Airfix Spitfire WIP
At the March build gathering I picked up this 1/72 scale Airfix Spitfire Mk. IIa. Airfix is a British model manufacturer with a long reputation on making cheap crappy little 1/72 model kits (or at least that was their reputation in my mind). In the last few years they’re under new management and making new toolings of their “classic” kits and I’ve been hearing good things about them and I’ve had an eye out for one of their new kits. I found this one at Brookhurst Hobbies for a whopping $7.20 and figured it was worth the investment.
I de-sprued all 30-something parts late in the build gathering while sobering up. The kit is a mixed bag. The price is terrific and for the scale (and the price) the detail is pretty good. The cockpit is accurate in that it’s “bottomless” and ahs full if slightly thick detail all around. Many cheap kits in this scale feature a pilot on a slab seat and sometimes nothing else. Panel lines are heavy although the upside is you don’t have to worry about filling them in with paint before you get to the panel line wash like you do with some of the finer (and more accurate/to scale) panel lines you get on your Tamiya/Hasegawa kits. You get separate parts for wheels up/wheels down which is nice and this kit has dual sets of some parts (canopy, antenna, prop) so you can also build a very early Mk. I.
Building starts with the cockpit and landing gear/wheel wells, of course. Everything was airbrushed in the main color. Given the scale I didn’t do any shading with the paint. Next I break out my tiny Gunze brush (actually it was my second smallest) and hand-paint the details with enamel paints, using Ronsonol to slightly thin them for better painting. This kit has a decal for the instrument panel and it’s your only choice since there’s no molded-in detail. Then it’s glosscoat, sludge wash to shade in the recesses and generally dirty things up (especially the wheel wells). After that the parts get a flat coat and I dry-brushed some buff oil paint working top to bottom to add highlights to the raised details.
Next step is to build the major parts of the model. Here’s where I saw that the parts fit isn’t so great. Parts like the control stick, antenna, tail wheel and pitot tube are all too thick by quite a bit for their respective slots. Also, the alignment pins on the fuselage and wing were either too big or off-center and actually obstructed putting the halves of the parts together but this was easily fixed by “boring out” the holes with a twirl of the X-Acto knife. The next problem was that the pieces of the cockpit were too thick to be sandwiched between the fuselage halves, so I had to do a good bit of sanding to get the fuselage to (mostly) close up around it. As usual with airplanes, do lots of dry fitting without glue and get the best fit you can before gluing.
Next comes the super-fun rounds of putty, sand, prime. Fortunately on a tiny kit like this, all the seams amount to about 7 inches if placed in a straight line so each round didn’t take that long. After rescribing the panel lines I had puttied over I attached the canopy with regular white glue. The canopy is thick, so unfortunately it’s hard to see all the nice work in the cockpit through it. The other problem was that it took a fair amount of careful sanding just to get it in place and then even after that it hangs over on the left side, it’s just too big.
After masking the canopy with tape and the wheel wells with wet tissue paper I sprayed the canopy with the interior color so if you look through it, the insides of the frames match the cockpit interior. After that I primed it to match the rest of the plane and then painted the bottom of the Spitfire duck egg green. I masked that off and then sprayed the top brown.
Then came some masking fun. Spitfires (it’s generally agreed) had hard-edged camouflage because they were masked off with rubber mats. Some measurements of the nice color instructions and the model showed I needed to blow them up to 112% to get them full size. I made two copies and then sliced them up over masking tape with a new SHARP X-Acto knife (I think I went through 3 of them to get through the whole job).
Next I tried a different kind of shading. Normally I pre-shade but that produces iffy results on camouflage so I tried a new method I had seen before online. I mixed about 90% clear gloss and 10% white and lightly sprayed it over the camouflage to simulate paint fading. It’s subtle; you can just see the difference in the two wings below.
Next came a nice shiny gloss coat and decals. The decals went on really nicely with Mr. Mark Softer. After they dried I did a few rounds of slicing the decals along the panel lines (again with a SHARP X-Acto knife) and then working them into the crevices with a stiff brush dipped in Mr. Mark Softer.
After the decals were set I did another round of the white fade effect to fade them along with the rest of the paint.
Then comes another gloss coat and then the panel line wash (mixed lighter for the bottom). I laid on the wash heavy and used the excess to make some streaking to simulate dirt and fluids. I achieved this by pulling the paper towel from front to back so the streak move in the direction of the flow of air over the plane.
After a flat coat I used Mig pigments on the model I used a silver colored pencil to make some paint chips and the n I used Tamiya weathering pastels to make some exhaust streaks as well as fluid and gunpowder stains and sealed it with a coat of flat. Next I needed some mud. I didn’t research this particular squadron, but many operated from grass fields and it’s England, so it rains and makes mud. I made mud was made by mixing Mig Dry Mud pigment with their acrylic resin. This was put on the tires (by rolling them in it) and in and around the wheel wells with a toothpick. This stuff dries VERY fast so it’s a little hard to work with but this was my first time using it. I also made mud “splatters” on the undersides of the wings behind the wheels. I blended it with some dry powder Dry Mud pigment and put some on the stabilizer/elevator. This was all sealed with another coat of flat.
Finally, I put all of the bits of the model together. The main landing gear went on nicely as the thick square locater tabs and flat spots on the main wheels help get their alignment right. The tail wheel was another story. I had to bore out the slot that it goes in and shorten it significantly. Then you have to put a bit of flat around the parts to hide the shine from the glue.
Then it’s done!
Oh no, it totally isn’t. I did some more paint chipping with a silver colored pencil (for “fresh chipping” above the flat coat) and painted the various lights on the plane (silver enamel, then if necessary Tamiya transparent colors). I pulled off the masking tape on the canopy and then put on a stretched sprue antenna. I pulled the sprue really fast to get it super-thin and then “painted” it by drawing it under the tip of a thick Sharpie. I carefully attached one end with CA glue (a tiny bit applied by a toothpick) and then turned the model to let gravity help me attach the other end. Once attached I lit a match and blew it out and carefully held it near the antenna until the latent heat from the matchstick caused the plastic to stretch tight.
OK, now it’s done. Not bad for a month an a half and $7.20.