Thursday 22 August 2013

Max Models 'Dying Sun' Decals in 1/48th scale

Good news for 1/48th scale modellers. Following on from their re-issue of the Rising Decals popular 'Dying Sun' two-part sets of captured Japanese aircraft in Allied markings, Max Models in the USA has released a two part Limited Edition in 1/48th scale.

MM 48-0100 has markings for five aircraft as follows:-

  • Ki-61-I Tei - operated by VMF 322 at Okinawa in May 1945 in a very colourful finish of dark blue and white with the USMC emblem in red on fin. Max Models have corrected an error on the original sheet by depicting the rudder, elevators and spinner painted red as evidenced by a colour photograph. The schematic in the decal instructions shows this even more colourful subject correctly even though the cover illustration doesn't. 
  • Ki-61-I Ko TAIC # 9 - at NAS Anacostia in natural metal finish. This aircraft was originally seizou bangou 263 captured at Cape Gloucester and as 'XJ 003' tested at Eagle Farm, Australia before being shipped to the USA. Although seizou bangou (製造番号) is often referred to as a 'serial number' the term means, literally, 'manufacturer production series number', sometimes called 'construction number' or c/n, and as stencilled on the airframe was coded by one of three known methods to provide a level of deception about how many aircraft had been produced. 
  • Ki-44-II Hei 'S11'  - another aircraft tested by TAIU-SWPA at Clark in natural metal finish with pre-war rudder stripes . This aircraft carried the original s/b 2068. The uncoded serial number of this aircraft was 1068 and it was manufactured in July 1944.
  • Ki-44-II Hei - a late production aircraft with the rarely seen individual exhaust stacks still in IJAAF camouflage with the partially over-painted emblem of former operator the 70th Sentai on the rudder. This will make a very interesting model but the Hasegawa kit will require some modification to represent the multiple exhaust outlets. I'm not aware of a conversion kit although it would seem a good subject for one.
  • Ki-84-1 'S17'  - another aircraft tested by TAIU-SWPA at Clark Field in the Philippines in 1945 in natural metal finish (nmf) with pre-war rudder stripes. Originally s/b 1446 this aircraft had a long post-war career in various spurious finishes including an appearance in the 1954 film 'Never So Few' (blink and you'll miss it). It was eventually returned to Japan and is now displayed in the markings of its former operator the 11th Sentai. With a bit of research an interesting line-up could be made of this survivor in its various finishes.

For obvious reasons the two Ki-46 subjects on the 1/72nd sheet are not included.

MM 48-0101 also has markings for five fighter aircraft as follows:-
  • J2M3 'S12' - another nmf Clark Field TAIU tested bird # 3008 in natural metal with pre-war rudder stripes, this 'Jack' was captured on the emergency airstrip at Dewey Boulevard, Manila.
  • J2M3 'B1-01' - Once thought to be applied by the British the tail number on this aircraft is now known to be IJN original  and identifies IJN Air Group 381. This Raiden in ATAIU-SEA ownership was flown under test at Tebrau, Malaya.
  • A6M5 'TAIC 11' - the original construction number was 1303 and it was one of the aircraft captured on Saipan and not at Singapore as stated. An incompletely decipherable legend 'AI 2G . . . ' appears beneath the 'Technical Air Intelligence Center' title beneath the cockpit but is not included on the sheet. This was the Air Ministry section responsible for German and Japanese air intelligence. This aircraft was scheduled for delivery to ATAIU-SEA in India but that plan was probably overtaken by events.
  • A6M2 'B1-12' - also operated by ATAIU-SEA at Tebrau, Malaya in 1946. 
  • Ki-43-II - a new addition to the sheet this Army aircraft was captured at Hollandia, New Guinea and test flown in natural metal finish with pre-war rudder stripes and the name 'Racoon Special' which can be applied in optional red or yellow.

Captured Japanese aircraft are perennially popular as modelling subjects and these decals offer good, colourful subjects. They are well printed with accurate register and nicely saturated colours with the British roundel colours depicted correctly. For aircraft with the pre-war rudder stripes the rudder must be painted white before application. The sheets cost US$12 post-paid in the USA, $14 to Canada or Mexico and $15 (approx. £9.62) to any other country post-paid. In the UK they will be available from Hannants. With Max Models kind permission and for reasons I won't go into involving our friends the Royal Mail (grrr!) the two review sheets are available for sale direct from me on a strictly first come first served basis for the special price of £12 the pair post-paid within the UK only.  

Image credits: All © 2013 Max Models 

Monday 19 August 2013

Where Are They Now? Revell (Japan) 1/144th Mini-Series

When I mentioned the range of 1/144th scale kits from Revell (Japan) in Mark Smith's article on his builds in that scale my memory was playing tricks on me. I thought the range had included only fighters but on checking the 1975 Revell (Japan) catalogue I see that it included some multi-place, single engined IJN types too - the "Kate", "Val", "Judy" and "Myrt" no less. There was a Shiden and Shiden-kai too.

From Burns* it appears that the whole range might not have been exported to Europe and I have no idea if the Revell Japan kits originated from other company's moulds or indeed wound up in other company's ranges. It seems that only the Ki-43, Ki-44, Ki-61 and Ki-84 went to the UK and Germany with the others only being sold in Japan and Mexico. In Japan the range was also sold in gift sets with pairs of "Kate" with "George", "Oscar with "Frank" and "Zeke" with "Myrt".

The German range included a Ju-87 and the US range a Douglas Dauntless. At the time Gunze Sangyo Inc., were the licensee for Revell in Japan and their early range of paints appear in the catalogue. 

* 'In Plastic - WW2 Aircraft Kits' by John W Burns (Kit Collectors Clearinghouse, 1993 edition)

Image Credits: All © 1975 Revell (Japan) and Gunze Sangyo Inc.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Alvaro César's 1/48th A6M3 Model 22

Alvaro César very kindly sent these images of his superlative build of the Tamiya 1/48th scale Mitsubishi A6M3 Model 22 Zero in the markings of the 582nd Kokutai based at Buin on Bougainville.

Alvaro found the level of detail and fit of the kit parts amazing. There was almost no need for putty and some parts held well even without glue, as for example the ailerons, the U-shaped wheel well mechanisms, cowl flaps and landing gear legs. The only unexpected trouble was the junction between the lower rear part of the wings assembly and the underside fuselage that required some work to align.

The model was painted using Gunze (GSI Creos) acrylic paints with Vallejo chrome paint for the chipping effects. The yellow wing IFF strips and Hinomaru were masked and painted. The numbers and the white chevron are from the Berna Decals A6M3 Set with their borders trimmed. On completion the kit was coated with a 50/50 mix of Gunze clear gloss (H-30) and flat (H-20) to produce a semi-gloss finish. 

After a sludge wash, Tamiya Weathering Master Sets were used to add some subtle weathering and oil/exhaust stains.

All in all Alvaro found the Tamiya A6M3 to be a very well-engineered and enjoyable model kit which he recommends to modelers of all skills.


For smaller scale modellers the impending release in September of a new mould Tamiya 1/72nd scale A6M3 Model 32 "Hamp" (above) suggests that a Model 22 in the smaller scale might follow. The previous Tamiya 1/72 "Hamp" dates to circa 1964 so the new kit appears on its 50th Anniversary. The old and new kits will make an interesting comparison. 

Circa 1964 Tamiya 1/72 A6M3

Image credits: Model photographs © 2013 Alvaro César; Box art © 1964 & 2013 Tamiya Inc.

Saturday 17 August 2013

Ki-27 'Nate' Aces

Osprey Ki-27 'Nate' Aces has been published this month and features covert art and colour profiles by Ronnie Olsthoorn. Ronnie has very kindly given permission to show some samples of his excellent work here. Having been close to their production I am in awe of his skill and attention to detail beginning with the painstaking manufacture of a complete 3D model, reconstructed from various engineering drawings, photographs and wartime movies, which emerged from construction in gleaming metal and could be viewed from all angles.

Ronnie addressed and resolved several aspects of the airframe for the first time even to the extent of the canopy closure and the colour of certain stencil markings.

In the book the colour profiles have been arranged and presented to 1/48th scale whilst the plan drawings are to 1/72nd scale. There are 31 profiles in total plus a top and bottom view of Capt Inoue's colourful machine of the 1st Chutai, 1st Sentai which benefited from very clear photographs courtesy of Dr Yasuho Izawa.

The original manuscript for Ki-27 Aces proved too long for Osprey's standard format and some of the more obscure forays not directly related to aces had to be edited out. To ensure the work is not lost the "missing" sections will be presented here in due course. 

Image credits: © 2013 Osprey Publishing Ltd and Ronnie Olsthoorn (

Tuesday 13 August 2013

Mark Smith's 1/144th Scale Gem Collection

Japanese model aircraft enthusiasts are not badly served in the diminutive 1/144th scale, the popularity of which seems to have increased for serious modellers in recent years. As well as the exquisite family of Zero kits from Sweet there are a Shiden-kai family and JASDF subjects from Platz as well as older but still decent kits from LS and Imai. The latter series of kits of Japanese twins were re-issued first by Hasegawa and more recently by Aoshima. In the 1970s Revell (Japan) issued a collection of fighter types and the Japanese subjects still surface occasionally. This range has just been re-launched by Revell under the 'Micro Wings' title but has not so far included the Japanese subjects. Perhaps those moulds are no longer owned by Revell. There are  a few other companies offering pre-painted JASDF subjects such as TomyTech as well as rarer types in resin from companies like A & W Models. It is not before time therefore to feature this scale in the form of superb models of Sam and George created by Mark Smith and photographed by Elbert Greynolds. To accompany these images Mark has kindly provided a full and informative build article too.  In his own words then:-

"I recently finished three models of Japanese prototypes that I thought would make a nice vignette in an open hanger setting, perhaps three birds that might have crossed paths or shared an apron at Yokosuka. 

"Having that scene in mind spurred me to keep working on them.  I hadn’t finished anything in so long, and keeping them on the same track so I could finish them as a group kept things moving along.  Until it was time to paint – and I got stuck, an increasing occurrence with model projects as I approach fullblown geezerhood.  I kept trying to think of something else – anything really - that I could do to avoid painting them.  Yellow?  Orange?  Yellow-orange?  Orange-yellow?  And were these things manufacturer-specific?  Factory-specific per manufacturer?   What about scale effect?  I didn’t want a Shiden that looks like an Easter egg.  I had three toy airplanes, each about two and a half inches long, a cylinder full of CO2, four working airbrushes, and was frozen in place.  So I reached out to this very blog’s chief cook and bottlewasher.  

"That was well over a year ago, and Nick’s response helped a great deal with both information and encouragement.  He mentioned that much of it was taken from a new pdf guide that he would soon make available on Aviation of Japan covering the subject of colors for Japanese Navy experimental, prototype and trainer aircraft.  If nothing else, I mixed some colors and sprayed those models.  I don’t think they’re quite right.  They were meant to represent the variety of shades that were reported and illustrated. Both should probably have more yellow in them, something that his initial help suggested and the finished guide recently made available here reinforced.  But I can’t be sure, and I take a perverse comfort in that.  If I wanted to know exactly what color to paint it, I guess I’d be building F-16s.  Though the directives were industry-based and inter-service in general, it would indeed be nice if these colors and their individual variations and subtleties could be traced to Mitsubishi, Nakajima, Kawanishi, et al, as with other colors of the era, or to particular time frames, to further clarify things.  Maybe we’ll find out more along those lines.  But the fact that there has always been a broad range of interpretation, particularly among Japanese artists and modelers with keen memories of those times, keeps things interesting; “Orange Yellow Enigma” is an apt title.  Without insistence or dogma the guide offers the best synthesis and analysis of the subject yet found in one place, and its primary sources (contemporary directives and numerous ranged color chips based on the Kariki 117 colors) give modelers the most precise tools yet available to replicate those colors.

Kawanishi N1K2-J Shiden-Kai “George” 

"The two N1K2-J Shiden-Kai (“George”) models shown here are from the Platz kit, which came out several years ago and has already seen several boxings.  Taken as a kit, it’s generally top-drawer, featuring good fit in most areas with fine engine and landing gear detail, and exquisitely engraved paneling.  Unlike the earlier LS George kit in this scale, it includes the pronounced downward camber at the rear of the wings where they meet the fuselage – ugly but accurate.  The decals by Cartograf are up to their usual standard, and in the first issue markings were included for this prototype which appear  faithful to photos.  On the sprues it looks virtually flawless. 

"It’s not!  Whilst very good, it does miss the mark in some notable ways only realized upon assembly.  The front of the cowling has too flat a shape viewed in profile.  The propeller lacks the correct diameter and shape; the spinner doesn’t look quite right either and comes without a backing plate.  The flying surfaces and especially the trailing edges are too thick.   And unfortunately the horizontal stabilizers fit like an afterthought, undersized compared to their fuselage fillets.  These sound like small complaints, but they keep the model from even approaching any of the Sweet kits I’ve built, all of which were more accurate and less fiddly.

"The second production run for the Shiden-Kai had vertical tail surfaces noticeably more narrow in chord, and Platz has issued that version as well, although their solution is not an elegant one.  The modeler is required to saw off the tail forward of the horizontal stabilizers and “plug in” (literally) the new tail provided.  Even if it fits well, some careful fairing and re-scribing will be required.  

"My model was pretty much out-of-the-box, so it’s a good thing I built it just before Brengun released their wonderful photoetched detail set for it.  I painted it with a mix made from Aeromaster’s Japanese Yellow with red added.   

Mitsubishi A7M2 Reppu “Sam” 

"The A7M2 Reppu (“Sam”), the aircraft Horikoshi Jiro designed to replace the Zero, was one of the first kits to attract me to 1/144 scale, arriving when LS brought out their four ‘double-kit’ boxings in the late 1970s, with all eight subjects being Japanese WWII taildraggers.  Even after 35 years they are still worth building.  Such a bounty would seem amazing these days, as new tooling becomes sadly rare.  I was working in a hobby shop then, and when these arrived, everyone was impressed at how finely they were engraved.  They set a new standard for the scale, being some of the first 1/144 kits that could be taken seriously as display models.  I started fooling with the B6N2 “Jill” kit from that bunch as soon as I arrived home with it, and from then on I was hooked.  I hadn’t built Reppu “Sam” in all those years due to the fact that its landing gear was so bad as to be unusable, and its canopy sadly spoiled by a large knockout pin underneath the pilot’s hood.  But it’s an exotic type, and very crisply if simply molded.  I determined that if I could first make the landing gear to my satisfaction and manage to pull a clean vac canopy with the old Mattel Vac-u-Form, I should go for it.  I was able to achieve the latter only after ruining the originals on the first two tries.  I knew there was a reason I kept buying these kits at shows...  

"The ancient but useful Maru Mechanic #5, its drawings reduced to 1/144 on a copier, served as a good general guide to try to make the forward fuselage and cowl more accurate, and fashion the landing gear parts.  These were kept simple, with brass rod for struts and .010 plastic sheet card for the fairings / doors, and wheels from the scrap box.

"Along the way I decided to build the model with its wings folded.  With that slight inverted gull wing I thought the results would be interesting.  It was a moot point by the time of the A7M2’s test program, as there were no fleet carriers left to host the aircraft.  So perhaps the mechanism was removed or the wings were locked down.  If so, please don’t tell me!  Mounting them proved trickier than expected, but two lengths of floral wire communicating through holes drilled in the ‘section’ of each wing part provided the key support to mount the wingtip and set it to the necessary angle.  Lightening holes at the section of both wing pieces were faked with paint, and I chose dark blue grey as a likely Mitsubishi color and one that would not be as distracting as the blue or green of aotake.  Between Gakken and MM, I had drawings showing two different locations for the wing hinomarus, and chose the one that perfectly bisected the circle in upper view.

"Both the choice of overall orange and the black cowl sweep, as far as they relate to the A7M2, are again undocumented, as I’ve only ever seen three photos of Reppu, which all show Ko-A7-3 as found in a hanger after the war.  That one is apparently dark green over natural metal or J3 grey.  There are some factors, however, that helped me decide it was likely enough to use on the model.  Taken together, they lack coherence, and in fact may be held together only by a fine tissue of sentiment and wishful thinking.  Dammit, Jim, I’m a Liberal Arts major, not a scientist!  

"Firstly, Fine Molds’ 1/48 A7M1 Sam kit suggests an overall orange yellow, though its instructions mention that the painting suggestions are conjectural.  Secondly, some earlier artist interpretations of Ko-A7-3 showed the undersides as a deep sandy orange, the most memorable being Ikematsu’s dramatic cowling-on perspective on the cover of Maru Mechanic #5 in the late 1970s.   Thirdly, a memorable Kodachrome of a Seiran (sans tail surfaces) found after the war shows a heavily flaked dark green that had obviously been applied over the original orange, with large patches of the latter showing through.  With due respect to caveats about interpreting color from photographs, it shows a deep sandy orange, to my eye much more orange than yellow.  Fourthly, it’s a lot easier to imagine an overall orange yellow prototype having a camouflage color later applied to upper surfaces than to see this combination as factory-originated.  

"The July 1981 issue of Airpower Magazine featured a color shot of Nakajima’s G8N “Rita” on its cover (at Floyd Bennett Field in New York if I recall) in U.S. markings, but still pretty bright in its yellow orange plumage.  Over the years Hasegawa and Minicraft have had various box art for their 1/72 kit that reiterated this color.  The flaked Seiran and the Rita, while both “victims” of color photography and very old slides, probably had more to do with the color I mixed for the Sam than anything.  Of course, Sam, Rita, and Seiran represent three different manufacturers. 

"Yes, after further review, sentiment and wishful thinking were crucial factors.  But of the three I was happiest with the way Reppu turned out.  One item that needs replacement is the propeller spinner, which according to the drawings is much longer and more pointed.  There came a point when I just wanted to be done with these in time for a model show.  The only four-blade prop I could find with appropriately large diameter was from the LS (now ARII) “Emily” flying boat.  Propellers in this scale are often clunky and thick, and these props were beautifully molded, so on it went as a placeholder of sorts.  The blades should have a wider chord.  I’m still not sure of how to source the blades and spinner to make it look right.    

Hold the Paint, Please

"Of my trials trio (and they did seem trying at times) the natural-metal Shiden-kai was the ace in the hole.  No need to worry about what shade of orange or yellow to go with; Kawanishi, I decided, just wants to know how fast she will go without paint.  It doesn’t seem beyond the pale, as other Japanese types, such as Myrt, Oscar, Shoki, and Frank, flew pre-production and test aircraft unpainted.  

"I used a “Ko” tail-code similar to that on the orange one, and beyond a simple black anti-dazzle section in front of the cockpit and the front half of the spinner in natural metal, that’s it. Its simplicity and bright finish set off those fine panel lines and show the kit’s quality to advantage despite my carping.    

Fakin’ It

"One of the reasons I’ve always loved this scale is that it’s small enough that one can fake certain details in ways that would not pay on larger scale models.  Cockpit interiors under closed canopies only need the basics of seat, stick, and headrest, but if certain details are suggested with paint, mechanical pencil, or 1/72 instrument panel decals reduced to 1/144 on a copier, results are rewarding for not much effort.  Landing gear usually suffers in this scale and just adding retraction jacks and such with sprue, or a brake line snaking down each strut greatly improves the look.  In 1/48, a really convincing cockpit usually sports a bewildering variety of equipment and colors.  In this scale, complexity can be suggested by a bit of extra care with only two or three items.  On the Sam model, a little square mounted with a tiny piece of clear plastic serves as a gunsight.  That and the headrest are the items immediately visible.  On all three models, pitot tubes were molded with the wing, but out of scale, and I always seem to break them off handling the model anyway; so they were replaced with syringes and fine wire.

LS 1/144th A7M2 Reppu "Sam" box art circa 1970 

"The most difficult detail part to paint on 1/144 models is the framing of transparencies.  I finally gave up, and all three of these used the method of framing with decal strips.  If, each time a color is sprayed, a section of clear decal is included also, this will allow for repairs down the line, and so much more easily than re-masking and re-spraying.  Just make sure when you apply a finish coat of gloss or flat or smoke or weathering, you follow through on the decal swatch, or when you got to frame the canopy it won’t look integral (see the orange George for proof!).  

Platz 1/144th N1K2-J Shiden-kai "George"

"On the Reppu, the bottom sill of the sliding hood had 45 degree corners, and with a tiny section of decal, sliding them on was the better part.  I cut straight frames that require no radius with a #16 X-acto blade (sometimes called a stencil-cutter) that allows one to more finely gauge the width.  Other framing will require cutting curved frames for which a straight blade is no good, and that usually takes a few tries to get the radius that works.  It might seem that such fine work would need a small pair of sharp scissors, but I find it easier to maintain a curve, and match the front and rear edges in width, with a pair of standard-size Fiskars.  Have some fine tweezers, water, a fine brush such as an 00, toothpicks, and some decal solution at hand.  When the soaked decal frame can be moved slightly off the backing paper, use the brush to wet the canopy with water, pick up the backing with tweezers and place the bottom edge in place on the lower edge of the canopy, holding it in place with a toothpick as you slide the backing paper off.  A very fine strip of decal won’t want to bend across the curve of most canopies, but once you get one side correctly placed – and only then – dip the brush in some decal set and put a very small amount under the decal, to tease it over the top, so it will snuggle down on the other side.  Move it as little as possible, as such a tiny bit of decal will disintegrate if moved more than once or twice after treating with set.  Normally stronger solutions like Micro-Sol or Solvaset aren’t needed, but for a decal already in place but not quite snugged down, that will do it.  The combination of a vacformed canopy with decal framing does take some concentration (and for me, magnification) but while tedious, you get all the do-overs you want.


"One common advantage for these three as kits was their feature of very delicate panel lines.  Normally the equation is George or Sam equals dark green.  These lighter color schemes allowed a chance to make the most of that fine scribing with water-colors.  In very small scales, I find finished models just aren’t as visually interesting in dark colors, and their details much harder to see.  Realizing opinions vary widely here, the idea of “scale color” (an atmospheric reduction in hue or intensity as viewing distance increases) also seems increasingly valid.  In building a desert Hurricane from the Sweet kit, for instance, the RAF Midstone and Dark Earth colors I settled on were far lighter mixes than actual chips for these colors.  The original top-surface shades had so much contrast they gave a toy-like appearance when tried on a test model.  Using Blu-tack to mask the patterns, lightening the colors notably, and then spraying a very thin solution of the lighter color over all upper surfaces helped blend them, as well as later airbrushed applications of exhaust stains, and hand-applied water colors and chalk pastels.

"The watercolors I use are from a simple student set by Prang that has squares of several colors; I pried out the black and brown ones from the tray, made bottled versions with hot water, and mixed the two together for the most useful shade.  I’ve tried using the “wash” method and have admired the results others achieve with it, but have never pulled it off.  What comes out best for me is going over each panel line with a very thin solution “mixed” on a paper palette as I go.  The capillary action and ease of blotting mistakes makes it, like using decal strips for canopy frames, very forgiving. 

"Other 1/144 kits offer opportunities to model prototypes in brighter livery than usually seen.   Jack, Grace, and Frances come to mind.  But whatever scale you build, “Orange Yellow Enigma” will prove an invaluable resource.

"Many thanks to my friend Bert Greynolds for the best photos here; his time and expertise are greatly appreciated.” 

Image credits:- Model images © 2013 Mark Smith and Elbert Greynolds; Box art © circa 1970 LS and © 2006 Platz     


Saturday 10 August 2013

The Red Box 1/72 Japanese Aviation Figurines

For those modellers who like to animate their aircraft models with figurines it might be of interest to learn that the Ukrainian model soldier manufacturer The Red Box has released 12 limited edition sets of resin figurines of IJAAF, IJN and Kamikaze types in 1/72nd scale, including pilots and ground crew.

The Japanese Army sets:-

Each set consists of three resin figurines as shown here but I understand that the same figures will be released in soft plastic in three sets of 14 figures each later this year as follows:-

RB72048 – WW2 Japanese Kamikaze
RB72052 – WW2 Japanese Army Aviation Pilots and Ground Crew
RB72053 – WW2 IJN Pilots and Ground Crew

The Japanese Navy sets:-

The Kamikaze sets:-

The Red Box are noted for their imaginative Far East subjects and interesting poses and these sets will certainly fill a gap for anyone planning Japanese aircraft vignettes or dioramas.

Image credit: All © 2013 The Red Box