Tamiya Tomcat Part VI

Hi all,

It’s taken longer to get here, than I anticipated. A few reasons for that. First, I have a very short attention span; second, I had house issues; and third, I spent a week away for work. The house issues I won’t go into, but they involved ants in my workshop area, which made me extremely unhappy.  The travel for work is an occasional part of my career, it also makes me unhappy, and I’m glad I don’t have to do it as much anymore. The short attention span problem was tangentially related to the model.

I’m not going to sit here and make dumbass jokes about how this model had a lot of decals. Like any jet model, this thing has a large number of tiny stencils. Most are very small, and individually they don’t stand out, but collectively they make the model look far better than if they weren’t there. I’ve encountered several people on various forums and groups, who do not like to apply stencils. I think you should apply them if you want your model to look right. Whether you think you should is something else entirely, and likely of more relevance to you.

I first laid down a coat of Future. Now I know that there is a lot of talk about how only idiots put floor wax on models, but then call me an idiot. I’ve been using Future since 2005, and it works for me. I haven’t noticed any of the apparent discoloration that others have mentioned, and I like how thick decals sort of sink into the Future coat. I get how others may have tried Future and didn’t like it (you really need to develop a technique), but I also suspect that those screaming about it the loudest are just doing so to emulate their modeling idols who told them they didn’t like it.

After the Future was nice and cured, I began laying down decals. I used the Tamiya decals for nearly all of the stencils, the slime lights, the national markings, and generally everything else that wasn’t squadron specific. I used Mr. Mark Softer with the decals and they settled over curves and into recesses without any great issue. I think the Mark Softer slightly loosens the Future coat, and allows the slightly thick Tamiya decal to settle into it. Whatever the chemistry is that’s happening, the results make me happy.

The squadron markings were from the Aeromaster Anytime Babe III sheet. This sheet is kind of dumb. Two of the schemes are essentially identical; both being VF-142 birds from the 1975 USS America cruise. The third, which is a VF-33 scheme, and the reason I purchased the sheet. Here is your caveat emptor moment for the week: I purchased the sheet off ebay, where there were no good closeups, so when I saw VF-33 with the yellow star on the black tail, I hit buy! When the sheet arrived I could finally see that the VF-33 markings are for a one-off aircraft that VF-33 borrowed from another squadron, and quickly repainted for an airshow. Why Aeromaster didn’t opt instead for a proper 80s era VF-33 scheme is beyond me. If you are considering purchasing this sheet, here is as close up of a photo as I’ve seen on the web.  I’m typing this up away from home, and don’t have photos of my own. I’ll try to update when I get the chance.

Boxart Anytime Babe!! Pt.III: F-14 Tomcat 48-438 AeroMaster

Despite the lack of a good VF-33 option, I was still happy with the VF-142 scheme. I love the yellow over white markings, and I really like the unpainted radome. The Aeromaster decals worked okay. They are very thin, but pretty tough. I had a few edges flake off the big yellow markings around tail edges, but for the most part, once they were sealed, they stuck on tight. Micro Set and Sol were used with these decals.

It bears mentioning that the decals were designed to fit the Hasegawa F-14 kits, which are somewhat larger than the Tamiya kits. As a result, most of the decals were a touch too “tall” for the model, and needed trimming. This was generally an easy fix and was only tricky in fitting the small “11” markings in between the stripes on the tail. The widths of the tail stripes may be a bit off, but they look fine enough for me.

All in all, I’d say I spent probably 14 non-consecutive evenings applying the decals. I did only a few at a time before losing interest and moving on to other projects. That’s just how I work on these kinds of things, and it is one reason I don’t build that many jets. I simply do not have the attention span to apply several dozen stencils in one sitting.

After the decals were all on, I finally glued on the wings and tails, and added the wing gloves and bag things that inflate when the wings swing forward, and deflate when they swing back. I then sealed the model with a satin coat of Tamiya clear mixed with a few drops of Flat Base.

For the weathering I turned to one of the MiG premixed washes I so often scorn. I just wanted something quick, and uh…dirty. So I grabbed a bottle of neutral brown (or something like that). It is a grayish brown color that I thought would compliment the light yellowish gray of the gull grey uppers.

Guess what? This stuff works really nicely. Its an enamel based product, so after brushing it over the acrylic based clear coat, I was able to wipe it back with a cloth dipped in mineral spirits. The result, combined with the semi-opaque colors over black primer, looks pretty good. It is slightly grimy, but not too much. This model represents a pretty fresh aircraft that was on (I believe) its first time out to sea, back in 1975. I know tomcats got dirty, but I like my models to be on the cleaner side. I might still add a few oil streaks here and there, but I want to paint all the small details first.

As a final step, I glued on the gear and doors that I had prepared earlier. These went on with no fuss at all. From certain angles, this tomcat seems to sit a bit higher than I thought it would. I wonder how this compares to the real thing? Maybe Tamiya modeled the gear uncompressed? Or maybe I’m just seeing things. I’m not at all sure.

I’m getting very close to the end, but I have to admit, that I’m getting a bit tomcatted out. I think I’m going to work on something else for a while, so the next tomcat update may not come for a few more weeks. I still have to work on the canopy, the afterburners, and the missiles, with their dozens of stencil decals. It’ll happen, and soon, but probably not right away.

I’m hearing the call of 72nd scale, or of 1/35th scale. Definitely of something Soviet.

Meanwhilings, elsewhere on the internet

A minor aside today. I don’t have anything to show on the Tomcat for now. I’m super slow with decals, as I quickly get bored with them, so I only do a few at a time. After five days I finally have all the little stencils on, but that is about it. Perhaps in another week, I might have a fully marked bird to show.

But I did want to take a moment to share a link to two of my favorite sites on the internet. Despite all of the large scale projects I’ve been showcasing here lately, well built and finished 1/72 scale models are still my favorites. I haven’t had much personal success in 1/72 lately (I permanently shelved maybe four or five kits this year alone), but I take much inspiration from the following sites, and I hope to return to 1/72 with some upcoming builds. Maybe after the tomcat is done. But for now, feast your eyes on these:

VVS Modeling

This is a wonderful blog focused on building Russian and Soviet aircraft. The author presents some great step-by-step guides. Check out for example his discussion of Hasegawa’s Su-35 for a great lesson on how to paint the complex metallic portions of the flanker. Most of the work featured on the page is 1/72, and it is really making me want to open up a fresh 1/72nd scale kit and give it another try.

Check out his amazing Su-17 built from the not-too-easy Modelsvit kit. A-MA-ZING!


The boys at Fanakit do amazing things with 72nd scale. This French language site is devoted almost entirely to jet modeling. What really makes it stand out are the stunningly brilliant photos taken in natural light, against a dramatic mountain background. The models look stunningly realistic, and without any bullshit finishing techniques. Just solid paint jobs with some subtle color variation, nicely applied washes, and tight clear coats. Seriously, this might be some of the finest modeling on the web.

This Special Hobby Mirage built by Fabien Antonietti blows my mind!

Tamiya Tomcat Part V

Hey all,

It’s good to be back! The move from the west side of the DC metro to the east went smoothly. My wife and I are slowly settling into our new place. I set up my modeling bench at the end of our first week here, and have since had more bench time than I thought I would.

I immediately pulled the tomcat out of its box and got back to work on it. I decided to paint the airframe before moving on to other details. The first step was to get a good primer coat. I used Tamiya’s gloss black spray paint. It coats well, its more or less self-leveling, and is tough enough to just about withstand a nuclear blast.

I gave the primer a few days to cure, and then began building up the colors. The first one on was the insignia white (i.e. gloss white). For this I mixed equal parts of Tamiya gloss and flat white paints, and thinned them with Tamiya lacquer thinner. The paint was very thin, but I don’t know the precise percentage. Much thinner than skim milk, though.

I sprayed on several very thin, almost misty, uneven semi-opaque coats of white, trying to add some variation to the color intensity and opacity to the final finish. This is why the black primer was so important. To my eye, this looks nicer than preshading panel lines, because it allows you to make the color variation more random, and not just at the edges of each panel. The process is slow, but worth it. It’s also hard to screw up when you’re laying down such thin layers of paint.

The key is subtlety. You don’t want sharp contrasts between the colors. Or maybe you do. It’s up to you.

One of the things I really like about my new workshop setup is that my desk is right up against a window. I have a small extractor fan that I insert into the window, and turn on the ceiling fan when I paint. This pulls/pushes much of the atomized paint particles out the window. I also wear a respirator mask when I paint.

All paint is toxic, even acrylics, and lacquers are especially toxic. Prolonged (industrial level) exposure can damage your nervous system.  Some modelers act like the stuff is uranium, and refuse to go near it, but with proper ventilation and a respirator, it is no worse than any other paint.

After the white coat was cured (the lacquers dry in minutes, but I gave them overnight to cure), I masked off an irregular wavy demarcation line with Tamiya’s curved line tape. I discarded the packaging, but if I remember correctly, this thin, semi-stiff tape is made from resin, and can be used to form nice, tidy curves. There are limits to how much curvature you can achieve with one piece – this isn’t poster putty – but it is also much neater than poster putty.

With the white masked off, I sprayed on the gloss light gull gray topsides. For this I used Mr. Color lacquer paint, highly thinned with Tamiya Lacquer thinner. This paint is pretty awesome for airbrushing, but is absolute shit for brush painting. It is very thick and gummy, dries super fast, and needs extensive thinning. Like with the white, I built up this color, a bit at a time. Later, I went back and painted the tops of the ailerons white.

With all of this done. I masked off the leading edges of the wings and tails, and used a Tamiya Silver spray can to paint the anti corrosive surfaces. Then came the hard part.

The tomcat I’m building has a black antiglare trim around the canopy and a yellow/tan radome. The antiglare surfaces were a pain in the butt.  They follow panel lines along the long straight, sides.  These parts were easy to mask, but the portions on the fuselage spine, and in front of the windscreen go all free form and curvy along the compound curved surfaces of the aircraft. You can take the easy way and get some pre-cut masking products to do this, but it takes only a bit of measuring, and calculating algebraic ratios from known lengths on the instructions to determine where each curve starts and ends.

I made the mistake of using Vallejo black primer for the black portions. I ran out of Tamiya black, and no longer have a hobby shop nearby, so I decided to be lazy and use what I had at hand. Vallejo paints have a tendency to be either fantastic or absolute shit. This seems to depend on the phase of the moon, and whether or not its an El Nino year, or something.

Yeah, that was stupid, but so is Vallejo black primer.

But I used it, and when I pulled off the masking tape, some of the paint that was at the edges stayed on the model, and some went with the tape. The result was a slightly jagged edge when viewed up close. I attempted to fix things with a brush, and its fine, but nevertheless annoying. The black also bled down a few panel lines. This was cleaned up with a toothpick dipped in water.

Now wait! Before you think I’m just going to hate on Vallejo, read the next paragraph.

The last thing I painted was the radome. This was left unpainted, and had a light yellowish tan color on some of the earliest tomcats. I mixed this color up from Vallejo German Yellow and Yellowish tan (or something – I dont remember, the paints are upstairs and I’m not, and I don’t feel like going to look). I mixed the two colors and then thinned them a great deal with Liquitex Airbrush medium. This is a paint retarder/thinner that makes a lot of those European acrylics (Vallejo, Hataka, etc.) flow much more nicely through an airbrush, and allows the color buildup technique I described further above.

Before painting the radome, I had to mask it. Masking a straight line on an irregularly shaped, semi-conical object is a freaking chore! Algebra and Tamiya curved line tape came to the rescue once again.

The paints I used were semi-glossy (save for the Vallejo parts), but to get this thing ready for decals, I needed to spray it down with clear gloss coat. And here we are, sticker time!


Next time, decals and weathering.

Tamiya Tomcat Part IV

Welcome back to the Tamiya tomcat build.

This week I’m discussing the landing gear. There isn’t that much to say about the landing gear in this kit, as it is rather simple. They don’t look simple, but they’re simple to build.

You may have gotten glances at the wheel bays in previous posts, and you may even recall me complaining about how spartan they are. Witness as I eat my words.

The bays are spartan, but they’re good enough to convey the sense of business in a full sized tomcat. I painted the bays with Tamiya gloss white, and then clear coated with Future. Yup. I’m one of those heathens who still uses Future as a clear coat. I know its poopooed these days, but I’m happy with the results it gives me, and its easy to use. If you don’t like it? Well; okay. That’s cool.

After the Future dried, I applied several different shades of pinwashes using thinned mixtures of burnt sienna, raw umber, and lamp black oils.  I also applied a few spots of filter or glaze coats mixed from various shades of brown and ocher oils highly thinned. These were more dirty thinner than thinned paints. The result is a complex array of shadows and stains in the bays that makes them look busy enough to create the right feel.

I used the same finishing technique on the various gear doors. Some of these were multi-part assemblies, with an inner and outer side. Once glued, they were painted gloss white, sealed in Future, washed/filtered, and then sealed a second time. The second seal (how Apocalyptic!) was there to keep inks from bleeding onto the white paint.

Inks? Yep. I used a red artist’s pen to create the red anti-corrosion coats, that are seen on the edges of USN gear doors and panels of various sorts. I made sure to let the Future coats dry a few days before applying. Red ink on white paint is like herpes; stray just a little and you’ll never really get rid of it.  I managed to keep things largely clean.

I don’t know why some of the whites look pink in the photo. Must be the light and the reflective white surfaces….I swear I’m clean!


One little hiccup I had with the doors was that I broke one of the hinges on the small doors. I glued it back on several times, but it keeps snapping I just reglued it again for this picture. I assume it will break yet again. I’m not sure what is going to happen when I attach this door to the fuselage. We’ll see.

Finally the landing gear legs. Each leg was assembled from multiple pieces including the main strut, and the various actuators. The central strut of each main gear leg is composed of three pieces, and they are split vertically. This was a weird choice on the part of Tamiya, as it created seams down the length of the shaft. These took a bit of work to clean up because of the banding and other protruding details.  Once I had things cleaned up I added several small struts and actuators to complete the assemblies. The nose gear leg is a little simpler and fits better. The landing light is a clear part, and is integrated with a box that features three colored lights. The legs were finished in the same way as the bays and doors. There are a few stencil and placard decals for each leg.

I did use Bare Metal foil for the oleo struts on the main legs. I tried to on the nose gear leg, but I should have done so before adding the actuators which kept me from wrapping the foil around the cylinder.  I used SNJ aluminum powder on the nose oleo, but it doesn’t look as nice as the foil.

Finally, I added the wheels. The main wheels were in two halves, the nose wheels were single pieces. The tires were painted Tamiya Rubber Black, and the contact surfaces were given a light misting of a light grayish brown color I mixed. That did it for the landing gear.

I’m thinking about what to do next with the model. Maybe I’ll build and paint the missiles before painting the airframe. Maybe I’ll work on painting and improving the main canopy. Or maybe I’ll mask the exhausts (and hope the tape doesn’t pull off all of my hard work), prime the airframe black, and start painting. Whichever route I choose, it’ll have to wait a little while.

Tonight was my last at this workbench. We move this Saturday, and tomorrow after work, I’m tearing down the workbench, packing the supplies away, and securing the tomcat for the move. I’m not sure when I’ll get my modeling space set up at our new place, but hopefully it won’t be too long.  I expect to be back by September.

I’ll see you all on the other side of the city from here.



Tamiya Tomcat Part III

Welcome back. Last time I went over building the Tomcat’s rear fuselage, today we’re moving forward to the cockpit and front fuselage area.

I’m going to say it up front – I’m not that great at cockpits in 1/48. When I was a kid, I would paint them black and dry-brush white to catch the raised details. I felt like a fucking wizard after discovering that trick. It looked great to my 12 year old eyes, and was sort of the way my friends who were modelers also did cockpits in the late 1980s/early 90s. Then I discovered 1/72, and cockpit detailing was achieved via decals, a simple paint job, or sometimes, with the hope that thick and poorly painted clear parts would hide the lack of anything of substance underneath them.

There are folks out there who can create incredible cockpit details from scratch, others are very good at painting exquisite resin upgrades, still others go PE. I’m not a fan of full resin cockpits, as they tend to need a lot of work to fit (but see below); and I really dislike working with PE looks. Scratchbuilding always seems fun in theory and at the planning stage, but after cutting the first few pieces and seeing they aren’t straight, I usually end up just giving up and going with what is in the box.

What Tamiya gives you in this box is, well… it’s okay. It’s fine. It could be better, but it is fine. I guess.

The cockpit consists of many pieces, with each of the side and quarter panels being separate from the bulkhead parts. There are plenty of knobs and switches, and they are cast in moderate relief. The instrument panels are multi-part assemblies too. Disappointingly, the instrument faces have no detail. There is just a round bezel with the housing around it, but nothing is within the circle. Tamiya gives you neat decals for the radar screens, but instrument face decals would have been nice too.

In addition to the bulkheads and panels, you also get flak-curtain covered sidewall detail parts, canvas covered coamings, circuit-breaker boards, control stick, rudder pedals, radar joystick, and a simple throttle. There is a large cockpit sill with canopy hook divits, and some details that go behind the RIO’s head. There are multipart seats, as well as two nicely sculpted crew figures.

The seats look okay, but lack harnesses and other small details, so I decided to splurge on an Eduard Brassin set. I haven’t started work on the seats yet, but here is what the Eduard set looks like.

So much for not using PE and resin!

Assembling the cockpit was easy. I put together all of the bulkheads, added the pedals, side panels and quarter panels and circuit-breaker boards. All of this was painted in dark gull gray, and the various panels were then painted in black. Once dry, I used primarily pale blue gray and silver gray Vallejo paints, applied with a sharpened toothpick to pick out all the switches. A few were then painted red, or a pale green, as per instructions. The RIO’s radar scope was painted clear green, and the semi-translucent decal was applied over it. I then covered each instrument bezel with Micro Crystal Clear to at least give it some appearance of a glass covered instrument. The radar decals were added, a few other details were painted. That was about it for the cockpit. Simple. Even though the details looked spartan on unpainted, the finished thing looks pretty good. An expert painted could make it even better.

Following the cockpit, it was time to assemble the nose-gear well. Each bulkhead was a separate piece, and you have to add the root of the nose gear leg as you assemble them. The engineering here is brilliant, and you really need to not know what you’re doing to get things wrong. Prior to painting these pieces, I primed them with Tamiya white primer. Additional painting will happen later.

Once the gear well and cockpit were together, they were attached together and sandwiched between the left and right fuselage halves. Tamiya doesn’t mention adding nose weight, but the ass-end of the kit is pretty heavy, so I glued in a blob of poster-putty and fishing weights into the nose. A few ventral panels were added, as was the refueling door (you can do this opened or closed), chin sensor and gun cover. The gun cover fit perfectly. You hear that Hasegawa?! PERFECTLY!!!!!!!!!! The two halves of the fuselage also fit perfectly.

And get this! The rear and front fuselage portions fit, wait for it – PERFECTLY! No filler, no sanding, nothing!


At this point I added the instrument panel coamings, the cockpit sill, and a few other odds and ends. Finally I added the windscreen, which is integrated with a piece of the fuselage, ensuring another perfectly fitting element. I tinted the center panel with Tamiya clear blue thinner with Tamiya lacquer thinner.

At this stage, I wanted to get a feel for what the finished model would look like, and to determine how much shelf space it will eat up. I added the phoenix missile palettes and glued together the tail parts. The horizontal tails have a little mounting peg which fits into a poly-cap inside the fuselage. They can be rotated for a dynamic pose, and are easily removed for painting. The main wings will also slide right onto and off their roots. The vertical tails are just taped on for the prefit, and won’t be attached until after painting.

I also assembled the wing glove pylons. Each of these consisted of five parts.

You see that? The big tomcat is growing an evil twin! That’s the 1/72 Fujimi kit, and the subject of a future build review article. I also have a 1/72 hasegawa high blood-pressure special edition F-14B on the go, but it didn’t make the photo because it got sent to the corner to think about what it has done.

After taking these photos, I went through the box, discarding empty sprues, and clipping off remaining sprue sections with pieces still on them. The box is starting to empty out, and I’m feeling like I’m past the midpoint of this project. I may in fact not be. I want to try something new in the finishing process. But I’m not ready for the paint stages yet. Due to my upcoming move, I’ll hold off on painting, and spend the last few days at this work-bench focused on preparing the landing gear parts.

The results of that in Part IV, coming sometime next week. Stay tuned!

Tamiya Tomcat. Part II

Welcome to the continuation of my tomcat build. Nearly a week after starting, I’ve made slow but steady progress on this kit. I’m happy to say, it has all been a load of fun!

Last time we left off with the rear fuselage upper and lower halves, ready for assembly. Since then I added the swing wing root mechanism and sandwiched it between the two halves. This is a nice little assembly, which results in swinging stubs that the wings can slide over, at the very end of the build.

The two halves of the fuselage fit fine, but I did use some Mr. Surfacer along the leading edges of the wing roots, or LERX or I don’t know how to classify that part of the F-14. The bit in front of the swing wings.

Once that was done, I painted and added the intake interiors and the intake trunks. After wrestling with these parts on the Hasegawa kit, I was overjoyed with how flawlessly the pieces fit here. Pure modeling joy!

A few vent covers, an insert on the spine, trunk leading edges, rear phoenix palates, and ventral strakes completed the rear fuselage assembly.

Then it was time to move on to the exhausts. I don’t usually build jets, and so I’m not an expert on achieving the stressed, burnt metal look of the exhausts. I did my best here to recreate photos I saw online. I began with the sections of the exhaust in front of the afterburner. Again, not a jet guy, and I don’t know if this has a specific name.

Here is my process, in a nutshell. Its not the only way to paint these. It may not even be the right way, so you may want to come up with your own.

I began with the inner exhausts. I painted these white to simulate the ceramic coating. I then added the burner rings, painted per Tamiya instructions. The white interiors were stained with brown and black oil washes, and then blackened with streaks of black pastel powders to simulate heat staining.

I then installed the cans into the section of exhaust that is attached to the fuselage. There is a little bit of fuselage airframe integrated with this part on the model. This meant that this part had to be masked before the metallic sections were painted.  Once that was done:

  1. Spray painted with Tamiya Black spray can (allowed to cure for 2 days)
  2. Sprayed with Model Master Stainless Steel Buffing Metalizer (allowed to dry for a few hours)
  3. Buffed panels.
  4. I made a mix of Tamiya smoke, clear yellow, and clear red, and thinned in Tamiya lacquer thinner to make a dirty orange-brown thinner. I sprayed several very thin coats of this mixture over the panel lines and edges of the exhaust rings. Then bottled it for later use.
  5. I then mixed a highly thinned Tamiya clear blue, and sprayed a few lines against the plane of the large panels that cover the top of the exhaust, and along the centers of the panels.
  6. The results were not perfect, so I went over everything with a highly thinned Tamiya Titanium silver to tie everything together.
  7. I resprayed a few misty light coats of the orange brown mixture to give the metal a smoked-fish kind of tone.


Again, I’m not sure this is the best way to do this, but it looks generally how I wanted it to. I pulled off the masking and glued the pieces to the fuselage. The metallic bits will be masked prior to painting, and hopefully the masking wont pull off all the hard work. I’ll have to find something VERY low tack.  I’ll wait to do the afterburner rings until after the airframe is painted.

You might notice that I also left off the beaver-tail that goes in between the exhausts. I ordered a replacement part from Quickboost, which comes with the ECM antenna. These were installed on most F-14As during the 1980s. Yes, this means I will not be using the box decals. I’m still not set on scheme, but it will be a mid -1980s version. That was when I first saw the Tomcat and fell in love with it.

No it will NOT be a Topgun plane.


Are these decals out there?

More on possible schemes in the next update. And speaking of next update, you may be wondering “When is this bozo going to build the cockpit?”

That’s next time.


I finally succumbed to marketing pressures and purchased a Tamiya F-14A Tomcat. The kit set me back about $76.00 on www.scalehobbyist.com. One of my favorite online hobby shops.


Sure, that is a big chunk of change, but so far it seems to have been worth every penny. The engineering of the kit is essentially idiot-proof (until they build a better idiot, that is). Everything just drops or slots in. I’ve read others’ build accounts and they claim they built the kit without any filler. I’ve yet to experience such a thing, and I already needed a touch of Mr. Surfacer on the fuel tank halves. I anticipate a bit more Mr. Surfacer on the long seams, but that’s me, not the model.

Being a Tamiya kit, some of the details are simplified. The landing gear wells don’t have the maze of pipes that you find in a real Tomcat, and the instrument bezels don’t have any details on their faces. The wings can’t be built with flaps and slats down, and worst of all, the seat harnesses are represented by decals. Yuck!

There are also few kit options. You can build the boarding ladders raised or lowered. You can swing the wings. You can have the refueling probe extended, and you can have the canopy open or closed. That is about it. Most limiting of all is that you can only build the very early blocks of the F-14A. The kit includes only the earliest chin sensor, and the early beaver-tail. I’m okay with this, because I intend to build a 1970s era bird, but if you want to build an 80s or later tomcat, you’ll need to find extra bits elsewhere.

NB. I’m talking about early and late F-14As, not the F-14B and F-14Ds. Those have other major differences, most notably the engines and exhausts. Tamiya has just released the F-14D.

Anyhow. I began working on the kit as soon as it arrived. I wanted to slap together a few sub-assemblies to see how things work. I glued together the external fuel tanks and wings. They went together without issue. I added a few spots of Mr. Surfacer to the tank seams. Nothing major.

I then began working on the lower fuselage. Here is where the engineering really shines. The landing gear well and intake ramp parts just fell together. It was like putting together blocks. What you see in the photo below, took all of one hour, if that. In comparison, the same assemblies on the Hasegawa kit, took a couple of nights. The gear wells on the Hasegawa tomcats being one of the trickiest parts of the kit.

The Hasegawa kit (a few steps further in construction) for comparison. An entirely different approach to kit engineering.

In the weeks to come, I’ll be posting progress on both kits as they progress. Its not going to be an entirely side by side build, as I think the Tamiya kit will go far far quicker than the Hasegawa. We’ll see what happens. Stay tuned for more.

The Hardest Part of this Hobby

Each of us has a modeling bugaboo; some aspect of the hobby that frustrates us, discourages us from doing certain things, or downright breaks us down.

Hyperbole much?

Just keep reading.

I get frustrated with rescribing panel lines, and with poorly fitting clear parts. I hate masking airplane canopies, and hard-edged camo schemes. My inability to spray smooth gloss coats discourages me from building both automobile models, and aircraft in natural metal finishes. But these aren’t the kinds of things I’m talking about, I’m talking about serious hurdles. All of that stuff is small potatoes compared to rounding up the collection for a move.

And today I’m doing it again.


Image result for dammit gif

Moving sucks! I know, because I am an expert mover. I’ve been semi-nomadic since 2000, when I moved out from my parent’s home. Since then, I’ve been moving almost once a year. A little bit less so in the last few years, but I have moved A LOT.  let me break it down for you

2000 – to Milwaukee, from Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. So long mom and dad. ~40 miles
2001 – to Grafton from Milwaukee. Grad school requires cheaper digs ~25 mi
2002 – first apartment in Grafton burns down – to another place in Grafton. <1 mi
2003 – Roommate moves out, to a third place in Grafton. <1 mi
2004 – Fuck these long commutes.  Back to Milwaukee. ~25 mi
2007 – 3 years at one place, unbelievable! Girlfriend (now wife) moves to NoLa for work. Need new rommmate and place. Move to other part of Milwaukee ~1 mi
2008 – Girlfriend comes back. I’m better than NoLa. Move to Shorewood, WI. ~1 mi.
2009 – To Tucson! I’m Done with PhD coursework, GF finds great job in desert. Adventure time!!! ~1,800 mi
2010 – To Bellingham, WA. This time I get a great job opportunity! So long sunshine, hello rain ~1,600 mi
2011 – Tired of apartment life – lets get a bigger house – still in B’ham ~2 mi
2012 – To Tacoma Park, MD. (DC area) Bellingham sucks! Wife gets offered dream job ~2,850 mi
2014 – To Rockville, MD. Still DC area. ~5 mi
2018 – to Greenbelt, MD. STILL in DC area (6 years in one state?! Nuts!). We’re finally home owners. But 4 years in the same place means we’ve accumulated a lot of crap – especially models!

So 10 moves and about 6,300 miles later, I’d say I’ve become quite good at this. But that doesn’t mean I like it. And just like moving is one of the hardest parts of modeling, packing models is one of the hardest parts of moving.

We’re still six weeks away from the move, but I decided to wrap up the built models before other things get too hectic. I didn’t do a precise count, but my displays included around:

Seven 1/35 tanks

six 1/48 tanks

three 1/72 tanks

one 1/32 airplane

fifteen 1/48 airplanes

and thirty or so, 1/72 planes.

This is just my finished stuff; I’m not even talking about the boxes and boxes of unbuilt and in-progress kits. Those are easy to pack.

It took all afternoon, but I cleaned off my shelves, and my Ikea Detolf case.



Yes, I realize I forgot to pack the A-Wing. I’ll get around to it. That thing is a robust Bandai kit. I can pack it however.

It took 15 small boxes to get everything together. I pack my models by putting in a Styrofoam sheet in the bottom of the box, and then locking the models from moving with wooden skewers and tooth-picks.

The system has worked for over 6,000 miles, so maybe give it a whirl when your turn comes. I wouldn’t trust the Post Office, or UPS to get models packed this way, to their destination in one piece, but stacked securely in a moving truck, or in the back of my car, they’ll do just fine.

But doing this  is enormously tedious, time consuming, and all that styro gets expensive.

However, that isn’t really even the hard part of the move. That is just the “Suck it up, Francis”, part. The hard part is when you look through the shelves, and realize that maybe not all of them are worth moving. And maybe, even – are any of them worth moving? Once the dread of packing 60+ models settled, I decided that a majority are worth moving.  Of the 62 or so models on display, about 50 made the cut.

None of my models have a particularly long shelf life. As parts start to fall off, or as my skills begin to exceed those I had when I built whats on the shelf, the models get stripped and thrown away. They’re often not that difficult to part with. I had an Airfix 1/48 lighting that I built in 2013. It didn’t turn out great, and its been a dust magnet since then. I noticed today that the shock cone was out of alignment, and the in-flight stand looked like ass. When one of the over-wing tanks broke off, I knew it was time to say goodbye.

But sometimes sentiment sets in, and you end up having to think about it, and then that brings back memories that get locked up in the kit, along with the paints and glues. I had a really hard time culling a 1/32 P-40 I built back in 2011. It was my first (and to date only) completed 1/32 airplane. I entered that thing in a model contest in Bellingham, and ended up winning, first place. Even better, when I entered that contest, I met some Bellingham area modelers who I became really good friends with. Guys like Dave, Dennis, Carl, Wayne, and Roy, are some of the greatest guys I met in Washington State, and I miss them all very much. This kit has all those memories in it, and it was hard to get rid off. The model has already made two moves, and has begun falling apart over the last few years. Today, when I picked it up off the shelf, one of the wheels came off, and when I tried to grab for it, I accidentally tore off an aileron. At first I thought I can fix it, but then I noticed a few other missing pieces, and all the previous repair jobs that looked a bit less than good. In the end, I decided it was time to let go. Somewhere in the bowels of Photobucket, there are still pictures of the thing, and I have other models built during the times I spent with my Bellingham friends, that look much better (note: going through my edits of this – I’m not sure this is true – most of my Bellingham era models are gone).

I also got rid of a few of my older 1/72 models.  Some of these, I had still been holding on to since Tucson. I really miss my times in Tucson, so these were tough to let go of. But I’ve come a really long way in modeling since 2009/2010, and these kits really didn’t look that great in comparison to the newer stuff. I held on to a few representative samples, but I feel like these will probably stay packed even after the move.

But the real staggering moment came  when I decided to get rid of all my remaining 1/48 armor kits. From about 2007 to 2009 I used to swear by these kits. I loved Tamiya’s medium scale tanks. They were simple to build, and I was able to amass a collection quickly. But a decade later, they were just filling up space. I built many of them quickly back then, and so they looked like shit. I only had about 10 left. The best of the best, as it were. Even still, most didn’t look great, and I’ve really gotten over the idea of 1/48 armor. I don’t know. They’re like the Australopithecus boisei of armor modeling: pretty cool looking, long-lived even, but ultimately a dead end.

There is that well known de-cluttering guru who always says that if something brings you no joy, it is time to get rid of it. Well, these kits were bringing me no more joy. They were taking up a whole shelf of premium model real-estate; all Lilliputian but without that jewel-like quality of 1/72 armor. In a moment of “meh”; one which I may come to regret in a few days; I decided to be rid of them.

I wanted to squeeze one last bit of joy out of these models. So I did what I used to back when I was 12. I smashed the ever living shit out of them! I crushed some. I crashed others into one another. I put them all in a box, put on my work boots and got stomping. It was very cathartic! At the end I had a bankers’ box full of plastic smithereens, ready for the dump. This was the only way. I had to ritually kill them so that I didn’t decide later that I want them back.

I CAN’T JUST THROW OUT AN INTACT MODEL! What am I, some sort of savage?

This may be hard for some to accept. Some modelers hold on to everything they have ever built. There is a word for guys like this – hoarder.

I sometimes obsess over the collection I would like to have, but I’m slowly getting over that. The real joy of a model is the build. Taking photos of, and showing off a freshly finished kit is fun too, but after that, they’re just dust magnets.

Some get upset about how wasteful it is to discard a kit. Sure. If I think about it too hard, trashing a $70 model is hard. But that $70 paid for the joy I had building the model. Weeks, sometimes months (hell, sometimes years) of a process I take great delight in.

Finished kits are great! They’re fun to fawn over for a while, to turn about and admire, and to take photos of. They’re still all nice and tidy, and all your friends on the web can tell you how nice they look and make you feel pretty good for a little while.

And then you put them on a shelf. They may look great for some time. They may even contribute to a themed collection.  But then they sit there. And sit there, and sit there. And get dusty. And then you try to clean them. A pitot falls off, or a missile breaks off. Then you build another kit, and it looks so much better. Now what? Time to go? No? That kit was a gift? That kit reminds you of simpler times? Well shit…

I can go on forever with this. I don’t really know what my point is. It was hard to make the cull. I got rid of some models that meant a lot to me at one point, but no longer really did now. I think now that it is over and done with, I feel pretty good about it. Those models still exist in photographic form, all over the web. And they look better in those photos than they did today.

As a matter of fact, now that I see the shelves all clean, I’m thinking that maybe after the move, I won’t even unpack all of my models. Just the best-of the best. That idea has me excited because it means a whole hell of a lot more open shelf space, and a fresh, new, and better (at least in my imagination) fleet of models awaits.

They’re just plastic airplanes. They shouldn’t mean this much.

PS. Even though I packed up the built models, I have not yet torn down the work-bench. As a matter of fact, I’m knee deep in a Hasegawa Tomcat. I doubt I’ll finish it in the six weeks before I move, but it, and the Tamiya tomcat, which is on its way in the mail, will be the focus of the next few weeks work of modeling. I’m not packing up the bench until a few nights before the move.

Hasegawa 1:48 Ki-27 Review

The Ki-27 (allied code-name “Nate”) was the primary front-line fighter of Imperial Japanese Army Airforce in the late 1930s. The maneuverable little fighter saw extensive service over the skies of northern China, Manchuria and Mongolia from 1937-1940, where it outclassed the Nationalist Chinese Air Force, flying mostly Polikarpov biplane fighters.

I built this model to represent an aircraft flown by the the 64th Sentai, in Manchuria, during the summer and fall of 1939. This particular aircraft is said to have been flown by Major Tateo Kato, who would go on to claim 18 victories. In Early 1942, Kato was shot down by a Bristol Blenheim gunner, over the Bay of Bengal.

The kit is a golden oldie. The kit was first released in the 1970s by a Japanese company called Mania. In 1975 Hasegawa bought Mania, and began re-releasing all of their toolings under their own label. Hasegawa periodically re-releases the kit with new decals, and a fresh hip modern price tag. I got this one from a very generous trader on ARC, and he included a sheet of Life Like decals and some resin. More on these later.

The kit has very fine recessed panel lines, and is festooned with tiny recessed rivets, much like the surfaces of modern kits from China. The kit is pretty simple. There are less than 100 pieces total, the cockpit is rather spartan, and engine details are simplified. Nevertheless, things look reasonably accurate. One major drawback, at least for me, was the canopy. It is thick, and slightly textured, which gives it a semi-opaque quality. It also cannot be posed open. Options in the kit are limited to two types of canopy, a set of external fuel tanks, and an over-the wing device, which I think is a gun-camera.

The Life Like decal sheet titled Type 97 Fighters, Part 2 (48-021) features six schemes. Five of these were for aircraft in overall IJA-Gray finish, and one for a gray and green flight school machine. All six schemes provided, are very colorful and flashy.

Construction of the kit began with the cockpit. I used the basic kit cockpit, which is simple, but more than adequate, as very little will be seen through the small opening, and even less through the poor clear parts. I did replace the kit seat with a much nicer looking resin part I had.

The instructions call out for a navy blue color. I researched this and the Nate cockpit was in-fact a grayish blue. I mixed up a color from Tamiya paints and sprayed it on, then painted details by hand, using Vallejo acrylics.

The fuselage halves were glued together and the cockpit was installed through the bottom. Then I glued the upper wing halves to the fuselage. I did this to minimize fit problems at the wing roots. An earlier dry-fit showed that if the whole wing had been assembled and then glued to the fuselage, it would create pretty deep steps at the roots. Using this approach, I just had to fill a small step behind the flaps on the bottom wing, and fill in some gaps along the leading edges.

With the wing assembled, I added on the tail parts and the cowl ring. The diameter of the cowl ring was a bit smaller than the fuselage just aft of it, so out came the bondo. Once dry, I dry fit the cowl ring, and sanded everything down. I then rescribed lost panel lines, and used my Trumpeter ponce wheel to repair the lost rivets.

I tried to improve the canopy by polishing it with a fine abrasive paste and then dipped it in Future. This helped a little bit, and I masked the canopy using my usual method of adhesive chrome foil.  I had to bevel the bottom inner edges of the canopy a bit to get it to fit to the fuselage. If I was ever to build this kit again, I would replace the canopy with a vaccuformed piece.

With the canopy on, I glued together the wheel spats. These needed a bit of putty along the leading edges. The spat assemblies are sided, so make sure you keep track of which one goes with which side.

I also decided to attach the balloon-like drop tanks. These look very unique, as they’re more like the RAF slipper tanks, than the tear-drop shaped drop tanks of most other contemporaneous aircraft. I recall seeing something once, that the Ki-27 drop tanks were the first ever engineered. Not sure that is true.

With the airframe all assembled it was time to paint. I began by priming everything in black. Once the black primer dried, I started spraying on very thin coats of Tamiya IJA-Gray, with a few drops of white added. I made sure to build up the semi-opaque coats of paint in such a way, that the color was never entirely uniform. This method has been around for a while,  but the guy who runs Doog’s Models blog, has really popularized it. He calls it “black basing”, but I try to avoid the term, as I hate buzz-words.

Once the paint dried, I clear coated the model and applied the decals. The Life Like decals worked very well. The colors are very vibrant and opaque. The decals work best in hot (but not boiling) water. I used Mr. Mark Softer on decals going over compound curves and deep recesses. A few days after the decals had dried, I noticed that some of the larger ones, including the yellow fuselage band, one of the hinomarus and the arrows on the tail, had long thin splits. I don’t know if this was a reaction to the Mark Softer, or if the decals had cracked slightly while they were still on the sheet. In either case the fractures were very thin, so I applied more setting solution onto them (Micro’s stuff this time) and clear coated them once dry.

The black primer method ensured that panel lines and rivets were already somewhat visible, but I decided to accentuate selected lines with some brown oil washes. I focused on areas which would tend to get dirty – like around engine access panels, and around the flaps and belly, where oils tend to leak. Everything was sealed with a satin clear coat, and the final details were added.

I glued in the engine parts and painted them using Vallejo metallic colors. I am really impressed by these. Vallejo paints were also used for other small details. Exhaust stubs were painted with my trusty old dual coats of Model Master Enamel exhaust metallizer and rust. The finishing touch was the aerial wire, made from black EZ-Line glued down with aquarium super-glue.

I’m very happy with the result. The kit was a simple and quick build. All told, I probably spent no more than 20 hours on this model. It looks really attractive with its brightly colored stripes, and I love the look of the spats, drop tanks, and two bladed prop. It is a marriage of old and new technologies of the 1930s. I thoroughly recommend this kit, if you can find an older pressing on second-hand discount. Don’t pay Hasegawa’s current asking price, as it is comically high for a 45+ year old model.  I also heartily recommend Life Like decals. I’ll be getting more of their sheets for future projects.


Accuracy (shape and dimensions) – 5

Detail/Finesse of Parts – 4

Build Options – 2

Fit – 4

Decals (Life Like Sheet 48-021) – 5

Price/Value – 5 (if found used)

Overall – 4.2

You might be on a model building forum if…

  1. The original poster’s question has been answered in full, but 25 other guys have to show off that they also know the answer, so they answer it again.
  2. You ask how to improve some aspect of an older kit or tool you own, and the first reply is to buy the newer, better kit/tool.
  3. Somebody tells you your latest build is unrealistic because you didn’t use the latest en-vogue weathering technique.
  4. Some guy responds to every gallery post he sees with nothing but the most superlative hyperbole!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The quality of the build doesn’t seem to matter.
  5. Some guys with their damned catch-phrases.
  6. The blockhead who criticizes every new release for minor inaccuracies, doesn’t seem to actually build any models. Ever.
  7. When you see a model with visible seam-lines, wiggly canopy frames, and a 5 mm thick coat of shiny enamel, and offer polite creative criticism on how the modeler can improve his future work – you’re called out for being mean
  8. WeEd_LoRd69_420 appears out of nowhere and starts panhandling for free models.
  9. The dramatic keyboard warrior who always picks fights with others, gets boxed into a logic corner, and cries that the others are mean to him
  10. Some ding-dong (often same as #9) keeps making noise about how he’s going to leave the forum, because it sucks, and the mod is unfair, just never seems able to leave.Don’t take any of what I said too seriously. Forums are great.  They seem to be slowly going the way of the mammoth, and it is really a shame. Avoid the wasteland that is facebook (except for this blog’s corresponding site 😀 ), and support your local forum.  They are places for thoughtful discussion, well archived information about a variety of subjects, including technical data, build logs, and product reviews. Best of all – many have group builds!Scale Modeling Haven recommends the following.

    Aircraft Resource Center – Mostly jet guys these days, but for sheer volume of info – unsurpassed

    The Modeling Madness Forum – Solid, broad range knowledge base, minimal BS –

    Britmodeller – A great place for generalists. Tanks, planes, boats, figures – they’re all there, and more.  A good-natured crowd. Great place for well run group builds. Beware of the easily offended moderator.

    Unofficial Airfix Modelers Forum – Don’t let the name fool you, all kinds of modeling is welcome here. The regulars have a deep appreciation for classic British kits, without fetishizing them, like some of their competing forums do.  These guys take a more laid back approach to modeling, some might call them amateurish, but there is plenty of talent if you look. You won’t find many rivet counters or “Experten” here.

    International Scale Modeller Forum – I’m still feeling my way around this one. This is a generalist forum, but the car modeling section seems especially active, and there is a lot of great talent there. At the same time, there IS such a thing as a stupid question, and this place is a nexus for them. Nevertheless, it seems like a fun place to visit.