RIP., Tom Harrison

It’s always rough when you immediate modeling community loses a member, but it’s really tough when it’s someone like Tom Harrison. Tom passed away yesterday after a short battle with what must have been a fairly aggressive form of lung cancer; most of us learned about it only last Thursday, we had a moment for Tom on Friday at the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers meeting, and then yesterday Bert McDowell passed on the sad news that Tom was gone.

Tom was the Tom in Tom’s Modelworks, which, along with Cooper Details, was one of the two true pioneering San Francisco Bay Area model companies. Tom’s Modelworks brought out vacuformed kits of then-obscure WWI aircraft, but Tom’s company really hit its stride when they began to focus on ships, probably achieving their zenith with the 1:350 Yorktown-class in 1998. The company’s other memorable kits included the 1:700 Bogue-class CVE and the 1:350 and 1:700 Liberty Ships U.S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien. In cahoots with Bert McDowell, Tom’s fellow employee at Western Electric, Tom did a lot to bring resin kits and photoetched parts to a broader audience. The Bogue kit was perhaps the first complete modern kit, with all the detailing stuff usually provided by the aftermarket included in the box. They also did a lot of aftermarket things for planes and ships, especially great brass parts.

Tom was active in the club, sponsoring make-and-takes and the odd club contest. He was a generous donor to our Veterans Administration Hospital model drive, and we were quite pleased to present him with the Tim Curtis Memorial Award for service to the club last year:

When I announced the award, he was back at his vendor table, chatting with someone, and he totally missed his name. A chorus of people finally got his attention, and he was shocked to have been recognized as such an important member of the club – which was in keeping with his character.

Tom did a lot for his hobby and for his friends in the club. We’ll all miss him a great deal.

Northwest Scale Modelers Show their stuff

Well, the Phantom did not make the Seattle event last week, much as I would have liked to have had it complete. My host Stephen Tontoni helpfully suggested I bring it up and finish it at the event, since part of the show is building models so spectators understand what goes into them. I thought that was a great idea until I realized I would then probably destroy the model trying to get it back home on the airplane! Drop tanks, Sidewinders, open canopies, horizontals – I could imagine them all clattering around inside the box when I got home. As it was, I took four planes – the P-51B above and my P-38 for the 8th Air Force display, and a P-47 and the FM-2 – plus my Jeep, GMC six-by and Harley Davidson WLA and a couple of figures, and that’s quite enough for one carry-on.

I tried to paint a figure while I was there, but I got too late a start on it – the light was shifting so rapidly I could never get a good fix on what I was painting. As a result, instead of painting a neatly-blended face and nicely-shaded set of clothing, I ended up with an Oompa-Loompa in green tiger-striped camouflage! Nothing a bit more paint can’t fix back at the bench…

I spent most of the time signing my book on the Fourth Fighter Group, and hanging out with Jeff Bomstead from the Washington Chapter of the Eighth Air Force Association and the veterans who were present to speak about their service. Jeff has a collection in 1:48 of Mustangs, Thunderbolts, Lightnings, Mosquitos and Spitfires that represents just about every fighter group in the Eighth, and he has several B-17s and B-24s, too. It made for a very impressive display. Here’s a photo from Tim Nelson, showing a couple of vets and a very small part of Jeff’s collection.


The aforementioned Tim and the crew up in Seattle did a great job of setting up, organizing and taking down the tables and displays – they were a model of efficiency (no pun intended) and they were hospitable to boot. Here’s a shot Tim sent over that illustrates what the show looked like from a distance:


Note that the MD-21 Blackbird is a very large plane – large enough to shelter 1959 models under its fuselage and wings! This was not a contest – it was a true show. The guys in SVSM and I are exploring the possibility of doing something similar in our area, so Bay Area modelers need to stay tuned.

Close to the Phinish…

The Phantom is all painted, washed and dull-coated, with just a few touch-ups left. The wash went on neatly enough. I used a dark gray watercolor paint mixed with dishwashing liquid and a drop of Windex (not too much, since it can wreak havoc with the Varathane I use for gloss coating), and smeared it all over the plane. The white areas got a lightened version of this; I wanted to avoid the stark black-line look, and I think I achieved this. Over that went a heavily-thinned spray of Testors Dullcote – 25-75 Dullcote to lacquer thinner. This was definitely a time for good ventilation.

The natural metal hiney of the F-4 is not just a task to paint, it’s kind of a pain to research. It’s pretty hard to find photos of the aft section of the plane that doesn’t have it in shadow. Not to worry – I employed the best photos from about eight books, some intuition, Testors metallizers and a whole lot of Post-it notes and applied four shades of metals (all hand mixed) to the aft end, plus three more to the horizontal stabilizers, which are also now ready for addition.

I had one minor mishap when a Post-it note lifted the star-and-bar from the lower wing. I could whine about it, but I won’t – I’ll just remove what’s left of the decal with clear cellophane tape, re-gloss, put another decal on there and flat-coat it again. There a couple other areas that are a little too shiny still, so this is an opportunity more than it is a problem. There are also some very minor silvering issues with a couple of decals (most noticeably, an “F-4B” on the data block), a spot where the masking allowed some metal onto an area that should be flat gull gray, and a couple spots where the Sundowners sun’s rays need touch-ups, but these are not serious problems. Altogether, it was a productive weekend.

One little problem popped up when I test-fit the Aires burners and tail pipes. It seems the wing spar impedes the pipes, so you have about 10mm of excess wing spar to motor-tool away. This will be fun – running the motor tool inside an area already completed with a natural metal finish. Oh, joy.

After that, I’ll paint the stores (the pylons, missiles and tanks are all standing by for paint) and the gear doors and other elements (ditto) with wonderful Humbrol Matt 34. After that, it’s the canopies and the bits in the cockpit. I think I can get most of this together by next Friday – and if I need extra time, I’ll work on sticking on all the bits at the Northwest Scale Modelers Show at the Museum of Flight in Seattle! I’ll be up there talking about my book on the Fourth Fighter Group, and I’ll drag a few models up – the Mustang above is an example, since the theme is “The Mighty Eighth.” I’d also like to bring my 362nd FG collection, and maybe the FM-2. It’s too bad this show isn’t closer to home, because I’m limited to what I can carry in a small bag on the plane.

There may be a show closer to home, though. A bunch of us from Silicon Valley Scale Modelers is planning a trip up to talk about a show like this at the Travis Air Museum, which is very amenable to the idea. So Seattle may be a little fact-finding trip for me.

Stickers on Old Nick 201

As promised, here are some photos of the Phantom with all its decals on. I’ll replace them with better –lit ones shortly. The big hurdle was the “USS CORAL SEA” legend (which was finally stolen off a SuperScale sheet for USMC Phantoms – sorry, jarheads!) and the aircraft BuNo. block on the tail. That one was fun – since the SuperScale sheet basically exploded on contact with water, it was made with the “F-4B” from the Hasegawa kit decals and numbers from an S-3 Viking sheet which were cut up and carefully rearranged. They actually came out well! Here’s where it stands right now:

My lovely wife is gone for the night and well into tomorrow which ought to get me enough time to do some serious work on the model. The stuff I have left to do is as follows:

1. Paint the horizontals
2. Apply a second coat of gloss to seal the decals
3. Apply a wash
4. Flat coat the sucker
5. Paint the natural metal areas under the tail
6. Paint and decal the canopies
7. Paint the pylons,tank and Sidewinders
8. Paint the struts and gear doors
9. Stick all the bits on

So it’s really not that far from being finished. I’ll probably add FOD covers to the intakes as well, just because I didn’t go overboard in sanding and smoothing the interiors. There are lots of other small parts that are already finished – ejection seats, wheels, afterburner cans, etc. – that fall under No. 9 above, and I also want to replace the sensor probes on the tail with some telescoping tubing.

I’m going up to the Museum of Flight in Seattle next weekend (as a “speaker,” kind of, since I wrote a book on the 4th Fighter Group and the show’s theme is “The Mighty Eighth”) and my goal is to have the finished “Old Nick 201” on the table. It can be done!

Also, here’s a Prieser 1:72 figure that I’ve made combat ready with a sidearm and jungle knife; he’ll be holding a map once he’s finished and will probably be a companion to my P-40E. My apologies for the slight blurriness – my camera is a little challenged when it comes to small stuff.