I just received a new type of kit, one that I have not built before: This kit was printed with a 3D printer! The kit represents the popular homebuilt aircraft Van’s RV-4, and was made by an outfit named VFR Models in the UK. I bought mine on eBay for £33 (including shipping), and it arrived here in New Hampshire in mere 8 days.
Van’s RV-4 is an early design in the popular RV series of “kit aircraft” intended for those who want to build a 1/1-scale aircraft by themselves. It was introduced in 1980, and since then well over a thousand aircraft have been built.
We are down to all kinds of detail painting now… this time, it is canopy frames and wheel wells.
Normally I used a “phased” approach to painting canopy frames: first mask the latitudinal frames and paint them, then the longitudinal ones, finally any other remaining parts. This generally works well and saves me a lot of stress at the cost of just cleaning my airbrush a few more times. This time, however, I decided to do something different. I scanned the clear canopy part and used the resulting image as a guide to draw a mask. I then used my Cricut cutter to cut the mask from Tamiya masking tape. The results are surprisingly good.
The project has finally progressed to a point where I could start airbrushing actual camouflage. For paints I chose Tamiya acrylics and Mr. Color lacquers. Normally I paint everything with Tamiya, but in this project I am experimenting with Mr. Color, and so far the results have been absolutely excellent (albeit a bit stinky).
Here is what I have used:
Finnish field green (olive green)
RLM 65 Hellblau (Finnish “DN-väri”)
RLM 74 Graugrün
RLM 75 Grauviolett
Mr. Color #37
RLM 76 Lichtblau
Mr. Color #117
RLM 71 Dunkelgrün
Mr. Color #17
* Tamiya XF-24 or Tamiya XF-63? I think the appearance of the latter is just too dark for this small scale.
Today I want to describe my experience in finishing the five cockpits and thus readying the models to be airbrushed. Basically all the cockpits were done, internally, so the main thing missing was the canopy on each aircraft. In the Bf 109, the pilot’s headrest/armor is attached to the canopy. G-2 and E-7 have solid armor plate headrests, but the G-6 has an armored glass window built in for better visibility. The FineMolds’ G-6 kit comes with a clear part for the headrest, so all you need to do is to mask the window and paint the part. The problem is that the window is roughly 2 mm by 3 mm is size. I solved the masking problem by first scanning the part (using a flatbed scanner), then used the scanned image to prepare a graphic (in Adobe Illustrator). I used the graphic to cut exact masks from Tamiya masking tape, using my Cricut Maker computer-controlled cutter. I placed the masks on both sides of the part, and airbrushed it with RLM 74.
The project is progressing well, but rather than talk about the models, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about reference material. Those who know me will say that I tend to be mildly obsessed with research to support my scale model projects. Well, it is all relative, of course, but my one steadfast rule is that I will not build a model unless I have photographs of the individual aircraft in question. Sometimes it is hard to find “enough” pictures (for whatever is your definition of the word), and sometimes you have to supplement with pictures of other aircraft in the same unit, etc.
Let me wax philosophical here for a moment… aircraft and aviation history have always fascinated me, and if you were to ask me “why do you build scale models?” my answer would be that it is to understand and preserve history. Other people will have other answers, and that’s fine. But I believe that as a means of preserving history, the model-building process has at least these objectives: to be as accurate as reasonably makes sense and to convey impressions to one’s audience (and I use this term in the same sense as the late 19th and early 20th century artists).
As for photographs, ideally, I would like to see them from all sides, revealing all details. This almost never happens, although this aspiration has led me to start preparing books that would give modelers just that. Right now, I have a book on AS.365N Dauphin helicopters nearing completion. But, I digress…
When I dreamed up this project I was afraid that things might get too overwhelming at some point. Well, that is not the case yet anyway, since I am making very good progress with all my Bf 109s. This week I have managed to build five airframes to a point where they are basically missing just some details before I can start airbrushing. Some questions still remain (such as whether I will use Squadron vacuform canopies with those aircraft whose cockpit is open) but generally I can see how I will take this project from where it is now to its conclusion.
I have built the Airfix Bf 109E-7 a few years ago, and found it to be a nice, accurate, and well detailed kit. As I was studying the same kit now on my workbench, it struck me that perhaps this could be a small “super-detailing” exercise. I have the True Details resin cockpit set, designed for the Hasegawa kit, but I figured I could make it work here as well. It certainly offers better details than the Airfix kit, although I have to say the details from the Airfix offering are quite nice and indeed I even built my earlier “Emil” with the canopy open.
The whole exercise could consist of the following:
Resin cockpit (from True Details), seat belts are part of the seat in this set so it will be better to use the seat from the kit with Eduard photo-etch seat belts,
Lowered flaps (the kit offers this),
Open engine cowling (in the E-model the entire upper cowling came off as a single part – the kit offers this possibility as well), more details added to the engine (perhaps), and
MG 17 guns on top of the engine – for this, I can use a leftover part from the FineMolds’ G-2 kit, as I intend to replace the gun barrels on that one with brass parts from Master Model.
The FineMolds’ Bf 109G kits have very nice cockpit details and really the only thing one could/should add are the seat belts. However, for my G-2 I wanted to try the Aires resin and photo-etch cockpit set, primarily because I intend to leave the canopy open. For the Premium Hobbies’ kit I am using an Eduard photo-etch set originally designed for the Academy kit. The other two G-6s will just use FineMolds’ parts, and the Airfix E-7 will also be out-of-the-box, except for photo-etch seat belts.
I started construction by airbrushing all G-models’ interiors with the dark gray RLM 74; I used Mr.Color semi-gloss enamel #36, a good match, but also an experiment for me since I normally use Tamiya acrylics. Mr.Color was a positive experience, easy to spray without any additional thinning. I used a Badger Patriot airbrush at approx. 20 PSI. Note that I also sprayed the photo-etch instrument panels which now will have to be assembled.
I am a big fan of FineMolds’ Bf 109s, but I recently bought one of the brand new Premium Hobbies’ Bf 109G-14s just to see what it is like. It turns out it is a reboxing of the older Academy kit with new decals and – according to Scalemates – some new parts (which ones, I do not know, since I don’t have the original kit to compare with). Historically, the G-14 variant was an attempt to standardize many of the modifications and improvements that had already been introduced in late production G-6s. I will build this kit as a G-6 with an Erla canopy and the taller vertical tail surfaces (as part of my Grand Messerschmitt project of 2021).