Home  |  What's New  |  Features  |  Gallery  |  Reviews  |  Reference  |  Forum  |  Search

Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat

by Stefano Schembri


Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat


 available online from Squadron.com




This is the Otaki 1/48 F6F-3 Hellcat. It is not the only kit of the Hellcat I own, but it is surely the least expensive. I purchased it for less than $6.00.



Nevertheless the overall quality is very good and I was surprised when first looked at those nicely engraved panel lines. I therefore decided it was worth investing in Eduard's etched brass sheet and I also made a resin copy of the Aires set which is waiting to be installed in the Hasegawa kit.





Construction started in the cockpit, using the Aires copy for side panels and Eduard parts for seat, seat belts, instrument panel and pedals. All throttles and levers were scratchbuilt using brass stripes and a drop of vinyl glue for the knob; a couple of rails were added to the cockpit floor, the seat supports were scratchbuilt using styrene, steel wire and thin lead foil; a new hydraulic pump lever took the place of the kit's part, too thick. The gunsight was improved drilling a hole in the top surface and filling it with a drop of clear varnish to simulate the bulged glass. Everything was sprayed interior green except the control panels, satin black with a dark grey drybrush. After a meticulous handpainting of the details, the cockpit was ready to be glued to the left half fuselage.



Next came the engine. Here I decided to keep the original Otaki parts as scratchbuilding a new one would be not worth: once painted and weathered the engine looks fine.

An inexpensive improvement was a set of exhaust pipes, three for each side, which Otaki has omitted. I cut six small lenghts from a brass tube and glued in place with vinyl glue. I often use vinyl glue, its long curing time is ideal for those sub-assemblies where you need to check alignments when the parts are in position; I use a rapid type… well, it's rapid in comparison to normal types, it will cure in half an hour but you can handle the parts in five minutes.

So the fuselage halves were ready to be assembled, the join was really good and almost no filler was needed! Is it really a kit of the seventies? Just a touch here and there with Gunze's Mr.Surfacer 500 and a couple of hours spent wet-sanding and polishing the joins and voilà, done.

The wheel wells are well detailed and only need some tubes and a good wash-drybrush process to bring out their best. The machine guns were cut from the top wing halves and replaced with new parts made from brass tube, you can't imagine how this simple job can improve the final look of the machine.

The landing gear received some details from the Eduard sheet and others were scratchbuilt using lead foil and copper wire, then everything was painted satin white and weathered with oils. The wheel doors were thinned for more realism. The wheels are not a masterpiece, so I tried to give them a little interest "flattening" them with an iron. The navigation lights were scratchbuilt using clear plastic glued in place then carefully sanded and polished. A light coat with transparent red and green will be the final touch.

The wing to fuselage join was also good, no filler required. The canopy was the worst part of the kit (together with the decals as I describe later) and after all that work on the interiors I wanted to keep it open, so I decided to cut it in three pieces, a simple but riskful job that must be accomplished as slow as you can. Once cut, the canopy was polished, masked, sprayed interior green and glued to the fuselage (vinyl glue again). Its inner surface were masked and the moveable part fixed in place with some masking tape. Again, Gunze's Mr.Surfacer helped to hide the join.



Painting and Markings


The first layer of paint on my models is often a matt white or light grey enamel. I find that this allows further layers to grip better and also highlights all those otherwise unnoticeable little surface defects.

After a careful further sanding of the joints, all the surfaces were covered with two layers of Tamiya matt white. When this was completely dry I sanded the model with steel wool, working very lightly in order to obtain a very smooth and almost polished surface.

Next came the pre-shading: a medium grey for the undersurfaces and black for the rest, as medium grey would disappear under the dark blue of the camouflage. Then the last, very thin layer of matt white was sprayed on the undersurfaces. When completely dry, the plane received its three-tone livery using blu-tack, masking tape and Aeromaster acrylics. To obtain a faded appearance the colors were lightened with about 20% Tamiya white and that worked well.

I can't find things like "Future wax" or similar here in Italy, but I still wonder what will happen when those waxed airplanes will pass their fifth birthday. Who knows? I sprayed two layers of Aeromaster clear gloss to create a suitable ground for the decals, then all the airplane was treated with a polishing ceram to obtain a further smooth surface.



The decals are the worst part of the kit, and if you have an Otaki Hellcat think about investing a few dollars in a decent aftermarket sheet. They look nice and even after twenty years they are perfect, but once you put them on the model they won't follow all the panel lines. When wetted with decal-specific fluids, the film become instable and started warping, but nevertheless didn't conform well and after three-four cycles of decal liquid some bubbles were still there. Maybe it's only my case, but next time I won't even try to put those decals on (I have two other Otaki kits in the stack).

The plane was covered with two layers of Aeromaster flat clear mixed with a drop of gloss clear, followed by a wash of the panel lines with burnt sienna oil paint; a Berol Karismacolor helped me to create a "worn" appearance of the parts where mechanics and pilots put their hands and feet; a similar treatment was given to the propeller blades and other surfaces, always working with light hand.

Then I sprayed the exhaust and gun stains with black-brown, touching up the exhaust stains with grey. At this stage you can really ruin your work if you don't work very carefully and lightly, so don't make the same mistake as mine and keep a light touch when making gun stains!

With the plane decaled and sealed in the final matt finish you always think that in a few minutes you can complete your work, but the last, little details always represent long and sometimes tedious work. Pitot tube, antenna mast and its cable, arresting hook, all these little details often need to be scratchbuilt, hand painted and carefully assembled, and you can bet your hand will hit the pitot while you are gluing the antenna wire!

My next project will no doubt be the Hasegawa Hellcat which is on the top of the box stack. I guess building it will be easier but less challenging.



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view the images full-sized.
Use your browser's back arrow to return to this page.


Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2001 by Stefano Schembri
Page Created 28 June, 2001
Last Updated 04 June, 2007

Back to HyperScale Main Page

Back to Features Index