What to do with a bad kit. Part The Second

Welcome back to the IL-2N build.

This installment will focus on fuselage construction.

I glued the two fuselage halves together and made sure they lined up as close to perfect as possible. It’s better to have a gap then a step. A step occurs when one half of the fuselage sits higher or lower than the other, and there is a resulting step in the seam. These are difficult to fix, and usually occur when the little pins which should help line the parts up are mislocated. This was the case in this kit, so I cut the locating pins off and just lined up the two halves by eye.

This still left some gaps in the seam which needed to be filled with putty and sanded smooth. I won’t use this column to explain how putty should be applied, but I will make note of one of my tricks.

Before I apply putty, I add some tape on both sides of the seam. This helps to keep the putty to the area where I want it, and later, when it needs to be sanded, it minimizes the amount of raised detail which will be destroyed by sanding.

with putty
sanded smooth

sanded smooth


On old airfix kits with rivets, I locate my tape line along one of the horizontal lines of rivets. This leaves an equal length rivet free space towards either side of the seem. It looks more like a rivet free panel rather than an area with the rivets sanded off.

**sorry folks, I’m feeling sick today and can’t seem to concentrate on writing, hence my explanations may seem a bit sparse. If something is unclear than just ask questions in the comments section.

Once the fuselage seams were fixed I glued on the wings. There was further filling and sanding at the wing roots, and the same tape trick was employed here.

wings on

Notice that I haven’t done anything with the cockpit yet. This for two reasons; first, there will be very little visible through the small windows; and second, the pilot figure will dominate the cockpit. After this photo was taken, I just painted everything black.

The first major conversion was the construction of exhaust shrouds. For this, I took a short length of plastic tube, cut it exactly in half length-wise, and glued the halves over the exhausts. If you don’t have styrene tubes, a length of appropriately sized plastic drinking straw might be a suitable replacement.

the tube
Cut in half

In the next installment we’ll discuss how I created the A/I radar, and schraggmusik cannons.



Airfix’s New Tool Mig-15

This is the first of what will hopefully be many build reviews on this blog.

Airfix’s new Mig-15 was recently released to generally favorable reviews, and hopefully is a glimpse of things to come from them. The kit features approximately 50 parts in a robust kid-friendly plastic, a nice clear canopy, the deeply recessed panel lines characteristic of recent Airfix offerings, and beautiful decals for three aircraft.

When you open the attractive red box you can almost immediately see that this kit will just fall together. The kit is made of up two fuselage halves, two horizontal stabilizers, four wing halves, a tail pipe, jet intake, three separate cannons, positionable speed brakes, about a dozen landing gear components, one piece canopy, two antennae and a simple but effective cockpit consisting of a basic tub, instrument panel, control column and seat. Instruments are rendered with some very detailed and attractive decals. Also present are parts for two styles of drop-tanks.

I started construction with assembling the cockpit and painting it in a light greenish blue. Once dry I applied some Future floor polish and then the instument panel decals. I painted the seat black and dry brushed in in very dark gray, then added some harnesses made from masking tape.

Airfix includes an old friend; Johnny Pilot, but he hasn’t aged well, and his face is now almost featureless. JP got pressed into service flying an old Frog Miles Magister, but I did test fit him into the seat and cockpit and he looked fine.

Once completed, the cockpit was inserted into the fuselage, which is a tight fit, and could probably done without the use of glue. I glued in about 7 grams of lead weights into the forward fuselage below the cockpit floor, glued in the tail-pipe and then closed up the fuselage halves. They fit like a glove, and only minor sanding and filling was required to clean up the seam. The wings, nosecone and horizontal stabilizors were added next, and they too fit very well. I then glued on the three cannons below the nose, and the stub antenna on top of the fuselage. I decided to glue on the large drop tanks, inner main gear doors, and nose gear doors prior to painting. Finally I glued on and painted the “HUD” portion in front of the instrument panel, and masked and attached the canopy with Micro Krystal Klear and was ready for painting.

Airfix gives you decals for three options on the decal sheet; an overall silver Soviet aircraft from the early 1950s, a 3-tone camouflaged Hungarian bird from the 1970s, and a Korean War era North Korean (flown by a Soviet pilot) aircraft with black undersides and sand-yellow with green squiggles uppers. The silver Mig is perhaps the most iconic, so I chose the first finishing option (I thought it would also be the easiest to paint) and sprayed my model with Citadel chainmail silver.

A note to beginners; if you decide to model your aircraft in silver, do yourself a favor and get a spray can of enamel or laquer based paint. As much as I swear by acrylics, acrylic metalic finishes are very fragile. For the remainder of the project I was continuously rubbing off paint, and had to touch up wing edges and other spots numerous times. Had I used a laquer like Tamiya’s silver leaf, the project could have been finished over a weekend.

The jet intake on the nose was painted red, and the landing gear components and insides of gear doors with a dull dark aluminum metalic paint. The instructions suggest using Humbroll 56, go with it. Finally, the tailpipe was painted with a dark metalic brown color called burnt iron. It was time to apply the decals.

Airfix has a spotty history when it comes to decals. At times they were very nice, while at others not so much (the dreaded brown backing paper era of the mid 2000s probably being the lowest point). The decals which come in the new red-box kits are just wonderful; certainly on par with what you might find in a Trumpeter or Dragon kit. The red stars, numbers, and lightning-bolts on the tail all went on without a hitch. There really isn’t much more to say. I used some decal softener for good measure, but I’m not sure it was necessary. Airfix gives you a full set of stencils (two versions actually), but I left them off, as I find stencils on 1/72 to be a bit too busy looking in most (but not all) cases.

Once the decals were dry I brushed on a coat of Future floor polish to protect the finish. I know relatively little about the Mig-15, and I don’t know if the silver finish on the real aircraft was just unpainted metal, or an aluminum lacquer as on some aircraft. The future coat gave the model a lacquered look, so I hope the latter is true. At the same time I really don’t care much if its not.

After all of the decaling and painting was done, I removed the masking from the canopy (which proceeded to fall off and had to be re-glued) and attached the previously painted landing gear components. The small outer gear doors are a bit tricky to fit, but everything else is very easy and lines up perfectly. I painted the various oleo struts with chrome paint, and the tires (tyres on an Airfix kit) with a very dark gray which was later drybrushed with a lighter gray to simulate wear.

Final finishing touches included a second antenna mounted near the canopy, painting the cannons dark gray and then rubbing with pencil graphite, and my one small modification on this kit. Airfix does not include any navigation lights on this model, but they’re very easy to make from scratch. The Mig 15 had little bulbs on the wing ends, which I reproduced by cutting a tiny notch into the outer edge of each wing. I put in a dab of clear red and clear green paint into the notches, and then “filled” them with some Krystal Klear.

That’s all there is to it. A very simple but satisfying build. Some reviewers have whined about the deep panels, but they look fine as long as you don’t try to add a dark wash. The kit looks like a Mig-15 to my eye, and I think the silver and red finish looks very attractive sitting on my shelf. I will not hesitate to buy at least another one, and recommend it to both beginner and experienced modelers looking for a fun carefree build.

What to do with a bad kit

I picked up this 1/72 scale IL-2 by Airfix several weeks ago and was pretty disappointed with what was inside the box. As much as I enjoy Airfix, I’m not going to blow smoke up your ass and say they are without fault. This is one of their very early kits, and it while it fits very well for an old kit, it isn’t very accurate.

old shcool modeling - recently re-released by Airfix

Now Airfix is generally not known for including a lot of fine detail into their kits, but for the most part, their kits are pretty accurate in shape and dimension. Not so with the IL-2. The fuselage is pretty spot on, but the kit does not have the characteristic swept wing of the prototype.  Nevertheless, this kit can be a fun build, and that what being an Airfix Junkie is all about, right?

Of course I’m right!

So what to do? I can just build it as is and have a funky looking Il-2, I can use the kit for practice painting, I can throw it out (not an option), or I can throw caution to the wind and turn this into a fictional aircraft…who needs accuracy when you’ve got imagination?

Imagination and strip styrene that is.

various sizes of styrene should be a part of every modeling toolkit. They're cheap and available at most hobby and craft stores

So I thought to myself, what can I do with this thing? I’m a big fan of nightfighters, and I always thought that the IL-2 would make a good platform for a radar equipped interceptor. As far as I know, this was never done, but its within the realm of possibility.

So here is what I envision: The Il-2N.

The IL-2n is a postwar development incorporating the rugged Soviet aircraft with radar and weapons technology “acquired” from captured Nazi aircraft in the Soviet push to the west. The aircraft features a wing mounted A/I radar and revised armament. The wing guns have been removed to conserve weight, while the rear gun position is replaced with two obliquely  firing 20 mm cannon, much in the fashion of German Schraggmusik. To counterweight the heavy radar pod on the starboard wing at take-off, a large drop tank is fixed to the port wing, effectively increasing the range of the aircraft and increasing its patrol-time in turn. Exhausts shrouds are fitted to the exhaust, and the canopy is modified to accept the 20 mm cannons. Camouflage is based on German mottle patterns which proved effective during WW II.

This kit involves a few simple conversions. So follow along as we turn a sub-par IL-2 into something interesting, and put an old kit to good use.

I began by converting the wings. This was pretty simple and involves cutting off the wing root siren and cannon stubs, and then sanding those areas smooth. I also plugged up the shell ejection chutes in the bottom wing with plastic-card, and modeled the simplified landing gear in the closed position. None of this is rocket science; but for the neophytes among us, this involved gluing the gear legs and wheels into the gear bay, and then covering them with the gear doors included in the kit. Since these are a bit too short to fully close. I cut larger doors from styrene strips by measuring the dimensions of the openings and then glued them over the kit doors. In the photo below one wing is painted black to show where putty will be needed to smooth things out and shape the contours of the new doors.

the gear doors are now ready to be contoured and faired into the shape of the gear wells

Since the photo was taken I have attached the ailerons and top halves of the wing. The next step will be the fuselage assembly. Stay tuned.

Hello world!

Welcome to my modeling blog. Does the internet need another modeling blog? No doubt, it does not. So what will this page offer that others don’t? Perhaps little more than a portfolio of my own work, but in the process I hope to show casual modelers, young modelers, and other folks who don’t take this hobby too seriously, that you don’t need to be too pedantic to produce a nice representation of a real tank, aircraft, car, ship, or whatever else you wish to build.

There are plenty of pages out there for people who wish to know how to superdetail their kits, and how to track down the historic photo which will show exactly what a particular finish looked like. There is nothing wrong with seeking that level of detail, but that part of the modeling community is already being served by sites like http://www.armorama.com http://www.aircraftresourcecenter.com http://www.planetarmor.com and many many more.

All three of those sites are great sites, and feature great tips, and great forums. But that type of modeling is not for everybody. I’m one of those people who enjoys a kit for a what it is; a fun project which hopefully will look nice sitting on my display shelf. I will put in the effort to make things looks as good as I can, and if the kit has some glaring omissions, then I will try to fix them. For the most part though, I’m of the opinion that if it looks right, it is right.

With that said, I tend to gravitate towards older, simpler kits. While I will on occasion build one of the very expensive super-kits coming out of China and Japan,  I am far more likely to grab an old English or American (or French or Italian or whatever) beater model, and try to turn it into something impressive. It doesn’t take a great expensive kit to produce a great looking model.

A 1/35th scale Dragon Panzer Ia built in 2008 qualifies as a super kit. This is built right from the box and brush painted

A 1/72 scale Polish 7TP tank built from a cheap and simple Mirage kit

I hope that the techniques I show on this site can help other casual and younger modelers that they too can produce fine work, and that you don’t need to invest into aftermarket products and fancy expensive tools to make a nice kit.

I also hope to show the more serious modelers who have lost sight of the fun that this hobby can bring, that they too don’t need to spend months researching a topic, and then replacing every .5mm hex-bolt and wingnut in order create a nice model.

As this blog evolves, I intend for it to feature build-logs, kit reviews, occasional musings, and how-to articles. It will also serve as a gallery of my own work. If readers wish to contribute articles, they should contact me directly at the link onscreen