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The Next Build(s): Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat

September 4, 2010

When I got back into modeling, one of the first things I decided to do was build an airplane for Nolan. Something bright, with lots of bold colors. Of course, those types of paint schemes tend to take a lot of planning and masking, so it seemed a good idea to get my feet wet with one or two other kits first. Thus the P-51B Mustang and the SBD-3 Dauntless.

Next up? The Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat, in its pre-war yellow wing livery.

But not just one Wildcat. This time around, I’m going to be building two simultaneously. One for Nolan, and one for Lola.

My plan is to take the overall yellow wing livery, but customize it for the kids. Yellow wing (the wings were yellow to aid search and rescue efforts…which had to have been highly confidence inspiring…) Wildcats sported colored tails – black, green, etc. For the kids, I’m going to stay with the colored tails, but Nolan’s will be blue, and Lola’s pink. These will be matched with wing stripes, and each plane will have customized ID markings. N-LN for Nolan and L-LA for Lola.

As with the Dauntless, I’m planning to use these Wildcats as testbeds for new paints and techniques. In fact, I’ve already been experimenting with making my own seat belts out of masking tape. So far, I’m extremely happy with them. Much easier to work with than photo etched seatbelts (though I did snag some PE bits for the the buckles and such).

The other big test? This time, it’s natural metal finishes. Making a jumble of polystyrene parts look like painted metal is hard enough. Making them look like bare metal (or, technically, bare alclad – aluminum cladding – panels) is another thing entirely. There are several paints out there that can yield this bare metal look, and I’ll be trying out two of them. Alclad II lacquer, and Talon acrylic. The Alclad II is a semi-known quantity, and I know it can yield awesome results. But lacquers are really, really toxic. The Talon, meanwhile, is acrylic, is said to smell of oranges, and can clean up with water.

It’ll be interesting, having a sort of NMF-off between the two.

More to come.


Slow But Done

September 4, 2010

The SBD-3 Dauntless is done.

I’ll admit, I’ve had more enjoyable builds, and I’m ready to have this one off the bench. Overall, it’s a really solid kit, but between the over-engineered cockpit that you can’t even see and several frustrating fit tolerances toward the very end, I can’t call it a phenomenal kit. Still, it gave me a chance to experiment with several new techniques and taught me a ton of lessons about what I’m doing right – and what I’m doing wrong.

Finishing this kit was definitely a slog. First because of the aforementioned fit tolerances. These included several clear pieces that were a millimeter or so too wide – enough to ensure that they didn’t fit. Most of these were filed down until I could shove them into place. One tiny piece was too small to even hold in such a way as to file it, and ended up vanishing into the garage floor.

Mounting pins also proved troublesome, both on the propeller shaft and on the landing gear. In each case they had to be trimmed back in order to properly seat the tires and prop…though pulling the prop to address this problem resulted in ripping the crankcase and ignition wires off the engine. Oops.

Lastly, the canopy fit proved to be atrocious. The windscreen doesn’t line up with the lines of the aircraft, and clearly isn’t supposed to, except in real life. Accurate Miniatures even added little tabs to their one-piece canopy to address this, but did nothing for the “leave it open” configuration. Then there’s the stacked canopies, which…don’t stack properly. I ended up having to bust out the file and shave as much as I could from the interior frames.

On top of these fit tolerances, I also ran into several self-made headaches. Like dripping cyanoacrylate adhesive on the horizontal stabilizer while attaching the dive flaps. Or having a poorly formulated flat finish spit white flecks all over the plane, necessitating a very careful wet sanding of all of the upper surfaces.



Still, a lot went right. The pre- and post-shading techniques worked like a charm and created a very worn-looking Dauntless. The Vallejo acrylics sprayed like a dream, and the textured Rustoleum provided just the grit I was looking for for the no-slip walkways.

All in all, I’m pleased with the effort, even if a few things didn’t go as planned.


Dauntless Dive Flaps

August 20, 2010

For the most part, I’m starting to come to the conclusion that most photo etch sets aren’t worth the money.

But Eduard’s SBD Dauntless dive flaps are definitely an exception. The precision and detail versus the kit flaps is just staggering.

Checking in on the Dauntless

August 18, 2010

So far the Accurate Miniatures Dauntless has proven a lot more…daunting…of a build than I anticipated. Not difficult, exactly, but somewhat overwhelming, and punctuated along the way with a lot of experimentation and learning.

It’s also made me realize, far more than the P-51B, how sloppy a modeler I used to be.

Now that I’m hovering around the halfway point, I figured I’d go ahead and dedicate a post to the trials and tribulations I’ve encountered to date.

It’s What’s Inside that Doesn’t Count

The Dauntless began where most aircraft kits begin: the cockpit. But that’s where the similarities end. With most kits, you build and paint the entire cockpit, then install it against one half of the fuselage before joining the fuselage halves together. This works pretty well because it lets you dry fit the entire cockpit before you bust out your adhesive of choice.

The Dauntless’ cockpit was totally different. First, it’s basically a mini-model in and of itself, consisting of something like fifty pieces. To which I added the additional hell of a photoetched detail set.

Second, the cockpit is built in pieces. Read more…

3 Reasons Google Wave Failed

August 4, 2010

Earlier today, Google pulled the plug on Wave, it’s e-mail/messaging/collaboration thing, due to lack of user interest.

Strange to think that just a year after it was unveiled to so much fanfare, that it was being hailed as the future of e-mail, and so on, it would be unceremoniously taken out behind Google’s woodshed and put out of its misery.

So why did it fail?

1. People don’t like others watching them type.

One of the features of Wave was that you could collaborate and edit stuff in real time. Which meant as you edited something or typed something, anybody else “waving” at the same time could see each character appear on screen as you typed it. Gah. No. If everything that came out of my keyboard in a fit of venting and subsequently got deleted when common sense and self-preservation reasserted themselves made its way out onto the interwebs…yeah. Pretty obvious why this one flopped.

2. No simple primary use case.

People – by which I mean the mass market that provides the weight to make something a success or not – don’t like complexity or ambiguity much. Hence Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Google’s successful products – Google itself, Gmail, Google Books, YouTube, Blogger, and so on, they all have very simple, easy-to-understand primary use cases. Find what you want on the Internet. Send people letters over the series of tubes. Watch videos of Justin Beiber. And so on.

Wave, on the other hand…

Nobody ever explained it well. Common Craft did an excellent job of illustrating the possibilities of such a service, but it still took them 2+ minutes, and they never distilled it into the one or two sentences you need.

Personally, I thought – and still think – Google Wave would make an awesome project management tool.

Which leads us to…

3. The absolute worst launch in the history of launches.

Okay, maybe not the worst...

or the second worst...

oh screw it

When Google launched Gmail, it did so in beta. You had to get an invite to join, and for awhile at least, those invites were basically gold.

I guess that’s why Google decided to do the same thing with Wave. Make it this hot, sought-after thing.

Just one problem. With Gmail, you could e-mail ANYBODY. With Wave, you could only “wave” with other “wavers”. Which pretty much made it useless.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s cool that like three people I knew in high school scored invites, and a few of the guys in tech services who I don’t work with directly on 99% of my projects, but it also made Wave completely useless for that project management/collaboration role that it seemed so well suited for.

By the time the invites opened up to where everyone could get one, the whole world had already said “meh” and moved on to absolutely freaking out over Michael Jackson dying or whatever was happening at the time.

Basically, by limiting access to try to create – ahem – buzz, Google suffocated Wave all on their own.


The Next Build – Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless

August 4, 2010

A rather terrible Secretary of Defense once said “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you might want…”

While those words may have sounded callow and dickish amidst the Iraq war, they were certainly true for the United States in the first years of World War II. In the Pacific in particular, we found ourselves thrust into an epic war with a Depression-era military pretty much completely outclassed by the Japanese.

The military that would finish the war, the fleets brimming with Essex-class carriers and Iowa-class battleships, air arms of F6F Hellcats and F4U Corsairs, squadrons of B-29 Superfortresses and, oh yeah, atomic bombs, simply DID NOT EXIST in early 1942 and didn’t really come online until the tail end of 1943, by which point the writing was written on the wall with a really big sharpie.

The initial fighting in the Pacific was left to an aged fleet and men who had to get by on guts and ingenuity, rather than the better toys.

And yet, it was this aged fleet, battered by Pearl Harbor and the loss of Wake Island and the Phillipines, that turned the tide of the war and made our final victory possible.

If you want to truly appreciate the Douglas SBD Dauntless, you have to understand it in this context.

Read more…

P-51B Build Report 4 – Decals, Weathering and Final Assembly

August 2, 2010

With principal painting on the Mustang completed, it was time to move on to the detail work, beginning with the decals. Read more…