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Thomas Probert
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1/32nd scale Short Sunderland Mk IIID Models vacform complete!

June 7, 2022 · in Aviation · · 35 · 1.5K

Evening all,

I took advantage of my time away from the classroom last week and finally finished this two-and-a-bit year project: Tigger Models' (the old ' vac kit) of the Short in 1/32nd scale. This has been a really rewarding project, and despite a setback when I knocked the completed fuselage with its interior off the table, making a rather messy contact with the kitchen floor, it's been great fun and relatively straightforward - despite its size.

Kits like this come as a blank canvass for the builder to work his/her magic - 'bumps ion plastic' is quite apt, but the shapes are reasonably accurate if not a bit primitive. The kit provides a the correct hull shape for a MkI or MkII, but with some mods the more adventurous builder could easily convert it to a MkIII/V, etc. All panel lines and surface details need to be added and the parts are devoid of any real detail, but the plastic is lovely to work with an scribes/sands beautifully. Due to the size of the parts, home-made interior bulkheads are needed, and any visible parts of the interior need to be made from scratch. Strong wing spars are also essential to keep the structure of the model sound - thick plastic card spars were made and added. The flightdeck interior, bomb room and nose section were all made from scratch and detailed with some aftermarket seatbelts.

All the aerials were made from sprue and thin wire - markings were mix of home-made masks and decals. The engines were made from spare HK Models' B-17 cylinders coupled with Revell Beaufighter parts to make a reasonable representation of the Bristol Pegasus. The early-style exhausts were made from Evergreen tube bent slowly over the toaster! Landing lights were home made from some of my daughter's diamante play/craft jewellery (for the lights) and the covers were clear acetate once again heated over the toaster. Rigging for the floats came for EasyLine and reminded me why I'll never build a biplane! The kit's transparencies were used throughout - all turret interiors were scratch built. Beaching gear was also made from scratch with a friend helping out with some 3D printed wheels. Bomb racks were again made from scratch with some rather lovely depth charges coming from a fellow modeller, Tim Perry - thanks, Tim!

I used Xtracolor enamels throughout the build - 6 tins were used in total. I don't like to go too mad with weathering on my models so kept it relatively clean - however you can't build a Sunderland without the distinctive water marks on the hull; a bit of exhaust staining and some fading with post-shading completed the upper surfaces.

My model represents a Sunderland MkII of 201 Squadron during 1942 in the lovely temperate sea scheme. Painting white gives me nightmares (especially something of this size) so I took the easier option. W4001 (ZM-V) was only on strength between February to October 1942, before hitting an underwater rock and being written off, thankfully with no loss of life.

I'm often asked how big a 1/32nd Sunderland is. I'm sorry to inflict my ugly mug on you but you can see in one of the pictures that it is a massive model with yours truly holding it!
Thanks for those who took an interest along the way - I'm off for a long lay down in a darkened room to contemplate the next project!

Best wishes to all,


Reader reactions:
40  Awesome

22 additional images. Click to enlarge.

35 responses

  1. I’m flabbergasted by the size of the beast! Cannot help to feel envious, and in a certain way overwhelmed even by your capacity to scratch all those many parts and to have to will to push it to the finish line. Bravo!

  2. Wonderful build and finish. The sheer size wears me out...and then it's vacform. Yours is a challenge I'd run from as fast as these 84-year-old legs could take me. Awesome job, Thomas.

  3. That is big, Excellent work.

  4. The quality of this build is something we all strive for and you have definitely achieved it.

  5. Wow! That’s one of biggest airplane models I've ever seen! Where do you park this guy? Hanging from your class room ceiling?

    Absolutely fantastic from the scratch building to the final colors and fine details. You are a master modeler Thomas!

    Kitchen floor be damned.

  6. Amazing! Surely the Sunderland deserved to be call a flying SHIP.

  7. I saw this your build at the FB site, just amazing! Also beautiful work too.

  8. Fabulous achievement, Thomas, l’m so used to seeing Sunderland models in white (think Airfix 1/72) I only just recognized it. If ever an aircraft company had a misnomer it must be Short. Definitely liked.

  9. Model of the year! Outstanding.

  10. Outstanding result, Thomas!

  11. Echoing all the above compliments, Thomas @vacform
    A huge airtcraft and therefore difficult to handle, making the outcome even more impressive.
    The weathering around the waterline is very nice as well.

  12. what a great monster. Very beautyful.

  13. You done her justice Tom !

  14. Outstanding! Congrats...


  16. Spectacular work, I really like it a lot. My question is - where are you going to display this lovely beast?

  17. What a wonderful build! I do think I'll take up whittling...

  18. I've been following this build on BritModeller, all I can say is - what a magnificent achievement! This MUST make it's way to a museum at some point!


  19. Incredible and Beautiful work on a real monster of a kit. Love all the work you put into it, a true master modeler! Excellent paint work for such a big canvas! Congrats on finishing such a huge project.

  20. Wonderful work Thomas!

  21. Wow Thomas ! it looks like everyone turned up to this party, I've been watching your progress as well and lets face it this is outstanding, that's it really...

  22. Pilot Pym just awoke from slumber seeing this !
    Wonderful work

  23. Excellent build - and from a vac-formed kit! Wow!

  24. Amazing build

  25. Superb job on a gigantic kit, Thomas. I am very glad you gave us the self-portrait as I was straining to imagine how big the thing could be in 1/32. The finish and every single detail add up to a museum-quality miniature (as others have said). I love the paintwork, decal work and weathering. You should share this with the world/general public somehow as it is quite awe-inspiring. Congratulations on sticking with your project through mishaps and challenges. A true masterpiece.

  26. Truly awesome and inspiring,Thomas (@vacform). You said this build was "relatively straightforward", but I don't think I would ever use those two words with a vacuform. This would be a spectacular model if it was built using plastic parts from the finest molds, but the fact that this is a vacuform makes it doubly cool. Your are a true artist. Keep them coming!

  27. Sheesh, and here I sit, thinking the Special Hobby 1/72 Sunderland II will be "difficult." Hah!

    This and all of your other 1/32 vacuform masterpieces have absolutely got to end up in a museum somewhere. Maybe Duxford?

    "Astounding" is still insufficient to describe this amazing model. Of all your great work, this is the greatest.

  28. Oh, Tom... that was definitely two-and-a-bit years well spent, wasn't it just...!

    And thank you for making me feel human again... I'm not the only one who knocks things off the work desk just as progress is moving along nicely... ;-).

    Seriously, though, this is an utterly superb piece of modelling and great testiment to your undoubted skill and patience. From the full interior to the marvellous scribing on the external surfaces, this kit is a pleasure for all modellers to feast their eyes on.

    Very, very well done, and many congratulations; you should be rightly proud of the end result.



  29. Well that is not something you see everyday. A very impressive effort and result. What a beast! Thanks for sharing and inspiring.

  30. Wow, just wow. Been following your build on FB, glad to see the finished product.

  31. Many thanks for stopping by and your compliments - it is very much appreciated.

    The Sunderland will no doubt do the rounds at UK model shows so do stop by and say hello!


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