Mpm 1/72 Grumman F3F-1
In spite of the fact that I have a large stack of Mpm kits waiting to be built, this is actually the first one I've tackled and I must say I was very pleasantly surprised. Normally, building a limited run biplane kit is about as much fun as bobbing for apples in your neighbour's septic tank, but this went together very well. In fact, I had so much fun building it that the doctors were convinced I didn't need restraints at night anymore and my medication could be reduced. That unfortunate incident with the monkey and the superglue soon changed their minds of course.
Still, it wasn't all smooth sailing. If it was I'd probably be building ship models. After gluing on the horizontal stabilizers for instance, I discovered to my immense displeasure that the elevator hinge lines had a decidedly forward slant to them.
Foolishly thinking I could live with this I left them as is. My resolve crumbled after about two days. The stabilizers were then unceremoniously ripped off, a thin wedge of plastic added to the root and then they were re-glued in place. I also took the opportunity to cut off the elevators so they could be re-attached later in a slightly more candid position.
A similar problem was encountered with the landing gear, which turned out to have far too wide a track to it. Again I figured I could live with it (will I ever learn?!) but of course I couldn't - it just spoiled the "sit" of the airplane. One of the characteristics of these dumpy little Grumman biplanes is the narrow track landing gear with the wheels canted in at a silly angle. At this point in the build however, I had already lost all remaining sanity in the rigging process (more on that anon) and I was extremely reluctant to start snapping bits off to rebuild the gear, which I don't think is unreasonable. Nonetheless, I eventually gave in, gingerly ripped (if such a thing is possible) the gear apart and rebuilt it correctly. The nightmares have almost stopped now.
I tried a new method when it came time to rig and, as I mentioned before, it very nearly had me testing the flight characteristics of this model in frustration.
Normally I would use stretched sprue for rigging. It's easy to do and it tightens up beautifully with a bit of heat from an incense stick. It's fine for WWI aircraft but I thought something a bit shinier would be better to simulate the highly polished flying wires of a peacetime biplane.
In this case I had a tube of .004" stainless steel wire that I got from 4Plus UK at the IPMS Nats a few years ago and inspired by Bill Arnold's expert use of this stuff I figured I'd give it a go. Silly me. At the end of several highly frustrating hours I had a lovely pile of nice, shiny and hopelessly bent stainless steel wire and one biplane model with nice, shiny and mostly straight rigging. I also had a fancy new jacket with arms that tie in the back and an unhealthy fascination with Prozac. Amazingly enough, I probably will use the wire again for between the wars bipes having gained some experience with it but I will definitely stick with stretched sprue for WWI aircraft.
This was also my first experience with Propagteam decals and knowing their reputation for refusing to budge once applied I approached them with a great deal of trepidation.
In fact they went on just fine as long as they were plonked on top of a big puddle of water. I made the mistake of putting Micro Set down before applying one of the rudder decals and it promptly stuck fast in the wrong position. All attempts to move it ended with a completely destroyed decal and I couldn't find any suitable replacement so there is now nothing on the right side of the rudder - conveniently and purposely hidden by the wing in the picture!
All masking was done with Bare Metal Foil including the wheel hubs and black wing roots. The handles on the lower wing tips are CAF 8" 'O' decals with the centres filled in with black paint.
Horizontal canopy frames are painted decal strips, the canopy itself being dipped in Johnson's Klear beforehand and another coat applied on top to seal the strips in. I left off the bombsight as it only seems to have been fitted when the bomb racks were installed, which has a certain amount of logic to it I think.
The canopy had a lovely big ejector pin mark on the inside which needed to be sanded and polished out. It is also not quite right in that it is too short and the vertical frames are not vertical - they are canted to the rear. It looks suspiciously like the drawings in Squadron/Signal's "Grumman Biplane Fighters In Action"; inaccurate drawings and colour profiles being two of my many pet peeves with that somewhat over-rated series of books. Still, I'm not concerned enough about the inaccuracy to lose sleep over it or, heaven forbid, fix it.
The decals for the propeller tips weren't big enough to go all the way around the blades so I liberated some from a Microscale Grumman Duck sheet with the Hamilton Standard logos coming from the kit. I originally planned to give the prop a nice polished metal finish but photos showed them to be quite dull so I applied a coat of of clear flat after the decals were dry.
Locations for the exhausts are scribed in the bottom of the resin cowling but none are supplied nor are they mentioned in the instructions. I made them from thin slices of Contrail tubing flattened to an oval shape.
Antenna is good ol' stretched sprue with the bungee cords and insulators built up from blobs of flat black and white paint respectively and I used the photo etched bits supplied for the tiny masts.
Left: The resin engine wasn't too bad but I added a bit of detail in the form of that cute little data placard from a Reheat set and ignition wires.
The engine mount wasn't long enough to reach the back of the engine so a couple of layers of .030" sheet were needed to help things out a bit. 5 minute epoxy was my adhesive of choice for the resin engine, cowling and mount.
Prop as supplied in the kit. In a word, yecch. I cut the blades off and stuck them into a new hub made from plastic tube and rod.
Below left:
Holes were drilled in the ends of the struts and bits of wire stuck in. These fit in holes drilled in the wings and fuselage to provide a more positive mounting.
Paint is a 50/50 mix of Humbrol Bright Silver and Extracolour Corroguard for the wings and fuselage. I added a touch more Bright Silver when spraying the fuselage to try and differentiate between the anodised metal fuselage and the aluminum doped fabric wings. It's subtle. So subtle in fact, it's completely unnoticeable.
Top wing is Humbrol Yellow with a few drops of orange in, red is good old Humbrol Bright Red and the tail is Gunze Gloss White. Final finish is a 60/40 mix of Gunze Clear Gloss & Clear Flat.
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