16 November 2015

The Airfix Revival Continues – 2016 Releases Announced

This morning I received an e-mail from Airfix. Normally I delete such e-mails without reading them but this was one I actually wanted to read as it contained details of their 2016 release schedule. I’ll get back to what they have planned for next year in a moment, but first I wanted to say something about how impressed I’ve been with Airfix as a brand in the last few years.

Airfix Box Art
Airfix's 1:48 Defiant Box Art

Regular readers may recall the first ever build featured on this blog was an awful Airfix kit; in fact it’s still possibly the worst model I’ve ever attempted to build. I followed this up with a more current kit of theirs, the MiG 15 which showed some promise, but the space of less than 3 years even that looks somewhat dated. All these kits have since been dropped from their range, thankfully replaced by an increasing number of new and improved kits.

And that’s the thing, these are not re-boxed kits, these are brand new tools. Something which, in my opinion, has elevated Airfix far above the likes of their immediate competitors, companies like re-box specialists Revell.

It’s all a far cry from this time 10 years ago when Airfix went into administration; the turnaround has been fantastic, especially in the last few years. The investment in quality and the desire to progress, rather than rest on their past reputation is clear to see. Hopefully many more generations will get a chance to build that first Airfix Spitfire, just like I did all those years ago.

So onto the 2016 releases, there’s a good mix of WWI, WWII and Cold War aircraft. Although not my main area of interest the 1:72 scale Handley Page Victor looks like a bold release. However I’m looking forward to the end of 2016 when I hope to have my workbench clear ready for their B-17G (I had been trying to decide between Academy and Revell’s releases for some time but now I’ll wait).

Airfix 1/72 B-17G
B-17G CAD Image

Also, if time and hobby funds allow, I’m tempted by their JU-87 Stuka / Gloster Gladiator dogfight double release. I really like these double sets they’re well thought out and sensible way of bundling a couple of themed kits together. In fact I’ve recently bought one, (the Defiant / Do 17z set) but as I’ve not updated this blog in a while it’s only featured on my Instagram, along with another Airfix build that’s currently in progress.

So here's to the new and improved Airfix, long may they continue!

05 October 2015

Completed Review - Tamiya Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop (60756) - Part 2

Continuing from Part 1, let talk about decals. In fact, bear with me, I'm going to rave about a decal sheet. Yes really!

The decals in question are from Xtradecal, set X72187. I have never seen such a comprehensive set of decals with an equally comprehensive instruction sheet.

Xtradecal X72187 Spitfire Mk.V Xtradecal X72187 Spitfire Mk.V

This particular set contains decals for a Spitfire Mark 5s only, there are a total of 12 options, from both the European and African theatres. As well as roundels and identification numbers there's a huge number of stencils and demarcation lines. I think, if you choose carefully, you can probably get five or six complete aircraft from this set.

Application was fairly straight forward although some of the long and very thin decals for the "don't walk" lines pushed my decal skills to the limit. It took me the best part of a week (in the evenings) to apply them, mostly, due to the number of them.

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop

Now in previous builds this would be me about done, but with this build I'd decided it was time to raise my game. I wanted the panel lines to show and some weathering, especially as this was an aircraft in use and in flight.

After spraying the whole model with a gloss coat it was time to apply a wash. The wash I'd chosen was from Flory Models. After watching the tutorial video on their website, several times, I got stuck into the whole wash process. The actual moment of applying the wash is well captured in my Instgram post taken at the point where I was really wondering what I'd done.

However, it all turned out well and so the build was complete. For me it was most satisfying, the kit was excellent and I'd managed to move my modelling on to the next level. It's no competition winner but for me it marks a significant step forward. Take a look at the pictures below and see what you think.

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop & Flory Models & Xtradecal
Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop & Flory Models & Xtradecal

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop & Flory Models & Xtradecal

With the final picture I'm reminded of something I'd forgot to previously mention. This kit doesn't allow for a "wheels up" option. The wheels you see actually come from an Airfix kit (the one I sacrificed as a paint tester) and they fitted perfectly.

And so onto the final matter of my score for this kit

Overall Build Score: 4.5 out of 5, another excellent Tamiya kit as to be expected. A good choice of variants exemplified by the 3 types of air filters and 2 canopies included in the box. If I had to pick a fault it's the lack of choice when it comes to portraying the aircraft in flight.

04 October 2015

Build Review - Tamiya Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop (60756) - Part 1

Time to get back on track with my aircraft building, where better to start than with another Tamiya kit. The kit, Tamiya's 1:72 Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop (kit number 60756) in a North African colour scheme.

Assembly, as so often it the case begins with the cockpit and the two halves of the fuselage. For a change I'd decided not to use a photo-etch set, this model was going to be in flight and so a pilot would be filling the cockpit space. Having said that I think the interior of the kit was reasonably well detailed as is, you can see from the picture below.

Tamiya 1/72 Spitfire Cockpit
The out of the box interior
Tamiya 1/72 Spitfire Cockpit
Cockpit & (Airfix) pilot
The pilot figure was taken from my spares box, in this case an Airfix pilot. Tamiya, for some reason, don't include pilot figures in their 1:72 kits (although this may have changed since their latest F-16 releases at this scale). I find this a little odd, as the 1:48 scale kits, of which some of the 1:72 scale kits are scaled down versions of, do contain pilot figures.

With the insides painted, using a home-brew interior green mix, it was time to assemble the two halves and the cockpit.

Tamiya 1/72 Spitfire Cockpit

This was done by gluing the two halves together and pushing the cockpit assembly up through the bottom. This works well and prevents an uneven cockpit. By comparison I was building an older Airfix Spitfire at the same time. This model used the typical method of trying to glue a floor piece in-between the two halves and it sank leaving it uneven and consigning the model to being used for testing paint colours.

I decided that as this was a model in flight it would need to look used and so wanted to use the hairspray method of weathering and so selected areas were sprayed silver.

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop

To be honest this didn't really work and I'm at a bit of a loss as to why. Not enough hairspray? Too much paint over the top? Either way, in the end only a small part of the wing roots weathered but it look OK. The rest was touched in using a Citadel silver paint.

On to the painting, starting with the underside. I used Vallejo's UK Azure (71.108) but felt that this was too blue. I over sprayed that with a 50/50 coat of UK Azure and Pale Blue Grey (71.046) and this seemed to be a better match.

I've written before about problems with the accuracy of Vallejo's colours and once again this proved to be an issue. I had bought the Vallejo RAF Desert colours box set and that was why I'd chosen a desert colour scheme. However the colour were, once again, not even close. I tried mix after mix with no success before giving up and deciding to use Tamiya paints. This for me wasn't a decision taken lightly as I'd had mixed success with Tamiya paints, finding them too watery, especially combined with my masking.

Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop
Tamiya 1/72 Supermarine Spitfire Mk.Vb/Mk.Vb Trop

However my fears were unfounded, I managed to use them and use them well (for me). No paint leaked under my masks which was result! So Vallejo's loss is Tamiya's gain, in the future I won't be quite so afraid of using them.

Colours were straight from instruction sheet. Middle stone sprayed over the whole upper surface, this was a 1:1 mix of XF-59, Desert Yellow and XF-60, Dark Yellow. I then masked of the areas that were to retain this colour and over sprayed the Dark Earth colour. This too was a mix, 1:1 of XF-52, Flat Earth and XF-64 Red Brown.

With the painting done, the next step was the decals, which I'll write about next time.

21 September 2015

I Never Thought I'd See The Day When...

This last weekend I decided to have one of those moments we all have when we suddenly realise the stash is getting a bit large and maybe something has to go. Naturally I thought this would involve a selection of "vintage" kits being put to one side ready to be listed on eBay. But something unexpected happened.

If you're a regular reader you'll know that I've not really had a bad word to say about Tamiya kits and to a certain extent that's still the case. But this weekend the unthinkable happened and one of my pristine Tamiya kits ended up on the "for sale" pile! The kit in question is Tamiya's 1:72 Messerschmitt Bf-109E-4/7.

Tamiya 1/72 Messerschmitt Bf 109E-4/7
Tamiya's Bf 109E-4/7 Trop
Sometime ago I wrote an in-box review of two Bf-109 kits, one from Airfix, the other from Zvezda. I didn't include the Tamiya kit because I figured it would be a forgone conclusion that it's a good kit. And that's the thing, it is. I'm sure it'll go together well, the three colour schemes are interesting  and the addition of three spinners is typical of Tamiya's attention to detail. OK so the fuselage shape is a few millimetres out, not noticeable to the naked eye, but that's forgiveable in my opinion.

Why is it going? Well it is better than Zvezda's offering, but the more I think about it, the more impressed I am with the Airfix kit. And it's not just their Bf-109, they just keep on delivering excellent kits with each round of releases. And when you also consider my first ever review (titled: "The Worst Kit You'll Ever Build?") was of an Airfix kit, I can't help but be impressed by the continual improvement from Airfix, so all credit to them. (Revell take note, it is possible to invest time and effort into producing high quality budget kits, rather than buying up other people's old kits).

So there you go, I never thought I see the day when I'd sell a Tamiya kit over an Airfix one.

11 September 2015

Bandai and Star Wars - The Evil Empire Strikes Back?

There’s disappointing news for Star Wars fans outside of Japan.

If you follow my Instagram you’ll have seen I recently picked up one of the incredible kits from Bandai, in this case an excellent 1:72 scale Y-Wing. These kits are so good there has been huge worldwide demand for them. It was originally expected that such kits would be for the Japanese domestic market only but as we live in the time of the global economy naturally word got out and people from other countries started buying them. Why wouldn’t they when they’re the best kits they can get?

Disney Evil Empire Star Wars
No that's not Coruscant...

Disney appear to have realised that this would probably have an impact on sales in other markets for which they have different, (and in my opinion, substandard), ranges and different agreements and so they’ve come down hard on Bandai and ordered them to ensure their distributors and re-sellers don’t offer them for sale outside of Japan. I'm sure they're completely within their legal rights to do so but the fact it's been allowed to go on for some time before they've pulled the plug is somewhat frustrating. Sadly this seems to be the way with some large corporations, especially American ones. They’re the first to want a free world market but when things don’t go their way they end up crying off to regulators, lawyers etc…

So what does that leave those us outside of Japan with? Well we get Revell’s frankly uninspiring offerings (although they may only be available in the US).

Revell USA Star Wars Range

At this point I should mention that Revell have made a statement that they had no involvement in Disney's decision. Interesting though that they mention they have no license to sell in Japan, it took me a minute to find their items for sale in Japan, but we'll overlook that for now...

The starter kits are well and good for those that are new to the hobby, something I've championed before. However the so called “Masters” range is actually a case of Revell doing what they do best, buying up old moulds and re-boxing them. In this case it’s the Fine Molds kits (one of which I once awarded 5 out of 5). Most of us would have been happy with that if something better hadn’t come along in the meantime. Plus they'll cost more than the Fine Molds kits ever did, for what is essentially old stock, the rumoured price of the "Masters" (Fine Molds) Falcon is in excess of $300!

However there are ways for us model builders to get hold of the Bandai kits, in the short term at least. First of all most Japanese sellers have been very good at communicating how (slowly) they’ll be taking stuff off their websites, so if you want something be quick (one informed me that I have until the 20th of September to buy any remaining stock or get any pre-orders in, which they’ll honour). Second, market sellers such as those on Amazon, eBay etc. will be selling them independently, although I expect prices will rise sharply one sellers realise they can profit. Once that happens there’s the third option, kit hunters based in Japan. In this case individuals living in Japan will buy kits and mail them to you, usually for a percentage fee (there’s a list here of some, but I can’t personally recommend any as I’ve not used them yet) which may turn out to be a better option than paying a premium on those for sale in option 2.

In my case my remaining hobby budget for the year has mostly been spent and I need to inform Iana that lots of parcels will be arriving in the mail from Japan in the near future (and my poor postman who has to carry them all)!

The sad part is this all seems so unnecessary, I was looking forward to seeing the new film in December but now there's a bitter taste about it all