A-3 Update: Wheel Wells

I spent last week working on the KA-3B Skywarrior. Hasegawa did some nice wells on this model but they left a lot out. For example, the wheel wells have nice rivet detail and some of the externally visible structure, but they left a bunch of stuff out. The mid-bay bulkheads were missing, for instance – but there are slots in the model that suggest that Hasegawa was going to include them and then forgot! There was also a mess of wiring missing (which is usually the case with ’50s jet kits).

Here’s what the bays looked like out of the box:

A-3 well 1

Nice, but no personality. There’s some good detail but plenty’s missing. I went at the model with fine solder, wire, styrene strip and even a little resin cylinder trimmed from the back of a radial engine. Here’s what this (the port side) now looks like:

A-3 Wheel Bay Pt


And the starboard side:

A-3 wheel bay Stb

There’s more to add – the lower corners have a bit of a spaghetti look to them – but that stuff will go on once the bays get their first coat of white paint.

The details are not conjecture – there are some great web references out there. My go-to for this build was the Silicon Valley Scale Modelers’ site gallery – two sets of photos of the plane at the Oakland Aviation Museum. They have tons of other walk-arounds – it’s worth poking around just to see what’s available.


Workbench update: Two done, two close to paint, four a long way off

Here’s an update on a few projects mentioned here in the blog over the last year or so: DSC_0375North American P-51D Mustang

This one was completed at the end of January in time for the Petaluma contest – and it came out pretty well. I won’t belabor the construction, since I wrote an article for the IPMS/Journal about it, but it’s the Tamiya Mustang with an Obscureco wing with dropped flaps, an Aires interior and wheels, and a vacuformed canopy. The plane is finished as Roscoe Brown’s “Bunny”/”Miss Kentucky State,” and the figure of Roscoe was made with a CMK body and a Prieser head. This model had plenty of frustrations, but it came out pretty well. Sparrowhawk glamor 4 Sparrowhawk glamour 1 Curtis F9C-2 Sparrowhawk

I never wrote about this here – I tried to get it done on deadline back in September and didn’t quite make it (it was finished in December). Another Journal article subject, I’ll give you the basics: Pegasus kit, with an Engines n’ Things R-975, scratch-built interior, skyhook, landing gear, and struts. The decals came from Starfighter and the CMR resin kit (which is pretty awful too). The rigging is made from acupuncture needles, cut to length and added to pre-cut holes. It won the Ralph Patino Award at the Silicon Valley Classic for the best model built from the worst kit! DSC_0273 Fairey Firefly Mk. V

Not exactly stalled – I did cut open the observer’s cockpit a couple of weeks ago – but not much closer to completion than it’s been for months. I suspect this will be one of the next two models I finish. DSC_0400 Republic P-47D-30 Thunderbolt

Here’s Gene Martin’s Thunderbolt, inching closer to completion. The red, black and olive drab parts of the model are done and masked, but my first pass of metallizer revealed some sloppy joints at the wing, so I had to sand it out and rescribe the panel lines. I am really looking forward to getting this one done using the Barracuda Studios decals. DSC_0404 Douglas KA-3B Skywarrior

Well, the fuselage is done and it rests on the workbench like a beached whale, appropriately enough.     DSC_0386 Martin B-26-1-MA Marauder

The wheels are done, the torpedo is finished, and the next step is the daunting reconstruction of the tail gun position. It can be done – but it’s a lot of work. I’ll have to scavenge the propeller spinners from an Airfix P-61, because the Lone Star Models spinners are totally unusable (different diameters? Really?). Lots of work ahead, but nothing revolutionary. DSC_0401DSC_0402 Mikoyan MiG-15

This one snuck into the build sequence because I needed something to do “brute force” modeling on while I was traveling. I never got that far, because cutting open the speed brakes and, in the process, converting a MiG-15 bis into a MiG-15, took a lot of cutting, drilling, filing, and cursing. I’m not sure I’d recommend the Brassin brakes – the instructions leave a lot to the imagination, and for surgery like this, instructions are important. The Brassin cockpit is nice, though, and that’s installed and painted. I was hoping to have this little machine glued together and ready for paint quickly, but taking my time on it will not hurt. The basic kit is rather nice and I suspect it’ll get finished pretty quickly. Convair F-106 Delta Dart I’ve stopped, hoping that Meng will make a new one.

A-3 set update: Getting close

Just a very brief update: I have all the A-3 rear bulkheads finished and two of the three different radio shelves. After those are done, it’s three instrument panels – which is do-able in the next day or so. The set will be a reality soon!

I’d have photos, but our neighbor borrowed out camera to take shots of his restoration – he has a Victorian that has had some very-long deferred maintenance underway. When I can wrest it from his sawdust-encrusted hands, I’ll get some photos of the masters up for you.

Black boxes and bulkheads: how hard could they be?

I’m busy trying to finish the A-3 cockpit masters by TOMORROW – an insane endeavor, but one that’s progressing inexorably toward completion. Basically, the set will have interchangable parts for the A-3A/B, KA-3B and EKA-3B; that means different control panels, different rear bulkheads and different boxes on the right rear corner of the cockpit. This will raise the price, but it will ensure maximum accuracy. And, if you’re like me, you can chop up the leftover parts for other projects!

That’s the big task. I’ll try to post photos before I pass the parts off for casting tomorrow evening. Oh, the fun!

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!

Master plans: A-3 and P-47D-30

The last few weeks, I’ve focused my modeling attention on the A-3 Skywarrior in 1:72. I have long said I want to make a cockpit interior for this plane, and possibly folded wings. The wings will be tough – as will the dropped leading-edge slats – because the wing is so big. I don’t want to create a casting crisis with my partner in Obscureco. But the cockpit is do-able!

The tricky part is that the plane was around for so long that the cockpit changed radically. The major changes were in the right side of the control panel and the rear of the cockpit. So, for the A-3, there was a tail gunner’s remote control panel; for the KA-3B there was a shelf with a table; and the EKA-3B had a shelf with four “black boxes.” On the right side of the rear cockpit were an assortment of boxes and wiring on set of shelves, which differed from plane to plane.

It was a similar situation on the control panel. Flight controls stayed the same, but the right side varied from variant to variant.

So, here’s the strategy: the set will have three different control panels, and three different rear panels with different black boxes. And probably the most in-depth instructions I’ve had to write!

I used the kit parts for a structural base, and several parts from the Eduard set. Eduard gives you good extra details but leaves others out, and there was not much variance between versions. On top of this, I added switches, button and panels Eduard missed, improved on some messed-up details in the Eduard set, and built the panel essentially from scratch using styrene, wire and Reheat photoetched bezels.

I also made new seats, using the kit seats as a starting point and adding oxygen hoses, belts, blower equipment and other details.

It’s not finished; as it stands now, the control panel and rear bulkhead are awaiting casting (I’ll modify them for different versions) so they’re not totally complete. The rear bulkhead needs the jump seat belts, and the right side box is the EKA-3B arrangement, which will be removed or modified for the A-3 and KA-3 rear bulkhead masters. The cockpit lacks detail for the right side except for the oxygen regulator, which was common to all versions. I also have to make all the black boxes for the shelf on the right side and sidewall pieces, which will include the floodlights, hood for the navigator and canteens. Yes, canteens! At least I don’t have to scratch build those – I’ll just relieve some 1:72 figures of their spare gear.

Here are a couple of photos, with the parts just placed together:

Now, I’m switching gears and doing a cockpit master for the P-47D-30 for the 1:72 Tamiya kit. Yeah, I know, the Tamiya kit doesn’t need a new interior. Well, it does for the later Thunderbolts, which did away with the corrugated floor and had several interior equipment improvements. I’m using Tamiya’s ingenious jigsaw-puzzle-like engineering approach, which will allow modelers to use the rear bulkhead from the kit, keeping the price down and helping ensure a good fit. I’ll also include a panel for the lower wing with the landing light in the right place and some compressability flaps. I want to build Joe Laughlin’s “5 By 5” and do it well; sadly, I know more about P-47s than I did when I built a 1:48 Hasegawa Jug for Joe’s 85th birthday, so mine will be more accurate than his. This modeling is a real learning experience…

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