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F-117A Nighthawk (1/32 Trumpeter)

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Hello all -

I began this build a while back, and ran into a bit of a stall mid last year. I figured I might post my progress to date, and perhaps I can find my mojo again to finish this once and for all. This is the new(ish) Trimpeter 1/32nd offering, with a few additions from Eduard, Airies, Quickboost, AFV club and a gaggle of various scratched bits here and there. As many here likely already know, the kit is relatively accurate in size and form, if not sadly underdetailed in the cockpit and wheel wells. Those areas were about the only places where detail was present on the jet, so I have tried to spend some time to add what I could. My progress to date is what follows. I have a more in depth build log (riddled with a few frustrations as I went) over on LSP for any interested in slogging along through pages of monotony. For brevity's sake, I figured I would concentrate more on the images themselves here instead, and keep the descriptions short. And here we are:

The kit wheels and seat were in need of detail, so Eduard Brassin and Quickboost to the rescue:
















Obviously, a large improvement. The wheel set in particular makes a massive improvement, though the seat speaks for itself equally well. From here, I began to work on the cockpit and interior details. With the Eduard interior set in hand, I went to work improving the fair - but sparse and rather clunky - kit cockpit. I began with the ruder pedals:



And after a bit of surgery:



And then with the new PE added:



In situ:



Kindly disregard the poor PE placement of the floor panel. My learning curve with CA and PE was steep at this point. :) You can see the basic nature of the kit's switches and dials as well. A splash of paint, and things look better:



And the kit main panel:



The rear bulkhead begins to take shape as well:



And the side panels begin to get their clothing as well:




Beginning to look the part - though some touch up is certainly needed:




Over the years, I found several images showing the layout of the cockpit, and there s abviously a bit of work to do to try and get things looking more prototypical. It seems that Trumpeter went the same way as Tamiya did with their otherwise excellent 1/48 kit, and based their molds on the pre-production testbed aircraft. The later active duty planes were more complex:




One glaring issue Trumpeter managed to work into this kit was the over-large seat. The new version from QB looked great - but was far too narrow to fit the kit ejection rails properly. Here is the kit seat, sitting snug between the rails:



And the QB seat looking exceptionally puny:



Space on both sides for days:



After a trip tot the local hobby shop. I found some C channel from Evergreen that I figured I might try on a hunch to take up some of the extra space:







As luck would have it, the fit was quite good! So, apart from the seat still looking too narrow for the space between the panels, at least it wasn't knocking about without a connection to the rails of some form. With everything trimmed, and glued in place, progress was being made:



Snug enough to hold things - even half way up the rails:



All beginning to come together now. Some PE bits thrown at the rear bulkhead, and work begun on the FLIR turret and lens:



Even tried to replicate the small pair of lights from the bulkhead on each side of the seat perhaps not the most convincing, but better than empty holes:



More to come...

Edited by uilleann

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Moving forward from the bottom end of things, I began work on the canopy and framing. This is a rather heavy and prominent part of the F-117's structure, and seems to often be overlooked by the kit manufacturers. I began with some PE from Eduard on the interior framing:


After an initial shot of black (and yes, I did in fact paint the white panel in the wrong position!) But later fixed it. :)


As that was drying, I set to work adding a few more small details and wire bundles to the rear bulkhead as it is so prominent:









Jumping back to the canopy framing, I fixed the white panel, and tried to add the appearance of the 6 bolts on the latch mechanisms:




With good progress made on things up top, I began to turn attention towards the otherwise completely sparse nose gear well. As you can see, even with the Eduard set, Trumpeter offers a very bare canvas to build from. Much work needed ahead:



The prototype looks only a small touch different eh? :)


Edited by uilleann

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This is the part of the build which I insert the image of my perfectly innocent looking chocolate Lab Mosey. Who, it turns out, fancies plastic, sandpaper, and PE snacks!


Thankfully, while she made quite the mess, it seems she didn't injest anything critical from the parts collection. :pizza::doh:

Edited by uilleann

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Back to the nose gear well. Began by adding some of the larger structures, and drilling numerous holes to accept wire, cable and hydraulic lines:


I feel this is a good time to state for the record that I positively HATE gloss white paint - and all it stands for!

Again, I have a way to go yet...


Slow progress:


Worked on correcting the sway brace tension springs with a bit of lead wire. Not perfect, but miles ahead of the over simplistic line of plastic Trumpeter thought they looked like:


In the interest of the above, I decided to use the plastic gear legs instead of the white metal that were also included in the kit. While the metal is obviously stronger, I liked the ability to work with the softer plastic for details such as the springs.

A quick comparison of the kit wheels to the Brassin resin. An all around improvement:




From here, I jumped back over to the canopy again for a bit more detail work. There are two map lights (I assume) on the forward framing that the kit missed (just ahead of the pilot's helmet/visor here):


Out with the plastic rod, and some extra fine wire, and a few minutes later I had a reasonable resemblence:


And installed:




Ah the stupid little details that make us so proud... :banghead:

Edited by uilleann

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Work turned back to the FLIR turret and lens. The F-117's FLIR uses a violet colored light transmission film/anti-glare treatment that is (for me anyway) impossible to properly replicate. I first tried mixing red and blue Tamiya clear paint with horrific results. Whatever that color was, it was not purple! I then happened upon some transparent metallic films from Hasegawa. My initial attempt was their green/magenta. Sadly, while the magenta really looked the part, the green reflection overpowered it in most light:


Still a cool look though. And being transparent, the 'lens' behind the film remained prominently visible. Then I headed back over to the cockpit again, as the O2 hoses (much like the drag brace springs) looked much too much like toothpaste blobs, and not actual hoses. So out with the lead wire once again, and the olive drab paint:


And a touch more work on the main panel as I got ready to add the decals here:


The kit stick was - much like the seat - oversized and clunky. But I tried my best with what I had:


Added the switch to the front:


In the mean time, I had ordered another color of flim to try for the FLIR and DLIR lenses. This time a blue mirror over a yellowish backing. Still not personally convinced it's quite right...but I think I like this better than the original green:


Back to the main panel now. Had a bit of a mini disaster with the kit decals, in that the first one I applied literally disintegrated upon application. So a frantic order to Peter at airscale, and he had me sorted in record time with a new sheet...that ended up being far far better than the originals anyway! Main panel beginning to look the part now:




One advantage to living in the high desert mountains is a good number of fly fishing shops within a close trip to the house. On one, I found these little gems which were perfect for a further bit of fun I was planning on the canopy framing:


And the beginnings of the interior canopy air duct work and connections missing from the kit:


The parts scaled out almost perfectly.


Edited by uilleann

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I really hope u find your mojo again because this is awesome. Nice neat paint work and I love those FLIRs - especially the latest ones. Very real looking!

So will it be black or will u be adventurous and choose a camo scheme? ;)

Can't wait to see more


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At this point, I decided to begin work on updating the look of the kit main gear doors to update their appearance from the supplied early version, to closer to the later (more intricate) type. Eduard's excellent exterior set at work:


Also got a package in the mail with these little beauties in! Mum's the word for now, but they will be put to good use very soon:


Attention turned once again back to the nose gear. The kit's representation of the nose gear steering unit was abysmal. And with it so prominent, I couldn't help but try to enhance the part. You can see the original represented by a cylinder (too tall mind you), with some strange square and three tiny nipples on. :hmmm::shrug: So I set to work with the smallest diameter tubing I had, and came up with something loosely based on the actual unit:


Sanded the top down (and got rid of the nipples), and added a bit of thin strip to make the unit stand proud of the gear leg instead of smashed up tight against it as originally moulded:


Getting there:




And a few test wires run to get a feel for the finished part:


From here, I looked to the nose gear door. The kit detail is seriously lacking on such a visible part:



So with Eduard's assistance once again, and the removal of most all the original details, we're off and running:


Added a new door piston and uplock latches as well:


After a coat of the dread gloss white, things began to come together:




Edited by uilleann

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And then it happened...

After all the work put in to try and fix the cockpit and seat to look as good as I was able, Aries up and outdoes themselves! After a bit of 'should-I...shouldn't-I'...I realized of course should and pulled the trigger on their new 1/32 cockpit set:



And the parts were nothing short of gorgeous! Looks like everything was CAD designed, then 3D printed, and finally cast in resin. The detail truly is stunning:


















A few of the parts had broken off in shipping, but weren't over difficult to reattach, such as the two pistons that fit behind the ejection seat here:


A bit of clean up, and then began work on the new rear bulkhead:


Also began some work on the instrument bezels. This is one area that this update set shines in astronomical fashion! I decided to add some of airscale's instrument bezels to the PE that came from Aires just to give a little more depth to the panel, and really set off the look:


At a glance, the difference isn't huge between the kit parts and the Aires. But with a closer look, the level of detail really is night and day different:




I have a bit of paint touch up to do (curse you macro lens!) but you get the general idea here...




And the new rear bulkhead:


The new main panel is stunning. The depth, the detail and the look are all first rate:


A quick dip in Future for the instrument glass, and the look is almost complete:


When compared against the kit parts, there really isn't a fair comparison in terms of accuracy and quality:




I started work on the MFD screens, and this is where the theatre lighting gels I ordered earlier start to come in to play. I used a very dark grey filter (per photos of the actual aircraft), dipped in Future, cut to shape of the central screen, and set in place. It's an effect that paint or decals just can't replicate:


Similar treatment for the twin side screens, except to use a lighter grey/purplish color with a matte finish to replicate their look:




Really beginning to look the part:


Edited by uilleann

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Top work there mate.

Look forward to see some more of it.



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Work then turned to the surgery of the kit fuselage to fit the resin cockpit and IP cowling. having never performed this sort of work before, I did the best I was able with limited knowledge and skill. All in all, seems to have turned out well enough:






After I finished with the stress of cutting into an otherwise perfectly good kit, I decided to take a bit of a break and tackle something easy. So in went the "platypus" exhaust, so unique to the F-117A:


The directional vanes are horribly over sized in thickness sadly:


Also glued in the bomb bay doors. Wasn't planning on doing this build with them open even from the start. The fit was excellent here:


A test fit of the resin has a few gaps around the front cowling that will need attention before all is said and done:


But the overall fit and look is still very good:


Have to run off to dinner with friends for a bit here, but will post more progress when I get back this evening. Cheers!


Edited by uilleann

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More bits for the canopy. Added the rest of the duct work and thickened the rear sides per the original with some strip, card and a touch of PE:






And with some paint splashed on:


At this point, I began to look towards the main gear and gear wells. There's a lot going on here, and as per the nose well, Trumpeter gives no appreciable level of detail to speak of at all (and sadly almost all that is there is completely wrong):




Works begins adding various bits as best I can tell with the extremely limited images available. Added a bit of rod to the interior of the main gear to add strength:


The fit of the struts to the wells is as good as can be hoped:


A few more details:








My gloss white was throwing fits again when I sprayed the wells. Ended up with wicked orange peel in the finish. Sorted it all out down the road. Added a few small details and bolt heads to the main gear struts as well:


After viewing Pappy's excellent build here of his own 1/48 Night Hawk, I was inspired to fix a few other issues with the Trumpeter gear. First on the list, the drag brace actuator arms. The kit has these parts simplistically moulded as a solid piece of plastic. In reality they are, of course, two completely separate linkages, and there is further hydraulic detail missing above the lower attachment point. So out with the trusty #11, and the surgery commenced:


And the more or less completed part:


Edited by uilleann

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I was debating doing the same treatment to the main gear's drag braces as well, because they are tucked so far back underneath the wings as to be hard to see. But my modeling OCD got the best of me and I decided it best to move forward addressing those as well. The process looked something like this:












The newly completed legs looking better in the wells:


Added some further wire/cable/hydro lines, and a touch of a light wash to move the main wells closer to completion:










With the added detail to the doors, and the Brassin wheel set to compliment things, the wells were looking decent enough to my eye. Also got some new stator/compressor faces from Mike at Sierra Hotel models:






The Eduard PE can't be said enough how much it helps the look for anyone wanting to model the later style main doors:


Added small styrene strip to the wheel recesses to mimic somewhat the original. Not perfect, but a step closer at any rate:


A quick coat of white and a test fit. Definitely like the added dimension:


PE tie down rings also added to the main struts. These replaced the solid circular disc that Trumpeter somehow thought looked like these. :)


And a touch more detail added to the main doors. These are often closed when the aircraft is parked or taxiing, but I wanted to take every opportunity to show detail on what is an otherwise very flat and generally featureless plane:


Also decided to have a go at reworking the simplistic hydraulic pistons for the doors themselves. The kit offering was once again very simplistic and not well representative of the prototype. I used a good deal of artistic license here - partially because I really have no good idea what these should properly look like in total, and my skills to faithfully reproduce it would likely fall rather short. I'm generally happy with the result here:




A quick mock up looks rather pleasing to me, with all said and done:


One element I never felt quite right about were the springs on the drag brace actuator arms. The original coiled lead wire looked better than the plain line of the kit's original parts, but I hadn't really captured the true look of these highly visible parts. So back to the drawing board I went. With a bit of trial and error, I came up with something I liked much better:




The "new and improved" against an example of the kit part:




Edited by uilleann

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Sadly for me, this was my last update roughly mid year 2014. I lost a family member unexpectedly and it was hard to get up the motivation again after his loss. Then the wife threw in a complete kitchen remodel, and I have been completely drained of time, money, and energy to keep up my regular progress on the kit. I'm hoping to get back at it here again soon, and try to get it all wrapped up this year. I certainly appreciate the kind comments so far, and look forward to any poking and prodding to get moving again in earnest!



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I remember seeing how big the box was for this in my local model shop and it was huge and I never picked one up. The resin cockpit is a big improvement over the kit part and the extra detail you're adding is fantastic. I know how easy it is to loose your mojo with a project. I seem to keep flitting from model to model when I get to a task I don't want to do or I get inspired by something else and the model goes on hold. I have been working on my Airfix 1:24 Mossie recently and realised that it has been 4 years since I last worked on it. The good thing is that it's a hobby and there is no deadline so they get finished when they get finished.

Look forward to seeing further progress on this model when you get back to it.

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Lovely job..great detail... lookingofrward to seeing this through!

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very nice , what attention to detail!

the PE really adds up with this kit, no?

shame about our nice cockpit!, but then, the Aires pit is really wonderful!

keep up your good work!

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Again, thanks all for the encouragement. It really is a nice kit overall - just a bit sparse on the detail side. But as I'm finding, nothing a bit of aftermarket and some scratch building can't overcome in most cases. This entire build is a pretty wild learning curve for me as I am by no means a full time modeler. Prior to starting in on this kit, my previous attempt was about 10 years earlier on the Tamiya 1/48 scale version of the same. I have no bench to speak of - just some room on the computer desk here. Learning as I go of course, with each successful scratch built part, PE addition, and resin accoutrement, I feel a little better about charging ahead towards completion in a manner that seems proper and fitting for this historic aircraft. I'm again clearing off some space here on the desk this afternoon, and am going to see if I can make some progress here today once again. Cheers! B~

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What a superb job you are making of a basic kit this is absolutely worth the watch.


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WOW!!!!! fantastic work, i am in the midst of building this kit myself. I am going to use your build as a tutorial. I just finished the Flir and Dlir and decided to add in a fine mesh like the real thing. i used the Hasegawa modelling mesh, but the results are not as realistic. i should have left it without a mesh, what i would recommend is custom decals of a fine mesh on the inside

cant wait to see you detail the bomb bay

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very very nice work!

I'm impressed by the level of details you added.

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Again, thanks very much all. It's definitely been a fun build so far...if not a bit frustrating here and there. Shan, will you be doing a WIP thread as well? I'd very much like to see your progress too.

As for the bomb bay...I already cemented mine closed. Quite possibly grounds for high treason with any model of this aircraft - but a choice I made back at the beginning of my build. Hope that's forgivable.

Small progress this evening as I worked towards finishing off the details of the one gear leg. Not much to show yet, but I'll get a few photos up here when I'm a little further along.



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Greetings Brian

i don't think i have the discipline and dedication for a WIP thread. My progress on this hobby is really slow. Its a pity, u have decided to close the bomb bay, looks like i cant copy yours? ha ha. I will start working on the landing gears, so i will be referring to your work.

My Pathetic Progress so far....

The Cockpit - Aires








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Shan - great looking work! Am I correct in guessing you've used the Eduard Exterior set to help dress your nose gear bay as well? And that Aires cockpit...delicious! It looks like you've mounted yours a touch differently than I did mine, and you left your kit sills intact. I have been dreading having to go back and re-drill the rear two holes on each sill.

Not sure if you found it already yourself or not, but the Dayton IPMS chaps have put up a brilliant walk around on the F-117A. You can find it here for a look. It's the best and really only reference I've found with any useable imagery of the gear wells. And even as good as it is, it still leaves the main wells almost entirely a mystery.

I've been working a bit on the nose gear leg over the past couple days, and spent a good bit of the afternoon today trying to figure out how to best completely replace the landing light up front. Trumpeter offers up a horrific mass of square plastic resembling the original not at all. So a replacement lens from MV Products was the basis of a small stack of various styrene sheet and square rod. Still not perfect, but at least better than what was presented initially.

Hope to have some pics later this evening. Have the camera on the charger now...



P.S. For an exceptional WIP involving an extremely detailed and well made bomb bay, have a look at here.

Edited by uilleann

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Greetings Brian

yes i am using the Eduard external detail set.

thanks for that link on Pappy's work, that bomb bay is freakin awesome. Pity they don't have it in 1/32 scale.

cant wait to see you progress on the landing gears, sounds interesting with your mods that you have carried out.

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