“In Enemy Hands” – the Spanish Republican 109

When I last reported on this model, I had gotten it all more or less together, aside from the landing gear, propeller, and a few other small bits that I didn’t want to risk breaking off as I painted. After hours of work sanding, filling, and re-scribing, I only had a few more little things to get done before I can launch into the fun part.

img_1253

About where I was last time…

For those of you who didn’t bother reading the previous article, this is the AMG 1/48 scale Bf.109B model, being done up in the colours of one that served in Spain and was captured by the Republicans.

IMG_1318

The finished product

Painting the Canopy

The 109 in all its variants has some rather extensive canopy framing. Fortunately, this kit provided pre-cut masks, however it only provided them for the outside. If you wanted to paint the framing on the inside of your canopy, which I did because I wanted to do an open canopy so the cockpit detail was visible, you would have to mask it yourself. Fortunately, I got a little trick from a friend for doing extensively framed glass like the canopy of the 109 – mask all the framing going one way first, paint it, let it dry, then mask off the framing going the other way. While this did take a little longer because there were a lot of “wait for the paint/primer to cure” steps, it made for good results and spared me the frustration of trying to cut little squares out of masking tape precisely to fit.

With the inside of the canopy framing done, it was time to mask the outside. The pre-cut canopy masks were a little easier to work with, as expected, however there were a couple sharp corners where they wanted to constantly pull up, so I had to be careful of that when I was spraying. Once masked, I glued in the front and back piece using a very small amount of gel super glue (sure to keep it open to avoid fogging). For the center section, I used blue tack to temporarily hold the center section in place and closed, preventing overspray from getting into the cockpit, while I painted the rest of the plane. I then primed the entire thing in black Stynylrez, fixed up any seam line issues or surface imperfections that became visible after priming, then hit it with a second coat of primer.

The Fun Part

When it came to painting, I chose to paint it in two halves; do the bottom first and let it dry before tackling the top half. This way, there are fewer worries about how to hold the model as I paint it – and given that I haven’t installed the landing gear yet, that is a bit of an issue.

Now, my approach to this is based partly on a background in painting figures and wargaming pieces. Here, you often emphasize shadows and highlights with your paints to make it pop from a couple feet away. There is little concern for matching the exact colour, because aside from the fact that there is no generally accepted FS colour for magical robits, you’re going to be painting in so many highlights and shadows anyways, that the ultimate colour on your model might go 20% lighter in the highlights and 20% darker in the shadows – meaning that there is little point in fretting over the right shade.

This is in some ways a more artistic approach than one that is based in trying to achieve an exact replica of the real thing. Not that it is any better or worse, mind you, but different, and it helps make the model pop, especially from a distance.

The bulk of the plane was base coated in Vallejo Metal Color Dark Aluminum out of the airbrush. With that down, I switched to their regular Aluminum colour for highlights on areas such as the upper curves of the fuselage, the leading edges of the wings and tail surfaces, and the center of some of the panels for a little modulation. I took a similar strategy with the red; after masking off everything that I wanted to stay silver, I laid down a couple coats of a deep crimson to cover up the metallic paint underneath, then then, on the upper surfaces, leading edges, and the center of the panels, worked my way up to a bright red. The brightest tone was a mixture of Citadel Evil Sunz Scarlet, some Flame Red artist inks to kick the intensity and saturation up a notch, and perhaps a little P3 Khador Red Highlight, which despite its name, is actually a not very saturated orange.

IMG_1341.JPG

The colours I used to achieve the red — a crimson, a bright red, a red ink, a highlight orange, and a little blue shade to reinforce some shadows

With that dry, I placed a piece of masking tape over the landing gear bays and ran my exacto knife around the inside of the landing gear bays, removing all the tape covering the bays but leaving the tape over the skin of the aircraft. From there, I sprayed the landing gear bays in Vallejo Green-Grey, which was my “close enough” approximation for RLM 02.

IMG_1342.JPG

My yellow process…

One other thing – as I was priming, I accidentally broke off the rudder, however this actually turned out to be fortuitous as it made masking and painting the markings on the rudder a lot easier. I simply sprayed the entire thing white, masked off the middle third, and painted the top red and the bottom purple, using a similar approach as on the stripes. After removing the masking, I sprayed the lightest touch of Citadel’s Druchii Violet shade over the white in a couple areas to preshade it, then sprayed it all with a Process Yellow acrylic artist ink, not being overly concerned with overspray onto the red and purple areas because yellow is such a weak colour that, while the pigment-dense ink will turn the white areas yellow, it won’t make a difference over red or purple.

IMG_1298.JPG

Oops…

 

There are a couple panels on the 109 near the nose section that are much darker than the rest of the plane, however they were small enough that I was able to brush paint them with a mixture of Vallejo Model Colour gunmetal gray and black and didn’t bother with masking.

Throughout this process, I did make a few mistakes; either missing a surface imperfection or messing up a mold line. To deal with these, I isolated the panel where the mistake was with Tamiya masking tape around the panel lines, sanded it back down to bare plastic, and then reprimed and repainted. I had to do this on a few panels, but fortunately none that were either too big or too difficult to sand.

Weathering, Panel Lines, and Reinforcing Shadows

For the panel lines, I decided to do it the hard way, applying some sort of combination of washes, acrylic artist inks, and plenty of flow improver with my 10/0 brush. The result was perhaps a little more stark than I wanted, but once you weather it and take a step back and look at it from “on the tables” distance, rather than three inches away, I think it looks pretty good.

When it came to weathering, I wanted to keep the chipping subtle, as is appropriate for aircraft models. I did some light sponge chipping on the leading edges, around access panels, etc. with some silver and some Khador Red Highlight on the red parts. I then took my 10/0 liner brush and laid in some streaks in the direction of the airflow with very thin paint, lots of flow improver and the lightest touch.

Next up, I took out some Citadel shades and got out my detail aibrush. I’ve been playing with spraying these through the airbrush a fair bit lately, and I think there are a lot of interesting effects you can get from them. The trick is, you have to just barely pull the trigger back, as pulling it back too far will cause huge problems. If you have this feature on your airbrush and you aren’t comfortable freehanding it, there is no shame in using the needle stop. While these shades are effective at sinking into recesses, if you airbrush them on just a tiny amount at a time, you can tint the underlying paint in interesting ways.

So, there are three things I want to do with these shades:

  1. Reinforce the shadows

While I did have some nice highlights and shadows and modulation going, I wanted to reinforce it a little more. By spraying some Drakenhof Nightshade, which is a blue-black, I can tint certain areas like the underside, the wing roots, and the panel line areas. Fortunately, this is a good shade for both the metallics and the red – blue, as a cooler colour, will push the shadows in the red more towards a shaded crimson and let the highlights really pop, while it also works reasonably well over metallics. Also, it dulls down the finish a little, which isn’t bad for shadows.

If you go too aggressive at this stage and don’t like it, you can always build it back up again by respraying some highlight colour.

  1. Add surface variation.

The surface of an aircraft isn’t perfect, so I like to represent that on my model. I like to do this in two stages. First, start with Drakenhof Nightshade, their blue shade. Then follow up with something brown, like Nuln Oil or Agrax Earthshade. This creates a very interesting surface because not only do you have some variation in lightness and darkness, but you also have some cool/warm contrast, which provides another layer of visual interest.

For bonus points, you can get some interesting effects by masking along a panel line, either with tape or just by holding a business card along the panel line as you spray. This will make it so that the marbling and variation isn’t continuous across the surface, but rather there are breaks in the pattern as we go from panel to panel.

IMG_1343.JPG

Metallic colours, and some shades

  1. Add stains

These washes can also be used to add things like stains. I did some stains and streaks by simply starting from a point of origin like the oil cooler under the wings or the radiator area and spraying a little bit of the colour I wanted going back from there in the direction of the airflow.

For the soot from the exhaust and the guns, I simply sprayed on some Nuln Oil, again, spraying it wherever made sense to me based on the airflow around the plane. I was considering adding some dry pigments, but the Nuln Oil itself actually gave me such a good effect that I didn’t consider them necessary.

Final Bits

With the bulk of the plane done, there were a few little bits that I had painted separately to attach at the end. Landing gear, propeller, center section of the canopy, and a few little protuberances like antennae and pitot tubes. I simply scraped away a tiny bit of paint, installed the part with either plastic cement or CA glue, and then touched up the paint in that area with a brush. The dorsal antenna was pinned into the surface with some thin brass rod, and a piece of EZ-Line was added and painted silver to add the wire – just before I found out that the particular aircraft which was captured by the Republicans didn’t actually have that antenna and wire. Oh well, I don’t build for accuracy anyways.

The Base

I couldn’t just leave it on the shelf as is, so I decided to make a simple base. I got myself a picture frame from the dollar store and sanded and painted it up. For the center of the display base, I chose to use national colours for a few reasons. Mainly, I wanted to emphasize that this aircraft was in Spanish Republican service, and the clearest way to do that is with the red-yellow-purple tricolour of the Second Spanish Republic, which is very distinctive as this short-lived flag is one of the only national flags in history to include purple. Unfortunately, presumably in part because it was likely hastily painted in the field, there are no actual roundels on this aircraft. So the only place where that tricolour shows up is on the rudder way at the back, partly obscured by the horizontal stabilizer. So, by doing the base in national colours, it would bring in the purple and yellow that is really only seen in one small area at the extreme back of the model, and emphasize the Spanish Republican provenance.

It took me a few tries to create the tricolour, but I eventually hit on the best way to do it. First, I took a piece of printer paper and traced out the shape of the inside of the frame, then divided it up into thirds for the tricolor pattern. Using masking tape, I masked off the middle third and then taped the whole thing to a piece of cardboard that I stood up in my airbrush booth. I loaded my airbrush up with acrylic artist inks and used it to colour up the two sides – one purple and one red. Once that was done, I removed the masking and sprayed the center part yellow. Similar to when I was painting the rudder on the plane, I didn’t bother remasking because I actually wasn’t worried about overspray at all – the yellow is a weak enough colour compared to the red and the purple that, while it will turn the white paper yellow quite nicely, it won’t make any perceptible difference to the underlying colour over the red or purple.  From there, I let it dry, cut it to size, and placed it into the frame.

Conclusions

This was an interesting experience. My previous experience with model aircraft fell into two categories. First, there were the aircraft I built in my childhood, which were done with all the enthusiasm and craftsmanship that the twelve year old version of myself was capable of. Second, there were the two archaic Polish kits from behind the iron curtain that were not exactly the sort of raw material that I’m going to use to create a masterpiece.

This was a departure from those; I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I put a lot more effort into these than I did those archaic kits that ended up being little more than testbeds for this project. There were some frustrations on the way (see: everything about the front cowling on this kit) and a lot of figuring things out as I go (ugh, photoetch). However, it was an enjoyable experience, even if the kit itself didn’t exactly feature Bandai-level engineering.

My goal was to finish this up for the local IPMS chapter’s annual theme contest. I ended up picking this kit up about a year ago, and ended up putting it off, then shelving it a couple times, meaning I finished it with a little under a month to spare. And, as a bonus, I managed to squeak out a win with a split decision over a really interesting customized Bren Gun Carrier, captured by the Germans and turned into an improvised tank hunter. While I’m going to get back to my usual figures, busts and magic robits, this was a good experience.

Except for the photoetch.

Build Update – AMG Bf.109B (1/48)

This is a project that has been on and off my table for a while since I picked up the kit almost a year ago. For a few months, I would take it out, look at the sprues, then put it back, close the box, and back away slowly. Eventually, I got it started, but then I kept getting distracted with gaming pieces that I wanted to either clear off my shelf of shame, or get painted up for demos or tournaments. Because I suppose is theoretically possible that I could go to another tournament.

The theme of the contest I’m building for is “In Enemy Hands.” So, as a tip of the hat to the Spanish Republicans and because I love their red-yellow-purple scheme, I’m doing the one Bf.109 that they managed to capture. The challenges of this project started early; I thought it would be fairly easy to find a Bf.109, but the only kit that I could find of a 109B (or any early 109 with the Jumo engine) was the AMG kit in 1/48 scale.

75_1

Now, I’m not sure that I’ve built enough model kits that I can offer a fair assessment of the fit and finish of the kit, and I definitely haven’t done enough research to determine if it has the correct number of rivets along the upper lower left panel line second from the front on the cowling or if the johnson rod is a hair out of scale. However, my impression is that this is not a kit for the faint of heart. There are a lot of photoetch details, particularly in the cockpit, and it comes with resin and rubber parts as well, not to mention a commensurately large pricetag. There are also a lot of small parts, and the sprues aren’t exactly Bandai or Games Workshop quality, though they are a step up from the 1960s kits from behind the iron curtain that I’m used to. Notably, there are a lot of places where the engineering is such that you don’t have much in the way of locating pins and tabs to help you align the parts.

But, if you’re too much of a hipster to build a popular subject like I am, sometimes you have to take what you can get.

My Progress

So far, I managed to muddle my way through the infuriating photoetch on the cockpit, painted it up, and got the two halves of the fuselage together. I did depart from the official instructions, gluing the side panels into the fuselage first rather than gluing them onto the floor of the cockpit and hoping that they somehow fit flush against the inside of the fuselage. The two halves of the fuselage went together fairly well, though there was some filling, sanding, and re-scribing necessary.

IMG_1073

Cockpit detail

Departing from the instructions again, I installed the tail wheel before putting the fuselage halves together. While I did end up accidentally snapping it off later, I was able to drill out a hole for a brass rod on both ends of the break so it should be a simple repair that will probably end up with something that, with the brass rod at its core, is stronger than the original.

From there, I taped over the cockpit so I don’t mess it up and started getting the big pieces together – wings, control surfaces, etc., so it would look like a plane. I did paint up and weather the engine, only to nearly completely cover it up. At least I know it’s there.

img_1204.jpg

All this work… for nothing

The nose in particular was a challenging affair. On this kit, the nose consists of eight pieces. With so many pieces, most of which are connected by simple butt joints, one has to be very careful to get the fit just right. Otherwise, the slightest error will carry over and be magnified with each subsequent piece and you will need to use a lot of putty to get everything looking okay in the end. Further, the seam along the top of the cowling is difficult to fill and sand without accidentally obliterating the detail around the guns.

With all the filling and sanding done on the main structure, it is starting to look like a plane. I’m thinking of hitting it with some Stynylrez black before I start putting all the small, fiddly bits on and covering up some areas around the radiatior that I should paint before I assemble. I find it difficult to really see how well you did with fixing the seams until you actually prime it, and if it turns out after the primer that I didn’t do a good job, I want to have a chance to fix it without snapping off the pitot tube and other small pieces.

IMG_1253.JPG

My goal is to finish this thing for a contest in early March. I feel like this isn’t an unreasonable goal, so long as I don’t run into any major hiccups. And, while things are starting to come together, there are a number of places in this project where things can go wrong. First, I think landing gear is going to be a challenge. With the narrow track of the landing gear on the 109, the slightest misalignment could result in one wing being much lower than the other, and this kit doesn’t exactly have the most builder-friendly engineering to start with.

Next, the canopy could potentially be an issue. You have to be very careful when working with clear parts because you can’t just paint over mistakes, and there is potential for issues like glue fogging the canopy. I’d like to display it with the canopy open, but I’m not sure how realistic that is. And, there is also some of the aforementioned photoetch on the canopy as well.

Finally, my scheme involves a natural metal finish. While I’m not stranger to painting some shiny metal bits on models, I haven’t done an entire model in a natural metal finish. Obviously, I’m going to use Vallejo Metal Color, but I will probably need to head to the hobby store and pick up one of the 16 shades of grey metal that I don’t already have in order to get it historically accurate. Further, while the scheme itself isn’t too complex and can mostly be achieved through masking and spraying, I am a little concerned with decal application as that is new to me and I’ve seen enough silvered decals to worry about my chances.

That said, I’m really excited to get the thing together and primed and get started on the fun part. I can’t wait to start painting in the red-yellow-purple of the tail. And, none of these challenges are insurmountable. I believe in painting bravely, which is why I do stupid things like trying a resin pour for the first time on a display piece.

No man is an island

The other interesting thing is that this project really shows how the internet has helped connect modellers. First, when I googled pictures of finished scale models of the 109B, I found one made by fellow local figure painter. His is from an older kit, and is painted up in the colours of the bad guys, but I did get a chance to chat with him a bit about things like the proper colour for a Jumo-engined 109 and which seam lines are supposed to be panel lines and which need to be filled.

bf109b2jg_3.jpg

Fun fact: Jean is better than me at both aircraft AND painting figures

Second, I’m part of a facebook group for Spanish Civil War modelling, and recently, someone posted their rendition of this plane. Not this type of plane, but this specific aircraft. While my initial reaction was to be disappointed that my idea is clearly not as original as I thought it was, seeing his rendition was a great help in figuring out things like what colours should go where. Also, he linked to a veritable treasure trove of reference material. Couple that with some other pictures of people’s takes on not just the 109B, but any of the early Jumo-engined 109s, and I’ve got some reference material which, if not authoritative, is a big help to me as someone working on a more obscure aircraft.

109_1.jpg

Hey look, someone took my idea… only to do it first and probably better than I can

Conclusion

This kit is… well, it’s somewhere between a Bandai Gundam kit and a communist bloc 1960s kit in terms of engineering, details, and ease of assembly. I think I can finish this thing in time for the contest. The sprues are starting to get pretty bare, and the plane actually kind of looks like a plane. So long as I don’t get distracted, I should be able to… hey look, something shiny!

IMG_1249.JPG