Wednesday 9 September 2015

Arado Ar 234 "Blitz" (Hobbycraft 1:48) Part 3

The Cockpit (cont)

In Part 3 of this series of posts on the Arado Ar 234 build, we will take a look at the aircraft’s instrument panel and how it has been detailed to add more interest to the cockpit.

As explained in Part 2, the Arado’s glazed nose section exposes a lot of cockpit detail that would normally be hidden in other aircraft.  This is particularly true for the instrument panel, where all of its wiring and supporting structure is clearly visible.

The front of the instrument panel has been detailed using an aftermarket photo-etched part which has much crisper detail than the kit part itself.  On the other hand, the detail on the back has been scratch-built using various bits of copper wire and plastic.

Let’s take a closer look at the process.


The first task is to clean the kit part, removing all detail from both sides of the panel using a small file.   

Filing off the kit detail
The photo-etch instrument bezels are then glued to the cleaned-up plastic panel.  At this point it was very apparent that the plastic panel is actually larger than it’s supposed to be, probably because of the way the kit is meant to go together.    Given that I was going to add the supporting structure as found on the real aircraft, I could trim the panel down to size using the photo-etched part as a guide.

That’s all there is to it with respect to the front of the panel.  We will now have a look at the much more interesting process of detailing the back. 

Wiring Up

The first step is to glue in place the individual instrument backs which were made using ‘slices’ of plastic rod.  Rods of different diameters were used to represent the different instrument sizes.

Adding the instrument 'backs'

At this stage I also bent some wire into the proper shape and glued it to the instrument panel.  This will help me handle the instrument panel better and will eventually become its the bottom support frame.

All instrument 'backs' in place 
The instruments are then drilled out using a twist-drill in preparation for wiring.  Slotting and gluing the copper wire strands into these holes will help create a stronger bond and makes bending the wires into shape that much easier.
Adding the wiring loom

Rest of the wires are added, ready to be bent into shape

The wires are then bent into shape and trimmed to the required length.

The finished wiring

The instrument panel from the front.
At this point the wire acting as the support frame is cut and bent into shape and the whole assembly is test-fitted to the rest of the cockpit:

Test fitting the instrument panel
The assembly as seen from the front

Adding the rest of the supports

On the real aircraft, the instrument panel is supported from the top and back by a tubular structure which connects to the rest of the nose framing.  Getting the angles right in such a situation can be tricky so as a starting point I plot out the instrument panel position with respect to the ‘canopy’ as shown below.  This was done by dry-fitting the panel to the cockpit and securing the canopy in place with some masking tape.  I then measured the distances using a flexible rule.

Plotting the instrument panel position with respect to the 'canopy'
The first bit of wire is bent to shape using the template as a guide.  It is important to get the angles right at this stage and any extra length of wire can be trimmed later.

The second length of wire is added and both are secured to the template using some masking tape as shown below:

Securing the wire with masking tape

Finally I add a tiny drop of superglue with the help of another bit of wire, just enough to bond the two parts of the structure together.  This the most delicate part of the process as putting too much glue will fix the whole assembly to the paper template.

This process was repeated once more to create two identical assemblies which are then glued in place at the back of the instrument panel.

Finally, the whole assembly is once more test fitted in place to check out the dimensions and trim any excess.

That concludes todays post which focused on adding detail to the instrument panel which is a very prominent feature in Arado Ar 234’s cockpit.

Part 4 will focus on the other end of the cockpit specifically the seat and bulkhead and hopefully conclude the chapter on the cockpit.  I’m treating the canopy itself, with its intricate framing, as a separate project and will be tackled in future posts.

In the meantime Happy Modelling.

Saturday 5 September 2015

Arado Ar 234 "Blitz" (Hobbycraft 1:48) Part 2

The Cockpit

One of the Arado 234's striking characteristics is its completely glazed nose which exposes much more cockpit detail than would normally be seen on more 'conventional' aircraft.

In my previous post I had promised myself (and anyone reading for that matter) that this would be a straight-forward, no-frills build but after looking at a number of photos of the last surviving Ar 234 I just could not help myself - that cockpit begs to be detailed.


As previously mentioned, I had a number of aftermarket detail parts for this kit, a fair number of which are resin.  This is especially true for the cockpit as the entire cockpit tub, detail and rear bulkhead are resin parts, so the first thing to do was to clean the various bits.

Quick Tip
Resin dust is hazardous for the lungs.  Make sure to wear a protective mask when sanding, cutting, drilling and cleaning resin parts and clean your work-space when you're done.  You may find it convenient to work on all the resin bits in one go.

The Cockpit Tub

After preparing all the resin, I started working on the cockpit tub.  I needed to use the rudder pedal supports from the original kit part so they were sawed off using the same micro-saws used to cut out the wing control surfaces as shown in part 1 of this series.

Removing the original rudder pedal supports
These were then glued to the resin cockpit floor using super glue.

Transplant complete
Once dry I proceeded to add the photo-etch rudder pedals which are much nicer than the plastic parts that come with the kit.  These were bent into shape with the help of some tweezers and fixed in place using super glue.

The rudder pedals are fixed in place
Quick Tip

Use a sharp round edge of a number 10 blade to separate photo etch parts from their fret.  Make sure to cut on a hard surface such as a metal block to prevent the fret from bending when you apply pressure.  Try to be as precise as you can and cut as close to the part as possible as filing away any extra bits can be tricky.

I then tackled the control column which was also supplied in resin and is much more accurate than it's plastic counterpart.  The aftermarket control column came in two parts, the column itself and the handlebars.  I wasn't happy with the detail on the handle bars - which is another way of saying I broke them whilst cleaning off all the flash - so I fashioned my own using some copper wire.  You can see the result next to the original kit part in the image below:

Comparing the control columns, resin (and copper) part on the left, plastic on the right
Control column in place

Preparing for the instrument panel

The instrument panel on the Ar 234 is held in place by a number of supports, two of which come out from a "U" shaped panel on the front of the cockpit tub.  The kit instructions would have you glue the instrument panel directly to the canopy... something I would like to avoid because a) it's not accurate and b) it just would not look right.  First off the "U" panel...

The following sequence of photographs shows how this was fashioned out of plastic-card:

Marking the cross-section using lower half of glazed nose

The marked cross-section on strip of masking tape

Cross section cut out and tape transferred to plastic sheet

The cut panel

The finished item

Here's a shot of the panel, fixed in place and drilled in preparation for the instrument panel supports. The gap seen on the left is due to the cockpit tub shifting whilst taking the photo. 
I also added some wiring detail to the rudder pedals.

"U" Panel added to the cockpit

Coming next...

In the next post I will tackle the fiddly instrument panel itself, including the scratch built wiring and supports.