What’s in the box – Airfix’s North American B-25B Mitchell (1/72)

Airfix’s late 2019 release of the B-25B Mitchell in 1/72 scale was a welcome announcement and continued their series of Mitchells in braille scale. This will be our first “Unvarnished” review but before we get to that, we’ll take a look at what comes in the box. Actually, before we do that, let’s take a look at this box.

After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States needed to strike back. Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle was tasked with leading a carrier based assault with medium bombers, a feat never before carried out. On April 18, 1942, Doolittle and his crews carried out their mission, inflicting minor physical damage on Japanese industry but the raid was a major morale boost for the reeling United States.

The box features a beautiful rendition of a B-25 taking off from the USS Hornet on the Tokyo Raid.

Clear Sprue
Airfix continues to amaze me with the crystal glass on their clear sprues. They break up clear parts onto two sprue with one being the canopy glass and waist gun positions. The other consists of the turrets, nose glass, and the various windows that are spread throughout the airframe.

Not only are these parts incredibly clear, they appear to be engineered in a way that should ease construction. Canopy glass includes a large section of fuselage forward of the canopy itself. Waist windows are included with a large section of the waist fuselage attached. Builders should feel comfortable gluing these into place without fear of marring the windows.

Sprue A
Sprue A is one of the three main sprue and consists of the wings, props, one wing spar, and the closed bomb bay doors. The wings appear to have finely recessed panel lines, not the trenches that Airfix is known for, as well as some rivet lines, though a more advanced modeler may wish to add more rivets.

Sprue B
This sprue is a bit busier than A was. The fuselage halves, engine nacelles, other wing spar, horizontal stabilizers, and the start of some of the interior. Just like the wings, the fuselage halves show some fine panel lines and some minor riveting.

Interior parts are crisp with minimal flash to clean up. There are a number of ejector pin marks around the interior of the fuselage halves, but they all appear to be in places that will be hidden. A bit of smart engineering on Airfix’s part.

Sprue C
Here we find the vast majority of parts including the engines, wheels and gear, more interior parts, and the pilots.

The Wright R-2600-9 radial engines feature some nice detail on the cylinder heads and are constructed in a style typical to smaller scale kits. The front set of cylinders are fully modeled while the rear set includes the firewall where it mounts to the nacelles.

The weighted tires appear to be very well molded with crisp diamond tread detail. I typically replace kit wheels with resin, but these look like they will do the job well for someone who builds out of the box.

The pilots look very good for this scale. Especially since very little of them will be seen once they are inside the greenhouse, for those who include figures in their aircraft.

Sprue D/H
The final sprues wrap things up with the moving surfaces, remainder of the interior parts (including the instrument panel with attached rudder pedals and the yokes). Also found here are the handful of .50 caliber machine guns that adorned the B-25. Broom handles are not included for those building the included Doolittle bomber however it shouldn’t be hard to craft them for yourself if you strive for historical accuracy.

Markings
Included are two rather plain schemes, though these early Mitchell’s didn’t carry much in the way of fancy nose art. The first option is one of the Doolittle Raiders “Hari Karier”. The second option is for an aircraft on maneuvers in Louisiana in September 1941. There are only a few minor differences between the two aircraft, the most notable being some white crosses on the Louisiana aircraft and blue on the front of its cowl.

There are no manufacturer markings on the kit decals, but I’ve always had good experiences with Airfix decals. I expect no different from these.

Stay tuned for the “unvarnished” build review of this kit in the next week or two.

Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 3.

See part 1 and part 2 to get caught up to what has brought us here.

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.

Tamiya’s “White Box” 1/48 P-38F/G – First Thoughts, Part 2.

Last week I began the build of Tamiya’s new tool P-38 (see: Part 1). With only a few hours invested I had gotten the build to the point that it was time to start assembly of the twin booms, a place in the construction that makes most who have ever cracked the box of a P-38 model at least a bit anxious. But, this is Tamiya, and Tamiya doesn’t allow for antiquated ideas of fit and engineering.

Since my return to the hobby, I have built two 1/48 P-38 kits, both Academy plastic and generally regarded (until now) as the best in this scale. Much has been written about the difficulty of alignment of the booms to the wing, to the tail, and each other. Otherwise well regarded builders have found these kits to be tricky. In fact, Paul Budzik’s alignment jig instructions were a necessity. Needless to say, getting an above average result of the complicated alignment has been a tricky process, until now.

Tamiya’s fit and design is so spectacular as to be unspectacular. Everything fits, and there are no alignment issues. Those who have never built a P-38 in 1/48 before will wonder why people had so many problems. This is a game changer for P-38s and I hope it portends a 1/32 kit in the near future.

The wheel bays are well detailed, but the linkages for the main gear will be difficult to protect from breakage during painting and handling.

That said, there is always room for improvement. I am not a fan of kits that require building up parts that dangle outside of the wheel bays throughout construction. Tamiya has done that here. If I had another one to build I would experiment to see if you could wait until after paint to get the linkage arms and other bits into the wheel bays. I think you can. The wheel bays are beautifully detailed and have pre made weights that fit into cups in what would be the engine compartment. Based on my unscientific balance tests, I think it’s safe to assume this will not be a tail setter.

Further, to pose the canopy open on the G (if you build the F, the canopy has a particularly interesting and easy to build option) to show off all of the exquisite interior detail (as long as you use some good seat-belts and not the kit decals) requires installing the headrest with a part that protrudes outside of the cockpit and canopy. This is the attachment point for the open canopy on the G but complicates masking during paint. I elected to cut that piece off and for masking will temporarily use the closed canopy option to cover and protect the exposed cockpit. I will manufacture a hinge from some spare photo-etch later. It goes without saying the clear parts are beautiful, distortion free, and fit perfectly with no effort.

The clear parts are beautiful, and I highly recommend HGW fabric belts for WW2 American fighters.

The most difficult part of the construction, to date, has been fitting the armored glass to the gun-sight and that assembly to the wind screen in a way that is a strong bond but doesn’t mar the crystal clear plastic. I used super thin CA a glue looper, and prayer.

It feels weird complaining about these issues, given the substantial ease of construction of the rest of the kit. The perfection of the boom to wing and tail fit is enough to make up for any of the other minor flaws I’ve noted here.

In less than two weeks linear time, and only a handful of hours invested (I’ve spent significantly more time painting and weathering the cockpit and wheel bays than I have for construction of the entirety of the model), I have a P-38. In other builds, at this point, I’d still be building jigs, arguing with boom alignment, and getting ready for significant filling and sanding. Here, I’m looking at a bit of Mr. Surfacer 500 on a few spots, and some primer.

Note: test fitting of the nose/gun assembly shows a typical clean fit, but I am trying to determine if I want to replace the barrels or move forward with the kit barrels and decals.

Unless there are some unforeseen issues, update 3 will be beginning paint and the multi-step process to heavily weather the whole thing.

As always, I keep the photo build log updated in real time.