Build Report: Kevin Johnson’s 1/48 Tamiya F4U-1D

tamiya-1-48-f4u-1d-corsair-kevin-johnson-cover

Kevin Johnson submitted this very detailed build report and overview of the Corsair. Thanks for putting this together, Kevin. And the model looks awesome!

Kit: Tamiya F4U-1D Corsair, #61061
Scale: 1/48
Contents: 105 parts in gray plastic, 7 in clear plastic, 2 polycaps
Markings: Decal options for three aircraft:

  • USN VF-84, USS Bunker Hill, Feb 1945
  • USMC VMF-112, USS Bennington, Jan 1945
  • USMC VMF-913, Cherry Point, NC, Jan 1945

Price: MSRP $32 USD
Highs: Highly detailed, easy to assemble kit. Optional parts allow for either a F4U-1D or -1A.
Lows: Has a high parts count for a single-engine prop fighter, which may intimidate some inexperienced builders.

The Verdict: Tamiya’s reputation for quality was built on kits like this. A fantastic kit for a simple, OOB build, or a great base kit to let your AMS run wild with.

Writing a build report of a modern Tamiya kit can be a bit of a challenge. In general, a modeler can expect a superb balance of detail and engineering in most Tamiya kits – there’s enough detail to get a beautiful result without having to add much in the way of aftermarket, while fit is generally excellent and there aren’t so many parts that the model becomes fiddly or challenging to assemble. As long as one can apply paint and glue with even a modicum of skill, a pleasing result is all but guaranteed.

It all got to looking a bit redundant then, when I sat down before a blank white screen trying to think of how to compose an interesting build report on my recently completed 1/48 F4U-1D. There didn’t seem, on the surface of things, to be that much to tell beyond “I followed the instructions and out came a model.” I decided, therefore, to take a slightly different approach to the build report and talk about the Corsair itself, the things I did to ensure an accurate representation of this famous naval fighter, and the (mostly self-inflicted) pitfalls I encountered along the way, and my impressions of the aftermarket products that I used.

The Aircraft

The F4U Corsair is one of the most famous and successful military aircraft in history. Designed with the most powerful engine and prop combination then available, it became the first American aircraft to break the 400 mph barrier. It enjoyed the longest production run of any piston-engined fighter, from 1942 to 1953, and excelled both as a fighter and as a fighter-bomber.

The initial variants of the Corsair were, however, not without their problems, especially where carrier operations were concerned. The aircraft’s long nose and the seating position in the cockpit made for even poorer than usual forward visibility while landing, and the Corsair’s left wing had a tendency to stall sooner than the right, causing unstable landing approaches. Perhaps worst of all, the landing gear had bad rebound characteristics that could cause the aircraft to bounce upon landing and miss the arrestor cables, or even the wire barriers. The Navy deemed the Corsair unsuitable for carrier operations, and as a result, most early Corsairs went to land-based Marine Corps units in the Pacific. The combat experience gained in the new fighter by the Marines led to a series of changes that eventually resulted in the F4U-1A and F4U-1D.

Corsair Recognition Features for the Modeler

Rather than simply narrate the evolution of the F4U, it may be more useful, from a model-building standpoint, to simply highlight the recognition features of the aircraft that will help the modeler make sense of what comes in the box of the various Tamiya Corsair kits, and the optional parts one will encounter within those kits. This discussion is restricted to the F4U-1 family; the F4U-4, -5, -7, and F2G were significantly different and are outside the scope of this report. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of every change between these aircraft, or every important feature of the Corsair, but rather features that are both 1) visible to the modeler,  and 2) can be easily catered for with optional kit parts or very simple modifications.

F4U-1

This is the initial production version of the Corsair, distinguished by:

  • A fully framed canopy. The initial version was flat on top, but during production, a blister was added to accommodate a rearview mirror.
  • Rear window cutouts behind the canopy. These were originally covered by glass, similar to early P-40s. Some aircraft had the glass removed, and a few covered them with sheet metal. Some late F4U-1s were produced without any rear window cutouts.
  • A 13’ 4” propeller.
  • The initial “short” tailwheel strut.
  • No provision for external fuel.

F4U-1A

Once the Corsair entered combat with the Marines in early 1943, reports from the field resulted in changes and improvements that led to the development of the F4U-1A. The main changes were concerned with improving forward visibility. Changes include:

  • The cockpit was raised seven inches.
  • A semi-bubble canopy with two top frames.
  • A taller (by about 6 1/2 inches) tailwheel strut was added during production.
  • The window in the bottom of the fuselage was deleted during production.
  • The retractable landing/taxi light under the left wing was deleted during production, and replaced with a smaller approach light in the leading edge of the wing.
  • A six-inch spoiler was added to the leading edge of the right wing, just outboard of the guns, to counter the poor stall characteristics.
  • Provision added beneath the fuselage centerline for a 170-gallon fuel tank or 1000 lb bomb rack.

F4U-1D

The changes incorporated into the F4U-1D turned the Corsair into a true fighter-bomber, and it was also the first Corsair variant to finally see widespread use aboard carriers with the US Navy. Many of the changes in the F4U-1D were added during the production run, so any individual aircraft of this particular Corsair variant is often a mashup of various features, including:

  • Two pylons added beneath the center wing section to allow carriage of 1000 lb bombs, napalm, or 154-gallon fuel tanks. The pylons were permanent, so don’t leave them off if you don’t want to attach external stores to your model! They were simply covered with an aerodynamic fairing when not in use – this part is supplied in the Tamiya kit.
  • Due to the increased ability to carry external fuel, the leading edge fuel tanks in the wings were deleted.
  • During production, the two upper frames were deleted from the canopy, and a frameless “clear-vision” version was introduced.
  • During production, a slightly smaller 13’1” prop was introduced.
  • During production, four zero-length rocket launchers were added under each wing.
  • During production, a small boarding step cutout was added to the inboard flap on the right side.
  • During production, a fairing was added to the tailwheel doors behind the wheel cutout, on late Goodyear-built FG-1Ds only. This is on the doors in the Tamiya kit; they can be easily removed if not needed.

F4U-1C

Yes, I’m listing it out of sequence, but there’s a reason for that – the F4U-1C was based upon the -1D, not the -1A, so it shares more features with the later airframe. The F4U-1C was the first cannon-armed version of the Corsair, and while the hitting power of the four 20 mm cannon was unquestionably higher than that of the six .50s, the ammunition load was far less: 924 rounds instead of 2400 rounds for the .50-cal armed variants. Most pilots, when given a choice, preferred having longer firing time over the heavier 20 mm round.

  • Four 20mm cannon instead of the six .50-caliber guns.
  • All F4U-1C aircraft had the 13’1” prop.
  • When zero-length rocket launcher were carried, only two were carried on each side (instead of four on the F4U-1D).

Since F4U-1Cs and F4U-1Ds were built on the same production line, the recognition features of the -1D that were added during production also apply to the -1C.

F4U-2

Converted from a few existing F4U-1 airframes, this was a dedicated night-fighter version of the early Corsair. Visual recognition features are:

  • Radome added to right wing.
  • Flame hiders added to exhausts.
  • Right outboard gun removed and the port covered, to counter the weight added by the radome.
  • A small generator cooling scoop added to the right side of the forward fuselage. This is on all Tamiya Corsair kits, easily removed if not needed.
  • Radio altimeter antennas added to underside of the rear fuselage.
  • The rigid HF radio antenna masts carried by most -1 Corsair variants were not used.
  • The taller tailwheel used on the F4U-1A and -1D was also used on the F4U-2.

If you’re still reading after all that, congratulations – you’re now a certified die-hard Corsair nut!

 

The Kit

Modelers who have been around the hobby for awhile may be shocked to realize that Tamiya’s 1/48 Corsair family is now nearly twenty years old, the F4U-1/2 being originally released in 1996. Not that you’d know it – they stack up well against any new kit on the market today. About the only better Corsair kits available are Tamiya’s own 1/32 versions.

Tamiya’s F4U-1D comes in two different boxings: the first is just the aircraft (#61061), and second includes a moto-tug (#61085). It’s easy to tell which one you’ve got, since the moto-tug is depicted on the box art for the relevant kit. I built the earlier boxing of the aircraft only, with artwork depicting a Corsair from USS Bunker Hill in flight.

This kit had been lurking in my stash for a couple of years, when the opportunity to join in a US Navy-themed group build came along. Having not yet ventured into 1/48, I thought that a single-engined fighter, in a single-color paint scheme would be a good way to get started. Having found a some very good photos of Marine Corps aircraft from VMF-512 aboard USS Gilbert Islands in 1945, I was struck by the attractive mix of horizontal and vertical white bars used for that particular ship’s ID markings. Aircraft #21 in particular, Brooklyn Butcher, featured a bright red cleaver on the side of its nose. That small pop of red on the otherwise dark blue airframe would look great, I thought. With a goal now in mind, set about gathering a few accessories in order to build an aircraft from that squadron: A set of Montex Masks for the markings, and resin exhausts and wheels from Ultracast (there’s no need to replace the kit wheels normally, but the kit’s tires have radial treads, and Brooklyn Butcher wore a pair with diamond treads).

Upon opening the box you’re greeted by four sprues in light gray, one in clear, a pair of Tamiya’s traditional polycaps, and even a superbly-molded pilot figure! As someone who largely builds 1/72, the beautiful detail on the 1/48 parts definitely got the modeling juices flowing and led me to tearing into the kit right away.

The kit’s features are a strange blend of F4U-1A and F4U-1D characteristics (which I’ll try to outline as I go along), and it will help immensely to have an appropriate reference guide handy in order to sort out what’s what (I mainly relied on Bert Kinzey’s excellent Detail & Scale volume #55 on the F4U) and make sense of the optional parts, of which there are quite a few. With a little bit of work either variant could be built. It would, ironically, probably be easier to build an F4U-1A given the surface features of the kit. It’s worth pointing out that the kit instructions are quite good at steering you in the right direction in this regard. Pay close attention and you’re unlikely to go very far wrong, even if building simply out of the box with no outside references.

Getting Started

I split the kit into a few sub-assemblies and tackled these concurrently – namely the cockpit, the engine, the center wing section, and the outer wings.

The cockpit, like Tamiya’s P-47 kits, is a jewel, almost a little sub-kit of its own. I started by making a few tweaks to the side panels – I cut off and replaced the weirdly-molded pitch trim wheel and added the aileron trim wheel, both from punched plastic card. A document case, a feature I had noticed in some photos, was also created out of card and added to the starboard console. An O2 line was created from an annealed section of guitar string and run from the top of the oxygen bottle to the regulator. This later created a fit problem when I added the seat to the finished cockpit, but simply filing a small notch into the bottom edge of the seat (invisible inside the finished cockpit) was enough to fix the issue and conceal the error.

I used another bit of guitar string and some copper wire to try to simulate the miles and miles of wiring and plumbing running through the Corsair’s bottomless cockpit, but as I found out, this has to be done quite carefully. The various parts of Tamiya’s cockpit slot together like a jigsaw puzzle, and adding detail to one part can easily cause interference with its fit to all the other parts.

I also attempted for the first time a technique I had read about to create small levers with round knobs on the end, since the kit’s starboard console was lacking a trio of them (I’m not 100% certain of their function, but I think that at least one of them is the controls the cowl flaps). A small length of wire is used to create the appropriate lever, then is dipped into CA glue and then quickly dipped into accelerator – the idea being that the accelerator will instantly “fix” the round blob of glue into the approximate shape of a control knob. The process can be repeated until the knob is built up to the appropriate size, then painted. One can also use this method to build up thickness on 2D photo-tech parts. While the technique worked well for me, it is definitely prudent to make extras – I managed to lose a pair in the process.

Corsair cockpits were a mix of interior green and black. I based mine off of photos of the F4U-1D on display at the National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, which has black side consoles, and is black above the consoles with interior green below. My go-to paints for these colors are Gunze H58 Interior Green, and Tamiya XF-69 NATO Black. Once everything was base coated, I did the detail painting, followed by my usual MO of washing and drybrushing with artist oils to create highlights and lowlights (this same process was used in the wheel wells later in the build). The sharp detail in the Tamiya kit responded beautifully to this treatment. Once that was done, I detailed the instrument panel with Mike Grant’s instrument decals. A drop of future in the instrument bezel then simulated glass. A few placards from this same sheet also dressed up the cockpit sidewalls.

Belting In

When building aircraft cockpits, I try to focus on detail that can actually be seen, and in nearly all fighter aircraft there are two things that draw the eye, whether the canopy is open or not: the seat, and the gunsight. To that end, a set of HGW textile seat belts were sourced from the stash, along with the appropriate gunsight from Quickboost.

I elected not to use the resin base of Quickboost’s gunsight, but rather to add QB’s photoetch and acetate parts to the kit gunsight. This was largely due to the fact that the kit gunsight is designed to mount securely in the panel, while the QB gunsight had such delicate features that finding a large enough glueing surface to ensure a sturdy connection wasn’t likely. The kit gunsight accepted the QB parts easily, but fitting the whole mess beneath the windscreen proved difficult – more on that later.

As far as HGW’s seat belts go, the best I can say is that I got them assembled, and they look great installed on the model. Building them was an experience that I’d rather forget, however. The “textile” material had qualities very similar to a slightly-dry rotted rubber band, in that it stretched a bit when you really didn’t want it to, but refused to do so and become gummy looking and threatened to separate if you did try to induce it to stretch slightly. It would appear at first glance that the material is self-adhesive, given that it’s stuck to a piece of backing paper, but that’s not the case – you have to glue the tiny, sub-millimeter wide ends of the belts together somehow. I ended up simply dragging the ends requiring glue over the end of a craft glue stick – the kind I remembered using in elementary school to glue pieces of construction paper together. It dries clear, has a minute or so of working time, and five months down the road, everything is holding together. The only other advice I can give regarding construction of these belts is to cut the pieces ever so slightly more narrow than indicated – this will help immensely when trying to thread them through the tiny PE buckles.

It’s my understanding that these PE-and-textile belts are now being marketed by Eduard and included in some of their kits, and that the second-generation product is an improvement over the first. I truly hope that’s the case. Personally, I’d be inclined to use the included PE buckles and make the belts themselves from lead foil or kabuki tape using the HGW bits as a template, if I ever tackle these again. I will say that once assembled, they were far easier that PE belts to shape realistically into the seat, and attached easily with Gator’s Grip acrylic glue.

Sealing It Up, and Planning Ahead

Once the cockpit was finished, it was fitted into the fuselage, and the halves mated together with Tamiya Extra Thin. The fit was quite good, but not entirely perfect. I ended up having to re-scribe some lost detail on top of the forward fuselage, which is frankly not my strong suit. However, Eduard’s PE scribing templates came in handy and I was able to restore the lost detail, although my scribing is not nearly as delicate as Tamiya’s! I also found it difficult to work around the molded-in navigation light on the tail, in trying to smooth out that area – so I simply cut it off and replaced it later.

All of Tamiya’s F4U kits share a common fuselage, and there is a plug inserted aft of the rear cockpit bulkhead to differentiate the F4U-1/2 from the -1A and -1D versions. The fuselage also has the small generator cooling scoop on the forward starboard side that is appropriate for the F4U-2 only, the instructions in the -1D kit correctly direct you to remove it.

Even before you join the fuselage halves, you’ll need to plan ahead for the antenna arrangement for your particular aircraft, since adding the dorsal antenna requires filing open a notch in the upper fuselage – also made clear in the instructions. Individual aircraft may have had front, rear, or both HF antenna masts installed, and wire aerials could run in several different configurations. This is where reference photos will be a huge help, especially if you are set on trying to re-create a particular aircraft, as I was. Tamiya includes a fuselage mount for an aerial on the rear starboard side of the fuselage, with a small pilot hole already started – it’s easy to drill through and create a sturdy mounting point for a wire, or simply lop the whole thing off if you don’t intend to use it. Brooklyn Butcher carried both HF masts and had a wire aerial running from the tail to both the rear fuselage and the forward mast, so I planned to make use of all these parts. The kit also provides a choice of short or tall forward HF mast – I used the shorter one.

More Options

Moving on to the center wing section, I found the biggest disappointments in the entire kit as far as molding quality and fit were concerned. Firstly, the top of the landing gear bays are flawed by several large ejector pin marks that stand proud of the surface. The Mission Models micro-chisel proved an invaluable tool for working in and around the raised detail in this confined area. Once the offending discs of plastic were removed, the scars were smoothed over by brushing on some Tamiya Extra Thin cement. That helped to blend in the area, but didn’t totally disguise that surgery had taken place. Once the bays were painted and the gear installed, however, the marks became nearly invisible.

The other issue was the fit of the oil cooler and supercharger intakes into the leading edge of the wing. This part slots into the leading edge right at the wing root, a critical junction, and the fit isn’t all that positive. I also found that slight gaps can occur. In my case I made sure to fit the intakes tightly at the wing root end, and accept whatever slight gaps may occur around the outboard edge of the part, since this would be far easier to deal with properly.

Tamiya’s kit also includes the window in the bottom of the fuselage, and this area is part of the wing center section as well. While appropriate for an F4U-1 or early -1A, it’s not appropriate for a late -1A and certainly not a -1D. One could use the clear part as a template to create a panel from plastic card to fit the opening, but I went the lazy man’s route, installed the clear part, and simply painted it over, from both the inside and outside.

Before completing the center wing section, one has to decide whether to build the wings  folded or extended. Tamiya provides an appropriate wing spar for each choice, but it has to be installed before the outboard panel of the center wing can be installed. I chose to go with folded wings, and installed the appropriate spar.

If you’re building an F4U-1D, then before sealing things up, don’t forget to drill out the holes in the bottom of the wing to mount the pylons! These were permanently fixed to the aircraft, so they should be mounted whether you choose to attach external stores to your model or not. If you don’t, then a small aerodynamic fairing should be used to cover the bottom of the pylon – Tamiya kindly provides these in the kit. I planned to use the included 154-gallon external fuel tanks, so I built the tanks and pylons as separate units and installed them later.

The flaps can be built extended or retracted – extended being the default position. Going retracted simply involves shaving off the alignment tab on each flap. Tamiya include the boarding step molded into the inboard flap on the right side, which is only appropriate to late F4U-1D airframes. I filled it in with a bit of plastic stock.

The only fit issue I found when mating the center wing section to the fuselage was at the rear of the join, along each side, roughly where the inboard edge of the flaps should sit, if they were retracted. The seam here is difficult to eliminate, but luckily, it’s also hard to spot.

All Wired Up

At last, we come to the mighty R-2800, the muscle behind the Corsair’s blistering performance! The engine is in four parts: the gear reduction housing, the forward and read cylinder banks, and the firewall. The cowl flaps (you get the option of open or closed, I went with closed based on reference photos) slot into a notch around the rear edge of the firewall, the cowling slots to the front of it, and then the whole thing mounts to the fuselage. It all goes together quite securely, and barely requires cement.

I started by giving the cylinders a coat of Tamiya X-1 gloss black, followed by Alclad White Aluminum. The connecting rod tubes were picked out in Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black. The crankcase was painted some shade of Tamiya light gray, and the ignition ring, magnetos, and other details picked out in the appropriate colors. Another Mike Grant placard decal was used to simulate the engine’s data plate. All three parts were then treated to a coat of clear gloss and a wash in artist oils, a mix of black and brown makes for a nice dirty, oily look. Once the excess was removed, the cylinders got a coat of clear satin and were set aside, while the crankcase was hit with matte clear and got a session of drybrushing to highlight yet more detail. After that, it too was sprayed in clear satin.

I decided to wire the engine – in my view part of what makes a radial engine so neat is that so much of it’s workings are visible, kind of like a motorcycle. While the kit includes a nice ignition ring, it lacks the terminals on the ring that the ignition wires sprout from, so I decided to try to recreate these. Different versions of the R-2800 are wired in different ways, in the case of the R-2800 “A” and “B” series (The F4U-1 series used the R-2800-8 and -8W, both “B” series engines), the ignition wires are paired together in one terminal – in other words, there is one ignition terminal on the ring, per cylinder (each cylinder has two spark plugs, and therefore, two ignition leads). The terminals are short and, necessarily, quite wide to accommodate a pair of thick wires.

I sliced up a section of plastic rod that was approximately the same diameter as the ignition ring, and glued on these short sections, using the cylinder banks as reference in order to keep things evenly spaced. A hole was (carefully!) drilled in the end of each to accomodate a pair of wires.

On the cylinders themselves, I created spark plug terminals by slicing up short sections of micro brass tubing, and inserting them into holes drilled in the front of the cylinder heads. While this created very positive mounting points for the wires, it was, in hindsight, overkill, and the result can barely be seen on the finished model.

After all that, it was the work of about an hour to add the wires, first to the ignition ring, and then to the front of each cylinder, and to secure them with thin CA. The rear of the cylinders are molded hollow, so the rear wires for each cylinder aren’t even glued down – they just “float” in the space provided.

Winging It

The last modifications I made to the kit were on the outer wing panels, and involved trying to recreate the major recognition features that separate the F4U-1D from a -1A. To that end, the large landing light beneath the left wing was eliminated, along with the filler caps and drains for the outboard fuel tanks. The apertures in the leading edges were opened up to create the lenses for the gun camera and approach light.

Lastly, the solidly-molded navigation lights on each wingtip were removed, and replaced with scratchbuilt items. A tiny hole was drilled into a section of clear sprue, and then filled with the respective clear red or green paint. Then the section was affixed to the wingtip with CA, cut roughly to shape, and sanded to match the curve of the wingtip. With the wings folded, the lights are prominent on the finished model.

The last task remaining prior to paint was to mount the gunsight, armored glass panel, and the canopy. Here’s where the build ran into a bit of a snag. The canopy and armored glass panel are molded much too thick for scale, which is typical of most model kits. In this case, however, that leaves scant real estate left for the gunsight. Because of this, Tamiya have molded the kit sight so that it slots into the top of the instrument panel at an angle. It fits under the glass with room to spare, but looks obviously crooked, and frankly a bit half baked. If you hadn’t built this kit, you’d think, peering into the cockpit, that the builder had make a rather silly mistake.

I sanded down the mounting point at an angle in order to mount the sight as vertically as possible, but given that I had added the Quickboost reflector glass atop the thing, I wasn’t able to make up much ground. The end result is that the whole mess is sandwiched tightly together, but the detail on the gunsight is there, and because of the way the clear plastic refracts and bends light, it’s hard to tell that the armored glass and gunsight are touching where they shouldn’t be.

I used Montex masks for the first time to mask the windscreen and canopy. The results were mixed. It was nice to have masks for the interior, and they fit well. On the outside, however, the material used by Montex proved to not be very pliable, and refused to follow the curves of the sliding bubble section of the canopy – think of the old Black Magic vinyl masks as opposed to the current Eduard kabuki tape ones. I ended up using the Montex masks as a template to cut my own masks from a sheet of Tamiya tape. I painted the sliding canopy separate from the model, and used the spare one included in the kit as a “mask” to cover the cockpit while painting. Oh, and don’t forget to  mask off those wingtip nav lights we made!

Marine Dress Blues

With the canopy in place, it was finally time to sling some paint and put some dress blues on this Marine Corps fighter – my favorite part of every build! I laid down a coat of Tamiya XF-1 black cut with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner as a primer, and then a coat of Gunze H54 Navy Blue as a base coat. H54 is perhaps a bit on the light side for Gloss Sea Blue, but reference photos showed a clear demarcation between the aircraft’s base color and the Insignia Blue on the national markings, and I wanted to make sure to recreate this. The somewhat lighter color also lends itself well to the whole salt-stained weathered look, in my opinion.

After the base coat was on, a slightly lighter mix of Gunze H54 and Tamiya XF-18 Medium Blue was made up (yes, you can safely mix Gunze and Tamiya acrylics together!) and “scribbled” on with the airbrush. About half of the mix was applied randomly, and about half was used to “streak” in the direction of the airflow on the flying surfaces, and vertically on the fuselage. A very few panels were highlighted, mostly small access panels on the upper surfaces. This process was repeated twice with successively lighter shades of paint, in smaller and smaller amounts each time. I use very thin paint, get in close with the airbrush, and spray at very low pressure – about 10 psi. When applying weathering on an aircraft with folded wings, remember that the bottom of the wings are actually the surfaces that face upward and will weather most readily!

The white ID bands were next up. The Montex Mask set did not give any dimensions for the bands, and with no instructions included, it was unclear how they intended for the modeler to make use of the few thin straight sections of masking included in the set. I went my own way, enlarging the Montex marking guide to 1/48, taking the dimensions with calipers, and making my own masks from Tamiya tape and Post-It notes. I now know that the wide ID bands on the wings should be 12 inches wide. I have no idea how close I came to getting it right.

I also elected not to use the Montex Mask set for the national insignia, for a couple of reasons. Unlike other masking sets I’ve seen, Montex’s product has some gaps between the various layers of the mask, as though the machine that cuts the masks actually removes a thin slice of material as it cuts. It looked to me like use of the mask would result in “stars and bars” that weren’t entirely straight. Secondly, on the bottom of the right wing, the insignia has to be worked around one of the rocket launch stubs, and Tamiya’s decal provides a cutout for this which made the application much simpler.

Where the Montex set came through with flying colors was the masks for the aircraft ID numbers. The material used for these masks is much thinner than that used for the canopy masks, and they conformed easily to the aircraft, including to the curving leading edge of the engine cowl. The numerals came out razor sharp and looking amazing. After a coat of Tamiya X-22 Clear, kit decals were added for the few stencils required, as well as the BuNo on the tail (fictitious in this case, obviously). Plain white decal film was used to “tape over” the gun ports. Montex provided the nose art for Brooklyn Butcher as  decals, and these proved to be high-quality items – thin, opaque, and with a carrier film that completely disappeared under a coat of MicroSol. Like many thin decals, they had a tendency to stick tightly where they were initially placed, so use a good puddle of water and be sure to get it as close to perfect as possible the first time! After the decals were on, another coat of Tamiya Clear sealed them in safely.

All in all, I’m sold on the idea of painting markings as opposed to using decals whenever possible. Next time, I’ll seek out masks from another company – Montex Masks just weren’t that user-friendly.

Weathering

I tend to use artist’s oils extensively for weathering. I like the long working time, their highly blendable qualities, and the fact that if I screw up, I can simply wipe the surface clean and start over. The downside is the long drying time – several days are required to let oils dry unless a medium like liquin (also known in the US as Japan dryer) is used.

I started by giving the aircraft a panel line wash. The trick to getting this to work well is to thin the paint to nearly the consistency of water, and using a small pointed brush, allow capillary action to “wick” it along the lines. I tried to mix a light tan color to go for a dusty look, but my wash ended up being quite a bit more yellow than I intended. Luckily, later rounds of weathering toned down the effect, and now it looks close to how I originally intended. Yet another clear coat sealed in the wash.

Next up, I applied a dot filter. This is a technique quite familiar to armor modellers, but not so much to the aircraft crowd. It involves applying small dots of oil paint, in many different colors, all over the model, then using a brush dampened in thinner to streak and blend the colors together, leaving behind just a thin glaze that helps to break up the uniformity of the finish. The greatest benefit of the dot filter was toning down the stark white of the ID bands. Just make sure you think about your base color in choosing which colors to use for the dot filter – for example, I avoided using red – wouldn’t want to stain that Corsair purple!

After allowing the dot filter layer to dry, I went over the airframe and applied some stains and a bit more streaking in a few specific areas. I used Burnt Umber oils for some, and in others I experimented for the first time with Mig Ammo fuel and oil stain. This is an enamel-based weathering product, and I was very happy with the random staining I was able to create atop the fuselage around the main fuel tank.

Final Construction

At last it came time to put the Corsair on her own legs! Tamiya’s main gear fit very positively, and it’s very easy to get the alignment just right. Since I was using Ultracast’s wheels in place of the kit items,  the alignment tab on the axles needed to be removed, and the axles shortened – Ultracast outlines exactly what to do in their instructions.

For the tail gear, I advise adding the gear doors first, before adding the gear itself. I did it the other way around and ran into trouble. The doors do not have very positive attachment points, and with the gear in place, I found it very difficult to apply leverage in the right areas to hold the doors properly while applying cement.

Then it was time to add the aerial wires. The wire itself was created from extremely thin monofilament line used for fly fishing. I anchored them at each end with a tiny 1/72 wire turnbuckle from Bob’s Buckles in the UK. While these are intended for rigging biplanes, they won’t look out of scale for anchoring the aerials. Micro brass tubing, painted white, mimics the insulators and anchors the line at the forward end.

When it came time to add the rear HF antenna mast, I managed to catapult it into oblivion. After searching vainly for the lost part for the better part of an hour, a scratchbuilt replacement was made and attached, luckily without incident. About six weeks after finishing the build, I happened one day to reach down for my airbrush compressor, and there it was – the lost antenna. It’s safe and snug in the spares box now!

I also had to remember to replace the rear navigation light that I sliced off early in the build. Using an eraser shield designed for drafting, I heat-smashed a bit of clear sprue through one of the very small holes in the metal – the result being a very tiny, perfectly round part that was carefully sliced off and attached to the model.

Lastly, it came time to add the outer wing panels. The kit is designed so that these simply slip on over the previously attached spars. To Tamiya’s credit, they go on at the correct angle and fit so well that the support bars just click into place. Unfortunately, I must not have been careful enough when handling my model during painting. The folded-wing spars attach sturdily, but are thin, and when I tried to slot the outer wing panels on, the left spar refused to take the weight and buckled. I was able to pin mine back on with stainless steel wire and CA, but it was an unwelcome near-disaster right at the end of the build.

Luckily, insuring against this outcome is easy enough – Scale Aircraft Conversions makes a set of white metal landing gear for Tamiya Corsairs that includes a set of folded wing spars. There’s no real need for the gear since the kit items are plenty sturdy, but the spars would be a really great item to have – in addition to being stronger than the plastic items, white metal can be gently “flexed” to get just the right fit without worrying about breakage. I will definitely be springing for a set for my next Corsair.

Start to finish, the kit took me a bit over three months to build, working on and off. If I add up the time I was actually home and not traveling for work, it was more on the order of eight weeks – not out of line for the average hobbyist on a kit such as this. I thoroughly enjoyed my first foray into 1/48, and the finished model is definitely a jewel in my collection. If you’ve built at least one other 1/48 single-engine prop aircraft, I can readily recommend this kit. I’ll definitely be building another!