Saturday 29 August 2015

Arado Ar 234 "Blitz" (Hobbycraft 1:48)

Box Cover
The Arado Ar-234 holds a special place in aviation history by being the first ever operational jet bomber.  I have always been fascinated by its sleek design as well as the engineering behind it and I've always wanted to build a scale model of the "Blitz".

I will be presenting this build in parallel with the Macchi C.205 which I have been writing about so far.  In contrast to the high-detail Macchi build, this build will be relatively straight forward and will only use aftermarket components to improve/enhance the model.

The kit is from HobbyCraft and hails from 1989.  I picked this up from a friend who had already bought a ton of aftermarket resin parts to improve the model.

Box Contents

The box contents
   The image above shows the box contents, including the aftermarket parts which had been bought by the previous owner of the kit.  These include:
  • Metal undercarriage legs and resin wheels;
  • Photo-etch fret with canopy and cockpit detail;
  • Resin cockpit detail;
  • Resin wing control surfaces, and;
  • Resin engine intakes.
The surface detail on the plastic parts is pretty good considering the kit's 26 years of age.  Panel lines are recessed and crisp, the parts are flash free and the fit is surprisingly good. All bodes well for a relatively straightforward build.

Preparing the Wings

The first task I chose to tackle was to prepare the wings to accept the resin control surfaces.  This meant cutting out the kit's control surfaces from the wings to make way for the resin replacements.

Sawing off the existing control surfaces.
To do this I used a number of micro-saws specifically designed for this kind of job.  Using the panel lines as a guide, I gently ran the saw across the wing surface around the control surfaces.

Once the first wing half is done, I check it against its counterpart to ensure that the panel lines match up.

Checking that the panel lines align before cutting  
Thankfully the panels did align on the four wing halves and the same process was repeated until all the kit control-surfaces were hacked off.

Test-fitting the resin control surfaces
Before gluing the wing halves together I drill holes for the engine mounting points:

Drilling the engine mounting holes

I then proceeded to test fit the engines to the wings and the wings to the fuselage:

Test fitting engines, wings and fuselage

 Next Steps

The next step will be tackling the cockpit area by preparing the supplied resin parts and test fitting everything to the fuselage.

This is turning out to be quite an enjoyable build, the kit has aged well and the aftermarket parts are just one big bonus.

Stay tuned for more on both the "Blitz" and the Macchi.  Thanks for watching and please drop a line if you have any suggestions on how I can improve the content of these posts.

Also in this series

Monday 24 August 2015

Macchi C.205 'Veltro' - (1:48 Tauro Model) Part 6

The Benefits of Dry-Fitting

Those of you following this series may recall that my next post was going to deal with painting the engine and the various scratch built bits, however plans in scale modelling are there to be disregarded and thrown out the proverbial window.

Before heading off to paint I always dedicate some time to dry-fitting the various bits and pieces to make sure everything fits.  This gives me the chance to alter things before committing to paint.  This is especially true when there is a lot of scratch-built detail involved and the original fit of the kit leaves a lot to be desired.  In fact as I was test fitting the cockpit floor to the fuselage I came to realise that the seat would be almost a full cm further back than it should be.  The mounting points supplied are simply too far back, in fact the seat would be sitting inside the fuselage almost hidden from view!


Now the supplied mounting points are just bits of plastic protruding from the cockpit floor and are nothing like the real thing.  At first I wasn't that concerned with them as they would be hidden below the seat and would be practically invisible.

At this point I had a choice, either re-position them further forward or go the whole nine yards and scratch-build some new mounts.  The perfectionist in me got the better of me and I gave in to the second option.

The following sequence of photographs illustrate the process

Preparing the Frame
Preparing the legs
Fixing the legs and support struts
Fixing the seat to the frame
A view of the seat from the side
Test fitting the seat.  The yellow arrow points to the original seat position

I could have simply gone for a re-positioning of the original mounts but in the end, the new frame only took around an hour to make (including time for the glue to set) and I think it adds a bit more character and authenticity to the cockpit.  

I am now toying with the idea of adding the oxygen tanks, which sit right behind the pilot's seat, to fill the visible empty space.  Stay tuned ...

Friday 21 August 2015

Macchi C.205 'Veltro' - (1:48 Tauro Model) Part 5

Detailing the Engine (cont)

Welcome back.

In my last post I described the process for creating the scratch-built gun bay access panels.  I also mentioned that the gun bays would be left open, showing the detail inside.  The kit does provide the two Breda-SAFAT 12.7mm machine guns, however the quality of the parts is rather poor, especially the gun barrels. I therefore decided to replace these with some brass items from Master-Model.  

Until these arrive I will put the gun-bay project on hold and shift my focus back to the engine bay detail, specifically adding the Oil and Engine Coolant lines.

We will first start by having a look at the tools and materials used.

Tools and Materials Used

  • Copper Wire - various thicknesses up to 0.5mm
  • Plastic Rods
  • Superglue
  • Pin vise with 0.25mm drill bit
  • Tweezers
  • Good Reference Diagrams

Preparing the Hoses

Reference photographs of the wheel wells clearly show quite a number of flexible pipes of different widths going to and from the engine.

To make these hoses I coil a strand of the thinnest copper wire I can find (approx 0.25mm) and wind it round a strand of thicker copper wire creating a coil.  By combining wires of different thicknesses I prepare a number of different hoses ready to be used as necessary.

Creating a hose

Assorted hoses

The Engine Cooling System

The engine cooling system can be divided into two sections:
  • The reservoir and pipes leading to the engine 
  • The pipes leading from the engine to the radiator and back.
The above are situated at the top and bottom of the engine bay respectively.  Starting from the top, the coolant reservoir has four, relatively thin pipes running to the engine.  I take the thinnest coil there is from the set I prepared earlier, cut four separate strands and glue them to the tank.  Drilling the tank using a pin-vise and inserting the wire into these holes provides both a better bond and better look:

Attaching the pipes to the tank
 The wires are kept rather long on purpose.  These will be cut to size later on in the build. 

Test fitting the assembly to the firewall...

... and engine

 I also glued thin strips of aluminium to the pipes to simulate fastening clips.

 The rest of the plumbing is simpler as it only consists of a couple of thicker pipes coming through the firewall and under the engine.  These can simply be cut to size and positioned once the engine is installed.

The Oil Cooling system

The oil cooling system is slightly more complex, involving even more pipes and fittings.  A quick look at our reference diagram reveals a number of "T" joints in the system which I decided to tackle first.

Using a 0.25mm twist drill I drill holes down the centre of a plastic rod, as far as I can go whilst keeping to the centre as much as possible. This is then cut to the required lengths and the copper wire is passed through. 

The following sequence of photos illustrate this process:

Drilling the plastic rod

Passing a copper wire through the drilled hole

Gluing a shorter section of hollowed plastic to form the "T"

Another view of the "T"

The finished items
The next step is adding lines from the oil tank, leaving any excess as necessary.

The oil tank is then test-fitted to the firewall:
Test fitting the oil tank
Finally, I add more pipes to the system, starting from the "T" s that were created earlier.

It is now evident that the entire plumbing system will have to be painted separately before assembly as it would be nigh impossible to do so otherwise.  Furthermore, the excess length of the piping can only be trimmed to size once the engine is securely installed i.e. after it is painted.

Next Steps

Even though reference photos show even more wiring, it would be foolish to attempt to add these now.  The model has come to a stage where things need to be glued into place to see what (if any) space will remain for any extra detail.  This is especially true for the top area of the engine bay where the engine coolant tank sits between the machine gun barrels.  I need to make sure that there is enough space for the new brass items to fit properly.

Final Words

I would like to finish off by thanking all those who have visited this little corner of the web so far.  Please feel free to leave your comments, especially feedback on how I can improve these posts.

Until next time...

Sunday 16 August 2015

Macchi C.205 'Veltro' - (1:48 Tauro Model) Part 4

Detailing the Gun Bay Access Panels

In this post I will be describing the techniques I used to scratch-build the Macchi's nose-gun bay access panels.

Some might ask why I would go through all the trouble and not use the kit parts in the first place.  There are primarily two reasons for this: firstly the detail on the kit parts could do with some improvement; secondly and more importantly,  I will be displaying the model with the gun bays open.  Using the kit parts would mean that the thickness of the plastic would appear over-scale and even though I could easily sand these down I would still be left with the first problem, i.e. the poor detail.

I also think that scratch-building is one of the most enjoyable (and challenging) aspects of scale modelling, and I like a challenge :)

Tools and Materials Used

  • Thin aluminium sheet;
  • Soft aluminium from an old cream tube;
  • Assorted needle files;
  • Pin vise with .25mm drill bit;
  • Metal block;
  • Scalpels with  No 11 and No 10 blades;
  • Assorted sculpting tools;
  • Curved tweezers;
  • Superglue 

Materials used in this post
Let's get started...

Creating the Access Panels

Using the kit parts as a template I cut out the new panels from the aluminium sheet and using a ruler and pencil, mark out where the rivets should go.

Marking out the rivet lines

Using the original part as a guide, rivet holes are drilled through the panel using a 0.25mm twist drill bit.
Adding rivet holes
Finally, I smooth the panel down and round off its corners using a flat needle file. The entire process was repeated for the second panel.

Adding the air scoops and vents

Now for the challenging bit.  The port access panel features a forward facing air scoop and two rear facing vents, whilst the starboard panel features four rear-facing vents,

I start off with the larger air scoop for the port panel, and wrap the original kit part in a strip of soft aluminium from an old cream tube to use it as a template.

Creating the air scoop
Wrapping the kit part this way will ensure that the aluminium doesn't move whilst I'm shaping it.  Also, the softer material from the tube is more suited for these 'larger' or 'sharper' curves and will conform to the contours much easier than the stiffer aluminium sheet.

Using the point of a sharp No 11 blade I cut a small slit where the front of the scoop will be and using a sculpting tool and the curved tweezers I start bending the aluminium to shape.

Here's the result

The finished air-scoop
The excess material you can see at the base of the scoop in the image above helps the scoop adhere better to the panel and was eventually be sanded down.

Here it is mated to the panel:

The air-scoop is added to the panel

Next up the more fiddly air vents.  These are less prominent than the air scoop but are still raised enough to show a gap in this scale.

Unfortunately this time I could not use the kit parts as a template because the vents are not as well defined as the air scoop.  Instead, I decided to use the point of a half-round needle file as a template.

Testing the technique on a piece of  aluminium
 At first I was going to use the same soft aluminium used for the air scoop however I soon found out that this was too brittle in this particular case.  I then tried a bit of thicker aluminium sheet (see image above) and found that I could better bend these to the required shape   The fact that the vents have a much shallower curvature than the air scoop meant that I could in fact use the thicker material and still get a smooth curve.

I fashioned around ten of these vents and selected the best six, two for the port-side access panel and four for the starboard-side and fixed them to the panels using super glue.

I'm pretty happy with the end result:

Vents added to the port-side panel

Finally, once the glue was fully cured, I sanded down the edges using a flat needle file and bent the panels along their narrow edge over the handle of a craft knife.

I then checked the curvature of each panel against the fuselage.

Test fitting to the model to verify the curvature - port...

... and starboard

That concludes this post.  All in all it was a challenging, but highly enjoyable task and I'm quite happy with the end result.  The edges around the vents still show somewhat, but nothing a bit of sanding and putty will not fix.

Stay tuned for more.

Friday 14 August 2015

Macchi C.205 'Veltro' - (1:48 Tauro Model) Part 3

Detailing the Engine

Historical Background

The Macchi C.205 featured a licence-built version of the German Daimler Benz DB 605 liquid cooled, supercharged inverted V-12 engine.  These were built by Fiat and designated as the RA.1050 R C.58 Tifone (Typhoon).  This aircraft was one of the three Italian "Series 5" fighters that were built around this engine, the other two being the Reggiane Re.2005 and the Fiat G.55.

The Model

As hinted previously in this build, the engine in the kit has some nice detail and features a separate supercharger/compressor assembly, separate exhaust outlets as well as various ancillaries.  Ever since I got this kit I knew I would be displaying it with the engine exposed and a lot of it will be visible.  I therefore decided to add some further detail to enhance the final look.

Starting from the top, the first area to receive treatment was the crank case cover.  Reference photos of the real engine clearly show an array of very evident bolts that fasten this cover to the engine block.  My first attempt was to glue thin plastic strips onto the cover and using a sharp blade I cut out the 'bolts'.
Fashioning the bolts out of plastic strips
As you can see from the image above, this resulted in a quite untidy look with unevenly spaced and sized bolts.  In short I was not happy with the result so I switched to plan-B.

Plan-B consisted of fashioning a new crank case cover from aluminium and applying a neat trick I picked up from my good friend Brian Cauchi.  I first marked out where the bolts would go using a fine pencil, then, using a blunt point, I started to make small depressions in the aluminium.  The trick is to do this over a 'soft' surface like a cutting mat.

Adding the bolts
The following picture shows the end result when the aluminium is turned the right way-up.

The finished crank case cover showing the raised 'bolts'

To fix the new crank case cover to the engine I obviously had to shave off the existing detail which was then re-done from bits of scrap plastic sprue.  There are a couple of more details to add to this area but they can be applied after painting.

From here I turned my attention to the underside of the engine, specifically the air compressor and reduction gear-box:

Adding plumbing to the underside of the engine (apologies for poor quality)
The air compressor will be mostly hidden when the engine is installed, however it could still do with a little modification to make it appear closer to the real thing.

A section of the air compressor tubing is cut off...

... and replaced with thinner plastic rod

Next in the list were the spark plug leads.  I had already added the ends of these using thin copper wire however I decided to retro-fit some further detail.  I bent the wires back to scrape off the molded detail and proceeded with adding my own:

Starboard side showing the new leads...

... and the port side receives similar treatment

That's it for now.  In the next post I will tackle the back of the engine vis-a-vis connections to the firewall.

Monday 10 August 2015

Macchi C.205 'Veltro' - (1:48 Tauro Model) Part 2

Welcome back.

In this second post on the Macchi build we will look at adding more detail to the firewall area.  Reference photographs show how busy this area is with all sorts of cables and pipes, most of which will be clearly visible through the wheel wells.

When adding this type of complex detail it is always a good idea to work in layers and plan ahead. W start by adding the detail that's in the background (closer to the firewall) and work our way outwards.  First of is a wiring loom that runs across the firewall itself.

This was done by twisting together four strands of very thin copper wire held together with a thin strip of aluminium sheet using superglue.  Once dry the excess aluminum is cut using a sharp blade:

After test-fitting the wire to the fire wall it is glued in place again using superglue.

The trick is to work in sections.  First the right-hand side end is glued in place.  Then the wire is bent to the desired position and glued again where it will change direction.  The process is repeated as many times as necessary.

Next some structural detail is added using thin plastic strips.

The next step is to prepare the largest bits of plumbing as these are very evident and will take up most of the space.  They will also dictate what other bits of detail will be allowed in this area.

The flexible piping is simulated by coiling thin copper wire around lengths of other wires of varying thicknesses.  Detail such as clips is added in a similar fashion to the wiring loom above.

These 'pipes' are bent to the desired position, using photographs for reference

At this stage it is very important to determine the sequence in which these bits of plumbing will be glued.  Their relative thickness implies that they are hard to bend around each-other so it is a good idea to jot down this sequence as you are dry-fitting the parts to see which should go in first.

Progress at this stage is somewhat slow, it literally takes hours to prepare and test fit the parts including the numerous corrections until the bends are just right!

That's all for now... thanks for watching.