Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Japanese Aircraft Online Model Contest 005 - DIZZYFUGU

1:72 Nakajima A6M2-N ('Rufe') of the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Air Service, 81st Kokutai; Aleutian Islands, 1943 (modified LS Model kit)


The kit and its assembly:
This is a real world model, despite the weird looks (see below), and “built on purpose” as an entry for the Arawasi blog's "Japanese Aircraft Online Model Contest 005 - Japanese Seaplanes & Flying Boats" contest in summer 2017. Even though whifs were allowed to enter, I used the opportunity to build a kit I had originally bought for a few bucks and stashed away in the donor bank: a vintage LS Model Nakajima A6M2-N, an aircraft I have been wanting to build for decades but never found the right occasion and motivation. The stars were right now!
The kit’s moulds date back to 1963(!), and this A6M2-N model was re-issued several times, also under the ARII label. You get a tiny box, with only two sprues moulded in a pale baby blue, and the number of parts is minimal. It's truly vintage and pretty toylike at first sight. Consequently, you have to face some real old-school issues, e. g. moulded markings for the roundels on the wings, general mediocre fit of anything and lots of sinkholes and flash. Then there are toylike solutions like the single-piece propeller or separate, moveable ailerons with bulging joints.
The cockpit interior is non-existent, too: there's just a blank place for a dashboard (to be cut out from the printed BW instructions!), a spindly pilot figure which is held in mid air by some pins. Furthermore, the kit was designed to take a small electric motor in the nose (sold separately) to drive the propeller. Wires, as well as respective internal ducts, and an external AA battery holder are included.

Sounds scary? Well, maybe, if you just build it OOB and do not like the inherent challenges. All these flaws should not keep the ambitious modeler away, because the LS Model kit is (still) a sound basis to start from, even though and by today's standards, it is certainly not a match-winner for a rivet counter-esque competition.
For its age and the typical solutions of its time, it is actually surprisingly good: you get very fine engraved surface details (more delicate than many contemporary moulds!), a pretty thin, three-piece clear (yet blurry) canopy which can actually be displayed well in open and/or closed position, and, as a bonus to the elevons, there are separate flaps, too – a unique detail I have never come across before! Proportions are IMHO good, even though the cowling looks a bit blunt, and the engravings are rather soft and shallow. Anyway, on the exterior, there’s basically anything you can ask for, and as another bonus the kit comes with a beaching trolley, which makes display and diorama fitting easier.
Thanks to the kit's simplicity, the build in itself was pretty straightforward and simple. Cleaning the parts and checking fit was the biggest issue. Upon gluing the old styrene showed signs of serious reaction to the dissolving effect of modern glue: it took ages for the material to cure and become hard again for further work!? Weird…
Overall fit is mediocre, at best. You get small gaps everywhere, many sinkholes and overall displacements, which had to be corrected with some NC putty/PSR. No major killer flaw, though. The protruding elevon/flap joints under the wings were sanded away as good as possible, and due to the wobbly nature of the kit’s styrene I added small blobs of 2C putty inside of the wing halves in order to stabilize them.
Some mods and improvements were made, though. After cleaning the OOB propeller from massive flash the piece turned out to be pretty usable, and it was put on a metal axis. A styrene tube adapter was added behind the relatively flat engine dummy, so that the prop could spin freely – for the later beauty pics, because no CG effect beats IMHO the real thing. A cockpit interior was created from scratch and donor parts, using the new Airfix A6M model's cockpit as benchmark. It’s not an exact replica, because not much would later be visible, but I wanted, as a minimum, “something” inside. For some of the finalized model’s beauty pics a separate/better pilot figure was used.
Under the wings, the hardpoints (missing in the OOB kit) were simulated with some bits of styrene and wire as shackles, but left empty. Under the stabilizer fin I added a lug(?), made from thin wire, too.
The elevons were fixed in place, the seams to the wings filled with white glue in order to conceal the gaps as good as possible. The flaps remained movable, though, adding life to the model.
The dolly was also taken more or less OOB, since it fits well. I just improved it with some sinkhole fillings, modified the wheels with hub caps and added a towing bar as well as cushions on the float stabilizers, made from paper tissue soaked with thinned white glue.


Painting and markings:
The reason why I settled for an A6M2-N is mostly the unique paint scheme which could be applied, while still being a real world model: a purple livery!
As far as I could find out, the A6M2-Ns initially carried an all-over IJN Grey livery, which was in late 1942 modified with dark green upper sides for a better concealment on the ground, and the Hinomaru received white edges for better contrast. Anyway, during the Aleutian campaign and more or less in between these two major standards, several aircraft must have received a special camouflage with lilac upper surfaces, and this model depicts such a machine, based on “urban myths” and various profiles but no color picture of such a machine as reliable and credible reference.
The sources I consulted, as well as pictures of finished A6M2-N models in similar livery, show a wide variety of shades and paint scheme layouts, though. Upper colors range from pale pink through more or less bright shades of purple to a pale, rusty-reddish brown (maybe primer?), while the undersides show a wide range of greys or even a light, deep blue. Some depictions of Aleutian A6M2-Ns as profile or model even show a uniform wraparound scheme! Choice is yours, obviously...
Because of the corny information basis I would not call the model “realistic”, rather a personal interpretation of the subject. I based my livery more or less on a profile by Michele Marsan, published in Aerei Modelismo Anno XII (March 1991). The unit information was taken from there, too – the only source that would provide such a reference.
My idea behind the livery and the eventual finish was that the machine once was fully painted in IJN Grey. Then, the violet upper color was added in the field, resulting in a slightly shaggy look and with the light grey shining through here and there in areas of higher wear, e. g. at the leading edges, cockpit area and some seams.
Painting started with an initial coat of aluminum under the floats, around the cockpit and on the leading edges. Then the undersides and some areas of the upper surfaces were painted with IJN grey. The latter is an individual mix of Humbrol 90 (Beige Green/RAF Sky) and a bit of 155 (Olive Drab, FS 34087). On top of that I added a thin primer layer of mauve (mix of ModelMaster’s Napoleonic Violet and Neutral Grey, Humbrol 176) on the still vacant upper surfaces – both as a preparation for the later weathering treatments (see below). Everything was done with brushes.

The following, basic lilac tone comes from Humbrol’s long-gone "Authentics" enamel line. The tin is probably 30 years old, but the content is still alive (and still has a distinctive, sour stench…)! I cannot identify the tone anymore with certainty, but I guess that it is 'HJ 4: Mauve N 9', one of the line’s Japanese WWII tones which was later not carried over to the standard tones, still available today.
Anyway, the color is a dull, rather greyish violet, relatively dark (a bit like RAF Ocean Grey), and it fits well as a camouflage tone on this specific model. Since there was no better alternative I could think of, except for an individual mix or garish, off-the-rack pop art tones, I went with it.
After overall basic painting was done and thoroughly cured, weathering started with a careful wet sand paper treatment, revealing some of the lower IJN Grey, violet and aluminum layers. While this appears messy, I found that the result looks more realistic than artificial weathering applied as paint effects on top of the basic paint.
The engine cowling was painted separately, with a mix of black and a little dark blue. The propeller received an aluminum spinner (Humbrol’s Matt Aluminum Metallizer), while the blades received aluminum front sides (Revell acrylics), and red brown (Humbrol 160) back sides. Two thin, red stripes decorate the propeller tips (Decals, left over from an AZ Model Ki-78, IIRC).
As a standard procedure, the kit received a light wash with thinned black ink, revealing the engraved panel lines, plus some post-shading in order to emphasize panels and add visual contrast and ‘drama’.
Decals and markings were improvised and come from the spares box, since I did not trust the vintage OOB decals - even though they are in so far nice that the sheet contains any major marking as well as a full set of letter so that an individual tail code could be created. Anyway, the model's real world benchmark did not carry any numeric or letter code, just Hinomaru in standard positions and a horizontal, white-and-red stripe on the fin.
The roundels actually belong to a JSDAF F-4EJ, some stencils come from a leftover Hobby Boss A6M sheet. The fin decoration was created with generic decal sheet material (TL Modellbau). Similar stuff was also used for the markings on the central float, as well as for the yellow ID markings on the inner wings' leading edges. I am just not certain whether the real aircraft carried them at all? But they were introduced together with the new green upper surfaces in late 1942, so that they appear at least plausible. Another argument in this marking‘s favor is that it simply adds even more color to the model!
The cockpit interior was painted in a light khaki tone (a mix of Humbrol 159 and 94), while the flaps' interior was painted with Aodake Iro (an individual mix of acrylic aluminum and translucent teal paint – an experiment that turned out well). Lacking good reference material, the beaching trolley became IJA Green, with some good weathering, dry-brushed silver on the edges and traces of rust here and there (created with artist acrylics).
Close to the (literal) finish line, some soot and oil stains were added with graphite and Tamiya's 'Smoke', and the kit finally received a coat of matt acrylic varnish (Italeri); to the varnish on the engine cover a little  gloss varnish (Revell) was added, for a slightly sheen finish.


In the end, quite a challenging build. Not a winner from the rivet counters’ point of view, and the livery is questionable. But this ‘Rufe’ is …different.
Concerning the LS Model kit as such, I must say that - despite its age of more than 50 years now - the A6M2-N model is still a worthwhile offer, if you invest some effort. Sure, there are certainly better 1:72 options available (e. g. the Hasegawa kit, its mould was created in 1995 and should be light years ahead concerning detail and fit. Not certain about the Revell/Frog and Jo-Han alternatives, though), but tackling this simple, vintage kit was fun in itself. And, based on what you get out of the little box, the result is not bad at all!
Beyond the technical aspects, I am also pleased with the visual result of the build. At first glance, this antiquity looks pretty convincing. And the disputable, strange lilac tone really makes this model outstanding. Even though I still wonder what might have been the rationale behind this tone? The only thing I could imagine is a dedicated scheme for missions at dusk/dawn, similar to the pink RAF recce Spitfires in early WWII? It would be plausible, though, since the A6M2-Ns were tasked with nocturnal reconnoitre and ground attack missions. I tried to reflect this in some of the beauty pics – and to a certain degree, the paint scheme it even works!
Dizzyfugu - Germany




Michael Thurow said...

An interesting interpretation of a controversial subject. You really tried to make the best from an outdated kit with a commendable result. The photography is great - very realistic!
For more certainty about the camouflage, particularly the myth of violet Rufes, I would recommend consulting the Aviation of Japan website (currently not accessible) and Nick Millman's publications.
I give a 4.0 in view of the excellent pictures.

Anonymous said...

Another excellent example of a modeler at work as opposed to kit assembler - and I say that as kit assembler myself - my talent for scratch building is very limited. My rating of this commendable effort is 4.5.
I think the controversy over the mauve color may be due to either paint oxidation or what the color looked like in the early dawn or dusk times in that theater of operations. There is no concrete documentation of planes being painted this color, but I would not blame any modeler for choosing it. It really does look awesome!

Wind Swords

Dizzyfugu said...

Thank you very much, gentlemen, as well as to George for considering/posting all the material. It's pretty exhaustive, but part of my normal building routine - and I rather offer the full picture, esp. incl. the WiP steps.

All beauty/action pics were taken "as is", no composing. Each time it's the model on a simple, self-made base with a paper printout background. Only the display/holder in the flight scenes was edited away, and light/contrast/intensity was tuned.

The scenes on the water were taken on two layers of cling foil(!), placed on top of a glossy, blue sweatshirt (don't ask...). The "old" pics are filter effects from the editing software I use (Gimp).

Certainly not a winner model in itself, but a colorful entry and a nice challenge to build for sure.

D. Chouinard said...

ACK! Purple Rufe, purple Rufe! :)

Seriously though, you worked your magic again! I like your creative use of materials in you photography,good angles as well. Always like to see what you come up with!

A solid effort on a far less than state of the art kit. 4.7

DtKS said...

Very nice build,especially in 72nd. A lot off work,well executed. The violet scheme certainly caused some big debates among we modellers (and enthusiasts)


Honza78 said...

Splendor. I give 4,5.

Dizzyfugu said...

He he, the purple tone was chosen on purpose - due to the controversal potential, and as a tribute to the fact that I (currently) mostly build fictional/what-if models. So it's a perfect submission for me. :D
Glad you (all) like it! Cheers.

jacob Terlouw said...

As far as I know LS produced the first decent Rufe kit. ( in 1/75, the box top said so) With moving ailerons
etc. it was a must have! Although the Hasegawa one is somewhat better in scale & detail I like this one very much. I say 4.6

Eric Vogel said...

I really like the effort you did,to make something out of this old kit.Your photo work is great and is a nice display to watch this Rufe.
I like the paint despite it is controversial :-)
My vote : 4.6

Arawasi said...

Excellent presentation as always. A very solid effort with a horrible kit. 4.5

Fluffy said...

That kit looked rough. You really made something of it though!