WW2 Scale Model Aircraft - Kits and Modelling
The small pleasure of model aircraft building
As a hobby, scale modelling is both historically interesting, absorbing and (especially for those whose working life is far removed from practical tasks) highly relaxing. This lens is set up principally to allow me to catalogue my growing collection of scale model aircraft kits and to share my impressions of them when I (finally) get around to building them, in the hope that this will in due course be of use to someone else. All opinions are of course my own, based on the particular kit I have before me, and are by no means those of an expert modeller.
My kits for sale
A selection of keenly-priced kits and other modelling impedimenta, surplus to my collection
My areas of interest
Broadly speaking my interest is focused on aircraft which served, or could conceivably have served, in WW2. Within that group I particularly collect Allied aircraft. However I am always on the lookout for interesting aircraft in kit form, and rarely turn my back on a bargain, hence the beginning of a rather eclectic collection...
Model-building tips for fellow novices
Some fairly hard-earned hints!
The first thing I would suggest is getting a toolkit together. This need not be fancy, but at least will mean that you have all you need to hand, and in one place. The next thing, I would suggest, is to sort out your modelling area/surface. Whether this is a dedicated room (lucky you!), a workbench or even a tray covered in newspaper, having it sorted out now will save trouble later. Wherever you do your modelling, ensure that it is well-ventilated, as the paints and glues are quite volatile and strong smelling. Good light is also important. Having sorted out your modelling space and tools, choose your kit in accordance with your area of interest and level of modelling skill. (Most kits will have some indication of skill levels on them, generally predicated on the number of parts in the kit. For WW2 modellers a monoplane fighter is generally a good bet, better in some respects than biplanes as the question of wing stagger and strut placement do not arise. A starter kit is often a good purchase as, even though they are not necessarily chosen from the simplest kits, they do come with paints and often glues and brushes too.
The next point is to carefully read your instructions and ensure (i) you have all the parts in the kit and (ii) you have the paints you need (particularly important if you are painting as you go along). Personally, I find it helpful, where I am painting parts on the sprue, to take a coloured pencil and shade in the assembly diagram to remind me what part needs to be painted which shade. Whether you do that or not, a pencil is well worth having to annotate the instructions with the odd note or aide memoire.
When assembling, leave the parts on the sprue for as long as possible (or store them *very* securely) and when you do remove them, do so with side cutters or scissors, being careful to cut the sprue not the part. Then use your sandpaper or file to smooth down the nub and take off any flash. Dry-fit parts first and use your glue sparingly, using Contacta or a similar clear-drying glue on the transparent parts if your budget will stretch to it. Do make use of aids such as a "Helping Hands", cocktail stick and blu-tack arrangement, or even the model box lid to steady the model whilst you are assembling it and do consider using some sort of plastic putty to fill in gaping joints or mis-mouldings.
In relation to painting, be willing to apply several coats to achieve the desired effect and use masking tape to achieve clean lines where necessary (e.g. when painting Allied "Invasion Stripes" and the like). Also keep a wet cloth or white spirit-impregnated rag handy to correct the odd (more or less inevitable) mistake! Finally (unless of course you get into diorama building) there is the matter of applying decals. Careful study of the positioning of the decals and relation of them to the panel lines on the actual model itself will stand you in good stead here and save much messing about and repositioning (which can usually be achieved with a generous application of water to the transfer and surrounding area should you need to.) It will also help you to make judgements in the (sadly not uncommon) event that the transfers are too large!
Finally, sit back and be proud of what you have achieved!
Amazon - books on kits and modelling
An excellent guide to the breadth and depth of the Airfix range through its distinguished history
A great little pocket history of Airfix, well illustrated as is expected of these fine litle books
Very engaging, and there is also a good looking step by step build guide for a Spitfire PRXIX which I am itching to follow!
Hints and tips on scale modelling by a master builder. I want this book!
Box art by the legendary Roy Cross. What more can I say...?
My first kit - Italeri Spitfire Mk Vb starter kit
A good kit for the beginner
I took up model aircraft building again for something to do on my summer holiday and this convenient little kit was the first I bought and built.
A good first kit which fitted together well, with detailed instructions and parts, decals and paint schemes for three versions - a Malta based Spit of 249 sqn, a North African clipped-wing version belonging to 244 Wing, and, more unusually, a USAAC version based with 355th Fighter Sqn of 4th Fighter Group operating out of Deben (UK). Unfortunately the supplied paints (mid green and grey acrylic) only support the latter paint scheme - it would have been nice to have had the other options. A nice basic kit nonetheless and very good value for money. (I am just finishing the glue, 19 models later!)
ITALERI "Home Play"
Supermarine Spitfire Mk Vb
Starter kit inc paints, glue, brush
Build 8 - PM Models Supermarine Spitfire MkVb Floatplane conversion
An inexpensive and enjoyable little kit of a rare Spitfire variant
This is an inexpensive and interesting little kit, generally retailing for about Â£3 (in fact examples quite often come up in the "Spitfire Kits" eBay module below - although expect it to get increasingly rare now that the company is no more and the moulds scrapped). Apart from the novel subject matter, the fact that the kit as given has to have some conversion work done on the fuselage in order to fit the replacement rudder gives the project some added interest, as an easy way in to the world of kit conversion. It is perhaps not a kit for absolute beginners for that reason, however.
Other little foibles include the mouldings (perhaps it is just me but I found a number of gaps, perhaps more than I had expected, in the finished model), the completely detail-free cockpit (probably a holdover from the original Mk Vb donor kit - compare with the same manufacturer's Mk Vc kit reviewed below), the lack of locating guides for the float assemblies (in line with what I said about the need for some conversion work, above), and the decals, which look a little bright and have that nasty Revell trick of leaving the white surfaces (in this case the stripe on the tailplane emblem) clear. Finally, critically assess and do your research in relation to the instructions when they tell you to remove the 20mm cannon barrels, because they appear to have been there on the real thing!
Supermarine Spitfire MkVb Floatplane
Build 9 - Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk1
A very nice kit producing a good-looking model of these early Spits. I chose to make it up as one of the very first Spitfires, with the pre-bubble canopy, black and white underside and two-blades wooden propeller, but there is everything there should you wish to make it into the classic Battle of Britain Mk IIa. Apart from the nice shape, it has a reasonably well-detailed cockpit for a relatively inexpensive kit and the generous provision of extras makes it very useful for the spare parts bin! I really enjoyed this kit, the only quibble I have with it being the decals designed to represent the patches of red-doped fabric pasted over the gunports, which I really couldn't persuade to stay on.
Airfix Mk1 Spitfire, No 19(F) Sqn, RAF Duxford, August 1938
Skill level 1
Build 16 - PM Models Spitfire Mk Vc Tropical - A pleasing basic build
Not a bad-looking kit. Keenly priced at 3 Euros 50. Very simple, with no cockpit detail at all and no wheel-wells either. For a wheels-down version these will need to be painted-in - fortunately the one-piece wing has raised line detailing to facilitate this. Landing gear is awkward to position. The kit benefits from two paint schemes (which you might not know from the box), one USAAF (Tunisia, mid 1943) as per box-top, and one RAF. I am making the latter, for 154 Squadron, Djidjelli, December 1942. The schemes are quite stark, middle stone over dark earth, although I don't think my Revell sand was quite the right choice - too yellow. I am hampered by lack of a decent Azure Blue for the undersurfaces, Apparently the new formulation of Humbrol 157 is the thing, if one can find it. I could only find the old one, which looks nice but is too dark.
Spitfire Mk Vc Tropical
Circa 20 pieces
No level of difficulty given but low
Build 3 - Bell P-39Q Airacobra
A good looking model but a slightly frustrating build
This made for an interesting but slightly frustrating build. Whilst of good shape the balance is such that the nose needs to be heavily weighted (a fact which I found out almost too late) if you wish to put the tricycle undercarriage down. In addition the drop tank has no locating holes, nor is it found ony the painting instructions. The arrangements for the undercarriage and its flaps are also poor- again no locating aids. Interestingly, the Red stars on the wings and rear fuselage have coloured backings, which I initially thought was perverseness on Airfix's part, but which apparently is to represent the hasty painting-out of the original US fuselage stars.
Bell P-39Q Airacobra
Model no A01039
Skill level 1
Build 6 - Airfix Boulton Paul Defiant NF.1
An interesting build thanks to the rotating turret
I always found the Defiant an interesting if rather quixotic aircraft and this model of it was an enjoyable build with no real vices (save that the national emblems for the tailplane were too big), a slight mistake in the installation of the quad Brownings being entirely my fault. The model is well-engineered and the fact that the turret is dry-installed, thus allowing it to rotate, is a pleasing touch. I chose to paint it up as the nightfighter variant for a number of reasons, including that it represented the Defiant's most successful role, that I am familiar with the airfield the chosen aircraft operated out of, and plain laziness! Regardless, it looks very effective.
Boulton Paul Defiant NF1
Skill level 1
Build 7 - Airfix Gloster Sea Gladiator Mk 1, N5519, 'R', 'Charity' of the Hal Far Fighter Flight, Hal Far, Malta, June 1940
A sound model kit of this legendary aircraft
This interesting offering is a reissue of Airfix's classic 1956 kit, complete with solid cockpit with the pilot's head and shoulders moulded into the fuselage! I chose this kit over the slightly cheaper Revell alternative as, as well as decals for a pre-war Mk1 (K6142 72F Sqn RAF Church Fenton 1937), it also had the decals to make a WW2 Gladiator (the Revell kit only has decals for one, pre-WW2, Gladiator variant). I was particularly delighted when I realised that I could make my choice of any one of the famous trio of Faith, Hope and Charity, who so valiantly defended Malta in those crucial weeks in June 1940. (I chose Charity in light of the slightly more interesting paint scheme supplied.) This is a good one for the spare decals box as the provision is quite generous, and a spare Mk1 propeller is provided too. Although not boasting a huge number of parts and being in some respects quite a simple kit, nonetheless I would concur with the kit's skill level of two, as the positioning of the wings was quite fiddly for me (something which I understand Airfix address in their re-tooling of the kit), as was the fitting of the engine cowling (I had to sand down the receiving end of the fuselage quite a bit before I was happy with the fit). Other foibles are that the painting guide, because there is no face-on depiction of the aircraft, doesn't give any guidance as to what colour to paint the cylinders and, once again, (cf. the Boulton & Paul Defiant) the tailplane decals were too tall. Nonetheless one of my favourite models.
Gloster Gladiator/Sea Gladiator Mk1
Skill level 2
A professional modeller does the Gladiator kit! - How a professional does it!
- Paul Ooi Modelworks builds a fine Mk1 Gloster Gladiator
A superb, largely straight-out-of-the-box, build of this kit, showing what a really skilled pair of hands can do with even the most commonplace kit. read and enjoy!
Airfix Fairey Battle light bomber
A kit of this ill-fated British light bomber, in a choice of RAF and Royal Hellenic Airforce colours. Bought Modelzone, December 2012.
Build 10 - Airfix Westland Whirlwind Mk 1 starter kit
A comprehensive starter set for the novice
This nice kit of this interesting WW2 fighter scores over many other starter kits by supplying not one but two brushes and a full range of six paints covering the colour scheme on the back of the box. It is also skill level 1, making it particularly suitable for beginners. I enjoyed putting this one together although I found it challenging to cut the undercarriage flaps in half as directed, in order to make the undercarriage-down version. It is also one of my better paint jobs, painted up (as per box) to represent aircraft P7102 'P.SF', 'Comrades in Arms', of 137(F) Squadron, RAF Matlask, in June 1942.
Westland Whirlwind Mk 1
Skill level 1
Starter kit with paints, brushes and glue
A nice present and possible future collectable - Airfix El Alamein kit
One of the classic Airfix "Dogfight Doubles" - a special boxing for Modelzone
An imposing-looking kit, comprising Curtiss Tomahawk IIb, Messerschmitt Bc 109E-4B Trop, 10 acrylic paints*, 2 brushes and poly cement and a display stand. This was a special boxing, just for Modelzone, to commemorate the 2012 70th anniversary of the Battle of el Alamein. Given the recent unhappy demise of that company, it could become a collectors' piece of the future.
*5ml pots of Humbrol 11, 29, 31, 33, 34, 89, 93, 118, 154 and 157 (Azure blue - although this is apparently the old, too dark,mix rather than the correct lighter shade).
Build 14 - Yakovlev Yak 9D by Airfix - A variation on the usual colour scheme - White 100, Warszawa Regiment
Having seen the proposed colour scheme for this particular aircraft described by informed sources as a "joke", I determined to to do a little research myself, finding on the wonderful Wings Palette website the grey on grey (AMT12 Dark Grey and AMT 14 Blue-Grey) scheme which you see before you. For the medium grey I used Humbrol 106 (Ocean Green apparently, although it doesn't look it to me!) whilst the darker grey is Humbrol 79 (Blue Grey). The under surfaces are Humbrol 65 (Aircraft Blue). Decals are as suppplied, and represent a Yakovlev Yak 9D of the (Polish) Warszawa Regiment in Spring 1945, White 100 as flown by M. Chaustowicz/Haustowicz, a pilot with one kill to his credit. The alternative, White 86, is I believe a Yak 9DD - the longer range version - which I did not make as I could not find a convincing colour scheme for it. I think that the grey on grey is a good-looking scheme, much preferable to the green on black proposed, which although possibly authentic can, depending upon the shades chosen, look quite garish.
The aircraft itself was quite an enjoyable build, although I was warned that it would need work and in this respect it did not disappoint. In particular, I had to use plastic putty to reform the rather deformed nose air intake, drill out the wing root intakes slightly, and take my hobby knife to the cockpit opening to widen it enough for the cockpit to sit right, whilst one of the undercarriage legs was on the short side. The tailplane was also twisted, which unfortunately I noticed too late to do anything about it. There was a lot of flash on the sprues (unlike the old Matchbox MkIX Spitfire kit I was examining yesterday, which was beautifully clean by comparison) thus suggesting a mould on its way out. Nonetheless I still enjoyed the build, in part for the research element, and feel that it was well worth the Â£2.99 I paid for it.
Airfix Yakovlev Yak 9D(D)
2 decal options
Skill level 1
Build 19 - Airfix Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf109 E 4 - A nice new offering from the Airfix stable
This, a bootleg Project Airfix Messerschmitt Bf109E-4, makes up as 'plane 9 of Jagdgeschwader 26, operating out of Caffiers, France in August 1940. It was made up in basic Battle of Britain configuration as illustrated on the inlay card, without the fighter-bomber and drop tank options available. Whilst an attractive piece, the moulding displays a bit of sinking on the underside of the nose around air filters, and the cockpit transparency is either too short or the aperture too wide. Overall, a nice little model with Battle of Britain period colour scheme (nb: avoid trying to paint the "splinter" camouflage scheme freehand, as I did!) and decals.
Messerschmitt Bf109-E 4
Circa 50 pieces including optional for a tropicalised E 7
Skill level 1
NB this kit is also available in a different boxing as A2048A, with parts for the abovementioned E 4 and a tropicalised E 7 in mottled livery. An interesting alternative to this kit is the inexpensive A1008 - a boxing of famous German escaper Franz von Werra's Bf109E-4.
Build 21 - 1/72 Airfix American Volunteer Group Curtiss Hawk 81
Airfix Curtiss 81 Hawk
This is one of the handsome new Airfix toolings and it shows, with good detail and very little flash. It is also decent of them to expend this expertise on one of their entry-level series 1 kits which, at a MRRP of Â£5.99 are their cheapest commercially-available kits.
The kit, which as a series 1 product contains one set of decals, represents a Curtiss Hawk of the American Volunteer Group flying out of Kunming, China, and is the personal mount of Flight Leader Charles Older. It is generously provided with decals and, although some question has been raised as to the authenticity of the very light blue in the China national emblem roundels, overall they are highly satisfactory and make for a convincing effect when placed on the painted model. The build has no particular vices and is impressive in its detail and the solidity of the end product. It certainly shows the way forward for the Airfix kits of the future.
Build 22 - 1/72 Airfix RAF/RAAF Brewster Buffalo - Opening shots of the Pacific War
Airfix Brewster Buffalo
Effectively evoking the barrel shape of the undeniably tubby original, the old Airfix Brewster Buffalo is an engaging build. The Buffalo is an old enough kit that the sky stripe around the rear fuselage of the RAAF version requires to be painted on rather than, as is common these days, being supplied as a decal, a catch which I discovered almost too late! With this build I was inspired to try a little weathering, in this case a simple all-over black wash. Although a little heavy-handed it was quite effective, and I may try it again. As another first it is also the first model I have varnished. Whilst certainly not a problem-free build - I managed to put the engine collector ring on lopsided and unseat the entire seat/floor assembly at one point! - I think that was down to me rather than any inherent vices in the kit. My one criticism would be the instructions. This kit covers two versions of the actual aircraft, one USN version with carrier equipment and one RAF/RAAF version which I later found out should be without this. It wasn't clear with one or two exceptions what equipment related to which version and so my Buffalo is slightly overequipped!
Painted with a somewhat temperamental Humbrol 226 Interior Green, 29 Dark Earth and 30 Dark Green with bisected underside of 33 Matt Black and 90 Sky.
Build 26 - Flt Lt J.B. Nicolson's Hurricane Mk.1 G-NA - The personal mount of the only Fighter Command V.C. winner of WW2
This is J.B. Nicolson VC's Mk.1 Hawker Hurricane G-NA. The kit was Airfix's old-tool Mk.1, from their "V.C. Icons" boxing, which offers very good value for those who don't mind older toolings.
GN-A was a significant aircraft, being the 'plane in which Flight Lieutenant Nicolson won the only Battle of Britain Victoria Cross and Fighter Command's only VC of the war, an exploit described in the following extract:
Air Ministry, 15 November 1940.
The KING has been graciously pleased to confer the Victoria Cross on the undermentioned officer in recognition of most conspicuous bravery
Flight Lieutenant James Brindley NICOLSON (39329) No. 249 Squadron.
During an engagement with the enemy near Southampton on 16th August 1940, Flight Lieutenant Nicolson's aircraft was hit by four cannon shells, two of which wounded him whilst another set fire to the gravity tank. When about to abandon his aircraft owing to flames in the cockpit he sighted an enemy fighter. This he attacked and shot down, although as a result of staying in his burning aircraft he sustained serious burns to his hands, face, neck and legs. Flight Lieutenant Nicolson has always displayed great enthusiasm for air fighting and this incident shows that he possesses courage and determination of a high order. By continuing to engage the enemy after he had been wounded and his aircraft set on fire, he displayed exceptional gallantry and disregard for the safety of his own life.
Unfortunately Wing Commander Nicolson did not survive the war. For more on his career see here:Â http://en.wikipedia....indley_Nicolson
As a build it was pleasant and uncomplicated and it came out looking quite like a Hurricane to my eyes, which is the main thing! Although not really a scratchbuilder by inclination, I was nonetheless moved to do some fairly rudimentary, impressionistic (and now completely invisible) cockpit detailing, put in a cockpit floor to fill the gaping void which would otherwise have been visible through the wheel-wells, and cobble together a pitot tube and a foot stirrup (the latter being made out of a twist of picture wire.) I also had another go at weathering with a combination of dark washes and silver paint on the leading edges, which were then overpainted with some gaps to simulate chipping/flaking. I also tried to do some exhaust staining, which I think was slightly more successful. My painting still leaves something to be desired, though, and I *very* swiftly regretted forgetting to mask-off the cockpit canopy before I sprayed-on the varnish...
Overall, this was an enjoyable build, and should be well within the competency of a starting modeller, producing a very presentable end product although it is quite light on detail and the more experienced or ambitious modeller might prefer to focus on the new tool Airfix Hurricane instead.
Other kits in my collection - Airfix - The Airfix list
Mostly yet to be made! Airfix is the epomymous British maker of plastic kits for many British hobbyists.
- Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a, Â£2.49 Ian Allan, January 2013
Airfix Grumman Widgeon/Gosling, Â£2.99, Modelzone, February 2013
Airfix Hawker Hurricane MkIIc, Â£4.99, Modelzone, November 2012
Airfix Westland Whirlwind starter kit, Christmas present, Christmas 2012
Airfix Petalykov PE2, Â£4.99, Modelzone, November 2012
Airfix Boulton Paul Defiant, Â£2.99, Hobbycraft (made as nightfighter variant)
Airfix Hawker Typhoon, Â£1.00, Hobbycraft
Airfix Supermarine Spitfire XIX PR, gift from my wife and daughter, June 2012 (to be made as a WW2 variant using Xtradecal aftermarket transfers)
Airfix Yakolev Yak 9D, Â£2.99, Modelzone, April 2012
Airfix Fairey Fulmar, Â£5.69, Ian Allan, November 2012
Airfix Gloster Gladiator, 6 Euros, Netherlands, August 2012 (making as one of the Malta Sea Gladiators)
Airfix Brewster Buffalo, Â£4.99, Modelzone
Airfix Bell Airacobra, Â£2.99, Modelzone, March 2012 (made as Russian lend-lease variant)
Airfix Fairey Battle, Â£4.99, Modelzone
Airfix "Dogfight Doubles" El Alamein kit (Tropicalised Bf109 and Curtiss Tomahawk), Christmas present
Airfix Supermarine Spitfire Mk I/IIa, Â£5, Finklegate Team Room, Richmond (making as Mk I)
A scale modeller at work - Modelling theRevell P51-D Mustang
A fascinating time-lapse film
Build 31 - 1/72 Revell GLOSTER GLADIATOR Mk1, Groupe de Chasse 'Alsace', Egypt, 1942 - A nice kit of a classic pre-War RAF fighter
A roughly 30-piece model kit of skill level 3, this kit scores over its more pedestrian Airfix competitor (the reissue of a 1956 tooling, NOT the excellent recent re-tooling) by virtue of improved detailing (a full-body pilot with a seat to sit on resting on a floor, and separate wing-mounted Browning machine gun pods, as opposed to a solid cockpit with moulded head and shoulders and moulded-in wing mounts) and also by the detailed rigging diagram. (These issues have now been addressed in Airfix's A2052 2013 re-tool.) It also features the classic pre-War aluminium finish, with decals for 3(F) Squadron, RAF Kenley, 1938. A nice little kit, I chose to build mine as an ex-80 Sqn example being operated by the Free French Airforce, Groupe de Chasse 'Alsace', in Egypt, circa 1942. Possibly a training aircraft? The decals are by Carpena (now Colorado), from part 1 of their Free French Airforce set. For added realism, I scratch-built a rear shelf and also (with reference to the one extant photograph and profiles of other 80 Sqn machines) a tropical air filter.
Build 4 - Revell P51-D Mustang "Cookie"
A sound starter kit, but perhaps not for the absolute beginner
A nice, very eye-catching model with all of that silver, but not perfect - for example there is a lot of flash on the transparent cockpit canopy. Also shows up the limitation of the starter kit format - the set comes with three colours but needs six if it is to look like the box (a problem which would be obviated by a slightly more generous provision of transfers - does anyone really enjoy painting Invasion Stripes?) Finally, be aware that the 'white' parts of the fuselage stars are in fact clear, a fact which I realised too late!
Skill 3 (possibly a little high?)
Starter kit with paints and glue
Build 13 - Vintage Matchbox 1/72 Republic P47-D Thunderbolt
The famous and feared "Jug".
This came as a vintage open box but complete and unstarted Matchbox 2-colour US P47D Thunderbolt fighter, the famous "Flying Jug" (short for juggernaught, reflecting its toughness and ability to outdive any opponent). The attractive kit comes in a choice of 9th Airforce (I.e. tactical airforce for the invasion of Europe) colours - 404th Fighter Group, June 1944 or 373rd Fighter Group, August 1944. It comprises circa 35 pieces in light and dark blue plastic (as part of Matchbox's famous "Mini Paint Plan" which allowed younger modellers in particular to display the 'planes, with minimal detail painting, quickly in their full bi-coloured glory!). It also came complete with patented Matchbox multi-position display stand for displaying the model in flight (which I haven't used, preferring undercarriage-down models). A good fun make of an important fighter, and an imposing model even in 1 7/2 scale. I chose to make it up as a 373rd Fighter Group aircraft partly because I wasn't sure I had enough Olive Drab, but mainly because I like silver aircraft! The box art with this kit is classic and features a great illustration of 404th FG Thunderbolts trainbusting on D-Day.
Circa 35 pieces
No skill level given
Build 24 - 1/72 Revell Blackburn Skua - The Fleet Air Arm's workhorse Fleet Fighter Dive Bomber
The Fleet Air Arm's first monoplane, Blackburn's Skua suffered from the contradictions inherent in its dual-purpose nature. Space limitations aboard the Royal Navy's armoured-deck fleet carriers drove Their Lordships to seek to combine their fleet defence and and strike bomber capacity in a single aircraft, thus complementing their existing TSR (Torpedo Strike Reconnaisance) capacity - another dual role, in this case filled by the justly legendary Fairey Swordfish. The Skua's poor reputation is largely predicated on its uninspiring fighter performance (albeit that it claimed the first confirmed British fighter kill if the war) but judged as a dive bomber, its primary purpose as Their Lordships made clear, it was fit for purpose. Its tragedy was that, after the sinking of the Konigsberg - itself the first major warship to be sunk by dive bombing - it never really got the chance to show what it could do.
Revell's rather basic ex-Matchbox Skua mould displays the limitation of its age in its absence of cockpit details, arrester hook, bomb crutch and pitot tube but nonetheless provides a passable surface likeness to the ungainly Skua. With two decal options, I chose to make L6G, of no 759 Squadron, Fleet Fighter School, RNAS Eastleigh, in its Dunkirk fighter cover incarnation. Note, however, that there are questions as to whether the underside of the wings of this aircraft were painted standard RAF black and white or Sky Grey, as illustrated (a hard colour to match, by the way, I ended up using Hu 40). Also note that the overhead views for the two paint schemes have been transposed! These things aside, a satisfying basic build.
Blackburn Skua II
Revell Supermarine Stranraer
This large and impressive model kit was an Amazon gift token acquisition (which I am now passing on) and looks set to be quite a challenge for the eventual owner!
My model kits - Revell
A high quality German maker of an interesting range of well-priced kits.
- Revell MiG 3, Â£2.50, Modelzone, July 2012
Revell Macchi Saetta, 4.95 Euros, Netherlands, August 2012
Revell Blackburn Skua, Â£2.00, eBay
Revell PB4 Y-2 Privateer, Â£8.00, eBay
Revell Supermarine Stranraer flying boat, Â£16.30, Amazon, January 2013
Revell P47D-30 Thunderbolt, Â£1.50, eBay
Revell P51-D Mustang, Â£3.99, Ian Allan, Cardiff (starter kit)
Revell Fairey Swordfish, Â£2.00, eBay
Revell Supermarine Walrus, Â£2.99, Modelzone
My model kits - Matchbox and Heller
Two good makers, grouped together as many of the kits of the now sadly defunct "Matchbox" label appeared later with Heller badging. As a French maker, Heller had an unsurprisingly good range of WW2 French aircraft kits. Matchbox kits are chiefly remarkable for their two-toned plastic parts and good clean mouldings.
- Heller Curtiss P-40E Warhawk (RAAF markings)
- Matchbox Curtiss SBC-4 Helldiver (vintage - one of their classic "two tone" kits)
- Revell, Supermarine Stranraer ( Matchbox tooling)
- Heller, Caudron Renault 714 Cyclone
Build 15 - Heller Caudron Renault 714 Cyclone - An interesting, but ultimately unsuccessful lightweight fighter
This is an interesting production from the well-known French firm of Heller, part of their fine range of World War Two aircraft of the Armee de l'Air. It represents a Caudron Renault 714 Cyclone, an aircraft of racing 'plane pedigree which failed to distinguish itself in France (although the type did claim twelve kills at the hands of the dedicated Polish pilots of 1/145 squadron during the Battle for France). The craft is chiefly interesting as an example of the emergency/lightweight fighter genre, designed around an existing airframe and built from wood to conserve strategic materials, but failed owing to its weak engine, which led to problems including a deficient rate of climb but could not, owing to the design, be replaced. 80 were to be shipped to Finland but only 6 appear to have arrived in airworthy condition and it is not clear whether these saw much action. In terms of the model itself, some parts are quite flimsy, but the kit benefits from neat presentation, and it was a fairly easy build. The decals came off their backing very readily, and I enjoyed the unusual paint scheme. Overall an interesting project.
Caudron Renault 714 Groupe de Chasse 1/145 (Polish), France, June 1940
No skill level given
Build 18 - Royal Airforce Curtiss Cleveland I by Matchbox
Not a bad kit, and an interesting subject. Available to be made up as either a USN Curtiss SBC-4 Helldiver of the USS Enterprise in 1940 or a Curtiss Cleveland I of A flight, 24 Sqn RAF, Hendon, October 1940. I chose the latter - one of only five aircraft, which ended their days as ground instructional airframes. (Their French stablemates, the remainder of an order of 50, were en route to France aboard the aircraft carrier Bearn when France surrendered and rotted out their war in Martinique.) Nice mouldings with very little flash. I don't think I would have worked out how to put together the undercarriage without outside reference sources, and I have some queries about whether the underside should be Trainer Yellow or Sky but a good build nonetheless.
Curtiss SBC-4 Helldiver/Cleveland I
Circa 42 parts
Level of difficulty 2? (Purple, 2 dots)
Build 2 - Testors Imperial Japanese A6M-Zero Fighter
Excellent starter kit, especially for a child
Very simple construction in slightly translucent white plastic with a one piece wing, but a good shape and satisfying build. Excellent value for money, although there is no provision for an undercarriage and no parts are provided, whilst the flying mount provided is very flimsy. A perfect candidate for the old string dangling from the ceiling treatment?
Imperial Japanese A6M Zero
Model no 861004
Skill level 2 (Although I think this is too high - it is hard to see what a skill level 1 kit would consist of if one this easy is a 2!)
Build 5 - Master Craft Polish PZL P-11c Fighter
An interesting build from a little-known manufacturer
An interesting subject and a well-moulded kit with very little flash, although I did have some trouble with the wing spars and undercarriage.
The instructions were mostly very good and clear and decals were provided for a generous number of variants (I chose the flashiest, even though they were a beast to apply!)
Master Craft Hobby Kits
PZL P11c KOP
B-08 2 series, model no020088
Build 17 - PM Models Royal Netherlands Airforce Fokker DXXI - The poor countries' fighter!
I mentioned above PM Models' Spitfire Mk Vc. Their Fokker is a different beast, rarer, a little more expensive and also slightly more complicated, but only slightly. It does at least have a floor and pilot's seat though! It comes in two versions, a wheeled-undercarriage Royal Netherlands Airforce 1940 one and a ski-equipped Finnish Airforce 1941 example, with the necessary fixtures. The shape is quite good to my eyes, (albeit that the legs appear a little long) and the wheels within their spatted housings rotate freely, which is a nice touch. On the minus side, a couple of the locating holes needed re-drilling (I got to use my new Archimedean drill, which worked well), the fit of the wings left something to be desired and, most damningly, the fuselage is significantly twisted about the tailplane. This may be a feature of old moulds - I have only seen it on Airfix's notoriously superannuated Yak9 before, and I suspect some at least of PM's moulds are re-treads, but it is disappointing.
Circa 36 pieces
No level of difficulty given, but would be on the low side
Build 20 - Academy Grumman F4F-4 /FM1 Naval Fighter - The famous 'Wildcat' in its General Motors "FM1" designation
Academy Grumman F4F/FM1 Wildcat
Academy's handsome little kit of the tubby yet redoubtable Grumman Wildcat (Martlet in British service), in its F4F-4 main production version of 1941 is simple but effective. To my eyes it is a sound evocation of the barrel-shaped six (or four, in this example) gun carrier fighter and well-designed, its relatively few components fitting together well. Production quality is also good, with little, if any, flash.
I particularly like the way that parts of its undercarriage assembly snap together via pins and locating holes, thus giving it a pleasing springiness and also allowing for corrections to the assembly. This is particularly useful as it is quite easy to make a mistake with this part of the kit. For those who prefer wheels-up assembly a stand is provided, although unfortunately the hole in the underside of the fuselage is fully open and so needs to be filled or blanked if wheels-down assembly is chosen. The kit also comes with two optional drop tanks with locating holes pre-drilled. I omitted these as I felt it would give a cleaner appearance but on a flying model they might be quite effective.
The kit contains one decal option, for a USN aircraft in white with M485 Blue-Gray upper surfaces. This is the livery of an FM1 (the General Motors-built version) operating off USS Block Island in 1944. I used ModelMaster Flat White for the former and Humbrol 79 for the latter, although it looks a little grey for the purpose. For the pilot's uniform I mixed an approximation of khaki but gave him a yellow, rather than orange, lifejacket. An enjoyable quick build.
Grumman F4F Wildcat
Overall, a nice compact kit of this tubby yet redoubtable US Navy fighter. Quite an old moulding but nice and clean and well thought out. Â£3.99, Hannants, January 2013.
Supermodel Reggiane Re2002 Ariete/Ram
An attractive but venerable kit, this rendition of the fighter-bomber Ariete makes up very well, although the lack of interior detail is likely to be a disappointment to the more serious modeller. The dark olive green parts appear to be well-moulded, with little flash and dry-fit together nicely. A choice of three decal schemes is provided, for Regio Aeronautica, Luftwaffe and Co-Belligerent Airforce examples. I am making the latter, in line with the broad theme of my collection. The painting instructions are fairly good, although not wholly convincing in relation to issues such as the painting of wheel-well interiors, etc. The kit can be built in wheels-up and wheels-down versions, with a clear plastic stand provided to support the former presentation. One particularly nice feature of the kit is the provision of a 250lb bomb on a swinging crutch (to throw it clear of the propeller in a dive) to facilitate the building of a dive-bomber variant.
The Re2002 was an extension of the Re2000 series (itself inspired by the Seversky P35), taking the radial engine concept from the Re2000 and the developed airframe of the inline engine Re2001. With its more damage-resistant radial engine, the result was a highly capable ground attack aircraft with qualities recognised by both the Luftwaffe, whose dedicated "Jabo" unit Geschwader Bongart used 30 for anti-partisan activities in the Aisne, Vercors and Limoges areas, and by the Allies, who used it to support partisan activities in Northern Italy and the Balkans.Â
This particular model represents a "Ram" of 239 Squadriglia, 101 or 102 Gruppo (sources differ), 5 Stormo Caccia, flying with the Italian Co-Belligerent Airforce from a dirt airfield in Palata, close to Foggia, in early 1944. (239 Squadriglia was a dive-bombing squadron and had previously flown Ju87 Stukas, including at Tobruk.)
Apparently the aircraft had the Fascist insignia painted out and, in some cases, overpainted with CBAF roundels. I have used a localised coat of matt varnish to darken the overpainted areas in imitation of this effect. Top colour was Humbrol 91 Black Green (representing Verde Oliva Scuro 2/Dark Olive Green) whilst the undersurface and interior was painted in Humbrol 127 US Ghost Grey with an admixture of Hu65 Aircraft Blue to represent Grigio Azzurro Chiaro 1 (Italian Light Blue Grey).
Ark Models Fairey Firefly F Mk 1 Naval Fighter
A kit of the classic WW2 British Fleet Air Arm naval fighter by Russian manufacturers Ark models. I wait with interest to see if there are any painting instructions (unlike in their undeniably attractive but therefore rather frustrating Dewoitine D520 kit)! Â£3.70 from Ian Allan books, December 2012.
Build 25 - Czechoslovakian Avia B.534 bi-plane fighter - "White S-12", Slovak National Uprising, Tri Duby airfield, 1944
Quite an unusual subject, the fast, manoeuverable B-534 arguably represents the apogee of biplane fighter design but sadly never really got to prove its mettle. This particular kit offered options of building as a pre-Munich Czech example or one which participated in the 1944 Slovak National Uprising.
The kit itself is old and shows its age; there is quite a lot of flash to the parts and the decals are very fragile. I could only get them to stay together with two generous coats of Humbrol 49 varnish. (Helpfully, KP will sell decals direct.)
This was a fairly challenging build by my standards as I had to grapple with vac-form (the canopy, from AP Models, designed for use with RS model kits but a reasonable fit) for the first time, along with decals well past their sell-by date, old and flashy mouldings, and the consequences of my own mistakes. As my first excursion into stretching sprue it is my first rigged bi-plane. Overall, it was an enjoyable build and one of my better ones to date.
Recognising that White S-12 was an old and fairly well-used aircraft by the time of the Uprising, I tried to give it an overall weathered and careworn appearance by the use of dark washes, with moderate success. The construction of the bi-plane wings was typically time-consuming, frustrating and fiddly but they came together in the end. I shall be interested to find out if Airfix's new construction method, pioneered on the re-tooled Gladiator, does much to address this.
Build 28 - Co-Belligerent AF Reggiane Re.2002 Ariete - A versatile figher-bomber of WW2
Miles Master Mk III
A 1970s or 80s reissue of an already fairly venerable ex-FROG moulding by Soviet maker NOVO, the Miles Master III is an interesting kit of the radial-engined version of this crucial Second World War advanced fighter trainer, mainstay of the Operational Training Units, in which many a Spitfire and Hurricane pilot learned the foundation of their craft. Considerably faster, larger and heavier than the biplanes in the Flying Training Schools, the Master, in its MkI in-line and later radial engine variants, was intended to bridge the gap between these and the front-line fighters. Armed with light bombs and a single machine-gun it was slated to acted as a combat aircraft in the event of invasion and also formed the basis of the impressive (but never produced) Miles M.20 Emergency Fighter. A pleasantly unusual kit. WW2 British training aircraft are fairly uncommon subjects and the only manufacturer I know is making this version is Eastern Express - no doubt from the same ex-FROG mould, now probably a good forty years old! This is the MkIII version with the radial engine (earlier versions had the in-line Rolls Royce Kestel). It comes with one set of decals for an unidentified RAF training squadron, a bare cockpit save for seats, pilots and floors, and fairly thick transparencies. Shape-wise it seems fairly good although on my kit, as with some others, there seems to be a fault in the relationship between the front end of the fuselage, the engine cowling section and the exhaust pipe and air inlet array whereby if assembled as presented there is a 1mm gap either at the base of the engine cowling, or between the exhaust array and the centre-section of the wing, neither of which seems authentic. I therefore compromised by filing down parts of the front fuselage and the inside of the engine cowling to improve the fit and shorten, and then placing the exhaust array midway between the wing section and cowling and filling the resultant gaps with plastic putty. In addition I lost one aileron which I replicated using Kneadatite. The basic colour scheme is the typical dark earth/dark green over trainer yellow.
Build 12 - NOVO Lavochkin LA-7 WW2 USSR Fighter model kit 1/72
An ex-FROG kit of Soviet Air Ace Ivan Kozhedub's own machine!
This is a nice vintage kit of this legendary Soviet fighter and low-level ground attack 'plane, including decals (pre-and immediate post-War) for 62-kill USSR fighter ace and 3 times Hero of the Soviet Union Ivan Kozhedub, the pre-eminent Soviet fighter ace of WW2 and Allied Ace of Aces, plus alternative Czech decals for its S-97 incarnation (the one I made). Made by Russian makers NOVO from the moulds of the pioneering British modelmaking company FROG (whose name is an acronym for "Flies Right Off the Ground", a reference to the fact that they started off as a maker of flying models), this is a fairly simple to build basic kit of an unusual subject. The grey Styrene kit comes in classic poly-bag form (like early Airfix products) or, in later runs, boxed, and contains 33 parts including a clear plastic canopy. (Vacuum-formed canopies for 1/72 LA-7s are also readily available for those who prefer the greater precision of outline, and should fit with careful trimming.) Whilst nice kits, these are quite old and therefore a coat or two of varnish (strictly over the decals only) may be advisable to preserve the kit's decals when removing them from the sheets. (I found that mine disintegrated, hence the home-painted national insignia, and the careful presentation which hides my attempts at identification numbers!)
The particular kit I made was missing (it turns out) its canopy and one whole sprue so I had some fun raiding my spares box for a Spitfire prop and spinner, which I artfully deformed into a vaguely appropriate shape, and supplemented with a drilled-out piece of sprue to fasten to the back of the prop-shaft and hold it it (yes, it does turn after a fashion.) I compensated for the lack of a pilot by doing some seat straps out of masking tape. The cockpit floor was made of card and the aerial out of the end of a cocktail stick, and I conveniently forgot about the pitot head... A pleasant build with no vices, and good fun all in all!
Circa 30 pieces?
No skill level
Build 23 - 1/72 NOVO Miles Master III - The RAF 's workhorse advanced fighter trainer
SMER Curtiss P-36/H. 75 Hawk
A redoubtable little early WW2 fighter
With the rest of my New Year gift from my in-laws, I was fortunate to get this fairly rare kit, a twin to the Bloch 152, of the Curtiss Hawk. Very few makers seem to offer this model, even though it was quite widely used by various countries before and during the war (including Britain, where it saw service, for example in Southeast Asian Command (SEAC) as the Curtiss Mohawk). Readers will probably be more familiar with its more powerful successors the Warhawk, Kittyhawk and Tomahawk: the instructions contain an interesting history of the type and its successor variants. Did you know for instance that the first air successes for Allied forces in both the European and Pacific theatres were scored by Hawks? This one is by Czech manufacturers SMER and is for ages 8+. The kit contains parts, painting instructions and decals for two variants, the box-top variant being a 1940 French example, whilst the instructions shew a 1939 US variant, painted up in an intriguing melange of greens, orange, lavender(!) and white to participate in the war games associated with the National (Cleveland) Air Races.
SMER Bloch MB 152
A sound kit of this classic Battle of France fighter
As a New Year gift from my in-laws, I was fortunate to get (for Â£3 plus postage) this fairly rare kit, by Czech manufacturers SMER, of the rather underpowered but nonethess interesting Bloch MB 152. For ages 8+, the kit contains parts, painting instructions and decals for two variants, the box variant serving with Group de Chasse II/9, Clermont-Ferrand in 1940. As a bonus, the instructions also contain an interesting history of the type.
Very vintage Russian Vultee Vengeance Dive Bomber model
Believed to be a Russian Novo kit, this boxing displays quite a lot of flash but looks like a sound kit overall. Given the ancient decals, instruction sheet entirely in Cyrillic, and lack of painting instructions, it should be a challenge! In a striking simple but attractive two-colour packaging. Â£3.32 from Hannants, January 2013.
- Ark Models Dewoitine D520, Ian Allan, Â£5.00
Ark Models Fairey Firefly F Mk1, Ian Allan, Â£3.70
- Plastyk Ilyushin Il2 M3 Stormovik, Â£3.00, eBay (Polish make)
- Testors Easybuild Imperial Japanese A6M-Zero, Â£1.50, Antics Models (simple construction, with one-piece wing)
- PM Models Spitfire Mk Vb Floatplane, Modelzone, Â£2.99, April 2012
- Academy Grumman TBF-1 Avenger, gift from parents, June 2011
Academy Grumman F4F-4 Wildcat, Â£3.99, Hannants, January 2013
- Master Craft Hobby Kits Polish PZL P11c, Euros 3, Netherlands, August 2012
- Italeri Home Play Spitfire Mk Vb starter kit, Euros 4, The Netherlands, August 2010
- Kopro Czech Skoda D.1., Â£1.00, Hannants, January 2013
- Mystery Russian maker Vultee Vengeance, Â£3.32, Hannants, January 2013
- SMER Bloch MB152, Â£3 plus postage, private sale, January 2013
SMER Curtiss P-36/75 Hawk, Â£3 plus postage, January 2013
- IC Holdings (Ukrainian) Heinkel He70F-2. Ian Allan, Cardiff, January 2013
Poll - which is your favourite maker of model kits? - Which model maker do you favour and why?
If other please give a name and some indication as to why you like them so that I can add them into the poll!
Which is you favourite scale model kit manufacturer?
My kits - various manufacturers
Japanese, Russian, Eastern European and US kits are all represented here. As well as producing interesting kits of their own, FROG kits in particular often appear in Russian garb, rebadged as NOVO, etc.
Airfix "James May's Toy Stories" Supermarine Spitfire Mk1a 'BTK'
A poly-bagged classic!
This 2010 release is an interesting kit, marking a return to the classic Airfix 'poly bag' packaging of the 1960s in the form - ostensibly - of an improved reissue of the first ever Airfix aeroplane kit, kit BTK of 1953, even down to the blue plastic and incorrect serial (although the correct association still seems to be disputed, the prevailing story is that BTK belonged to a Walrus squadron). We are however assured that the moulding and die are greatly improved! Presumably a tie-in with James May's Toy Stories (for which see more below) it features header artwork commissoned by Mr May after a design by Roy Cross (see his book above!) Frustratingly, given that it is a newish release, there is no consensus that I can find about which kit it is or which mark of Spitfire it represents. The best guess seems to be that it is a Mark 1a (no-one quite knew what the original BTK was, including I suspect the designers!) but whether it is a reissue of the 1979 tooling of the Mk 1a or an example of the 2010 new tool, no-one seems quite sure, although The Airfix Handbook suggests the latter.
Build 13 - Airfix Spitfire BTK completed!
Finally complete, this was an enjoyable build, marred only by my failure to follow the (rather small) instructions faithfully, thus resulting in my sitting the pilot too high, and only realising this after I had stuck the fuselage halves together, at the point of trying to afffix the cockpit glazing... Fortunately I was able to retrieve my mistake, just, but it was an object lesson in following the instructions carefully. It was actually quite a satisfying build and paint, with no particular vices except the wing fitting, which I struggled with, and the use of A(ii) (red, white and blue) type roundels for upper wing decals, which I simply couldn't live with. Fortunately I had a pair of correct red and blue type B roundels from an old Italeri kit, so I used those, shifting the red white and blue roundels to the under-wing and leaving the (apparently) spare yellow-edged A1 type roundels for another build.
Supermarine Spitfire (Mk 1a?)
Skill level 1
Blue plastic, poly-bag
Video Module - James May's "Toy Stories" - The story of the world's biggest Airfix Spitfire!
This fascinating programme, shown on prime time BBC television here in the UK, chronicles the efforts of television presenter James May and a group of schoolchildren to build a 1:1 scale model Spitfire on the Airfix principle. Watch and see how they do!
James May's Toy Stories "The Airfix Handbook" : Amazon Spotlight Personal Review
Part modellers' primer, part Airfix history, and part Spitfire celebration , this is mostly about one man's quest to get the youngster generation to share his youthful love of scale modelling and to give it concrete form in the shape of a 1:1 scale kit of a Spitfire Mk 1a built on the Airfix principle! James May, best known as a presenter on BBC motoring programme 'Top Gear', is clearly passionate about his subject and this comes across in his writing, ably complemented by expert articles on model making, fault spotting, and filming with models, plus an attractive-looking Spitfire PRXIX build. An excellent resource for any new or returning modeller.
Guillow's Focke Wulf FW-190 Kit 502
One of the classic balsawood flying models!
A classic form of kit but rather a challenge for one accustomed to plastic kits!
Good kits to give as gifts - Spitfires! - An all-Spit list...
Airfix the iconic maker and Spitfire the iconic aircraft go together very well. Here is a selection of some fine gift kits pitched to suit all skill levels and pockets...
A nice simple kit of the iconic "Battle of Britain" Mark 1a Spitfire, accurate and uncomplicated, with a basic selection of paints, ideal for the beginner.
"Dogfight Doubtles" was a classic Airfix format back before I was born. Here the range makes a comeback, pitching these two Battle of Britain adversaries against each other in an impressive gift set.
Modernity and nostalgia intermixed - classic RAF fighters of then and now brought together in one gift set.
Larger and more imposing than the run of the mill 1/72 scale variants, a handsome modern (2010) tooling of this first Griffon-engined Spitfire, a rare variant with excellent low-level performance, of which only 100 were built. (The original aircraft not the model!)
Possibly the ultimate Spitfire kit, this huge and impressive piece - a modification of the first aircraft kit of its scale in the world, justly renowned for its incredible detail - is sure to be a welcome addition, especially with its Battle of Britain Memorial Flight pedigree and generous extras!
My modelling tool kit
As a modeller you will of course come to a conclusion as to how many and which tools you need. As a minimum you are likely to need a pair of scissors or snips to remove the parts from the sprues and a file or piece of fine sandpaper to smooth off the resultant rough edge, or take off any excess plastic ("flash"). How much more comprehensive your toolkit becomes beyond that is up to you. Here is mine:
Snips and nail scissors - the former for removing parts from sprues, the latter for cutting out decals
Tweezers - useful for manipulating small parts and positioning decals
Glue (of course!) - plastic glue is an essential but something similar to Revell Contacta Clear is also useful for gluing transparent parts as it doesn't "fog" them
Masking tape - for masking but also for holding together parts
Elastic bands - ditto (clothes pegs can also be useful for some parts)
Modelling putty - I have the liquid style for running into open joints but you might also want to consider sculpting putty such as Milliput or Kneadatite
A set of files - for taking off flash and smoothing down joints, etc (although a nail file -which I also have - will do!)
Sandpaper - ditto
Cocktail sticks - useful for stirring paintpots and for positioning decals
Propelling pencil - for annotating and shading plans and assembly instructions
Paintbrushes of various sizes
Glass bottles - for containing water or white spirit for thinning paints and cleaning brushes
Auger or hand drill - for drilling or clearing out locating holes
Yoghurt pots or similar - for use as a paint palette
A craft knife would probably also be a sensible addition.
Clearly for any modeller, paints are an essential requisite. Personally I favour Humbrol for their comprehensive coverage and excellent UK availability (and no doubt if I was in mainland Europe I would feel the same about Revell). When I took up modelling again I initially reverted to the enamel paints I used when I was a boy but now on further consideration I favour acrylics. The range is very nearly as good, their water-based nature is highly convenient (no messing about with white spirit) and, no less important, the smell is better! Here is my collection: (NB 'A' stands for acrylic and 'E' for enamel. All paints are Matt unless stated otherwise.)
Finally - if you are buying starter kits and nothing else, invest in pots of matt black (H33) and matt trainer yellow (H24) as these are key to the finish of practically all models but are so seldom included that they will always come in handy. If you can stretch to a brown and some silvery metallic shade too, so much the better!
- 14 French Blue Gloss E
- 21 Black Gloss A
- 24 Trainer Yellow E
- 29 Dark Earth E&A
- 30 Dark Green A
- 31 Slate Grey E
- 33 Black E
- 55 Bronze E
- 56 Aluminium E
- 60 Scarlet E
- 65 Aircraft Blue A
- 69 Yellow Gloss A
- 84 Mid Stone E
- 88 Deck Green A
- 91 Black Green A
- 96 RAF Blue A
- 106 Ocean Green A
- 113 Rust E
- 116 US Dark Green A
- 123 Extra Dark Sea Grey Satin A&E
- 125 US Dark Grey Satin A
- 149 Dark Green E
- 156 Dark Camouflage Grey Satin A&E
- 164 Dark Sea Grey Satin A
- 165 Medium Sea Grey Satin A
- 166 Light Aircraft Grey Satin A
Modelling accessories on Amazon
A selection of potentially useful tools.
More modelling tools
As I said above, how far you go down the route of aquiring and using tools and other accessories is up to you. In addition to the list above, the following may also be useful: some drills and bits (for putting in locating holes, etc), jeweller's loupes, Maskol (a brilliant idea- a paint-on mask) and a Vernier gauge (for verifying dimensions).
Amazon - more modelling equipment
More useful equipment for the modeller.
Invaluable for small drilling
A valuable aid to close work.
Much better than the eye for gauging distances and tolerances.
More modelling books - Amazon
Here is a selection of other books which might be useful - and if you are willing to accept a used copy then they can be had (via the links below) for far less than the indicated Amazon price.
The first scale modelling book in my library and still an excellent resource.
From the ever-reliable Osprey stable.
Although not strictly a modelling book, books like this can be invaluable for details of colour schemes.
Build 27 - Revell 1/72 P-47M 1 Thunderbolt, 56th Fighter Group, Boxted, 1945 - The personal aircraft of Witold "Lanny" Lanowski
1/72 Revell P-47M Thunderbolt
The P-47M was a lightened, uprated "sprint" version of the P47-D-30, and at 36' long with a 40' wingspan was one of the largest single-seat fighter aircraft of WW2. It is of interest that only one fighter group - the 56th, operating out of RAF Boxted - persevered with their "Juggernaughts" until the end of the war in Europe, the others switching to the P51 Mustang. The group was issued its 130 P47-Ms (the whole of the order) in January 1945 but, owing to engine problems did not see active service until April/May 1945. Each of the three squadrons in the group decorated their aircraft differently, the 61st Fighter Squadron favouring an all-over Matt Black*. The red nose band was originally a 61st FS marker but by this time was a group distinction. Other squadrons appeared in two-tone greys or blues.
This particular aircraft is made up as HV-Z, the personal mount of Captain Witold Aleksander "Lanny" Lanowski of the 61st FS, 56th FG, 8th Airforce, and features his mascot of a Polish gauntlet crushing a Bf109 against the background of the Polish flag.
This kit was newly-tooled by Revell in 1999 and represented a substantial advance in quality on other P-47s available at the time. It is still a fine product 15 years later, the mouldings being crisp and detail good. Recently released in 63rd FS markings.
*This is disputed, with Revell suggesting plum, and other sources a purplish colour, but matt black is the consensus of the surviving pilots and related ground crew evidence.
Build 30 - USN Grumman F4-F Wildcat of VF-41, USS Ranger, Spring 1942 - A build of the reliable Academy F-4F Wildcat kit
In this build, I used the Academy kit and a set of Techmod decals to make an F4F-4 of USS Ranger, from the US Navy's VF-41, with the early war striped rudder markings, dating from the Spring of 1942, when the Ranger was serving with the Atlantic Fleet. VF-41 was formed as VF-4, the "Red Rippers" in 1927, and saw its first action during the Operation Torch landings, again aboard USS Ranger, this time with a yellow border around the nationality markings for recognition purposes. Acquired part-built, the finishing stage went badly, the model having to be amost completely repainted and the decals touched-up following a varnishing accident. Also, the port rudder bars painted on after the decal broke apart whilst positioning.
Build 29 - RAF North American Mustang Mk II, No2 (Army Co-operation) Sqn, RAF, 1944
A build of the venerable Novo kit of this rarely-kitted subtype
Up-engined MkII Mustang FR919 of N.2 Squadron, one of only 50 supplied to the RAF. This build was based on the painting instructions given, and a Rick Kent profile of North American Mustang Mk. II, 2 Squadron, Royal Air Force, Beny-sur-Mer, France, August 1944.
I added a small amount of detail, such as a rear shelf and oblique camera, and ensured that the wheel-well covers were modelled down, which is apparently correct for Allison-engined Mustangs
Upper surfaces: Dark Green & Ocean Grey (Hu163 &106)
Underside: Medium Sea Grey (shallower line than shown on box - Hu165)
Spinner & band - Sky (5*Hu:90 + 4*Hu:65)
Wheel wells - aluminium (Hu56)
Cockpit - dull dark green (Hu116)
Build 32 - FROG Curtiss P-40E Kittyhawk/Warhawk (American markings) - A vintage build of this USAAF desert Hawk
A very basic kit, dating from circa 1964, but a nice shape (albeit apparently better for a short-tail P-40F than this "E") and an unusual (to me, when I started it) US desert scheme. Built with reference to the box scheme (unidentified a/c, s/n 246051) and Cybermodeler's "P-40E Warhawk Tri-Color Desert Camouflage Color Profile and Paint Guide". Added a generic seat and pilot figure, plus tailwheel fairings made out of scrap plastic. Colour scheme is dark earth over middle stone with azure blue undersides (not sky blue as the painting instructions would have it.) All paints Humbrol acrylics.
Build 33 - Airfix Curtiss P-40B Tomahawk mk IIb AN218 "Menace" of 112 Squadron - Neville Bowker's aircraft, as supplied in the Airfix/Model Zone 2012 El Alamein
This build of this nice, vice-free Tomahawk kit was from the Airfix/Modelzone 2012 el Alamein anniversary gift set. It contained one option, for a Tomahawk IIb of the Desert Air Force's famous 112 Squadron, flown by Neville Bowker. Built almost entirely out of the box, I decided to take advantage of the neatly-moulded sidewalls and paint them in some detail. To show these off I then took a razor saw to the canopy so it could be posed open. This worked reasonably well and certainly improved visibility. I had some trouble with my use of Decalfix with the decals, but this was not due to any problem with the latter. The instructions are a bit ropey around the painting elements (the dubious white spinner being one (I went for Middle Stone) and the treatment of the undercarriage legs and the wheel hubs for another, being stipulated as Azure blue in one place and metal in another) but one thing which had me particularly stumped is the pitot tube. The assembly instructions quite unmistakably state that you should use the straight US-style pitot head provided at part 24B. The painting instructions equally unmistakably show the cranked British style pitot (provided within the kit as part 25B) in situ. (Interestingly, I have just picked up the Hawk 81-A-2 (Flying Tigers) kit and it has just the same issue.) Based on Western Desert Tomahawk IIb photographs hosted on the 112 Squadron website, I determined that the cranked pitot was correct, as it would be for the British-sourced AVG examples, but it is unfortunate that the instructions confuse the matter.
Build 34 - North American Mustang P-51A, 1st Air Commando Group, India, 1944 - The personal aircraft of Lt. Colonel Philip Cochran, C.O. of 1st ACG
There are a few pitfalls and shape problems with the kit. The white stripes are a fiddly masking job, but are at least accurate. The instruction to paint the rear part of the spinner black is dubious (as colour shots seem to show this as Olive Drab along with the rest of the upper fuselage) and harder to execute than need be in the absence of the proper join line. Sink marks are not unexpected in the light of the old and frequently reused moulds, but the inaccuracies in some of the panel lines are harder to excuse, as are other issues such as the short carburettor air intake, the provision of a dagger-style mast where the profiles call for pole, and also the absence of the vital CBI-spec DF-loop and housing for the 1st ACG example. To detail the kit I remedied some of these problems, corrected some of the panel lines, scratchbuilt the DF loop and housing from sprue and wire and also inserted a wheel bay. Drop tanks would be desirable for this kit as nearly all photographs (especially in flight) seem to show 1st ACG aircraft with them.
Decals but no stencils are provided for an RAF Tac Recon Mustang of 2 (Army Co-operation) Squadron in D-Day livery and an Olive Drab and Neutral Grey P-51A of the 1st Air Commando Group, operating out of bases in India in support of Wingate's Chindits. The effect of the fairly translucent FROG decals over the white stripes of the latter is effective when it comes to the serial, with the numbers merging into the stripes in a way reminiscent of the real thing. It is much less so when it comes to the national insignia, which look quite washed-out by comparison.
Are you a scale modeller yourself, or perhaps you know someone who is? Have you tried it in the past, or perhaps you are thinking of dabbling in the future? Have you any particular recommended kits, makers or techniques? Do feel free to share!