Monday 26 January 2015

1/72 WWII - Ace RSO/01 with 2cm FLAK38

This is only my second Ace kit, the first being an as yet unfinished Wespe self-propelled gun. On the box of this RSO/01 with 2cm FLAK38 it says it's 'a plastic kit made under short run technology'.

I bought this kit 'cause it's one of the only ways to get hold of an RSO kit at present, in1/72. Rather annoyingly, for me at least, the RSO 1 kit, also by Ace, is out of production (damn that short run technology!), and very hard to come by unassembled. So, my choice was limited to variants. I chose this one because it has the right type of cab, and the most basic and standard body-type. Other variants, mostly from Ace, have different cabs, flotation devices, and so on. I think I'll probably buy the Dragon 1/35 RSO model at some point. But for now this Ace kit is to be my intro to modelling this interesting vehicle.

The RSO was, as the Ace box helpfully informs us, designed especially for the conditions of the Ostfront, using designs based on Russian tractors that were equipped with tracks. Many variants on the basic design were made, and this kit depicts a version equipped with the ... [?] flak antiaircraft gun. I have toyed with the idea of converting this kit to the standard RSO 1 type, with a P&O,e framework and canvas covering for the rear-stowage area. Whichever way I go though, I'll assemble all the parts of the kit as supplied.

I started the build on January 3rd, 2015, but having very limited time I was only able to build the running-gear and chassis. I also managed to put together one of the four sections of photo-etched tracks. I'll return to the subject of these tracks in due course. My previous Ace kit was a Wespe self-propelled gun, which was quite a nice kit, albeit it suffered from more flash than many other kits I'm building, and there were several parts that didn't fit very snugly.

Chassis & wheels, etc:

On this occasion lack of clarity in the instructions, poor fit of numerous parts, and my own stupidity, combined to almost render the first few stages completely disastrous! The four pieces that make up the body of the chassis were fine, fitting nicely together. But one part (I forget exactly which) which I missed out at first, and then hastily stuck in - which required prising the chassis apart - rather upset the fine fit thus far enjoyed.

After this it was the turn of the suspension and the wheels. I find that, when assembling this part of many military vehicle type kits, there's often a rather large scope for multiplication of errors. In this instance the first part of the suspension fit very nicely to the chassis body. But after that everything was rather haphazard. Many parts needed quite a bit of fiddling with before they would fit properly. Some of which is referred to in the instructions, such as filing down parts of the drive-sprockets and idler wheels. [1]

It was also at this stage that the instructions and the shape of some of the parts supplied almost conspire to put a complete kibosh on this build. The eight road wheels all needed their 'female' holes widening and deepening, to make them ready to mount on the suspension. But a far bigger problem arose when I slightly misunderstood the instructions, referred to above, which ask one to sand or file back some of the drive wheel components. Fortunately some spare sprue allowed me to bulk out an area I'd mistakenly sanded down, and all the wheels were eventually mounted, albeit not as nicely aligned as I'd hoped.

The photo-etched tracks:

Amongst the several reasons I was drawn to this kit, and beside the most fundamental - it being an RSO - one was that I wanted to have a go at using photo-etched tracks. The whole photo-etched malarkey is a new area for me, something the Airfix and Tamiya kits of my youths certainly never had. In this kit each track comes as two parts, and each of the total four parts (plus there are three individual spare links) comes as a flat section of two parallel tracks, which need bending over on themselves, to give a double thickness track with detail on both sides.

In addition to this, already more labour intensive than rubber-band tracks, if not yet quite as demanding as link'n'length, every single individual tooth - 82 per track length, giving a total 328 - needs bending through 90° into its proper position! So ultimately they're by far the most demanding track I've yet modelled, and this is before even attempting to fit them!

Actually this construction stage is quite enjoyable. Or at least I found it to be so! But right form the moment of bending the two layers of the track back upon themselves I was worrying about fitting them to the model itself. The inner and outer layers are the same length when flat, yet the outer layer will of necessity have to stretch more/further when attempting to fit the tracks around the wheels. What will result? Well, as I'd anticipated... trouble!

First of all bending the metal is tricky. Much trickier than any rubber-band or styrene tracks I've encountered. The metal, especially as two-layers super-glued together, whilst flexible, is hardly what I'd call supple. There are also additional issues arising from the imperfect alignment of the wheels themselves. And even with teeth cut off the drive-wheels, as directed in the instructions, issues of fit, alignment, and the photo-etched track teeth, all conspired to make this stage extremely fiddly, time-consuming and, sad to say, not exactly a heap of fun.

I held these tweezers in position manually for ages, but upon releasing them the track ends came away from the wheels!

Fixing the tracks in place also required more superglue. After 15 minutes of holding the track to the wheels manually failed to result in a lasting bond, I resorted to a jerry-rigged arrangement (no pun intended) with a pair of elastic-band bound pliers holding the parts in place.

This looked to be doing the job, but actually ended disastrously,because, when I tried to remove the pliers I accidentally squeezed them together. I knew full well I ought not do so, and intended instead to simply release the rubber bands. But something sub-conscious took over, and in order to give the rubber bands some slack, I gently but firmly squeezed the plier-handles, crunching one of the plastic road wheels horribly, and bending the metal track.

This is the 'jerry-rigged' gluing arrangement I came up with (the rubber band holding the pliers in position is out of camera view), the removal of which went disastrously wrong.

A close-up view of the next pair of tracks, ready to go on the other side. [2]

Oh dear! Oh dear oh dear.!! Oh dear oh dear oh dear!!! And language a lot worse...

But, since I had no desire to bin the kit and abandon the project, I decided to act quickly and see if I could save the situation. I wish I'd taken before and after pictures. It really looked irredeemable. But, thanks be to who or whatever (myself, I guess!?), perseverance and ingenuity paid off. And I feel that, whilst looking perhaps a little ugly under close scrutiny, most people casually glancing at the result wouldn't guess at what had actually occurred.

Box on't back:

Constructing the box on the rear of the vehicle was one of the easier stages in the making of this kit. Altho' even here some scratch-build skills came in handy, as the inset below shows: to mount the jack properly I felt I needed to add a little disc of sprue behind it.

I love the RSO's exhaust! And the jack looks okay as well. Indeed better, I think, for being parallel to the body of the box.


The Flak. 38 was a fiddly thing to construct. But it does look nice once assembled. The smaller of the two shield type elements had a hole that required the barrel to be cut and then re-glued, in order for it to be mounted in its proper place without recourse to any widening of said hole. Not the best designed element of the kit!

As mentioned several times already in this post, there were a number of issues to do with parts fitting poorly throughout this build, and as the picture below shows, the large guard for the gunners to shelter behind, just behind the cab, is another less than perfectly designed part of this kit, because, once assembled, it doesn't fit into the space it's intended for; on its own the guard just about fits, but with the two supporting 'legs' in place, the whole thing is just too wide! 

Later in the build I chopped this gaurd in two and re-glued it, sans the sliver that was lost to the cut; I used a hacksaw, so as to deliberately lose some width once reassembled. Even so, the guard still doesn't fit snugly enough for me to particularly want to use it. So, I'll probably either simply mount the flak gun (and point it backwards), or I may convert the vehicle to the more common standard RSO/1 type.

Almost all of the 'male / female' elements o this kit needed working on, as did, for example, these mounting blocks, pictured below. Once mounted on the blocks, I set the Flak 38 in place on the rear of the truck-bed. I've decided to have my gun face rearwards though, rather than over the cab, as it is on the box.

Enlarging yet more of the 'female' holes, this time on the flak-mount blocks.

The gun in situ, and pointing rearwards. Looks quite nice, I think.


The cabin was another part of the construction which was troubled by ill-fitting parts, as some of the following pictures show. After painting failed to hide these yawning openings, I had to use white Superfine Milliput to fill in the larger gaps.

The kit comes with templates on the instruction sheet for the windows, but no plastic is supplied for the windows themselves. Initially this galled me a bit, but I quickly changed my tune. And once I found an appropriate bit of clear plastic, the DIY spirit kicked in; I ended up loving this part of the build!

These bits of clear plastic came from the packaging of some Yuletide choccies.

Here the cut pieces of clear plastic are all glued in place, with the cabin parts still on the sprue.

Construction of the cab gets underway.

Masking the windows with Blu-Tack after a little freehand undercoating.

At this point I spent a good deal of time detailing the interior. Not so much with tons of added detail (well, none was added, actually!), but rather by weathering it, with scratches and patches of rust, etc. I really like doing this sort of work on models, but I am beginning to wonder why I'm bothering; on all the models I've built this far, the detail I go to such lengths to create is practically invisible once the outer cabin is built! Will I ever improve sufficiently in this small scale to change this, I wonder?

The painted and weathered cab interior. I was quite pleased with the cruddy 'on campaign' look!

The pics directly above and below highlight some of the larger gaps in the cab.

The outside finish is, already, as unintentionally but suitably cruddy as the interior... and that's before any weathering!

The whole model got a black undercoat, and then a spray with the Tamiya 'dark yellow' acrylic aerosol. The Tamiya colour has a decidedly green cast (although the extent of this appears to vary, as a comparison with the pics immediately above and below makes clear), which I'm not altogether sure I like. Also, it doesn't lend itself so well to the hairspray paint chipping effect wither, as it dries with a harder more shell like finish than other paints I've used.

I filled the larger of these gaps as best I could, using Superfine Milliput

Peeling away the Blu-Tack I'd put in to mask the window glass was both somewhat satisfying and somewhat disappointing. Satisfying where it had worked best, and disappointing where it pulled away the paint I'd sprayed over it, as can be seen clearly around the front windows in the above pic. I'l have to tidy this up somehow!

Below is a pic of the model as it currently is. A long way from finished, but already looking quite nice. This is the only RSO from Ace with no decals, a fact which left me a bit miffed! But I've decided I'll pilfer decals from other kits, certainly for no. plates, probably also for the text on the cab doors, and, perhaps, maybe even also for national insignia.


[1] Rather oddly the box artwork has toothless rear idlers, whereas the corresponding parts of the kit itself are toothed!

[2] If you look closely at these tracks, it can be seen that the super-glue I used to join the upper and lower layers of each track also, rather annoyingly, gets into all the little gaps where the teeth of the drive wheels are supposed to poke through. I did try poking the holes back into being, with pins and scalpel blades, etc., but the end result was that the segment of track I was working on came apart and had to be reglued. So I gave up on that!

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!