Wednesday 10 January 2024

Rufe Duo in 1/144 by Mark Smith

It is a delight to feature this write up and images of a superlative build of the Sweet Suisen times two in a hard to believe 1/144 scale by AoJ Texas correspondent Mark Smith. Over to Mark then:-

Suisen Times Two

'I have a deep and inexplicable attraction to 1/144 scale aircraft.  The eight LS kits of Japanese single-engine taildraggers, along with the Imai 1/144 Japanese twins (reissued for a while by Hasegawa and more recently Doyusha), fueled this many years ago, by offering worthwhile kits that repaid a little extra care and attention with a reasonable replica instead of the toylike appearance from which earlier efforts in the scale suffered.

'Then Sweet Models of Japan came along with their Zero family, Hurricanes, Wildcats, Mustangs, and many more single engine jewels.  A new standard of excellence had emerged, and even with the nice 1/144 Platz efforts of recent years, for me Sweet still holds serve.  But with that standard came a new pattern, a dynamic that can lead to trouble, or so I’ve heard.  These kits, made to put together in an evening or a weekend, were so good on the sprues that they also came with an invisible siren song that prompted what might be possible in terms of additions if one were willing.  'That way madness lies; let me shun that; no more of that.'  Lear was right of course, tragically right.  Listen to the man!

'While I’m pleased with this pair of Suisen – pleased with anything that ends up in one piece these days – the two reminded me of the old lesson: the imagination, God bless it, is a ‘clean room’ where anything is possible; but the workbench is where reality lives, and it prefers the reasonable.  Time after time.

'I wanted to build one well-known Rufe in overall olive grey assigned to the Kimakawa Maru seaplane tender, and another that would be provisional in its markings, to represent a Takuma Ku veteran that had been through the wars, with overpainted codes and with camo applied and then touched up. 

'I enjoyed the freedom that the latter option afforded, and it led to discovering a new way of applying a mottled or worn finish that yielded far better results than any freehand airbrushing I could accomplish, especially in this scale.  This involved using a ‘clothes dryer sheet’ (‘anti-static-cling’ - one brand here in the US is Cling Free) which had been through a few clothes cycles, opening up the weave a little.  What is perfect about this method is that these dryer sheets have no perceptible pattern to their weave and the random affect imparted is what I wanted.  It must be wrapped tightly around the surfaces, and secured on the opposite surface with tape to keep it taut, but it’s a lovely stencil for camouflage. Once tried the many possibilities for any scale can be appreciated.  Re-wrapping and spraying again yields a different effect, as does changing the angle of spray, as does using a different sheet that has been through fewer or more drying cycles, or a different brand. 

'And it’s not a specialized modeling product yet, so it’s free!  For multi-color mottles (the kind Luftwaffe types bring to mind, yes, but also not unknown on Hayabusa airframes in more than one theater of war) it has great possibilities.  It’s a little labor-intensive to set up, but worth the trouble.  When I saw the first results, I thought immediately of 582 Ku in the Solomons with that thick, almost solid, mottling applied to many of their Zeros.  I could finally see that happening in a way that I liked in 1/48 or 1/72 scales.  My friend Pat Donahue can get similar effects by hand, as this blog has shown; but not all of us can, though, and here’s a way in for me. 

'The boarding ladders are from the Brengun p.e. set for this kit, as are the lovely little pilot seats. The paints are Tamiya mixes, with the Dark Green in this case being a 50/50 mix of the two Tamiya shades for this color (XF-11 and XF-70). The rest of the cockpits are from scratch. The ‘wave base’ employed in the photos is from a 1/144 Rufe, a pre-painted model by Takara and it fits nicely. The beaching dolly is from the Sweet kit. The floats have some additional details engraved.  Markings are a mix of decals and paint.

'Sweet’s A6M2-N is remarkably accurate in the unique fittings and panel lines the floatplane conversion required.  The ‘relofted’ tail, carefully drawn to large scale with exact measurements in a TAIC report filed on a derelict Rufe discovered, is faithfully reflected in the kit as well.  As I recall its photos noted a surprise to American analysts, and later to modelers: the folding wing tips remained. There is even a tiny blister provided, a later appearance I believe, which covers the fuel pump that is offset on the main float of applicable airframes.  I found particularly helpful notes on Rufe paint and markings in Combat Colours 9: The Mitsubishi Zero by Nick Millman, nicely illustrated by Mark Rolfe.  This is hard to find now, at least in America, so grab one if you see it. 

'To close, I’ll take this chance to say how much a comfort and connection that Aviation of Japan has been.  No one ever asked me to pay for it, and the sole proprietor (who does pay for it) has never been above helping modelers and historians with the kind of info which others might understandably hold tight for a future book or project.  It’s been of great practical help as well as that other kind one can’t easily pin down, which involves encouragement.  I’ve loved writing for the blog, too.  Here I’ve been allowed to offer a tribute to my uncle on the 75th anniversary of The Battle of the Coral Sea (technically off-topic); an extended article about the development and design of Saiun (too long probably, but again humored); and even, under the pen name of Malcolm Hood, a little jibe at our own expense, “A Short Story for Christmas: Rufe Revelations” – definitely off topic, but brought on board nevertheless.  I could not have gotten away with this anywhere else, or had as much fun doing it.  As my mom would have it, ‘say it along the way - or it might never be said.’ Thanks Nick, and thanks to all of you who have shared your work and thoughts here. '

Thank you Mark, for the write up, images and nice words about this blog. 

Image credit: All photos © 2024 Mark Smith


Michael Thurow said...

That's some fine work, Mark, easily taken for 1/72 at least. Wonderful miniature detail and a superb camouflage on both. I particularly like your rendition of the Zero J3 colour (which brand?) and the mottling technique that you describe. I wonder if it works in conjunction with a hairbrush.
Great story, too! Many thanks for letting us participate in your thoughts. Thank you Nick - Mark's praise of AoJ is more than deserved.

blitzkrieg_bop said...

that's really a noteworthy paint job!!! compliments

Jim Anderson said...

"Cuter than a bug's ear" is now I would describe these two little jewels. Bravo Mark. That you add well detailed cockpits is an understatement for this scale. Where did you come up with the idea of using a worn dryer sheet? Regardless the results speak for themselves. The machine from the Kamikawa Maru captures the eye as well in it's single color overall paint scheme and the associated markings. You have to see models in this scale in person to get the full effect of the fantastic level of skill and artistry presented here. Thanks Nick for another great page in the floatplane saga.

Baronvonrob said...

Wow ! Rufes, King Lear, Dryer sheets for camouflage !…all from the prosaic pen of one “Mr. Malcom Hood” (hilarious sobriquet) … sincere thanks to you, Mr. Smith for such an entertaining and helpful article

Here, here, for your comments about Aviation of Japan, it’s simply the best blog out there, and we all owe a debt of gratitude to Nick

John Haas said...


Thank you, for showing us these little jewels ! Amazing how you managed to
include so many details.
LS Models bring back memories, a poor photocopied leaflet started my interest in
Japanese planes, which were complete new to me.

Thanks Mark and Nick!
John Haas

Dan Salamone said...

Superb builds, and amazing camouflage work. Great to see these little gems brought to life by Mark!


Ronnie Olsthoorn said...

At that minute scale, this is very impressive work!

Alex said...

Just fantastic detailing and paintjob for this scale! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Very fine work, Mark. Thanks for sharing it with us Mark & Nick.

Ken Glass