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Build Report: Drew Hatch’s Tamiya 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair


Drew Hatch submitted this detailed build report for his 32nd scale Corsair. Great work on this one Drew!

The Corsair was in demand as much in early ’43 as it was when Tamiya announced it was releasing a 1/32 scale F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair. Modellers may as well have been mud Marines as the demand for the bent wing bird was, in short extensive. I’ve always been fascinated with the Corsair and many who know me know this by far my favourite aircraft of all time and arguably the best piston fighter of the war (don’t even go there with me Mustang and Spitfire fanatics).

Tamiya’s kit is nothing short of superb and somewhat intimidating from the sheer size, once you open the box its even more intimidating. The instruction manual resembles something from large machine manufacturer than a kit maker. The 55 page novel walks the modeller through the many assembly steps needed to complete the model. Much has been said about the instructions since it’s release so I’m not going to rehash it. Once I completed the research and chose a paint scheme I assembled what was to be included in my build and I was ready to go – sort of. As life would have it, just as I got started I had to stop and look after family. So after a short hiatus I slowly started to get to work.

For me building starts in the cockpit. No place better than the front office. I had decided early on in the planning to build the kit as multiple mini kits. That is, the cockpit is one mini model within the model. No other part of the build moves ahead until that one is complete (focus grasshopper, focus). Painting was rather simple as there are only two colors – dull dark green and black. I used Mr Color Green 34092 for the dark green and Tamiya gloss black lightened with NATO black for the remainder. I airbrushed lighter and darker shades of green with a Vandyke brown oil wash for contrast followed by a dry brush of cockpit chromate green and a bit of flat aluminium to show wear. Just enough subtle shades for my taste. Black areas were given a light dry brushing with gunship grey and a medium gray oil wash. Once that was done everything was glossed over to blend it all in and prepare for the Barracuda cockpit stencils.

Roy Sutherland is nothing shy of a genius. Modellers have been trying to replicate switch positions on consoles and instrument panels for decades with not always satisfying results. The cockpit placards Barracuda Studio puts out are by far the most impeccable set of decals I have ever used (good thing I have 4 more sets). While applying them took many sessions of my time the results speak for themselves. A flat coat over the entire cockpit, pick out some of the details needed and viola! A masterpiece – except on my bench as yes, I managed to mess some of them up. I may make it sound simple, and it is in retrospect however it’s a daunting challenge to a slap’n’paint modeller. I had to be nuts and keep going by attempting to add HGW seat belts. These themselves were a new venture for me and one fraught with frustration. I never did get them right and am only some what satisfied with the results compared to other modellers and their “what problems” approach with them. I ended up having to glue them in place as even though they are a thin fabric, it’s was rather stiff. I searched online but didn’t find any helpful articles or how too’s, so I took it as my ineptness for this one. If you know how use these please let me in on the secret! To finish the instrument panel I forewent the kit decal and reached straight for Airscale instruments. The curved clear kit IP parts I thought would be the best to apply the Airscale instruments to after a clear gloss to give the decal something to grab onto. This posed it’s own set of issues as the decals don’t want to conform that easily. Micro sol has worked on Airscale decals in the past for me with no issue, not so this time around. I tried a couple of different sols but in the end needed the big guns – Solve-a-set. I’m used to building instrument panels this way, I do it often so it wasn’t a big deal. In the end I needed a mix of Airscale and Mike Grant instruments to complete the instrument panel. Everything was assembled and the cockpit was put aside.

The engine and landing gear are gems in the selves. Working on the engine was rather simple I thought – till I started working on it. I gave the cylinders an overall base coat of Tamiya flat aluminum cut with Mr. Color Levelling Thinner (gives the best metallic finish to Tamiya paint in my mind). After that some shading to represent heating with a light and varied airbrushing of Alclad burnt metal and burnt umber followed by a mix of lamp black and burnt umber oil wash. I basically left the cylinders alone at that point. Barracuda Studios early ignition harness was given a coat of Tamiya Silver and a light burnt umber wash, I think it looks the part. Adding ignition wires is time consuming but worth the extra effort. I didn’t add the oil return lines between the valve covers as they would not be really seen once the cowls were assembled. I painted the intake manifolds with Tamiya Metallic Grey. The exhausts were base coated with Tamiya Dark Iron. I applied a pigment wash essentially of a 70-30 mix of Burnt Sienna to Light rust pigments, with a few drops of Polyscale clear flat and thinned to a thick wash consistency (very thin airbrush consistency) with isopropyl. This was ‘stippled’ and lightly painted with a stiff brush with an effort to be random and yet ensuring coverage at the same time. This gives a varied base rust finish for further weathering and provides some texture that metal pipes have from being heated. A varied airbrush coat of very thin Tamiya NATO Black and light grey to finish the look. The exhaust ends were finished with a coat of semi-gloss black/brown for that oily look radial engines give.

The gear assemblies are complex, require patience and a bit of finesse to complete. Pay close attention to the assembly order (and what to trim) in the instructions as you can easily fowl yourself up in many different ways. There are a couple pieces that look like sprue gates to cut off but are not – look at the instruction diagrams closely before you cut or you may inadvertently blame Tamiya for a short shot part. The gear was given a coat of Mr. Color Light Gull Gray and then a wash of the same black/burnt umber mix. I wanted to add more but also wanted to have a uniform finish to the plane and it’s components, so I stopped there. I painted the brake lines with Tamiya NATO black thinned with isopropyl and applied with a brush. Once the paint was barely dry I used a dry Q-tip to remove some of the black paint to simulate the light gray paint chipping and flaking off. As always, one has the look I wanted and the other I wasn’t as satisfied with. A few light stipple dabs of carefully applied dark gray mixed with silver to simulate some chipped paint completed the gear legs.

Painting the classic Vought salmon chromate primer was something I repeated following a 1/48 scale Tamiya Birdcage Corsair I experimented with. All parts were painted just like the real aircraft with a base coat of zinc chromate yellow green (Tamiya XF-4) right out of the bottle. In a bottle of Tamiya gloss pink I added the XF-9 hull red in about one part more than called for in the instructions (about 5:2 pink:hull red) and a couple drops of X-6 Orange. This mix is highly thinned (almost wash consistency) and airbrushed in a light coat over the chromate yellow applied earlier. This method matches the paint flake I have from a real Corsair. It in no way matches anything I’ve seen in print or on my computer screen, even the pictures I take make it look way off compared to what it really is in person. To weather this I use burnt umber with some India red oxide oil wash followed by drybrushing with a lightened version of the salmon color and some chips and scuffs with chromate yellow and sealed with a clear flat.

The gear bays are not overly complex however required some basic attention. Given how I envisioned the final paint job I needed to maintain the ‘used’ look throughout and this includes the main gear bays. In Dana Bell’s new book he illustrates what I and may others had thought that the interiors of the gear wells were painted with the underside color. I gave the parts a coat of light gray and allowed that to dry. Mixing an oil wash of something similar to neutral gray, all the parts were given a heavy pin wash. This added the depth to the light gray and prepared it for any chipping and dirt to be applied. I used a small amount of the same ‘salmon’ primer and mixed it with a matt medium gel – about 50/50. This gives a good thickness to the paint for a dab application. Using a paper towel folded into a tight wad, the thick paint was added and blotted off. Then random dabs were applied. The neat part for me is that not everywhere I dab the paint does it apply to the surface. For me it provides a good random application that doesn’t look uniform. I finished this with some light dirt pigments stippled on to complete the look and assembled the bays.

With the gear bays done the rest of the assembly went fairly straight forward. I decided to add the rudder, elevators and ailerons due to the control linkage that needed to be applied. I felt it was better to do that then try and add the tiny parts at the end over the finish – which I would have likely screwed up in some fashion or another. I did leave off the flaps as they can easily be added after. Painting the front windscreen was going to be tricky I thought. Given the Tamiya breakdown I had reservations about this. Fortunately I had the Montex masks for this. Masking and painting the interior of the windscreen was way easier than I had thought it was going to be and the look is fantastic. Strike off that fear from my modelling list. Now onto the next one – painted insignias and markings. I painted Tamiya white thinned with lacquer thinner where the markings were to be and after a couple ounces of liquid courage applied the Montex masks for the insignias over the white.

I decided long before I stated this build that I was going back to the old standby for paints. I pulled out the last of my stocks of Floquil enamels. Not having enough of the light grey I used the same Mr Color I used in the wheel wells. The Floquil blue grey was thinned with Model Master airbrush thinner to a very thin consistency and applied in 3 mist coats. This allows for the very fine feathered edge along the demarcation line. Given the weathering I was planning I didn’t do any post shading to the light grey. The blue grey was first lightened with Model Master Light blue 35414 about 60/40 and thinned to a wash consistency. This mix was used to highlight the ribs on the fabric areas and then using a technique borrowed from a friend, randomly applied a squiggly varied application moving in and away from the model with this mix to give random highlights with no rhyme or reason to their application. Next was a slightly darkened version of blue grey mixed with Humbrol’s 144 Intermediate blue about 30/70 highly thinned and applied in the same random application. Lastly a highly thinned application of Model Master Blue Grey which is more blue than the Floquil in the same random application. I did it this way to provide a subtle base to work from and it’s subtle. I’m not going to be adding many clear coats by my plan so I don’t need to over do this step to use the clear coats to tone it down later. Although one can certainly use these techniques and do just that. After masking and applying the dark blue for the insignias they were unmasked to reveal if I had done it right or not. In the end the masks didn’t conform properly to the fabric surfaces on the wings and I spent a great deal of time fixing the issues. A couple of light washes and filters with Windsor Newton oils and the few decals were added. I didn’t add many stencils as the photos of Corsairs in combat showed they were not added or over painted even on freshly delivered Corsairs. I added the wing walks and a few others which show prominently in photos. Final chips and wear was added by the sponge application method.

Overall I’m happy with this kit and will certainly build the -1A release in the not too distant future. The subtle look of the weathering is exactly what I was going for, not mono-tone but just enough variation in the finish & colors to draw the eyes with just enough unevenness to make it draw your attention.