Airbrush woes continue – and get fixed

A few weeks ago, when I last tried to use my airbrush, it misbehaved pretty badly – spitting, spraying off-center, and generally performing poorly. I cleaned it very thoroughly, but it kept doing the same things, so I chalked it up to airbrush fussiness – a real and yet unexplainable phenomenon, but, as I found out, not the real source of my problems.

When I put the airbrush back together and tried to spray some white on various parts of my A-3, it persisted in behaving badly. I started contemplating a replacement for my airbrush – after all, it is 22 years old. I pondered that Iwata Eclipse I’ve been recommended, and wondered if it would fit the fittings for my compressor. I even tried to lay the groundwork for a $140 expenditure with my wife, who gave me a hard time – but, as it turns out, would have been fine with it.

As a last gesture to my good old Paasche VL, I tried a new needle/cone combination. The set also included a new “multiple head,” which screws on over the needle and cone in the very front, and I stuck that on there for good measure.

Well, surprise, surprise – not only did the airbrush start working, it started working far better than it had in a long time (as in years). It was also a lot quieter – meaning that there had been a worn-out seal in the head, which had allowed a lot of air to escape, reducing the psi of the air coming out the front and causing the paint to spit.

Well, duh.

I guess all things as frequently used as my airbrush are entitled to wear out every 22 years! I’ll mark my calendar and try to remember to replace these parts every three or four years from now on.

No matter how much you think you know about the hobby, there’s always something new that modeling can teach you. Now, I’m going to go paint some stuff!

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A friendly Firefly assist from Mr. Sutherland

Roy Sutherland is a good friend of mine, and we’ve worked on a couple of projects together. I wrote some chunks of his book on modeling the deHavilland Mosquito and the history section of his book on the deHavilland Sea Vixen. He’s also a subcontractor and occasional pattermaker for Obscureco,  and I’m passing him research material for his decal line.

This relationship has its benefits. Last night, knowing I was working on the Special Hobby Firefly Mk. V, Roy gave me a disk filled with images of a restored Firefly AS.6 – and lots of them. The next book in his line of detailed volumes on little-known aircraft is going to be on the Firefly, or so plans say, and I can say it will be very, very useful for modelers. Hopefully, I’ll have a model finished to show just how useful the book can be!

Now, the photos didn’t clear up my questions about the Mk. V’s rear-seat radio arrangement; I still think the resin parts in the kit are a bit suspect, but until I have evidence to the contrary I’m going with them. Roy’s photos, though, add a lot of ideas for extra stuff in the cockpit – documents, details of the various fittings, how the observer’s window operates, and so on.

My plan is to build a Korean War Firefly V, and I’ll probably use the kit decals (gasp!) since they fit the bill. But it’s not an easy build – the kit really has short-run tendencies and I see lots of filling and re-scribing in my future.

And as for those photos: no, you can’t see them. Not yet. They’ll be yours in living color when Roy finally gets that book out!

On this day 66 years ago: a rough day for the Luftwaffe over Ludwigshaven, courtesy of the 357th Fighter Group

During an escort to Ludwigshaven on 27 May, the 364th Fighter Squadron jumped a large formation of Bf 109s about 20 miles southwest of Strasbourg. “I was leading Blue Flight with Lt. (Thomas) Harris flying my No. 3 when we went down on a Bf 109 that was diving away,” said Major John Storch. “Lt. Harris’ element was in position when we went down followed by our Green Flight.”

Lt. Leroy A. Ruder was the number three man in Green Flight. “As my flight leader was getting into position to fire on one of the enemy aircraft, I observed a Bf 109 trying to get into position to attack him,” Ruder reported. “I immediately broke into the enemy aircraft and at the same time expected my wingman (Lt. Cyril Conklin) to break with me. I do not know where he went. I had my hands full with the 109 I was fighting and since my radio was out could not ask my wingman for his position.” Conklin scored two kills in the fight but fell victim to a Bf 109 and wound up as a POW.

“When the dogfight was finished I had my No. 2 and Green Flights 1 and 2 and a 352nd group plane with me,” said Storch. “I started spiraling for altitude and the bombers, which were out of sight. I called Lt. Harris and finally got him, and he said he was OK and hunting for me. I told him my position as nearly as possible, my altitude and course, and a stayed in the area for approximately 15 minutes.” Harris may have collided with Dean Post; he became a POW, while Post was killed when his Mustang crashed.

Despite the losses, the toll the squadron exacted on the enemy was impressive. In addition to Conklin’s kills, Storch scored two and a half victories, Harris and Lt. Morris Stanley two each, and Ruder, Lts. Paul Fairweather, Robert Shaw and Mark Stepleton one each.

The 362nd was climbing behind the lead box of bombers. “Between five and six enemy aircraft came down through the bombers and turned left to the same heading that we had,” said Lt. Fletcher Adams. “We started to chase them. One went to the left, with Capt. (John) England following and I saw pieces fall off that aircraft as Capt. England shot at him. The second one went to the right with Capt. (Calvert) Williams shooting at him. There were pieces coming off him. The two directly in front of us started a gentle turn to the left. The one in the inside tightened his turn and I told Lt. (Gilbert) O’Brien to get him.”

This plane made two 360-degree turns to the left, said O’Brien. “I shot a 90-degree deflection shot. Not seeing any hits, he rolled out square in front of me. I had a little excess speed and came right in behind him. I began to overshoot and saw his canopy come off. I slid right up beside him with my flaps down. He bailed out as I was alongside of him at about 12,000 feet. His chest was covered in blood and he hit the rudder. I did not see his chute open.”

Meanwhile, the second Fw 190 continued in a gentle turn with Adams in pursuit. Adams fired, scoring hits. “At about 10,000 feet, he seemed to be trying an outside loop, so I rolled out, and when I lifted my wing I saw an explosion on the ground and a parachute in the neighborhood of the crash.” In addition to these victories, Lts. Herschel Hill, John Pugh and Alden Smith also brought down enemy planes.

The 363rd was in on the fun, too. Capt. William O’Brien was leading and he ordered White Flight to attack, with Blue and Green Flights giving cover. Capt. “Bud” Anderson was leading White Flight, and as they raced for the front of the front of the formation, “my No. 3 called in four bandits coming in on us at 4 o’clock,” he said. “We broke into them and they pulled up and circled, trying to get at us. With full throttle and RPM, I was able to close around and climb on them. They all straightened out and tried to run while their No. 4 climbed up – my No. 3, Lt. Edward Simpson, climbed up after him while I chased the other three.”

Simpson caught his quarry at 30,000 feet and, after hitting him with two bursts, saw the pilot bail out. Meanwhile, Anderson pursued the other three fighters. “I closed slowly on No. 3 and waited until I was in close and dead astern, then fired a good burst, getting hits all over; smoke streamed and his canopy may have come off. He rolled over and went down out of control.” Next, Anderson “singled out No. 2; he dove and pulled up in a left climbing turn. I pulled inside and overshot – he straightened out and I pulled up, watching him as he tried to get on my No. 2’s tail. He stalled and I went after him; he repeated with another left climbing turn. I overshot again and the same thing followed, and the third time I made up my mind I wouldn’t lose him, so as he pulled up I fired. The first tracers went over his right wing. I skidded my nose over and strikes appeared all over. I slid alongside and saw fire break out. It rolled over slowly and went straight in from 28,000 feet.”

O’Brien spotted Bf 109 chasing a P-51; he fired a 90-degree deflection shot to get the German to break off his attack, and then maneuvered in behind him. After several rounds struck near the cockpit and smoke began to issue from the plane, the pilot bailed out.

Capt. James Browning was leading Green Flight. “I saw two Bf 109s going the opposite direction. I turned and gave one a shot with deflection. I don’t think I hit him. He then pulled almost straight up. I climbed with him and waited until I was about 250 yards (away) and I leveled out. I then gave him a long burst. I got hits and coolant came out. He then turned and I overshot him. I made a circle and came back at him. He was in a slight dive with coolant still coming out. I gave him another long burst from about 20 degrees deflection. I could see him bowed over in the cockpit as if trying to fasten his chute. The last burst I gave him was directly into the cockpit and right side of his plane. He bailed out and I pulled up over him.” According to Browning’s wingman, the German’s chute opened but the pilot fell out of the harness and plummeted to earth.

News: new 362nd decals are coming…

Roy Sutherland now has my copy of “Mogin’s Maulers,” along with a bunch of photos, for a possible decal sheet featuring the 362nd Fighter Group. Tentatively, the sheet would have Joe McLaughlin’s original “5 By 5,” Wilton Crutchfield’s “Kentucky Colonel,” Gene Martin’s “Bonnie Lynn” and Ralph Sallee’s plane (unnamed, but it features a rocket propelled rabbit). The final announcement of when these decals come out will come from Roy on his Barracudacals site, but I’ll try to provide updates as Roy provides them to me.

This, of course, will predicate an update to our 362nd Fighter Group decals list. It will also complicate my quest to build all of these Thunderbolts in 1:72 scale – but I’ll get there!

I also want to build many of the planes in the profile sections of my other books. At this stage there are 108 of those. At my current rate of about four models a year, that may be tough, but I plan on living a long life.

Warburton’s Maryland – finished!

Finishing a model is not at all a frequent occurrence, and the completion of this one is particularly sweet. This is the somewhat famous Azur 1:72 Martin 167 Maryland, finished in the colors of Adrian Warburton’s machine on Malta in1940.

The plane, Maryland 114, has a very colorful history. It was one of the aircraft delivered before the fall of France and had operated briefly against the Germans. Once the Germans had prevailed, it was given to the Vichy French and operated briefly with GR I/22, reconnaissance unit in the south of France. Then, a French crew defected to Gibraltar with the machine. It was hurriedly supplied to 69 Squadron, and Warburton used it to map the entire coastline from Tripoli to Benghazi in a single sortie. It was also used in a mission where Warburton spotted an Italian airfield and strafed it, destroying three SM.79s.

 He also flew the Maryland on the pre-strike scouting mission to Taranto, where he made two low passes: one to photograph the ships there, and a second to dictate the names of the ships so the crew could write them down! After the war moved past Malta, Warburton eventually was posted back to the U.K. and in 1944, disappeared while flying an F-5 Lightning. The wreckage of the plane and Warburton’s remains were only discovered in 2002 – just after I started the model.

 The kit itself is just okay. There are some major shortcomings – the side windows are molded as part of the fuselage, the landing lights are solid on the wings, and worst off the scoops on the fronts on the nacelles are blocked off, and not particularly deep. I had to carve all these things open, for starters. I’d love to write an article on this, but the construction was spread over so many years that the photos of construction are scattered all over the place – on computer hard drives that no longer work, on chemical photographic prints and all over the place. That’ll make a really good article difficult.

 But the model came out pretty well. All the extra work is hardly visible, but I know it’s there, and that’s what matters. It’s been a long journey to this point, but it’s been worth it.

Contests, New Kits and the Economy

On Friday, I went to the Fremont Hornets meeting – which is always fun. This IPMS club has been at this for a long time – not 46 years, like the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers (who existed before there even was such a thing as Silicon Valley) but long enough to have started out as an affiliate of IPMS Canada. The club is doing a couple of group builds – F-16s and Spitfires. I missed the previous meeting and I was unaware of this – I may have to switch projects to get a Lawn Dart or a Spit ready for October!

In any event, the club’s not having a contest this year, for reasons that re rather topical. The club got the venue it was using, the Newark Community Center for free – pretty remarkable, actually. That was until this year, when municipal budget cuts caused the center to be closed for most events, and it was certainly no longer free. There are plans in the works for a 2011 show, and I expect the club will execute on those plans, but 2010 is a tough year for model contests. We’re beholden to the economy – contests can be expensive to travel to – and even the largest contest in Northern California suffered a 20 percent drop in attendance, as did the Seattle Spring Show, which is easily the biggest contest on the west coast.

Contrast that with all the new models announced at the Shizuoka Hobby Show – and there were plenty of them, especially in 1:32 and 1:72 aircraft. There’s a correlation, I think – the economy is keeping people at home, but they’re still buying and building models. And why not – modeling is one of the least expensive hobbies out there, and you can practice it at home. So, what I suspect is happening is that people are foregoing contests but are still working away on models.

My prediction is that when the economy recovers, we’re going to see some really big contests, with more attendees and attendees with more models, since they’ll have a couple of years worth of entries saved up and ready to show.

That’s my guess, at least. Do you have any guesses of your own?

Impulse control and the lack thereof

My wife loves to point out the cost of my hobby – which is usually a losing proposition, because I also have hobby income, which is enough to fuel my model building and pay for our vacations. That said, while she does have a big closet full of shoes, I have a closet and the garden shed full of kits. This is and argument I neither invite nor choose to engage in.

That said, I will admit when my buying is a little nonsensical. For instance, I needed some MV lenses for my Maryland. D&J Hobby used to carry them, but they’ve really slacked off on their stock and are no longer reliable. The Train Shop in Santa Clara is a reliable source, but their hours aren’t conducive. I probably could have hit Berkeley Ace Hardware… But instead I went the mail order route.

Sprue Brothers had exactly what I needed. But I couldn’t stop with $5 worth of little lenses. Instead, I also bought some decals, a couple of detail sets and the Hasegawa B-24J. Hey, the Liberator was on sale! (That rationale works for my wife’s shopping, but when applied to models I think it’s just kind of weak.)

Anyway, my $5 need turned into an $80 want. Not smart. I only hope the package comes while my wife’s out of the house, lest the debate begins anew!