Empire of Japan Group Build, 1/32 Hasegawa Ki-44-II Hei, Shoki “Tojo” of the 246th “Flight Regiment”
This is a plane that I recently finished up.
It was built as part of our "Empire of Japan" group build. This build was started after a small cleaning accident occurred. I keep most of my stash model kits stored on wire rack shelves. I put wheels on the shelves so it's easier to move them around and clean the floor up occasionally as needed. As I was rolling the shelving around, this rack where the Ki-44 was stored on, bumped into another wire rack, where I keep my 1/35 scale Armor model kits stored. The resulting impact caused this kit to fall onto the floor. When it hit the floor, the box top opened and it spilled some of the contents onto the floor. I took a closer look at the parts inside, to make sure that nothing was damaged or missing inside.
This closer examination rekindled a "spark" of creativity, and off to the work bench it went... I started a detailed work in progress journal. You can see what all went into building this model, by following this link.
This model was an absolute joy to build. The only thing I didn't like about building this model, was how the fuselage has a small insert on each side. I believe these inserts replicate ammunition storage bins, and they're located just forward of the cockpit.
This is a build where I learned about liquefied styrene. Our good friend Spiros, @fiveten
introduced me to this stuff, and even posted a short video on how to make your own... now I'm hooked on it, and use it all the time in place of a typical filler type putty.
This Ki-44 model was constructed pretty much right out of the box, but I did make a few deviations from the plans.
First off, I used an aftermarket seat harness. This was one from RB Productions, and it had to be assembled prior to installation.
The other changes were that I added a homemade engine ignition wire harness, using fine copper wire.
Not too much of it can be seen after the cowling was installed... I used the "Open" set of cowling flaps on the cowling. Hasegawa also supplied a "Closed" set so this gives you options.
Trust me the wires are there. I added a light wash of black to make the engine details pop out a little more. The engine is a little gem in it's own right.
I cut away the tabs on the combat "butterfly flaps" and mounted them in the closed position. This looks more realistic, as I have yet to find a picture of a Ki-44 parked on the ground with the flaps dropped.
The landing gear wells were slightly modified by drilling out the "lightening" holes that were left closed by Hasegawa.
The landing gear itself are nicely represented, but in hindsight I should have added some hydraulic brake lines.
Also the cockpit side entry doors were cut away, and posed in the "Open" position. After I did all this extra work, in an effort to show the interior a little more, I learned these doors were most often left closed. They were typically only opened in case of an emergency, or if maintenance work was being performed. I even found a cool photo that showed a Japanese pilot standing on the door as he was entering (or exiting) the cockpit. This actual photo is shown in the build journal...
I also used a new tool I picked up called "Rosie the Riveter". I used it to make a set of rivets along the canopy frames, in an attempt to make it look a little more realistic.
I didn't notice any rivets on the clear canopy parts. Since the canopy framework was covered with foil, it makes it a little more interesting and not as plain.
I made my own mix to replicate the Aotake Blue / Green. I first sprayed the area using an aluminum color. Then I went back and sprayed Tamiya Clear Blue on top of the aluminum color. The final touch was to randomly add a little Tamiya Clear Yellow and Clear Green in various places. Here you can see the results after I sprayed on a little of each color. I used a small flash light to show you how this looks up close.
The last thing I did was I cut away the elevators and posed them in the "UP" position. I did find several photos where the plane was parked in this manner.
Once the model was constructed, I covered it using Bare Metal Foil. I used primarily the color "Matt Aluminum" for the exterior. Some small sections located just behind the exhaust were covered using "Ultra Bright Chrome". They say as part of their advertising that "It looks like bare metal, because it is metal"... or something like that. 🙂
This was done to replicate the exhaust panel which was most likely made from stainless steel on the real plane. Otherwise, the aluminum panels look to be very similar in appearance when you take a closer look at existing black and white photos. I did orientate the "grain" of the foil to give each one a slightly different look.
The grain is what causes light to reflect differently. I used a Molotow chrome pen to paint the cowling, since this area was very prone to wrinkling as I applied the foil. So far I am very pleased with the results. Afterwards, I found out that you can buy a refill for the chrome pens, and this stuff can be sprayed on using an airbrush... Maybe next time.
The interior was painted using a custom mix of blues and grays, coming up with a color that is close to what the Imperial Japanese Army used on the early built Ki-44's. I did a lot of online research, and read a lot that has been written about the various cockpit colors that were used on the Ki-44 during it's production run.
It seems the early machines were finished in the IJAAF #3 Hai Ran Shoku, known as "ash indigo color". This color was specified for use in the cockpits of Imperial Japanese Army Air Force aircraft, in accordance with the 1936 requirements set out by the Imperial Japanese Army.
This color was changed to a "yellowish green" color on the later built Shoki's. It's also possible that the good old standby of "Aotake Blue Green" or even bare unpainted metal could have been used on some of these Ki-44 planes.
There's a lot of information available on this fascinating subject over at Nick Millman's "Aviation of Japan" website. Nick has probably forgotten more about this subject than most of us know...
Even more information can be found by taking a look at Jaircraft.com Please do yourself a favor, and check out these two websites, if you have an interest in anything that is Japanese aircraft related.
There's another common misconception about these planes, and most of the Japanese planes from this era. Many would have you believe that all of the fabric covered control surfaces were painted using a common color that is a light greenish gray in appearance. This color is formally called #1 Hai Ryoku Shoku or "ash green color".
This is true on the early built machines, and this applies to the Ki-43 "Oscar" as well as the Ki-44 "Tojo". But somewhere around the end of 1943 or early 1944 as a good "guestimate", the Japanese began using Aluminum colored dope on the fabric control surfaces. On the Ki-61 "Tony" and subsequent ki-100's, these aircraft had the fabric controls painted using aluminum dope color in place of the "Ash Green" color.
This becomes evident if you take a close look at pictures of these planes I mentioned. Some will have it very obvious, and the surrounding metal will not match the fabric controls... while on later production variants, the aluminum shade of "dope" was used. When this happened, the fabric controls are a very close match to the unpainted metal parts that are nearby.
The Ki-44 looks like it's all engine, combined with a small elegant wing
This becomes very obvious when viewed from the front.
Here's where it pays to have a photo of the actual plane you are building. I know it's not always possible... but I did manage to find one of the plane I built.
I tried to pose my Shoki in a similar manner. I took a picture of it,
Then converted it to "gray scale". This is how it looks in Black and White. Pretty close I think, other than not having a pair of drop tanks.
Had I taken these pictures outside, the results might have been even better. I didn't want to clutter my build up, so I decided not to add the drop tanks under the wing. I know the one in the original picture had drop tanks, but I like how it looks better without them.
Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed reading about how I built this plane. I hope you might have learned something new as well. I know I did... 🙂
As always, comments are encouraged.
1 additional image. Click to enlarge.