Eduard Supermarine Spitfire IX Royal Class Build I

I have been modeling almost as long as I can remember but oddly I have never built a Spitfire. Not one, not even as a kid.  Not that I have anything against Spitfires, I just never got around to building one.  Eduard’s Spitfire IX Royal Class boxing changed all that, now I had four kits and no excuses.  The kits are typical of the new Eduard offerings, a bewildering array of optional parts and minor variations to ensnare the unwary, and tight engineering tolerances to punish those who rush construction.  For those who take their time they build up very nicely.  As is my custom, I built all four together as one batch.

The first is a Spitfire IXe in French markings. It was flown by Jean-Marie Accart, CO of No. 345 Squadron, SEP44.  Accort was a 12 victory ace during the Battle of France.

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1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part XII

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Right from the start the intention was to display Akitsushima on a base. For a flying boat to be on deck the ship would be at anchor, and if you are going to build a seaplane tender you want to show the seaplane.  Anchoring requires a water base, and in 1/72 scale part of the underwater hull would be visible below the surface.  That determined the type of hull to build – not a full hull but not a waterline either, an intermediate form with a flat bottom to facilitate mounting to the base.  Modeling a ship at anchor  also dictates several other details such as flags, hatches, chain markings, crew activities, etc.  Best to incorporate those right from the start and plan to get them right.
The base was made from a sheet of 1/2″ plywood trimmed in oak. The minimum width was determined by the wingspan of the Emily (22.78″ or 57.7 cm) and the length was determine by what would fit into the bed of my truck (70.5″, or 179.1 cm), with allowances for a protective box.  These measurements were then adjusted to allow for an acrylic dust cover to be fitted into slots at the edges of the base.  Here is the wooden base with a sheet of clear acrylic “water” cut out in the shape of the hull.

 

 

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The ingredients used for making water were purchased locally with the exception of the Liquitex Gel Medium. This is an acrylic paint thickener used by artists and was used to simulate the water surface.  It has a consistency similar to a thick hair conditioner and dries clear.
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The water on this base will have two surfaces – the upper layer will simulate the water surface and a lower level at the bottom to give some color and a feeling of depth. Here the lower layer is being built up with wood glue and paper towel.
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This is covered in Aluminum foil, shiny side up. The idea is to achieve an undulating reflective surface.  When viewed through the uneven surface layer, the refraction and optical distortion gives a feeling of depth.
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Color was added by applying a mix of the acrylic floor polish and the blue clothing dye. This was first laid down in a wet layer with a brush and allowed to collect in the depressions, then oversprayed with several additional layers through the airbrush.  Bluing used in the sheet metal industry should also work.
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To add a bit of visual interest I added a few small sharks, something which is not at all uncommon in tropical waters. These were purchased from the gift store at a local museum.  In 1/72 scale they are roughly 6′ (2m) in length, a fairly realistic size.  These were pinned and glued to ensure they stayed in place, if they came loose there would be no easy way to fix them.
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Akitsushima is mounted to her base using an entire bottle of Gorilla glue. Two of the three sharks are visible.  The acrylic water surface is also there, but is so clear it is virtually invisible in this photograph.
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This is where the Liquitex Gel comes in. This was applied to the surface of the clear acrylic sheet to simulate the uneven water surface.  It was carefully worked into the joint where the water and the hull meet to hide the seam and bond the two together.
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Here is the surface after drying for a day. The white areas will eventually dry clear, but I would caution anyone using the Liquitex Gel against laying down thick layers as they might not cure completely.  One of the sharks is visible in this view, and the lower hull is visible through the water.  The 13m utility boat will be shown rigged to a boat boom.

1/72 Trumpeter Char B1 bis

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The French Char B1 bis was a monster. It was designed as a break-through tank and as such it was slow but heavily armored.  It carried a 75mm gun in the hull and a 47mm gun in the small turret, a layout similar to the US M3 Grant.
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Recently I have been assembling 1/72 armor while in the midst of other projects, either to allow for drying time or simply as a change of pace. Seems to be working well so far, and that’s how the Trumpeter kit wound up on the bench.  Fit of the kit was excellent and the design precluded a complex running gear.  One thing to watch out for, Trumpeter made some rather perplexing errors on the driver’s compartment.  The top hatch was molded with the interior features on top.  Much to their credit, Trumpeter went back and corrected their molds but there is no way to tell from the box which version is inside.  The other issue is the driver’s visor.  It should be blockier, not tapered on the lower edge.  This can be easily fixed by shaving off the molded visor and carefully cutting a new one from flat stock.  Overall an easy build and an enjoyable project.
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Santa, in the form of She Who Must Be Obeyed, left a very nice light tent under the tree this Christmas. I’m still at the early part of the learning curve, but comparing this photograph with the previous one already shows improvements in depth of field and clarity.
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This should improve the quality of the images to a noticeable degree. I’m stoked!
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I also took the opportunity to add a little more detail to the model. The antenna and tow chain are new.
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The chain is 40 linc-per-inch model railroad chain, the antenna is 0.005″ Nitenol wire with a base of Albion Alloy tube. I also discovered I had neglected to paint the exhaust “fishtails”.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part XI

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The upper part of Akitsushima’s crane is topped with a mast. Here is the very top section under construction.  The eyelets, fourteen in this picture, were formed by wrapping beading wire around a drill bit.  Several hundred were needed for this project but I didn’t try to keep count.  The turnbuckles are model railroad parts from  Tichy Train Group, the rigging blocks are from Syren Ship Model Company, which was also the source for the scale rope used on this project.
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Here is the new crane mast test fit in place before painting. The main structure of the lattice support was built from bronze rod for strength.
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The crane is covered in camouflage spots of differing sizes, and the pattern was applied right up to the yardarms and top of the mast. The cables were rigged with EZ Line.  This is elastic and quite flexible, which helps prevent any rigging disasters when the model is being handled or transported.
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Another test-fit to check the crane for clearances with the aircraft in place. I delayed permanently attaching either the crane or the aircraft as long as possible to avoid breakage.
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Another thing I was delaying – and the last major sub-assembly to be completed – was the forward gun mount. I had purchased a nice 3D printed gun, but this mount had a rather complex splinter shield which I knew was going to be difficult to construct.  Procrastination is a poor strategy, it always fails eventually.
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I built a frame for the shield using the gun mount as a support, and then sheathed the frame in 0.010″ Evergreen sheet, one panel at a time to allow for the glue to set properly.
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Pictures showed the canvas blast bag was a very loose-fitting droopy fixture, apparently the IJN skipped dealing with the zipper/seam problem entirely. I modeled the bag using my old standard of masking tape, superglue, and Mr. Surfacer, using the picture as my guide.
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Here is the main gun shield complete and primed with the finer details being added. The shutters are shown closed, and were made from corrugated foil.
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The finished mount in place. I was mentally prepared to have to build the shield a few times to get it right, but was quite happy to be surprised that the first attempt came out okay!  Not the way to bet, but sometimes you get lucky.
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Akitsushima with the forward 127mm mount in place. With everything now mounted on the centerline, lifelines and davits can be added to the edges of the deck.

Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha Japanese Medium Tank Interior

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The starboard side of the turret of the Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha displayed at the Ropkey Armor Museum. Note the applique armor applied to the front of the turret, secured at the rear with four rivets.  In the middle of the turret is a small hatch (with pistol port) for discarding spent shell casings.  It was possible to reach inside the turret with a camera through this hatch.
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The interior is unrestored. While there is some obvious deterioration, the original colors and coatings remain.  The loader’s hatch is above in this view, the gun breach is to the right.
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Looking up into the commander’s cupola. The armored glass blocks cover vision slits cut into the armored ring, similar to those seen for the driver and gunner in the previous post.
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Looking down into the port side of the hull. The gun breach is to the right, a ready service locker for ammunition is to the left.
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Bins at the back of the turret for additional ammunition. Total ammunition load-out for the main gun was 104 rounds.
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The breach of the 47mm gun. This appears to be natural metal covered in an amber varnish.  This type of finish was used by the Japanese on a variety of equipment.  Painted surfaces appear as an off-white.
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Looking down into the forward hull. The elevation wheel is under the gun, the turret train wheel is at the far right.

1/72 Akitsushima (秋津洲) IJN Seaplane Tender Scratchbuild Part X

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Now the superstructure can be permanently attached. I try to work from the centerline out when adding details to reduce the risk of breaking off fragile parts.  Immediately aft of the forward gun are two ready service ammunition lockers, another mushroom vent, and the deck hatch with its associated railings.
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More components can now be added around the superstructure. The biggest items are the sponsons with their 25mm twin mounts and the whaleboats.  Numerous smaller fittings are now in place on the main deck.
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The whaleboats are mounted to their cradles, the starboard whaleboat has been rigged to its davits. Inside the boats the attachment harness is made from chain, forty links per inch is the finest available and looks the part in 1/72 scale.
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An overall view of the chaos on the workbench. Two major subassemblies are still not complete in this view, the crane on the fantail and the forward gun mount.  Many smaller components are being installed at this point, I find it helps to shift between tasks to keep the interest up.
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Here the fragile details are being added to the stack. The footrails were formed to shape from bronze wire, I wanted something solid in case I bumped it.  I aligned the supports using masking tape marked off in 5mm intervals, unfortunately the tape lifted off some of the paint which will have to be retouched.  The bronze rods projecting out horizontally are supports for the antenna rig, again I wanted something very rigid and solid.
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The finished stack, all detailed up and painted, ready to install. I found it easier to rig the small boom while the stack was still a separate piece.
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The 3D printed boat davits match those used on some IJN cruisers, but Akitsushima’s differ in several details.
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At this point I became dissatisfied with the vertical section of the crane and decided to rebuild it. One of the issues was I could see a slight bend in alignment, which was a result of my building it as a stack of separate components.  Misalignment is a killer for scratchbuilders and can ruin the presentation of an otherwise beautiful build.  This time I formed the crane post around a central component to keep everything true, the small beige PVC pipe seen here.
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The main components of the crane, seen here with their outer surfaces primed and sanded. I did not overlap the surface layers this time, they were butt-jointed and the seams filled with superglue which resulted in a much smoother surface.
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The new crane mast to the left, the original to the right. I was able to strip off several of the detail assemblies and transfer them to the new crane, but I decided to rebuild the lattice work on the top with finer stock.

Type 97 Shinhoto Chi-Ha Japanese Medium Tank

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This is a Type 97 Shinhoto (new turret) Chi-Ha captured by US Marines on Iwo Jima, February 1945. Most Japanese armor on Iwo Jima was dug into defensive positions and camouflaged.
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The tank appears relatively intact, although the 47mm gun is at its maximum depression. The 47mm gun was only effective against the frontal armor of the US M4 Sherman tank at point-blank ranges, although it could penetrate the Sherman’s side armor more easily.
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The pioneer tools are still in place on this vehicle. The left front fender has some minor damage, and the screens protecting the mufflers are missing, exposing the support frames underneath.
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This is the Shinhoto Chi-Ha which was on display at the Ropkey Armor Museum in Crawfordsville, Indiana. The museum closed in July 2017 following the passing of its owner, Fred Ropkey.
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Detail of the front of the Type 97. One unusual feature is the presence of narrow vision slits cut into the armor which can be seen on either side of the driver’s visor and outboard of the machine gun.
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The port fender on this Type 97 is also damaged and has the penetration associated with the dozer blade. This has lead several authors to claim that this is the same tank captured on Iwo Jima but this is not the case.
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One difference between this Type 97 and the Iwo Jima tank is this one has additional armor plate applied to the turret sides. The armor can be seen in the upper right of this photograph butted up against the gun mantlet and secured with four rivets.
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A view of the engine deck and rear of the turret.
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Muffler covers and stowage boxes at the back of the tank. There was almost no armor protection at the rear.  The head of restoration at the Ropkey Museum reported that Japanese armor plate was quite brittle compared to American armor.
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The 47mm gun which replaced the 57mm gun of the previous Chi-Ha series. While the bore diameter was smaller, the 47mm gun had a higher initial velocity and more penetrating power.