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Recently my brother R gave me a bunch of model kits to practice on. He's into Games Workshop's Warhammer 40,000 gaming system (universally known as '40K') which if you're not familiar with it can be summed up by its tagline IN THE GRIM DARKNESS OF THE FUTURE THERE IS ONLY WAR. From their fearsome redoubt outside Nottingham - you get a good view of it on the train - GW flog a vast ecosystem of miniatures, models, rulebooks and accessories, all defended by intellectual property lawyers only marginally less terrifying than 40K's legendary Space Marines (very definitely TM).

One of the kits was a Predator tank. I should note that armoured fighting vehicle design in 40K is low on pragmatic realism and rather higher on GUNS and RIVETS and MORE GUNS, preferably painted in rather spectacular livery. R actually has a relatively subdued scheme for his models of black with yellow highlights so I've gone with that, but I decided that this would be a chance to practice weathering techniques (i.e. making your model look dirty - see this post) so this would definitely be a tank that had quite literally been in the wars.

Read more... )
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I was in our local WH Smiths the other day and saw that they had a load of Star Wars kits in, including Revell's kit of the Snowspeeder from The Empire Strikes Back. It was only £6, and I wanted to have a simple kit to practice some painting and weathering techniques on. Well, I had a free weekend for the first time in ages, and during a recent sort-out I'd gathered together all the left-over decals from other kits I'd done. An idea started to form itself...

Snowspeeder GR.1 of 9 Squadron, RAF

Revell Snowspeeder kit, painted in RAF colours

As above

As above, underside view

It's a very easy kit to put together, and ends up about 10cm long. It says on the box it's 1:52 scale; that's hardly a common scale for model kits, and I suspect someone's just divided the size of the full-size filming prop by the size of the model. That being said, from the size of the two crew this is more like 1:72, and I suspect that the filming prop probably wasn't 'full size' or in proportion.

Pedantic nit-pickers will note that the serial is from the early 1960s (it's from a Gnat kit) and the RAF markings are of a style not used on front-line aircraft since the early 1980s. I suggest that given the subject matter we can all suspend our disbelief a little...

Finally, here she is zipping her way through the Welsh valleys on a low-level sortie:

Kit photoshopped against a blurred hillside
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A little while back I made and painted the Minion Dalek I'd picked up at a model show. He looked like he could do with something to stand on so I thought I'd try out another model-weathering technique.

Rust, via hairspray! )

RustyBase - 9.jpg
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A bit more than a year ago I went on an introductory course on airbrush painting for model-makers. I ended up buying an airbrush and I've been using it for various of my modelling projects since. However, I wanted to try some more advanced techniques and the same company runs a two-day course on camouflage and weathering techniques. The first part was mainly about practising painting camouflage patterns (fiddly, but I learned some ideas to practice with) and the second was about how to make a kit look less like a small clean model and more like a real plane or tank or whatever, complete with dust, dirt, mud, rust, stains and so on.

We had to bring a kit to work on so I went to the local model shop and picked up a BTR-70 Soviet-era armoured personnel carrier in 1/35 scale. This wasn't too small, given that I'm very much learning in this area, and was rather simpler than many tank kits. I built it up in advance, and took the assembled but unpainted kit along with me.

painting up and dirtying down )

In many ways I'm surprised at how well this turned out, although we had a very good tutor and with only four students we got a lot of guidance and supervision. It's certainly encouraged me to try new ideas although I'm going to have to resist the temptation (rather too common if you read model-making magazines) to build every kit looking as if it's of something that's been jumped up and down on with hobnail boots and then left in a wet field for six months....
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My main model-making interest is in aircraft, but there are a couple of AFV (armoured fighting vehicle) kits I'd like to tackle, specifically those of the ex-Soviet SA-8 mobile missile system and ZSU-23/4 mobile anti-aircraft gun, because in the late 1990s my job involved helping support the examples of each the RAF operates at the Spadeadam electronic warfare range. (They'd been obtained via the Germans after reunification, and getting hold of spares was an interesting challenge).

So I wanted to get some AFV model practice, and in particular to try out the painting, detailing and weathering of such models before I had a go at a serious build. I was particularly interested in trying what's become a popular technique for painting AFV models, colour modulation. This involves using different shades to mimic the fall of light and shadow on an otherwise fairly uniform-coloured model with the aim of making it look more realistic, or at least less like a small model. I thus picked up a 1/72 kit of a T-90 and a 'Russian Green' modulated paint set. I recently part-assembled the T-90 kit, not all the way but far enough to have something to practice on, and today had a go at seeing if I could make this technique work.

lots of pictures of successive stages of painting )

Verdict: well, it seems to work! Given that this is my first go at even making an AFV model, let alone trying this painting technique, I think the result is not too bad. It's certainly given me confidence that I can get this and have a go at recreating this.
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My most recent bit of scale modelling:


I've written this up on and also commented on a thread there reviewing this kit.

A bit more background: this is quite a famous Phantom, being the one in which Randall Cunningham and William Driscoll became the US Navy's only flying aces of the Vietnam War. Their 3rd, 4th and 5th MiG shootdowns occurred in the course of one flight, which wasn't even a combat air patrol; sent on a bombing mission, they engaged North Vietnamese aircraft seeking to intercept other attacking US aircraft, and shot down two before ending up in what has become a legendary dogfight with a MiG-17. (For a long time it was believed the MiG was flown by 'Colonel Tomb', a supposed NV ace, but it's now thought he was a propaganda construct, although the pilot Cunningham engaged was no doubt very skilled.)

You might expect 'Showtime 100' to have been preserved in a museum, but in fact it survived Cunningham and Driscoll's final victory by a matter of minutes, being shot down by a surface-to-air missile as they exited the combat area. Cunningham and Driscoll ejected and were rescued, although unfortunately Cunningham has since become rather more infamous for being caught as one of the most corrupt US congressmen ever.

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Last year was my first trip to Scale Modelworld, as described (with lots of picture) in this post. In short, imagine combining the dealers' room and exhibit areas at Loncon 3, then about doubling it, all dedicated to scale plastic model-making.

This year I had company on my trip to Telford in the form of [ profile] gummitch who came up for the day. If this was meant to be a cunning plan that we would each guard the other's wallet then I'm not sure that it worked; we both departed the show after nearly four hours with a bag-full of goodies, mostly in the form of tools or modelling supplies. I was extremely restrained and only bought two kits, and of those one was a deliberately silly cheap one (another minion to go with this one) and the other was one I'd already ordered - the 1/35 Kettenkrad for which this was a trial run. [ profile] autopope, we will need to have a chat about appropriate colour schemes for Ilsa...

Anyway, on to pictures. As before, there were literally thousands of amazing builds on display or in the competition area, so these are just a few that caught my eye.

Lots of pictures of models )

The full set of pictures is here.
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I was at a model show the other week where one of the dealers had a whole boxful of mini-kits based on the Minions from Despicable Me. I thought it might be nice to show [ profile] attimes_bracing that I'm not stuck making models of planes, so I had a root around for one she might find amusing.

Well, she enjoyed Dredd, so...

Judge Minion 5 photo IMG_2325_zpsohh8r4mm.jpg

Read more... )

He's about 6cm tall, and I went as close as I could to the comic colour scheme.

Yes, the badge does say BANANA.
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When I bought my 1:48 TSR2 kit I thought I’d get a more mainstream kit in that scale to practice on, so I picked up the Airfix 1:48 scale Red Arrows Hawk. It’s been sat for some time in my to-build pile so I thought it would be my first serious project to test out airbrush painting on. After all, it should be fairly simple – as colour schemes go, the Red Arrows one is a lot more straightforward than many.

lots of pictures )

And here is the result:
Read more... )

What did I learn from this?

1. Test-assemble the entire kit first before gluing it. And if a bit doesn’t fit well, file and sand it until it does – don’t force it!

2. It’s actually easier to build the cockpit first, add the canopy, mask it and paint it. Trying to add the canopy later makes it very difficult to match the paint on the canopy edges with the adjacent fuselage.

3. Check reviews of the same kit before you build it to look for handy tips and warnings. It turned out that other model builders had commented on the awful decals for this set and had I known I might have had a go at painting the white bits instead or have ordered a third party (and maybe more up to date) set of decals.

4. If you’re going to use third party components, order them in time for you to start building. That way you can stick to the manufacturer’s recommended assembly order, which has probably been arrived at for a reason. The seats could really have done with going in when I first build the cockpit.

Overall though I’m pleasantly pleased with the result. I think my next project will have to wait until after we’ve got our house move out of the way, though.
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Now and again I post about my occasional hobby of model-making. It lets me enjoy the challenge of making stuff without having to have a workshop (although I have a growing collection of modelling tools and gubbins) and I think it's good for me to have an interest that teaches and rewards patience, care and precision. My aim is to be able one day to complete models to the sort of standard I saw at the IPMS Scale Modelworld exhibition I went to last year or as seen in the posts in the 'Ready for Inspection' thread on the site.

Something I picked up on very quickly when getting more interested in modelling is that many serious model-making enthusiasts don't use conventional painting techniques for models, preferring instead an airbrush. Certainly, there are a lot of painting techniques that are almost impossible without an airbrush, but even for more straightforward paint jobs it seemed that the quality of finish could be a lot higher. I was tempted to get an airbrush to try for myself, but put off by the worry that if I didn't know what I was doing it would be a waste of money. So, when I saw an advert at Modelworld for an airbrushing course, it seemed the ideal opportunity to try and see if this was for me.

It was a bit of a trip down to the course venue in Lancing, on the Sussex coast, but when I got there I found a busy little industrial unit crammed with airbrush and painting supplies and a small studio set up for the eight of us on the course. The morning was mainly an introduction to airbrushes and ancillary equipment, including a lot of explanation of care and maintenance. Our first efforts were confined to doodling on paper to get the hang of airbrush use - too close, or too much ink, and you get a squashed-spider splatter, but with a bit of practice all of us were able to achieve both reasonably fine lines and broad, even coverage.

After lunch, we tried actual model-painting, via a boxful of parts that had been helpfully primed beforehand. A few swipes back and forth... OMG! Flat, even, smooth paint that shows the finest surface detail underneath! After brush-painting, this was a revelation. We were using water-based acrylic paints, so a quick blast with a hairdryer was enough to dry the first layer ready for another; the trick to airbrushing is to apply several thin layers rather than one thick one. I was sold, and the offer of a discount on any purchases made at the course was enough to tempt most of us. I picked up an Iwata Revolution CR, very similar to the model we'd been using, together with a small compressor, a cleaning kit and some acrylic paints in shades suitable for some of the model work I wanted to try.

The pre-Xmas social whirl and the need to get hold of a small spray extractor meant that I didn't get around to trying anything serious with this until a few weeks ago. My first efforts were on sawn-off lengths of PVC drain pipe I'd picked up from a hardware store, and a bit of practice convinced me that I could at least get even paint cover on a non-flat surface. So, what to start on for an actual model?

At this point I recalled that [ profile] swisstone had, some while back, given me as a present a box set of five 1:72 models of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight's British fighters (four Spitfires and a Hurricane). These were all reasonably straightforward models, and with five of them I had the chance to work out any mistakes and try again with something similar. So I set to work assembling a Spitfire and the Hurricane and then having a go at painting them.

First was the Spitfire. For this one I was trying for a generic paint job rather than to replicate a particular aircraft. After priming with primer from a spray can (Halford's plastic primer works fine!) I went for a base layer of brown before masking it with plastic film as a prelude to spraying over in green. To my pleasant surprise the result wasn't too bad for a first attempt:

pictures of small planes )

That's enough WW2 stuff for now. I think my next project will be the 1:48 BAe Hawk in Red Arrows colour scheme that I got a while back, after which I may feel up to finishing off and painting the 1:48 TSR2 I've been working at on-and-off for the last year or so.
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I've been a bit inactive in my occasional hobby of scale model aircraft making of late, in part because of being busy with work and other stuff but also because my current project hit some fiddly bits that I've been putting off doing. So it was perhaps rather in the spirit of trying to reignite my enthusiasm that I headed over to Telford today for the Scale Modelworld exhibition.

I'd not been to this before and I have to say I wasn't quite expecting such a spectacularly large event. This really is huge; if you were at Loncon 3, imagine the big dealer room / fan exhibits hall, triple it, and fill it with:

- dealer stands piled high with model kits from around the world (including a lot of obscure stuff)
- an equal number of stands selling third-party customisation or extra-detail add-on parts for kits
- still more dealers selling every sort of paint, glue, other construction material or tool you might want
- literally dozens of display tables either by regional clubs or special interest groups

It really was international; as well as the wide range of kits on offer, there were groups from all over the world, including the USA and eastern Europe. And those three display halls didn't include a separate hall for models entered into the various prize competitions.

I started in the competition area. There were some very nice models, both adapted from kits and scratch-built.

Lots of pictures )

I rather surprised [ profile] attimes_bracing by not coming back laden with new kits. I really need to get on with what I've got, and get back into what I actually find to be a pleasantly relaxing and diverting hobby once I get into it. However, this trip did get my enthusiasm up again and so with any luck I'll be posting pics of my own project before too long.
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My current project is the 1:48 Airfix TSR2 I've had lying around for a while. In a fit of enthusiasm I bought a detailing kit for it; here's one of the ejection seats after painting and customisation, with a pen for scale.


This will not be a quick project.
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When I was very young (5 or 6) my parents bought already space-mad me an Airfix 1:144 Saturn V model (and very kindly put it together for me). It was my pride and joy until it say on the back shelf of our car during a house move on a very hot day in 1975 and melted. My parents then even more kindly obtained and put together a replacement.

I soon got into model-making in my own right and recall making various other Airfix space kits (the 1:144 Space Shuttle and the 1:72 Lunar Module come to mind) but rather fell away from it when I got to play with computers.

Then, in 2010, as the result of a joke with [ profile] attimes_bracing I ended up building a rather silly customised 1:72 Avro Vulcan. I found it surprisingly good fun, and went on to put together a 1:48 F-117 stealth fighter. Then, at Christmas, my brother gave me... the Airfix Saturn V kit! Time to carry on with my revived hobby, and indeed revisit my youth.

Rocket Building, with large pictures )
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On the way back from New Street Station I walked past the Ian Allen Book & Model Shop, and as I often door had a peer at what was in the window; IA stock a good range of aviation/militaria specialist books, and the odd interesting model kit.

And there was a Saturn V kit, but not one I'd seen before. It wasn't the good old Airfix 1:144 kit, recently re-released, nor was it the Revell 1:96 giant. I peered more closely, and noticed that the kit was by an outfit called Dragon, and that the box was big. Really big. Then I saw.


So, twice the size in every dimension of the Airfix Saturn V I used to have. The complete kit would be over 5' tall.

It was also £137.

I don't have time. I don't really have space (we have a big flat, but even so). And that's a lot of money.

Fortunately, my bout of it-must-be-mine! syndrome was dampened by this review, which notes that for a large-scale kit, where the point is surely additional detail and accuracy, the Dragon kit is actually not just poorly-detailed but flat-out wrong in several places. Oh well, I'll just have to get around to building the 1:48 TSR-2 kit I've had for about three years...
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I have a confession to make. I appear to have built a 1:72 scale Airfix model of an Avro Vulcan.

In pink and purple camouflage.

This is what happens when your new girlfriend takes you up on a silly idea, and you feel obliged to run with it.

Pictures and an explanation... )

So, I am now the proud owner of what, in homage to South Park, it is tempting to call Big Gay Al's Big Gay Vulcan. I shall have to work out how best do display it...


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Simon Bradshaw

September 2017



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