Saturday, 29 August 2009

Useful Colours ~ Army Interiors Part One

"A little learning is a dangerous thing" said Alexander Pope. Well in modelling terms it is probably not dangerous - perhaps just misleading and rather irritating. Perhaps for modelling purposes Amos Bronson Alcott is more succinct: "To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant". Mr Alcott's observation is vindicated online on an almost daily basis and it often seems that those most afflicted with the malady are the most persistent imparters of opinion and information.

One of the most prevalent outcomes of "a little learning" is the dissemination of information in diluted or misunderstand forms which then become modelling conventions. There really does need to be a distinction drawn between the freedom to paint one's model whatever one likes and the sometimes unstated implication that the choice represents an outcome of research intended to impart "a little learning" to others. By such dubious means we have a generalised belief (reinforced by hobby paint companies) of aotake as a metallic blue-green paint applied in all Japanese aircraft cockpits and Luftwaffe sandgelb used by Kawasaki to paint the interiors of all their aircraft.

In Army form 'aotake' was introduced as a translucent dark blue primer for the interior of aircraft by the Army aircraft painting regulations of 3rd March 1932 (that is the Army painting regulations - once more - the Army painting regulations). It was not metallic per se but the application of the clear blue to bare metal surfaces no doubt gave (and gives) that impression. On 5th February 1936 the regulations were revised and the use of aotake (青竹色 - literally blue green bamboo colour - or sometimes written as 淡青色透明 - literally thin, translucent, light blue colour) was replaced by a dark greyish blue opaque primer paint which became colour standard #3 Hairanshoku or Hai-Ai-iro (灰藍色 literally ash indigo colour e.g. a greyish blue) in the Army colour standards. In practice this new paint was usually applied to internal crew areas whilst 'aotake' continued to be applied to other internal areas. Was #13 Ao iro ( 青色 - blue colour) also applied to some cockpits, either in error or expediency? Maybe.

There are two clues to the appearance of this colour standard. Firstly the actual Hess-Ives values used to measure the authorised range of hue in the procurement of Army paint supplies and secondly a pre-war French colour card which illustrates the colour and explains its use. Was there a connection between the French bleu nuit (night blue) interior colour and the Japanese interior colour? Perhaps. There is also another thing to bear in mind which is the distinction to be drawn between the colour standard and the actual paint supplied and applied. The two are not invariably the same. The promulgated colour standard displayed a variable and authorised range against which the paint suppliers (or more usually aircraft manufacturers) attempted to match. This distinction does seem to be misunderstood or perhaps under-appreciated.

In Methuen terms the median standard colour is a dark greyish blue between 23 E-F 5. The closest standard Munsell notations are between 2.5 PB 3/2 @ 2.98 and 2.5 PB 3/4 @ 2.40. The closest FS 595b value is 25053 @ 3.61 (but too blue), but 26118/36118 @ 7.02 (too grey) is often cited and indeed may provide a better scale impression although it is not quite blue enough. (A comparison value of 2.0 or less equals a close match). Ken Glass kindly advises that a reasonable out of the bottle match is Pollyscale RLM 24 Blau but it may need to be lightened with white and/or toned down with grey to match the swatches. 

The survival of badly weathered remnants of this paint in cockpits can give rise to a misidentification as aotake, but in practice diluted #3 spray or brush applied is not dissimilar in appearance. Aircraft interiors known to have been painted to #3 standard are Type 91, Ki-27, Ki-21, Ki-36, Ki-43, Ki-44 and Ki-48. Ichiro Hasegawa described the interior of a Ki-55 ('Ida') as having been painted in two colours, one being the bluish grey and the other a yellowish grey-green (the latter colur will be examined in Part 2). He also described the interior of both the Ki-21 ('Sally') and Ki-27 ('Nate') as being painted in this bluish grey which created a "gloomy impression", even the gunners mats being painted the same colour.The use of this colour continued until the introduction of new requirements on 15th June 1943 - of which more anon.

One of the aspects of the study of Japanese aircraft that continues to surprise me is the inability or perhaps unwillingness of some to reconcile the known (and published) Army colour standards with the extant appearance of paint on artifacts. It sometimes seems as though an element of being in denial exists, as though somehow the Army colour standards are not real and an opinion about a 65 year old fragment of paint without antecedence or provenance is more reliable. Hopefully one day we shall be able to move on from a quasi-religious veneration of the paint fragments to a broader and more equivocal appreciation of all the evidence.

Once this mini-series on interior colours is complete I intend to make it available as a pdf with appropriate hobby paint mixes which we are working on.

Image credits:- Ki-21 crew © 1942 Front Magazine; Colour chips © 2009 Straggler


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the interesting piece.
Could you please let me know where the 1932 Army painting regulations can be found? Where somebody can get a hold of them?
And for that matter the 1936 revised?

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

No, anonymouse, I'm sorry I couldn't. AFAIK the Rikugun Kokukiyo Zairyokikaku and associated regulations have never been published or translated in their entirety, although some of the Army colours were published in Gakken 52 as printed chips. I received my annotated, translated copies through the kindness of a correspondent in Japan several years ago and at the time was given to understand that a book was to be published about them. That does not seem to have transpired, although snippets have appeared in various Gakken, Model Art and Bunrin-do publications since then.

You might try writing to Shigeru Nohara via Model Art, or you could post a request on one of the Japanese forums (fora?). If you go that route you would probably get a better response by not being "anonymous".

If all else fails you could always try Arawasi (see link here). Good luck!

Kind regards

Anonymous said...

Hello Nick,

Thanks for the color swatches and taking time to make the posting.

A pre-mixed hobby paint color in the 'ball park' is Pollyscale's RLM 24 Blau. The paint is darker than your swatches. It will need the addition of some white, to lighten it a little, for a better match.

Ken Glass

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Thanks much Ken! With your permission I shall add that to the main post so it doesn't get missed.

Thanks & kind regards

Anonymous said...

Thank you Nick.
One more question if I may.
I'm not sure I understand how you came up with the colour chips. What were your sources? Relics? Something else?

Anonymous said...

Do all ki-43-1's have this blue gray cockpit color?Also how about the Ki-44?

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Ah I see, anonymouse. Well, as I already explained in the post there are two pieces of evidence in addition to the actual Army standard swatch for #3 from the Rikugun Kokukiyo Zairyokikaku. There are the Hess-Ives values courtesy of Katsushi Owaki which provide the contemporaneous hue range against which the #3 swatch may be compared (the swatch is consistently median to these) and then the pre-war French colour card. This is also consistent with the median value of the chip I have posted, although its appearance will of course be dependent upon the usual monitor and software viewing issues, hence the inclusion of comparable values.

The Hess-Ives values provide a range of colour, as for the other standards, in this case from the more greyish to the more blueish.

These three pieces of evidence combined, together with the regulations as quoted, should be sufficient to make the choice and appearance of this colour on a model a reasonable one. It is not a matter of life and death.

Kind regards

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

"Do all ki-43-1's have this blue gray cockpit color?Also how about the Ki-44?"

Probably, although 'aotake' has also been reported in Ki-43-1 cockpits, e.g. s/n 750. How far these are remnants of #3 misidentified as 'aotake', or perhaps 'aotake' fragments beneath or behind painted #3 is unknown.

The earlier production Ki-44 certainly had this colour which has also been confirmed by a Ki-44 pilot. In Part 2 I'll present the subsequent cockpit interior colours.

Kind regards

noel said...

Thank you for posting Nick, useful information indeed. I will be looking forward to the follow up, on post-1943 airframes, especially in regard to the Ki-67. Cheers!

Dimmy said...

Hello Nick!
Thank you very much for this new info! Can't wait for Part 2! :)
Kind regards,

Dark Green man said...

very interesting !
I look forward to further parts in this series.

and typical of my luck I have already assembled my Ki-44,now that I read your blog I wish I could have used this Ash Indigo color instead.

Young Ian said...

Hi ,Nick--

A tangential comment.

Circa 1989 I encountered an antique store in Florence, South Carolina, run by a rather odd old man. The place had been touted in roadside signage as a museum, and I'd been searching for the Florence air museum, so I checked it out. I was subsequently to learn that the old guy had been removed as proprietor of the air museum some months previously.

On a table amidst some typical junk-shop clutter sat the fin of a D4Y. It appeared to be unrestored, although in pretty good shape. The exterior was as I would have expected; dark green overall, with a partial code neatly hand-painted on (I believe).

The interior paint was also visible. From what little I knew at that time (I had a copy of the Thorpe book on IJN aircraft) I expected to see a tinted blue-green lacquer coating. What I saw was an almost garish teal blue metallic paint. It was a bit jarring--I thought at the time the paint looked like the bright "metal-flake" paints that hobby shops sold in the '60s for custom car kits. There was nothing about the fin that suggested repainting had been done.

There was a tag on the fin--$150-- but the old man told me it wasn't for sale. there was also a business card next to it, left by one James Lansdale. He'd examined/appraised it, I guess.

I believe this is a well-known artifact, although I've long since lost my notes and couldn't tell you the tail code.


Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Sounds like the D4Y tail fin we featured here a while back:-

Some of the interior paint may just be seen in one of the shots. That was a Navy aircraft of course . . .

Stefw said...

Dear Staggler,

These informations are really really interesting. I've heard about that but it was quite vague.
Do you think that this blue tint may have been used also in Navy aircraft?
I remember pictures of the preserved (NASM) B7A1 Grace (sole survivor) cockpits and remember very precisely a blue-grey shade there which looked like a very faded and matt aotake (my guess was for a solid paint rather than a coat of aotake over metalic parts).
Thanks for all your work !!!



Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi StefW

Thank you for your kind comments.

The NASM B7A1 Grace interior colour has been precisely documented by Robert C Mikesh and the colours as reported are presented here:-

However they may appear in colour photographs the colour is predominantly green! I cannot reiterate enough how modellers should not trust colour photographs, especially online digitized images of colour photographs. Unfortunately they do and one sees long threads of argument on forums about how these colours can look.

Best regards

Fernando said...

Hi, Nick,
34052 is a deep green... did you mean 35052? In the Color Server (I know you don't like its renderings...) 35052 is much brighter and less grey than your swatch. Should the color be a rather grayish dark blue like French Bleu de Nuit?
Thanks, Fernando

Straggler 脱走兵 said...

Hi Fernando

Yes - a typo! Thank you for pointing it out. It should be 35052. I have now corrected it. But please note that 35052 @ 4.79 is not a very good match (<2.0 = close match) being too blue and not grey enough. The colour is a dark blue grey similar to the old Humbrol Authentic colour Gris Bleu Foncé which is still available as 79 Matt Blue Grey but a tad more blue.


Fernando said...

Great! That's roughly equivalent to FS35164, which, in turn, derives from the widely available ANA 608 Intermediate Blue! If any difference, Humbrol 79 is a bit greyer, which again goes in the direction we want...