Airfix 1:48 Hawker Hurricane Mk I
I bought the kit for about $13 from the local HobbyTown USA store in Redmond Town Center early in 2007. Prior to that, it must have been nearly thirty years since I'd bought and built a plastic scale model kit and that would have almost certainly been an Airfix one too, probably from a model shop in Wakefield, Yorkshire . Most of the kits in the Redmond store are by Tamiya, Dragon, Hasegawa, Revell, Italeri and Bandai so I was surprised when I saw this kit and was reminded of the familiar brand from my youth. The kit isn't particularly well detailed compared to, say, the Hasegawa Hurricane Mk II kit. But the Hasegawa is nearly twice as expensive.
As a kid, my kit builds were a mess. I'd get polystyrene cement smeared on surfaces and canopies, there'd be gaps in the seams, I wouldn't be surprised if once or twice I slapped my decals on first and then tried to paint around them! Building and painting were always fun, but rushed, processes. Now I've finished my first model as an adult and I see that the polystyrene pieces in the box provide a canvas (a three-dimensional one: in some ways as blank and daunting as a real canvas, in other ways as simple as painting-by-numbers) that challenges the modeler to dress it up in the illusion of a real painted, dirtied and worn 1:1 scale object.
I first washed the sprues with dish soap, rinsed and dried them. I used a Squadron sprue nipper to remove the pieces from their sprue. It stayed sharp for this project but it got blunt surprisingly quickly during the next. I tried sharpening it with a Dremel grinding stone but I wasn't happy with the result. So I tried a pair of diagonal cutting pliers which are shown in the photograph. As soon as I felt the effortless and precise action of the pliers, the nippers went straight in the waste basket.
There was a lot of flash on the kit's pieces so I did a lot of scraping (with a craft knife) and sanding during the build. Similarly the fuselage, wings and tail all needed a lot of filling and sanding to smooth out the seams. For filler I used Squadron white putty and a cocktail stick. The pieces were joined with Model Master Liquid Cement For Plastic Models and I used Staples rubber bands to hold the halves of the fuselage together while the cement dried.
I'd had to paint the cockpit during the build. I gave it a coat of flat black first to act as shadows, then went over that with dark green on a fairly dry brush. Finally I gave it a little shading and character with various shades of Doc O'Brien's weathering powders.
Before proceeding I wiped the model down with Polly S plastic prep and then airbrushed it with white primer. The color scheme I chose was that of No.85(F) squadron, RAF Advance Striking Force, Lille/Seclin, France, April 1940.
I used Tamiya acrylic flat earth and dark green for the upper side camouflage pattern and it took me several attempts probably due to my inexperience with an airbrush. I don't know if it was because I wasn't cleaning it properly or whether I didn't have the paint thickness and air pressure well enough matched but I had several performance problems with the Badger airbrush. The main issue was controlling the color: far too often I'd get either all or nothing out of it, and the needle is prone to sticking in the fully open position. The Paasche airbrush (the red one in the photograph below) hasn't given me any such problems so far and it feels far more smooth, robust and precise in use. In future I'll use the Badger for clear coats and perhaps for primer and the Paashe for controlled painting.
To smooth down my poor paint job I used 400 grade sandpaper which had the unfortunate side effect of taking off some panel lines on the left wing. I also used Tamiya polishing compound on a painter's rag and I think that helped to even out and subdue the gradients between the two colors. The flat black and white underside required some masking in order to get a straight line down the center of the undercarriage. I began by painting the white half.
Despite my masking efforts, some white paint managed to get through creases in the polythene onto the fuselage and tail fin and had to be touched up. I couldn't face masking up again for the black half so I just hand-brushed that with some care. There is, predictably, a world of difference in finish and smoothness between the airbrushed and hand-brushed halves as you can see in the photograph below. More polishing helped but I think I learned my lesson there. As it happens, though, you may not notice any real consequence of my impatience when you see the final photographs at the end.
To seal the paint and prepare the model with a gloss surface for the decals, I applied a generous coat of Future floor finish from the airbrush.
In remorse for my earlier mask-avoidance, I spent some time doing some sterile-drape-looking masking for a little airbrushing on the wing roots. I guess modeling is a little like surgery at times; more evidence of that in the following section.
Repair and customize
According to research I did, the kit had located the hole for the foot stirrup in the wrong place, and the directions show it being mounted perpendicular to the fuselage instead of parallel with it. I filled the existing hole with putty and made a new one with a drill bit in a pin vise. I used the same tool to make a hole in the top of the tail fin to take a small aerial mast which I made from some heat-stretched sprue. For the aerial itself I stretched cotton twine between the two masts and another from the forward mast to the fuselage.
I decided to model the kit with the canopy open so I cut the canopy in two with a razor saw then carved the fuselage so that the rear portion of the canopy would sit down well in its retracted position. In the earlier photograph of the unpainted fuselage the light green area behind the seat is the area I stripped back with a craft knife and sandpaper.
Probably the trickiest surgical job I did was repairing a wheel strut. There are four objects in the following photograph. On the left is a wheel strut from the kit which I was lucky enough to find undamaged on the carpet beside my dogs. Doubtless it got there due to some carelessness of mine. To the right of that is a damaged kit strut I found in the mouth of one of my dogs. The wheel end had been chewed off raggedly but by the time I took this photograph I'd already beveled the end in anticipation of repairing it with a new fragment. The next object is an example of the type of sprue piece I used to carve and sand the strut fragment taking shape on the right.
Then it was a case of splicing together the two pieces. I beveled off the new strut fragment and glued it to the damaged kit strut. I then filled with a little putty and sanded off. It took four evenings of work from discovering the damaged piece to getting to the stage in the photograph below. As I'm sure you can tell, the repaired strut is the one on the left.
I painted both struts flat black then dry-brushed them with aluminum. Then I dusted a little with the weathering powders. The struts are not identical but the repaired piece (still on the left) turned out better than I had hoped for.
With the color scheme, decals and repairs done, and the last pieces attached, the model was ready for the final stage: making a freshly-painted scale model look like a life-sized, dirty and worn vehicle. This basically involves scaling up the model's shadows and simulating the effects of weather and use. The shadows in the nooks and crannies and panel lines of a 1:48 scale model are barely visible: they do not look like vehicle shadows reduced to 1:48 scale. Applying a thin wash of black or brown darkens and deepens the recesses of the model both improving the shadows and giving the illusion of collected dirt. Other techniques involve applying paint chip effects either with dabs of a bare metal color or masking off prior to painting. Rain streaks, rust and dust are other options.
Before weathering I gave the model another coat of Future floor finish. This seals in the decals and provides a gloss surface so the wash runs off the flat areas yet still pools in the recesses. I made a wash from 1 part black and brown artists' oils with about 9 parts mineral spirits. There were a few places where the wash did run into recesses but most of the panel lines on this model are raised. What worked for me was to place a drop of wash each side of a raised line and then use a fingertip to blend and smooth the paint up into the corner of the panel line. A little dry-brushing along the ridge of the panel line with chrome silver completed the effect. For the paint chips I first tried a silver leafing pen but I wasn't convinced by the results. What I preferred was to place tiny dabs of chrome silver with a fine brush and blend the occasional one with my finger. In other places dry-brushing was effective.
To clean up excess wash I dipped either a rag or a napkin or a Q-tip in mineral spirits and wiped the area down. Using oils for the wash on top of the Future (which is acrylic) meant that the oil thinner would only affect the wash layer. Using an acrylic wash and hence acrylic thinner would have been hazardous to the Future.
Finally I dusted the model with Doc O'Brien's weathering powders; the rusty brown color this time.
The final sealing coat was flat clear lacquer mixed about 1 to 1 with thinner. I'll leave you with some photographs of the finished model.