Tamiya D.520 – Part I: assembly and cockpit

If you ask five warbird nuts about what the best looking plane is, you will probably get about eight different responses. Some people love the classic shark-mouth P-40. Others like a clean, in-line engined plane like the 109. People who watched Baa Baa Black Sheep as a kid might have fascination with the Corsair. And this is all tinged by national pride, with Brits preferring the Spitfire and Americans leaning towards the P-51 Mustang. However, all these people are wrong because the Dewoitine D.520 is the best looking plane ever. Period. End of story.

Okay, I might be overstating my case a little, but I think you could make a strong argument that the underappreciated French fighter is objectively a very beautiful craft. With clean lines, a long nose, and a canopy that transitions smoothly into a triangular tail fin whose swept rear contour adds just a little character, it’s got a very nice airframe. On top of that, their tri-tone camouflage scheme of desatured browns, greens, and cool greys hits a lot of the right notes when it comes to colour theory. They even went so far as to paint parts of the interior in a beautiful midnight blue colour — truly, this aircraft is a testament to French elegance, at least so long as you don’t ruin it with the garish yellow and red scheme of the Vichy version.

23.jpg

The D.520 was basically the French equivalent of the Spitfire or 109 — a modern, all-metal, low-winged monoplane with an inline engine that was on the cutting edge early in the war. It came into service in early 1940, which was sadly too late to make much of a difference in the battle of France. However the story didn’t end there as production was continued under the Vichy regime, and the D.520 served in a number of air forces on both sides and on three continents in Europe, North Africa, and in the Syria-Lebanon campaign.

The kit

As I dabble somewhat in aircraft, this kit was strongly recommended to me by a friend who saw me fondling the box at a model show. Scalemates indicates a mid-1990s vintage, which may not be cutting edge but is a huge step up from some of the old kits kicking around at model shows. It sat in my stash for the better part of a year before I picked up some photoetch bling and then took it out. The local IPMS club is doing a French-themed contest for early 2021 (though who knows when we might actually be able to get together again, because 2020 is a dumpster fire), so it was only fitting that I went with this entry.

d520_boxWhen you open the box, you see that the kit is just two sprues and clocks in at a bit under 50 parts. There are no excessively small, fiddly, detailed parts — the smallest parts are things like the antennae, pitot tube, and control stick, which at 1:48 scale are not so small you need to get out magnifying glasses and tiny tweezers. There is no option for an exposed engine, which really cuts down on the parts count and makes for easy assembly on the front end. It does come with a seated pilot, which, although I didn’t make use of it, is a little touch that I like.

To kick the detail up a notch, I also got the Eduard photoetch set, which came with a photoetch fret and a piece of film for the instrument panel.

Assembling the office

Like most aircraft kits, you start from the cockpit and work your way out. The cockpit is also where the majority of the photoetch bits go if you want to go that route, which I did.

As I started to put the cockpit together, I quickly came to realize why people rave about Tamiya kits. It just went together right, and could probably almost have been just snapped together without glue. While more advanced modellers can fix problems, it’s a joy when a kit doesn’t have those problems to begin with. And remember, this kit is from the ’90s, so presumably Tamiya has only gotten better since then.

In the base kit, the only part of the cockpit that required more than the most basic of modelling skills to put together was the seat — there are a couple areas on the top corners that should be drilled out and cleaned up with a knife to properly represent the tube-and-fabric construction. I’m not going to complain about this because I suspect it would be tricky to mould the part that way to begin with, but it would be nice if this was called out on the instructions instead of forcing the modeller to figure it out on their own. There are also a couple of injector pin marks that could use cleaning up, but they probably aren’t very noticeable and that is to be expected on any model.

While I’m at it, cockpit assembly brings us into the wonderful world of photoetch bling. I went all out on this cockpit, using every piece provided on the fret. I’ve grumbled about photoetch before, but this was actually a much more pleasant experience than the last time I used it. I would have to credit that 100% to having the right tools for the job. A big part of that was due to a club member loaning me some proper photoetch tools, as well as me having upgraded my tweezers since my last photoetch project.

That said, while I went all out, I think you could easily get away with not doing so if you are so inclined. The catch with this and a lot of photoetch detail sets is that most of the details are in the cockpit, and they are generally hard to see unless you have an open cockpit and are specifically looking in there. The two parts that provide the biggest advantage to this kit are the instrument panel and the seat belts. The seat belts are one of the most visible cockpit details and do legitimately stand out with even a glance at the cockpit, so you would lose out by omitting those, unless you went with the included pilot. I’m not sure how visible the difference is, but the photoetch and film instrument panel also makes construction and painting so much easier than if you were to try to use the provided kit parts and decals.

IMG_2723.JPG

Look at all that photoetch…

Painting the office

The D.520 is unique compared to a lot of other aircraft from the era in that it has this really interesting midnight blue colour in the cockpit, which looks really neat once it is all together.

To start out, I primed with Synylrez black and worked up through some blue-blacks into P3 Exile Blue with the airbrush. From there, I gave it a quick dry brush of a lighter blue with a soft makeup brush, then went in with my detail brushes to pick out things like buttons and levers, and finished it all off with a thinned down blue-black wash to bring it all together and reinforce the shadows.

For the leather and fabric bits, the process was a little different as they will have a bit of texture and wear to them. To do this, I threw down a quick wet-blended base coat, with dark colours in the shadows and light colours in the highlights, then went in with techniques like stippling to bring in some texture. I finished it off with some ink glazes and washes, bringing it all back together and unifying the stippling and base coat.

Remainder of the assembly

With the two halves of the fuselage together, the remainder of the assembly went pretty quickly. Like I said, it had less than 50 parts. I left a few parts off for painting. The landing gear, propeller, and canopy were left off and painted separately; the fit was good enough that I would have no problems doing this. Also, the antennae and pitot tubes were left on the sprue until I was just about ready to attach them, as I didn’t trust myself to not lose them over the couple weeks to take the rest of the model from start to finish.

Apart from that, it was just a matter of following the instructions. I threw down some quick dark coats of paint on some difficult to reach areas like the oil cooler and radiator as I built, but apart from that there were no steps where I had to stop and paint.

You have the option of flaps up or down; I went with down, though I did break one of them off a couple times and have to glue them back on. Third time was the charm.

Overall, things went together very nicely. There were a couple minor issues, but they were probably my fault. The seam on the top of the nose is a little tricky — with the flat top of the nose, if you don’t line it up perfectly, it’s going to be a real problem to sand out the step. I would prioritize this joint when doing the fuselage join and work out from there, as I had to do a lot of putty, sanding, and rescribing to fix it after being a little too aggressive trying to sand out the step the first time. The air scoop on the bottom also didn’t quite go down right because I got it slightly warped when installing the radiator and oil cooler, so it needed some sanding and rescribing to make it work out.

Apart from those minor issues, assembly was perfect. Nice and simple, no major seams, the whole thing was a relaxing build and went together with the smallest amount of putty and sanding.

IMG_E2733

(Mostly) all together, with canopy masks applied

Final thoughts on assembly

In spite of the chaotic nature of the French aviation industry in the 1930s — a fascinating story that I may have to do some more reading on sometime — they put together a beautiful plane. And Tamiya did them justice by putting together a beautiful representation in 48th scale.

This was a nice kit. Fit was great, there were little to no frustrations, and it was simple enough that you could bash it out pretty quickly if you wanted. The Eduard photoetch bits were a nice touch and mostly went down well with the proper tools, but they ended up being barely noticeable, with one or two exceptions. There are two small bits in the wheel wells which were very frustrating, but those are not in a very noticeable place. There are some gunsights which would be a nice touch, but I chose to omit them after accidentally breaking them off two or three times, and I couldn’t find any pictures of the plane with these gunsights on them anyways. The rest of the photoetch parts are all in the cockpit, and while the seat belts are highly visible, you could easily get away with skipping the entire set, particularly if you are going with a closed cockpit.

Overall, this was a nice, relaxing build, and I’m sure this trend will continue into the paint and decals, because what could possibly go wrong with the decals that came in the box?

 

Bonus Content: Junior Commander Elizabeth Windsor

I got this bust for Christmas and decided to do it for a local model club’s blitz build a couple months ago. It is a 1/14 scale bust of Queen Elizabeth II in her ATS uniform circa 1945, from 9th Gate miniatures. The model comes in two parts — body and head — though it comes with two choices of head, with or without hat.

1/14 is a weird scale, noticeably smaller than I am used to for bust painting. Assembly was real nice, though. The cast was very clean and the two pieces keyed together so nicely you could paint them separately and avoid a lot of masking. If you looked very closely, you could see some striations from 3D printing the master, but they were so small they disappeared with a coat of paint.

I painted the two pieces separately, mainly using wet blending over a zenithal to lay down a quick, messy base coat, then smoothing it out with airbrush glazing. This makes getting smooth blends easy and avoids that misty airbrushed look. Since it came in two pieces, I could do the skin and the clothes separately without having to do any masking at all, which is very helpful in a blitz build. From there, I went back in with the brush to reinforce some highlights and shadows and paint the hair and all the little details.

I slapped it on a square black resin plinth and called it a day — finishing the blitz build with plenty of time to spare.

Paintlog: Supreme Kommandant Irusk

khador_adr.png

Three down, one to go…

As of late, I’ve had a couple somewhat arbitrary painting goals.  First has been to paint the models that I have on the shelf which are assembled but unpainted, in an effort to clear out that shelf of shame before I start buying assembling too many other models.  Second, I’d like to paint all the warcasters on the Active Duty Roster.  One of the models that resides at the intersection of those two is Supreme Kommandant Irusk, also known as Irusk2, also known as that guy with the annoying heavy pewter flag that always tips over and breaks.

As mentioned above, I had assembled Irusk2 previously as I had tried him out for a brief stint back in Mk.II.  I liked him, but found that I was getting assassinated a lot, so I ended up shelving him in favour of some other casters.  In the meantime, he had shown himself to be quite the powerhouse in Mk.III, as one of our top-tier infantry support casters and one of the few really capable of bring a lot of melee infantry across the table and into your opponent’s face.

flag.jpg

As any owner of this model will attest, there are two serious challenges with it, both of which relate to the flag.  First, the flag itself is made of pewter, which makes the model very top-heavy and easy to accidentally knock over.  Second, the model comes in multiple pieces, and there is a joint between the upper portion of the flag and the hand which is not very large and kind of tricky to glue. These two issues combine to make the natural state of the model something like as shown on the left.

As a result, this model is just begging to be pinned, which I did, spending a lot of time carefully drilling to try to get as long of a pin as I could in between the two sections.  One of the other things I did when I assembled him the first time was that I had filled the base with lead fishing weights and PP’s brown stuff, in an effort to make him a little less top-heavy.  This was a good idea, but I had to clean it up a little, filing it down to get the bottom surface flatter so the model is a little more stable.  Had I known about them then, I probably should have just used one of PP’s metal bases, but as they say in my French classes, c’est la vie.

Fast forward about a year, and as with the previous Spriggan project, there were a few things that I had to do clean him up and bring him up to my new standard, as my hobby skills have greatly improved since then.  There was some mold line removal and re-priming that had to be done, so I pulled out some files and got to work, fixing up the worst of the results from my careless assembly.33053_SupremeKommandantIrusk_WEB.jpg

As you can see on the studio picture, Irusk2 is a relatively ornate model, with all the decorations and accoutrements befitting someone whose title is Supreme Kommandant.  This can make him an intimidating model to paint, as you sit down and try to figure out which colour everything should go, in order to end up with a model that has balanced colour choices and sufficient contrast between distinct elements of the model.

One of the themes with my army so far has been that I’ve been using purple as a base army colour, and relatively higher ranking models have had more and more pink on them.  As a result, I knew that Irusk here was going to have a lot of pink, but that I was going to keep the purple going on the flag and base rim, which meant I needed to leave a little purple on the model in order to keep it balanced.  I did so by painting his chest plate and his trench coat purple, and making all the rest of the armour plates pink, while leaving his sash and some of the exposed fabric of his uniform a neutral grey.

This model used a lot of standard techniques, and to be honest, there are a few flaws so it is solidly tabletop standard, but if there is one aspect that I would like to focus on, it is the flag.  Often times, what one will do to get a tabletop standard model banged out is to just use the standard basecoat, wash, highlight method.  There is nothing wrong with it, and I continue to use washes on most of my models, however the trick is that there are some places where washes just don’t work.  Large, fairly flat surfaces like capes and flags don’t tend to take washes too well.  Instead of going where they need to go to darken the shadows, they tend to pool in unnatural places, so that instead of a nicely shaded model, you end up with a model that just looks flat and dirty.

So, how do we approach this?  Instead of basecoating and washing, we’re going to have to take this section of the model and manually paint in the shadows and highlights. Here, working with my usual Reaper Royal Purples Triad, I started by base coating with Imperial Purple.  Then, the next step is to look at the model and figure out where the light is going to be hitting the object.  On a wavy flag like this one, it’s going to be darker inside the folds and on areas where the flag has draped over, while the highlights go on the ridges and on the places where the fabric is on such an angle that the surface is facing upwards at the sun.

From there, you can use your shadow colour (in this case, Nightshade Purple) to blend the shadows.  There are a variety of techniques that you can use here, with two-brush blending being popular, but my usual technique at the moment is to take a brush, apply paint to the model in the center of where you want that second colour, then quickly rinse the brush, apply a little saliva, and drag the edge outward.  Do the same with your highlight colour, and don’t be afraid to mix colours on your wet palette and highlight up or down in multiple steps if it becomes too difficult to get a nice smooth blend all the way from your darkest shadow to your brightest hightlight.  These blending techniques do take some practice to get a smooth blend, so if you’re having trouble, picking up a unit of men and women with capes and keeping at it is a great way to learn.

For the white logo on the flag, I used similar techniques, starting with Reaper’s HD Concrete Grey as a base colour, and blending up through Misty Grey and into a pure white on just the highest highlights.  However, I ran into a bit of an issue here.  One of the side benefits of a wash is that it can also give a blacklining effect, whereby a bit of nuln oil in a crack between two bright colours can help break it up, which helps the eye distinguish where one colour ends and the next starts, and really helps make the miniature pop.  Since I didn’t do a wash, I have to put those blacklines in manually, with some dark paint (it doesn’t have to be black — just something darker than your base colour is good enough).  You’ll need to use thin paints and a decent brush to get it done right, of course.  Personally, I have a 10/0 rigger brush that I use for this sort of thing.  It’s nothing too fancy, just something I picked up at Michael’s, but I find that this very long, thin brush allows me to load it up with a fair bit of paint, and it has the right amount of flex to get deep into these sort of tiny recesses, so it’s a handy addition to my brush collection.

IMG_1944

And there you have it.  Normally, I like to do a lot of custom basing on my warcaster models, but in this case, the base that came with him was pretty good, and I didn’t really want to go taking things apart on such a tricky model, so I simply used the standard base and added a tuft and a little snow, to match the ice forming on the rocks on the sculpted base that was included.  I added a little extra weathering on the beat up metal piece with the Cygnar logo on the base, and that was pretty much it.

Overall, I’m happy with this model as a tabletop piece, but not 100% satisfied.  I wouldn’t say it’s my best work, and there are some flaws in certain areas, but nothing that would stand out from more than a foot away.  At tabletop distances, the pink highlights and white edging on the armour does tend to pop, which is always good..  If I were to paint it again, I might like to do something so that his medals stand out more at tabletop distances, but that’s kind of tricky given the brightness of the pink.

As for what list to put him in?  Well, Irusk2 is a great infantry caster, and can run in any theme. His feat grants his army pathfinder for a turn, and the ability to ignore clouds and forest for the purposes of determining LOS, which means they can come out of nowhere. Additionally, enemy models suffer -3 SPD when they begin their activation within his 14″ control area.  He’s got a great list of support spells, with Artifice of Deviation, Battle Lust, Fire For Effect, and Solid Ground.  If I’m playing this season’s ADR, the other casters on the list are probably going to want to run in Legion of Steel (at least for now), so when it comes to theme, that leaves Winter Guard Kommand and Jaws of the Wolf if I don’t want to have two completely redundant lists.  As fun as it sounds to play him in Winter Guard Kommand and stack Bear’s Strength from Kovnik Joe and Battle Lust and apply axe to face, I’m going to try Jaws for my theorymachining.

Theme:  Jaws of the Wolf

Supreme Kommandant Irusk
– Behemoth

Greylord Forge Seer
– Destroyer
Widowmaker Marksman (free from theme)

Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Assassins w/ Underboss
Kayazy Eliminators
Kayazy Eliminators
Widowmaker Scouts

This list comes with a lot of stealth, because one thing more annoying than no-knockdown tough infantry with cover is no-knockdown tough infantry with cover and stealth.  If you can stack battle lust and backstab from the minifeat on the Kayazy Assassins, you’ll be throwing a lot of dice at your target.  With effective DEF 17 in melee, Eliminators tend to be a pain to remove, even moreso when they make a no-knockdown tough roll.

As for jacks, the combo of Behemoth in Irusk’s battlegroup and a Destroyer being marshalled by the Forge Seer is a good one.  Irusk can slap Fire For Effect on the Destroyer, giving it fully boosted magical attack rolls on the bombard, good for sniping out incorporeal models.  Behemoth only needs two focus to fire off two fully boosted shots, and since he gets one from power up, he can get the other from the Forge Seer. So, we’re talking three fully boosted bombard shots, one of which is magical, for the investment of just one focus per turn to upkeep Fire For Effect.  This leaves Irusk with plenty of focus remaining for his other support spells and camping.

That said, this list does have some glaring weaknesses.  First, there isn’t much to prevent Irusk2 from getting shot.  With so many stealth models, there isn’t much that can effectively screen him.  Second, sprays and mass eyeless sight could be a problem, so playing this list into Legion might be a bad idea.

Of course, I have a lot of painting to do before I can run a double Kayazy Assassin list, so…

(Note:  Apologies for not having more WIP photos; I wasn’t originally planning to do a paintlog on this model)