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Bf 109E-4/Trop

by Frank Romano


Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4/Trop


Hasegawa's 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4/7 Trop is available online from Squadron.com




When I first started this project in 1998, I never thought it would be 2001 before it was finished. I started building Tropical birds mainly because I like the Desert color schemes but I also thought it would be cool to have a section of my cabinet with just Trop birds.

I bought the Hasagawa E4/7 because I loved the tiger stripe paint job on this aircraft. I immediately bought just about all the after market stuff available at the time. I honestly don't remember what I used but I think it centered around the Tecknics set. I finished the cockpit within a few months and then my building came to a grinding halt. At my hobby's expense (and my employer for flipping the bill) the next 18 months were spent completing a degree program. Other distractions to complicate things were packing everything for a move and then my daughters arrival.



Finally things settled down and I was able to build a new modeling bench and break out the 109. It was nice to be able to see all the clowns at the Chino model club meetings again; classes, homework, and research papers kept me away for almost two years. Those guys fortunately didn't change, after some verbal abuse I felt right at home again almost like I had not been gone. That was not the same feeling about our hobby though, I felt like I was walking into a new hobby, there was a boom in after market stuff and some new techniques were being used.

When at first I started picking up the pieces from where I left off I felt like I had ten thumbs and I had a hard time remembering how I used to do things. I found myself redoing a lot off things over and over to get it right and to some extent wasn't totally satisfied, but I went on. I know others that have stopped modeling for a while then jumped back in know how I feel, If you haven't jumped back in; do it, the waters a little cold at first but warms up quick and soon you will get back up to speed.





Construction was fairly basic, with a lot of pictures from my references and photo etch I was able to reshape the chin, add screens and nit pick. The cover for the filter is hinged and I can have it either in the open or closed positions. 



The large radiator exit flaps were cut out and photo etched replacements used. I scratch built the brackets from left over photo etch trees and used brass rod for the actuating mechanism for these flaps. Since the 109 has a fairly pronounced fabric tape section covering the ribs of the control surfaces, I duplicated this by masking off the areas between the ribs with 3M "blue" tape and applied a couple of coats of Mr. Surfacer 500. I peeled the mask away as soon as I was done and just before Mr. Surfacer dried completely I used a # 11 x-acto blade and carefully made a cross hatch pattern to simulate the threads of the stitching.

As far as weathering goes I have been experimenting with a new technique. In building other Trop planes I was never satisfied with the leading edges of the wings and propeller. As these aircraft took off and landed the sand would gently "sandblast" these surfaces. Chipping in my opinion just didn't look right, first you can never get the "chips" small enough, second, no matter who hard you try you can never get a nice uniform look, and third what do you do with multiple color schemes? In the case of the my 109 the darker green is painted over the lighter gray so when you try to weather, chipping produces a chip all the way do to the metal surface.

Even when I wasn't able to build this problem stayed on my mind. One day I was looking at glass mugs that had an etched design and wondered if there was something there. I did some investigation and found that Paasche Airbrush Co. makes a product called the Air Eraser designed for illustrators; In short this thing is a tiny sandblaster. You can pick up the kit which has everything you need for about $60. I bought the thing as soon as I could and immediately started investigating it's potential. This little tool is awesome! The first test was with a propeller. I sprayed the whole thing in Floquil Old Silver, then sprayed Future over the silver, and then sprayed the propeller color. Using about 18 lb. Of pressure and using the blast media supplied in the Air Eraser kit I was able to achieve a perfect sandblasted look (probably because it is really sandblasted). Using the same technique, Silver, Future, color, on the rest of the aircraft I was finally ready for my next test. Again I was not disappointed; I was able to gently sandblast the cowl and the leading edges down to the silver but most importantly was able to achieve a balanced effect by being able to gently sandblast the darker green down to the lighter gray.



Painting and Weathering


About the time my initial tests were complete I was ready to paint the 109. I painted the whole plane in Floquil Old Silver and then covered it with Future. I then used Tamiya Paints thinned 50/50 with slow drying lacquer thinner, and lightened about 10 %. Once the splinter pattern and the stripes were done, I lightened the colors about 15% and Shaded the panels. I was now ready to sandblast my nice paint job (sounds awful don't it?). I loaded up the Air Eraser and set the pressure to about 18 Lb. I started pretty far back at first and then moved in slowly until I started to see some results. I started from the wing root and moved outwards drawing the Air Eraser farther away from the model to lessen the effect. You want to remember the most damage is done in the prop wash so you might want to mark about where the blade would end on the leading edge. Move this mark in about a 1/4 inch, this way you will have a reference point as you move the Eraser away from the leading edge and it will feather out nicely so your weathering will look correct and not over done. Since the cowling was originally yellow painted over with dark green, right around the spinner you can see the yellow showing underneath the dark green. I did my leading edges first and then went back to do the cowling. It is a lot easier to control the degree of sandblasting done on the cowling, as opposed to blending in the wing leading edges to it.



The effect is perfect. From the wing tips as you look at the leading edge and move towards the fuselage you can see the dark green eroded to the light gray and the light gray eroded to the bare metal. Since the blast media size is in the Microns, the feathering of the edges of the sandblasted areas are mind blowing. Under magnification you can see the tiny little chips that produce the over-all effect.. I still have some experimenting on some other effects I think the Air Eraser will work on but for this type of weathering it is an absolutely must have tool.





I was very pleased with the outcome of my 109 Trop, even though I made a couple of alignment boo boos that had to be corrected it sure feels good to be able to model again.



When I feel I have this technique somewhat perfected I will do an article explaining the weathering process with the Paasche Air Eraser in more detail.



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Model and Text Copyright 2001 by Frank Romano
 Images Copyright 2001 by Frank Romano and Gregg Cooper
Page Created 07 May, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

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