With painting finally done it was time to do a few subassemblies. I set up sort of a jig to glue the main parts of the super booster units to the backpack. I got it all aligned by laying the boosters on the table and then backing them up to my X-acto miter box. After a few rounds of test fitting I glued the parts using 5-minute epoxy for the metal-to-plastic joints and testor’s model glue for the plastic-to-plastic joints.
After that I glued the leg armor and arm armor onto the legs and arms. Once that was done I couldn’t resist some dry-fitting of the major parts to see how it was going to look.
The next step was a gloss coat. Notice that I’ve masked off all the metallic parts. It’s a pain but the Alclad looks so nice on its own, it never looks as good with either a gloss coat or a flat coat on it. For the gloss coat I used Mr. Color UV Cut Gloss Clear decanted from the rattle can. The cans are expensive but you get quite a lot of pre-thinned clear out of it and once you get over the first time doing it decanting is really easy. I also wanted to use the UV Cut ion this white model after the whole Unicorn experience, and seeing some yellowing on the decals of some of my older models.
After the gloss coat I broke from my normal order of operations in that I did the panel line wash before the decals. This is because this model has so many fine panel lines and relatively few decals that go over them. I really wanted to make sure I didn’t fill up those fine panel lines with too many clear coats before I got to fill them with the wash. That’s happened to me before and unless you want to re-scribe the lines after you’ve painted the model this is the way to go. I used Testors Dark Ghost Gray for the panel lines on the white parts and rubber (a very dark brown) on the gray armor parts.
After the panel line wash and subsequent gloss coat, there was one crappy thing I had to do. I had noticed as I handled the model that there was something rattling inside the fuselage. I suspected that something in the cockpit had come loose. So I carefully popped it off canopy (fortunately I hap glued it on with Elmer’s white glue) and the photo-etched control handle had come loose from the rear cockpit. I drilled the hole it mounted into out a bit more and glued it back in place. I then glued the canopy back on and as you can see from the masking I touched up the black.
Then it was on to decals. Lots and lots of decals. Decals came from the Super VF-1A kit, the VF-1D kit, the weapons kit, the Hasegawa option decals set 3, and my own designs printed by Samuel Decal. Decaling went quite smoothly and as much as people complain about all the decals in this kit, I was thrilled that they almost all had the pre-cut decal film. I usually decal my models with the Samuel Decals where you have to cut the decal to the exact shape because the film covers the entire sheet. It’s nice to just sloppily cut out the general shape of a decal and throw it in the water. Hasegawa decals, even the Cartograf decals, are THICK compared to the Samuel Decal ones I’m used to. It took multiple rounds of Mr. Mark Softer (love that stuff, btw) and some persuasion using a toothpick to get the big Minmay decals to lay down over the lumps and bumps. In the process of getting the decal onto the leg armor, I scratched up the fin that comes out of the leg so I had to carefully mask it off and touch it up. I masked it using paper and tape so that the paper covered the decals and the tape went onto the paint. I’ve had bad experiences with tape pulling off decals. Clem (Gamerabaenre) actually says he masks over decals that have a couple coats of clear lacquer over them. I have to say that the last time I tried it was with Future so maybe it works with lacquer but I’m not gonna try it unless I absolutely have to.
Once the decals were done, there was another gloss coat over them and then I touched up the panel line wash around and over the decals. Finally I could put on the flat coat, strip off all the masking and put the model together.
Oh no wait, there’s all the clear lenses. I painted these with clear Tamiya paints for the most part and painted the wells behind them with Vallejo silver. They generally fit very well, except for he clear lights inboard on the wings. Those took a fair amount of carving to fit.
Now I could finally assemble the model. I glued the arms together, making sure to scrape off the paint to get a really good bond. One arm gets the post that holds up the model on the base so gluing the two arms together reinforces it considerably. One thing that worried me is that the arms are hollow where they glue to the body, and they glue onto a place where there’s a lot of relief detail so there’s very little surface area to glue. To remedy this, I made a plate from very thin plastic, sanded the detail on the body a bit so it would sit flush and glued the snot out of it. This gave me a good surface to glue the arms to. Once the arms were in place, the legs slid right on with no problems.
Next up was the backpack with boosters. Once I test fit it, I saw that the boosters pointed up too much. This was really exaggerated by the stripes that I had painted on them that were not at all parallel with the stripes on the fuselage. The stripes aren’t really supposed to be parallel if you look at almost every piece of art and model and toy out there the boosters are not parallel to the fuselage but cant upwards. Still it looked really far off and I wasn’t happy with it. So out came the bastard file and sanding stick…
About this point there were 2 weeks until Orange Con, the IPMS show I attend. I wanted to finish this model for it and that would be no problem, but I also wanted to make a display base for my Airfix Spitfire and a couple of new, more manageable dioramas for my GM Assault Squad since they hadn’t been completed by last year’s Orange Con. So from this point on I was splitting my time and attention.
The next thing I started work on was the base. I got an acrylic picture frame from Michael’s, but it’s just a bottomless box with a cardboard insert inside of it. To hide the cardboardiness of it I masked off the front of it and sprayed the inside of the sides black. Next I built a substantial interior for the base out of wood, and raised it up on popsicle sticks so it was pretty close to the acrylic and kept the cardboard from sagging. The whole thing is three parts. There’s the ugly but functional wood base, the pretty acrylic façade with the Minmay Guards and Macross 30th Anniversary logos on it, and the Valkyrie-on-a-stick that slides through the acrylic into the wooden base.
The last “doing it the hard way” thing I did was to jettison the outboard nukes that were too big and ungraceful in my opinion and replace them with drop tanks from a 1/100 scale F-4 Phantom. Sure they aren’t canon but they’re certainly plausible either as drop tanks, ECM pods, or luggage haulers for the pilots (such things exist IRL). I glued and puttied them and then scribed rings around the front and back. I debated putting blue stripes on them but ran out of time. I literally finished them the morning of Orange Con. Once I glued them and the other missiles onto the wings the model was FINALLY done*.
*Well, sort of. It needs a bit of touch up but I ran out of time before Orange Con. That and my hastily-glued-on and probably ever so slightly crooked missiles are probably why I got third place with it.
So there it is. This poor model got shelved several times along the way having been started in November 2010 and completed in October 2012. Along the way I refurbished my GP01 Diorama for Bandai World Cup, I built my ANA Gundam for Anime Expo, I built my share of our massive Gundam Guys GM Dioarama (8 models) for the SCGMC, I totally rearranged half our house and added a new member to the family, I hosted and put the bulk of the work into completely refurbishing the Bandai 7-foot-tall Unicorn statue, I built a mega-Size Zaku for Roy at Robot4Less, and I built an award-winning Airfix Spitfire for me and my sanity. No wonder it took so damn long…