Saturday, April 30, 2011

Be2a: Part 5

Returning to work after my Easter and Anzac break has slowed down this build somewhat but yesterday I got back into it. I have par-drilled the underside of the top wing as you can see above. This is very much a 'by-touch' exercise and I use a small craft hand drill and feel for penetration on the other side of the wing with my finger tips, ensuring not to break through. The purpose is simply to provide something of a recess to take my struts when glued.

And with no further ado, it's onto the strut-gluing. I have to admit to not being as precise as I might have been at this stage. Between the two models there is variance in the central strut location. Anyway, I commenced with the central four struts, fixed to the fuselage and supported with Humbrol paint tins during the setting process. They are not perfectly aligned as you can see but there is flexibility in the joins, the PVA glue taking a longtime to set hard but binding perfectly well in the meantime once clear - a handy attribute. The struts align when the top wing is in place provided I don't leave it indefinitely - which I didn't.

Having finished the crew painting, now seemed the best time to fix them into position. I should have painted the struts previously and had every intention of doing so but it slipped my mind over the break. As predicted, the crew look smaller somehow once painted and I'm happy with the fit.

All that is except my observer 'gunner' who we will just have to imagine is standing up to turn to his rear, which makes absolute sense. The choice and posing of crew is clearly important in painting a picture of what's going on - beware of the goon on your tail chaps!

Gluing the top wing, I fixed it to the central struts first before proceeding with the others. I have to ensure they were level and of course they are shorter than the outer struts. From there I fixed each wing in turn, allowing them to set before switching to the other wing. When fixing these struts I used PVA again and simply sandwiched them using paint tins to press them together.

What's interesting is how the wing assemblies have aligned themselves. Given that the measurements are correct, the strain is taken up across the whole model and it has set squarer than it ever looked like it was going to. All but two struts were the length I needed, the other two requiring a bit of a pinch to set them into the drilled recesses. We'll see how they stand up to the rigging - I'm not confident and anticipate having to craft their replacements.

Having forced myself to undercoat the wire parts and engine block and bay late last night, they are now prepped for painting. Over time, the balsa body work appears to me to be well matched with the natural doping of the printed card sections (wings and tail). I am now just going to lacquer the balsa, leaving the struts and metal work only to paint. I had previously painted the cockpits but given how much room my crew figures took up, I needn't have bothered.

I will proceed with the metal painting before constructing the undercarriage for ease of access. My spinning propellers have been cut and etched from .0075 Butryrate sheet which will be fixed with a cut down dress making pin, the receiving ports for which have been drilled into the front of the engine blocks.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

WSS Casualty Marker

Having a number of Front Rank casualty figures to hand, I have embarked on a programme of casualty vignettes to accompany each of my battalions as I build my United Provinces army for Ramillies. There's not a lot to say about this except that the detonation shown I imagine to be from a grenade and is made from synthetic stuffing for toys and the figures are painted as Prussians in Dutch service.

I can tell you that it looks better at a distance than it does close up but I wanted to show how it is constituted. I painted the base with dabs of black and shades of brown with an old frayed brush and then dabbed blobs of black deeper into the stuffing with a finer brush to get some shrapnel effects happening. 

Kroonprins Von Prussian: Part 3

More than two months in the construction, what was meant to be a break from Project Lewes turned into some bizarre epic build in itself. Nevertheless, the first of the Prussians, my Kroonprins Von Prussian regiment in Dutch service is complete, bringing my United Provinces army for the battle of Ramilles up to three battalions in strength. Whilst that seems rather paltry, in fairness these battalions are 33 figures strong, bringing the figures painted up to the hundred mark.

I have to say, in appearance the Prussians look alarming similar in uniform detail to my Swiss regiment thus far - all blue with yellow lace, even down to the red stockings. For me, apart from regimental labels painted on the rear of the bases, these Prussians do have red neck cloths and they also have grenadiers which the Swiss lacked. Other than their leather breeches, there's not a lot to distinguish them from my Swiss other than the colours they rally to - more on that further on.

The officers perhaps are the most distinctive with their black and white sashes - with no more details to hand, I elected to make them in alternate bands of colour with minimal silver inclusions - no gold tassels. Each of my officers has a different coloured wig, representing the hair colour range of the figures within this regiment - I always vary within each unit I paint. If I haven't stated so before, it is probably the wigs that got me into this period and a motivating factor in my plans to collect in the preceding period ... yet another project.

Officer of grenadiers

I have made one of my officers an officer of grenadiers. This decision is essentially speculative but not illogical. Like the grenadiers themselves, the blue cuffs which further distinguish them from the fusiliers are of a different hue and are so depicted on the officer. I ensured I have one officer per division which, in my representation is one officer per stand of nine figures three ranks deep.

Pre-fatigued regimental colour
Pre-fatigued colonel's colour
The flags are hand painted (as usual) on tissue paper, matte coated and then battle fatigued with a pin and frayed with a scalpel. Whilst weathered, I did not want the colours dirty, given the care taken with them generally. I hope my flags indicate a veteran unit but entering the field of battle fresh. The next unit flag I construct will be using gauze as an experiment - I hear great things.
The drummer has a generic and long standing Germanic pattern of red and white hoops with an unadorned wooden body. I have no idea when this started but the red and white scheme can be seen on Prussian drummers for succeeding generations through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, I just back dated it to the start for this unit.

Re-painted Foundry fusilier

Unlike my other two battalions thus far, my Prussians are advancing with grenadiers lobbing grenades - why wouldn't you? Every previous advancing posed figure I had has been stripped and used for the core of the battalion which, save for the drummer, is bolstered with Front Rank figures for all officers, sergeants and two fusiliers.
I have to admit that I am relatively satisfied with how my grenadiers turned out. I had my doubts for some time but they look to have painted up fine. I elected to paint the raised, reinforced front of the cap rather than build it. About the only thing I'm not entirely convinced about is the faded red for the cap itself. I think a deeper red would have brought out the yellow embroidered details far better.
If anyone reads this who had any clout at all with Front Rank or other manufacturers , then I make an appeal for them to release some Prussian grenadiers if they haven't already. Don't make others build these like I had to do. A properly sculpted Prussian grenadier will make mine look shabby but surely it's a small gap which needs to be filled in this period?

Grenadier company in action

I took some care with my colonel commandant and as stated previously, he is the only figure I elected to paint in civilian attire. Taken from a pattern I found on-line, his coat is pale grey and white striped with a yellow stripe in-set. His hat, like others, has a feather or fur trim which I dry brushed white over an ochre base. Normally I would do this over grey but I think this works well.
My next battalion for the United Provinces will be Dutch proper. My good mate Matt of the Goulburn Wargames Group has advanced be a stack of marching posed Front Rank figures. I haven't really done a marching battalion before. I have a number of battalion guns and one is being wheeled by its crew which will be perfect for the model as a whole. I will also have to think about doing at least two squadrons of Dopf's dragoons. In the meantime, please look for my next posting which is this battalion's accompanying casualty marker - something a bit different.
My army thus far

Monday, April 25, 2011

Be2a: Part 4

Well, whilst I haven't yet located my CD from which I printed out this model plan, I have located the credits for the model on-line. It is designed by a gentlemen by the name of Steve Bucher. From my further research, it seems that there is still no 1/72nd scale model commercially available which I have to say is somewhat of a relief given the efforts I have gone to for my flight of Be2s. At some stage I need to think about how I want these aeroplanes marked up as the model comes printed as airframe number 50, Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).

I have now Supa Glued the wire exhausts to the body. To prep this stage, I ran a file across the top of the engine piston assembly as well as the receiving points under the fuselage. The wire needed a further manipulation to get the alignments correct - they need to curve around the fuselage in order to align with the engine and to straighten underneath.

The mass of the Green Stuff main mufflers provided a further gluing point. Once fixed, I returned to add Green Stuff to the exhaust intakes and also build the primary muffler (at least I think that's what they are) to the front of the fuselage just beneath the line of the engine block. These mufflers will also aid significantly in fixing the exhaust lines to the model - you simply cannot have enough rigidity.

As you can also see, I have constructed the skid assembly using balsa skids and cocktail stick struts. This was fiddly in the extreme and required some carving and sanding. For the other model I have elected to cut out the skid assembly from the print out - it is very thin. Both skid assemblies have been painted over twice with diluted white PVA glue. I will most probably give them a further coat of varnish prior to undercoating and painting with possibly another matte coat. The engine intakes have both been cut from the card stock print-out, curved and glued across the top of the engine block.
These stages have proved to be stalling points in the build, all taking time to cure and set properly. I have turned to painting the crew which are now half done. Speaking of painting, it seems likely that the best option for me will be to paint the fuselage including engine and then fixing the crew prior to proceeding with struts and the upper wing. The undercarriage will go on last before the touching up and rigging. In the meantime, stand by for my last posting on my Prussians ... it's taken long enough.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Be2a: Part 3

If ever anyone was contemplating undertaking a similar project to this build all I can say is good luck. I warn you, you are going to need a lot of spare time on your hands. Unlike a kit build, your assembly time gets eaten through by the need to engineer your own parts. This morning I have spent over an hour shaving down cocktail sticks to get them elliptical (cross section) and tapered at each point - maddening. I have part-drilled holes in the wings to receive the struts but the advantages in this model will be the joining of the central four struts for each aeroplane to a solid balsa fuselage.

You can see from the first photo I have also assembled the wheels and axle - one from the card model print-outs and the other from my Green Stuff tyres and 1mm styrene hubs. Both axles are, once again, cocktail sticks. On the matter of cocktail sticks, they have a medium density grain which takes a lot of shaping. I was able to carve and sand a 'male' join at both ends of the axles to glue into the wheel holes for a stronger join. I also shaved down and cut tail guides for the rigging.

Similarly cocktail stick cross sections have been used to join the exhaust to the fuselage, underneath just behind the bottom wing. I have crafted a stirrup or step for the pilot out of wire. The benefit of a solid balsa fuselage is also that I can insert wire parts rather than just glue them - they've gone in quite deep.The tail skid is styrene with wire supports, all fixed with Supa Glue.

The exhaust pipes are also of wire with Green Stuff mufflers which of themselves have created a stall in the build whilst I wait for them to cure sufficiently before installation. In the meantime the painting of the crew has commenced. At this stage I am planning on making balsa skid assemblies for the undercarriage. Again, with the fuselage being balsa I can fix them into cut recesses at just the required angle and once adhered to the wheel axles, they will make for a strong, light weight frame for this model. You may notice from the detached rudder that I have doctored the numerals to make aeroplane number 59 as well as 50.

I will be taking a half-day break from this project to finish my Prussians which are finally ready for their finishing touches. I will be back at the Be2s by tomorrow morning; however, as I am determined to finish this now that I have started and put so much time into it. I don't want to set it aside because I've run out of puff.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Be2a: Part 2

Up early this morning and got stuck straight back into my fuselage re-build. Using rubber bands to ensure a better bind with my PVA glue, I built up the top of the fuselage to get the shape I'm after. Ah, rubber bands ... where I would I be without them? I since detached the tail plane rudder section to make it easier to work with and realised I'm going to need to start piercing sections now in order to enable rigging later in the build.
A delicate carve and a quick sanding and the upper fuselage has taken shape. It remains to be seen if I'm going to get away with not painting all of the fuselage now as previously, the neat lines of the body work and the colour of the balsa was matching nicely with the printed colour of this aircraft. Somehow, I doubt it.
I have carved out the the engine bay and built the engine blocks - one from the paper model and one from balsa of all things. I'm anticipating giving them both a coating in diluted PVA later on to bind the parts together and give it a smoother shellac as it will be painted in metallics. Also, having learnt from previous models, now is the time to measure the crew and prepare them for painting.
Remembering that the Be2 series suffered from a curious pilot/observer configuration I have tested the crew figures in their cockpits and trimmed the lower torsos to fit. All four figures have suffered major amputations to achieve a fit and whilst the figures are slightly over sized for the models, they will look smaller after painting against the overall airframe which is so much larger with wings and undercarriage. The crew have now been glued to craft sticks for painting separately but I intend returning the observers before fixing the top wing for my sanity's sake. One crew will have the pilot turning to the rear and the observer with Lewis gun hoisting his gun to shoot behind. The other crew is looking to the front and lobbing a bomb or two - so a model for all occasions.
The pistons are cut from a couple of cocktail sticks or toothpicks, sanded and white glued to the engine block. I've been generous with the PVA here as will have to run an emery board across the top of the assemblies to achieve a flat, level surface for the exhaust pipe. Soon I will cut the spinning propellers with the intention of fixing them with cut down pins as the final touch to both models.

I've been asked the details of who made these plans and for the life of me, I can't locate the CD. I'll keep looking and get back to you.

Be2a: Part 1

The Goal: A BE2a
Years ago I purchased a CD on-line from the USA which was a paper model aeroplane plan and instructions for a BE2a. I'm still not sure if there is any other model available for this airframe but there wasn't at the time of purchase. Now that I intend embarking on a WWI aviation campaign, my Avro 504 is going to need an escort or two. I have already built the model previously in 1/48 scale and this is proving to be a useful guide for my 1/72 assembly.

Attempt at paper fuselage.

I started out by printing off two copies of the plane on thin card stock and am building two aircraft.  If I'm going to the effort of building one, I might as well have two. Together with the 504, it will give me a flight of three aircraft which is as many as I'd ever need. Almost from the beginning, it became apparent that my assembly of this paper model wasn't working well - the folding at this scale is fiddly and mistakes are easy - too easy.

First rough cut and markings

I have now opted to build a balsa fuselage based off the plane and will replace as many parts with alternate, rigid materials wherever possible. In short, the paper model wings and tail assembly will most likely be the only 'supplied' parts I will use. My fuselage is based on 10x10mm balsa stock, marked up using the paper model pattern and cut on my band saw. The cockpits are drilled using a 6.5mm bit and modified with a scalpel.

Taking shape

There has been considerable sanding and filing with an emery board and panel details applied with a 2B pencil. I originally had not allowed for sufficient rise at the top of the fuselage so have had to re-build with some 3mm balsa strip, file back and re-mark. The images in this posting are of the previous, low-profile fuselage which are just not right when compared to the original photo above.

Right shape, too low a profile

I had attempted to make the engine block using Green Stuff but it wasn't really working for me so I will assemble the card engine which, whilst fiddly and time consuming will provide me with the precise dimensions I require. I salvaged my Green Stuff by rolling them into long strips and looping them into what look like miniature curtain rings for the undercarriage tyres. My aim is to make the central structure as rigid as possible to take the strain of my rigging. The great thing about the CD plan is its inclusion of a rigging guide which takes the guess work out of the process.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Stone Walls: Paint Everything

As bought
I can't recall where I first read the advice underpinning the title of this posting but it has stuck with me. I have undergone a bit of a clean-up in relation to completing long standing, half-finished jobs I've had lying about the work table in a hiatus from my major project: Project Lewes. One of these jobs was a purchase over a year ago of a set of rounded stone walls by Pegasus.

I was instantly attracted to these walls when I saw them in my local hobby store and I recall them being very reasonably priced - about AUD24.00 for a set of six double thickness plastic moulded walls measuring 15 cm long X  2.4 cm high. Whilst they could be used for any scale depending upon what you are representing, I think they're most comfortable within the 25-28mm figure scale.

The unpainted images shown here actually do the colour more justice than they deserve, in the flesh being a mid to dark almost blue-grey colour with slight highlighting. In short, they could be used straight out of the box if you believe  that all tree trunks are brown, leaves are green and water is blue. I'm clearly not happy with plain grey rocks. Not that I wasn't tempted to ignore the situation - terrain is rarely anyone's strength but I am firmly in the school of thought which dictates that if you have well painted and built armies, they should be used on equivalent terrain. So, paint them I did.

In short, they were washed, dried and undercoated with a Humbrol 72 Khaki Drill. One dried I  smeared them randomly Humbrol 94 Brown Yellow with a rough brush. Once dried I flecked them with a washed Humbrol 121 Pale Stone (passing a No. 10 brush over a toothpick) and later inked the recesses with a black wash. Finally I dry brushed with white using a soft No. 16 brush and matt spray coated it in artists lacquer.
Finished paint job
Hopefully the paint job has given colour variation to the stone work and reflects better the natural state of the stone - which should represent the colour of the earth it is taken from. Anyway, I'm happier with the results than if I'd stuck with the original model and happier still that I've gotten around to making another minor purchase table-ready.
And again

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pfalz EIV Eindecker

Thanks to Wikipedia for the image of this Pfalz EI
Well here's a lesson learnt the hard way I must say. Built and painted about a year or so ago, the image here is of my Pfalz EIV eindecker and those with a not even keen eye will see that this has been repaired. After only it's first outing the always shaky rigging frame above the fuselage snapped - after all it's only plastic.

Like all of my aircraft, the Pfalz is rigged and this time, as with my Avro 504, the rigging is of light weight fishing line. This is essentially done with one continuous strand which I wove through the umpteen holes I was required to drill in order to pass the rigging through the wings. For me, even more so than bi-planes, the eindecker is a model requiring rigging due to it supporting the entire structural integrity of the airframe. My model is an ACM 1/72nd scale kit which I understand is still readily available. The kit itself was an easy assembly - I just like to make things more difficult for myself. For details of the pilot, see my posting on the Avro 504.

First built in 1915 in order to emulate the French Morane-Saulnier H, Pfalz competed with the better known Fokker machines and by 1916 the EIV variant (my model) had hit the skies. They never were as effective a machine as the Fokker and by 1916 were operating in peripheral theatres of war.

As far as my lessons learnt is concerned, if I make another mono-plane (and most probably will) I will construct a central steel frame or use brass rod to support the strain of the rigging. Also, using fishing line caused a bunch up around the central hub which became trickier to glue toward the end. As the plastic frame bent before finally breaking, the tension was released and my rigging lines begun to bag. I have effected a brass rod support, drilled through the fuselage behind the rigging frame which, whilst obvious, appears to have done the trick.  I'll just have to live with it.

Given the take up for the rigging points, my next eindecker will require an all metal central frame which includes the under-carriage. I have to say it was a great little kit to built and I derived a great amount of satisfaction with my first early war aeroplane.
Everyone seems to concentrate in later Great war combat with wall-to-wall Albatross, triplanes and Sopwith Camels. Certainly by the late war, the paint schemes were flashier and I have to admit to loving the Albatross airframe - I mean, who doesn't? For me, at least at this stage, I suppose I feel like starting at the beginning, just as the aviators did themselves.

Concepts in airframe design became more standardised in some respects by the end of the war as experiments had been tried and tested. For me, there's something bizarre and exciting in building, gaming and essentially recreating the novelty of conducting missions with experimental designs of immense variety and originality - albeit over the table-top.

I have suggested to my good mate Matt, Master Gamer at the Goulburn Wargames Group that we ditch our previously suggested campaign for this year and opt for Great War aviation. It's less intrusive on our existing project commitments and exercises a common daemon. I think I have convinced him. By the way, apart from being damaged this kite was downed by my 504 in it's first op. C'est la vie.