Clearing out the Backlog

In an effort to maintain some balance and clear out the backlog of projects gathering dust in my workroom I finished up a couple of pieces that Ive mentioned on these pages before. First off is the pair of Israeli F-16A’s from GHQ. The models are the same high quality you can expect from GHQ but I’m not completely satisfied with my color mixes, or for that matter the application. At arm’s length their fine, at least for gaming purposes. I need to use an airbrush in the future.

1/285 Scale Israeli F-16A's. Models by GHQ

1/285 Scale Israeli F-16A’s. Models by GHQ

 

I’ve also finished the pair of Korean War USAF F-86’s also from GHQ.

1/285 scale F-86's. Models by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 scale USAF F-86’s. Models by Raiden Miniatures.

 

Still on the workbench are a gaggle of aircraft from GHQ and Raiden Miniatures, now a part of I-94 Enterprises. Most of these will go towards my AIW collection. Not appearing in these photos are a pair of GHQ AH-7 Lynx still waiting to be primed.

 

1/285 Scale SU-7. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 Scale SU-7. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

 

1/285 Scale Mig-21. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

1/285 Scale Mig-21. Model by Raiden Miniatures.

 

1/285 Scale F-15C. Model by GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-15C. Model by GHQ.

Bringing Balance

I thought I might take a moment and shift away from naval matters for a while and go back to micro armor. In this case it is really about aircraft for micro armor. I painted up a couple of F-16s from GHQ in Israeli Air Force colors. If you recall one of my first posts was a pair of Super Mysteres and Skyhawks from Raiden Miniatures painted in IAF colors as well. I really liked the colors I mixed for those planes so I was a bit disheartened to see that the paints had dried out completely. Off to my local hobby shop, the Newport Hobby House, to get some new paints. They had most of what I was looking for but the pale green just didn’t come out pale enough to match the previous aircraft. I’m not going to strip them and start over but I will adjust the color before I paint the F-15s and additional Skyhawks I have sitting around. Anyway, here are the F-16s.

!/285 Scale F-16As in Early IAF Camouflage Pattern. Models by GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-16As in Early IAF Camouflage Pattern. Models by GHQ.

 

I’m definitely going to have to tinker around with the colors some more. While I was doing the research for the Skyhawks I came across an interesting modification done by the IAF to help defeat SA-7 and other IR homing missiles. They attached an exhaust extension to the engine tailpipe which caused the missiles homing in on the heat plume to proximity detonate too far away from the fuselage to cause much damage. I have a pair of aircraft that will be modded shortly. Here’s a picture from a plastic kit.

Modified A-4 Skyhawk Tailpipe.

Modified A-4 Skyhawk Tailpipe.

 

On to the F-15s!

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words or $3.00

In a recent post I mentioned that I have undertaken a project to rehab my entire fleet of modern carriers and large deck amphibs. Some of the work is the result of damage incurred during my many moves while in the military. As a consequence of that I had to order a bunch of replacement parts from GHQ. Main masts, radar platforms, that sort of thing. My initial conversation with them left something to be desired. The worker answering the phone demonstrated little knowledge of their products or policies and suggested I write an email request instead. In truth, it sounded like she didn’t want to deal with my request and the sooner I was off the phone the better. Three weeks and two unanswered emails later I decided to call back. The phone was answered by a woman, I wouldn’t swear that it was the same woman but the voice sounded very similar, who was very helpful and carefully explained their special order policy. This is not the first time I’ve made special orders but I appreciate the reminder that sometimes they have to do additional cast runs to fulfill the orders and therefore it may take more time and would not be returnable. Fine with me. All of the special order parts are priced to reflect this extra work. I was shocked however to find out that each of the CVN deck decals would cost me $8. Ah, I’ll find another way.

One of the vitally important items to me was a replacement CIWS/NATO SS sponson that was missing from a CVN I purchased on ebay many years ago. At the time I shaped one out of styrene that was a reasonable approximation and it has served that purpose well. Here is what I’m talking about.

Hand Made Sponson for STBD Side CIWS/NATO SS on GHQ CVN-71 Model.

Hand Made Sponson for STBD Side CIWS/NATO SS on GHQ CVN-71 Model.

So on the phone and in email I described this piece as the sponson forward of the deck elevators that mounts the CIWS and NATO SS. A few days later I received an email telling me my order was almost ready to ship out but the worker who packages up the parts wanted some clarification of exactly what part I was talking about. Awesome, I thought, now I’m sure to get the right part. My response was that what I needed was “the smaller part that mounts on the right side forward of the deck elevators, not the long piece” in reference to her question about the long piece that attaches on the port side of the ship. What I should have done was taken a picture because I forgot something.

Photo of STBD side of GHQ CVN-71 Model Showing Three Sponsons.

Photo of STBD side of GHQ CVN-71 Model Showing Three Sponsons.

Yes, there is a sponson under the island, one between the elevators and the one I wanted forward of the elevators. If I had taken this picture then I could have saved myself $3 and received the part I really need. Instead I got this:

Sponson Part from Between the Elevators on the STBD Side of GHQ CVN-71 Model

Sponson Part from Between the Elevators on the STBD Side of GHQ CVN-71 Model

No refunds. And I do recognize that I bear some of the blame, this is not intended to be a total rant against GHQ. I thought I was clear but I wasn’t looking at the part sheet and I didn’t send a picture of the part I wanted during the email exchange I was having with them. They were looking at a part I had frankly forgotten even existed so we ended up talking past each other. Live and learn. I guess I’ll have to order another replacement once I get a future order together. In the meantime if you ever wondered what $62 buys you in spare parts from GHQ here it is. Seven mainmasts, four radar stanchions, four radars, and the wrong sponson. Sometimes you have to really want to do a restoration to pay those prices.

Spare Parts for GHQ CVN-71 Restoration Projects. Mainmasts, Radar Masts, and the Wrong Sponson.

Spare Parts for GHQ CVN-71 Restoration Projects. Mainmasts, Radar Masts, and the Wrong Sponson.

Progress Update: All Those Tiny Ships

A few years ago I decided to try out a new scale for naval wargaming, 1/6000. This scale offers a few potential advantages, from a gaming perspective, over my traditional naval wargaming scale of 1/2400. For one thing the “ground scale” can be matched more closely with the actual scale of the models. Depending on the scenario, a small scenario on a large table, one could even run a game at 1/6000 ground scale. Ship formations would be more realistic, at larger scales bridge to bridge distances between ships would require the miniatures to overlap if a player wanted to simulate naval doctrine. One result of this is players use formations that “look right” but end up breaking down the mutual support capabilities planned into particular formations.

In modern scenarios this scale helps illustrate how potent fast moving missiles and aircraft can be. Many rule systems designed for use with 1/2400 scale models use a ground scale of 1/36,000, in this scale two inches equals one nautical mile. Aircraft and missile move through engagement envelopes very quickly at this scale and certain abstractions have to be made to allow players at least one defensive shot.  Even running these smaller miniatures at a ground scale of 1/12,000 provides a 3x expansion over the typical scale with larger models. This reduces the need for many of the abstractions necessary with larger models. I think this gives a much better feel to the game.

So what are the downsides? Well they are smaller models so those of you who are more into collecting will have less detail to entice you. Another downside is that, to my knowledge, if you leave 3D printing out of the equation for the moment there is only one manufacturer that I’m aware of, Figurehead Miniatures. I believe, but I am far from certain, that Figurehead is owned by the good folks at The Last Square. In the 1/6000 range Figurehead offers models from the Russo-Japanese war up through moderns. If you’re a fan of modern naval wargaming then the modern range may be a little disappointing. To date they only cover U.S., British, Russian/Soviet, Argentinian navies, and some commercial shipping vessels. If you want to run the Falklands war you can. If you want to game the rise of the PRC in the South China Sea you can only field one side. I have spoken to  The Last Square about expanding the range to include JMSDF, RoKN, RoCN, PLAN, and Indian naval forces but so far there isn’t enough demand signal for them to go forward with those ideas. One can only hope the future will see these lines expanded. Even GHQ broke a 12+ year hiatus and started making new 1/2400 scale models for modern navies including JMSDF and PRC.

For those who may not have seen these ships here are some newer pictures. Once I get more painted, I’m only about 25% complete, I’ll standardize how I want to paint the water effects on the bases. Enjoy!

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Sacramento Class Replenishment Oiler. Model by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Navy Iowa Class BB, Raleigh Class LPD, Whidbey Island Class LSD, and Thomaston Class LSD. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale Russian/Soviet Navy Slava Class CG and Boris Chilikin Class Oiler. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Carriers and Cruisers. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Amphibs and Command ships. Models by Figurehead

 

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

1/6000 Scale U.S. Replenishment Ships. Models by Figurehead

The Cobler and the Elves

Some of you may remember the old fairy-tale about the Cobler and the elves.  For those that don’t remember (spoiler alert) elves come out at night to finish the work of the Cobler while he sleeps.  Lately that is how anything gets done around my house, at least any of the “geek stuff” that I want to do. I have to wait until the family is asleep and then the elves can get to work.  As you can imagine it doesn’t leave much time before they too get tired and have to go to sleep.

In that time however, I have been very active trying to convert my tanks with glued turrets into turrets with magnets.  I’ve detailed this process several times before so I won’t go over it again now. I’ve been converting essentially one company at a time so that on the off chance I actually get to play a game I can field a complete unit.  So far I have converted GHQ M1A2, M1A1, M60A3, M60A2, Leopard 2A6, Leopard 2A4, Leopard 1A4, Chieftain, Challenger, Challenger II, Merkava Mk IV, Merkava, Magach 3, Magach 6b GAL, Magach 7, M48, and M47 tanks. I have converted CinC M48G2 and Leopard 1A1 tanks as well. As you can see from the gallery I have also experimented with LAV and MRAP vehicles to see how small I could reasonably go. I absolutely love what the magnets can do. Unfortunately, now I have to go back and touch up the paint jobs.

 

I still might try to use magnets on the turrets of my WWII battleships but I haven’t decided yet for sure.

New Digs (Part Deux)

Hard to believe I’ve been AWOL since August March but that was when the world changed and I found out I was getting short fused tasking to move (again).  So everything gets packed up and shipped out.  If you’ve never moved overseas it takes a while for your things to arrive by ship…  a long while.  Which I guess is the origin of the phrase ‘a slow boat to China’…

That was, more or less, how one of my previous posts started. Short notice move, everything packed up, takes soooo long, yada, yada, yada. Once was bad but after only fifteen months or so in Italy we found out that yes it can happen twice. Well we’re here now (and so is my stuff), enjoying the beginning of a New England winter. The kids are settled into a chaotic routine so off to do stuff I like to do. I have a lot of catching up to do. Lots of ideas and right now lots of time.

A Look Around

As part of the Tow Tank feature I would like to offer a look at what is out there from some of the manufacturers. In depth analysis, in terms of fit and finish, of these models will follow. For now I simply offer a view of what one gets when they order a particular miniature. Some are quite good, some are less so. You can judge for yourself.

Viking Forge

Here are some of the offerings from Viking Forge for the PLAN. These models were purchased about seven years ago and the good folks at VF have increased their range of available ships since then. I’m in the process of acquiring the new ships re-shooting the finished models.

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

What would you ask for if you had a replicator?  I suppose people in the 23rd century are beyond needing cash or maybe Jean-Luc would order up some gold bullion instead of tea.  While I don’t have a replicator but I do have access to Shapeways 3D printing. As I have mentioned before I have become very interested in Figurehead’s line of 1/6000 scale modern naval miniatures.  They pack a very impressive amount of detail into very small packages.  To date I have collected a little over 300 of these ships.  Sadly I have been a much more diligent collector than painter.

Figurehead Miniatures will be the topic of a future post so I won’t get too far down in the weeds here.  What I will say is they have a decent range of models available for the lines they choose to cover.  As one example, their Falkland Islands range is probably the most complete range of any manufacturer in any scale.  If you want Russian/Soviet kit, Royal Navy or U. S. Navy ships the you’re in luck.  If you want Chinese (either one), Japanese, Korean, or even French ships you’re out of luck, so far.  I have no insight into Figurehead’s production plans and I have no patience either.  Enter Shapeways.  I guess I should say once again that Shapeways is actually the print shop the actual designer is afrodri from Objects May Appear…

I have been reluctant to order very many “printed” ships.  The pictures on the Shapeways website aren’t always convincing.  Other photos I’ve seen on various fora suggest the models come out looking a little fuzzy.  Not out of focus but actually fuzzy.  My own experience with the JMSDF Hyuga was positive but not overwhelming.  But I have needs.  I need JMSDF, Korean, Chinese, and Indian naval vessels.  Looking through the Shapeways catalog I settled on a one-stop shopping approach for the Indian Navy.  While these ships weren’t at the top of my list they had the advantage of being offered all together.  The other “fleet packs” for JMSDF and Korea didn’t have the mix of ships I was looking for and there isn’t a set for PRC that I could find.

In terms of what comes in the package this is what the website says.  Indian Naval Fleet: 3 Brahmaputra, 3 Godavari, 3 Delhi, 6 Talwar, 8 Kumbhir, 12 Veer, and 1 Vikramaditya.  I don’t think I would have left the aircraft carrier last in the list but that is just me.  It looked like a pretty solid offering and all that for under $20.  I would like to see the Kolkata and Shivalik classes as well but this is good enough for now.  I have to say even though it was only an investment of twenty bucks, ordering a bunch of ship models with only the computer generated picture to go by was a bit disturbing.  Printing a Veer/Tarantul at this scale seemed unlikely to be successful.  In fact at one point I received an email from Shapeways informing me there was a delay with the shipment of my order “Each and every product is made to order at Shapeways, so sometimes we experience delays during the complex 3D printing process”.  And I felt sure the next email would start “We regret to inform you…”

Of course that didn’t happen.  The shipment went out three days later and arrived about a week after that.  Right out of the box I was impressed with the ships.  The level of detail is  on par with the Figurehead ships I think, although the semi-translucence of the material makes it hard to judge for sure.  If I can figure out how to base them in a manner similar to the rest of my 1/6000 fleet I will definitely call this experiment a success.  Here are some pictures…

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack.  Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear...  3D Printed by Shapeways.

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack. Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear… 3D Printed by Shapeways.

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear...

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear…

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

If I can get my hands on a digital calipers I’ll take some measurements to see how close the models are to true 1/6000 scale but that will be the subject for another day.

How Small is Too Small?

I was so pleased with how well the rare earth magnets worked with the flight stands for 1/285 scale aircraft that I wanted to take a look at smaller applications.  Could they be made to work with 1/2400 scale aircraft?

Well…  Um…  Ah…  In a word, no.

The problem isn’t with the magnets really.  I found some 2mm x 1mm magnets which aren’t too obtrusive even considering the diminutive size of 1/2400 scale aircraft.  The problem is the stands themselves.  I couldn’t find a reliable combination of base and post that works with the magnets and provides acceptable stability without looking too chunky drawing attention away from the models.  The search will continue.

  In the meantime I have decided to mount some of my 1/2400 scale aircraft on more traditional stands.

  I used sheet styrene and my Dupli-cutter, from North West Short Line (NWSL), to make a handful of roughly 1/4″ strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

  Once that task was complete I used my Chopper, also from NWSL, to cut the strips into roughly 1/4″ x 1/4″ squares.  Obviously, I could have skipped some of this work if I had strip styrene of the appropriate size on hand.  I didn’t have anything acceptable on hand on my desired time line so I did it the old-fashioned way.

Another great product from NWSL.  The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

Another great product from NWSL. The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

  After cutting the rough bases I drilled a hole in the center of each one for the steel pin which would become the stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

  To prevent the model from teeter-tottering on the game table I counter-sunk the hole on the underside of the base that would conceal the pinhead.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

  Before gluing the pins to their bases I cut them down to scale lengths appropriate for hovering helicopters, aircraft flying Nap Of the Earth (NOE), aircraft flying low level bombing runs, and maritime patrol aircraft.  With the current bases size pins longer than 2 inches would probably be unstable.  At scale that is about 400 ft, a reasonable representation of routine operating altitudes for ASW aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size.  Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size. Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Glue applied to pin.

Glue applied to pin.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted.  In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s.  Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted. In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s. Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

 

Making these flight stands was pretty fun and I’m looking forward to making more.  After I get these stands painted it will also be much easier to photoshop them out of pictures with my fleet.  I hope you enjoyed the mini tutorial.