Friday 30 October 2020

Zoukei-Mura 1/32 Toryu by Dean Large


It is a privilege to be able to share these images and details of the Zoukei-Mura 1/32 Toryu Ki-45 Kai Ko as built by Dean Large and featured in Airfix Modelworld magazine. This impressive large scale kit is available in two versions in Zoiukei-Mura's Super Wings Series, kit SWS No.13 offering the Tei interceptor or Hei/Tei air-to-air ramming variant and kit SWS No.14 offering either the Ko or Hei interceptor variants.  

On receipt of kit SWS No.14 Dean was impressed with no less than 25 sprue frames of parts and a 60-page long instruction manual. Having decided against using the optional clear parts for the fuselage, wings, tailplanes and engine nacelles Dean was left with an approximately 400 parts build and elected to complete the kit as the Ko version.  

Construction began with the engines, each of 28 parts, and Dean noted an extent of detail provision that would not be visible with the model complete. The tubular mouldings such as pipes, exhausts, pushrods etc., had prominent mould seams and needed cleaning up before assembly. The other engine parts such as the banks of cylinders, carburettors and gearboxes required only minimum clean up. Once cleaned up all the parts fitted with click-together precision. The engine was painted with AK Xtreme Metal Steel followed by a black pastel wash. The carburettors and other ancillaries were finished in Tamiya XF-53 Neutral Gray with details picked out in AK Aluminium. The exhausts were first painted steel and then given a matt coat before successive layers of pastel washes in reds, browns and blacks, etc., to give a rusted and weathered appearance, then fixed with a second matt coat to prevent smudging when handling. 


For the very detailed cockpit Dean decided not to follow the instructional construction sequence requiring the cockpit floor to be attached to the single piece main wing spars. That  17” long structure would have made the cockpit assembly rather unwieldy to handle while adding the small details later. Dean decided that sub assemblies would be the best approach, with the whole structure only being brought together at the last minute before insertion into the fuselage. That meant a large number of cockpit parts would remain loose so a number of small plastic containers were used to keep the parts together and prevent losses, duly labelled of course. Dean followed the instructions to paint the interior 'late war khaki' but added Hobby Color H52 Olive Drab to H81 Khaki to achieve a greener effect matching photos. Notwithstanding the ZM instructions an interior colour of dark blue-grey or grey-green would probably be more typical for the Ko. Dean completed the interior with all the parts provided but noted that much of the detail is invisible once the model is completed and that many parts could be omitted to speed assembly without compromising the final result. 


There are three methods of presenting the instrument panel; by painting the raised detail on the plastic part, by applying an instruments decal, or by using the clear part. Dean chose the latter and masked off the openings for the dials and readouts, painted the panel black and then added the instrument decal from behind to show through the clear faces. Microscopic masking was needed for that - fortunately the majority of the dials being the same diameters as some of the punches in a miniature punch set allowed tiny discs of masking tape to be punched out for the purpose. More irregularly sized and shaped openings were masked with tiny blobs of Blu-Tak teased into position with the point of a cocktail stick. Switches and other details were then painted on with a fine brush and a steady hand. 

There was a similar situation with the twin Ho-103 nose armament,  unseen once the nose cone was assembled and if the inspection panels were fitted closed. The nose cone proved slightly too wide in diameter for the fuselage, leaving a step, and the sides of the latter had to be built up with layers of brushed on primer as filler. Dean used the optional transparent nose cone as a sacrificial 'dummy' to sand the fuselage to achieve a perfect match, thereby preserving the surface detail on the solid nose cone. 

According to the instructions, the undercarriage assembly needed to be fitted before the top wing halves were added. This seemed to Dean to be inviting their accidental removal later in the build, so he conducted tests to determine whether they could be fitted after the main airframe was assembled. The answer was yes, even after the engine nacelles were fitted, but only if the gear doors were added beforehand as these would not go in afterwards. The undercarriage itself is very sturdy and well braced, with amazing levels of detail up to and including separate brake pipes to add. Curiously the tyres were not moulded to simulate weight on them, so this was done by careful filing. 


The wing halves were added by locating the full length wing spar into the recess inside the wing half. This gives the correct dihedral angle automatically, with no warping. The top wing half was then added, and again fit was exact, the complex curves of the wing root fillets simply clicking into place. Their fit was so perfect that it was actually difficult to remove them again without damaging them, so a bead of liquid poly was run around the joints to fix them in position. Ailerons and flaps were added, and showed a similar precision of fit. The tailplanes and the fin also fit perfectly into their recesses too, with no filling necessary. One thing to note is that part of the tailplane and fin is visible through the open tailwheel well as it forms the roof of this structure. This means it has to be painted in the interior colour before assembly, as otherwise bare plastic will be visible and this is not mentioned in the instructions.

Once the main airframe was together, it was time for a coat of Mr Surfacer 1200 grey primer to check that joints were satisfactory with only some tidying up was necessary here and there. The rear cockpit was masked with tape for the primer application, and the front cockpit was masked using the ‘closed’ version of the windscreen and canopy as it was an excellent fit and would not be needed for the completed model. The rear fuselage and outer wings were sprayed in Mr Surfacer Base White primer rather than using the decals provided for the Homeland Defence 'bandages'.  The instructions mention that the white wing stripe decals need 3mm trimming from each side before fitting for the option chosen, and when the painted wing stripes were measured to accommodate this it was noticed that the decals for the yellow leading edges would then not meet up with the white stripes as required, so could not be used. That necessitated the yellow areas being painted too, and it was fortunate that this was noticed before the camouflage went on as yellow is notoriously difficult to paint over darker colours.


Mr Color C128 was used for the Imperial Japanese Army grey, and C130 for the dark green reticulated camouflage. These are lacquer paints, requiring thinning with Mr Color Levelling Thinner, and the first stage was to cover the entire airframe with the grey, simulating the aircraft’s appearance as it was delivered from the factory. The green patches were then airbrushed on freehand, without masking, but this approach caused a significant amount of green overspray between the patches. Whilst other builders have seemed content to leave this be, Dean felt that it was overscale and reloaded the airbrush and to clean up the grey areas. A glosscoat of Tamiya X-22 thinned with Mr Color Levelling Thinner was then applied to ready the airframe for the decals. 

Weathering was added with a medium grey chalk pastel wash on the lighter undersides and the white stripes, with a black wash on the darker green areas above. A very thin mixture of black and brown was then applied in subtle streaks at random on the underside to simulate grime and provide some variation to the large area of grey. A coat of matt varnish sealed everything, followed by a little grubbying up around the exhausts and wing root walk areas using powdered chalk pastels. Weathering was kept deliberately light, as a ‘used-but-serviceable’ look was intended.

With very special thanks to Dean for sharing his images and details of the build here. 

Image credits: All photos © 2020 Dean Large

Tuesday 6 October 2020

Holy Humbrol, Batman! - or A Whiter Shade of Pale (Grey)


Aviation of Japan's Texas correspondent Mark Smith has very kindly contributed his remembrance of building the classic Tamiya 1/48 scale Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21 kit of 1973 with its mei hai hakushoku (明灰白色) - light/bright ash white colour following the convention of the time. Sadly the ameiro wars are still with us but more happily the adage 'It's your model!' prevails and whether butternut or whitewash battledress is chosen a Zero model is a Zero for all that. And in this case a very fine model which belies its 40 odd years of survival. Over to Mark then:


'The Tamiya 1/48 scale A6M2 Model 21 Zero released in 1973 was a real revelation for its day.  It would be over twenty years before Hasegawa attempted  a better one, and even then . . . not by much.   I remember how much I enjoyed making it, and especially trying to re-create the cockpit.  This happened after college, when life had settled down and I’d just returned to model-building.  The wonderful Monogram T-6 had lured me back around 1978; I could build it as an SNJ in Navy Yellow, and make it as a gift to my Dad.  Halfway through that build, though, I was already itching to get started on that Tamiya Zero.  The particular subject was never in doubt, having (probably like every other reader of this blog) read 'Samurai' by Saburo Sakai in high school, and then there was that dramatic box art of V-103 (shown above) straining at the leash among its Tainan Ku brothers-in-arms - still inspiring. 

'Most of the extra work invested in this model was inspired by Japanese Cockpit Interiors Part 1 by Bob Mikesh (Monogram Close-Up 14, Monogram Aviation Publications, 1976) and a couple of Bunrin-do FAOW (Famous Aircraft of the World) titles on the Zero.  This was 1979, and resin and photoetch details for models weren’t on the horizon yet.  The Tamiya cockpit detail was very good to start with; a few items I added look better for the need to make them from scratch, but most look crude by comparison with what is available now – or for that matter, what Tamiya provides the modeler in the box with their newer tool 1/48 Zeros.  

'I’ve also moved seven times since building this model.  Things got gradually crooked or missing, and I was better at building them than repairing them.  (Aileron mass balances?  Uh, V-103 didn’t have those – or it doesn’t anymore).  Well, none of us liked (or will) turning forty.  Also, even models ‘protected’ against dust all their lives . . . weren’t.  It had suffered for my insistence then on a flat finish, which besides absorbing the dust has betrayed the fuselage seams, as the putty I had depended on then expanded, shrank, or cracked.  Somehow, though, the original sprue aerial for the antenna made it through all those moves.    

'This was the first model I airbrushed, and for dedicated Japanese colors, there were a few Humbrol and Pactra paints; I used Humbrol A/N2 from their Authentics range for the overall colour.  For you youngsters A/N meant Army and Navy.  I don’t remember the Pactra Authentic paint being much different. As the next couple of decades unfolded, it would take a lot to convince me – a lot of everything: time, rationale, photographs, arguments, common sense, colorimetry, relics - how different the familiar Humbrol and Pactra shades were from IJN standards and factory applications. To be fair, though, it was like trying to convince a man raised on the Texas Plains that the earth is round.  The late Jim Lansdale’s work on, and the Japanese researchers whose work he presented, was so well-documented and wide-ranging that it couldn’t be dismissed.   This blog was a big help in further explaining early Zero colors, subsequently well presented in Nick's 2010 pdf 'Painting the Early Zero-Sen: A Primer for Modellers & Artists'* and his 2017 Guideline Publications Combat Colours 9: 'The Mitsubishi Zero'.    

'Several years ago I heard that Nick was looking for tins of Humbrol A/N2. As paint, the Humbrol was superb then, and regardless of changing paradigms, I wish I still had some as well.  This is all I have left of mine, though, besides what is on the bottom of a Mania B5N2 Kate.  So I’m resurrecting it in these images, if a few years late.  At least the cockpit colour is close!

Above, in its natural habitat - incandescent light

'This blog is also a place where old models are still welcome, however, and where no kit is discounted because it might have been supplanted by a slightly better one.  More than forty years on, this one is still very much worth buying and building, and a bargain to boot.  But please, Mr. Tamiya . . . doesn’t that sparkling new 1/48 P-38 kit need a new-tool Model 21 counterpart?'   

With special thanks to Mark for this trip down memory lane - with excellent visual aids - and I wholeheartedly endorse his comment about old kits being welcome. I used the Pactra IJ21 Grey paint on the first Hasegawa Zero model I built - from their first generation 1/72 kit. It is slightly lighter than Humbrol's HJ2 Grey but both were matched to the A/N.2 grey in the 1964 IPMS 'Color Guide for Japanese Aircraft 1941-45'.  The whiteness of the colour surprised me but accorded with most of the depictions available then including the evocative Keith Ferris painting - 'Wounded Samurai' - which adorned the Ballantine Bantam books 'Samurai!' paperback cover in 1977. Somewhat surprisingly both paints measure as Munsell Yellows - albeit of very low saturation - and are not pure neutral greys of black and white only. The compiler of the IPMS guide Charles "Chuck" Graham had based them on artifacts assumed to be from IJN aircraft in junk piles at or around Chinhai, Korea during 1946-47 so they probably represented faded or chalked examples of the original paint. To match the HJ2 paint which is no longer in the Humbrol range requires mixing 94 (!) drops of 34 Matt White with five parts of 27 Matt Sea Grey and one part 186 Matt Brown. With foresight Humbrol's Deck Bleached Teak from their Naval Vessels set might have been a better choice but that is no longer part of the range either! The original issue of the Tamiya 1/48 kit preceded their own paint range - at least the instructions simply called out 'light grey' and did not give a hobby paint reference.   

The Tamiya kit had much to commend it including sharply moulded detail, an optional open cockpit with very clear trasparencies, nicely moulded sitting and standard pilot figures and a well-chosen decal sheet offering five markings options. In addition to the Saburo Sakai Tainan Ku machine expertly modelled by Mark decals were also provided for Yoshiro Hashiguchi's 3 Ku 'X-183', Tetsuzo Iwamoto's 253 Ku '253-102' with its plethora of cherry blossom victory tallies, -110 (Tora-110) of 261 Ku (which featured on the cover of Don Thorpe's 'Japanese Naval Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II'), and Shigeru Itaya's classic Pearl Harbor attack 'A1-101' from the carrier Akagi.  

* Now expanded to 43 pages with additional information and available to previously registered purchasers free of charge. A Nakajima supplement is in progress and will be available shortly.

 Image credits:- All model photos © 2020 Mark Smith; Box Art © Tamiya Inc., 1973; Book Cover Art © 1977 Keith Ferris via Bantam Books