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Completed --- Sea Gladiator, 802, Dehkalia, 1939 (Matchbox, 1/72)


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This is a sort of last hurrah for the Matchbox Gladiator; I got this kit a good while back (one of a pair), and it has gotten a bit battered and is missing a part or three by now. I know the new Airfix kit has made this one obsolete, but here in the States I have not yet been able to get hold of one of the new Airfix items, so in the spirit of the Gladiator itself, I am building the kit I have available, pending arrival of something more modern....

It will be built as this machine:

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It was operating from Dehkalia (sub-station of HMS Nile), across the bay from Alexandria, Egypt, during July, 1939. Consensus of FAA boffins here is that the squadron marking was yellow, and that serial numbers were not displayed under the lower wing. I am trying to procure that part of the Sword Sea Gladiator kit which has the 802 wing marking, but if I cannot, I am prepared to make the thing from scratch....

Edited by Old Man
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  • 2 weeks later...

Got started on this over the past week.

Note: I am working on two of these kits simultaneously, so there will be some 'seeing double' in the pictures for a while....

First I put the cowlings in order. The contours of the cowlings in profile or plan are off, to my eye at least; they should bulge up a bit in the center, and taper down both to leading and trailing faces. Sanding this in, of course, destroys the rocker-arm blisters, and the exhaust stack representation.

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I replaced the blisters using pieces of 2mm x .8mm strip, 4mm long. These were given a concave bottom, and a bit of trapezoid shape before attachment, then sanded and scraped to shape on the piece. The motors are just dry fit in place, but the arrangement and fit of the pieces holds them in so firmly there is no wobble, and so it was easy to position the blisters properly. For the exhausts, I cut slots and inserted thick styrene rod.

I am going to leave the exhaust rings as they are. They go too deep, but this is part of the fit and fix arrangement for the motor, and it was necessary to assemble the cowling to do the necessary work. At this point, alteration is not practical. I do not think this will detract from the appearance of the finished model.

For the wings, it necessary to reduce dihedral (which can be done by sternly bending the plastic), and to correct the representation of the ailerons. These are, on the kit, an odd mix. The upper-surface representations on the lower wings are reasonably accurate, though on the undersurface they are off, and too narrow. On the upper wing, both upper and under representations are incorrect straight lines, and too narrow, grossly so on the undersurface.

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In addition to filling and re-scribing the ailerons, I also filled and re-scribed the flaps; the trench-lines around them were a bit too much.

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Looking good so far. The Gladiator is one of my favourite biplanes.

I am too chicken to try a 1/72 scale Gladiator, but I have done three in 1/48 - a Life Like, a Lindberg and a Roden.

As far as the exhaust ring is concerned, I tried to make my three look a bronze colour with darkening caused by heating, which is what you'd expect. Eventually they all turn a dark coppery color, but not too red. I've seen a lot of models with a uniform copper colour which I don't think is correct.

Good luck, I'll keep watching.

I'm building a Sopwith Triplane R.N.A.S. 1917 for the GB.

PS - its hard to believe that Matchbox used such garish colours for their plastic. I saw a Matchbox Wellington bomber once and it was bright green, yikes!

Edited by Richard B.
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Doing the interior, now...

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I have pretty much decided to use a vacuum canopy from a Pavla kit, so I figured I should do something for the insides. This is really pretty basic, but should look decent through the canopy. A couple of things (trim wheel, throttle, and such) will be added to the sidewalls. I used the kit cockpit floor, trimmed, and the kit seat (remove the back, turn the seat over, re-attach the back, and you have a 'cheap and cheerful' bucket seat). The rudder pedals are spares from a long redundant Roden sprue. Scratched elements are white.

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Moving right along here.

Here are some shots of the interior in living color....

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To get contrasts stark enough to show through the canopy, this was painted with highlights and shadows, like a figure: the base color is British interior grey-green, with highlights in sky and shadows in dark slate grey.

Here is the fuselage closed, with forward decking on, under a primer coat.

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I am not using the kit cabane works. Fit of this forward decking piece is very poor, and a lot of filling and sanding was required. The cabanes would never have survived....

Here are some looks into the interior.

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Instruments on the panel are Mike Grant decals. The panel was added from the front after the fuselages were closed, before the forward decking was put on. A plate in front of the heel guides was added at this time as well.

Here is the upper wing, primed, with interplane struts attached, using the kit slot arrangement.

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I am still on auxiliary primer here, being out of Tamiya Fine White, with no local re-supply in sight. Here I am using Testors Matte White enamel, and it will take a couple of days to dry enough to be worked with.

Next steps will be some detail fiddling with the tail, and finishing the cowling/engine assembly, and attaching the lower wings....

Edited by Old Man
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  • 2 weeks later...

Just about ready for paint and canopy here, my friends....

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About all that was necessary for accuracy tweaking in this stage was cutting the opening for the elevator works in the tail. I cut straight through from the rudder post, then inserted a bit of plastic to define the rear of the opening. Fit of the horizontal tail pieces is superb, they lined up great, no filler bit the attaching glue needed. Rudder is a little short, but between trimming a little at the top of the fin and sanding a bit at the bottom of the fuselage things came out fine. Landing gear struts fit pretty well, also. Lower wings went on nicely; one side has a tight fit at the tab, and I trimmed the slot a bit; best to have a bit of wiggle-room, in my view, for seeing to proper alignment and dihedral. Bit of a gap but nothing serious at the joins.

There will be a little work needed in the rear area of the cockpit, and the shoulder harness must be added before the green-house goes on. But there will definitely be some silver showing with the next installment here....

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not quite so far along as I had hoped to be by now, but still, some solid progress....

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(last shot shows the dighy pack from a Pavla kit, and the arrestor hook recess cut into the fuselage, dimensions taken from the Pavla piece)

(the cowling with motor is simply pressed on, not finally attached)

The Pavla canopy proved to be a nice piece, sturdy and not difficult to cut out and trim. I expect it fits on the Pavla kit very well, but it is short by a good deal when matched to the cockpit opening of the Matchbox kit, and has a different angle, more acute, at the front as well. It is also taller and narrower at the rear than the face of the Matchbox kit's fairing. I made the opening fit the canopy by adding a shim about 1mm thick to the face of the fairing, and putting in a bit of strip at the front, which ended up about a half millimeter wide. To address height, I trimmed down the mating surfaces on the fuselage at the cockpit sides, sanded the fairing a bit lower and a bit narrower, but these measures, pursued as far as I dared, still left the canopy a bit too tall and a bit too narrow. I altered the mating angle of the canopy piece a bit in front, as well. When all this had been done, I bit the bullet and attached the thing. I did it in steps. I put several tiny dabs of CA gel on the facing of the fairing. I pressed the rear of the canopy down, so its top matched, which also spread out the bottom of the thing so its sides matched. Then I put a couple of dabs of CA gel on the front line, and pressed that into the right position. It took a couple of tries, mind, but worked out. There were gaps on the sides. I tried something I had never done before for these. I have read that you can swab away epoxy with rubbing alcohol on a Q-tip, and get one of those 'no sanding' fills with the stuff, like people do with putty and nail polish remover. Well, it works pretty well. I put clear 5-minute epoxy into the gaps, swabbed it down, and things wound up filled and very solidly attached. Rubbing alcohol does swab away Future, however, but the coat of it was not standing up to the rough handling needed in pressing the piece down anyway, so that is no loss; it looks better and clearer after the stuff was removed than with what became of it under handling on.

So I was feeling pretty good, and put on the paint; first a spray of Tamiya silver, and again after a bit of clean-up (there is always something shows up under a first spray of silver). Then I went over this with craft acrylic silver, heavily cut with Future. The fabric areas got a white tinted silver, and the metal areas just the straight silver, as this machine was quite new when at Dehkalia. I figured once the coats were dry enough I would just put on the oil cooler....

It was now that things started to get ugly. On the Revell re-issue of this kit I had built a couple of years ago, I had no trouble sanding down the kit's oil cooler piece, scribing narrow corrugation to it, and gluing it down over the painted finish, using its locator lugs. I expected a similar experience this time around. I did not get one. The old red plastic was a bit mealy, and things did not go well with it. I figured I would pirate a replacement from one of the two Revell re-issues I have, The plastic proved abominable, shot through with little hard patches. These would lift areas between scribed lines when hit with a point. Both Revell pieces were ruined. And now things got truly, truly ugly. I made a replacement oil cooler from scribed corrugate sheet, .5mm thick. Not a problem to do, in fact fairly quick and easy. But this stuff does not bend well to a curve, instead it wants to crack on its score lines. This meant it had to be glued down edge by edge, which would not have been a problem if I had decided to make my own oil cooler from the start and attached them and cleaned the areas before any painting, even any priming coats, had been applied. Well. I got the things down. I have made emergency repairs on the finish around the nose (I had had to scrape and sand things all the way down to bare red in places). After these pictures were taken, everything got a fresh coat of tinted silvers, and this will be allowed to dry for several days before any further handling is done. But canopy frames and upper wing on is the next order of business, and I think I will still manage the deadline, perhaps even without last-minute efforts.

Here for a preview is a picture of the thing with the upper wings resting in place:

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Hi. I see it is coming along nicely. Tough luck about the oil cooler, but I think you've worked it out OK.

May I make one suggestion. I have built 3 Gladiators, and one Fairey Swordfish, and I struggle a bit with getting the colour right for the engine exhaust collector ring. I read somewhere that the ring is of an alloy containing bronze, if memory serves. When it is heated and cooled it passes through colour changes. first a bit of pink, a bit of blue, a bit of grey, and it finally settles down into a shiny grey with a touch of pink (I guess the copper colour in the bronze coming out)

Here is a link to good photo of the Gladiator engine showing what the collector ring ends up looking like.

http://plane-crazy.k-hosting.co.uk/Aircraft/WW2-Planes/Gladiator/gladiator.htm

My suggestion would be to overcoat your collector ring with a bit of greyish wash to tone done the colour a bit.

Good luck. the Glad is one of my favourites.

PS. Isn't it a great feeling when you can finally put the top wing on a biplane and the character of the craft begins to appear?

PPS. For the rigging, try EZ Line. It is a nylon stretchy thread. I'm pretty sure you can get it in the UK. For information, check out the Wing Nut Wings website. They suggest it for rigging their kits.

Edited by Richard B.
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I read somewhere that the ring is of an alloy containing bronze, if memory serves.

Not bronze, brass or copper, but Monel, an alloy of predominantly nickel & copper, which does take on a bronzish tint with hints of red, yellow, blue and purple when heated to high temperatures.

Nice job so far Old Man on detaling an old Matchbox kit

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Thank you, Gentlemen, and thanks especially for the collector tips. The ring color was an experiment, and will be no trouble to change. When I still used enamels, I used to mix brass and silver as my basic color, and tint it with washes for heat effects. What I have been doing now is mixing silver with various browns and tans, but this time I tried using a silver base, and going over this with transparent yellows and oranges. I have done this with just yellows for brass fittings, and like the result, but the thing does not seem to have done the trick here. I think a mix of silver with a little deck tan will do for a base tone.

The 'Monel' alloy reminds me of 'German Silver', a copper and nickel alloy that was used a lot for table-ware, with heavy silver plating over it. There is a distinct pinkish-brown tone to it where the plating has worn off an old piece of this sort of tableware. Used to encounter it fairly often when a young man in the jewelry trade.

I am actually looking forward to doing the rigging. Most of what I build is biplanes, and even the monoplanes tend to be wire-braced. I use EZ-Line, mostly, but for short bits in hard to reach places I use tempered brass wire painted dark (I have a lot of the stuff, rated at .004" diameter). I am thinking of looking up some knitting-in elastic, which I am given to understand has a round section, rather than the strip shape of EZ-Line. Using the thinnest EZ-Line in 1/72 this shape passes un-noticed, but some of the machines in the thirties used pretty thing stuff for bracing, and in larger sizes the shape does show if you look.

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What is the diameter of the knitting in elastic? Approximately.

I've asked around here, for stretchy thread, but the stuff I found was pretty thick.

Now that I know what to call it, I'll search for it.

EZ Line is hard to find here in Canada.

Thanks.

Edited by Richard B.
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What is the diameter of the knitting in elastic? Approximately.

I've asked around here, for stretchy thread, but the stuff I found was pretty thick.

Now that I know what to call it, I'll search for it.

EZ Line is hard to find here in Canada.

Thanks.

I will be making a run to a large fabric store not too far from home next month, Sir, and will let you know. My understanding is it is a little thicker than EZ-Line, too.

Your subjects are always informative and I am looking forward.

Patrick

Thank you, Sir.

Glad you got a look at this.

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Well, Gentlemen, after all the oil cooler fuss, things have straightened out here, and gotten a bit more Sir Garnet with this. Upper wing is on, and structural rigging complete. Here are some pictures....

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Canopy frames were painted free-hand.

Cowling/motor assembly is still just pressed on; I have not yet done the intakes and supporting frames for the motor.

Next run should be all the last little bits like wheels and propeller and control rigging and such, with decals being the final step.

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Good for you for painting the canopy frames by hand. Looks good. Sometimes it's better to do it that way.

Thank you, Sir.

Fact is I am rather lazy, and so avoid the effort of masking....

But with a piece that has well defined frames, getting things straight is not too difficult. Keeping a tooth-pick to hand, to scrape away anything lapped over the frame line, is essential to the thing.

I will often use strips of painted decal film, and on bare metal finished, strips of foil, for the purpose.

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Not quite as much done as I had hoped to have done by this evening, but perhaps more than might meet the casual eye. The cowling is now fixed on, and exhausts added, wheels are on and propeller gotten ready for use. Various bits of touching up here and there, a repair of a broken interplane strut gotten down smooth, various bits like formation lights and pitot tubes restored. At any rate, here some pictures....

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I was unable to make the kit exhausts work with what I have done to the cowling. The plastic rod of appropriate size I have has gone a bit crumbly with age, and would not take a bend, as it used to do. So I wound up having to assemble the exhausts on the model, in several bit. I could be happier with the result, but this will have to do. I expect I should probably look into wire or solder for this purpose....

I am using the Pavla Fairey-Reed propeller for the Sea Gladiator; it needed a lot of work to clean it up and thin it down.

Wife has done serial number decals for this, which will be cured well enough to use by next weekend. I am looking forward to getting the yellow diamonds on the upper wing....

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Looking Good!

Don't forget the radio antenna.

It is in the photograph, Sir: it will be there.

I figure the upper wing decal should go down first, and then the masts be added as a last minute thing..

Edited by Old Man
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