God is in the Decals, I mean Details

For those who frequent the GHQ military models forum you may recall that last September I posted a bit about some F-86 decals from Scale Specialties.  This is an update to that post.  To start with I purchased a pair GHQ F-86A-5 (GHQ stock # AC80).  I have my doubts that they are actually the -5 version but my reference library is in storage so I’ll table that discussion for the time being.  The models themselves are of the same excellent quality expected of GHQ.  One of the models had some minor pitting on the fuselage near the leading edge of the wings but it is barely noticeable at arms length.  You can see in the close-up view below that the mold lines were another area where I had to use an X-Acto knife to smooth it out a bit.  Here are the models after adding magnets and priming.  One word of caution, if you intend to place decals on the underside of the wings glue the drop tanks on as the final step.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabres from GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabres from GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 by GHQ

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 by GHQ

My original intent for these models was to paint them in Pakistan Air Force (PAF) colors for the ’65 war with India and to a lesser degree ’71 war.  I also intend to pick up a couple of the Raiden F-86 models for comparison.  In the end though I changed my mind and opted for a Korean War USAF F-86 instead due in large part to the Scale Specialties decals I found while looking for something else.  The company offers three sets of decals for Korean War Sabres.  The first pack represent the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing from 1950-51.  At that time Sabres were flying with black and whit ID stripes on the fuselage and wings.  The second pack, which is the one I selected, represents the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing during the period from 1951-53.  This pack has the familiar yellow bands which replaced the earlier black and white strips.  The final pack represents the 51st Fighter Wing during the same ’51-’53 time frame.  A very cool feature of these packs is the second decal sheet which includes distinctive nose or fuselage art which was carried by several aces in those wings.  In fact the decal sheet for the 51st Fighter Wing has a very cool dragon which goes on the fuselage that tempts me to buy another pair of Sabres.  In both packs the appropriate tail numbers are also included which allows you to make a very accurate model of that ace’s aircraft.  The downside is that the decals are specific to those aircraft.  Some purists might not like having to mix squadrons and wings when gaming with formations of more than two aircraft.  If that sort of thing does bother you I-94 Enterprises has good decals which are a little more generic in nature.

After priming I airbrushed the aircraft with Humbrol Chrome Silver #191.  In hindsight I should have used some kind of sealant over the silver.  With all the handling required for the decals the paint around the nose of the aircraft has worn off which will require a touch-up by hand.  I probably could have also worn latex gloves to prevent it as well.  Here are the models after painting and having some of the yellow bands applied.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabre by GHQ.  Humbrol Chrome Silver #191. Scale Specialties Decals.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabre by GHQ. Humbrol Chrome Silver #191. Scale Specialties Decals.

I should mention here that I am a big fan of the Microscale Industries Decal System.  I think their products do a wonderful job of really making the decals smooth onto the model presenting a appearance much closer to reality that other systems.

The Microscale Decal System

The Microscale Decal System

Micro-Sol softens the decal film which enables it to conform to the detail lines of the model.  An obvious hazard of using this is the softened decals can be ruined if handled during the drying process.  Unfortunately, I had this happen to this model when applying the yellow band on the vertical stabilizer.  As you can see here the aircraft number is mangled.  I briefly considered stripping the decals and starting over but I liked the artwork so much I decided to go on.

I handled the model too soon after applying Micro-Sol and ruined the aircraft number on this side.

I handled the model too soon after applying Micro-Sol and ruined the aircraft number on this side.

Here is the aircraft with wing and fin flashes, rounders, aircraft numbers, and “USAF” decals.

1/285 Scale F-86A by GHQ.  Decals by Scale Specialties.

1/285 Scale F-86A by GHQ. Decals by Scale Specialties.

Here are the aircraft with their full complement of decals.  All that remains is applying a protective coat and painting the canopies, intakes, and tailpipes.  All thins considered I think they came out very well.  If I had it to do over again there are things I would change but that is what learning is all about.

The decal process is complete.  All that remains is painting the final details.

The decal process is complete. All that remains is painting the final details.

IDF Colors?

I have struggled for several years to find just the right shade of gray?, green?, tan? for my modern IDF forces.  My Google-fu reveals scores of pictures from Al Gore’s internet depicting IDF vehicles in a wide array of colors.  It is difficult to account for differences in sun angle, unit location, or whether the vehicle was photographed on a parade ground or during an actual combat operation.  No clear winner as far as color goes. Strike One!

So… I move on to step two: check the fora.  The Miniatures Page, Arab Israeli Wars, GHQ, and four or five others were not much more help.  Lots of opinions but little consensus.  ‘It Depends’ was probably the most common response.  What year?  Which unit?  Which front?  Which operation?  Well at least the diversity of opinion matches the diversity of photographic evidence.  Strike Two!

There was one positive development out of all of that however.  Several forum members suggested hobby paint manufacturers, such as Life Color, that offer pre-mixed IDF colors for specific time periods.  Progress!

But here’s the thing.  When the Lord gives with one hand watch out he doesn’t smite you down with the other.  In spite of the fact that I live in Italy, where I’ve been told Life Color paints are made, I can’t easily get my hands on them. There are precious few hobby shops in my area and those I have managed to find don’t carry Life Color paint.  Damn!  And for the double whammy military postal rules seem to scare online stores away from shipping hobby paint to APO/FPO addresses.

All of that is pretty disappointing.  Maybe there is a hidden silver lining.  Given the fact that there are so many different opinions and so many different photos out there it is possible there isn’t one right way to do it.  Perfect!  I Can now use one of my favorite modeling approaches… TLAR (That Looks About Right)!

Here are my Namers and my Magachs (with turret magnets) in my own version of IDF gray/green/tan.  The white chevron decals are from GHQ and the white barrel stripe decals are from an unknown source.

1/285 scale IDF Namer Heavy APC.  Model and white chevron decals by GHQ

1/285 scale IDF Namer Heavy APC. Model and white chevron decals by GHQ

1/285 scale Magach 6B Gal. Model and white chevrons by GHQ.

1/285 scale Magach 6b and Namer Heavy APC.

 

More Magnet Madness

     Well as promised I’m back with the IDF Magach 6B tanks from GHQ to modify them with rare earth magnets which should hold the turrets securely but allow free rotation.  Prior to my introduction to these magnets I had always glued the turrets of my tanks.  It wasn’t as visually appealing on the game table but it was a much more secure way to store and transport them.  Moving every couple of years to various far-flung military assignments that was an important consideration.  In fact these tanks had their turrets glued in place before I started this modification.  Here’s a cool tip I learned on the GHQ forums – if you use CA glue (crazy glue) you can weaken the bond to separate the turret by placing the miniature in the freezer.  It worked very well on these tanks and the Canadian Leopard 2A6AM tanks which will also undergo modification.

     The first thing you have to do is decide how you want to employ the magnets.  The GHQ forums have several different suggestions.  Some place the magnet in the turret peg and glue a piece of ferrous metal under the hull.  Some place the magnet under the hull and glue a piece of ferrous metal in the turret pin.  Others use magnets in both the hull and the turret.  That is the method that I will be using here.  As always it is critical to make sure you glue the magnets in place with the proper polar alignment.  Another important tip – while the glue for the magnets cure don’t move any other magnets anywhere near the model or it will cause the magnet to flip, fly out or otherwise dislodge itself.  Don’t ask how I know this.

     To use two magnets I decided to use 3mm x 1mm magnets in place of the turret peg and use 4mm x 1mm magnets under the hull.  Why those sizes?  Its what I had on hand.  Since this is my first attempt there are some lessons learned.  For series production I would choose 3mm x 1.5 or 2mm for the turret peg.  This would give enough depth of recess in the turret to hold securely while still providing some ‘peg’ to insert in the hole in the hull.  

     First step is to remove the existing turret peg and drill a shallow hole in its place to recess the magnet in the turret.

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     If you look close you can see the CA glue residue on the bottom of the turret.  I should have been more careful and removed all of it.  I learned in the next step that when gluing the magnet in place the CA glue bonds to the residue not the metal and as a result the magnet was not secure and took much longer to cure.  Of course cure time might be because I was using crap glue.

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  With the turret complete its time to work on the hull.  The hole for the turret peg has to be bored out to 3mm to accommodate the magnet serving as the turret peg.  I use a pin-vise drill with a 3mm Dremmel bit.  The Dremmel bit is meant for high speed operation so it doesn’t bite very deep and it takes a while to grab hold and drill into the turret.  This is actually a good thing as it gives you a great deal of control on how deep you actually go.  Test fit often to ensure the recess is deep enough to hold the magnet but still leave some exposed to act as the turret peg.  This is why I would use slightly longer magnets in the future.  Here’s the hull drilled out.

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     On the underside of this particular model there is a small depression around the hole as you can see.  Using 4mm magnets they just bridge over this gap to cover the hole but there is limited purchase for the glue.  If I had it to do over and I had different magnet sizes I would use 5mm magnets under the hull.  The GHQ forum members report great success just gluing a bit of ferrous metal under the hull.  I tested a couple of different items but found they were more trouble cutting them down to size than it was worth.  Your mileage may vary.

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     With the glue dry on turret and hull its time to test fit.  Turns out I didn’t follow my own advice and one of the turret and hull combos have their magnet poles reversed with respect to the others.  The turret and hull match each other but the turret won’t work on the other hulls and vice versa.  Maybe I’ll just make it a command tank or something like that.

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     The magnet to magnet bond is strong enough to lift the miniature by the turret or barrel but I definitely don’t recommend this as standard practice.

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     Here is the lot of them complete and ready for the paint shop!

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