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Build report: Hasegawa’s 1/32 Ki-61 Hien

jherne_ki-61_hien-12Jeff Herne shares this build report of his fabulous work on this big scale Hasegawa kit- done in about two weeks!

The 15-day Hien…

No, its not a rare medical condition. In a few short weeks, I have an IPMS Regional Convention practically in my backyard, less than 45 minutes away. So naturally, I started looking at what I could enter.

As I started looking over the collection, I realized that everything I had was either ‘shown out’ or simply not competition quality. The theme of this year’s show is “War in the Pacific”, so I decided to build something totally new.

I settled on Hasegawa’s 1/32 Ki-61 Hien. It’s the short-nosed version of the Ki-61, so surprisingly, I found myself limited by the number of paint schemes I could choose. I finally developed what I thought was a fool-proof plan (fool being the key word here!). I decided to try my hand at Alclad. My first experience with Alclad years ago was terrible. It ruined the model and probably set my model-building karma back 5 years. So I developed my own system of Floquil lacquers, Testor’s Metallizers, and S&J buffing powder. It worked out well enough, but it still wasn’t the Alclad finishes I was seeing on the tables.

Anyway, back to my foolproof plan. I decided on a natural metal bird, and, if I messed up the Alclad, I’d simply apply green over it and weather and chip the paint.

But that’s for later. I scored a Big Ed set for the model, along with some Alclad, from Sprue Brothers. Thank Heaven for birthday money! Jay Laverty from Mastercasters sent me a set of weighted resin wheels and resin exhaust stacks. I also managed to score a set of decals from Life Like in Japan. They do a set of 244th Sentai markings, and since I wasn’t sure which aircraft I was going to model, I picked them up anyway.

I started, naturally, with the cockpit area. I sprayed everything that needed spraying with Gunze Sangyo RLM 79, a brown-tan color. Hasegawa calls specifically for this color. In the past, I’ve always mixed Gunze with Mr. Color Thinner, but after reading several threads here on mixing Gunze with lacquer thinner, I experimented and found that Dupont Centari acrylic enamel reducer (mid-temp) worked exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that in my 30+ years of model building, I’ve never had paint look so good.

I started with the Eduard Big Ed set…an extensive collection of PE covering internal, external, and flap details. They also provide a set of paint masks for the canopy. I built the instrument panel, replaced whatever parts were upgraded with the PE set, and added additional wiring with fine silver solder. I scratchbuilt an oxygen regulator as well, since one wasn’t included in the kit.

I assembled the rest of the fuselage by the book, as there was little else to do once the cockpit area was complete. I decided to lower the flaps, so I scribed the lower half of each wing along the panel line and removed the plastic portion of the flap. I had to remove the molded-on detail on the interior of the upper wing. Why its there, I don’t know, as there’s no provision to cut the flaps.

Eduard’s dropped flap set has a PE ‘bay’ that fit into the opened wing, followed by 42 tiny PE parts that require multiple folds to make each of the stringers. I had a goal of using all the PE parts on the set, but I had to draw the line here with the stiffening strip between the stringers. Here’s a part, 3/16” wide and 4” long that required three length-wise bends (1/16” each!) to get a piece of box stock. I simply replaced it with styrene stock…

I built the rest of the model pretty much by the instructions. I replaced the gear doors with a multi-part PE assembly. Although it looks fantastic, a slight breeze will knock these fragile parts off, which I managed to do three or four times.

Once the model was ready for paint, I read up on various Alclad techniques. I knew enough not to use their gloss black undercoat, as it doesn’t dry well. So I contacted my old pal Jay Laverty from Mastercasters. He told me of his technique, which was to paint he model with Tamiya or Gunze flat black, then polish it to a shine. So I gave it a try…the end result was a black-primed model that looked a lot like the old I.D. models from WW2. The finish was black, but glassy-smooth, similar to Bake-Lite. This left a great foundation for the Alclad, which I sprayed at 8psi with a brand-new Harder & Steenbeck Infinity airbrush.

I had a couple of spots that required touching up, a seam line, a scuff mark, but the beauty of Alclad is that you can sand it and respray it. I deliberately left the tail in black primer so I’d have a place to hold the model while spraying. Once the Alclad was dry, I sprayed the tail with a mix of Vallejo Flat Red and Vermillion.

I used a combination of decals and painted-on markings, although that wasn’t the original plan. I applied the hinomaru, but the kit decals were fussy for some reason, and they curdled, leaving a wrinkled mess that even Micro-Sol wouldn’t fix. So, I brought out the heavy stuff in the form of Gunze Mr. Mark Softer. I have to caution on using this decal set, as it is very aggressive. I used a Q-tip to remove the excess, and the liquefied decal just vaporized into a smudge. So I allowed to dry, burnished clear packing tape over the markings, and pulled them up. Jay’s Alclad method worked, even with the aggressive packing tape, the Alclad never lifted.

I cut masks from wide masking tape (automotive low-tack 6” wide) and sprayed the markings in the same color as I sprayed the tail. I was going to spray the white stripes on the tail, but I decided to use the decals. Vallejo, despite excellent cover qualities, is extremely fragile, and I figured that any attempt to mask the tail would be a disaster in the making. So I applied the decals, which settled down nicely, unlike the hinomaru.

I masked and sprayed the yellow I.D. bands on the wings with Gunze Chrome yellow. For some reason, it simply refused to dry. Of course, handling the model resulted in several thumbprints embedded in the paint. I sanded the areas and resprayed, only to apply more thumbprints. With frustration setting in, I decided to sand the areas and simply apply silver to simulate chipped paint. I was intending to do it anyway, but this was a quick-fix method that actually worked.

I clear-coated the model with Future, then applied a Warpigs Wash of flat black, allowed it to dry, then wiped it smooth, leaving sharp, contrasted panel lines. I masked the anti-glare panel, and dabbed liquid mask along the edges of the panel lines and anti-glare panel before applying a coat of Tamiya flat black. Once the Tamiya dried, I was able to remove the liquid mask with an X-acto knife, revealing rough and ragged paint ‘chips’ in the finish.

I attached the landing gear, glued the flaps into place, then sprayed the model with a semi-gloss clear. This brought the varying tones of the model together. I used Mastercaster’s resin exhaust stacks, painted with a mix of Vallejo Red Leather and Warpigs Burnt Umber pigments. The resulting paste provided a chalky, rust-red appearance. A black wash of Turpenoid and Mars Black toned the exhaust down. I sprayed the exhaust stains with a mix of Turpenoid and Light Sienna pigments, followed by a mix of Turpenoid and Warpigs Black pigments. I used the latter to simulate light powder stains on the 20mm wings as well.

This model, aside from a few technical glitches (a couple of ruined decals, etc), was a landmark build for me. I definitely beat the odds with this model, as there was lots of potential for things to go drastically wrong. It was a lesson in a combination of new tools (airbrush), new paint (Alclad), new techniques (Laverty’s flat black primer method, and mixing Reducer with Gunze), combined with an almost-daunting PE set, and resin detail parts from Mastercasters. The result is a model that I believe is as good as anything I’ve ever produced.

Now the hard part – what to do for an encore!

Jeff Herne is the owner and founder of Modeler’s Warehouse, the parent company that produces the Warpigs line of weathering pigments and washes. A professional modeler for the last 20 years, his work is featured in museums worldwide, and he’s done models for Fortune 500 companies and the defense industry. He served as the Director of the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame and Museum, Associate Editor of FineScale Modeler, and founder and editor of ModelX magazine. Jeff is married with 1 daughter and two Labrador retrievers, and currently lives in Ixonia, Wisconsin. When he’s not building models, he’s writing, playing guitar, or consulting in the video game industry (combat simulations).