What’s with that “quick build” thing?
Too long; didn’t read summary: I no longer think I can find satisfaction in quick builds. They can be either quick or satisfying. Never both. Your mileage may vary.
Quick build (noun • /kwik bild/)
A box of sprues you grab, glue and paint over the course of a short amount of time whenever you can no longer bear all the long-term projects staring at you from the shelves.
Apart from trying to sell this definition to the Oxford Dictionaries (answer still pending), I have been working on a couple of rather involved projects lately. There is that 1/350 Arizona started over a year ago, a 1/350 Spruance which gives me fit issues to no end, a Monogram B-26 Marauder which needs to be rescribed and riveted… couple that with a 1/48 T-2C Buckeye that needs its cockpit rebuilt and a A-20 Havoc with lots of details missing, and you get me in a state of “I’d like to get something done. And quick.”
A year or so ago Revell released a new 1/48 scale kit of the Stearman PT-17 Kaydet, a US training biplane from WWII. I got that kit for 10 Euros (in the souvenir shop of a military museum, of all places) and put it in my stash for a rainy weekend. The kit itself is very well detailed and gives you two colourful options for a USAAF and a US Navy aircraft, respectively. Speaking of colourful, Revell somehow saw fit to mould the parts in yellow, which might help with painting, but gives the whole kit a rather toy-ish appearance.
At the Moson Show I stumbled upon a new manufacturer called Yahu Models, who specializes in pre-painted PE instrument panels – and they produce a set for the PT-17! I guess the universe wanted to tell me something…
Lesson One: Research. Quick it is not.
Back from Hungary, I immediately started taking a closer look at the Revell kit, doing some research on the versions and markings. That is something I do with every build, basically checking what I am in for, and if there are any alterations needed. Sure, this takes some time, but it is all well within the scope of a quick build, right?
Well, it turned out the markings provided where both for warbirds – beautifully restored planes that fly today, complete with sometimes fictional markings and civil registration numbers. No, I didn’t want that. So off I went to do a quick Google image search. I found a nice colour photograph of a line of Navy N2S (the Navy designation for the PT-17) sitting on the tarmac, with what looked like a mix-and-match of yellow and aluminium lacquer fuselage parts. Yeah, let’s do one of those. Can’t be too hard to find the appropriate markings in the spares box.
Lesson Two: If you want quick, get good.
Building the kit itself was the most trouble-free and pleasurable experience. Revell incorporated a couple of very good engineering choices, there are not fit issues whatsoever, and even the after-market PE fit beautifully. I did, however, detail the engine with lead wire, filed the seats to a more correct shape, and used some PE harnesses. Maybe not exactly a quick-build approach, but I tend to see these modifications as part of even the most basic build. The whole building process took a couple of days, mainly because I had other stuff to do.
Lesson Three: Fast is slow.
For painting I chose the following approach: First, I primed all the yellow areas with Gunze SEA Grey FS36622. This is an almost white colour, but without the issues “real” whites tend to have when spraying them. Reason for that primer coat is that yellow colours tend to be translucent, no matter how heavy a coat you apply. I test painted the upper wings yellow without the primer coat, and was still able to see through the wing when holding it against the light!
Next, I sprayed the yellow areas with Gunze FS13538 Yellow. No problem here. After letting this dry overnight, I masked the yellow areas, and then primed the rest of the airframe with Tamiya X-1 Gloss Black, as a base for the Aluminium colour.
AK Xtreme Metal Aluminium went on like a dream. I really do like this stuff, as it gives a beautiful finish, dries instantly, and is not as delicate as Alclad. That is, if you let the primer coat dry thoroughly. I didn’t.
Getting fingerprints out of a metal finish is not an enjoyable task. When I applied the aluminium coat, the underlying black base was dry to the touch, but only on its surface. Handling the model afterwards, the heat of my fingers basically softened the black paint up to a point where I got a nice 3D impression of my index finger onto the fuselage. So, snad it off, prime and paint again. Took me longer than if I had waited a bit longer in the first place.
Lesson four: Stick to the stickers.
Remember those decals? Spare box and stuff? Yeah, wasn’t going to happen. I was lucky to find the right sizes of Stars’n’Bars, and was able to cobble together a/c registration numbers from the kit’s decal sheet, but the large number “17” on the fuselage sides and bottom had to be painted. Some time ago I had created a set of masks for modern US Navy lettering, but these have 30° angles to the corners, whereas for a WWII plane I would need 45° angles. Apart from that, the numbers seen in the picture seemed to be thinner than specifications called for.
Back to the PC, drawing the appropriate numbers, feeding the file into the cutting plotter, and after a couple of hours I had all the masks I needed. Spaying them on with Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black took only a couple of minutes.
Lesson Five: Quickly take your time
Weathering. Some of us do not like that part of a project at all. I happen to enjoy it more and more, easily spending days on washes, streaking, chipping and that sort of thing. This, however, was still supposed to be a quick build, right?
Well, by that time I had already decided that it would be of no use rushing things close to the finish line. Two things helped in getting a nice result in a short amount of time. First, subject choice. As a stateside training aircraft, it would not be too dirty and grimy (from my own time in the military I remember one of the basic rules during training: If it moves, you salute it. If it doesn’t move, you clean it).
Second, using pre-made washes, like Mig’s Panel Line Washes, noticeably reduces drying time over traditional oils.
Bonus Lesson: If you pick a biplane for a quick build, you might want to reconsider your life choices.
This one is kind of self explanatory. Admittedly, I did not bother with eyelets and fasteners, but instead stuck to simply using Uschi vdR flexible rigging line. Still, this process took about two evenings.
A definitive conclusion. Until next time.
This one took longer than expected – and I did enjoy every bit of it. Even more important, I enjoy the final result way more than the “real” quick builds I did in the past.
In the end, I think the real idea of a quick build is not to get something done in a short amount of time. It is rather to work on something that does not force you to interrupt your flow, that lets you quickly get to stages you enjoy the most (like painting or weathering) – and maybe most importantly, something that does not make you notice the amount of time you spend on it.