B-26 progress: cockpit painted and detailed – see it while you can!

Over the last two weeks, I’ve gotten the forward fuselage of the B-26 a bit farther on – it has paint, and a few additional details.

Cockpit paint NS rear right

In this photo, you can see a few things. First off, the navigator’s position gas its compass, drift meter, intercom and junction box, and the flight instruments have been added to the panel over his desk. The pedestals are there for the seats as well. All these items are styrene sheet or rod, with a rehear photo-ecthed part here and there. The supports to the radioman’s equipment rack have been added, too. The outboard one is flexible – it bends slightly when the left fuselage half is added!

Cockpit left paint overhead ns

Here’s a shot that shows the flight deck – the instrument pedestal is from CMK. I ditched their photo etched levers and used short lengths of fine solder, then added tiny amounts of white glue to the ends to get the bulb handles. Those were then painted according to my references. The sidewall detail’s a mix of Eduard, styrene, fine solder and a few other items from the spares box.

One thing I’ve learned is how to make clustered wire runs – those groups of similarly-bent wires we often see in wheel wells, bomb bays and interiors. Here’s what I figured out: take a piece of fine solder that’s several times longer than the length of the run. Fold it several times so you have a cluster of smaller runs – ideally, a bit longer than what you need on the model. Flip it over and spread some thin CA glue on the back, and let it dry. Then, flip it over, finish the precise bending, and trim the ends. You can see my first attempt at perfecting this on the right side of the cockpit, just above the instrument pedestal in the above photo.

cockpit paint left side head on ns

Here’s a head-on shot that shows some of the bombardier’s compartment detail and the home-made oxygen bottle, the yellow bean-like thing on the right side of the cockpit. Also against the rear bulkhead is the emergency compressed air tank (the black tank), which began life as a detail for a Spitfire, and the first-aid kit, swiped from a Preiser set of Wehrmacht soldiers. Since a friend has joked that the ultimate in stupid, tiny, unseeable details is the red cross on the first aid kit, I had to add it with a .005 red Rapidograph pen.

Cockpit paint left

And, of course, there’s the left side of the plane. Eduard stuff, primarily, with a few solder bits and some styrene. The radioman’s gear is simply styrene with some Reheat instrument bezels.

The seats are painted and await their buckle hardware. I’m taking my time, since they’ll be the most visible things in the cockpit. I may shave the Monogram control wheels from the snap-together parts and add them to my CMK control columns – a nice melding of new and old!

One more thing – I received comments from Rick Scheuerer, who’s contemplating a similar project. The tail-gun position will require the most serious modification and I was anticipating stealing a sliding bubble canopy from a 1950s jet as the stinger-style position in the back. However, Rick says, “Squadron makes a vacuform canopy just for this model as a B-26-1 and a B-26A. All you have to do is open up the tail point.” Well, that’s good news!

Rick also asked: “Do you know if (James) Muri followed the 22nd BG’s practice of removing the tail canopy to give the tail gun more range of movement. There is precedence of this with the photo of a 33rd BS plane in the U.S. before it shipped out to Australia. This photo is located in Dana Bell’s Air Force Colors, volume 1.” This is a great question – I’ll put it to the Battle of Midway Roundtable and see what answer I get.

Here’s where the blog is valuable – hopefully, I can give Rick some advance warning and ideas, and he can share his knowledge to save me time and, perhaps make the model even more accurate. If you think writing a blog is time-consuming, compare it to the agony of trial-and-error of the tail gun position of a 1:72 B-26-1!

B-26 Update: Detailing stuff that will never be seen

This week, I had a great time working on some details that no one will really ever see (or as my friend Lynn Ritger says, “modeling for God”). I’d ordered the CMK set for the pilot and copilot’s seats, and while I waited for its arrival, I tackled the radio/navigator’s compartment. These are areas where I’d replaced the windows – and in one case enlarged a window. These tiny windows are the only way to see this stuff, and the only way light will ever get inside.

B-26 Radio Compartment

As it stands, the detail is all against the forward bulkhead. First, I added detail to the folding door using styrene strip.  On the left is the radioman’s area, with a Western Electric BC-456-E modulator unit (scratch built) and two SCR-274 comment transmitters (stolen from a Condor P-51A). below that is a BC-348 liaison receiver (scratch built). Below that is the radioman’s folding desk. I learned that, when doing a rack of gear, the first thing to do is to affix the largest piece of gear on the top shelf to the bulkhead first, then add the shelf below it. Then, add the rest of the gear on that shelf. Next, add the gear below it to the bulkhead, and add the shelf below it. Finally (and I have yet to do this), add the vertical supports at the corners of the rack.

On the right is the navigator’s station, with the liaison transmitter tuning unit (scratch built). At the lower right is a mount for a small three-instrument panel that provides the navigator with airspeed, altitude and rate of climb. That will be added after painting. The navigator’s table is there but the facing for the drawer below it will be added after painting.

Here’s an image of the compartment, showing the navigator’s window, the larger of the two, and the relationship of the radio/navigator’s compartment to the cockpit.

B-26 Cockpit and Radio Comp.

There’s a lot of work to do still. First off, I’ve already added soundproofing quilting to the fuselage sides, made from this amazing self-adhesive tread plate intended for HO railroader. I bought it for a cushion back for a master back in the 1990s, and I have no idea who made it, but it’s great.  The detail on the sides of the cockpit come next – compass, drift meter, headphones, intercom box, radio compass, flexible lights, junction boxes. Then come the seats and seat belts on their stands. The rear bulkhead shape is cut out and will be detailed and added last, after the cockpit is finished and right before the fuselage and wings are assembled.

Then, after painting and a little dry brushing, all of this will be entrapped in the fuselage, never to be seen again – at least, not easily nor by people who don’t know it’s in there!

After the compartment’s finished, I’ll go back to work on the cockpit, then circle back to the tail gunner’s position. This may seem like a lot of extra work, but I’m sincerely enjoying it. This is my favorite part of modeling – interior detailing – and I think it shows.

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.

Midway Marauder progress: clear parts and cockpit

The Marauder interior is coming along slowly – but first I had some work to do on the transparencies. Otherwise, installing the clear parts in the fuselage might have meant damaging the detail.

The Monogram kit has the radioman’s window correct, but the navigator’s window is too small and rectangular. I opened it up and squared it off using small files. Then, I added the glass in the radioman-navigator’s compartment, and the two windows in the lower waist, with chunks of clear plastic cut from a CD case. These were filed to shape, CA-glued in place and sanded back. The scribing was restored, some polishing was added, and they were done.


I’ll do some final polishing just before painting. The trick is to make them a little larger than you need, then mask them so the rougher part of the joint is obscured.

There’s one more set of transparencies I’m worried about – the tail gunner’s compartment. The kit has the right tail gun arrangement for the B-26B-5, but in the earlier models the tail was an almost entirely glassed-off stinger. I will admit that I’m cheating here: I’ll borrow a tail position from the Valom kit and combine it with the Monogram parts to get what I want. I’m just not up to carving a new tail position master and smash-forming a copy. Of course, this then leads to the question, “why didn’t you just start with the Valom kit?”

This early tail gun position had a single .30 in a ball mount about half-way down the stinger. The problem with this was that the gunner couldn’t depress the gun to fire at targets below him – hence, the modified tail gun arrangements in later B-26s. I have a strategy for the guns on this model I want to try out – especially for the nose and tail guns. I plan to install the body of the guns inside the transparencies before adding them to the model. The barrels will be removed and set aside until everything’s mostly finished and then slipped through the transparencies to mate with the bodies of the guns. The objective is to avoid the “porcupine effect” – a model with a host of projections that are just begging to be broken off through the final assembly stages.

The Strategic Aircraft Conversions cockpit floor and forward bulkhead have been CA-glued into the nose, even before painting. I think this will make it easier to add details without breaking them off in the process of fitting the flight deck. I’m toying with adding some detail to the radioman-navigator’s compartment; it will at least get a rear bulkhead and a desk for the radioman. As it stands, the forward part of the plane has been detailed with styrene strip formers, which was a fairly easy task.


I was thinking about wheels – should I swap some resin ones for the snap-tite kit wheels? No – as it turns out, even the wheels changed on the B-26, and the Monogram kit has the correct ones for an early B-26. Bill Koster was one of the big wheels at Monogram at about this time frame; I look forward to asking him if he had a hand in this remarkably accurate model, because the level of accuracy is almost shocking for a snap-together model of the 1970s!

Next up: more interior and propellers…


B-26 progress: power plants and access doors

The B-26 project – converting the Monogram Snap-Tite B-26B-5-MA into a B-26-1-MA – continues. Rather than launching headlong into the interior, I did some work on the engines. First, I hogged out the kit cowlings and removed the engines molded into them, using a motor tool and a cutting burr. This actually worked pretty well!  Now, I needed some Pratt & Whitney R-2800 engines in 1:72 scale. Luckily, Quickboost made a set intended for the Airfix kit, with the cylinder banks and crankcase molded as one piece and separate magnetos, distributor covers and return pumps.

Of course, that wasn’t enough for me – I also enlarged the openings in the Eduard photoetched ignition harness intended for the Hasegawa kit’s engines, using the exact same cutting burr in the motor tool. To my surprise, this actually worked. The ignition wires were painted with a mix of tan and flesh, and then they were bent and glued into place. An central harness was made from thin solder and it slipped around the crankcase to hide the chewed-up center hub of the photoetched harness.

Next came the push rod tubes – all 18 of them. I made them from black stretched sprue, to avoid having to paint them. If you have an SR-71 kit in your stash, you have a lifetime supply of black sprue. These were carefully put in place with tweezers, scenic glue and patience.

Next came the return pump and distributor covers, and the crankcase was painted aircraft gray. After a wash, I added the magneto, painted it black, and dry-brushed it.


And just like that, the engines were done!

I’m using the Scale Aircraft Conversions landing gear set – it conveniently supplies a cockpit floor/nose gear bay in metal, so I won’t have to raid a Hasegawa kit. The Eduard set gives you a nice photoetched access door for the floor, so I drilled out the door in the SAC metal floor using that motor tool and a router bit, followed up by careful filing with a tiny metal file to square off the opening. The idea is to depict the access door open in the floor with the boarding ladder deployed through the nose gear bay.  (Maybe I’ll open the hatches on top of the canopy – if you’ve ever been inside an aircraft in the summer sun, you know that getting some breeze inside the aircraft on a June morning on Midway doesn’t seem like an outlandish idea.)

B-26 cockpit floor

Next up: stringers, formers and other interior details…