Tuesday, 24 June 2014


Box of review samples arrives, with lots of interesting stuff

The thrill of receiving a parcel through the post has yet to wear off, even after being in this line of work for years. Hopefully, it never will! Yesterday saw a box arrive from The Airbrush Company, packed with samples from a new range of modelling and weathering materials from Wilder. Hailing from Russia, there's a wide variety of enamel-based washes (including many shades of 'rust') and filters that look ideal for either airbrush or hand application. There's also some soldering flux, primer, metal blackening fluid and some textured 'snow', along with dry pigments and a range of tools (tweezers, abrasives). I haven't tried any of the products yet, but look out for a review in Model Rail magazine (hopefully the September issue, space permitting).

Also in the parcel was a handy set of Lifecolor acrylics, delightfully packaged in a RAF Battle of Britain triple-pack. Containing the essential dark earth and dark green camouflage shades, along with sky blue for the underside of aircraft, it's a handy set for anyone contemplating a Spitfire, Hurricane et al. Just a shame I've already painted my Spitfire, but I do have a few other RAF model kits on the shelf that have just assumed more importance - as a crucial test-bed for these paints!

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Hardworking War Department 2-8-0 boasts a few interesting features 

After a few days of frantic activity, my Hornby 8F has enjoyed its moment in the spotlight... well, under my camera's spotlights during a photo shoot! As will be explained in the August issue of Model Rail (out on July 3), this War Department-built Stanier 8F has received a number of detail upgrades and scratchbuilt fittings. Most obvious is the air brake equipment and associated plumbing, but other bits and pieces include blackout blinds and a different pattern of balance weights on the driving wheels.

I always enjoy this sort of project, but the painting stage also proved particularly rewarding, using a process that I've never tried before; not on a full repaint anyway. Instead of painting the whole thing in a plain black livery and then trying to add shading, highlights and weathering, it was all done from the offing, by building up a wide variety of 'greys' over the primer coat; almost as if I was painting a copy of the real thing on canvas.

Trying new methods and materials helps to keep up the interest in the day job and I'm more than happy with the look of this model. Furthermore, with the entire painting process being done in a day, it's something I'll definitely do again. Indicative of the loose approach I adopted is the fact that I didn't even bother masking up the red bufferbeams properly. Instead, scraps of card were employed as loose 'stencil' masks instead. Fast-drying Tamiya acrylic paints helped the rapid progress, as did my new Iwata Custom Micron CM-C plus airbrush, although the finish is probably not as hardwearing as it would be if enamels were used. However, this 8F is most likely to remain a 'shelf' model, so that's not really an issue.

Monday, 16 June 2014


Weathering brings the model to life

Here are some shots showing progress on the 1:72 scale Spitfire Mk1, with weathering almost complete. I've used a combination of Humbrol washes and Tamiya paints, applied by hand and airbrush. The exhausts have been installed after being treated separately to a textured, metallic finish - an experiment which has been wholly successful!

After a few coats of Tamiya metallic grey, various 'rusty' enamel washes were applied to the exhausts, followed by airbrushed shading and smoke effects using Lifecolor acrylics, which have a very nice matt pigment. It's hard to see in the photos, but the finished effect is really pleasing, with the texture of the metallic paint still being visible.

Quite a bit to do yet, including masking and painting the canopy and fitting all the delicate details, including the landing gear. That might have to wait a week or two, as press day nears for issue 198 of Model Rail - and I have to get on with my 'real' job!

The detailed cockpit interior is helped by Airfix's inclusion of a decal for the 'dashboard'. I've tried to recreate the typical paint chipping around the wing roots where pilots and ground crew clambered aboard.

This was achieved with an old piece of sponge and a mix of grey acrylic paints.

Thursday, 12 June 2014


Masterclass subject takes shape

The forthcoming issue 198 of Model Rail magazine includes an extensive Masterclass article on the LMS-designed Class 8F 2-8-0, with a focus on their wartime careers. Accordingly, I'm upgrading a Hornby 8F as part of the feature and it has taken quite a while to choose a suitable prototype to recreate; not surprisingly with such a large fleet.

After extensive research, I've also amassed a range of detailing bits and pieces, including a Brassmasters detailing kit that I've had in stock for years. My prototype has also thrown up the need to swap tenders on my donor model, so a mix of LMS- and LNER-liveried Hornby locos has been employed.

There's still quite a bit to do before the painting stage, but I'm looking forward to seeing it finished. I need to get my skates, on though, as time is running out! Look out for the article in MR198, out on July 3.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014


Decals on, almost there...

After adding the green camouflage elements (having masked the brown areas with Blu-Tack!), it took quite a few coats of gloss varnish to gain a suitable sheen for the transfers to sit on. I've used Airfix's own decals, which are fine, but there's a lack of any smaller markings like stencilled instructions and walkway lines on the wings, but in this small scale it's not such a big deal. Also, being an early period Spitfire Mk1, there are no RAF roundels for the underside of the wings.

It has taken a bit of work with Micro Sol solution to get the decals to sit into the various recesses between the panels, as the decal film is quite thick. However, perseverance has paid off and it's all looking good so far. A few more coats of gloss varnish has sealed the transfers and given them a more realistic 'painted on' appearance - this is important as an immediate coat of satin or matt atop these transfers would have made the clear film more visible. I'm leaving the high gloss finish for now, as it'll help in the weathering stage...

Friday, 6 June 2014


 Painting stage puts a new airbrush to the test

The 1:72 scale Airfix Spitfire is taking shape, with the wings and fuselage assembled, gaps filled and primed. It took a bit of care to reinstate some the recessed panel lines that bridged the fuselage joints - inevitably removed during filling and sanding - but a fine scriber tool did the trick. In truth, there were only a few small gaps to treat, mostly along the 'bonnet' top and under the aircraft's 'chin'. 

After the grey primer, the entire model was pre-shaded with Tamiya Flat Black, worked into all the recesses. This is quite a laborious task but it proved effective and was also a perfect way to try out my new Iwata Custom Micron CM-C Plus airbrush. I've been after one of these tools for years and I haven't been disappointed - it's a corker. With a 0.23mm nozzle, it can achieve very fine lines with ease (relatively speaking!) and is a real joy to use. Mind you, paint thinning needs to be done carefully, especially acrylics as the superfine nozzle can clog easily as the paint dries. Using an acrylic retarder medium (such as Vallejo's) makes a difference, although Tamiya's acrylics, with the high alcohol content, are much better suited, as are enamels.

After the pre-shading, the sky grey was applied to the underside, which was then masked before the brown camouflage base was applied. Once this is dry, I'll mask up for the green 'camo' squiggles. This is the bit I enjoy the most, as the bits of plastic start to take on a lifelike appearance, making all the hours of hard work worthwhile...

Instead of applying a single shade of brown, I've mixed up a few different tints and applied them strategically to suggest areas of highlights, lowlights and faded streaks. The same was done with the grey underbelly and the green will follow suit. It all serves to bring extra life to the model.
The Iwata Custom Micron CM-C Plus has proved itself to be a real gem - well worth the investment. Look out for a full review in Model Rail magazine soon.

Thursday, 5 June 2014


New Blog on the Hornby website

As many of us heard a few months ago, Simon Kohler - having so long been the public face of Hornby - left the company after 30-odd highly successful years. This came as a shock to most of us, Simon always being a jolly nice chap to work with. Anyway, I notice that he's started a new blog on the Hornby website, with a view to engaging enthusiasts about all manner of model railway-related topics - not just about Hornby products - which should prove interesting. I'll be keeping an eye on it...

See the blog here: http://www.hornby.com/simonsays

Tuesday, 3 June 2014


Work on the wings begins

A small amount of progress has occurred on my Spitfire build, namely some pre-assembly painting and weathering of the wheel recesses and fuselage interior. The Airfix instructions are great for showing where to paint before the parts are stuck together and the moulded detail in the wheel wells is impressive. Indeed, a few light washes really bring out the relief.

I'd sprayed the areas with a little grey primer (with an airbrush) before the paints were applied (again, with an airbrush). I've been using Tamiya paints again, as I enjoyed using them on a few previous projects. The Humbrol washes were brushed on and the surplus wiped away with cotton swabs to leave the grime in the recesses and to create some subtle streaking effects. The Tamiya acrylics must be completely dry before the enamel washes are applied, or the solvent will cause problems with the underlying paint.

Can't wait to get the wings glued up and fixed to the fuselage, although the joint faces will need rubbing back to bare plastic to ensure a secure bond...