FineMolds Imperial Tie Fighter. by Paul Adams
In the summer of 1977 a `sleeper’ movie called Star Wars, which was expected to only be a minor hit, changed the movie world’s perception of Sci-Fi. George Lucas’s epic galactic adventure unleashed a fictional world which today almost seems real. Over the years the characters have become household names and with the recent release of episodes I, II and II, the entire SW road-show continues it’s appeal, as it has done for 30 years for a new generation of fan.
Sci-Fi models have largely been overlooked by the mainstream manufacturers and have therefore been limited in quality, accuracy, availability and appeal only to those with healthy bank accounts. In the last 5 years, the Japanese company FineMolds, have released several high quality 1/72nd scale kits, most notably and arguably the finest Sci-fi kit ever produced, their Millenium Falcon. My interest in Star Wars and Sci-fi modelling has gathered pace since the FM kits were released, being as they are reasonably priced, accurate (FM were permitted access to the film miniatures) and as good as an injection moulded kit as you are likely to find. As a welcome distraction from automotive subjects, I chose the relatively simple “Imperial Tie Fighter” as my first Sci-fi model.
Construction begins in a similar way to an aircraft kit, cockpit first, fuselage and wing’s or in this case, solar panels. The cockpit consists of a floor, side and rear walls, a seat and flight controls. It’s all a bit simplified but as most of is hidden it’s not an issue. The instructions call for all parts aside from the side walls to be painted neutral grey, followed with washes and flat varnish. The side walls were treated to a dose of satin black from the can onto which the Aztec style graphics were applied. The kit contains two figures; a Stormtrooper in white armour and a black clad pilot. I chose to have a go at doing a pilot, as I wanted the craft to be displayed in-flight. FM have received some criticism for their figures, which isn’t hard to see why. A short clean up session was follow by a coat of Halfords grey primer. A dark grey was used by airbrush to provide a base coat. Shading and the distinctive black helmet was done with oils – a brief and interesting experience! Pat can rest easy at night, as the figure can’t be seen on the finished model!
With the cockpit complete the fuselage halves were mated around it and the seams cleaned up. Though simple to look at, the Tie Fighter paint scheme has several grey panels, which need to be carefully masked off and so the fuselage hatches were left off to help with this later in the build. Two of these hatches are clear plastic and so the clear parts need to be masked off too. FM provide masks for these which need cutting from the backing sheet before use. Each solar panel is made from three parts, an outer and inner wing and the black solar panel, which is sandwiched between. With clean up done I sprayed on Halfords grey plastic primer once more and allowed this to dry overnight. The overall Tie Fighter colour causes much conjecture, but by scouting around the internet I found a couple of modellers who had used a similar idea which to me look fairly close to the studio miniatures. This colour was simply white with a touch of silver or aluminium. I chose Tamiya XF2 and added three drops of XF32 Titanium silver to 10ml of white. Even this small amount was probably too much. Sprayed on in steps, I covered the model in about three coats, angling the airbrush to achieve some shading on the centre of the inner and outer wings.
After allowing the paint to dry I then began masking off various panels, which appear grey on the `real’ machine. In order to achieve a very fine line, essential in this scale, I used Bare Metal foil. This was burnished down over the target panel with a toothpick and carefully trimmed with a fresh blade. To avoid overspray the other masking was done with Tamiya tape as each panel was completed. This avoided masking the entire (not that it’s that big though!) fuselage off and therefore wasting tape. Several panels were sprayed Tamiya Neutral Grey and some small parts along with the cockpit windscreen, German Grey.
While the fuselage and wings dried I set about painting the solar panels. I masked off a thin line along the joint, where it would attach to the inner and outer wings, so I would not have to clean away the paint when gluing it all together. So, 72 thin strips of tape later I was ready to go! I primed once more with Halfords grey plastic primer and applied two coats of Halfords satin black ensuring even coverage. This paint imparts a slight sheen, which would contrast nicely with the surrounding parts.
With the inner wings, hatches and minor parts glued to the fuselage, that and the outer wings received two coats of Johnson’s Klear in preparation for the essential wash and decals. The few decals that are evident on the model are indeed very small and I gave myself a challenge by applying them at the Romsey Model show. Thanks for the loan of your magnifier Pat!
Sprayed in light grey the model looked distinctly bland and uninteresting and needed a prominent wash to avoid the model looking toy like. Once again drawing knowledge from those more experienced in Sci-Fi, I decided to go all `old school’ and do a wash using pastels. I have one pastel in my collection – a black chalk type, which would prove ideal. I ground this down to a fine powder by rubbing it against some coarse sandpaper, added water and several drops of washing up liquid and stirred until I had a black watery mix. The washing up liquid breaks the surface tension of the water and enables the wash to flow around the details. I began with the outer parts, applying heavier amounts as my confidence grew. After a short drying time, 10 minutes or so, the wash can be manipulated by wetting it again and removing unwanted areas or, as I did, using a moistened q-tip. After removal, the edges can be blended and softened to a pleasing finish. At first I thought the black would be too harsh, but in fact it looks almost dark grey. I am pleased with the results. The rest of the wings and fuselage were done in the same manner, aside from some panel lines being drawn in with a sharpened pencil.
The model was then coated with three very light coats of Xtracylix flat varnish. This was misted on via airbrush at a distance of about one foot. If the varnish is applied too wet you risk disturbing the fragile pastel wash. I allowed 24 hours for drying and then removed the masks from the windows. I had some slight bleed along some edges, which was cleaned away with 4000 and 6000 grit Micromesh cut into tiny pieces. The last task was to attach the solar panels and outer wings. This proved straight forward, benefiting from the earlier masking. I did a little dry brushing and hand painted in the laser guns at the front of the craft using Gunze fluorescent orange, just to add a tiny splash of colour.
The model now was complete and looked distinctly different with the restricted view offered by the large solar panel wings. At the time of writing, I have yet to complete a display base for it. I plan to mount the model onto a brass tube and small wooden plinth for that `in flight’ look. Despite some small mistakes, this was a most enjoyable 3 week build. FineMolds have produced some superb kits and I look forward to completing more in the future.