From not enough time to too much

I had some rough news last week – I was laid off. It’s a bummer for many reasons, including the obvious financial reasons, but also because I was very proud of what I’d built at Inside CRM. My departure probably means the company will let it lay dormant and go extinct.

So, while hunting for a new job, I have time on my hands to fill. How much? Today I packed up dozens of Obscureco parts into their little bags and boxes. This is work I used to dump on my nieces when they would visit from Egypt. Yes. I was importing foreign child labor. (Of course I was paying said labor ridiculously well, but the point was that I didn’t have to do it myself.) I received a box from Bill Ferrante filled with freshly-cast wings, and they’re all in their boxes – in fact, a bunch are on their way to Roll Models.

And I did get a little good news – Norm Filer has graciously done the markings I need for my Maryland, namely a stylized, drop-shadowed “2” and a distinctive devil-throwing-a-bomb logo for the tail. Mike Grant also quickly volunteered to help with this, which shows just how many wonderful people there are in the hobby of scale modeling.

Now, I could do something idiotic to get the Maryland into the nationals – gloss-coat it, throw on what decals I could, pack it and all the small parts, apply Norm’s decals in Columbus and then spray the model with canned dull coat, and finally stick on all the small bits. Voila! One certain to be cockeyed Maryland. Not going to do that. Instead, I started work in earnest on the master for a new Obscureco set, this one for the A-3 Skywarrior. I have the Rene Francillon book on the A-3, and the A-3 maintenance manual (with many, many revisions, showing what a plane goes through during a long life). Today, I made the first 1:72 toilet seat cover I’ve ever made (yes, there was a toilet in that small three-place cockpit), and I’ll be working on the rest of the cockpit before deciding how to handle the differences between the A-3B, KA-3B, EKA-3B and other variants. The control panels are really quite different on the co-pilot’s side, so I may make a two-part panel with optional right sides.

I’d also like to do A-3 wing with dropped leading-edge slats, but how I’d do that is difficult to say. It would be a huge part and it would drive poor Bill crazy casting them – plus, I’d have to get bigger boxes. While it’s a neat idea, I don’t know if it’s a practical one. Any input on whether I should give it a go? Let me know.

Martin Maryland in its warpaint…

This weekend I was able to paint my Azur Martin 167 Maryland. This was a momentous occasion – I’ve been working on this since it came out in 2002 (this I know only because Chris Banyai-Riepl wrote up this review on Internet Modeler  at the time). That makes seven years of toil and tears on this kit; when you get that kind of time invested, you want it to come out just right.

The model’s not just right yet – another round of touch-ups to the camouflage in all four colors is on the way – but it is looking a darn sight more finished right now. Here’s the state that the Maryland’s is in right now:



The changes that will be made are to add a wavy demarcation in green (actually, French Khaki) to the left nose, to touch up a patch on the left fuselage side in dark French blue gray, to touch up an area right below the wing trailing edge in light French blue gray, and to make the vertical fin chestnut brown instead of khaki. The rudder will be painted dark earth; my thoughts are that the defecting Maryland had its tricolor tail painted over in the closest match that the British had handy. The photos suggest that the plane did not have the yellow and red Vichy markings, but instead the more subtle white stripe down the side – that’ll be the next thing painted, using my favorite white enamel, Humbrol #34 matt white.

While I love that Humbrol color, the rest of the model is finished in Model Master enamels, sprayed freehand through a Paasche VL with a fine tip. I don’t have a regulator on my compressor, but I reduced the psi by partially unscrewing the air hose. (Did I tell you my real job is writing about technology? That’s why I use such stone-age techniques sometimes.) Thinned properly, the paint gave me a nice, fine spray pattern, although I had some coverage issues with the French Khaki at first.

The only screw up was that I started painting before I’d cleaned up the scoops at the tops of the engines! No problem – my pattern avoided them with the French Khaki and I was able to sand them up suitably before returning them to dark blue gray in the first touch-up round.

I’m really looking forward to getting this model glossed and decaled – It will certainly look different from anything on my model shelf. I’m also sneaking up on a British twin-engine bomber collection (Mosquito, Beaufighter, Maryland and… Hampden? Wellington? Ventura? Beaufort? Blenheim? Marauder? Mitchell? Havoc? Whitley? Manchester?). I only need five, so I’m getting in the ballpark.

Of course, at the pace I work, my fellow modelers will have time to get their entries ready to compete against me at the 2023 nationals. Start building!

Friday’s talk: I’M speaking, and YOU’RE in the audience?!?

Friday’s talk to the Aviation Enthusiasts in San Jose went very well. I must admit I felt like I was in a bit of an altered state looking out at a room full of pilots, crewmen, mechanics and others who have done the things I only write about – it’s a pretty humbling experience. I worried that my talk would be too low-level, but I brought out all the Fourth Fighter Group chestnuts – the first mission flown over occupied France by Spitfires with non-standard six-pointed stars, Blakeslee’s “help! Help! I’m being clobbered! Down here by the railroad tracks!” and “it had damn well better be able to dive – it can’t climb!”, Kidd Hofer’s antics, Gentile and Godfrey and the ace race, and Gentile pranging “Shangri-La” on his last flight. The old stories got laughs (luckily, in this case, that’s what I was aiming for!). Elizabeth was there as my spotter and she said I didn’t speed up or freak out from nervous tension, although I thought that’s what I was doing! I had to get things right – Bill Gillette of the Fourth was right there in the audience! Here’s the two of us…

Chris and Bill Gillette

During the question and answer period, anything I couldn’t answer was handled by Bill, an almost-ace (4.5 victories!), who sat next to Elizabeth and I. Naturally, there was almost a P-47 pilot vs. P-51 pilot face-off – even 65 years later, fighter pilots remain fighter pilots. Guy Watson had the last word – Guy was a P-38 driver, so for a toast to the birthday boy, B-17 pilot Sherman Gillespie, he recited the poetry of Tech. Sgt. Robert Bryson:

Oh, Hedy Lamarr is a beautiful gal
And Madeleine Carroll is too;
But you’ll find, if you query, a different theory
Amongst any bomber crew.
For the loveliest thing of which one could sing
(This side of the Heavenly gates)
Is no blonde or brunette
Of the Hollywood set,
But an escort of P-38s

The next most humbling thing was that the audience bought a LOT of books – and they asked me to autograph them! Bill Gillette and I traded autographs, and I signed for the many fighter pilots, bomber jockeys, and even a TBF Avenger driver. Why on earth was I the one signing autographs – they’re the heroes!

Anyhow, it was a humbling afternoon and one which I hope will result in many more articles and a few models, to boot! I still need to build Sherman Gillespie’s B-17G, and I may have to sneak in Archie Maltbie’s P-47D, since I met him and the namesake of his three “Joanie’s!” Here’s Sherman and me.

Sherm and Chris

There is so much history living so close around us, and we so often fail to realize it. If you know a veteran, make sure you capture his or her story before it’s too late. Not only is it a huge service to the future, but, as you can see, it can be a lot of fun!