Sunday, 25 January 2015

Hasegawa Eggplane: TBF Avenger

Aeronautical.. but nice: My first model aeroplane build since childhood!

The Hasegawa Eggplane TBF Avenger. Part of a small cache of models I found whilst clearing out the garage recently.

Some years ago I visited the Imperial War museum at Duxford, for one of their fairly regular air-shows. Whilst wondering around the various traders' stalls at the event, I found several selling models, and decided to buy a few kits. This pre-dates my serious return to either modelling or wargaming-related stuff, and was a sort of aberrant behavioural blip at the time. I'm tempted to think of it as an almost atavistic presaging of my ultimate return to these activities, I suppose.

So, I bought two Hasegawa Eggplane TBF Avenger models. Theoretically one for me to build, and one for my wife, Teresa. At the time of posting this I've succeeded in getting quite a few people to spend some time model-making with me. But not my wife. Not yet, at any rate! I also bought an amazing and rather huge Monogram 1/72 Stratofortress, about which more in 'dew coarse'.

This nice colour insert, inside the box, lists what I assume was the full Eggplane line at the time my model was produced.

Given the name of my blog, is it any surprise that I'd like to know what scale these Eggplanes are? I realise, of course, that they can't be 'true-scale', owing to their very distorted proportions. But if you take length or wingspan as an approximate gauge... anyone have any info/ideas regarding this? 

Anyways, rummaging around in the garage recently, I unearthed the cache of model kits that included both these TBF Avengers (two models in one box), the Stratofortress, and a Tamiya 1/24 Fiat 500. The latter of these being partially built, bought in another singular model-buying/making aberration, about 15 years ago!

I wish I'd photographed the models when I unearthed them, as the boxes were all extremely dirty and mostly rather worryingly damaged (How had the contents fared?). All except the Eggplane models, that is, which had been protected inside the Monogram Stratofortress box. I think I'd bought them second-hand, and relatively cheap. The Eggplane line is still going. But, alas, the TBF Avenger is discontinued.

Right-oh, so what's in the box? Below are my pics of the three sprues, instructions, and decals. A simple model of few parts, this is clearly, as the very style of the range already indicates, all about fun!

The one real downside of the age of this kit was the state of the decals, all of which were very fragmented and fissured, which should be visible if you click on and enlarge the decals sheet image above. 

The first stage was the construction of the two-piece fuselage, which also involves the fitting of the engine-front, and what I'm calling the propellor -pin'. Fit is pretty good, but there is a funny diagonal line visible in the second pic below - above this line the tail is a one-piece moulding - which, when I build the second kit, I will attempt to deal with using filler of some sort. Building this kit, simple as it is, has proven to be a steep learning curve for me! Returning to the modelling hobby as a more perfectionist adult, I hope to deploy more knowledge and technique than I ever had as enthusiastic but rather cack-handed and na├»ve youth!

My first cock-up in this build was managing to cement the plastic 'pin', on which the prop is mounted, and would ultimately have turned (if better built) in a static position, whilst assembling the fuselage and the front of the engine. I used Blu-Tack to create a mask around the cockpit canopy, and then painted the engine-front and cockpit insides with a matt black enamel undercoat. The blob of Blu-Tack on the prop-pin was a lame and belated attempt to stop the pin sticking in place, by preventing paint from seeping into the joints.

My next move was to add some detail to the cockpit interior, which looked a bit too dull for my tastes. I decided, after scouring the web for suitable reference material, to add seat-belt straps to the chairs. I did this using white Superfine Milliput. My crappy photo of them, below, still unpainted, makes them look even coarser than they really are. Once painted, however (and photographed a little better), I was very happy with the results. My only concern now was, would all this work be visible one the model is finished?

The next step was to fit the seats in position, base-coat the cockpit in green, apply the control panel decal, and add some lighter green highlights. That, I felt, was a pretty good improvement on the basic model.

Next came the dreaded cockpit canopy. The TBF Avenger has a particularly nasty 'greenhouse' of strut-work, and my first attempt at doing this, using ordinary household/decorating masking tape, was an utter disaster. As a kid I'd probably just have painted the canopy metalwork freehand, with a correspondingly crappy look resulting. This masking, as basic as my first attempt was - I had in mind doing it in vertical and horizontal stages - nevertheless took me about two hours (I was working at a glacially slow and hesitant tempo!). To spend so much time and have the result even worse looking than my cruddy kiddy work... it was rather depressing! Luckily I was able to quickly clean the paint (Humbrol enamels) off!

So, it was off to the local hobby store in town, and buy me some proper Tamiya model maker's masking tape. Another couple of hours were then invested in the laborious task of masking. But boy-oh-boy, were the result different! Talk about using the right tools - or materials - for the job! What a turnaround! And what a boost to my flagging morale.

As well as the Tamiya masking tape (I bought 6mm originally, and used that exclusively on this job; but I now have 10mm as well. Excellent stuff!) I bought some Humbrol making fluid, which I used for some of the more complex curved shapes. Like the Tamiya tape, this is excellent stuff. But make sure you have cellulose thinners on hand to clean your brush. I didn't... Doh!

Lovely! Not perfect, I know. But compared with my first attempt... an almost miraculous improvement!

This stage found me feeling very happy!

Above is the canopy glued in position using PVA. I used bog-standard wood-glue, purchased many moons ago from B&Q for a woodworking job. I learned about using PVA after chatting to my modeller friend Marcus, and telling him of my travails in gluing windows into 1/72 vehicles with glass. When I explained that I was getting misting or 'fogging' of the plastic sheet I use for the glass, he enlightened me as to the use of PVA in the model aeroplane building community.

At this stage of the build I was overjoyed at the clarity of the paint job on the cockpit: my work on the seat-belts was in, pardon the pun, plane view.

After masking the outside framework of the cockpit canopy, the build stalled momentarily. I then bit the bullet, and settled upon a strategy for painting the body of the plane. In the second picture below I have glued the wings and tail stabilisers in place, ready for the first coat, which will be white. 

The stuff over the canopy, in the above pic, was intended as protection for the canopy masking while I worked on more basic paint layers.

Disaster strikes! Another trip to the local hobby stores found me getting in more paint supplies. This time several cans of acrylic spray paint. As detailed in other blog posts, my attempts to airbrush with acrylics thus far had been disastrous (whereas with enamels I'd been fine), hence the deicision to use aerosol cans.

However, I sprayed too much paint from too close, and the paint pooled and ran. Aaarrggh!!!! Unlike the airbrushed acrylic mixtures that I had concocted for airbrushing, this commercial stuff from a can didn't wash off under the tap - which I rather frantically tried. In the resulting panic I broke off a wing and a stabiliser, as shown in the rather sad pics below, and wrecked the paint job. Also, and far worse (but as yet unbeknownst to me), I had jiggered the canopy, allowing moisture to get in, with results that would only become clear (or rather unclear) to me later.

At this point my photographic record-keeping also became rather erratic. I had to re-mask the canopy, but I appear to have no pics of that stage. It was slowly dawning on me, however, that the inner canopy, glimpsed through the now soggy and slowly drying masking, was not as it had been. 

Having re-masked the canopy, less carefully it would transpire, and re-sprayed the white areas, more carefully this time, the above was the result. This white layer was also gloss. I don't know how or why I came to buy gloss, as I generally only buy matt! Another layer of masking was applied, and then the matt gray was sprayed on. I seem to have no photos of this stage at all!

And then, thirdly and finally, in terms of the bodywork, I mixed a blue colour from three different Humbrol enamels, and airbrushed (with a new can of propellant!) the blue areas: upper wings and stabilisers, and the upper fuselage and canopy. I'd masked the machine gun (and the split in the canopy it pokes through) and the hole for the aerial with Blu-Tack.

Looking pretty good, I thought.

Hmmm!? Shown above is the really rather disappointing 'reveal': the canopy glasswork has become all mucky, is cracked in numerous places, and, worst of all, is heavily misted in numerous areas. And the gray and blue sections turned out to be rather shoddily masked. Anyway, not allowing this to discourage me too much I pressed on with the build.

In these latter stages I was not my usual diligent self, photography-wise! Above are most of the remaining parts. I continued to learn about masking by experimenting with all kinds of approaches, such as the 'cake-tin' constructions I used on the wheels. This resulted in a more satisfyiong 'reveal' than had the bodywork!

The larger decals eventually wen on reasonably okay. Although having said this, they kept breaking apart, and needed a lot of moving around and mending in situ, which was very stressful. The smaller decals (top right corner of the above pic), intended for the tail fin, simply disintegrated into dust-sized particles, so I had to abandon using them. I likewise left off the propeller decals, fearing a repeat of the tail-fin experience.

Owing to the poor state of the decals I attempted to 'seal' them in position, and hopefully strengthen both their adhesion and integrity, with some Humbrol decal-fixing solution. Rather unfortunately, as far as I'm concerned, this has resulted in areas that are too visible, as both dark patches from some angles, or glossy areas from others.

The final stages saw me painting the exhaust outlets, black first then silver or gun-metal (I forget which now), retouching some of the bodywork, and painting the rear wheel. After all of this, I took a few final pics - above - and have left it there for now. The wheels were all still a little tacky last night, so I'm waiting for them to really dry. I may well see if I can really finish the job with some kind of lacquer or fixative. But for now, I consider it 'done'!

Despite all my troubles in building this really rather simple model, I feel I've learned a lot. And that's been very valuable. And it has, on balance, been more fun than painful. I hope that when I come to build the second TBF Avenger Eggplane I'll do a better job! 

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