I am happy to declare that the “Grand Messerschmitt project of 2021” is finally finished, with the completion of the fifth and final model a few days ago. The idea of the project was to study whether models could be built “assembly line” style, taking advantage of the economies of scale. The results are generally positive, the project was a success, but I learned a number of things too.
First, I think building five models is too many. I think the sweet spot is probably three. And second, to really take advantage of this approach, all the kits should be the same. I used three FineMolds’ kits, one Premium Hobbies’ (ex-Academy) kit, and one Airfix kit (of a completely different variant of the Bf 109, also not a good idea). One idea I have for doing this again is to take three Hasegawa Brewster Buffalo kits and build them all as aircraft of the Finnish Air Force, then there will be sufficient similarities to yield benefits. Nevertheless, in this project I was able to take advantage of painting four aircraft with the German RLM 74/75/76 camouflage, painting three identical propellers all at the same time, five sets of landing gears, etc.
This past weekend I made some significant progress in this project, and completed two more models: a post-war Finnish Bf 109G-6, and a Luftwaffe Bf 109E-7 stationed in Finland in 1942. Full write-ups are available on our Web site, here and here.
Two more 109s remain to be completed. They are currently waiting for some missing decals.
At long last, the project has yielded its first completed model, Ilmari Juutilainen‘s Bf 109G-2 “MT-213”. Juutilainen, of course, was the highest-scoring Finnish fighter ace, and also the highest-scoring non-German ace of World War 2.
After a several months’ hiatus I have resumed work on the Grand Messerschmitt project of 2021, and I thought I’d provide a “status report” on where I am with each of the five aircraft.
The first one to be finished is the Bf 109G-2, “MT-213”, flown by Finland’s highest scoring ace Ilmari Juutilainen (also the highest-scoring non-German ace of the war). Only some minor details are missing anymore.
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.