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René Hieronymus
23 articles

North American A-J1 Savage or who’s afraid of the big bad Vacu-form kit?

June 4, 2016 · in Uncategorized · 13 · 1.7K

When you talk to model-builders about vacu-form kits you can see in their reactions a mixture of ignorance and sheer terror. Building a vacu form kit is still something of a mystery to most model-builders. Sure in today’s world of super-uber-quality high tech kits this special kind of kits is something of the past. To be sure I’m not aware of any new vacu-form kit, which came up during the last 10 years on the market and I’m certainly not such a fan to them, that I would prefer something like this against anything more appropriate or should I say more up to date. But just like with all things there are not only bad things but good things too:

And the most important lesson is invaluable: there is not only one thing you can learn by building one of these kits there are several abilities you will sharpen: starting with building without the help of any instructions, which is substantial when trying to scratch build something, detailing and improvising, because of the lack of small parts and just to keep things straight: cursing, because you were dumb enough to build such a thing.

This very kit here is a Rareplane kit which is one of the “a bit better vacu-form kits” and believe me there are or were several of much, much worse quality. Typically for any vacu-form kit you have to cut all the major parts from their main sheets and then the “fun” starts. Fit is something which has absolutely nothing to do with these kind of kits so make sure you have at least half a metric ton of putty handy before starting something like this and sandpaper, all kinds of sanding sticks, lots of ‘em, the more the better add to this an equal amount of elbow grease and let the games begin. For the next weeks or so your one and only duty will be sanding, filling, sanding again, filling again and so on.
Small parts for cockpits, engines, landing gears you name them are something which are either not existent in such kits, or of such horrible quality that if you have at least a tiny fraction of self-esteem you are not going to use them.
Anyhow, go build them yourself, in most cases it is much easier than you might think and the result is worth doing it. By adding several small details to such a kit and a few decals (which are not part of the kit too, just to make sure) the result is a quite good looking model. And for the time until a major injection kit manufacturer releases you can show this little master piece of yours to any interested and amazed modelbuilder and tell him: I did this! (Beware: usually shortly after you have built such a monster kit, just this is going to happen and of course the new kit is not only much better looking its usually even cheaper and most of all way easier to build!) In this case you can always comfort yourself with the knowledge that you have learned a lot of things while building this "thing”


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13 responses

  1. Nice work, Rene. There's another modeller here who has previously posted vacform builds (sorry can't recall who it was) and they too described the somewhat tortuous routine of filling, sanding, etc., but still an impressive result, as is yours.

  2. Looks great ! I have a Rareplane vac form in the stash, a 1/72 Fairy Fulmar. Some day---

  3. The Savage came out great. Did a p-37 conversion a little while ago, yes; filling, sanding, again and again...

  4. Very nicely done Rene. No doubt a challenging build but your AJ-1 Savage model turned out great.

  5. The proverbial "silk purse from a cow's ear", huh...? I'm unfamiliar with vac kits (and not interested in GETTING familiar 🙁 ), but I can see you certainly have them tamed. Very nice craftsmanship, sir...I like it!

  6. Rene this vac form Savage looks even beter than the equally labor intensive Anigrand kit. Well done! Lets hope a mainstream kit producer can release it in plastic.

  7. Rene, there was a guy in my IPMS chapter who built vacuforms of aircraft nobody else did at the time. He would bring in his latest, and then some mainline outfit would release a molded version. We used to ask him what he had, and encourage him to build what we hoped to see. It worked.
    Rareplanes did things that were way ahead of the usual vacuforms. Maybe now that you've done this one, we'll get an injected one. We live in hope! 48th wouldn't be bad, mind you.
    Beautiful job!

  8. All your hard work has produced a great looking model, Rene, but there far too many injection moulded kits out there for me to build before attempting one of these!

  9. I agree with your assessments regarding working with vacuum formed kits, however, should you complete it and do a reasonable job in the process, you will gain far more respect from your peers than you will get from completing a injected molded kit, and sometimes it takes a few years for the plastic injected kit to come to market.

  10. Excellent build! You made a great job with this kit. It very near to scrach. I had vacform kits but the work easily a 2-3 times (or evenmore) with them compared to an "ordinary" kit. The only thing make me turn onto a vac kit is the subject. I had a Fokker F.32 in my stash (Contrail?) in 1:72 but apparently I'm the guy whose afraid of that big bad vacform kit 😀

  11. ME! Yes - I'm afraid of vac-formed kits... There is the advantage of subjects normally not out in injection (or even resin). GREAT looking Savage! I've got a Mach2 1/72 injection molded version that I just ordered some decals for. I was leaning toward the gull-grey scheme, but seeing your blue version may make me change my mind. I just haven't gotten up the nerve yet to try a vac-form!

  12. @sangamon Absolutely gorgeous! When I was little my dad used build Navy planes so that blue warms my heart! Great job!

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