Kitty Hawk 1/35 Little Bird

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I purchased this Kitty Hawk 1/35 Little Bird at the 2018 Illawarra Model Expo for $60AUD – which for the amount of plastic included (3 sprues, + 1 clear and a PE fret) puts it up in the premium price range.  I only mention this because, apart from having a nice, under-represented subject, this kit was anything but premium.  I’m happy with the outcome, but very critical of the kit itself.

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Finding good reference photos online turned out to be incredibly difficult.  I found four good ones and the rest were too blurry/unclear to be much use.  There were a few times I went to the box art for clarification as well – don’t do that – it’s not reliable.  Neither are the instructions.  I’m going to say at the start – I honestly don’t believe that anyone from Kitty Hawk actually built this kit, and most certainly whoever prepared the instructions didn’t.  In many parts the instructions are vague, unclear and in some instances, flat out wrong.  I’ll point out the important issues, but the list is certainly not exhaustive.

Steps one and two have you putting the engine and bulkhead together – this was my first clue that construction was going to be a chore.  There are a number of places where the drawings aren’t detailed enough to know where parts go.  Parts B70 and B72 are around the wrong way in the instructions, however even when swapped don’t fit right.  The most important step here is mounting the engine to the bulkhead.  If it isn’t perfectly centered, you won’t be able to put the engine doors on.  Mine was slightly off, which I didn’t discover until further into construction and had to do a bit of surgery to correct.

Steps 3-8 cover the construction of the interior.  Most of this when together pretty well, with the following exceptions:

  • The cockpit decals are rubbish and were quickly discarded – although I cut out and used some individual dial decals
  • The mounting holes in the seat bench for attaching part A9 do not exist on the part
  • A18 and A19 are a bit unclear in the instructions – dry fit first.  These parts also have the flash that is on them, drawn in on the instructions, as though it is part of the part.  It is not.
  • A38 and A39 are the mechanisms for the seat harnesses, but the instructions clearly show the harness just attaching to the back of the seat.  This is incorrect (as far as I can tell…)
  • One of my foot pedals (B48) was severely warped.  I’ve read of some people getting theirs completely short shot (where the plastic doesn’t completely fill the mould during production, resulting in missing or incomplete parts)
  • Placement of B43 and B44 is very unclear.  I just guessed.

The rest of the interior went together fine.

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Closing up the fuselage halves was surprisingly fairly smooth, however it triggers the first major fit problem.

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There are mounting tabs on both the seat and engine bulkheads that slot into the holes on the inside of the fuselage.  These ensure the interior sits correctly inside the fuselage – however it doesn’t.  Or at least, the front console doesn’t.  This caused some major issues in the next few steps.IMG_3495.jpg

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You can see in that last picture that the seat bulkhead is as far back as it can be without obstructing the doorway.

Step 10 covers attaching the front canopy, however it didn’t fit.  The centre console was too far forward and pressed against the canopy, meaning it couldn’t make contact with the fuselage properly.  The solution here was to sand back a significant amount of the centre console.  I did this with a Dremel – and made a hell of a mess:

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I also had to sand back part of the interior floor and some of the rudder pedal mechanism.  This is pretty disappointing.  It took quite a while clean this whole area up properly and repaint so as too look respectable.

I purchased some aftermarket masks for the canopy, and they were very good, though I’m not sure they saved much time.  Part B29 doesn’t have any mounting indications so you sort of just have to guess.  I used a piece of blu-tack when dry fitting to see where it would should go.

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Once the canopy was installed, I needed to fill a number of gaps where it still didn’t fit properly to the fuselage.  Following this, I started working on the skids.  Dry fit all of the parts carefully – most parts are switched incorrectly in the instructions – particularly B60, 61, 64, 65, 66, 67.  Also, the placement of part A30 in step 10 is different than what is shown in step 13.

The engine doors (C3 and C4) didn’t fit on my kit, as the engine was very slightly skewed to one side.  I was able to correct this with some additional support made from scrap plastic, but even then mounting the doors was still troublesome due to poor tabs and mounting points.

Building the tailboom you’ll notice on part A26, the cutout for the tail light is different to the box art and the first aircraft detailed in the painting guide.  Additionally the double tail rotor and the sensor package on the front of the canopy are missing from the kit completely and aren’t mentioned in the instructions at all.  Great – that was the bird I wanted to build.

I attached the skids and left overnight in a jig to dry at the correct angles.

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I always planned on having the doors off, however they were a good way to mask off for painting.

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For painting, I applied a black base, then layered on NATO black for the main colour, with some highlights of German Grey.  The instructions call for straight black, but in reality the aircraft seem to be more faded.

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I then applied the kit decals.  If you’re building this kit, buy some aftermarket decals – I believe Werner Wings do a number of good sets, with another set coming out shortly.  Get them.  The kit decals are an absolute torment.  They don’t go down well at all, don’t respond well to setting solutions and most importantly, suffer immensely from silvering.  I spent a lot of time trying to correct silvering, which was mostly successful.

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After pulling the canopy masks off, I wasn’t happy with the quality of the edge that was created, so I remasked and resprayed and it turned out a lot better.

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Building the guns was very fiddly.  The photoetch – especially on the guns was difficult to get right.  The belts that lead from the ammo box to the guns were small but with a Hold And Fold it was pretty simple.  When building the MG-134 guns in step 11, be aware that the part B90 in the instructions is actually mislabelled on the sprue as B84.

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When deciding how to weather the Little Bird I wanted to be subtle.  I couldn’t find any high quality pictures of it weathered and I was worried about going overboard.  I stuck mostly to oils (using Mig’s excellent Oil Brushers) and some very limited use of pigments.

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I finished the model of by assembling the main rotor.  The main plate for the rotor is part B78.  The instructions show four mounting points with holes for guide pins, however the actual part has no holes and some of the other parts have no guide pins.  Overall, step 17 of the instructions is incredibly unclear which can cause a lot of problems when it comes time to install C56 – my rotor was leaning back far too much which required some fixing.

I wanted to put a pair of Hellfires on my kit, however some of them were short shot and as mentioned before, the kit does not include the sensor package needed to fire them anyway.  So I stuck with a rocket pod and 3 guns.

Once everything was together I did some touch up painting and called it finished.  I have to say, this was quite a chore to build.  I’m happy to spend some time correcting things, but I shouldn’t have to be remaking parts, guessing what to do due to incorrect or vague instructions or be faced with completely missing parts.  I’m glad Kitty Hawk are making kits like this, but the disconnect between the CAD models and the production kits is astounding.  They seriously need to work on their QA.  I want to purchase their Blackhawk when it releases soon – hopefully they improve.

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Tamiya 1/48 King Tiger

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Tamiya’s 1/48 King Tiger is nice little kit with a surprising amount of detail for a model that is quite a bit smaller than the usual 1/35 kits I build. I didn’t have a specific plan when I started it, other than I wanted to build it pretty much out of the box and pretty heavily weathered.

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The kit has the early Porsche turret and although the cover picture shows it with Zimmerit, no Zimmerit is included.  I was fine with this – the weather I had in mind was going to be better without it.

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The hull is die cast, which is nice and gives it a lot of weight.  Parts attached directly to the hull needed to be superglued but the upper hull attaches with screws.  It all went together easily, without fit issues.IMG_3194.jpg

My plan was to have very heavy chipping on the tank, so with that in mind I started by painting everything in a dark red steel colour:

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I sprayed a MIG chipping fluid over this, then as soon as it had dried I sprayed a red primer (Rotbraun):

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Once the primer had dried, I rubbed it carefully with water in select areas to  chip it away, exposing the steel.  I had a follower on instagram comment that this primer would never chip away and that it’s unrealistic, but I’ve found a few photos of tanks where the primer has done exactly that.

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Using Panzer Putty, I masked out an outline for the next colour, dunkelgelb Aus 44 DGIII.  Once masked, I sprayed the chipping fluid again, followed by the paint:

 

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I then chipped the this the same way as the primer:

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Once more, I masked, sprayed the chipping fluid followed by a coat of  Resedagrun with a few drops of the previous Dunkelgelb. This final layer was also then chipped.

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Tracks went on, followed by decals.  The tracks were weathered with oil paints:IMG_3288.jpgIMG_3293.jpg

I used a selection of oil paints, including some of the new Mig Oilbrushers’ – where where pretty good. I first used them as a general filter to help tie the camo together, then applied more specific rust and grime streaks. Rust was applied more liberally on the horizontal surfaces:

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Finally, I finished everything up using Mig Pigments:

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A couple of detail touch-ups and I’m very happy with the final result:

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F-35 Part 7 – Masking for days (weeks)

With paint on I sprayed and lightly sanded a few clear coats in preparation for all of the handling I was going to be doing during the masking process.  It’s worth pointing out that I’m not actually sure what I’m painting here.  From what research I was able to do, it appears to be a radar absorbent paint applied directly to the panel lines. I guess this makes sense, but I’d be happy to be corrected.  These lines areas are raised on the kit, however I wasn’t able to find any evidence that they are raised on the real jet.

Here’s the kit – ready to start:

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The kit comes with SOME masks – but not enough to be really useful. The instructions call for the model to be painted in the light grey first, then use the masks to cover up some of the panel lines, use Tamiya tape to cover the rest, then spray the dark grey.  I decided to to the opposite due to the lines being raised, so the masks were useless to me anyway.

The first thing I noticed was that the instructions in some places are very vague on what should be painted and what shouldn’t.  Here’s an example.

This is the gunport.  You can see there is a fairly complex arrangement of raised panel lines here:

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The instructions on how to paint this area show a very simple outline that not only isn’t to scale, but isn’t even the same shape!

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Compare that to the actual raised areas for masking and it leads to a lot of confusion:

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It seems the instructions don’t show the actual panel line itself, which would make things a bit easier.  But when the shapes aren’t even close, I don’t know why they bothered.  This is an issue that seems consistent over the whole model.

Anyway, I started by cutting Tamiya tape into a lot of consistent shapes. I used different sizes of tape and cut different shapes depending on where they needed to go.

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Then with a pair of tweezers and a lot of patience, I started the masking. It took about an hour to get to this point and that’s when I realised this was going to be very tedious.

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Another hour later and I’ve made another small dent.

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It took another 4 hours to get to this point:20170709_214638.JPG

Unfortunately the top appears to be the easiest to mask.  I’m dreading doing the under side, but at the rate I’m going it will probably be a while before I get there! Masking the jagged edge around the nozzle was particularly painful, but I’m hoping it will pay off once finally painted.  It will likely take me a couple more weeks to finish masking, by which point I’ll probably have gone insane.

I also assembled the weapons that would be stored internally.  To be honest, I probably wasted a lot of effort on them since not only are they not visible when the jet is on its landing gear, but even when on its back only the bottom of the weapons will be visible.

First step was photo etch on the JDAM’s:

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I used a Hold & Fold to bend the parts then a rolling tool to put a nice bend in them. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again – the photo etch is incredibly thick which actually made it a little harder to work with.

JDAM’s and AMRAAM’s assembled and primed for painting:

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I painted the coloured stripes instead of using the decals:

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I used some 3mm Tamiya Tape (for curves) to mask off what I wanted to save:

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I then painted the main colours of each weapon:

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Tape off – happy with the result:

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I then mask again for secondary colours.  The JDAM’s were particularly painful to mask:

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Another round of colour and the masks removed:

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Decals on:

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And finally some weathering:

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I’ll seal these then maybe add some scuffing but then they’ll be done.

Hopefully my next update will show a fully masked off jet.  It’s hard to stay motivated though when the task is so tedious and boring! I think a better solution for the F-35 would have been no raised panels and just some high quality decals instead.  Or more thorough masks.

 

F-35 Part 6 – Filling, sanding, filling, sanding…

I could tell from the dry fitting I had done that I was going to have to spend some time on the various seams and gaps that remained after closing up the fuselage and attaching the wings.  Here are all the joins that needed attention:

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The most significant seam to fix was the one between the wings and the fuselage.  Any reference photo you look at show a completely smooth transition between the fuselage and the wings, so I wanted to nail that.  Those particular joins took four cycles of filling and sanding to get the result I wanted.  I used a combination of Vallejo white putty and home made gloop.  After each round of filling, I would sand it back with increasingly higher grits of sandpaper, until I was just using polishing sticks.  I wanted to make sure that the surface plastic wasn’t all torn up.  Fortunately, there is no surface detail at all near the upper wing joint – no panel lines or raised detail at all – so I didn’t have to worry about rescribing later.

The under-wing join was a different story.  The fit was worse that the upper join and there was a lot of raised detail immediately adjacent to the seam which made the filling and sanding process slow and painful. Other seams, around the nose, in front of the intakes and at where the rear elevators attach to the fuselage weren’t  overly difficult to correct, but did take quite a bit of time and multiple layers.  This was the end result:

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As I attempted to work out the best way to mask the weapons bays and wheel wells (using the kit doors, or masking them in some other way) I realised I’d made a mistake.  Earlier on in the build I had gone ahead without properly reading the instructions and installed the following parts:

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It is a centre piece and two side pieces. As it turns out, these parts should should have been installed later, and the two side parts are actually doors that I needed posed open.  Using a sharp knife I was able to essentially ‘snap’ the parts so I could reopen them, but it was a silly mistake that wouldn’t have happened had I studied the instructions properly.

To mask the bays I used a standard dish washing sponge, cut up the foam and inserted it. I also put some into each engine intake to protect the white finish.

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Masking the canopy was fairly easy,  I used a combination of Tamiya yellow tape and their white tape for curves.  You can see the crack in the canopy that reaches slightly above where the paint line will be.  I bought a replacement from Italeri, but when that arrived it had a crack in the same place that extended further above the paint line.  The crack is due to the way the part is attached to the sprue and sloppy on Italeri’s part.  The fact they made me pay for a replacement and someone hand picked a worse part is inexcusable.

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Because of how much I had to handle the model during the build, and the amount of filling and sanding I had to do, I wiped down the entire model with paper towel soaked in Tamiya acrylic thinner before applying the base coat.  I applied a coat of Tamiya Nato Black, then sanded it down slightly and applied another coat.  Because I don’t have anywhere sealed I can leave models to dry, I have a lot of problems with dust in the paint work.  The sanding down helps with this.

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Next I built up the dark grey using Vallejo Model Air paints.  I started with a marble coat and added subsequent thin layers until I got the desired finish.  All the reference’s I could find of the F-35 show (as expected for a new jet) very little weathering, so I didn’t want to go overboard.

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Finally, I’m almost finished detailing the main landing gear.  I just need to paint the hydraulic lines and it they will be done:

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The next week or more will likely just be spent masking so I can apply the light grey coat to the rest of the jet.

F-35 Part 5 – Looks like a plane

Installing the fuselage sidewalls in front of the intakes was problematic.  They are slightly too small so I had to slide the part towards the rear and fill the gap at the front.  I used stock plastic to support it as well as adding a strip along to top to assist with the gaps.

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With these sidewalls in it was time to bring the top and bottom halves of the fuselage together.  I did this in a way that provided the tightest fit to the intakes.  Fortunately just by working from the nose and slowly cementing it backwards, it actually came together quite cleanly.  There are a few gaps to fill around the intakes still, but otherwise I was quite surprised at how cleanly it came together.

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Next I added the nose, wings and horizontal stabilizers. At first the nose seemed like it was a good fit, so I went ahead and glued it on. Once dry, I noticed that there were actually a few small gaps around it I was going to have to deal with.  For such a complex shape, the fit is actually still pretty good – I’ll put these gaps down to my failure to dry fit it properly first.

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The wings and horizontal stabilizers are a different story though.  Both have very visible seam lines that don’t exist on the real aircraft.  The wings are particularly bad, with a significant and unsightly seam.  I’m surprised Italeri didn’t mould the top fuselage and wings as one piece – much like the Academy 1/48 F-22.

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You can see the horrible join here clearly.  To remove it I filled it with Vallejo white putty, then wiped it back with Tamiya acrylic thinner on a cotton tip.  I then coated that with Mr Surfacer 500 and sanded it all back.  Its much better now but still needs some work.

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There was also a noticeable gap near the wing root when the flaps are installed:

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To fix this I cut a piece of plasticard to an approximate shape, glued it in and once dry i covered it in Mr Surfacer 500 and sanded it flat.

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I’ve got a few days of filling and sanding ahead, but its nice to finally see it start to look like an F-35.  It feels like its taken ages just to get to this point!

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F-35 Part 4 – Intakes and bays

Continuing with the build, I decided to tackle what I assumed was going to be the worst fit of the kit – the intakes.  After cleaning up the insides I painted them white before gluing the halves together.  You’re then supposed to glue the left and right intake together, but I didn’t do that.  Instead I just taped them together as I knew I was going to need some wriggle room during the fitting process.

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Small tip – sand down any excess in front of the lip to really help get a better fit (file in front of the red line):

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I then masked the intake with Tamiya tape, trimmed the excess off with a very sharp blade and used a small sanding stick to GENTLY tidy up the edges.

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By not cementing the the two intakes together, I was able to achieve a pretty good fit into the lower fuselage. Test fitting the upper fuselage showed I was going to have problems:

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I ended up building up the lip on the upper fuselage with some stock styrene to assist with this gap.

I then added the two parts that go in front of the intakes.  These were not a good fit at all and I had to decide if I was going to have a gap at the front of the piece or the back.  Give the back is more complex and curved, I decided to make sure it was a clean fit there and I’d deal with the gap at the front.  The problem with these parts is that they required some slight bending of the fuselage to get them even close to fitting.  I did this by raising the nose and applying pressure between the parts.

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I’ll show some more details with these parts in my next post.

With the intakes drying I moved onto the wheel wells. Starting with the rear wells for the main landing gear, I test fitted it to see what would be visibile and would need some upgrading.

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You can see it looks quite bare – especially towards the front (right in this picture). While trying to find reference photos to assist with detailing, I found what I believe is an error by Italeri.  The main landing gear bays each have too doors – A front one and a back one.  The instructions call for both doors to be positioned open, however every photo I could find showed only the rear doors open while on the ground. The only photos I could find with both doors open was in the few seconds it takes for the gear to be raised and lowered.  This was confirmed to me on Instagram by a follower that works with the jet. So I placed the front door and got a much better idea of what will actually be visible:

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Detailing the main gear bays was done with lead wire and old speaker wire – much the same as the weapons bays.  It was difficult to find references, so I just ‘busied it up’ a bit.  You can see that the main wells are quite basic.

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The nose gear bay was actually much better detailed and once the gear was installed really wasn’t going to need any additional details.

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I painted the bays with a fine paintbrush and acrylic paints, then did a pin wash and some pencil chipping.

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Installing the bays I noticed that the tabs used to align them into the lower fuselage were all off.  Both the main gear bays and the nose gear bays were smaller than their locator tabs:

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There are a couple of millimeters of wiggle room, which really isn’t ideal.  So I decided to fit them all flush towards the rear – I guess time will tell if that was a good idea or not.

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With all bays in I’m really starting to like the way it looks. Next steps will be to join the top and bottom fuselage halves.  I’m really not looking forward to that.

F-35 Part 3 – Frustrations continue

Maybe I shouldn’t be complaining.  Finally having a 1/32 F-35 is certainly a treat.  But for a kit released in 2017, costing as much as it does, and coming from one of the largest kit manufacturers in the world, I expected better.

First though, I finished detailing one of the weapons bays. Most of it will likely be hidden behind ordnance, but I think it was worth the effort.

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I used Tamiya’s panel line wash to bring out most of the detail, then just used a fine paint brush and black paint to bring out the rest.  Mr Metal Color aluminium was used to highlight brackets and anything else that needed a metal finish.

The only problem with detailing the weapons bays to this extent is that I’m also going to have to detail the landing gear bays – otherwise they’re going to look bare.

While I was test fitting the weapons bays and intakes I noticed sink marks on the side/bottom of the intake openings.  Something else I needed to fix.

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They weren’t a big deal – I masked them off, filled them with Mr Surfacer 500 and sanded them flat.  Thankfully there is no other detail in the area like rivets or panel lines which would have made this more of a chore.

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That is the outer exhaust shroud – 5 tabs, inside, that will need to be cleaned up. These ones actually don’t look too hard to remove.  However the inside exhaust shroud was a different story.

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Eight internal tabs on this one, with some of them on the groves and some of them IN the grooves.  20170514_183620.JPG

Cleaning these up is quite difficult, especially when trying not to destroy the surrounding detail. I eventually got there using a very small chisel, but it was a headache that could have been avoided.

Starting on the cockpit, the lack of detail is really bothering me. Reference photos show the cockpit far less cluttered that previous fighters, but it still feels too sparse.  Certainly there is missing detail from the top of the front display (where a HUD would usually be) that could have been added for this scale.  I’ll have to add that.20170511_222226.JPG

I started by putting the seat together.  The detail here actually isn’t too bad. Once the photo-etch belts are added it should look good.  I might need to add a little detail to the top of the seat but that’s it.  I primed everything in light great before moving onto painting.

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Now of course, when I went to put the decal on for the main display, it didn’t fit.  it was too large, so I had to use Micro Sol to get it to settle in as much as possible, then trim the excess with a sharp knife.20170514_143313-2.JPG

Whist I can say that it settled down nicely with Micro Sol, this is poor.  This decal is the focal point of the cockpit and Italeri didn’t even bother to make sure that it fit properly.20170514_201555.JPG

Test fitting the cockpit tub in place and without the seat it really does look bare.  Even with all the problems I’ve run into so far, I’ll still build another one of these, but I’ll definitely be getting a resin cockpit for it.  For this kit I think I’m going to keep the canopy closed.