Wednesday 30 June 2010

Silver Sabre and Purple Rufe

It is very nice to be able to post some more pics of another Japanese aircraft from the era after WWII. Julien Dixon kindly provided these images of a Sabre F-86 F-30 in the markings of 1st Sqn JASDF at Hamamatsu AB in 1956 and very effectively displayed on a concrete ramp base. The model is built from the Hobby Boss 1/72nd kit, straight from the box, and with decals taken from the Fujimi kit. Japanese Sabre squadrons displayed a plethora of colourful markings and make very good modelling subjects. They were flown by several pilots who had air time in the earlier Japanese fighters of the wartime years, both Army and Navy, including a few aces.

The Sabre was Japan's first post-war fighter type beginning with the delivery of 29 ex-USAF F-86F-25 and -30 aircraft from December 1955. The first JASDF Wing was activated on 1st October 1956 at Hamamatsu with 68 T-33A trainers and 20 F-86Fs. A total of 135 ex-USAF F-86Fs were eventually delivered between 1956 and early 1957. Most of these aircraft were Korean War veterans which were gradually brought up to F-86 F-40 standard. Some of the Sabres were never flown and were returned because of a shortage of Japanese pilots.

Mitsubushi subsequently built another 300 Sabre F-86 F-40 under licence at Nagoya with the first being completed on 9th August 1956 and the last rolled out on 25th February 1961. The last Japanese F-86F made its final flight on 15th March, 1982. With its 27-years of service the Sabre enjoyed greater longevity than any of the Japanese wartime types.

Further to the blog about Humbrol Authentics Japanese Air Force paints, George Crozier has very kindly provided an image of his 1/72nd A6M2-N "Rufe", made in 2002 from the Jo-Han kit and painted with a 30 year old tin of Humbrol's HJ4 N.9 Mauve from the set which he purchased in 1972! George added aftermarket cockpit details and a Hasegawa beaching trolley. Wonderful! Any other purple Rufes out there? I'd be tickled - er - purple to show them here!

Thanks to Julien and George for kindly contributing these images. 

Image credits: Sabre model © Julien Dixon; Rufe model © George Crozier

Sunday 27 June 2010

Family Values

Someone likened a well-known modelling forum to a Family. Well, yes, I suppose so.

Sunday 20 June 2010

Humbrol Authentics & The Japanese Air Force

In the age of the internet it is quite difficult, even for modelling old timers, to remember the days when colour information was hard to come by and even when found was sparse to the point of still leaving many unanswered and perhaps unanswerable questions. Nowadays questions can be asked and answered in seconds in a format that at the same time communicates them worldwide and to a huge audience. Whereas before, the rare and valuable revelations in sometimes difficult to obtain magazines and books, if not taken on trust, were subject to lengthy and by necessity often private correspondence between individuals. The cliques of knowledge were perhaps smaller and more intimate then but they have survived into the internet age, albeit sometimes in more adversarial and competitive forms.

It is perhaps ironic that at a time when the raw colour data was available in much greater quantity the method of analysing and reporting on it was relatively crude (with a few notable and honourable exceptions). Today the modelling and research community (with the inevitable crossovers between the two) is arguably more exacting when considering matters of colour but there is much less available to be exacting about and a tendency to forget, disregard or discredit much of what went before. Of course those are generalisations because in reality the subject of historic colour is beset by a sliding scale of quantity, quality, accessibility and understanding. There is still a tendency for modellers to adopt the "I chose to paint it this way so it must be right" school of research, but to be fair the avalanche of diverse information makes such positions entirely understandable, albeit potentially misinforming. 

One of the early attempts to put the colours of Japanese aeroplanes into tinlets of ready to use paint came, for UK modellers at least, in the form of the sets of "Authentics" released by Humbrol in 1967/68. Early adverts for these sets proclaimed that "Humbrol technologists are proud to introduce this authentic modellers dream paint. a new highly developed matt finish which dries in 3 minutes without brush marks and with outstanding covering power. All this is achieved by a thin film which does not obliterate minute detail. These authentic camouflage colours are the result of months of research and development to establish shades identical to the originals used."

The "Japanese Air Force" set number 8, provided the modeller with six colours, purported to be essential and appropriate for aeroplanes of both the Navy and Army. The paints included in this set were:-

HJ1 Green N.1
HJ2 A/N.2 Grey
HJ3 A.3 Green
HJ4 N.9 Mauve
HJ5 N.17 Brown
HJ6 Silver A.6

The curious disorder in this nomenclature was Humbrol's. Each set also came with a leaflet providing basic guidance as to how the colours might be used on models.

The splendid model of Hasegawa's 1/72nd scale Mitsubishi G4M1 "Betty" heading this blog was made by Owen Veal and painted using colours from the Humbrol Authentics set with N1 on the upper surfaces and A/N2 on the lower surfaces.

But where did Humbrol get the information upon which to base these colours? The clue lies in both the "official" designations used by them and the colours themselves. In 1964 the IPMS published a "Color Guide for Japanese Aircraft 1941-45" which had been prepared by Charles "Chuck" Graham. This guide preceded Donald W Thorpe's seminal work on Army camouflage and markings by some four years.

In a questionnaire interview with James I Long in 1995 Mr Graham provided additional details and background for some of the colours identified in the guide. The questions and answers were subsequently published by pre-eminent researcher James F Lansdale at and make fascinating reading. The basis for the specific paint colours as duplicated by Humbrol were reported to be as follows:-

N.1 - Assessed from artifacts assumed to be from IJN aircraft in junk piles at or around Chinhai, Korea in 1946-47. 
A/N.2 - Ditto.
A.3 - Sample of upper surface paint colour from Ki-100 at University of Illinois collection at Urbana, recorded in 1949.
N.9 - Based on written descriptions in Koku-Fan magazine and other sources referring to it as "wisteria".
N.17 - Based on a paint colour "commonly used on vehicles, land mines and other Army equipment".
A.6 - Not mentioned, but described as "gray" in the text of the guide.

The Humbrols Authentics set contains no acknowledgement of the source of the information and it remains unknown exactly how the data was communicated to or obtained by them. Only about 500 copies of the IPMS Guide were sold with actual painted chips and it must be presumed that Humbrol had obtained or seen one of these. Any further information or insights about this would be appreciated.

Author René J Francillon re-published some of the colour information from the IPMS Guide in his 'Japanese Aircraft of the Pacific War', published by Putnam & Sons in 1970, again without acknowledging or crediting the original source. He included a table of colours using the same designations as the IPMS Guide but presenting printed rather than painted chips of dubious value. The Humbrol Authentics and the Francillon book cemented many of the assumptions about Japanese aeroplane colours that have survived to this day and still influence writers and hobby paint manufacturers.

Whilst the IPMS Guide had only attributed colour names incidentally to the letter & number designations, the Francillon chart included colour names, thus N1 was described as "Dark Green", A/N2 as "Light Grey", A3 as "Olive Green" and N17 as "Tan". A6 was described as "Natural Metal Finish" but N9, that beautiful mauve indelibly associated with the "Rufe" floatplane fighter, was not mentioned at all. The profile of the "Rufe" included in the book was identified as being in "Sky grey N8" overall so no doubt owners of the LS 1/75th kit, the IPMS Guide, the book and the Humbrol Authentics set were already scratching their heads.

In 1966 author Richard M Bueschel published a slim volume entitled 'Japanese Aircraft Insignia, Camouflage and Markings', but this made no reference to the IPMS Guide and made no attempt to display or tabulate the colours described in the text.

Some modellers still have surviving tins of Humbrol Authentics (the old formula Humbrol paint has remarkable longevity) but the original colours can still be recreated using mixes of paints from the current Humbrol range. Email me if you would like details of these mixes to try out. If you have memories of using the Humbrol Authentics Japanese set or photographs of any models painted with the colours from it I would be delighted to hear from you. And if you happen to have a mauve "Rufe" to show us that would be wonderful!

With special thanks to Owen Veal and Bob Alford for the image of the Hasegawa model from Owen's collection and to  Gary Wenko for providing the superb photos of the mint Humbrol Authentics Japanese Air Force set from his personal collection.

Image credits: Hasegawa model by Owen Veal via Bob Alford; Humbrol Authentics Set & IPMS advert from Gary Wenko; Humbrol advert via; IPMS Guide from James F Lansdale via; Bueschel book cover from author's collection.

Monday 14 June 2010

RS Models Wooden Hayate ~ The Ki-106

I recently caught up with the RS Models 1/72nd scale Tachikawa Ki-106, released in two versions last year. RS Models continue their trend of releasing kits of more unusual Japanese types but unlike some previous releases these are all plastic with no resin or photo-etch additions. Personally I prefer that but some may view the price as being rather expensive without these enhancements. The two kits contain identical parts, differing only in the markings options offered in each. 

Kit # 92057 offers the "historical" options of the second prototype in Japanese markings (although the number '4' is included on the decal sheet!) and the same aircraft after capture in American markings. Both are depicted as being plain dark green over grey with brown prop and spinner. A more probable finish would be the standard olive drab # 7 colour (ohryoku nana go shoku) applied to the Tachikawa-built Ki-43 III Ko and the Nakajima Ki-84 Hayate, with the distinctive green prop and spinner of these two types. 

Kit # 92058 offers the more fanciful alternative of imaginary "what if" markings for a fighter in Home Defence service and an aircraft in Manchoukuo service. The suggested scheme for the Home Defence version of green mottle over "silver" seems improbable for a predominantly wooden aircraft - even as an imaginary finish. The Manchoukuo fighter however is splendidly unusual in a mixed dark green and grey-green finish. Although not as shown on the box art the RS gallery model sports natural metal and additional dark green areas. The gallery model also shows a unit marking and presentation markings which are not included on the decal sheet.

The kit is molded in RS Models usual buff coloured plastic on a single main sprue frame with the upper wing halves on a small separate sprue. A single piece injection molded canopy and the decal sheet complete the inventory. The kit reproduces the appearance of the Ki-106 quite faithfully with the enlarged fin and broader chord rudder, blunt wing tips and larger wheels of the type but otherwise it is essentially similar to the Ki-84 Hayate from which it was developed. Contrary to some rumours this does not appear to be a direct copy of the Hasegawa Ki-84 as there are some notable detail differences, a two part radial engine where the Hasegawa kit has only a single relief molding and seperate exhaust outlets where the Hasegawa kit has these as integrally molded fuselage details being just two I noticed. The cowling is also a separate one piece molding with separate cowling flaps. The spinner does mirror the older technology of the Hasegawa kit, being a single piece with cutouts for the blades and no back plate.

Surface detail is finely engraved but the detail in the wheel wells is a little "soft". There is a little flash on some parts but it is not obtrusive. Interior detail consists simply of a floor, seat, control stick, rear bulkhead and instrument panel but the parts are neatly molded and feature engraved and raised details as appropriate. The fuselage halves have integrally molded sidewall detail. Only seat belts will be required to furnish a cockpit sufficient for the scale, especially if the kit canopy is used.

When the first prototype Ki-106 was completed in the Ebetsu workshop of the Ohji Paper Company Limited, a contractor to Tachikawa, it was apparently quite something to see, the wooden structure being sealed with lacquer and polished like "a fine piece of furniture". It might be interesting to try to represent that pre-painted wood finish with this kit, adapting some of the techniques more familiar to WWI aircraft enthusiasts. The accomplishment of the established Hayate form in wood by Tachikawa engineers Shinagawa and Nakagawa was no mean feat and for that alone this aircraft probably deserves recognition and inclusion in a collection even though only four examples were built.

Image credits: ©2009 RS Models

Friday 4 June 2010

Does Size Matter?

A correspondent very kindly sent me this link to some outstanding Aichi E13A1 "Jake" models at IPMS Stockholm.

In 1/350th scale. Remarkable!

Thanks Stefan!

Image credits: ©2010 IPMS Stockholm 

Tuesday 1 June 2010

Mania Ki-15-1 "Babs" Type 97 Command Reconnaissance Plane Model 1

This beautiful model was built by Marian Holly from the original Mania 1/72nd scale kit (subsequently re-issued by Hasegawa), and was awarded Third place in the 1/72 single-engine category at IPMS region 1 held at Long Island, Republic Airport from 30th April to 1st May 2010.

Mario found the plastic of this old kit was rather brittle and required careful trimming. The cockpit interior is already fairly detailed out of box so he only added seatbelts from lead foil and buckles from thin copper wire. The interior was painted to represent JAAF # 3 Hairanshoku for which Mario used Pollyscale RLM24 blue straight from the bottle. The remainder of the airframe went together relatively easy and quickly as the original was a fairly simple aeroplane. Mario filled the wing interior spaces with strips of thick plastic and Tamiya polyester putty in order to maintain the proper dihedral of the fairly fragile kit parts, and to sustain the stress of the planned riveting job.

All control surfaces were sanded down and rescribed, the edges being cut down with PE razor (To his surprise, Mario doesn't see this being done even on larger scale kits), rib tapes were masked with Aizu micro tape (which he recommends) and then airbrushed with Mr Surfacer 500. Wheel spats were pinned with brass rod and glued with 5 min epoxy glue for additional strength. Panel lines were restored as necessary then the whole airframe was sanded, rivets added, sanded again and polished. 

The canopy required quite some dry fitting. It was polished from inside using Tamiya 1000 compound then given a single coat of Future. The cockpit deck was painted "cowling color" and the canopy fixed on using black CA glue (made by Wave in Japan). Mario was not happy with the canopy framing so he sanded it down, polished, masked using Aizu tape again and airbrushed with "cowling color". The whole airframe was primed with Gunze (GSI Creos) Mr Base White and after drying lightly polished with 2000 grit sand paper. Mario cut masks from Tamiya tape for the sentai markings (following the Rising Decals sheet) and hinomaru, positioned them and airbrushed his own Gunze (GSI Creos) Mr Color mix for JAAF # 1 Hairyokushoku. This is C128 gray-green with a lot of white and a few drops of bright blue added. Then Mario masked around white base of the hinomaru and airbrushed C327 (FS 11136) red straight out of the bottle. After removing all masking tape the whole surface was polished with wet 2000 sand paper, sealed with Mr Color Super Clear and then a coat of semi-flat varnish was airbrushed on (Mr Color Super Clear + Flat).

The engine was detailed with push rods made from brass, ingnition cables from copper wire and metal mesh for carburetor intakes. The cowling was painted with C125 "cowling color". The antena mast was scratchbuilt from brass rod and the aerial furnished from fly-fishing tippet line (Dai-rikki 9xxx). The tailwheel leg was made from stainless steel tubing. 

Image credits: Model photographs ©2010 Marian Holly