F6F-3 Hellcat

F6F-3 Hellcat. Eduard 1/48 scale, kit 8221 by Pat Camp

On my first visit to a model show (Exposition) in France I decided to start the way I mean to carry on: buy a kit. However, the twist to this is that I want to build them as fast as I buy them, which for me is one heck of a challenge!

The thing that attracted me to this recent release from Eduard was to be able to put the kit together as a quick build straight from the box, without having to wait for detail sets to be released and then ordering them. Also, I thought it would go well with the Tamiya Corsair kit I am building (and that will be the subject of another article).First Impressions. Could not be better. The kit comes nicely boxed although the lid is very tight and frustrating when you are all “fingers and thumbs” desperate to take a peep at what is inside! First thing you see is the superb instruction sheet [1]. I particularly liked the historical background regarding each of the five decal options, as well as the nicely printed decal sheet itself [2]. There are five sprues of parts in a rather nice green colour and one in transparent. Things that you notice very soon are that there are three sets of cowling panels, although none have the cooling flaps open which is a shame. Also the control surfaces are supplied as separate items although the flaps have to be installed in the raised position. There is no option for folding the wings, nor detailed gun bays. With the inclusion of two frets of photo etch (3,4 with one in colour) and a set of masks you can say that the model will build into a very satisfactory model from the box, and it will make a perfect basis for those of us who will buy the aftermarket parts to go a step further. Rating so far: 10/10

 
[1] Well researched and printed instructions. [2] Nice decal sheet.
[3] Painted PE fret looks good [4] Second PE fret.

Off we go – day one…. All the cockpit parts were cleaned up and the rear bulkhead was glued to the cockpit floor using a fuselage side as a jig to make sure it lined up correctly. All the other parts slotted nicely into place for painting, which meant there was no need to mask the joint surfaces for painting [5]. Alclad primer was followed by airbrushed Humbrol green 150 which (I think) is a good match for the bronzy tinted green used by Grumman. I then positioned the cockpit between the fuselage halves and sprayed a lighter tint – Lifecolor interior green – “from above” to give an effect of light into the cockpit. This was then dismantled and a dark green used to emphasise shade. Humbrol 67 Panzer Grey was painted onto the black console areas and overcoated with a dark black + white mix of oil paint to darken the surfaces, wiping the paint away from edges to catch the light most realistically. Yes – I was really enjoying myself!

[5] Cockpit dry assembled, sans PE. [6] Rear windows are a good fit and secured with Clearfix. However, I would have referred to have a transparent section here.

The coloured photoetched parts were now added. Eduard very kindly provide spares of the fiddly bits although I actually did not lose any this time (which has to be a first!) I used Microscale Liquitape to position the parts before following up with superglue to make them permanent. I mentioned this stuff before, but it really made this build very much easier than methods I have used in the past. You start by applying a spot of Liquitape onto the plastic using a brush. Your brush can be cleaned easily in water afterwards. Leave the Liquitape a minute or two to set (which means you can prepare all the holes for the many tiny levers Eduard supply in one go). I remove no more than two parts at a time from the fret (I’ll lose them if I remove more) by cutting with a sharp scalpel blade over glass – the cutting surface wants to be quite hard, otherwise you put a bend into the part. I attache a small blob of Blu-Tack to the point of a cocktail stick and pick up the end of the PE part where it attaches to the kit. You can then lift the part and transfer it to your tweezers. Then just position it onto the plastic and the Liquitape should hold it in place for you. I have been applying the superglue after placing three or four parts – I use the ZAP CA that comes in a small pink-labelled bottle that you can get from “Mainly Planes & Trains” along Hiltingbury Road in Chandlers Ford. As you know, I apply the CA using a cocktail stick with an end fashioned into a chisel edge. Place the tip close to the joint and let the glue run onto the part and flow around the PE to give a strong joint. Wait a second or two and then very lightly use the edge of a piece of kitchen paper to wick away any surplus. You may get a shiny surface left which you may want to cover in matt varnish. Alternatively, ask Paul Adams how he does it – he has far greater finesse at these things than I!

Day 1   Finished with some blobs of Humbrol Clearfix being added to the instrument dials and left to dry overnight. The cockpit was beginning to look quite good now.

Day 2.  I’ve noticed that there are no levers provided for the throttle quadrant, so I make up a pair using pieces of spare PE with the knob itself from quick setting epoxy. The cockpit green used by Eduard for their PE seems far too pale, so I darkened it a bit with a glaze of dark green oil paint. The headrest was blocked in using Humbrol matt 63 Sand and shaded using oils to indicate an impression left by the pilot’s head. The seat belts went on very easily (thanks to the Liquitape again) and by not following the instructions, as they would have you fold two layers joined together and such a thing will end in tears. Take one of the waist straps and do the fold at the buckle end as the instructions say. Line it up on the seat and then bend it to shape using your fingers. Then place one of the rectangular leather-coloured parts onto the seat (held with Liquitape) followed by the waist strap. Secure in place with CA and then do the other waist strap and the two shoulder straps. Now you can fold and add the second layers to the straps and these are fairly easy to do. It looks to me that the second layers for the shoulder straps are upside down in the instructions, but that’s the way I put them on nevertheless [7].

The fuselage halves were glued up, as were the wing and tailplanes. It would be possible to assemble this plane ready for painting in the space of a weekend, which for me is amazingly fast considering the detail parts and painting necessary. I needed to apply a little filler along the fuselage spine and underside, but that was all. The detail provided in the wheel wells [10] is superb and engineered such that you can assemble the undercarriage legs with them slid into the wheel well and, once everything has hardened off, pull them out for painting [11]. I am convinced now that this kit is supremely well thought out, engineered, detailed and researched and must set the bar to which other kit offerings have to be compared.

[7] Photoetched seat belts in place [8] Other cockpit details now fixed in place. [9] Notice PE strap across window.

The kit provides some nicely detailed bombs, so I decided to have these on my kit. However, it would have been easier for me had I remembered to drill out the location holes for the bomb racks in the lower wing before gluing the halves together. So I carefully measured and pencilled in the correct positions and then noticed that the racks fitted very poorly and did not match the curve of the wing underside. I thought “huh-huh, so Eduard aren’t so perfect after all!” and scraped and sanded them to get a good fit. I attached them securely with liquid cement. I don’t know what it was that made me look at the instruction sheet and see that Eduard had drawn them on the wrong way round. It took a while for the penny to drop. A quick dash to my reference books and none showed aircraft with the racks on. I decided that had I read and followed the instructions more closely that the racks would have fitted without problem – so I levered them off, prepared the surfaces once again and glued them back on, this time facing the other direction! I knew I would regret the decision to put the bombs on.

[10] Excellent detail in the wheel wells. [11] Well engineered U/C legs. [12] Almost ready for painting. Notice sprues glued on for parts handling.

The fit of the wings and tail to the fuselage are so good that they can be assembled after painting. However the painting didn’t go entirely to plan and things went wrong from time to time, to the extent where this model very nearly didn’t make the light of day! However, in the end the model has turned out okay and those setbacks that felt so frustrating at the time are now all but forgotten. And when things do go wrong, there is no use blaming the kit as they just simply do not come any better than this one!
The canopy and fuselage side windows were masked using the pre-cut items supplied in the kit. These went on well and are an excellent fit to the plastic parts. The inside of the sliding hood was masked with Tamiya tape and the fuselage blanked off with moistened tissue paper and sealed around the edges with Tamiya tape. The frames of the transparent parts were sprayed interior green.

[13] Hellcats of VF-5 await launch from CV-10 Yorktown in August ’43. Considerable fading of the paintwork has taken place and it looks as though the panel work heated by the engine exhaust has wrinkled and deformed

Having glued on sprue “handles” to hold the fuselage, wing and tail sub assemblies, I gave everything a couple of coats of Alclad primer. I have taken to the habit of adding cellulose thinners to this stuff before airbrushing as I have found it gives better results – particularly when the can is less than full. I also rub the surface with a cloth after each coat has dried as this reduces the roughness. This time I didn’t do the job well enough beneath the wings and came to regret it when I next came to paint the undersides: it was far too rough and the finish was poor. So the lesson learnt this time was to use micromesh (in the 4700 to 6000 grit range, 8000 is too fine) rather than the cloth to make sure the primered surface is in perfect form for the undercoat.

The undersides of the real aircraft are finished in Non-Specular Insignia White, ANA 601. So before applying white I did some pre-shading and pre-highlighting. Humbrol grey 64 plus Camouflage Colour SW5 058M (don’t ask me what this is supposed to be for, I picked up these paints second hand!) and Liquin to give a darker shade than the Alclad primer and laid this down in places where the “sun don’t shine”. Then a cocktail mix of Humbol white 130, Liquin, Essence 7 and cellulose thinners was airbrushed along the wing & tail leading edges and lower part of the fuselage sides. Why use such a strange cocktail? Well, the Liquin is added to the enamel paint – roughly 50-50, but judged by eye – to make a transparent colour which means it is easier to build up a good thickness of paint on the model without obliterating the pre-shading & pre-highlighting beneath. The Essence 7 is a low-cost thinners available here in France but which works as well as the expensive Humbrol thinners. Cellulose thinners is used in small amounts for that extra bit of thinning so it airbrushes nicely and binds well to the primer beneath. That’s my reasoning anyhow, rightly or wrongly!

Further pre-shading was carried out by brushing a mix of zinc white, orange and Paynes Grey oil paint – a most uncomfortable experience as the Mosquitoes were feeling particularly voracious that evening whilst I was working on the kit outdoors. I then gave the lot a final coating of the white 130 + Liquin + Essence 7 + cellulose. Trying to shade white is very difficult, and I was not at all sure it looked any good [14]. Work stopped for a while whilst I puzzled over what to do – I eventually decided to carry on.

[14]the undersides finished in Insignia White. I was not too happy with the result at the time, but it doesn’t look too shoddy on the finished model. [15] Hanging like a smoked haddock, it was vital not to let the Silly Putty touch anything. Other than that problem, it provides a quick and convenient way of masking models. The stuff can be re-used time and time again . [16] Pre-highlight has been applied and the Intermediate Blue masked off with paper and Silly Putty for the Sea Blue to be painted. Silly Putty sticks really well to newspaper and was a pain to get off later!

The lower part of the fuselage sides was marked off for the Non-Specular Intermediate Blue using Silly Putty. This works very well, but you have to make sure the stuff doesn’t touch anything as it has a preference to stick to its new found friend and not your model. I suspended mine from a hook [15]. The best thing is to roll it into a sausage and apply this along the edge you want to mask. The shape of the sausage helps to get the over-sprayed effect as the edges of the camouflage were deliberately not hard edged on the real aircraft (having said that, mine turned out to be harder-edged than I would have liked). A useful tip if you intend to send your daughter to the toy shop to buy the stuff for you – don’t. Faced with a choice of plain colour or one with fine bits of glitter in it, you know what she’ll choose. It’s amazing where those glittery bits get to and I’m still finding bits now, irredeemably keyed into the surface of the paintwork beneath layers of Klear and varnish!

I used Polyscale Non-Specular Intermediate Blue, ANA 608, plus some white to undercoat the fuselage sides, fin and rudder. In fact I experimented with Humbrol HU 5 and Lifecolor UA045 Intermediate Blues before deciding the Polyscale one was a closer match to photos. I then used a mix of Paynes Grey, yellow ochre and zinc white oil paints to pre-shade and pre-highlight the N-S IB. I then mixed Paynes Grey, yellow ochre, zinc white, deep ultramarine blue and cobalt blue to get a mix that closely matched photographs [13] and lightly airbrushed this over the top.

Once this had dried, I used Silly Putty with paper strips to mask it off ready for the Non-Specular Sea Blue, ANA 607 [16]. I used Glossy Sea Blue, ANA 623 plus Liquin, etc, for the first coat but it turned out too grey owing to the primer beneath. I let this dry and gave it a rub over with micromesh 8000 grit before doing some pre-highlight brush painting. The top coat was 50/50 Glossy Sea Blue and Azure Blue, with grey 28 added to tone down the colour for fabric surfaces. This was airbrushed on using Post-It! notes as loose masks. I had some blow through onto the Intermediate Blue where the Silly Putty had parted company with a paper strip which was annoying.

I used a mix of Humbrol IJN Grey with Rowney Gold Ochre oil paint to airbrush the exhaust stains. The idea of the gold ochre was to cancel out the blue colour underneath (it is all to do with complementary colours) so the stain was nice and grey. Unfortunately it didn’t do this and so I ended up with the wrong colour. Oh, and the airbrush spattered the paint far beyond where it was supposed to go, despite being well thinned. I daubed a bit of dark grey/brown paint around close to the exhausts and decided to leave any further work on the exhausts until the final matt coat was on.

Engine
Engine 1:The engine is a gem of a thing. The engine block and cylinders are made up from two mouldings. In the left picture you can see that I have partly cut away the sprues holding one of these, but left three in place so I can hold the part for painting and assembly. In the second picture the engine block has been pained in “engine grey” and then masked off using Liquid Micromask. The cylinders were then airbrushed with a mix of Alclad Dark Aluminium and Jet Exhaust. Alclad Aluminium was then sprayed through a loose mask cut from card so as to pick out a rectangle where each cylinder was in the light. Once dry and the liquid mask removed, the cylinder were given a wash with a dark grey mixed from Paynes Grey and orange oil paints with linseed oil to make it nice and fluid to run into the nooks and crannies. The push rod sleeves were brush painted with a dark grey oil paint mix. The third photo shows the assembly of the reduction box…..
Engine 2: The reduction box at the front has an insert for the accessories (magneto’s?) that also traps the propeller shaft in place so that it is free to rotate (mine will eventually be glued in place, because after having highlighted and shaded the propeller, it will look distinctly odd if it has spun round the wrong way). Anyway, prior to assembly the reduction gear cover and engine blocks were painted in what is supposed to be “engine grey”. This grey seems to vary enormously when you look at colour photographs and is sometimes nearly blue. I chose my preferred colour, but really I think it should be darker. This was then given a shade tone from beneath and detail shading picked out by hand brush.
Engine 3: A photo-etched cable harness locates between the reduction box housing and front cylinder bank. This was very straightforward to bend into position and I painted it afterwards in an oil paint mix that was supposed to represent green cloth type insulation but actually ended up a rather nice gold colour (no, I don’t know how I managed that, either!) so I left it. Eduard kindly provide a Makers emblem and data plate for attaching to the engine – nice touch!

The airframe was given a light going over with micromesh 8000 and then given two light coatings of Klear (with 1/3rd Windowlene mixed in – the ammonia in it thins the Klear and helps it smooth out – again my opinion only!).

Finally given a polish with 8000 before trying out some stencil decals to see how well they go on. Like everything else in this kit, the decals are perfect. I had some silvering so used Microsol to remove this. I applied a further coat of the Klear and Windowlene mix and this resulted in a superb finish: numerous light sprays to build up the coating, rather than my usual heavy (wet) layer that often has runs and has orange peeling. The decals then went on without problem. I used Microset and only resorted to Microsol where the large stars and bars had to adhere to the curved and stepped fuselage. Allow plenty of time for decaling – it took me three long evenings to do – and still I missed off the numbers which go on the wheel bay doors! One of the aircraft options in the kit had grey in the stars & bars rather than white, so I used one of these for the marking on the white underside so it was nicely shaded for me.

Once set, the model was given a light wipe with washing up water (best to do this before you use it for washing up, rather than afterwards!) and given a further layer of Klear (+W) to seal in the decals. The panel lines were painted in using a mix of oil paints with linseed oil to aid flow. It went easily and neatly into the finely engraved panel lines. Very little spilt from the edges and that which did was wiped off using a finger. A grey mixed from Ivory black and zinc white was used for the white undersides, Paynes Grey, Van-Dyke brown and zinc white for the Intermediate Blue and the same mix, but without the white, for the Sea Blue. Lines were brushed in over the decals [17,18,19].

[17],[18], [19] Panel lines painted in using oil paints with linseed oil to aid flow. This was found to be really easy to apply over a good gloss finish, but does take two or three days to dry fully (longer in winter months, probably. Liquin could be used as an alternative, but it has a reduced working time of about an hour before you would need to do a fresh mix)

I applied Humbrol matt varnish over the surfaces and used various silver crayons to mark wear and tear on the model. I have learnt that it is best to exercise restraint doing this as it can easily go too far and be difficult to recover from. I next found that I had mislaid my box of pastel colours for doing the weathering so was unable to do any further exhaust residues, powder stains or dirt & grime. However, I had some Tamiya pastels for oil stains and applied this where fuel splashes can be expected and also weathered the “19” decals along the fuselage sides. I also used some ANA 623 blue to represent scratches to the markings around the cockpit entry areas.

The inside of cowling has been finished in Grumman grey (which is a fairly pale), although as my version has a later version of cowling interior green or chromate yellow may be more accurate. I darkened the shade towards the rear of the cowling by airbrushing Humbrol 67, making use of dampened kitchen towel as a quick & dirty way of masking against the paint going onto other areas.

 

The various lights were picked out in transparent amber, red and green as indicated in the instruction sheet, followed by chrome silver to improve reflection.

Exhaust stubs were undercoated in light brown before attaching to the aircraft. These were then painted with various tones mixed from red–brown oil paint – I was delighted with the result, shame it is mostly hidden under the cowling!

For the wheels, I painted the inside of the hubs very dark grey and the outsides in white before gluing the halves together. The tyre halves were sprayed dark grey before removing from the sprue. They were then glued together, trapping the hubs between them. A rough abrasive was used around the join line and also to sand a flat onto each tyre. My intention was to load up my model with a drop tank and bombs, so to have no tyre flat visible would be wrong. The sanded areas were then airbrushed with grey. The oil paint mix used for the panel lines beneath the aircraft was also used on the wheel hubs. The result looks neat and I did not have to use the masks supplied in the kit.

The bombs assemble up from plastic and PE parts. The fins need to be folded up and this turned out to be quite easy, although they do not seem to be perfectly square (but I doubt if you would notice had I not mentioned it). They also have lovely impellers as PE parts that you have to tweak to shape. They look really good, but I managed to loose one and, would you believe it, there is no spare of this particular item, unlike most other parts. Naturally, I closely followed the instructions and glued them to the back of the bomb casing, but a later look at the photo of bombs being loaded onto a Skyraider show them to be within the fin area and so you should really make a little shaft for them. The photo also shows the bombs to be in a “washed-out” pale green which, after spending a considerable amount of time mixing paint, came out almost completely unlike the real thing (I used Humbrol 31 light green plus white 130 and a touch of Sap Green oil paint). A pair of bands were masked off on each bomb and airbrushed in a pale red-brown mix of Humbrol flesh and brown 62. The yellow noses were sprayed using a draughtsman’s plastic circle guide as a loose mask. The fuse caps were then hand brushed Metalcoat dull aluminium and left for a wash to be applied later.

The machine guns have the detail of the holes in the barrel jackets. These were filled with black paint and the jacket itself painted dark grey on top and (almost) black beneath. A very narrow white strip was painted along the top of the jackets as a highlight and carefully blended in. A pale brass colour is applied where the jacket ends to represent a reducing insert between the jacket and barrel on the real guns. Some miniscule dabs of white oil paint were applied here and there to pick out the end of the barrels and location of the perforations in the jacket. What I did here comes under the category of having some fun and trying out some ideas. If it goes wrong, you can just wipe off the oil paint and cover it in Humbrol gunmetal instead!

The propeller moulding was carefully cleaned up and then pressed onto a piece of plastic sprue to use as a holder during painting. I marked this with a permanent marker to identify which side of the propeller would face upward as this would be painted in lighter tones than the underside. First the application of Alclad grey primer and then white enamel where the light would catch on the propeller tips. Yellow was then lightly sprayed over so that the white and grey coats beneath would do the highlighting and shading for me. This was left to dry thoroughly before Tamiya tape was applied to do the blades. Getting each stripe the same width and nice and square can be a bit of a hurdle and I have tried different approaches in the past with varying success.
This time I cut a thin strip of Tamiya tape 36mm long. One end was butted against the hub of the propeller and then it was laid out along the centre of the blade. The other end marked where the mask was to be positioned over the yellow tip. This was repeated for the other two blades and I found this to be an easy way to get the masking evenly done. The blades were airbrushed with a mix of Revell Anthracite grey and Humbrol blue 104 as the photo I was using as a reference (the one with the bombs being loaded onto a Skyraider) showed a bluey-grey tone. Ivory black oil paint was then applied “from beneath” to shade the blades. The hub is finished in Intermediate Blue.

Well,that’s about it! How can I summarise the kit and my build of it? The Eduard kit is probably one of the best kits around: beautifully engineered and detailed, it provides an excellent basis for expert and novice alike. A good choice for those of you who would like to try photoetch for the first time. You do not need to buy any extras, but those experts amongst you who love superdetailing will find this a first class platform to work from. As to my build, I think I became frustrated as I felt I was not doing this kit justice nor obtaining the results I had imagined in my mind. Silly really, and completely unnecessary as the whole idea is to enjoy the hobby and the end result doesn’t look too bad at all!

Finally built. Well not quite, decals are still to be added to the propeller and front undercarriage doors. The aerial is to be rigged and the mast painted. I seem to have lost one of the bomb hangers so I will need to make a replacement before the bombs can be fitted. There are some braces to be added to the drop tank plus some overall tidying up, paint chipping, pastelling and matting down. It would also look better on a section of flight deck with some crew, so I’ll be adding that to my “to do” list!

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