A Tour of the Secret Underground Workshop

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I am fortunate to have both a basement and a tolerant wife.  The basement follows the footprint of the house, but the wall layout meanders about as a continuous space broken up by the mechanical requirements of the structure.  There is one separate room which we use as a guest bedroom but the rest is all open “pass through” area.  One “zone” is a workout room, another houses the entertainment center, and the area most relevant to this blog is where I do my modeling.
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This is the modeling bench, made from kitchen cabinet components, plywood, and covered with a glass worksurface.  Overhead are four can lights to illuminate the worksurface and two stereo speakers to pipe in music or my favorite podcasts while I work.  On the left are two B-17s which have stalled for several months awaiting paint masks.  In the foreground are the recently completed StuGs ready to go into the case.  Against the back wall a group of Yellow Wing biplanes have just been started.
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In a rather oddly-shaped alcove is the light box I use for studio photography.  This really improved the quality of the model pictures for the blog, if you’re serious about sharing pictures of your projects I highly recommend getting one.  The work table is also used for wrapping packages and protecting my books with BroadArt covers for the dustjackets.  The kit stash lurks beyond.
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My kit stash is modest compared to most other modelers.  I have (mostly) managed to build as many kits as I purchase each year, but the stash does manage to grow just a bit over time.
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I have been able to acquire several commercial display cases over the years.  This one houses Jagdwaffe builds.  I set out to build the aircraft of all the Luftwaffe Experten with over one hundred victories but that effort has stalled due to lack of documentation on a few of the aircraft.  I have gotten through over seventy so far though, along with several side tracks.
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This case is mainly Japanese aircraft with some 1/700 scale ships and submarines on the bottom shelf.  I got the display cases at a substantial discount as businesses moved or shut down, then re-wired them and had addition glass shelves cut as needed.

 

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More Luftwaffe multi-engined types with ground vehicles on the bottom shelf.  These cases are a little smaller and not as fancy as the first two.
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This one contains mainly U.S. and Allied types, along with a shelf of modern jets.  On top is the USS Skipjack.
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We remodeled the basement two years ago and while that was going on I rebuilt this alcove with the thought of possibly installing a base and sliding glass doors across the front to house larger models one day.  There are several ships which I would like to do in 1/72 scale at some point and they will need a long display area.  Until then the alcove contains another case with some more recent completions.  On top is the Japanese seaplane tender Akitsushima and the Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine USS Indianapolis (SSN-697), both scratchbuilt projects.

Special Hobby Curtiss P-40K-5 Warhawk of Major Edward Nollmeyer in 1/72 Scale

“Big Ed” Nollmeyer was the Commanding Officer of the 26th Fighter Squadron 51st Fighter Group based at Kunming, China.  Nollmeyer was an ace with five victories.  The model represents his personal aircraft serial number 42-9768 displaying her ultimate set of markings.  Decals are from the kit with the exception of the blue-bordered national insignia which came from the spares box, I felt the red-bordered insignia were less likely to be accurate during the period when the shark’s mouth and five kill markings were carried.

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Grumman XF5F Skyrocket

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The Grumman XF5F Skyrocket was designed as a lightweight carrier-borne fighter for the U.S. Navy.  It was a distinctive design featuring twin engines and a forward fuselage which did not extend past the leading edge of the wing.  The prototype flew for the first time on 01 April 1940.  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)
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The Skyrocket was powered by two Wright R-1820 Cyclone radial engines which produced 1,200 each.  The R-1820 was widely used in several U.S. designs of the period and was produced under license in Spain and the Soviet Union.  Armament was two 20 mm cannon.  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)
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The combination of light weight and high horsepower gave the Skyrocket impressive performance.  Initial rate of climb was 4,000 feet per minute (1,220 m/min), easily outpacing the XF4U Corsair prototype.  Maximum speed was 383 mph (616 km/h).  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)
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The Skyrocket featured several desirable characteristics for a carrier aircraft. The propellers were engineered to rotate in opposite directions which eliminated the issue of torque on take-off.  The twin engines provided redundancy in case of damage or mechanical failure, a feature the U.S. Navy would come to require for later designs.  The stubby nose did not restrict the vision of the pilot during shipboard recovery.  (NASM Rudy Arnold Collection)
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The wings were designed to be folded to increase storage capacity aboard the aircraft carrier from the outset, a feature lacking on several of the naval aircraft in service at the time.
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Cockpit design was conventional.  Visible at the bottom of the photograph is the transparency through the lower fuselage, a common feature on naval aircraft which allowed the pilot to view the carrier deck on landing approach.
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Port side of the cockpit interior showing the twin throttle arrangement.
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Grumman also developed the design to meet a USAAC requirement for a land-based twin-engine interceptor which became known as the XP-50 Skyrocket .  This featured an extended nose and redesigned engine nacelles which improved both the maximum speed and rate of climb.
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While the XP-50 was promising, the USAAF ultimately decided not to produce either it nor the competing Lockheed XP-49, instead focusing efforts on improving the performance of the Lockheed P-38 which was already in production.
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The U.S. Navy decided not to adopt the Skyrocket as its standard shipboard fighter, opting instead for another Grumman design, the F4F Wildcat.  The Wildcat was favored because of its reduced cost and mechanical complexity.  Grumman continued to operate and make modifications to the Skyrocket prototype until it was damaged in a belly landing on 11DEC44.  However, the concepts pioneered by the Skyrocket were eventually refined and developed into the successful F7F Tigercat.

Plastic Soldier Sturmhaubitze 42 in 1/72 Scale

The Sturmhaubitze 42 was a variant of the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf. F or Ausf. G which replaced the 75 mm anti-tank gun with a 105 mm L/28 howitzer.  The choice of gun options is provided in the Plastic Soldier StuG III kits although this is not explained in the kit instructions.  My StuH 42 also carries Zimmerit anti-magnetic mine paste made from Mr. Surfacer 500.

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B-58 Hustler Units Book Review

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B-58 Hustler Units

By Peter E. Davis, illustrated by Jim Laurier

Osprey Combat Aircraft Series Book 130

Paperback, 96 pages, heavily illustrated, 30 color profiles

Published by Osprey Publishing October 2019

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472836405

ISBN-13: 978-1472836403

Dimensions: 7.1 x 0.3 x 9.8 inches

Unlike the vast majority of volumes in Osprey’s Combat Aircraft Series and despite the title, B-58 Hustler Units has very little to do with the units and more to do with the design of the aircraft.

The first chapter deals with the history and development of the delta wing planform in general.  This traces the history back to the work of Alexander Lippisch and the many subsequent American designs that used this configuration.  It was nice to see Richard Whitcomb’s discovery of the Area Rule phenomenon give recognition as well.

The next few chapters discuss the design of the Convair B-58 and describe in detail the specific systems incorporated into the aircraft.  The design of the novel fuel / payload pod is a unique solution to the aircraft’s lack of internal volume.  The discussion of the problems of crew ejection at supersonic speeds and the development of the cramped capsules to deal with the issue are enlightening.

It is not until approximately two-thirds of the way through the book that we see the first B-58s assigned to SAC Bomb Wings.  Even there, much of the writing is concerned with describing SAC’s strategic plans and operating procedures.

The B-58 Hustler served in relatively small numbers and was operational for less than a decade.  No B-58 ever saw combat, so it is not surprising that the setting of various speed records constitutes the most notable incidents in the type’s history.  Personally, I enjoy reading about the technical issues the engineering teams had to solve to get the aircraft into service.  Don’t be misled by the title however, the book has much more to do with the design and operational doctrine of the aircraft than a history of the units which flew them.  Still very interesting and a good read.

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Plastic Soldier StuG III Ausf. G Assault Gun Build in 1/72 Scale Part III

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Here is the Sturmgeschütz III with the added concrete armor after painting.  I completed most of the assembly first and painted in the details.  Painting the rubber on the bogie wheels is not difficult if you thin the paint and allow capillary action to carry the paint around the rim, filling in the rest of the color after.  The simplified suspension is not as glaring as I feared but it still does not stand up to close examination.
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The same StuG after washes and weathering.  The model was first coated with Future (Klear) to protect the paint.  Decals from the spares box were then applied and a second Future coat sprayed to seal them in.  Next they were washed overall with Tamiya Black with Brown added for the tracks.  The loader’s machine gun shield was fixed in the stowed position, if it is shown raised the loader’s hatch must be opened as the front half props up the shield.  The hatch is provided as a separate piece and can be posed open but I lacked an appropriate figure to fill the opening.
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A tighter shot of one of the other StuG III showing details.  The radio antenna are made from 0.005” Nitenol wire set into 0.5 mm tube.  The advantage of Nitenol is it is flexible and does not bend or break so any bumping of the antenna will cause no damage.  The bore cleaning rod was scratched, Jerry cans are from the spares box.
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Here are the Plastic Soldier commander figures.  I replaced their headphone supports.  These guys are a little hard to paint in this scale but I’m working on that!
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All three of the Plastic Soldier kits posed together for a group shot.  I tried to make each one a little bit different than the others.  The Schürzen are in place which helps the appearance.
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One of the Plastic Soldier StuGs on the left compared to the Trumpeter kit on the right.  The Trumpeter StuG is a more finessed display model as you would expect, but by the same token it would not stand up as well to handling for use in wargaming.

 

SUMMARY

I really didn’t know what to expect from the Plastic Soldier kits.  They are intended for wargaming and are certainly well suited for that use.  There are several concessions made to ease of assembly and strength of the finished model which makes them quite robust when put together.  There is also a generous array of optional parts which facilitate construction of different variations.  While these are not called out in the instructions, modelers with even the most basic of references will have no trouble determining which parts are required to make these.  For their target market they will do nicely especially given that there are three to a box.

For a display model they need a bit of work but not a prohibitive amount.  The biggest improvement needed is replacing the overly-thick kit Schürzen which has the added benefit of concealing the simplified running gear.  These are not the best place to start on a super detailing project for a contest model, but they are not intended to be either.  Having said that I may sneak one onto a contest table just to see how it will do.

In the end these are fun little kits which turned out better than I feared they might.  I think they will look right at home in the case!

Special Hobby Curtiss P-40K-1 Warhawk of 1LT Robert Overcash in 1/72 Scale

Here is the Curtiss P-40K-1 serial number 42-46040 of 1LT Robert “Jay” Overcash of the 64th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group operating from Hani Main airfield in Tunisia, May 1943.  Overcast was an ace with five victories over the North African desert.  There are a lot of markings on this aircraft, the decals all came from the sheet supplied in the Special Hobby kit which were printed by Cartograph.

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