Before diving into the fuselage assembly, I needed to wrap up a few more parts first. This includes sorting out the glazing, the ventral gondola, the wings, and the movable parts. Once these bits and pieces are good to go, I can throw everything together and get the model all set for the painting part.
Building Sub Components
I kicked things off by snipping the elements from the sprue. After that, it was time for some cleanup. The clear parts were well done, mostly free from any flaws, but the transparency in certain spots could use a bit of improvement. That's why I opted to give those parts a polish. I grabbed some polishing pastes from Despiae and paired them with their electric grinding pen featuring the right sponge polishing set.
Moving on, I glued together the left and right sections of the gunner/radio operator glazing using CA glue, being super careful not to fog up the surroundings. Then came the meticulous task of masking all the clear parts with an Eduard masking set for both the exterior and interior of this model. It's a bit of a grind, especially with glazing sporting so many frames, but it's a necessary step for achieving a slick finish.
I proceeded with interior painting, but alas, I made a blunder – hopefully a minor one, but the confirmation will only come after the masks are removed. What I did was prime the interior frames first with Mr. Surfacer Black and then airbrush the base color (the same as the one used for the cabin crew) with a satin clear varnish on top of it. The snag here is that if the internal frame turns out to be wider than the external one, the black primer might peek through from the outside. Fingers crossed that it won't happen, but lesson learned – always airbrush interior frames with the base color of the camouflage outside. Once the paint was touch dry, I peeled off the interior masks.
In the next phase, my focus shifted to attaching all the photo-etched (PE) details. I cleaned them up, bent them appropriately, painted them, and stuck them on following the instructions. Precision was key in this step. The PE parts were affixed with CA glue, mainly onto the tiny frames with clear areas all around. I aimed to use the smallest possible amount of adhesive to avoid staining the transparent surfaces. In the last step I attached main glazing to the fuselage using CA glue. Gunner / radio-operator glazing part will be glued at the end of the build as there are machine guns which must be inserter from the inside of the crew cabin and I do not want to do it now as I am sure I will break them while handling model in the upcoming stages of the build.
I sliced out all the necessary bits, tidied them up, and stuck them together. Then, I added the clear parts and masked them up neatly. Following that, I slathered putty on the joining edge and, once it dried, I smoothed it out with some sanding to make everything seamless.
Now, the inside of the gondola is a bit hidden in the shadows of the crew cabin, and peering through the windows won't reveal many more details. So, I didn't go all out on the weathering here. After priming and airbrushing the base color, I coated it with a clear gloss varnish. In the next move, I attached harness from the HGW set that I prepped earlier. For weathering, I used the same washes and techniques as in the cockpit but kept it simpler. Lastly, I glued the finished gondola onto the fuselage.
With the crew cabin firmly in place on the port side of the fuselage, I moved on to adding all the other necessary components before sealing the deal. First on the list was attaching the aft strut, which had already gotten its share of paint and weathering. Then, I stuck on the piece for the upper fuselage housing the EZ6 direction finder and FuG 101 radio altimeter. With these elements in position, I tackled the attachment of the starboard side of the fuselage. Having dry-fitted it multiple times beforehand, there were no surprises, and everything clicked into place smoothly.
I applied Tamiya Cement on the areas with wide mating surfaces and used Tamiya Extra Thin for the rest, ensuring a secure bond across the board.
Before slapping on the wings, I indulged in a bit of scratch-building. Armed with two-part epoxy putty, I fashioned an interior for the landing light in the port wing, adding a touch of detail. Once that was sorted, I affixed the bottom parts of the wings to the already pieced-together fuselage. The upper parts came next, and overall, the fit was quite solid. While a bit of pressure was needed to snugly close the port wing, it was nothing too tricky to handle. Again, I relied on the trusty combo of Tamiya Cement and Extra Thin.
Moving on, I tackled the assembly of the flaps, ailerons, elevators, and rudder elements. Here, I made a slight tweak to the connection between the elevators and horizontal stabilizers. Instead of following the instructions and connecting both parts during assembly, I opted to keep them separate for easier painting. This required a minor surgery on the elevator – I sliced a wedge out of the elevator hinges to allow for fitting them later on.
Next up, I glued the horizontal stabilizers to the fuselage, taking into account that the connection seams would need some putty application. The rest of the surfaces were left apart for the sake of easy painting.
Now that the wings were in position, it was time to bring in the nacelles. Despite having dry-fitted them beforehand, there was still a lingering fear that something might go awry during the final attachment. Thankfully, it all went surprisingly smoothly. A significant assist came from my decision during the final construction of the nacelles not to fully glue both elements of the plating together. This choice provided ample flexibility during attachment to the wing.
Once the nacelle was snugly fitted, I began the gluing process from the ventral side, gradually progressing to the upper surfaces. This approach ensured a secure and seamless integration.
Photo Etched details
The PE set from Eduard brought in additional external fuselage details, and in this step, I got everything ready and attached them following the instructions. These details encompassed small hatches, openings, plates, and various other intricacies. Initially, I bent them to conform to the curvature of the fuselage and then affixed them in place using CA glue. This process aimed to enhance the overall exterior detailing of the model.
Preparation for Painting
Getting ready for the paint job involves a series of steps. I kick things off with any necessary corrections, ensuring everything is in top shape. Next I rescribe all lost panel lines and rivets. After that, I secure the elements that need to be kept clear of paint. Following this, I use primer to inspect fixed surfaces, addressing any issues that might need attention. Once that's done, I prime the entire model and give it another thorough check.
If any corrections are still needed, I take care of those specific areas and prime them again. As a final touch, I make sure the surface is free of any particles or stray hairs, giving it a light polish to ensure a smooth canvas for the paint.
The initial phase of preparation involves identifying areas that need correction. This includes smoothing out visible seams along mating edges, filling unnecessary cavities, and addressing any imperfect fits between parts. This particular model demanded a fair amount of attention in this regard.
The nacelles posed a challenge, requiring the removal of visible seams after gluing together both parts of the plating. Another problematic area was along the back part of the ventral fuselage seam, which shouldn't have been there. Similar corrections were needed for the connection seam between the top and bottom parts of the wings and horizontal stabilizers. A small seam in front of the crew cabin glazing also had to disappear.
The next step involved addressing issues arising from the mediocre quality of the plastic, leading to unwanted cavities or depressions between mating edges after attaching parts. Corrections included the back part of the dorsal fuselage connection and the part imitating the EZ6 direction finder, which left a bit too much space between fuselage parts. For all the above corrections I used my go to product which is Mr. Dissolved Putty from Mr. Hobby.
Moving on to the wings and horizontal stabilisers, I used dissolved putty for the wings. After application, I waited about 30 minutes and then, using a cotton swab moistened in Mr. Color Thinner, removed the excess. For the stabilizers, with a wider connection seam, I opted for an acrylic putty from Ammo. I mixed it with a bit of acrylic thinner to achieve a looser consistency, applied it with an old brush, and, after 30 minutes, removed the surplus, letting it cure.
Finally, I addressed smaller errors due to imperfect part fitting, letting the putty dry overnight. The next day, I removed excess putty using sanding sticks and sponges of different gradations. Returning to the horizontal stabilizers, which required a bit more work, I realized I had removed a bit too much the previous day. I corrected it by adding Putty Surfacer (Thick version) to the still-visible crevasses and, once dry, removed the excess.
Using modeling scriber and dymo tape I stared process of rescribing all lost panel lines. Next using appropriate templates and same scriber I deepened all the details on the dorsal side of the fuselage. Rescribed places are gently sanded with high gradation sanding pads and then cleaned up using Tamiya Thin Cement glue. At the end using riveting tool I re-added lost rivets.
This time, relying solely on masking tape wasn't enough to secure all the necessary elements. The biggest challenge was the main landing gear. Because of the model's design, I had to attach them before the nacelles were mounted on the wings. To shield them from any paint, I used pieces of cardboard cut to the proper length, snugly fitting into the landing gear bays. These were then taped with Tamiya masking tape, which additionally covered the remaining openings.
Next, I covered inspection hatches using masking tape – that was the easy part. Another tricky aspect was dealing with the exhausts. Fortunately, as this is the Night Fighter version of the aircraft, its exhaust stacks are covered in shrouds. I used parts imitating those covers and attached them over the exhausts with a bit of patafix. The remaining areas were covered in various ways using patafix, sponges, or masking fluid.
I proceeded to airbrush Mr. Surfacer 1000 Grey over all the areas where putty had been applied previously, aiming to uncover any potential issues. This thorough inspection revealed the need for additional work on the engine nacelles, fuselage join, and wing leading edges. To address this, I once again turned to the reliable liquid putty from Mr. Hobby, reiterating over the specified surfaces.
Afterwards, I airbrushed a layer of Mr. Surfacer 1200 primer across the entire model and rechecked for any remaining imperfections. This time, I identified areas that needed attention, specifically the dorsal fuselage seam and the right inboard wing leading edge. To expedite the process and try something new, I opted for black CA glue to make these final corrections. I must say, I'm quite pleased with the results! Just 30 minutes after application, I could start the sanding process. Additionally, CA glue doesn't shrink over time, making it an excellent product for efficiently removing small seams quickly. The fixed areas were primed once again, and this time, everything was finally in good shape.
Moving on, I meticulously inspected the model for any unwanted hair or dust particles that may have attached during the painting process. I removed them with high-grit sanding paper/pads ranging from 1000 to 1500. As a final touch, I polished all surfaces with very fine-grit sanding pads, ranging from 2000 to 4000. This ensured a smooth and pristine finish across the entire model.
After going through all the corrections, fixes, and priming, I've arrived at my favorite stages of model building – painting and weathering. I'm particularly excited since it's my first time attempting a mottled camouflage, and I can't wait to dive into the process.
However, before that, I'm taking a well-deserved three-week vacation break starting today. Wishing you a fantastic 2024, and I'll catch up with the next update! Happy modeling!