Revell Dassault Rafale M by Pat Camp
Revell’s 1:48 kit goes together well to make up into a great model of a stunning looking aircraft. At first I queried why it should have a “Skill Level” of 4 as everything seems to go together without too much difficulty. I realised why when I got to the undercarriage assembly: you need dexterity and speed to be able to fit the legs along with the various linkages. If you built the kit with the undercarriage retracted then a beginner could build it without too much trouble.
Whilst I don’t get overcome with emotion looking at jets (but distinctly get wobbly knees looking at a Spitfire, Corsair or Bearcat) and have only built one other jet kit (the Premier Models BAe Hawk T1A), I do like aircraft with nice big cockpits. I also bought the Airfix Jaguar at the knock down price of £5 to use for practice painting of the Rafale scheme, but actually ended up finishing it in RAF colours. Both kits were built “from the box” at the same time, but I’ll only cover the Rafale in these notes. I decided against doing a highlighted and shaded paint job as I was looking for a quick “fun” build and to try out one or two new techniques.
The transparent items were segregated from the other kit parts and kept in a sealed bag to protect them from damage and dust. I put the decal sheet in an A4 plastic wallet so it didn’t get damaged either. The instructions come as an unstapled booklet and this was frustrating to use: I was always getting the pages mixed up and could never go straight to Revell’s mysterious paint guide without wasting time searching for it. It would have been a good idea to have stapled the sheets together at the outset. There was also a correction sheet, so I took a little time scoring through the erroneous bits on the instruction sheet and adding notes of paint colours. Revell list a whole range of grey mixes, with some matt and others semi-gloss: it was difficult to decide which shade was darker than another, which is probably the most important thing the builder wants to know.
I tried one or two shortcuts to see how they worked out. The first shortcut was to paint the smaller parts on their sprues. The parts still need to be cleaned up which meant mould parting lines had to be removed. There was very little flash. The cockpit assembled well and I left the ejector seat out until very late in the build. Revell give some green decals for the plasma displays, but these were too big: so I just painted the displays in. The fuselage comprises upper and lower halves: the cockpit assembly and wheel well for the main gear are glued to the lower half before the halves are assembled together, trapping the canard wing between them. There was some distortion between the two halves and I found it necessary to glue the halves together in sections, starting at the nose as far back as the jet intakes then, once this had set, along the wing root and tail. It was not possible to get the wing root area completely flat and I needed to add some plastic card and sand this down before the wings were fitted.
The wing halves went together well. The instructions tell you to open up holes for ordinance pylons to be added but the holes were already open on mine so I skipped this stage. Only when it was too late did I realise that two pairs of holes were missing: so do check thoroughly! There was some plastic shrinkage along the upper leading edge and this was filled using a couple of applications of Mr Surfacer 500.
The fin and rudder come as two halves. Take care on assembly that the bottom edges (which fit to the top of the fuselage) are completely level, otherwise the fin will sit at an awkward angle (look at my model and laugh). You have been warned! Also make sure it is glued nice and solidly as I found that with all the underwing stores in place (which Paul Adams refers to as bling!) it is about the only place the model can be lifted without knocking something off! Before painting the aircraft, it is worth assembling the underwing fuel tanks so everything can be painted at the same time. All items were washed (to remove mould release agent, skin oils and sanding dust) and dried off. The cockpit and wheel well were masked off using pieces of card trimmed to fit and pushing down onto wodges of tissue paper. The edges were sealed with Maskol. A wooden stick pushed up the jet pipe(ouch!) was used to hold the model for painting. Grey Halfords primer was applied to the undersides of the model and white on the top (okay, I said I wasn’t going to do light and shade, but this is as far as it went!). This was the first time I have tried this idea and it was generally successful, although the white was perhaps a little too stark and next time I will apply an undercoat of pale grey on top before continuing with the paint scheme. The primer was given a light sanding with Micromesh, but I later found problems with acrylic paint not adhering well and I think this was because I used too fine a grade of abrasive (no problems with enamels, though). Airbrush painting commenced with pre-shading of panel lines using dark grey acrylic paint (my first try at this technique). I used Humbrol enamels for the main scheme and, although I tried matching the grey colour to photos of the aircraft, it turned out to be too light. I then mixed in a little dark grey and this time I was happy with the results (although I later realised the tanks were still too light). Some micromesh was lightly used to make the surface ready for glossing. Tamiya clear gloss TS13 was decanted from an aerosol can into an airbrush bottle (not a job you want to do in the house; the stuff has an awful smell of solvent!) A 3″ length of large drinking straw was placed over the nozzle to direct the jet of lacquer into the bottle. Before using this in the airbrush, it is necessary to drive the propellant out of the solution. I did this by dipping the base of the bottle into a jug of hot water: you will see a stream of bubbles rise from the lacquer as the propellant vaporises (so don’t do this with the lid on the bottle!). No need to rush: there is plenty of time before the lacquer starts to dry.
I connected the bottle to my airbrush, but if yours uses a cup then just pour some of the lacquer into it and then put a lid on the bottle to preserve what’s left. I applied a light coat first of all and left it for a minute or two to provide a “tooth” for the next layer, which was applied very wet. After this had dried thoroughly, I gave it another light abrasion with micromesh and applied a second coat, and this came up lovely and smooth.
The decals were applied with the use of setting solutions. The following day, residues of the solution were wiped away using a soft cloth moistened with water. I then applied a third gloss coat to seal the decals in: this gave them a painted on look.
After a period of a few days, I used a mix of dark grey oil paint and Liquin (one of the types of medium for use with oil paints) and painted the panel lines. This was a time consuming, but not difficult task. This was then left to dry for at least a week before a matt coat was applied (I use Testors Dullcoat through an airbrush).
The model was now ready for some detailed parts to be added. Amongst these are some tiny navigation lights on the transparent sprue. The locating pins on these were picked out with silver paint and then the undersides were coated in Tamiya Clear Red or Green as appropriate. These were glued in place using a dab of PVA glue, followed up by thin superglue applied by a chisel pointed cocktail stick. The surround was brush painted in grey, although this did not come out as well as I would have liked. Next time, I’ll fit the lights before the aircraft is painted and use masking solution over the lamp lenses.
The underwing stores needed some persuasion to fit. Maybe I should have fitted the pylons before painting the aircraft: something else to try out next time round!
The small parts that were left on the sprue were sprayed with Alclad primer and then airbrushed in their particular colours. I used Alclad “aluminium” for the undercarriage legs and various struts and these came up a lot brighter and shinier than I wanted (the problem is normally the other way round!). I used Modelmasters “steel” for the wheel centres and this was followed by a wash with dark grey. Discs of Frisk film were punched out to provide masks over the centres so the tyres could be sprayed dark grey. Shadows were brush painted in afterwards.
One of the things I have trouble with is canopies: they are so difficult to keep unblemished! The ones supplied in the kit are very well moulded, but still benefited from some extra polishing. The parts were carefully cut from the sprue and the edges cleaned up. Dry fit the parts to the airframe and do any corrections now, rather than later. I have a polishing fluid that was applied using a soft, lint-free dampened cloth. Two or three applications were needed to get a satisfactory result. I then dipped the parts into Johnsons Klear. I’ve had problems doing this in the past and have had unsatisfactory results, so my expectations weren’t high! This time I used self gripping tweezers to hold the edge of the part and dipped it into the bottle cap filled with Klear. When you raise the part from the pool, do so slowly and look for any blemishes. I found it really useful to use a broad, flat brush to draw away any bubbles and specks that stopped the coating settling uniformly over the surfaces. I also returned the part to the pool and repeated the process until I was completely happy with the result. When the part was eventually removed, I used the corner of a tissue to soak up any pooling at the corners of frames before placing it onto a soft tissue and putting a cover over to keep dust away. When dry, it was reasonably easy to remove the clear parts from the tissue. The frames were masked by applying Tamiya masking tape. This was done with a light touch to minimise the chance of adhesive residues being left on the clear parts. I used a number of strips shaped to reduce the need for stretching of the tape over the compound curves. I then used a chisel pointed cocktail stick to press the tape into the frame crevasses and, with a new #15c blade, trimmed around the glazed area and peeled away the excess tape: not a job for the weak hearted! The results were pretty good and all in all I really enjoyed this quick build of the kit and recommend it to you all.