Monthly Archives: October 2008

Favorite model building tools: Stainless Steel micro-spatula

Here is one of the things I’d take to a desert island, or on any trip where I could reasonably expect to spend some time building models in the hotel/motel room, or the coffee shop, a local park bench, etc:

Stainless steel micro-spatula for stirring paint:

Number 11165 at
Catalog item 11165

I got mine by losing two of ’em while in Organic Chemistry lab, UC Santa Cruz, 1976-1977 year,, and so I paid for them to get replacements, and when they turned-up later, I kept ’em and put them to use. They weren’t cheap, and aren’t now- the picture shows pretty much exactly what I have and they want $18 for 3 of ’em… sounds expensive until you try to flatten out your own piece of stainless steel rod…. Anyway, there’s nothing better for mixing paint in little jars, and pulling out a drop or two for tiny mixing job, Works FAR better than the 12D nails and pieces of 10 AWG solid copper wire I used to use. In a pinch, a cheap screw driver or a small butter knife would do the trick.

He made me proud to know him

I used to send out what I called “Baby Reports” but that no longer serves the bill- he’s 11 for starters. None the less, I need to say something to someone about yesterday afternoon, because it made me so proud and happy with, of and for our son, Benjamin.

He spent the weekend home sick with a cold, major bummer, and so we were playing board games in the later afternoon on Sunday. I arrived during a spirited game of Aggrivation with Jean, then the three of us played the triangle-piece version of Blockus- YIKES, that’s a tough one! Even more fun than the square-piece original, a really terrific game in my opinion. Lets just say Benjamin won both games. Jean took a break to read, and Benjamin asked for a game of Go.

I had shown Benjamin the rudiments of Go, a favorite of mine and something I do better at than chess, some years ago. I went to Go in part because he could play me to a stalemate in chess, and I was neglecting my fatherly duty by not learning more Chess so I could teach him to beat me outright… or vice versa. :^) Anyway, he knew how to place the stones and make eyes and how to begin and end a game, so I was delighted when he wanted to play… but I had no idea how delighted I’d be!

So we start, he takes black (plays first) and a handycap of 1 stone, and as we play he very carefully constructs a “two eye” structure, something immune from attack. The two, separate, open spaces mean the block can always ‘breathe’, even if it was surrounded on all sides AND I’d put one of my stones into one of the openings… So I’m sketching out one whole side of the board and he’s carefully building something I can’t capture, and then makes a nice wall from that out to both sides so he’s got both of his corners and the side closest to him. His play is quite deliberate and, while not what I would have done, is effective and reasonable. And we’re having this great conversation about the game and how it plays and the costs and benefits of various moves. Suddenly I notice he’s holding the stones at the tip of is first and middle finger- the ‘real’ way you’re supposed to do it. Something I don’t do that much with the tiny stones in the small set I have.

So I ask, has he been playing at school? No, he’d read a Manga (Japanese-style comic book/graphic book) *ABOUT* Go, and it connected with what he already knew. He was making a great show of being a gentleman, and when we discussed his capturing a group of my stones, if I was so incautious as to put them at risk, he said, “Your stones will be well treated, but will likely count against you at the end of game”, or words to that effect- very elaborately polite. And some distance from, “I’m going to crush you!”, (or words to that effect) that he sometimes observes in playing other games.

So we finish the game and count up and although I’ve won, he congradulates me and tells me what an honor it is for him to play someone of my skill…

I have to tell you, I couldn’t be prouder of him- here’s this boy that I love, who’s gone off and read up on something and has brought that back to try out on his dad….It hardly gets better than that! Benjamin is so polite, so well versed in the essentials of what we’re doing, and genuinely enjoying his skill. He’s learned stuff I haven’t taught him, and though I have an edge, he’ll figure out how and why and give me a run for my money soon.

And soon comes next- he asks for another game, and given the mismatch of our previous scores: 41-101 I believe, I offer a handycap of 6 stones, which he takes. Another delightful game insues, in which he applies some of the sketching-out style of play that is typical of the early phase of a go game, rather than going straight to methodical building of solid structures. He’s visibly learning.

The point of the handycap is to allow the game to be competitive- either player should be able to win, and so it proves- I won again, but the score was 40-49 and we can either give him another stone, and he’ll likely beat me, or he can flourish at 6 and beat me eventually. His call.

This was so completely delightful that we went up and interupted Jean’s reading so he could tell her what we’d done. I was so proud of him!

Many happy returns of this day, Benjamin, and without cold symptoms too!


Search question “can you use thinned out oil based paint”?

Absolutely. I’ve done it myself, and a fellow I know in Cuba routinely uses artist’s oils for his plastic model airliners. (And spare a thought for Jose and all the other modelers out there who can’t get any of the wonderful stuff that’s available for us wealthy and well located types. You could start with US and other friendly forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the locals there too, and people all around the world who would enjoy building a model, or a toy for their kid, or their friend…)

The model I painted with art’s oil color was all gloss black and I used black artist’s color from a tube- probably Grumbacher. This was in 1972, and the paint was probably from 1965, but all I had to do was mix it with thinner until it was a good brushing consistancy and I brushed it on. Even thinned with regular hardware store Paint Thinner it took a long time to dry- the whole point to artist’s oil paint is that it DOES take forever to dry, so the user cna move it around, blend stuff, “work” with it,  for hours if not days.

So it was a bit sticky for a while but it dried hard eventually. At brushing consistancy, it wasn’t as fine as dedicat4ed Model Paint,  but if its what you’ve got, go for it!

A quick summary of problems I know of with Monogram’s 1/48 de Havilland Mosquito kit.

1) Fuselage too narrow, by about an eigth of an inch (3mm) or more! Check your references. I’ll discuss options for fixing this at some later time, its a messy situation, affecting the two fuselage halves, the cockpit canopy and the nose transparency, AND the wings. Unmodified, I believe the wing span is correct, so any increase in fuselage width has to either move the wing root IN an equal amount or commits you to removing that much from the wingtip….

2) Fuselage too ‘square’. In some ways, this is the worse problem. Out of the box, the clear nose appears to be an oval in section, vertically: 0, rather than the circle O it should be. Widening the fuselage, as I did, in part, with strip stock at the seam between the halves results in an opening for the clear nose part which is square with rounded corners! Yikes! All I plan to do to fix the one I’m ‘improving’ is to insert stock to widen the clear nose piece, sand smooth and shiny and use that as a pattern for a new clear piece…. or maybe saw it in half, remove the optical flat for the bombardeer, widen it, and paint the spacer as the ‘window frame, then add the right shape optical flat piece….

3) Fin and rudder are too tall by about 1/4 inch, a scale foot. The Modeler’s Datafile or Aero Detail book has a drawing of the kit fin and rudder and the correct shape superimposed- you don’t have to cut it off and remove a section, then re-attach, as I’ve started to do. Apparently, it can be nibbled/sanded down to the correct shape

4) Horizontal Stabalizers/Elevators too narrrow. Also by about 1/4 inch each. I plan to cut each half into two pieces but not at the same place, then glue them together like: ======_===–======( – a gap on each side, which I’ll fill with sheet or strip styrene stock. The horizontal surfaces are split into two, solid, pieces, so this ought to be very strong.

5) I’ve *READ* that the narrow fuselage partially disguises the nacelles being too close to the fuselage- resulting in the props being too small lin diameter too. What a naaaaasty problem if true! I need to check this, although I don’t plan, today, to fix it.

6) And then there are the nits

6.1) The two seats are identical, and not correct. Pilot’s seat is asymetric with asymetrical back, bucket seat that holds the pilot’s parachute pack which serves as a cushion. The Observer should have a cushion fixed on the bomb-bay roof and a back rest anchored on the wing spar/builkhead ,,, Or a later observer’s seat should include the two-piece armor with a porthole in it. Being two pieces allowes the top to be folded down for access to the radios.

6.2) The radio shelf, above the front spar of the wing, should have two boxes, one with 6 colorful knobs around the corners of one and a big vernier dial n the face of the other. Another pair of boxed mechanisms should be mounted behind the piloit’s seat, and a Radio control box needs to be mounted BELOW the throttle.

6.3) The throttle, Very pistol and its many cartridges, along with thermos bottle(s), dry air filters, oxygen economisers, crash axe, fire extinguishers, cold air vents, the Observer’s side Junction Boxes with meters and pushbuttons, etc, etc, all kinds of kit and kaboodle clamped or clipped to the walls, are all MISSING. Never mind the emergency hydraulic pump and its handle, the sanitary tank, medical kit, chart table (a whole TABLE) etc, etc.In short, all the texture on the walls. The instrument panel is pretty good, everything else is missing.

6.4) Cables, pipes, control rods, crank mechanisms, etc, etc, are all absent. A bundle of cables comes away from the draught proof bulkhead on both sides and runs to the side panels for Observer and Pilot, as well as the radio gear in the cockpit, the controls and indicators, etc. A huge blob of cables crosses over from the Observer’s side to the back of the instrument panel, on the roof of the sighting station in the nose.\

6.5 The floor level is too high, the step at the edge of the Bomb Bay is too small, the step at the wing forward spar is too high…. none of that stuff is right! And NONE of the stuff in the bombardeer’s compartment in the nose is the right shape, size, idea, etc. For starters, the floor should just meet the lower edge of the nose transparency… \

6.6 Main landing gear legs stop at the edge of the nacelles- forward struts should go up the firewall, aft bracing struts should meet aft wing spar. The main gear well should be boxed in fore and aft, with exposed aluminum structure on the sides… and a mud-guard should be above the spot the tail-wheel retracts into.

6.7 Main landing gear leg rubber compresison blockg shock obsorbers are entirely missing. Along with an apparently “Metal” fuselage, Monogram’s Mosquito has a regular oleo-pneumatic main gear suspension instead of the rubber block business designed by de Havilland.

6.8 Cockpit door on bottom of fuselage is the wrong shape, too long fore and aft, and has no drift sight window.

6.9 Trailing wire antennae is mounted on the underside center of the fuselage- should be at one side, directly below the crank/spool and tube on the wall outboard of the Observer.

Wow that’s a lot. But ya know, it builds into soomething that looks JUST LIKE a Mosquito. Sure, I could do one with chipped paint showing bare aluminum on the fuselage, and mirror finished pneumatic struts at the bottom of the gear, with anti-shimmy arms… but only Real Nerds would get it. So I’m taking a break from fixing one of these kits and building another one sraight out of the box, no changes to the parts, just correct assembly. Nothing added or subtracted. I’ve painted all the cockpit detail- it looks great!


Tamiya Color For Westland Whirlwind (Fighter)

One of the questions that brought someone to this weblog yesterday was about Tamiya colors for Whirlwinds. I presume they mean the fighter and not the license-built Sikorski helicopter of the same name (Everyone does it, Hawker built at least two “Fury”s and Lockheed made any number of “Electra”s.)

Short form: Like any and all RAF day fighters in the WWII era, Whirlwinds were originally camouflaged with Dark Earth and Dark Green upper surfaces. Sky (aka “Sky type S” which just means Smooth, ie finely ground pigment) was used on the underside, Propellers black with yellow tips, spinners black. Landing gear and landing gear wells Aluminum paint, not bare metal. Cockpit “British Interior Gray Green”- a hydraulic-fluid and fuel-proof paint with a semi-gloss finish.

In mid 1941, a Sky band 18″ wide was painted around the aft fuselage, just ahead of the fin and rudder. This is conveniently 1/4 inch, exactly, in 1/72 scale, and 3/8″ in 1/48. In metric that’s 25.4/4 or 6.35mm in 1/72, 76.2/8 or 9.53mm in 1/48. Prop spinners were also painted Sky at this time.

In late 1941, the Dark Earth color was replaced with Ocean Gray, which was both an official color and the name for a locally-prepared “Mixed Gray” consisting of 7 parts Sea Gray, Medium and 1 part Night (ie black). The underside became Sea Gray, Medium, but the ring around the aft fuselage and the spinners remained Sky. For added recognition help at short range, the leading edge of the wings (viewed from in front) got a yellow stripe, 2 or 3 inches wide at the wing tip, 5 or 6 (in the case of the Whirlwind) where the leading edge blended into the engine nacelles. Propellers remained black, landing gear Alumiunum and so forth. Only the outside colors changed.

There’s a raft of additional history of what color the squadron and aircraft codes (DW K, etc) were to be- a Gray, then Sky, then… and the wing and fuselage roundels AND fin-flash changed size and relative color areas.

THEREFORE, among the Tamiya AS spray paints, you can find an RAF Dark Earth, Dark Green, Ocean Gray, Sea Gray, Medium, and Sky. I know they make a Sky in their alcohol/water based brushing paint, I’ve got a bottle of it, but I tend to use the Polly Scale product because I find it easier. Not sure if any of their green, brown or grays are direct matches.

For British Interior Gray Green, Tamiya offer the following formula:

XF-5 Flat Green: 1 part, XF-21 Sky: 3 parts, XF-65 FIeld Gray: 1 part.

That looks plausable, I’ll have to mix some and see some day.

For the Landing Gear, inside of the gear doors and wells, you could use Tamiya XF-** Flat Aluminum. I would not recomend their XS-** Bare Metal spray paint, as the real thing was Aluminum Paint, not bare aluminum. This would NOT be an easy job with a brush and here’s where I’d strongly recomend using Polly Scale (metalics are still available in their Railroad line) or Model Master Acryl II (the stuff you can buy now). Maybe the Flat Aluminum bottled paint sprays easier than it brushes- probably so. Maybe they have a Flat Aluminum spray paint.

Semi-gloss black XF-** for propellers and tires, your choice of rusty brownish-blackish-metalic (custom mixed) for the exhaust covers.

If you’re building a Whirlwind with the green and grays Day Fighter Scheme, you could use XF-** Flat Yellow for the wing leading edges, outboard of the engine nacelles.

I hope this helps. I should make a TIME LINE of all the permutations of the Temperate Land scheme, the Day Fighter scheme, under side colors (only with the Day Fighter Scheme did upper and lower colors change together), along with roundel geometry, size and color (“indian” (subcontinent), sometimes called “brick” or “dull” red replaced the pre-war bright red.) call letters, prop spinners and interiors. All of the exterior and interior finish orders are essentially orthagonal to the aircraft- all day fighters, night fighters, day bombers, night bombers, night intruders, ocean patrol, carrier based, reconnisance, transport, trainers, prototype, etc, aircraft were to be finished to a common standard.

The LIKELY color of a given airplane, at a given squadron, in a given place, and with a given role, therefore depends on the date you’re interested in, possibly when the airplane was issued to the squadron and/or when the airplane was built or recived factory paint (major repairs for example) It never hurts to have a photo, black and white if it must be, of the precise airplane you are attempting to duplicate in miniature.

If you aren’t after a particular airplane, just want a particular scheme, go ahead, and if you are a bit, er, retentive, you can pick a real-life airplane that probably (or provable) had those colors. Or paint the airplane you want in the colors you want and enjoy it. This is a hobby. If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

The prototype Whirlwind was dark gray, the second was Aluminum painted. One that came back to the factory for repair was stripped of weapons, painted RAF PRU Blue and flown as a utility hack by Westland, with a civil registration, from the end of the war until the later 1940s, when it was the last example to be scrapped. None survive today.


Late war RAF fighters were built with the cockpit painted black above the pilot’s lap or so, interior gray-green below that. But the Whirlwinds were not in active service by then.

For airplanes with Sky undersurfaces, in late 1940-early 1941 period, one wing or one half the airplane underside including wing, horizontal stabalizer, etc, was painted black for recognition. This black half was an on and off thing with the RAF, in 1939-40 they had 1 black and 1 white wing and the rest aluminum paint (not bare metal), sometimes done as half black and half white down the middle, then Sky in place of the black and white, then Sky, then Sky with one wing black, then Sky without the black, and finally Sea Gray, Medium (aka Medium Sea Gray)

All this color changing was by order across all aircraft types, not just fighters, not just a particular fighter, and in some cases, was to be completed by dawn on a particular day, in other cases as time was available. In all cases, factory finishes, repair-and-storage-depot finishes and squadron-personel-applied finishes were done by people with differing facilities, materials, imperitives and experience. Though the orders were uniform, the results were not! For example, the MIxed Gray (a post-war name coined by enthusiasts, never used officially) and the officially issued Ocean Gray are not the same color- Mixed gray looking more purple to me.

Moreover, the relative pigment density of the Sea Gray, Medium and Night (black) used to make Mixed Gray would obviously affect the result- not only how much the finish was stirred before being applied, but how much the two ingredients were stirred before being mixed would affect the result. So I can mix my Sea Gray, Medium Polly Scale paint with Black Polly Scale paint, but I’d be a rash man indeed to claim the result is precicsely what someone mixing RAF-issued dope or lacquer in 1941 would have produced. A 7:1 ratio of finishing material, by volume, says nothing about the relative amounts of pigment!

Also, the official order, couched in officialese, was subject to mis-understanding. Cases are reported where the Mixed Gray was made from 7 parts Sky, one part Night ( wow :^P I have to try that some time ) or 7 parts White and one part Night… clearly that would be a much lighter result.

Not to mention that the RAF (like all airplane painters) applied enamel paint, lacquer or nitrate dope, depending on the underlying material (enamel on wood, steel, lacquer on aluminum, dope on fabric). Even if they looked them same when dry, they’d weather differently.

How did your Representitive vote, and how do you feel about it?

My Congressional Representitive is the Honorable Barbara Lee and she voted against the bailout yesterday- no jobs programs, she told the newspapers, and on her web site, she listed 3 other points, it had to have a foreclosure moraturium, no rewarding bad behavior and no bailout without getting back the ill-gotten gains. Nice talk, but not enough to let it ride. Not enough to vote with Darrell Issa, and John Dolittle, Dana Rohrahacher, Duncan Hunter and the rest. When in doubt, look at who else opposes, and who else supports, a bill. She’s the new leader of the Congressional Black Caucus and it might have felt good to vote, “No”,  I think it was the wrong call.

Sometimes I’m willing to say Ms Lee’s exhibiting leadership when we disagree, but not this time. I wrote her an email and told her that her reasons weren’t, good enough. The lack of money and the dispair in my city, Oakland, is palpable, and we can talk improvements later, the house is on fire now and its time to do something about it. I’m whistling into the wind I’m sure…

I have a lot of hope for a better plan and little faith it’ll be produced. I understand why Pelosi doesn’t go for a party-line vote. On the other hand, what do you say to people who won’t vote for a package unless it contains capital gains tax rate cuts. Talking economics with the Republican Right is like talking economics with Communists. All theory, no practice, and the stupider it sounds the more they seem to like it. No room for reality, and no actual interest in it. Phoey.
Here’s the list of Californa Democrats and Republicans who voted against yesterday’s bailout plan:

(SD = San Diego area, LA = Los Angeles/Orange County/San Fernando metroplex, SF = San Francisco area)

Bob Fuller – D SD
Joe Baca – D Inland Empire
Loretta Sanchez – D LA
Linda Sanchez – D LA
Grace Naolitinato – D LA
Lucille Roybal-Allard – D LA
Diane Watson – D LA
Hilda Solis – D LA
Xavier Beccera (sp?) D LA
Andy Schiff – D LA
Brad Sherman – D LA
Fortney Stark – D SF
Barbara Lee – D Oakland/Berkeley
Lynn Woolsey – D Marin
C. Michael Thompson – D North Coast

John Dolittle – R North Central Valley
Devin Numes – R Central Valley
Kevin McCarthy – R Central Valley/North Coast
Elton Gallegly – R Santa Barbara
Edward Royce – R LA
Dana Rohrabacher – R LA
Darrell Issa – R So. Cal.
Brian Bilbay – R SD
Duncan Hunter – R SD

If your Congressional Representitive isn’t listed above, they voted FOR the bailout. For example, Mike Honda or Jackie Spier. If your Representitive IS listed above and you haven’t shared your thoughts with them, now might be a good time.

Total vote from our state was 29 YES, 24 NO, with the Democrats splitting 19/15 and the Republicans 10/9. So, among our Representitives, the bill would have passed and passed with a majority of both parties. Maybe we’re not as crazy out here as some would have it. We can hold our noses and do what’s needed when the chips are down.

I do NOT believe time is on our side and I do NOT believe whatever follows will be measurably better. Just like when Bush invaded Iraq, I think this is a disaster, but I sure hope I’m wrong.