Well, I’ve finished it! Today was the last day of the “Great Spitfire Build”. I started this back in January 2016, there have been periods where I haven’t done any work on it for various reasons (e.g. eye trouble!), however I have been gradually chipping away at the outstanding tasks over the last couple of months,.
After the main assembly was completed at the beginning of March, I gave the model a couple of coats of Humbrol matt varnish spray, this was to give me a decent non absorbent surface ready for painting.
Next up was painting. I used Humbrol enamel paints – the same as I’d use for plastic kits. I didn’t want to use acrylic paints as those are water-based and I wasn’t sure what effect that would have on the tissue covering. The upper surfaces were painted in Dark Earth and Dark Dreen (Humbrol codes 29 and 30). I had wanted to use Duck Egg Blue (23) for the underside but this was impossible to get hold of (and I was getting a bit impatient by this time!) so I went with Aircraft Blue (65). RAF fighters of the period had their undersides painted in either one blue or the other so it wasn’t as if I was committing a major historical faux pas. OK, WWII pedant alert: that’s apart from the ones painted half black and half white. Moving on.
Next up, the markings. The kit was supplied with roundels and tail markings printed on a sheet of thin paper, so I cut these out and glued them in place using diluted PVA. I also wanted to add some squadron markings. I couldn’t find any suitable decals so I made some stencils using “Frogtape” masking tape. The result is a bit rough but I think it looks OK. “Good enough for Government work”, as American WWII pilots used to say. After that, just a bit of detail painting (gun port blanking, undercarriage, exhaust pipes, etc.) and a final finishing spray with the matt varnish.
Job done. I think it looks quite good, particularly as it’s the first non-plastic model I’ve made.
A note on the markings – I’ve painted it to depict Spitfire EB-G of 41 Squadron, flown by Eric Lock DSO DFC and Bar, on the 5th September 1940 when he shot down 3 enemy aircraft in one sortie.
Here are a couple of pictures:
Since my last post on this topic, I have been quite busy with the model but haven’t had time to post the individual steps. So, since then, I have done the following:
- The fuselage, wings and tailplane have all been covered with tissue. The surfaces have been sprayed with a light mist of water and allowed to dry – this causes the tissue to shrink thus tightening the surfaces.
- The various parts have been assembled and the gaps between the components have been infilled.
- The propeller has been fitted into the spinner and the assembly attached to the fuselage.
- The minor parts (radiators, exhaust pipes, etc) have been glued in place.
- The canopy has been cut out from the rough moulding and glued in place.
So the model is almost complete and beginning to look more like an aircraft. It is now ready for painting.
You can see where the nose covering is a composite of paper and tissue, this is for strength. In the case of my model it’s probably not necessary because I have not installed the motor as I’m not going to fly it.
So here are the spitfire parts after I’d attacked them with the glasspaper. You can’t really see much difference but they are the correct shape now. Approximately.
I’ve been constructing more small parts for the Spitfire build. Everything starts off laser cut from flat sheets of balsa, so items thicker than that are made up by laminating 2 or more parts together. For added strength some of these laminations are cross grained. Once the glue has hardened, the part can be shaped to achieve the desired profile. For this I’ve been using a combination of modelling files, scalpel and fine glass paper.
Here are some of the items I made earlier:
From left to right: Undercarriage assembly (with the legs and wheels already shaped), Oil cooler, Air intake and Radiator. Above those are the exhaust pipes. All these have yet to be sanded to the correct shape.
The big radiator was a bit of a pig, as you can see it is curved and the flat rectangular panel has to be glued to the curved sides to create the correct shape. Of course the balsa has a natural desire to stay flat, so it has to be clamped onto the sides by hand until the glue sets. This proved impossible as for once the PVA refused to hold and the panel kept pinging off. After a couple of goes I grew impatient and resorted to using cyano adhesive. Job done!
Not shown here is the propeller assembly which has also received some attention.
I’m nearly ready for the next major milestone: covering the airframe. Can’t wait!
Recently just some sporadic work on the Spitfire build. I’ve been making up some small parts: the nose assembly and the wheels. These have been made by laminating sections and then sanded the finished article to shape. The nose had to be sanded to blend in with the front of the fuselage which was not easy as it has to be done ‘by eye’. Although the plan has a cross section this is only in one dimension and is thus more of a guide than anything. I had rediscovered a set of modelling files which I bought many years ago and these have proved very useful. I used a scalpel to remove the bulk of the unwanted material, then used the files to get the basic shape, then glass paper to complete the job.
I’ve also cut lengths of piano wire and bent them into shape, these will be the strong parts of the undercarriage. The other thing I’ve done is research the paint scheme I want to use. I’m not going to fly the Spit once I’ve completed it (I couldn’t deal with the inevitable damage from the crash landing following her first flight!) so I don’t have to worry about whether painting would add too much additional weight and cause aerodynamic problems.
One more thing. Piano wire has very sharp ends.
Tricky bit, the fuselage. I started by building up the left side on the plan. Here’s the keel and formers.
Once all the stringers were in place, it was released from the plan and the right side built onto the completed left side. I ended up with this.
Time to let everything harden off before tidying it up and starting work on the nose, then sanding, etc.. I’ve had to develop a very gentle touch as the wood snaps extremely easily!
I’ve now assembled the wing and made up the tailplane. These have been sanded – lightly! I’ve also rounded off the leading edge of the wings and sanded .5mm off the trailing edge to create a washout. A timely reminder of how fragile that balsa wood is. Next stage: the fuselage!
Actually, no. I stuck to the plan. Both wings now done.
I received a flyable scale model kit of a Supermarine Spitfire for Christmas. Today was the first day of what I call ‘The Great Spitfire Build’. It’s a very long time since I made anything like this. I think it may take some time…
On a ‘dark day’ in September I was supposed to be at RAF Hendon sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire. Instead, I found myself in Addenbrooke’s Hospital having major eye surgery so I sent Bob in my place (he really enjoyed it!).
Luckily, the museum released some new dates and so, sitting at home waiting for my vision to return, I booked myself on another ‘Spitfire Cockpit Experience’. Something to look forward to as I recovered from my eye Op!
Fast forward to the very last day of October: here I am at the RAF Museum, Hendon.
So, I’d finally fulfilled one of my boyhood dreams: to sit in a Spitfire! I wasn’t disappointed.
Clambering in through the small door and sliding down into the pilot’s seat.
With the cockpit door closed I immediately felt part of the aircraft, scanning the instruments, handling the controls and breathing in the smells of ‘old aircraft’.
A view of the cockpit , I’ve even got my boots into the picture!
This is the sort of view the pilot gets while taxying, i.e. bugger all. He would have to zig zag to get a view of the runway ahead before accelerating to get the tail up.
They even loaned me a WWII flying helmet so I could do the full Biggles impersonation. Tally Ho!
‘My’ aircraft was Supermarine Spitfire MK XVI built at Castle Bromwich in 1944. Serial RW373, she spent her early life in a training role before moving to 31 Squadron at RAF Hendon in 1949 as the personal aircraft of the AOC Fighter Command. Damaged in a landing accident at Hendon in 1951, after repair she moved around a lot, including a spell as a Gate Guardian and museum displays, until finally returning to her current location in July 2015. You can get the full history from the RAF Museum archives.