. However, from the side, all these struts, wires and hoses will be readily visible, so I can’t just skip it

2. I’ve done this before – in 2002 with an F4F-4 – and I can’t remember how I did it! Ugh!

F4F-4 Wildcat - Hasegawa, 2002

Ohm, wait a second – I just discovered how by looking here at this build article. Turns out it was easy then. So, like so many things about the FM-2, it’s just innately harder than the Hasegawa kit. Sheesh.

(By the way, I like the 40mm barrels on the left;cropped right, they look like they’re in the foreground. The backdrop is a photo in the Ethell book on the USN, with the styrene deck section blocking off the stern end of the ship and its associated aircraft. The guns were impossible to place so they weren’t “in camera.” They look good – although the late Bill Surgi of VF-4 pointed out that they were anachronistic, since the plane went down with the Yorktown on June 6, 1942. Bill also pointed out the lack of tie-downs on deck – I don’t think Evergreen makes scribed stock with WWII-era carrier tie downs yet!)

I picked up some 1.5mm yellow-amber-red lenses for the belly signal lights at D&J last night – along with the Hunter FGA.9 from Revell Randy got me at Yanni’s. When that will be built is anyone’s guess…

Modeling time usurped by Batman, Steve Carrell and God

Not a lot of modeling this week – the niece is not helping. Monday, she dragged us to see “The Dark Knight,” and last night she insisted that we watch “The 40-Year-Old Virgin.” Tuesday I had a church council meeting, although I did get a chance to apply the flat insignia yellow to the prop tips, and I got a couple of Obscureco orders packaged up and ready to mail. The nationals push for me isn’t just to finish a model but to get the Obscureco inventory together for the show. We have two or maybe three things that will be new for the show (and more, I guess, since there’s some stuff that’s not on the Obscureco website yet), so I’ll have to make instructions up on top of it all. It’s all got to be done by July 31, when I’ll ship it all off to Virginia Beach. A tip of the hat to Lynn Ritger – a slug of 332nd FG books is already on its way to him, because Random House’s shipping is… well, kind of random. If the books got to Virginia Beach too early, the convention center would have sent them back. Also, I like to get all the back orders out – it helps when people aren’t asking me about their stuff in person. Of corse, a lot of my outstanding orders are from places like Belgium, Switzerland and Kwajalein (no joke), so I suspect they won’t be at the show, but it’s just good commercial karma to get ’em out before you head off to the nationals.

Anyhow, that’s all just whining. My goal for tonight, Friday and Saturday is to attack the FM-2 list and cross off most of the items. I won’t have it done for the Yuba City contest – and I’ll take some time to add cargo to my jeep so it’s competitive (by covering up the gruesome seam in the rear bed)– but it should be done a week later.

By the way… Telling your wife that all you want for your birthday is some time to work on a model is not a useful or effective way of preserving domestic tranquility. My birthday’s on July 29, and so we’ll probably be doing something special – maybe going to a Giants game, maybe eating at the Wood Tavern. Any other time of the year, this would be great. The week before the nationals? It gets hectic.

12 Days to the Nationals…

Flat-cat fever

Here’s a weekend re-cap on the FM-2:

Saturday, I carefully built out the landing gear, fabricating all the missing struts, trusses and other structural stuff from .020 styrene rod. It looked darned good, if I may say so myself. Then, I tried to fit it into the wheel bay – which it wouldn’t go into. It was too big longitudinally. So, I broke off the forward truss and its supports and glued in the gear, mounting it with CA glue on the front and back of the keel (the gear is attached to the external fuselage, in other words). I’ll stick the other bits in with tweezers after playing several games of “Operation” to build up my skills for such a fiddly bit of work

I also shot a 75-30 mix of lacquer thinner and Testors Dullcote over the model. I was worried that some of the odd, blotchy surface characteristics present in the gloss coat would show up – nope. They’re gone. The model looks unified in its surface appearance. I’ve toyed with the idea of adding a satin coat or even a bit of Metallizer sealer to bring back a bit of shine – I’ll try it on the lower wing first. With the gear installed and the model flat-coated, it finally looks like something I’ll be happy with.

So, here’s what’s left in the order in which I’ll tackle it:

  • Landing gear
  • Tail wheel
  • Pitot boom
  • Antenna mast
  • Propeller
  • Weathering
  • Canopy
  • Signal lights
  • Wing lights
  • Tail light
  • Machine gun barrels
  • Aerial

This seems do-able… Photos will be up soon. I used our new camera (thanks for the recommendation, John Heck), so I have to learn to transfer images. Just you wait. Because you’ll have to.

Gear down, not locked

Well, the FM-2 has entered the landing gear phase of the build, with the three parts of the Hasegawa Wildcat’s gear cut out and cleaned up. Boy, there’s a lot to add to the gear that isn’t in the already busy kit gear – no wonder Matt Matsushita was the way he was! (20 years ago, Matt made a set of working 1:72 Wildcat gear… and was really never the same). It won’t be hard – styrene rod and some wire here and there are all that’s needed. That, and the factory drawing in the first “Detail & Scale” book on the FM-2 (but, oddly, not in the “improved” second edition. There was also plenty of flash on the Hasegawa parts, and they took some time to clean up. Hasegawa also leaves you quite a few lightening holes to drill on your own – but really, the kit builds up nicely out of the box. Surely, it’s better than the Sword FM-2 kit!

I also shot a mist coat of Varathane to seal the decals and slopped a “sludge wash” made from liquid dishwasher soap, a bit of water and Payne’s gray watercolor paint all over the model. Really, since the plane was dark sea blue, I only expected the wash to be visible over the white national insignia and in the joints of the control surfaces, and it was.

The wheels came from True Details. They make the only wheels in the world you can re-inflate by sanding. I sanded the flattened lower sidewalls, then airbrushed them with glossy sea blue paint. I made my own mix for the tire color – neutral gray, aircraft interior black and Model Master dark skin tone. This was carefully hand-brushed onto the tires.

So, actual progress was made! At this stage, I’m going to make up a list of what I need to do to finish the model and start crossing items off. Really, I’m not that far from the finish line…