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:


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:


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!


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

20170716_135834 LINES.jpg

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.


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.


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


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:


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:


I painted the coloured stripes instead of using the decals:


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


I then painted the main colours of each weapon:


Tape off – happy with the result:


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


Another round of colour and the masks removed:


Decals on:


And finally some weathering:


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:


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:



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:


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.


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.




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.




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.








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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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


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.


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!



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.


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):


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.



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:


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.


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.


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:


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.



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


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


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:


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.


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.


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.

Sink Marks.jpg

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.

My next frustration came from Italeri’s infuriating positioning of the various mould release tabs.  20170514_182902.JPG

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.


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.




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.

F-35 Part 2 – Dry fitting and ejection mark hell

Starting this kit, I decided to do a rough dry fit to see where I was going to have to spend my time.  I figured that with a kit like this, if there were going to be fit problems they would either be around the intakes or the wings.20170503_223221.jpg

Piecing the cockpit together I was surprised at how sparse it seemed.  Not that it lacks detail, but it just doesn’t have that ‘busy’ look of modern cockpits.  This is especially pronounced due to the fact that the F-35 doesn’t have a HUD.

Italeri F-35 Cockpit.jpg

Quality reference photos are hard to find – I’ve found some with detail around the top (where the HUD would go) and some as bare as the kit has molded.  So I’m still deciding if I want to add any additional detail here or not.

Moving onto the intakes I was shocked to find 2 main issues.  Firstly, there are 12 significant ejector pin marks on the inside of each intake – 4 of which are visible when the kit is complete.20170503_223514.jpg

These were pretty easily taken care off with a combination of gloop and Mr Surfacer 1200.

The bigger issue though is that there are 2 locating pins inside each intake that are clearly visible:

Intake pins.jpg

I get that the shape of the intakes is pretty complex, but internal locating pins is pretty lazy design.  Most serious modelers will spend a lot of time on aircraft intakes and any model show judge will shine a light up them to really see what the quality of the build is like.  Hell, its the reason why so many companies make aftermarket intakes. Italeri could have easily put locating pins on the other side of the intakes as many other manufactures do.

I decided I had to remove them, but I was going to need to make some new locating pins on the outside.  I did that with 4 strips of plasticard and it worked surprisingly well.20170505_212246.jpg

Moving on, I took a closer look at the weapons bay and landing gear bay. Each weapons bay has 10 ejector pin marks!  The bays have a basic level of detail which makes removing the marks difficult.  In fact in the next photo there are 86 ejector pin marks, at least 75 of which will be visible on the finished model.

ejector pin marks.jpg

I’ve got to say, this is excessive.  Parts like the weapons bay could have moulded in five parts which would have avoided the need for 10 ejector pins to get the out of the mould.  As much as I often think Meng kits are a bit over engineered, Italeri could have taken a leaf out of their book.  I personally don’t find anything fun about filling and sanding in awkward places – Italeri should have had a bit more respect for the modelers time.

What also became obvious was that I was going to have to add some detail to these bays. I wanted to build this out of the box, but after looking at some reference photos for the weapons bay the kit just doesn’t do it justice.   So using a combination of lead wire and copper wire I built up a few layers of detail.  I didn’t go overboard – the weapons sill cover a lot of the detail.IMG_20170507_010857_549.jpg20170507_002902-2.jpg20170507_004436.jpg

All that is left is to detail paint and weather the bay.  Then start the other one.



Italeri’s 1/32 F-35A Lightning II Part 1 – The kit

Living in Australia often makes getting hold of new kits a bit slow and difficult.  After contacting all of my local hobby shops, none of them could give me a solid date for when Italeri’s brand new 1/32 F-35 would arrive.  So I went to eBay and hit up a friendly German seller.  It’s only been a week (I can’t barely get Australia Post to get something from one state to another WITHIN Australia in a week) but this turned up today:


All I’m going to do with this post is show all the contents and give whatever basic thoughts I have on the kit.  I’ll be starting construction immediately, purely out of the box (as there are no aftermarket options available anyway) and in Australian markings.  I haven’t built an Italeri kit in over a decade, so I’m interested to see how it goes together.

Unfortunately somewhere between German and Australia, the packing box was opened, the kit was unsealed and the contents search.  This resulted in the decals and masks having some bends in them and a few parts broken off their sprues.  The most troubling of which is the canopy – more on that shortly.


Except for the two identical sprues that share a bag, all other sprues came individually wrapped. I was certainly grateful for that given how obviously kicked around the box was in transit.

Decals, other than for a few bends, look fine.  Its a low-vis scheme so nothing much to report here.20170501_200919.jpg

Photoetch has a small mark on it but that shouldn’t affect the final product.  I have to say, this is the thickest photoetch I’ve ever held.  That might be a good thing – I guess I’ll have to wait and see.


Now for the canopy.  It had detached from its sprue, which was worring.  But worse, It has a crack in it that reaches above the frame and into the area that will be unpainted.  I’ll have to deal with that somehow.  I may contact Italeri to see if I can get a replacement.20170501_201840.jpg20170501_201918.jpg

You’ll also notice that its not the most clear canopy, with some distortion as you look through it.  There is a what appears to be a very prominent seam line down the centre on the inside of the canopy, but it looks like that is actually supposed to be there.  Glad I checked that, as I’d usually just start sanding it away.


Some nice surface detail on the fuselage, though I wonder if its a bit too thick. I’ll have to look at my references – not that I can do much about it if its incorrect.


Cockpit detail is…. sparse.  Though I don’t think that’s necessarily unrealistic.


Again, not much detail in the cockpit tub.


Some nice detail in the wheel wells and weapons bays, but also some unsightly injector pin marks that I’ll need to deal with.


The seat looks to have some nice detail and when coupled with the photoetch it should look good.


So that’s what makes up the kit.  Overall I’m looking forward to putting this together so I’ll be jumping straight into construction and will provide regular updates.