Saturday 30 August 2014

Chinook progress

A few more hours spent on the Chinook, in between the Viper cockpits and installing the swing and slide in the yard. It needed a wavy line near the bottom to ease into the the pitch black underside.

I spent just under 3 hours on the decals. Now I remember why I prefer armoured vehicles over airplanes!

I removed a few of the canopy masks too early because I was curious to see how well the paint job was, but maybe I shouldn't have done that. The 2 coats of varnish (1 gloss to receive the decals, 1 matte to seal in said decals and remove the gloss sheen) have made the canopy less transparent. I have no idea what product to attack those "glass" panes with, as the Alclad varnish seems very durable. Another lesson learned in patience?

Just when I though I was about done, I tried fitting the loading ramp in the open position, which is really needed if you are to see anything of the interior. You can guess that it wouldn't fit already? It's a weird thing. When fitting the canopy, I concluded that I fitted the interior too far forward, blocking the canopy from closing. Now the ramp at the back won't fit because the rear wheels are too far back? So either the interior is too long, the cockpit is messed up or .... Anyway, I'd recommend against building this one with the ramp open. I fixed it by adding about 2 mm of styrene strip. The result was a bit wobbly, but as the ramp was pushing against the wheel's anyway, I superglued them against the oleo's, making it a lot more sturdy. Both landing gear and loading ramp are now a lot less likely to break.

Sunday 24 August 2014

Shortest project ever

And it's done! Certainly a fun "little" project, but also the first kit that tried to ruin my back.
The whole family is happy with it. Even the cats use it to shelter from the rain while still being able to peek inside the house to see if there's any movement.

Number of parts : 184 wooden beams and planks  + 411 nuts, bolts and screws
Time spent : 15 hours
Number of assistants needed : 1 or 2
Project completion time : 9 days

Tools required : electric drill, electric screwdriver, hammer, #17 wrench, spirit level, spare drill bits.
Extra materials : 360 kg concrete mix, 2 swings

Thursday 21 August 2014

Family project

For my next project, we'll be building a Durlang 1/1 scale tower. I will be assisted by my brother and my father.
Yes, it's a playtower, with 2 swings and a slide :-).

The parts feature finely engraved details, a very realistic wood-grain and are cast in lifelike wooden colours. Regular glue or cement are inadequate for connecting these parts, but screws, nuts and bults are provided in the kit, which is a nice detail.


  • No locator tabs, except for the holes for the largest bolts.
  • Minor warping on parts longer than 1 or 2 meter. Some force can be applied while screwing pieces together, so it's an easy fix.
  • Minor fit issues with parts being 1 cm too long or too short. Hardly noticeable in this scale.
  • We ran out of concrete before filling the last hole, and had to rush to the store.
  • Step 13 mentions you should use 2 screws of type 6, but they should be type 5. If you do not catch this early enough, you have to either take a big piece apart again, or find spare screws of the correct type. The aftermarket for this kind of kits is huge, cheap and readily available just about anywhere.
  • My (motorized) screwdriver ran out of juice when attaching the final 7 screws, so we had to wait half an hour to get it reloaded just enough to finish the job and call it a day.
  • My back hurts.

Inserting the walls. It's starting to look the part.

Mixing cement. Only 10 wheelbarrows to go.

First durability-test in our typical Belgian weather

The roof-boards fit poorly, but can be persuaded a bit.

The last screws go in the roof.

Granddad showing off, Hercules-style

Friday 15 August 2014

Viper - Part 3 (Cockpit decals)

Everything going in the fuselage - or requiring paint before further assembly - is painted. Both cockpits are USA Grey (Vallejo 71.047). The pilot's uniforms are camouflage green (71.022), with a few drops of the grey, to make it a little more dull.
The landing gear for the Mark II is aluminium and for the Mark VII is steel. The difference is only caused by me misreading the instructions too quickly. I found some nasty seams on them anyway, which had to be sanded smooth. I'll be redoing them aluminium as well.

Cockpit decals
The cockpit for Revell's Mark II has a very nice amount of decals. Moebius' Mark VII has ONE! The Revell version of this kit has a lot more decals, but I'm not going to spend money in obtaining them.

The pilots just needed a bit more detail. Grey boots and gloves (German grey - 71.052), a black belt and joystick and a golden helmet with silver visor (not yet done).
While looking for a new bottle of black paint on my workbench, I stumbled upon an old but unused bottle of  "Black glaze" (70.855). I obtained it in a big batch of Vallejo paint from my brother-in-law's stash of unused paint and kept it out of curiosity.
Unsure of the difference between (and inexperienced in the use of) glazes, washes and plain heavily diluted paint, I gave it a try on one of the pilots. Heavily diluted in a first layer, it looked awful until it dried. The (old) Vallejo thinner I used is white and dries clear(ish), but looks weird at first. Once dry, I could see the purpose of this glaze. A second layer went on less thinned. See below for the difference between the treated and untreated pilot.


Cockpit assembly
The Mark VII cockpit-pieces fit perfectly, but the Mark II pieces have a lot of wiggle-room in their assembly, so to prevent it from not fitting inside the fuselage once assembled, I glued it all and sandwiched it in between the fuselage halves. This way, fit is perfect and I can let the glue set with everything in it's proper position.

Here are both resulting cockpits. I added a little painted detail to the Mark VII, because that one lonely decal didn't do the cockpit much justice.

Once the pilots are done, everything will receive a coat of varnish (to seal in and protect the decals) and the fuselages will be closed.

Monday 11 August 2014

Viper - Part 2 (landing gear)

Next step is assembling the landing gear. I will pose both birds on the ground, not in flight. They will sit nose-to-nose in my display cupboard.

Mark II
The landing gear needed a lot of persuasion to sit together, but that's where all the clamps come in handy.

The front leg was a bit of a trouble-maker though. The right side was badly warped. I could have clamped it and let the glue do it's work, but the warped part would pull the straight part out of line, and the entire leg would be askew. So I just glued the top together and - 12 hours later - used hot water (boiling hot!) to straighten it out. I submersed it 5-10 seconds, then applied force in the direction I wanted it. After 4-5 repetitions, the result is very good and I applied the glue.

Test-fitting the fuselage shows there's not much there in terms of "gear bay". The front looks okay, but the back appear to be 2 big holes into the empty fuselage. More test-fitting later will reveal if it'll be needed to fill this up or if it will be obscured enough by the landing gear.
Anyway, those "insides" will need to be painted if we want to avoid bare plastic remaining visible, preferably black.

Mark VII
No issues whatsoever with the landing gear and this model does have gear bays and nothing else of the interior visible.

Monday 4 August 2014

Viper - Part 1 (cockpit)

Construction of any jet- or space-fighter-style vehicle usually starts with the cockpit. Both kits starts with other parts, but I skipped those and will do them later. First thing is always the cockpit, since it needs to be painted before you can enclose it in the fuselage. You can do all other construction work, while the paint on the cockpit is drying.

The sprues for the pilot figure are identical in both kits, further proof that Revell and Moebius are distributing the same kit. The sprue for the Mark VII however does not include part 148 (right arm with joystick).

Mark II
  • Step 5 and 8a deal with the cockpit, but none of it can really be glued together as it all requires paint and decals, and that will be hard to do once the tub is assembled. So these parts are all going on the "to paint" pile.
  • Step 6 and 7 have you assemble the pilot. All the parts are mislabeled 43, 44, ... 47. They should be 143, 144, .., 147. (small detail, I know). Furthermore, if you want the pilot to hold the joystick, you should assemble right arm 148, not 147 as indicated.
  • Step 9 has you cut the joystick from it's footplate, but you should leave a stump of about 2 mm.

Mark VII
  • The cockpit on the mark VII is a bit of a let-down in regards to decals. The Moebius kit provides ONE decal, for the DRADIS screen (main screen in front of pilot, if you're less geeky/tech-savvy). The Revell decals (the only difference between Moebius and Revell is the decals and the instruction sheet) provides 14 decals, making the cockpit a lot more busy-looking and impressive.
    For me personally, this shortcoming is not enough to go looking for aftermarket decals, but it's a bit of a bummer.
  • Pilot assembly is identical to the mark II, except now you do have to use right arm 47.
    WARNING: after assembling the arms, make sure to test-fit the pilot in the cockpit-tub. If you just slapped on the arms, chances are the figure won't fit inside. It's best to squeeze him in before the glue sets, when you can still twiddle a bit with the arm's positions.
  • The Moebius instruction sheet in general could do with some more detail. I found the Revell instructions online (since the parts are the same anyway) and am using that as a guide, as they are much more specific and have better schematics. For modellers with only a few models under their belt, I'd highly recommend finding those Revell instructions. (shoot me a message if you can't find it)

I treated both canopies with a layer of Future (or what's closest to it available here : Pledge Sols Plus) to make it more scratch-resistant, but something went wrong in the leveling of the fluid and now they don't look as pristine anymore. If I can't fix it, they'll have to go on as is.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Vipers - Unboxing

Time to start a new project (double build of the Colonial Viper mark II and VII), which of course always starts with opening the boxes and having a look. The Vipers of choice are Moebius's 1/32 mark VII and Revell's 1/32 mark II. Both companies sell the same model, so there's really no need to prefer one over the other, except based on what's readily available in your area.

The mark II has 55 parts, the mark VII has 51. Each has a 1-piece clear canopy and a 2-piece clear display base (which I won't be using).

The back of the mark VII's box has a nice shot of the hangar bay. It's intended to help display your Viper, although I think it's a bit too small for really practical purposes. It does give a nice detailed shot if you wish to scratch-build it as part of a diorama.

The decals for the Mark II consist mostly of the red stripe. I considered not using these, as I did on the Chinook, but adding the emblems afterwards on a painted red stripe would be a major hassle, so I'm going to use them anyway. The number of decals for the Mark VII is a little disappointing, especially in the cockpit.

Moebius instructions are in color, but could do with a bit more detail. Revell instructions are very recognizable as such and easy to follow. It's interesting to compare both companies' building instructions in cases where something isn't 100% clear.
Also interesting is the difference in colour callouts. Revell suggests their own colour range of course, where Moebius favours Testors. 2 different suggestions might make it easier to find a match in your own preferred brand (mine being Vallejo).

Colonial Viper - Brief introduction

The Viper is a single-seat fighter, suitable for zero-g and atmospheric combat. Like modern day jet fighters on a aircraft carrier, the vipers are carried aboard a "Battlestar", the main battleships of the Colonial Fleet. A battlestar can carry around 160 Vipers, not counting shuttles and Raptors. The Galactica carried only 40 at the beginning of the series, due to being decommissioned as a museum.

If I just lost you at zero-g, Battlestar or Colonial Fleet, you might as well stop reading, because you're either completely oblivious towards science-fiction or only 3 years old (in which case you wouldn't be reading this, I guess).

I'm not going to recap what can easily be found on dedicated Wikipedia-pages, but there have been several versions of the Viper.

Viper, mark I
Used in the original series Battlestar Galactica, which ran from 1978 to 1980.
Model kits exists in 1/32 and 1/48.

Viper, Mark II
An upgraded version, used throughout the remake of the series starting 2003.
Model kits exists in 1/32 (Moebius, Revell) and 1/72.

Viper, Mark III, IV and V.
Description about these versions can be found here and there, but they appear to be fan-based, not "official" to the series.

Viper, Mark VII
The latest, most modern incarnation of the viper, shown at the beginning of the new series. Unfortunately, most of these where instantly destroyed or at least crippled at the launch of the Cylon attack. A backdoor vulnerability had been planted in advance by a Cylon cooperative in all navigation software, disabling the entire defense grid and all modern Vipers. Only the old Mark II (still carried aboard the soon to be decommissioned battlestar Galactica) had outdated software systems and were unaffected, making it possible to resist enough to make a hasty retreat.
Model kits exists in 1/32 (Moebius, Revell) and 1/72.

I'll be building the Mark II and VII in 1/32 from Moebius. (Technically, the Mark II is from Revell, but it's the same kit). Construction should start in a few days.

Friday 1 August 2014

Colonial Viper Mk II - Long live Dutch toy stores!

While on vacation in The Netherlands, I was pleasantly surprised to see some toy stores still carry a nice complement of modelling stuff, albeit mostly limited to Revell kits and paint.

When I was a kid, you could find at least SOME models in most toy stores or general stores with at least a toy department (Blokker, Christiaensen, even supermarkets like Colruyt!). I knew of only ONE specialty store that only had model trains, plastic kits and RC cars.

Right now - at least in Belgium - model kits and supplies are only found in specific hobby stores, the number of which is unfortunately dwindling fast and only large chains seem to survive (and the odd little shop blessed with a big fixed clientele, I guess). Webshops are the way of the future, or maybe just the only way to survive without the fixed cost of an expensive storefront in a city center.

Luckily, a visit to Sluis in Holland showed me that my childhood favourite occupation - browsing a toy store and picking up one after another model - is still a possibility. No webshop can give me that same feeling, browsing through the boxes, picking one up, turning it over, ... Ah, that cardboard smell!

I quickly found the kit I wasn't even looking for. I usually just pick up one after another until some outside force makes the decision for me. I already have the Moebius Battlestar Galactica and the Viper Mark VII, both bought online together to reduce shipping costs. I regretted afterwards not including the Mark II, but here it was, and now I have it.

Now, you may say "That's not the Moebius kit, it says Revell!". You would be right up to a point. If my information is correct (and I do believe it is), the Revell kits of this particular line (BSG) are the same kits from Moebius. Revell just got the manufacturing and distribution rights for Europe. The plastic is identical : same sprues, same parts.

The difference lies in the instructions and decal sheet. I don't know why Revell bothered to completely redo the instructions in their own style, but having now seen the Moebius instructions, I might understand why they considered them not up to their standard.
The decal sheet is very similar, but NOT identical. Revell has their own printing company, but this shouldn't pose a problem, as I don't recall ever having difficulties with Revell's decals.

A considerable advantage for this kit is having 2 completely independent instruction sheets, where one might be clearer than the other in some aspects of the build. Another is to have Revell's colour callout and Moebius's Testors matches. I use neither brand, but this might make it easier to find the right match.

So, with this kit added to the stash and the Chinook nearing completion, I can announce the next project on the bench : a side-by-side build of the Colonial Vipers, mark II and VII.