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When I was very young, building airplane kits using only tube glue and whatever decals were included in the kit (paint? who needs paint?), I remember reading in the newspaper about how the President had revealed the US was flying a super-secret, super-fast spy plane. Not long afterward, Revell released a model of the SR-71, which I bought from my local hobby store and quickly glued together.


I built one or two others over the years, my last one probably some time in the 1970s. By then I had graduated to using putty and rattle-can paint, but that's about as far as my skills had progressed. Since getting back into the hobby over the past few months, I've learned a lot of new techniques on this forum and have been pretty happy with my last few builds. So here I am about to try them out on the 1/72 Academy SR-71A Blackbird:




Aftermarket items that I plan on using are shown below:




My god -- This is a big airplane even in 1/72 scale!




Although the parts count is relatively small, I foresee a couple of challenges already. First, the wheel wells (especially for the nose gear) are much too shallow. Fortunately (?) the Eduard PE addresses this, but it involves building a new bay from PE; we'll see how that goes....




The second challenge is the paint job. What??? (you might say), it's all black, what could be easier? Well, black can be notoriously difficult to make look right, and after viewing some photos of the actual aircraft I've found that the Blackbird typically had a heavily weathered appearance. Judge for yourself from the pics below:






In my last build (Italeri's A-6E Intruder, see the RFI here: http://www.britmodeller.com/forums/index.php?/topic/235027369-a-6e-intruder-italeri-172/ ) I focused on learning how to realistically weather modern US Navy jets, which are in theory gray overall but in reality have many different shades of gray (50? LOL!) due to weathering, sun bleaching, anti-corrosion touch-ups, etc.). I'm thinking I can use these same techniques on the Blackbird, but with black instead of gray.



Wish me luck!

Edited by billn53
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Remember that due to the construction used in the SR-71’s. The seems on the skin were actually loose on the ground. And were designed to close up in flight when the skin heated up from friction.  *Disclaimer* ...  I’ve read accounts of that causing fuel leakage on the undersides of the aircraft when parked. Also i remember something about the tires either having metal in them ? Or possibly metal dust melting into them from the extreme heat. And thats why they are silver colored in some descriptions and/or photo’s.  


* - not sure how true either are ? Maybe someone knows better ? I’ve read both things in more than one source over the last 35 years though. 

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A few years ago, the U.S. Navy aired a series of recruiting commercials with the slogan, "Let the Journey Begin". So, let's have at it!


I am popping the cherry on this build in an nontraditional manner. Instead of starting with the cockpit, I have chosen to begin with the nose gear bay. My reasoning? The kit's nose gear bay is much too shallow, which the Eduard detail set addresses by providing a deeper bay which must be built up from various pieces of PE. Then, a portion of the kit's bay must be cut away to accommodate the replacement. I wanted to get this job out of the way as early as possible. So, here goes:


First, the Eduard instructions:




And my start at turning flat metal sheet into a 3D object:





I was inspired by Nigel Heath to break out my soldering iron for this, which has been sitting idle in my tool box for over a decade!


While examining how everything fits together, I noted that the detail on the landing gear leaves much to be desired.




The Eduard PE should be a big improvement here:




But one thing I will have to correct on my own is the landing lights. Specifically, the SR-71 had two lights on the nose gear, but the kit has only one.




(Note also that the rubber for the SR-71's nose gear is black, unlike the main landing gear tires which are a silvery light gray having been impregnated with aluminum)


Somewhere in my spare parts collection I have some of these gems leftover from my recent F-105 build, which should be perfect assuming I can find them LOL!




They are really quite realistic. Here's a photo of them on my Thud's main landing gear:




The weekend is coming up fast, so I should have more to report in a few days.








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On ‎02‎/‎10‎/‎2017 at 3:04 AM, hsr said:

It's a good thing you have after market decals. The ones that come with that kit are useless.


Good luck

Typical of Academy's own decals!!!


I find the SR-71 fascinating - I mean just look at it and what it could do - designed by men with pencils and slide rules.  Outstanding.


Looking forward to this taking shape.



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The PE nose gear bay is pretty much done, all I need to do is to graft it onto the kit. I've also started cleanup on the nose gear in preparation for adding the PE details.




I did have a very close call, however. While finishing off the nose bay, I accidentally spilled a bottle of super-thin CA onto my hands, shirt, and pants. The reaction with my pants generated a lot of heat, and I very quickly stripped down to my birthday suit. Even so, I got a couple of burns on my leg. I'm just thankful it wasn't a few inches in another direction haha!




Fortunately, I had a bottle of CA solvent handy and was able to clean up the mess (both on my workbench and my skin) without too much difficulty. But it looks like I'm going to have to order a new bottle of solvent soon! BTW this stuff is great, if you use CA you definitely need to have this!





After all that excitement, I'm going to call it a night and pick up again tomorrow.


Edited by billn53
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Nasty with the CA: I've stuck various body parts to all sorts of things over the years but managed to avoid any lasting damage: a salutary lesson.


Great build and look forward to seeing how it goes. Was lucky to see a few of these flying over the years and have a soft spot for the Blackbird.

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Going back to the Eduard nose gear bay, I was wondering what the two cylindrical items are in the rear of the bay




and ran across this photo on the web:




Mystery partly solved -- they are some type of tanks (what they hold, I don't know). Now I had a problem, because Eduard's representation of these tanks is pretty lame. So I ripped them out and roughed up a couple of tank-like items in Milliput. I haven't used Milliput before, hopefully I'll be able to refine their shape without too much of a problem.




While waiting for the Milliput to harden, I finished adding the PE details to the landing gear legs (landing lights and cables will be added later):





And the Blackbird's wheels are cleaned up, primed, and ready for paint.






Edited by billn53
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It's a bit past noon on Sunday and most of the morning has been spent working on the Blackbird's wheels & tires. For reference, here are the real things:






Paints I selected to best match the photos are:




The hubs for all eight  wheels were first painted Aircraft Interior Black, and the nose gear's tires got a coat of Mr. Color Tire Black.




For the tires on the main gear, I first painted the sidewalls ModelMaster Light Gray. From various photos I've seen, the treads are quite a bit darker due to wear. To simulate this, I soaked part of a paper towel with Mr Color Barley Gray, then rolled the tires over the paper towel.




On this kit the center wheel is actually molded into the main landing gear leg, so rolling was not an option. Instead, I lightly dabbed the paint onto the tread using a cosmetic eye shadow sponge:




You may have noticed that the paints I've used include both enamels and acrylics, and some are flat while others are semi-gloss. Once everything is dry I will give the wheels a shot of Dullcoat, drybrush and do a wash on the wheel hubs to bring out detail, then finish off with a coat of satin clear on the wheel hubs. 


In case you are wondering, I've not forgotten my nose gear bay. Here's where I stand with adding new Milliput tanks for the bay:




I'm not done with the gear bay by a long shot, but already it's much better than what I started with!


P.S. I wasn't satisfied with how the treads on the main gear's wheels turned out (too light), so I've added a second color, RLM02 gray, which I think looks much better. I also treated the nose wheels' treads with Tamiya NATO black. I'll post photos when the landing gear are complete. 

Edited by billn53
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Last update on this weekend's work. Worked some more on detailing the nose gear bay, I'm calling this done with the exception of final painting.






And the wheels have been added to the landing gear. This part of the build is also done, with the exception of adding landing lights and cables, which I plan to do later.




Not too bad, considering what I had to start with:





Next up: the Blackbird's office!







Edited by billn53
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Making slow but steady progress, here's where I stand with the SR-71's cockpit. Eduard PE panels and aft bulkhead for the pilot's position are installed, and everything painted up.




It seemed to me that there was too much spacing between the pilot's seat and the seat for the systems operator. I.e., with the systems operator's seat in it's rearmost position, the pilot's seat and aft bulkhead were too far forward in the fuselage. I ended up taking about 1/16 inch out of the cockpit, as you can see in the photo below:




Instrument panels ready for installation:




And Wolfpack's resin bang-seats from have been painted:




You might be wondering why the seat cushions look rather flat? And, where are the harnesses? Answer is that I cut them off to make room for these dudes:




Who I stole from another kit in my stash. 

Edited by billn53
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This is about as far as my limited figure painting skills are going to take me, especially at 1/72 scale. At arm's length they don't look half bad...




The real McCoy:




Aviator dudes feel the need for speed, and are already in their seats. Too bad their ride isn't ready yet. Gonna have to do something about that! :-)





Edited by billn53
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Looking good, I tried this kit in 1/48 way back when. Never got the upper and lower fuselage to join property as liquid poly wasn't readily available. I suspect the pilots will be barely visible once the cockpit is closed up but still worth the effort.

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The cockpit is mostly ready to install, but before I can do that I have some work on the fuselage that will be easier (and more safely) done without the cockpit in place. This is the challenge:




It's a set of PE grids for the Blackbird (it also includes some nice looking doors for the forward landing gear. More on this will be revealed in due course...)




My problem is that I don't want to simply glue the grids in place, else I'll have something that looks like:




which probably is not the best streamlining for a Mach 3-plus aircraft. I'm sure Kelly Johnson would not approve!


My strategy is to cut away portions of the fuselage for each grid, creating a shallow ledge on which I can glue the PE, leaving it flush with the fuselage skin. Easier said than done! Approaching this task with not a little fear of screwing it up, I decided to begin on the underside of the engines, where any mistakes will be less obvious.




Here is the first grid, cut away from it's frame and given a gentle curve:




I carefully locate where it should sit and tape it in place:




I then scribe around the PE with my scriber. We only need to go as deep as the PE is thin.




With one end done, move the tape and do the other end. Once that's finished, I centerpunch a set of marks around the periphery, about 1/16-inch from the edge...




and carefully drill out the marked locations




You could do this by hand, but it's much too slow. I used this variable-speed contraption which is intended for manicures. It runs smooth as glass and even comes in your choice of colors, pink or purple!






Using a hobby knife, carefully cut through the holes to create a rough opening. Use light pressure and many gentle strokes to keep control of the blade. If you get impatient the blade will slip and go somewhere you don't want it to go (you can see below that I'm speaking from experience!)




Clean up the hole, but don't go all the way to the etched outline (remember, we're trying to create a ledge for the PE to sit on). Then, carefully scrape down the surface of what is left, using the etched outline as a guide. The ledge we're creating only needs to be deep enough for the PE to sit on.




You can do this with a standard #11 blade, but I find it easier to use a knife with a shorter blade. This one works great:




Here is the result of all our work:






Voila! Two down, twenty more to go! It may be a while before my next update... cheerio!





Edited by billn53
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Just a quick update. Continuing the effort of cutting holes in my Blackbird for the PE grids. Eight done so far, another 14 or so to go. Plus I will need to cut out part of the nose and main wheel wells for more PE items. If this plane were a boat it would be on the bottom of the sea!




To break the tedium I decided to give my aircrew some shoulder patches!




At the rate I'm going, I won't be finished with my grid work until this weekend at the earliest. But once that's complete I should be close to buttoning-up the fuselage, and from there the biggest job will be getting a realistically-weathered paint job on this beast!




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Still making progress, but I'm not going to bore you with pictures of yet more holes in my Blackbird. Instead, I just received this wonderful reference that I ordered a few weeks ago:




Plenty of detail shots, for example, here's one of the grids that I'm currently focused on:




The text is also quite informative. One minor mystery is solved -- the two melon-shaped tanks in the nose gear bay contain liquid nitrogen, which was used to purge the fuel tanks as they became depleted during flight. And the brownish color on the walls of the bay are thermal insulation.




On the down side, I also learned that the color of the flight suits changed over the years. Originally they were silver. In the 1960s they switched over to white. The yellow-ish colored suits showed up much later.




Too bad I didn't know this earlier, as I'm planning to model a Vietnam-era Blackbird, so the flight crew that I so carefully painted up are in the wrong colors! That's one inaccuracy that I'm just going to live with :-) 


Edited by billn53
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Hello,Bill - Wishing you good luck with this great subject.I built the Academy kit and enjoyed it.Here she is,built OOB with only homemade RBF Tags and Seat Straps added.

😉👍 All The Best,Paul.



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