A Modeler's Evolution
by Russell M. Field
I returned to modeling a little less than a year ago after a 25-year hiatus.
My first love in this hobby is WWII aircraft, and Hyperscale is one of the most valuable resources I've found. I enjoy seeing the results many folks get, but I sometimes feel overwhelmed and wonder if they ever had the problems I do and got the same results I get. With that in mind, I thought some of the "readership" might find it interesting to watch a relative novice progress, and maybe provide a different frame of reference from someone with not-so-developed skills.
SO … here's the first project in one modeler's learning progression. This is not a "how-to" or a kit review, but rather a chronicle of my experience as an evolving amateur. I welcome questions, comments and advice on both modeling and photographic techniques, as well as technical corrections. Comparisons to your own work are freely encouraged.
A warning: don't take the colors in the photographs too literally; I am even more of a novice photographer than a beginning modeler!
I re-entered this obsession by collecting some of the cast metal WWII "toy" planes now available. I wanted a P-40, but couldn't find any, so on a lark I picked up a Heller P-40E kit (Kittyhawk #79738), and a few small bottles of Testor's paint & thinner. I thought "I used to do this all the time - no prob!"
Even though the first one was strictly OOB, it was UGLY; I did a lousy paint job, accidental glue smears, canopy contusions, the whole nine yards. It was like I'd forgotten how to glue stuff together.
It was SO bad I turned it into a painting practice drone. I got another one; I was determined to make THAT particular kit look good! Therein lies the beginning of my journey toward more realistic modeling.
The kit subject is the AVG P-40E of Col. Scott. If you've ever seen or built one of these kits, you'll recognize it as one not intended for a great deal of detailing. The exhausts are solid and molded into the fuselage, the wings are two uppers and two lowers that attach at some approximation of the wing root, the canopy is thick, the interior largely nonexistent, and so on. But it looks enough like a P-40 that it would likely not be taken for another aircraft.
I tried to do too much to this kit, but was fairly pleased with the result. There are some things I'd do differently. One of the "did-rights", though, was learning how to use superglue. My standard practice now is to put a drop on a piece of waxed paper (thank you, Mr. Greenland) and either use a scribe point for application or lightly touch the part edge to the drop.
Some of the key modifications included:
So why, you ask, is dropping the flaps a "biggie"? It wasn't, until (after I had the wings glued on, of course) I realized that on a REAL P-40 the flaps extend inboard of the wing root almost to the fuselage centerline. I had removed the flap sections from only the lower WING halves. Got the @%$@! thing together and suddenly saw that I had to remove the inboard portion of the flaps from the fuselage, block off the resulting hole, and make the addition look seamless to the wing portions! ya-HOO!
That's one reason it takes me 3 - 4 months to finish a model …
This plane was olive drab over light gray; I hassled a while over exact shades, then picked two. I usually hang my models on pegs stuck into the side of a cardboard box, first with the bottom out then the top. This time, when I did the OD top, I had the light gray bottom resting against the cardboard to further steady it. Sure enough, I saw later that tiny bits of OD had bounced off the cardboard and hit the underside. Fortunately, on this model it looked like light operational grunge or dirt, so I left it.
P-40 historians will notice the incorrect kill markings; if you could read the name, you'd also see that it calls out Olders as the pilot! This is because I thought the decals from the aforementioned P-40B kit looked good. A lesson in historical accuracy … live and learn …
This was my first foray into weathering. I learned to use colored pencils for chipped paint and mud-colored putty, as well as post-shading panel lines and drybrushing to fade the colors and decals. I also experimented with the use of sponge-type eye shadow applicators and silver paint for simulating paint chipping; this has become one of my favorites. The rudder and port elevator, wingtip and aileron are slightly different shades than the rest of the craft. This was intended to simulate replacement parts.
While I might have gotten a little carried away with the wear and tear, the saving grace is that the subject operated in the CBI theater where logistic lines were thin (if they existed at all), weather conditions were often messy and maintenance concerns focused more on functionality than cosmetics.
Here are a few things I learned while working this kit:
Next came a Mk I Spitfire and my excursion into the world of photoetched interiors; after that, R-S Tuck's Mk I Hurricane. Let me know if you want more "my tale" articles like this one, and thanks to all!
Article, Model and Images Copyright © 1999 by Russell