This update took a little longer than expected as life and a drive for perfection got in the way. Most of the delay cannot be attributed to Tamiya, as the kit is as close to perfection as I have encountered, especially for a twin boom aircraft.
The first place for some delay was my decision to replace the kit barrels, modeled as smooth, with better turned brass barrels. This is such a prominent feature on the P-38 that it deserves better than some decals to indicate the holes in the cooling jacket. I wanted to do this before I installed the nose to try to use the locating mechanism provided in the kit to help with alignment. It turned out surprisingly well, I think.
The second place where delay crept in was with the masking the canopy and windscreen. Before I talk about masking I must discuss the kit clear plastic. The fit, engineering, and clarity, are above reproach. The kit even has a closed window option that is three pieces instead of the 5 pieces required for an open canopy. I decided for the closed option as I wanted a cleaner and quicker build and review, and because the plastic is so clear that the work put into the cockpit will still be very visible.
Insofar as the masking, Tamiya (as per their large scale kits) provides a sheet of the masking paper with the masks drawn on. The modeler is expected to cut these out and apply. For kits like a P-51 with a bubble canopy, and in large scale, this is not a terrible issue. For a smaller scale P-38 with the deceptively complicated cross bracing of the side windows, and the compound curves and bracing on the canopy top, this can become an unnecessarily complicated effort. Before I began, I scanned in the masking sheet so to have a duplicate pattern should I destroy mine. I then sent to a friend who had a Cricut and he duplicated the sheet with beautiful pre-cut vinyl and tape. While I was waiting on that, I attempted to carefully cut out the masks. I didn’t particularly like they way the masks fit, but with some extra care and multiple iterations of trimming, I got them to a place that was serviceable. When I got the pre cut masks, I abandoned my attempt at cutting, trimming, and burnishing, to use the pre-cut masks hoping for better results. They had a similar issue as the lines printed by Tamiya have enough slop as to make cutting them an art more than a science. After several hours I had an idea…bare metal foil. I jettisoned the Tamiya masks and just used bare metal foil and a sharp blade. The results, at least from what I can see, are much better and will probably remain the best option until the kit is released and the aftermarket steps in with pre-cut masks. One would think Tamiya could afford a Cricut and solve this issue, but like their decals, Tamiya holds on to surprisingly primitive and lack-luster additions to kits that are otherwise stellar.
After several days of wrestling with those masking issues, I finally got the Lightning under a coat of primer. I was absolutely unsurprising to see that there were no seams or issues that appeared to need further cleaning, filling or sanding.
Then it was time to paint.
Mr. Paint Laquer “Neutral Gray” was painted on the bottom, and Tamiya”Olive Drab” on top. Both mottled over a dark grey base of Mr. Finishing surfacer, sanded with 1500 grit sanding sponge. Before the OD, I applied some Alclad Aluminum and chipping fluid around the cockpit for some heavy wear and chipping. The OD was post shaded with various amounts of yellows and whites mixed in with the paint to represent fading under the intense pacific sun. The camo pattern is tricky, so using references I sketched it on the primer and free handed the camo with my Sotar 20/20.
After a few minutes with a toothpick and stiff brush, I had the area chipped around the cockpit in a way that resembled my references. I find that with Tamiya, especially their OD, that the paint is very fragile and likes to rub off, chip off, or discolor with handling. In this case, I applied some Future across the OD to seal it in to prepare for decals. In my experience, this ameliorates those issues.
I’m waiting on some green to paint the stripes on the tail, but in the meantime I will be working on decals on the remainder of the kit. Then, the fun part…weathering.
My picture build log is always updated, here.