Thoughts on Bidding for the IPMS Nationals, or “Hey, haven’t I fallen off this cliff before?”

Every week, a bunch of us modelers meets up at D&J Hobby in Campbell, then after the shop closes at 9 p.m. head over to the Mini Gourmet, one of the few all-night diners in San Jose. The crew is made up of some regulars – Laramie Wright, Randy Ray, Woody Yeung, Mick Burton, Mike Meek, Vladimir Yakubov, John Heck, Greg Plummer – and some occasional guests, including Roy Sutherland, Barry Bauer and Frank Babbitt. We’re so consistent that visitors to the Bay Area come and hang out with us on occasion.

Last night, the discussion was an interesting one. John and Vladimir are seriously discussing the idea of bidding for the IPMS/USA Nationals, either for 2012 or for some year in the future. Having served as the chairman of the 1998 event in Santa Clara, I’m a walking reference for them on what to do and what to avoid. What to avoid: the Fourth of July weekend; badly-written contracts; members of the committee who don’t do their jobs. What to do: pick the right people for key roles; put together good seminars; do as much as you can as early as possible. Nothing to it, right?

Well, not quite. Although John couldn’t quite envision it, the planning process is a lot of work. The first stop has to be the facility – if either Santa Clara or the San Jose Convention Center can’t offer a decent rate, the whole effort is stillborn.

However, it would be fun to be part of hosting the nationals again. When I chaired, I did a bunch of things, including ordering the hats, designing the T-shirts, editing and laying out the program, researching the decals for the AeroMaster sheet, and coordinating all the efforts. Mike Braun was a great vendor chairman, and the team from San Joaquin Scale Modelers (at the time, the Stockton Tomcats) provided security. We suffered around the contest and the trophies, so if we do it again it’ll be important to pick good people for that role.

Of course, at the end of the 1998 show, we were all completely exhausted, physically and mentally. The process speeds up rapidly in the 30 days leading up to the show, and you become very busy (that was the only nationals I’ve ever been to where I didn’t buy anything in the vendor room – I never had the time!). We’ll see where this all goes. It would enable me to build some bug subjects and get them safely to the nationals – but it seems like an extreme way to facilitate that!

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Oh, the things you’ll find (if you’re lucky)

While looking for a bit of information, I pulled down my copy of Warburton’s War (a very good book, by the way) and what should fall out but the decals to my Martin Maryland. Not only that, but a set of RAF Battle of Britain-era decals was in there too – why, I do not know. I know the custom decals that Norm Filer made for my Warburton’s Maryland build are tucked inside my copy of the AJ Press book on the Maryland.

Putting those items there probably made sense at some point. However, the passage of time has obfuscated the reasons, so now there are just random discoveries to be made throughout my library, model stash and the shed where my unbuilts dwell. For instance, there was the KP MiG-15 I found inside the box of the DML MiG-15; at some point, I’m sure that I could have made one good model out of those two fairly awful pieces of work (I’ll probably crib from both of them to outfit the new Airfix MiG-15 when the time comes!). I’ve run across CMK Japanese pilot and mechanic figures in rather random Hasegawa Japanese fighters. And there’s a Hasegawa P-51B box that has all manner of Mustang stuff – vacuformed canopies, resin wings, a Hawkeye P-51B cockpit – that I can only find when I’m not working on a Mustang. How it got there – since most of it is for D-model Mustangs – I have no idea. The model, by the way, will never get built – the Hasegawa 1:72 Mustang is a distant second to Academy and Revell quality-wise.

Then there are the things that I know I have but can’t find. Ten years ago, I bought a bunch of models from someone and one of the boxes had a bag inside containing a random collection of resin. When I sorted it out, it was clear there were two detail sets inside: one a rather blobby one from True Details and the other a neat, sharp one from Kendall Models Co. Some research revealed they were for the SBD Dauntless – which was great, since I have four of those and it’s one of my favorite planes. Where it is now, I do not know – it certainly isn’t in any of the Dauntless kit boxes. I’ve looked.

The older I get, and the more odd stuff I collect, the more diligent I’m going to have to be about putting things where they belong. So now I’m setting down the computer and headed to the workbench to collect the P-61 resin parts I picked up at last weekend’s show and put them in the kit box before I lose them.

Modeling tips: simple scribing on the wing-fuselage fillet

Here’s a great tip from Stan Pearce about fixing panel lines along wing roots. Stan figured it out while working on a 1:48 Spitfire – so envision that wing-to-fuselage transition. Now, here’s Stan in his own words:

Ever have that pesky wing-fuselage fillet joint, where you have to do some sanding? The sanding either removes all of the panel line, or leaves portions or even worse, an inconsistent panel line that needs addressing?

That’s the situation I had. You can try and completely sand away the panel line (which is usually incorrect) or you can replace it.

But rescribing a curved line on a compound curved surface is difficult at best, and a straight edge works less than perfectly.

Here was my solution:

First, I laid a piece of green plaid-box Scotch tape (although any translucent tape you can see through will work) over the entire panel line, covering the line, the wing and the fillet.

Then I took a sharp number 2 lead pencil, and traced the panel line on top of the tape.

I removed the piece of tape from the aircraft, and stuck it on a thin piece of sheet styrene.

Then I used scissors to cut the tape/styrene on the pencil line.

Voila, a custom scribing guide.

I then taped the plastic guide to the wing, took my scriber and lightly ran it along the guide two or three times. Then I removed the guide, flipped it over, and repeated this on the opposite wing.

Presto, two perfectly scribed curved lines on a curved surface in all of about 7 or 8 minutes.

Detail photos: A-3 Nose wheel bay and nose gear

On Friday, I said I’d share some photos of the Oakland Aerospace Museum’s KA-3B nose gear bay. Here are a few, starting with a view of the bay, front to back, showing the retraction strut:

Next, a view of the roof of the bay, with the front at the top:

Here’s the front of the bay:

And the back end of the bay, behind the strut:

The sides of the bay were a little tough to capture, but here’s the right side:

There’s not much to look at on the left side.

Now, the nose wheel itself is pretty busy. The anti-torque scissors were often disconnected for towing and, in museum examples, is usually never reattached. Look at this, a view from the front right:

And this, from the left rear:

So, clearly, I have some work to do with the fine solder and wire when the time comes! I’m looking forward to it, though; the Whale’s nose wheel is very visible after the model’s built.

More photos as I progress through the build…

Working on Whale Wheels

Most people start model planes with the cockpit – which makes perfect sense. However, I’m going to deviate a little from that with my build of the A-3 Skywarrior, and probably with other projects. The idea came from Dave Hansen, whose first task with any new kit was to paint the wheels. I’m taking it one further and building and painting the entire landing gear.

Part of my motivation is because I can’t build the interior until the parts are all cast for the upcoming Obscureco set. But part of it is based on the way we build. If you’re like me, by the time you’ve got the model painted and decalled, and the masking is off the cockpit, you feel like the model’s done. That, I think, leads many people to speed through the landing gear, gear doors and external stores – which results in some weird alignment and, for some people, disappointment in contests. I don’t really care about the awards, but I don’t want to look at the model on my shelf and grumble at misalignments I introduced because of rushing at the end.

So, I’ll work on the gear first. The Hasegawa A-3’s gear are work, indeed – the mains have big knockout pins on them, and the nose gear has two on the wheel and another on the strut. The main mounts have pin marks too, as do the insides of the gear doors. There was a little bit of flash on my parts, but not enough to really slow me down. Here’s the real item’s mains:

The pin marks on the wheels were annoying, but I managed to deal with them in four steps. Step one and step two are the same: I applied a bit of super thin CA glue and let it set up. Two layers was enough to fill it to depth without fear of it running into the hub detail (which would be a real problem). Next, I sanded as much of the pin marks as I could without altering the contour of the tire or damaging the hub detail. Finally, I used the point of a No. 11 blade to scrape away any excess CA on the inner curve of the tire.

The nose wheel got the same treatment. The knockout pin on the strut was a pain; you want to eradicate it, but you don’t want to have the strut knocked out of round in the process. Two applications of CA were followed, in this case, by sanding with a Flex-I-File; I’ve learned to carefully cut the bands down to sand in narrow areas. Unless you’re a real brute the band will survive sanding. The main struts got the same treatment.

Next up for me is detailing the wheel bay. There are some pin marks inside them, and it may be easier to cover them while detailing.

Now, the question becomes this: once it’s detailed, do I include this in the Obscureco set? We’ll see how good a job I end up doing. I may also build a bomb bay and drop the crew access door, but these won’t be products; the bomb bay would be of little appeal and the access door is better rendered in photoetched metal.

Luckily, I have an A-3 not 4 miles from my house. I would tell you that’s why Obscureco relocated to Alameda, but that would be a lie. It is, however, nice having examples of my favorite airplanes just down the road from me at the Oakland Aerospace Museum!

Week of modeling snowed out, but PR Spitfire speculation is allowed

Last week, I went to Washington D.C. for business, and as anyone who follows the news knows, the weather there was rather over the top. I was supposed to leave on Wednesday but instead got home Friday thanks to two very impressive snowstorms that left me stranded and closed things I would have liked to go to, like the Udvar-Hazy wing of the National Air and Space Museum and the National Archives. Even if they’d been open, I couldn’t have gotten to them. Needless to say, this also took a toll on my scale modeling, since all my stuff was about 3000 miles away.

I did bring the On Target Profiles book on Photo Reconnaissance Spitfires, which I plan to review for the IPMS/USA Journal. One of the more immediately interesting sections was on the Spitfire PR.XIX, since Airfix just put out a kit of this aircraft that, with a bit of accurizing and a coat of Mr. Surfacer to tone down the panel lines, could make into a very nice model.

The book has a bunch of PR. XIXs – 12 of them, to be exact. All were very attractive, so I had my wife pick out one that my model will eventually represent. Her two picks were both overall PRU blue machines: a Turkish PR. XIX and an RAF machine from 541 Squadron in November of 1944, which wears wrap-around ID bands on the fuselage. That’ll be the one I’ll build, since I plan on doing two Turkish planes (an F-16 and a C-160 Transall) already, and since I really like ID bands on my aircraft.

A friend’s already working on this model and said he’d give me parts for a correction set for some of the Airfix kit’s few shortcomings, so I’ll have to remind him of that before I start my model. I’ll also have to nudge Roy Sutherland of Barracudecals/Cooper Details fame and see if I can get him to do a late-model Spitfire interior set.

I already have a Spitfire Mk. I in my collection; if I do a PR.XIX, then I just have to fill in everything in between to complete the collection. Never let it be said I lack ambition!

Powerplant Process reaches its (il)logical end

Okay, the Sakae 12 is done. As I said, I motor-tooled off the crankcase front of the Engines & Things Sakae 12, and added the kit crankcase front. I airbrushed the front of the crankcase gray, then airbrushed the cylinders steel, using my thumb as a handy mask. A wash popped the cylinder fin detail.

The next step was to add the push rod tubes, which I made from black stretched sprue. Always start with plastic in the color you want to end up with – painting stretched sprue would be a pain!

Here’s the result of the push rod tube addition:

Okay, the next step was to add the distributor wires. There were four of them; Fine molds includes the attachments on the central harness ring, which made things a little easier. Very fine solder was used; I bent them to shape first and then CA-glued them into place:

Next came the ignition wires. There were a  lot of these – 28 to be exact. I used very fine steel wire, painted with my formula for ignition harness-color (50-50 insignia yellow and metallizer anodized gray). Each wire was placed with fine tweezers, CA glue and much cursing. I knocked off two push rod tubes and one of the distributor wires, but repaired it as I went. After a very long session of work, I had this:

The final touches were a wash and some drybrushing, which popped out the FineMolds crankcase front’s detail:

Now, this engine is very small – about the size of a dime. Compare that to the Aires R-2800 – if you think the R-2800 is fiddly in 1:72, try the Sakae, which is about 40 percent smaller.

Now that I’ve inspired you to detail your own Sakae (yeah, right) keep this in mind: this engine will soon be enclosed in a black cowling and topped with a very large spinner/propeller combination. So you’ll never have a better view of this engine than you do now. Enjoy it while you can!