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Mark Beckwith
6 articles

VT-83 Grumman TBM-3 Avenger

December 7, 2013 · in Aviation · · 14 · 3.9K



As usual the construction begins with the cockpit. The level of detail in this kit is outstanding and I tried to do it justice. The sheer complexity of the kit meant I spent far longer on this interior than is usual for me with I would guess almost half the total construction time spent on the interior. The only major trouble I ran into was the turret assembly. I followed the written instructions very carefully, but it took me a couple of attempts to glue the two halves together satisfactorily. The instructions do say to wait until the glue is fully set on the assembly before doing this, I think my impatience got the better of me the first time.

I decided to display the kit with dropped flaps. To accomplish this I followed the suggestion in the instructions to scribe the flap panel line with a knife and work them free. Fairly straight forward. Next I made the filler pieces using the kit supplied template and inserted them in the assembled wings. When I had finished this I looked at the interior, particularly the underside of the upper wing surface and realized I could not leave it bare and smooth. I made some stringers out of sheet styrene and glued them to the interior to match the stringers on the flaps. I also drilled out the filler pieces to make them look more realistic. Of course the casual viewer will not be able to see all this work unless the model is picked up.

Other points of note in the construction phase were that I misaligned the bomb bay in the fuselage half and ended up with a large gap to fill at the rear end, which I filled with sheet styrene. In addition to this faux pas I set the horizontal stabilizers at the wrong angle and had to go back later and remove and reset one. What else did I screw up? oh yes, the bomb bay doors, but more on that later... Finally, as usual I masked the canopies, this time using Eduard EZ Masks.

Paint & Decals.

Essex's VF-83 Avengers were TBM-3's painted in the Tri Colour scheme. Painting followed the basic steps described below in my Helldiver piece, up to the free hand application of the dark blue. Try as I might, I could not get a result I was happy with. After several attempts at touching up to achieve a satisfactory result, I gave up and resorted to masking with blue tack. It worked for me well here, and I also used it to touch up an area between the white and Int. Blue.

When I was finally happy with the paint job, I sealed with Testors Metalizer Sealer to prep for the decals and let that cure for a day, though it really only needs about an hour or so. Later, much later (and too late to change it), I learned that TBM's wing leading edges had a wrap around of Int. Blue, back about a foot onto the upper surface of the wing. I may yet, but probably won't, go back and fix this error on mine, so if you plan to do a TBM remember the Int. Blue leading edges, the kit instructions fail to mention this. From the same source I also learned the pillar between the pilot and observers' station should have been painted dark blue, not interior green. With the gloss coat dry, it was time to move on to the decals.

I had again intended to use an Aeromaster sheet, #48-292 Carrier Based Avengers. These worked quite well, though I had the same problem with the G-Symbols on the fin as I had with my Helldiver. However, after multiple applications of Micro Sol and some minor surgery they melted down well and looked good. The nation insignia were the right size for the kit, unlike the kit supplied ones, and I experienced few problems. One area of concern though were the stencils; as is my habit I planned to apply only a few based on photos. Unfortunately of the ones I did apply, many silvered. Some I was able to repair, others I was not, so I eventually removed them. At the conclusion of the decaling stage I again sealed, blended and faded it all with the diluted gray and put the model aside to fully dry. When dry, I applied dullcoat and put the model aside again to fully cure. I have to be very methodical with this drying time as I am impatient by nature and would likely pick up the model too soon and fingerprint all over it.

Weathering and Conclusion.

With most of the work done, all that remained were the undercarriage, antenna, turret, other bits and pieces, and the bomb bay doors. Most of these tasks were completed with little trouble, even the turret. The bomb bay doors were another story. For some reason I completely misunderstood the instructions and had merely folded them instead of cutting them to display them open. It took me a very long time to realize this and I could not figure out why the actuating arms would not fit as shown in the instruction diagram. Eventually, by studying photos of the real thing, I realized my mistake and cut the doors apart. With this done everything else fell into place and the doors, their arms and the fit into the bomb bay itself all worked well.

Weathering was, as usual, done with pastels with a little dark gray wash to highlight panel lines around the white areas and some very minor paint chipping with a silver pencil around the engine and gun access panels. I paid particular attention to exhaust staining, using several shades of pastel to try and achieve a realistic look. I think I succeeded, though it is perhaps a little over done.

Reader reactions:
10  Awesome

8 additional images. Click to enlarge.

14 responses

  1. Nicely done, great photos, very clean and well documented. Regarding the leading edges I wouldn't have picked up on it, the rest of your build is so complete!

  2. Excellent model, Mark...AM always did a nice job on their kits and you did this one justice indeed. Great job!

  3. Great job! Thanks for the building tips.

  4. turned out fabulous...i think with any avenger install the ball before you marry the fuselage...cover it with a piece of baggie you can pull off later...absolutely stunning build

  5. This is one awesome plane you have build! SUPERB PAINTJOB!

  6. Looks great Mark. What do you mean when you think it may be "over done"? Thanks for sharing your build story, along with the "oops" that showed up along the way.

    • Thanks Alan. Perhaps overdone in the sense that the quality of fuel the US Navy used didn't tend to leave very much soot on the aircraft whereas I've depicted it much more along the lines of late-war Luftwaffe dirty. Man, I wish I wasn't so picky!

      • Well, you may as well just throw it out, now, with such a glaring error! (stage note: sarcasm) Your knowledge is far more detailed than mine, and I never would have noticed that before you told me. It looks great! If someone ever does ask, just tell them that the last flight it took it had a bad batch of fuel that made it kick and sputter and belch out black exhaust.

  7. Mark,

    Very nicely done. I think you did an excellent in capturing the TBM. A great looking model of a great airplane. I built three of these AM kits and found all to be an excellent but challenging kit. On the first one I thought I would be smart and install the turret at the end of the build and after painting. WRONG... I had to split the seam to widen the fuselage enough to get the turret in then had to do some touch up filling and painting. Believe me, I only did that on the first one. When AM says "follow the instructions" they mean exactly that.

    • Yep, they definitely mean it when they say that. I have another in the stash that is intended to become one of the Atlantic escort carrier birds - I'll be following the instructions on that one, too.

  8. Great build-really like the paint job and weathering.

  9. You have a beautiful Avenger there! The paint and weathering look first-class too. And, yes, thanks for the tips, someday, they will sure come in handy!

  10. Another very nicely finished and documented model, Mark, thanks for sharing.

  11. Looks awesome Mark, very nice!

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