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

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Heller’s 1:72 Tempest

Heller were/are great! During the 1970s and into the 1980s, Heller released some terrific model aircraft, ships and armor. Their 1/72 aircraft in particular, are noteworthy. First and foremost, they produced a nice line of aircraft of the 1920s ans 1930s, and planes of the Polish, French, and Swedish airforces. All of which I find fascinating. This particular model lives up to the Heller hype. Its a simple kit, but captures the lines of the Tempest quite well.

There is not much to say about the build, as it was fairly simple. I quickly assembled and painted the rather spartan cockpit, not worrying much about the lack of detail, as the opening is quite small. I then slapped together the fuselage and really well moulded chin radiator elements. Next I glued the upper wings to the wing roots (I do this, as it is a great way of avoiding poorly fitting wings), and then glued on the lower wing. There were a few gaps to fill between the lower wing and the fuselage and back of the chin. Nothing complicated though. The tail planes went on, and that was it for the main components. At that point I decided to remove the moulded in cannons and replace them with short lengths of styrene rods with the ends drilled hollow. They’re a wee bit over scale, but they still look better than the plastic nubs in the kit.

At this stage I masked off the canopy in preparation for painting. The windscreen needed some sanding around its bottom to fit properly. Things need to be carefully aligned, as it is easy to get the canopy off-center. I did that once or twice, and ended up losing the gun sight in the cleaning up process. Once masked, I painted the model using Polly Scale paints. I tried something new with the leading edge stripes. In order to achieve a warmer tone on the yellow, I undercoated them with red (rather than my usual white). I must say, it worked better than expected, and I’ll be doing this henceforth.

Following painting I applied a coat of Future, and then the kit supplied decals for a machine flown by Wing Commander Evan Mackie (RNZAF) at the end of the war. The decals went on fine, and settled down with some Micro Sol and Micro Set. Do note however, that while the instructions do not mention it, there is a score-board decal (#30 I believe) which should go in front of the cockpit. Mackie had over a dozen victories, five of them in the Tempest. I only learned this after finishing the model, and throwing the “extra” decals away.

Initially I planned on building this kit with its gear down, but this is where I ran into trouble. When Heller first released this kit, they did not engineer the gear support trusses particularly well. When installing them, you end up with two butt-joints and in my attempt, I had the trusses at very peculiar and jaunty angles that just looked wrong. In my attempt to fix things, I somehow managed to squeeze one of the parts with my tweezers in such a way that it shot across the room, and into the small part vortex which exists someplace between my work desk, and the star Wolf-359. I couldn’t be arsed to monkey around with fashioning a new one, so I just closed up the gear doors. They fit surprisingly well in this configuration, and only needed some minor sanding to sit flush with the curve of the wing.

A quick repaint did the trick. I press-ganged a pilot from Airfix’s Mig-15 into the roll of WC Mackie by shaving down his upper arms so he would fit into the tight cockpit. His addition further masked the lack of details inside. The prop, exhausts, stirrup, and pitot were added at this stage, and a gash was cut into the belly of the plane with a hot knife. This so it could be positioned on a clear stand of dubious origin.

The final step was the painting of the wing tip formation lights, and the replacement of the aerial mast with a whip antenna which was a feature of Mackie’s aircraft. The formation lights are poorly moulded in one of the wings, so they need to be masked off prior to painting. Otherwise, no sweat.

And thats all there was to it. A simple, relatively pain free build. The kit is no doubt less detailed than the Academy offering, but it looks nice nevertheless. I’m excited to say that Heller are beginning a program of rereleasing some of their classics this year. I don’t know what is slated for reissue first, but I really hope to see some of those French and Polish aircraft on the shelves again.

Viva La Heller!!

Messerschmitt Madness

Perhaps it is serendipitous that I completed both my new Airfix Messerschmitts within days of one another. I certainly didn’t plan on it. The builds began about two months apart from one another; the 109 featured yesterday, on about the second or third of January, and the BF-110 discussed below, sometime in November of 2010. Why did this seemingly smaller and simpler kit take so much longer?

Lets call it user error 🙂

Airfix’s new mould 1/72 BF-110 C/D (and E) isn’t a bad kit. It isn’t a great kit (like the 1/48 BF-109), but it is miles ahead of their old 110, and in some ways it is better than the Fujimi BF-110 kits in the same scale. It is moulded in a light gray, soapy semi-soft plastic, with a slightly rough texture on the exterior which helps in paint adhesion I guess. There are some pretty egregiously heavily engraved panel lines which aren’t so much too deep as they are too wide. Some panel lines are missing, especially around the nose section.

Details are simplified in some cases, and finer elements, such as the aileron counter balances, and ventral antenna array are absent, as are the wingtip nav lights. The nose guns are a bit chunky, and the cockpit is far too spartan for a kit with such a large canopy. Inaccuracies also include misshapen rudders, engine nacelles which are too long, and though I can’t put my finger on it, something about the nose looks off to me.

On the positive side, Airfix gives you some very nice landing gear, with properly canted and weighted tires, good gear bays, a very nice rear gun, and a variety of external stores. Construction is relatively straight forward, and the lack of small fragile details makes the kit particularly robust. So once again, why did it take so long to build?

To begin with, I rushed the initial stages of construction. This led to some gluey fingerprints, and poorly masked clear parts. After a few days of slapping the main components together, I was not pleased with the model so I set it aside for a few weeks. I returned to the model this January, and successfully sanded and smoothed the sloppy pieces and began painting. I initially chose the Wespen nosed scheme provided in the box, but felt that Airfix erred in their color callouts and began to repaint the aircraft. I grew impatient and ended up with a true mess on my hands (see photos in an earlier posting on this blog).

Long story short, I purchased a nice set of Eagle Strike decals, stripped the paint, got a new canopy, and took another shot at finishing this thing. The new paint scheme turned out beautifully, but in the process I ended up breaking off two of the nose guns. This discouraged me and I set the model aside once again.

A week or two later I replaced the guns with brass rods. Not perfect, but it will do. The process was messy and required repainting of the yellow nose. Anybody who has painted yellow, knows how fussy of a process this can be. During the repaint, I managed to break off the left landing gear, and three of the four gear doors (don’t ask how). I glued them back on, but two of the four fell off once again, as did one of the bombs. At this point I was determined to finish so I endeavored to persevere (how Victorian, eh?). Finally, after a few nights of touchups and weathering, I had a completed BF-110.

The kit won’t win me any contests, but then again, I don’t really participate in any. It is not entirely accurate, as I built it generally out of the box, adding only one belly aerial, but it looks close enough. I should mention that the version I have built is not the 110C described in the Airfix instructions. In fact this is a very early -D with an extended duck-tail which contained an inflatable dinghy for water landings. The particular aircraft also had enlarged rudder trim tabs, but with all of the rudder shape issues already present, I didn’t bother with this minor detail.

I’m pleased with the overall appearance of the model, but it isn’t as nice as some of the other new Airfix releases. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being highest), I rate this kit a strong seven. The dimensional issues are not difficult to fix, should one choose to do so, and if I hadn’t of rushed things, I think my overall build experience would have been more enjoyable. Still, I can’t help but say that Airfix is capable of doing better.

A modern classic from Airfix

When Airfix first announced a new mould BF-109 E in 1/48 I wasn’t particularly taken by it. I thought, there are plenty of nice 109 kits out there already, what might Airfix provide that they don’t? The answer it turned out, is very simple. Options and a low price.

There are actually two kits available, and they differ only in decal options. I picked up the “Tropical” boxing, but as I understand, the parts in this, and the Battle of Britain boxing are identical. Here is a breif summary of what you get. Standard or tropical air filters, raised or lowered landing gear, a nice pilot figure, drop tank or three options of bombs (including a quad bomb rack), three propeller-spinner types (with or without cannon), the option to display the engine (which is admittedly waaaay under-scale), an auxiliary radio panel for the cockpit, the ability to pose the cockpit open or closed (easily), at least three canopy types, options to build the kit with or without wing guns, and my favorite; all control surfaces, including flaps, are positionable. Thank you Airfix!!! In a nutshell, from this kit you can build just about any of the 109E sub-variants from the E-1 to the E-4, and maybe even the E-7 with a bit more fuss. I chose to build mine as a Romanian E-4 from the Battle of Stalingrad

The kit is moulded in a somewhat chunky and semi-soft light gray plastic, which is easy to cut, shape, and takes well to Tamiya Extra-Thin cement. The surface is somewhat rough, which some folks cry foul about, but I find that it helps in paint adhesion, as it gives it some tooth. It is not at all visible once painted. The panel lines are recessed, and are not as heavy as on some of the other recent Airfix kits.

The build itself is very straight-forward, and there is little to say about it. The only changes I made was to drill out a small hole in the belly in order to mount the model on a clear acrylic rod. I also inserted a small brass tube behind the cockpit to act as a sleeve for the rod, and allow me to remove the model from the stand for transportation purposes.

I also drilled out the wing guns and exhausts. Once again, the soft plastic, made this a quick and painless process. The guns could probably even be hollowed with a pin if you do not own a small enough drill and pin-vice.

I positioned all of the control surfaces to reflect an aircraft that is climbing and banking. Flaps were lowered to combat level, and the pilot was positioned with one hand on the stick, and another reaching for the throttle. Though not much can be seen through the somewhat thick clear parts.

The last changes I made included rounding out the tail wheel and adding antenna wires. Airfix provides you with flattened, weighted tires, which look great, but are unrealistic in for an aircraft posed in flight. No problem, and easy to fix. The antenna wires are from elastic thread, which as far as I’m concerned, is the best modeling accessory since Future (Klear for you Brits) Floor polish.

I have read gripes about the decals, but I found them to be alright. They settled down well over a coat of Future, and once dry I cut them along each panel line and applied some MicroSet so they snugged down into the recesses nicely. Again, no big deal for any modeler worth his or her salt.

The decals were sealed with a second coat of Future, and the whole kit was given a raw-umber oil wash. A clear flat coat followed, and then final weathering was done with some pastel chalks. This is not a difficult kit to build. I only used a little bit of putty on the wing gun mount pieces, and just a smidge at the back of the lower wing. Airfix has really produced a classic with this model. I think I’ll purchase a second one just to build the Spanish Civil War E-1 version also on the decal sheet. This is an easy to build, very forgiving model, with tons of options. Sure, some of the details are simplified (and not much really), but thats what the aftermarket PE and resin sets are for. Beginner and expert alike, will have a good time with this kit, and with just a minimum of effort, a real gem of a model can be produced. I can see people 20, 30 years from now, spending silly money on the future version of e-bay, trying to track down this classic. Yes, it is that good.

Now go out and support your local hobby shop, and show Hornby/Airfix that you appreciate what they’re doing, and buy one or two of these. With the low low asking price, there is little reason to say no.

Thanks Airfix, more models like this please 🙂

Kit Review: The Airfix Mosquito B. XIV/ PR XIV in 1/48

To many, classic kits are synonymous with 1/72 scale; however, there are a great many classics in the other major (and not so major) scales. In addition to their extensive line of 1/72 aircraft, Airfix has produced, and continues to produce, many airplanes in 1/48 scale; not to mention their 1/24 airplane superkits. The 1/48 series of Mosquitos dates back to, I believe, the late 1970s; and initially consisted of the FB VI and NF II variants. A late model nightfighter, and B IV version have also been released. The B/PR XVI version is a more recent release which combines elements from the classic FB VI mould, with new wings, fuselage, canopy, and engines.

When you open the large box, the first thing you will notice is that that there are enough parts to build almost two complete models. Most of the FB VI elements are included; and while I didn’t try it, I think a full FB VI can be built with the parts provided, if you decide you don’t want a late model Mosquito. The older sprues come in a crisp gray plastic with finely raised, and very well done surface detail, while the newer elements are done in a softer, almost soapy plastic with a lightly pebble textured surface. The few panel lines on the new parts are heavily engraved.

I won’t describe a blow-by-blow account of how the kit is built, instead focusing on the high and low points of the model, and the methods I came up with to address the problems I encountered along the way. First the highlights. Despite its age, the kit is pretty well detailed. The landing gear legs are nice, multi-part affairs, and the interior is as nice as what the Tamiya kit offers. The only things I added were harnasses made from masking tape, which were not necessary as it would be revealed later (see below).

cockpit
cockpit2

While the landing gear is quite nice, I ran into a snag when trying to affix the gear doors to the engines. The door hinges are separate elements which need to be glued into the interior of the nacelles and then the doors are attached to them. I assembled the engine nacelles before I inserted the hinges, and they proved overly difficult to do afterwards. After fidgeting with the assembly for a while, I decided to build the kit with its wheels up. As is often the case, the doors did not fit particularly well in the closed position, and required some filling and sanding. Nothing most modelers couldn’t handle.

Airfix gives you to nice figures to put into the cockpit. I painted them to the best of my ability and used the belts I made earlier to strap them into their seats. I wish other manufacturers would get in the habit of including pilots with their models. It really is a nice touch, and for those of us who like posing models in-flight, saves us a lot of running around looking for crew.

bogies 2 o'clock skippa'

The rest of the kit goes together pretty well, but I did run into trouble with the wing roots. The port wing just would not fit. I couldn’t quite figure out what the trouble was, but it seems that the wing glove in the fuselage isn’t the same shape as the wing contour. It may be due to the wing being a combination of the old mould wing bottom, and new mould wing top, with yet a different age mould of the fuselage halves and wing gloves. From what I’ve heard, the FB VI wings fit really well. After much shimmying, widening of the wing gloves, reshaping and other fuss, I got the wing to fit. This was really frustrating with patience it can be done, and is well worth the reward.

The tops of the engine nacelles also fit poorly and require plastic inserts and putty to fit correctly. This was an easy fix in comparison to the wing.

wingsfit after a little work, nacelles still need filling

I decided early on that I wanted to build one of the PR options in the kit. This required opening several holes in the fuselage and bomb bay doors. Airfix gives you plastic lenses to insert into them, but I prefer to use Micro’s Krystal Klear glue to fill the openings, as it dries crystal clear, as the name suggests, and saves me the step of having to mask little portholes, and then risk pushing them in once the fuselage is closed.

But I digress. The kit can also be built as a late model bomber version, the B XIV. This has a bulged bomb bay to accommodate the cookie bomb. Airfix gives you both, and you can pose the bomb bay open if you wish. The cookie looks good enough, but there is no other bomb bay detail, and the bulged bay should taper up at a more gradual slope in the front. The kit bay ends cuts up rather abruptly and hence looks too “puggish”.

The kit decals include three options; a gray/green over black RAF B XVI, and two overall PRU blue PR XVI machines; one South African and the other American. The SAAF airplane has the characteristic orange over blue roundels, yellow prop spinners, an a red and white striped tail. There are also invasion stripes around the fuselage, but these are not provided as a decal. The American version has a red tail, and invasion stripes around the wings and on the fuselage bottom. Again, these have to be painted by hand.

I don’t like the look of invasion stripes, and abhor masking and painting them, so I decided to build an American Redtail Snooper without the stripes. Its not as if the stripes were factory applied, so one may presume that any aircraft with stripes, existed at some point without them. Prior to decaling, I coated the model in Future Floor Polish, and the Airfix decals went on without any issue and without any decal softening solutions. I weathered the model with pastels, modified the spinners by filling the propeller holes and mounted the model on a clear acrylic rod which I inserted through one of the camera ports. The final step was to apply the clear navigation lights on the wingtips. These didn’t fit too well and needed some sanding. While I was at it, I drilled a small hole into the inside of each light, and jammed in some red and green paint onto the hole to simulate a bulb. An easy trick that looks better than just painting the inner surface of the clear part

In conclusion I have to say that this kit was worth all of the effort. I purchased it in the summer of 2008 and worked on it on and off again for the next two years. The fit problems were frustrating, and may put off an inexperienced or impatient modeler, but they’re not difficult to fix if approached systematically and done one bit at a time. The kit builds into a beautiful representation of a beautiful airplane, and at about half the price of a Tamiya mosquito, is a great alternative. Besides, you can’t build a later model PR or bomber from any of the Tamiya or Monogram offerings. I would not recommend this kit to somebody who has little experience in dealing with moderate fit problems, but all of you putty and sanding-stick slingers out there should have no problem at all with this. Minus a few setbacks, this was a fun kit to build and paint. I hope Hornby/Airfix keeps these moulds in good shape and releases more variants. A pantograph into 1/72 scale would be much appreciated as well.

Until next time, happy modeling.