Kitty Hawk T-6, Pt. 5 – Paint, Decals, and Weathering

This is where everything comes together.  And, even better, it’s my absolute favorite part of this hobby.  After all the work involved with cutting and sanding and test fitting and gluing, the time arrives where a build comes to life.  The time for paint, markings, and weathering.

Looking back at what it took to get to this point, the kit had its flaws, but they weren’t really anything that brought the build to a halt.  I think the biggest struggle was getting the panel behind the cockpit to fit right.  But with some careful cutting the problem was very manageable.

So how did I paint this girl?

As I do on 90% of my builds, I primed with Mr. Surfacer 1500 Black.  On the areas where it would remain bare metal, I polished the Mr. Surfacer with Novus #2, their fine scratch remover.  Polishing gave the surface a nice, smooth finish that would allow the Alclad Aluminum to perform at its best.

I used Alclad for the bulk of the work simply because that’s what I had on hand.  Though it looked fine once it was down, it didn’t spray very well.  This is a problem I’ve been having with my stash of Alclad.  I don’t know if it’s because the bottles are older, but I’ve just had a hard time getting a smooth spray with it.

If I had a bigger selection of it, I would have gone totally with Mr. Paint for the metallics.  I did use it for areas of the build, namely the landing gear, engine, and sliding sections of the canopy.  I would have preferred to use it for the aluminum on the main fuselage and wings.

But back to what I did use…

After putting down the Alclad Aluminum, I masked and prepped the tail.  To get the faded look, I tried a few things on my paint mule.

First, I tried putting the Krylon down directly on the Mr. Surfacer.  It was too dark.  You can see that on the tip of the port wing in the photo above.  I then tried some MRP Marking Yellow on the Mr. Surfacer, followed by the Krylon (the tip of the starboard wing).  It gave me a color that I was happy with for the day-glo.  The Marking Yellow also gave a great look for the faded areas of the day-glo, which you can see in areas B and E.

I applied what I had learned to the tail section, putting down a layer of Marking Yellow followed by a controlled addition of Krylon, trying to match the weathered paint in my reference photos.

Happy with my results there, I moved on to the wings.  There, I decided to put the dark gray, that covers the anti-glare panel and tops of the wings, on first.  Since I had the color already in my airbrush, I painted the anti-glare panel at this point as well.  I then masked off the gray and added the day-glo to the wings following the same process as used on the tail.

The wingtips and area around the landing lights didn’t have the same faded look as the rest of the wing, so I applied the Krylon with a bit more opacity to give the correct look. The bottoms of the wings were also painted in the day-glo pattern applied to the topside.  Though I didn’t fade the bottoms as they wouldn’t take the same amount of sunlight and weather.

Typically, I would add a clear coat of Tamiya X-22 thinned with MLT at this point.  But since I went with the natural metal finish, I couldn’t add a clear coat without messing up the sheen of the metallics.  So decals were going straight down on the paint.

I started with the Castle of Good Hope and Springbok roundels, as well as the large numbers that adorned the sides of the fuselage.

Taking a closer look at the decals, they are a bit of an enigma.  They look really thick on the paper and even the ink looks a little splotchy in places.  But once they’re on the model, they settle down really well and the carrier film all but disappears.  I was really concerned about the large black and yellow identification numbers, but they settled nicely over all of the raised surface detail.

I liberally applied Solvaset to it, and worked it with a cotton swab while it was settling, but it was perfect once it was dry.

Getting these down allayed my fears, so I moved onto the rest of the decals.

One thing to keep in mind, and maybe it was just because of my process, but once the decals were off the backing paper and on the model, they were very hard to move around.  Almost impossible.  This caused me some problems with the large number decals that go under the wings.  In that case, I decided to just use some vinyl and cut my own masks for the numbers.  I think it ending up giving a better look than the decal would have otherwise.

Weathering-wise, there really wasn’t a lot to do.  The plane was pretty clean in my reference photos, so I kept my build that way.  I added a few stains around the access ports on the belly, as well as some stains coming from the cowl and on the flap ribbing.  I also gave the whole plane a light panel line wash with Ammo of Mig washes.

So that about wraps it up.  I appreciate everyone who took the time to follow along with me and give their comments and feedback.  I’ll be posting the wrap-up in the next few days for anyone who hasn’t cared to read through the whole build log.

This was really my first attempt to do a full build log as I went, so thank you for bearing with me while I figured out the best way for me to do these posts.  If you haven’t seen the finished build on the internet yet, I’ll leave you with a little teaser until the wrap-up is available.

Kitty Hawk T-6, Pt. 4 – Assembly

A smooth surface on a model that will have a natural metal finish is crucial and Kitty Hawk doesn’t make this easy with this kit.  The deficiencies here become pretty apparent rather quickly.

In this section of the build review, we’re going to take a look at the main assembly of the kit, including the fuselage, wings, and moving surfaces.

The fuselage halves themselves went together easily enough. On the top side, the seams lined up well and disappeared with TET. On the belly, however, the halves didn’t line up properly, leaving a step between them. This wouldn’t be a huge deal, but there are some raised details on the bottom that will be sanded away.

After the halves are together, there are two panels that need to be installed, piece numbers D5 and D6.  They were both a struggle.

Starting with the panel behind the cockpit, it simply didn’t fit.  It was too long to fit in its spot and too narrow to reach both sides of the fuselage.

So…

Out came my handy-dandy razor saw.

I cut that bitch in half and filled the gap with CA and Bondo.  This was no small gap.  The panel was almost a full millimeter short of spanning the distance it needed to.  Cutting it in half did cause a minor issue with the locating holes for the antenna, but they were easily fixed once said antenna was installed.

I did end up with a gap on the aft end of the panel, but it was my fault. I didn’t sand it square.  This wasn’t as big of a problem as the canyon dividing the panel.

Once that headache was mitigated, I moved to the cowl panel between the engine and cockpit.

The kit allows for two versions of this panel, for two variants of the T-6, and the plane I’m building required me to cut out a square and add the replacement section, piece number D4.  To no one’s surprise, the guides for cutting out the square on the panel are not sized properly for the replacement area.

Again, I was left with another gap of about a millimeter.

This one proved to be very difficult to get at with normal sanding tools. I added some CA to the bottom of the gap to act as a stop and filled it with layers of Perfect Plastic Putty. Once it was built up enough that it was raised out of the gap, I shaved the surface with my knife and carefully sanded with some 1500 grit sandpaper to removed the knife marks.

The corrected panel was then installed onto the fuselage halves.  On the starboard side, the fit was great.  The port side, however, had (can you guess?) another big gap.  This problem came from inside the cockpit.  The front instrument panel sits too high.

(I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but the fit really isn’t one of the strong suits of this kit.)

I shaved off some of the IP, but I couldn’t go too far before I started cutting into the actual instruments.  I even brought out my Dremel and thinned the panel as far as I could before breaking through.  That still wasn’t enough to get the damn thing to sit flat.

It was time to bring out the big guns.

Now, normally I don’t like to use such drastic measures to hold my builds together, but in this case, it was necessary.  Using a combination of TET and MEK, there was still so much resistance that it wouldn’t stay together unless I physically held it together in my hands.  I tried holding it for a few minutes to no avail, thus my turning to Mr. Quick Grip and a steel block.

Even after my intensive efforts to keep the panel down, the fit still wasn’t perfect on the port side.  Thankfully, it’s a separate panel on the real-life aircraft so it didn’t need to be super smooth.

I was really beginning to have enough of this kit.

I moved on to the wings and horizontal stabilizers.  I was delighted to find that they both went together without much of an issue.  Of course, there was still a small seam at the joints, but they were taken care of, again, with Perfect Plastic Putty.

I did remove the formation lights from the wingtips as South African Harvards didn’t have them there.  They were situated on the top and bottom of the wings on the real aircraft.  I’ll add them back to the aircraft after paint.

At this point, there wasn’t much left to the assembly phase of the T-6.  I attached the front and rear sections of the canopy while I waited for my corrected glass from Alley Cat Models.  They were glued in place with TET and gaps filled with Perfect Plastic Putty once again.

As noted in a lot of other places, and I believe in part one of my review, Kitty Hawk only provides the canopy for late model T-6s – those without the extra framework.  That just didn’t cut it for me, which is why I went with the aftermarket replacement from Alley Cat.

I’m a little bit worried about the putty showing under the windscreen since there wasn’t any paint to cover it, but we’ll see what happens when I pull the masks off.

And I’m finally onto my favorite part of modeling, paint and weathering.  This phase of the build really tested my patience and I feel like a lot of the problems were unnecessary.  In this day and age, things should fit properly and there is really no excuse for piss-poor engineering and quality control.  I shouldn’t have to cut a panel in half because it’s a millimeter too narrow for its hole, nor should I have to cut into one of most interesting areas of an aircraft to get a panel to sit flush.

That said, it looks like a T-6 and I think I’ll have a pretty good representation once she’s painted.  You can look forward to paint and weathering in the next installment of my review.

Kitty Hawk T-6, Pt. 3 – The R-1340

With the cockpit assembly complete, I’m able to move on to the R-1340 and the engine compartment.  The compartment itself really starts with the cockpit as the whole motor assembly mounts to the firewall that has already been attached to the cockpit framework.

The R-1340 Wasp itself was developed in the 1920s, with its first run in December of 1925.  It was the first motor of the famed Wasp series that powered US Army Air Corps and and US Navy/Marine Corps aircraft through the second world war and beyond.  At 6,200 feet, it could pump out 600 horsepower.  Plenty of power to get new pilots trained to fly the high performance fighter aircraft of the day.

Kitty Hawk does a nice job on the detail side of the R-1340, but it doesn’t come through on the execution.  To start with, every single piece of the motor assembly had this ejector pin flash.

Every…

Single…

Piece…

Not only do I have to get these cut off, I have to cut them off carefully enough to not break anything else off, especially on the ignition ring.  And the ones on the engine halves must be cut off deep enough that they don’t interfere with gluing the two halves together.

Once they’re off, the engine halves and ignition ring can be test fit.  The halves fit ok.  There is still a tiny gap in spots but they are on the back half and won’t be visible inside the cowl.  However, every rod on the ignition ring needed to be trimmed in order for it to sit on the engine correctly.

With everything trimmed to fit, it actually does look like a nice representation of the Wasp.

Setting the main components of the engine aside, I removed the rest of the assembly from the sprue.  The rest of the pieces didn’t fare much better than what the engine did.

The motor mounts that attach the engine to the already assembled cockpit are extremely fragile.  It doesn’t help that the sprue gates holding them on are huge.

There is really no excuse for this –

Trying to get these off the sprue in one piece was an effort in futility.  Of the 4 sets of motor mounts, 3 of them broke during removal.  And that wasn’t even being barbaric and cutting with sprue cutters, I used a razor saw.  Once they’re free of the sprue, you still have to be careful with them.  I had one break while holding it on the cutting mat to clean it up with an Xacto knife.  It just pulled right apart.

Fortunately, most of the engine pieces won’t be seen, these included.  After breaking all the mounts and getting them back together, I decided to forgo cleaning up the remaining gates and just left them alone.  As I said, they’re going to be buried in the fuselage anyway.

Once everything was off the sprue and cleaned up, it went together without much of a fuss.  The fit wasn’t perfect.  As I noted during the dry fit of the engine, there was still a small seam where the halves went together.  I used some MEK to try to melt the plastic a little more in the area and get it to close up.

The only area that really gave me a problem was the motor mounts.  They don’t have a real positive location and they like to move around in their locating holes.  I solved this by gluing with Tamiya Extra Thin and, while it was still setting, I stuck the motor mounts into the cockpit assembly to keep the mounts aligned.  I then stood the whole thing up on end and allowed the weight of the motor to put some pressure on the motor mounts.  Once the TET was set, everything was lined up properly.

Getting all the exhaust pieces lined up correctly was challenging, but again, it won’t be seen so it doesn’t need to be perfect.  (I say that in regards to this build.  If you’re planning to open the cowl and make everything visible, it will need some more attention.)

Eventually, everything was primed and painted.  Areas that won’t be seen I left alone.  Painting was done with a variety of brands, including Mr. Paint, Alclad, AK Interactive, Vallejo, and Tamiya.  One thing to note, there is no dataplate included with the kit that should go on the crankcase.  It’s not necessary, but it’s one of those little details that can really add to a build.

With everything painted, the engine assembly was attached to the cockpit.  The straps connecting the cockpit and engine assemblies were added after they were attached.  The instructions don’t show them very well, so I don’t think they are in correctly, but they work.  They are another part that is hidden anyway.

At this point, the only thing left to do is paint and attach the prop.

The propellor assembly goes together without any problem.  The hub is made of 4 pieces – the two hub halves and the counter weights.  I didn’t fill the gap between the two pieces of the prop hub as it’s two pieces in real life.  The prop blades fit rather well into the hub and should be pretty secure once glued.

The hub itself isn’t very solid in the crankcase though.  There is just a small nub that fits into the crankcase.  It’s something I’ll have to be careful with later as I’m sure it will break pretty easily.  This is something that could have been remedied by just extending the length of the pin.  Another area that wasn’t thought out well by the Kitty Hawk engineers.

The Hamilton Standard decals gave me a bit of trouble.  The yellow in the decal didn’t fill the area, so half of the writing isn’t visible.  The carrier film also folded under so it may need sanded once it’s dry.

But it’s together.  This whole subassembly fought me, but it’s put together, painted, and attached to the cockpit assembly.  That whole group has been attached to the starboard fuselage half.

Up next, we’ll focus on the assembly of the fuselage and the rest of the main components.  Check back soon for part 4!

Kitty Hawk T-6, Pt. 2 – The Cockpit

Welcome back, everyone!

We left part one wondering what the hell Kitty Hawk was thinking when they molded the sidewalls of the cockpit.  Thankfully, the rest of the cockpit isn’t full of the boneheaded mistake that plagues them.  Let’s take a closer look at the rest of the cockpit.

The seats aren’t anything special, but there is some nice rivet detail on the bottom as well as the framework on the back.  A separate photo-etch fret is provided for the seatbelts.  It provides two identical sets of belts, but no where in the instructions is there any guide for how the belts should attach to the seat.  The belts should go between the seat back and framework, but I glued the two pieces together before inserting the belts.

This isn’t a difficult thing to overcome, but it could have been avoided had there been any mention of the belts in the instructions.  I ended up cutting the belts apart and making them different lengths, just to get some variation.  Once they were cut, I bent them to shape to minimize any chipped paint.  Glued in position, I was able to paint and wash them.

After filling most of the ejector pin marks on the side walls, I began work to paint them and attach all of the little detail pieces.  The instructions aren’t great here.  One of the first steps involving the side walls show a fire extinguisher attached to the framework.  Well, there’s no extinguisher there, nor is there one shown in the instructions up to this point.  So after an extensive search through the sprues, I found a piece that looked to be the right one.

Turns out, the piece (or pieces as it’s actually two) is on the instructions about 3 steps away.  It ended up not being a big deal but KH could do a better job here of showing the sidewall in the condition that it should be in on the current step.  Surely all it would have taken would have been hiding the piece in the CAD drawing.

Moving along on the rest of the cockpit, I completed the instrument panels and added a new weapon to the modeling arsenal.  I had heard good things about using Bondic, a UV -cured adhesive that is completely clear once set.  I’ve seen it used for exterior lights but wanted to try it as instrument panel glass.  It works beautifully.  Before applying, I used Airscale instrument decals on the front panel.  Once they were set, I applied the Bondic with a needle to the instruments.

With the instrument panels complete, I started assembling the various pieces of the cockpit.  This part is a little tricky.  There are a lot of moving parts that need to slot into various holes on both sides of the cockpit framework.  To start, the floor goes into three holes on the bottom of both sides.  At the same time the 4-piece rudder assembly needs to be installed and if that isn’t aligned correctly, it won’t fit into the side walls.

I first installed the rear rudder pedals, making sure they were square with the rest of the cockpit as the glue set.  Once it was in place, I attached the starboard side linkage that connects the front and back set of pedals.  Again, holding it square to the cockpit while it set.  Finally, I installed the front set of pedals.

With both sets of pedals attached to the starboard side of the cockpit, as well as the starboard rudder linkage, I attached the port linkage and sidewall.  The front instrument panel was also installed.  The panel is supposed to go in before the port sidewall is attached, but it went in just as easily after it was on.  This actually all went together much better than I expected.  As long as you take some care when attaching everything it’s really not that bad.

At this point, looking at the entire assembly, it appears that the cockpit framework is a bit bowed.  But dry fitting it into the fuselage halves don’t show any problems.  The only thing I may have to do is hold the tops of the framework to the canopy sill.  I did leave the top bars of the framework disconnected from the rear bulkhead so, in case there is any bend, I’ll have a little bit of wiggle room when I install the cockpit into the fuselage.

Now the cockpit itself is basically done, though there are a few things to attach to the rear bulkhead and the firewall needs to be attached to the front.

There is some confusion with the direction the top of the rear bulkhead should face.  This piece  has two raised or recessed areas, depending on which way you install it.  The instructions don’t show which way it should go.  It makes the most sense to me that the areas would be recessed, so that’s how I installed it.  There are also two ribs that stick up off of the rear deck.  The locating holes for these pieces are way too big so when installing the ribs, keep them as far forward as you can.  Once the fuselage is together, the backside of the ribs, and the holes, won’t be visible.

Installing the rear instrument panel, it doesn’t sit securely in the sidewalls.  It has just two small nubs that sit on top of the sides.  The bottom surfaces of the IP are angled, so it should sit in place with some pressure, but with the walls being a bit bowed, they have to be held in place.  The panel is a bit more snug once the top, angled framework is added as they touch on both sides.

That’s all there is too it.  A lot of pieces in this assembly but they really don’t go together too poorly.  The most difficult part was getting the rudder pedals and their linkage together amongst the rest of the cockpit.  And the ejector pin and sink marks that plague some of the bigger pieces aren’t really visible.

With the cockpit all finished, we’ll move onto the R-1340 and it’s installation.  Stay tuned for Part 3.