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1/72 Fairey Rotodyne: Heather relives her childhood!

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Thanks chaps! With a fair wind this model will be complete tomorrow, Thursday at the latest. I've been aiming to complete it before I head off to a do in the West Midlands over the weekend, and when I get home it's back to the "day job" building model railway thingies. 


Right. Paint.




I rummaged in my paint box and came up with a couple of Humbrol tinlets that might be useful. Plan A is to mix Hu14 with some white to match the transfers. Plan B was to use other blueish shades in various combinations until it worked. The lower part of the fuselage still needs to be painted aluminium, so I could use it as a sort of tester area. In fact, that's exactly what I did, though I haven't photographed my current results. 




Happily, despite a lengthy bath, the transfers have actually adhered to the surfaces they are on. Happy Heather! :yahoo: The serials have been done, too. I'm not going to be bothered by silvering, as the misregistration is bad enough anyway. It is what it is. 


Tomorrow, I shall airbrush some gloss enamel varnish over the tail bits to fix the transfers, and then I can look at retouching as necessary.




Getting the fuselage stripe round that rump is painful. Lots of Micro Sol has been applied, and I hope it'll settle adequately. I ploughed on and did both sides, plus the rotor tower. That just leaves the "Fairey Rotodyne" script below the windows which will have to wait for the aluminium to be done.


It's starting to look really nice, warts and all. Well, that'll jinx it if nothing else does!


By the way, I'm sure you're all keen to know, the paint scheme is pretty much as I outlined previously. White acrylic primer on everything. The wings and tailplanes (and the lower fuselage eventually) have been brush painted using a flat sable brush and Humbrol Metalcote 27002 Polished Aluminium enamel. This has just a little shine to it, which is nice. Sadly, it doesn't polish further, but there you go. It does rather show up the scratches and sanding flaws, too. :lalala:The fuselage had three brushed coats of Humbrol Clear (lovely stuff that self levels, can be brushed with ease, or airbrushed straight from the jar, and cleaned up with just water), and I will spray some more over the transfers tomorrow morning. I'll paint the fuselage lower bits, then retouch the transfers as best I can, and paint the canopy frames in the same colour where required. The final acts will be to remove the canopy masking, repair the inevitable damage, attach the wings and tailplane, pop the rotor in the hole on top, and get some proper photography done for the gallery. 


Yeah, right! 



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Beautiful job Heather... seams vanished, smooth finish, great save on the transfers and wow, that colour matching; impressive!


7 hours ago, Heather Kay said:

It's starting to look really nice, warts and all.

Agreed, although I can't see any warts in those pictures! :) 

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1 hour ago, CedB said:

Agreed, although I can't see any warts in those pictures! :) 

Ah, despite all the anti-acne work, some residual pimples can still be seen - specially on the wings. In fact, it's probably more realistic than the original rivets. Well, I keep telling myself that, anyway.

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I have just caught up with this thread and must say this is one of my favourite subjects, as I am old enough to say I saw the Rotodyne flying at the Farnborough Air Show in 1959, then again in 1960. As soon as this kit was released, I had it for Christmas and my Dad built it, making a splendid job at the time(not as good as yours though Heather!).  I still have a couple of re-boxings in my stash as well as three of the much superior Revell 1/87th Rotodyne kits, for which AirDecal make a decal sheet covering three scheme variations.  The third fin was added in 1960 to aid stability and the Rotodyne was given RAF markings in 1961 in anticipation of a military order, which sadly never came. It was scrapped in January 1962.

The Rotodyne Flight Engineer, David Gibbings, is still with us and looks after the Westland archives at Yeovil, where I met him a couple of years ago. He has written a book on the Rotodyne, which can be found on Amazon and E., Bay, which is a very good reference source.   

Edited by AMB
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32 minutes ago, AMB said:

I have just caught up with this thread and must say this is one of my favourite subjects


Adrian, thank you. I am envious of you having seen the machine actually flying. Like TSR2, Rotodyne fell to a victim of political circumstance. It's often surprising to look back at the 1950s and realise the UK was literally leading the world in aviation technology, yet we virtually threw it - or gave it, in some instances - all away.


I inspected the transfers round the rump first thing. They had settled a little, but still exhibited some wrinkles. I decided to cut my losses and gently used a sharp No10 blade in my Swann Morton handle to slice the along each wrinkle by rolling the curved blade. I then applied a brush coat of Clear over all the transfers on the fuselage. I used a wide flat brush, and used it to press gently on the cut wrinkles to encourage them to bed down. It more or less worked. The tail end stripes are all a bit wonky, though. Not much I can do about that now. Oh, how I wish for someone to give this kit some aftermarket love. Perhaps Airfix will reissue the kit with new decals transfers as part of their Classic range.


Leaving the Clear to dry, which it does quickly being acrylic, I whipped the wing and tail assemblies into my paint shop and airbrushed some gloss enamel varnish over them to protect the transfers on the tail feathers. While that is drying, the Clear had done its thing, so it was time for some more colour matching.




Here you can see how I used the area below the transfer as a mixing palette to try colours for best Mk1 Eyeball match. It took several goes, and even now it's not absolutely spot on. It is, however, the best I'm going to manage, and applying the Two Foot Rule*, it's hard to see the touched up areas. Close to, you can see them if you look hard enough. It all kind of depends on the lighting.


The worst thing with these 1990s Humbrol period transfers was they tended to flake along the edges. The pin stripes along the fuselage are particularly prone to this, although the upper one benefited from the white being misprinted slightly off. That doesn't show against the white painted fuselage. I've touched in the bottom edge as best I can - allowing for approaching old age and an increasingly shaky painting hand - and now I'm wondering how safe it might be to mask along the transfer so I can paint the aluminium areas by brush. This will be the final major painting exercise for this model, at least.


*If you view the model from two feet away (60cm for younger viewers) you can't see the flaws. This is never going to be a competition or museum-quality model.

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1 hour ago, Heather Kay said:

*If you view the model from two feet away (60cm for younger viewers) you can't see the flaws. This is never going to be a competition or museum-quality model.

It looks OK from up here Heather. :winkgrin: Great progress, and well done on recovering the decals, I think that I would have been testing out the kits aerodynamic qualities at that stage.

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Cheers John! Yes, flight testing might have been an option. I doubt it would have been as successful as the real one.


A day of two steps forward, one-and-a-bit back. So close to completion - and this is something I find with my railway modelling work, too - you have to watch what you're doing to avoid a visit from Captain C*ckup and his Crew.




I Clear coated the transfers. I thought they'd be safe to mask. I was very wrong. :headbang:  :swear:


Rather than just give up at this point, though I was sorely tempted, I put my best foot forward, took a deep breath and decided to just fix it. Luckily I only used a thin tape, as I'd planned to brush paint up to it. A wider tape would have ripped the whole transfer off. :tmi: So, a couple of further Clear coats, horses and stable doors and so on. Once they were dry, out with the blue paint again. I mixed a lot to get more consistency, and I dabbed and blobbed to repair as best I could. Inevitably, the white pin stripe had blue in it. I cast about my bench for a solution.


I am well used to working with a bow pen (ask your granddad!) for applying paint lines on railway models. I won't say I'm good at it, but I have done it before with moderate success. That would be an option, for both the blue and white linework. As it was, the blue bits were okay. I just needed to tidy the white bit. I felt a bow pen might actually cause more damage to the transfer surface, so rejected an otherwise workable idea. 


In my brush and pen pot I found a paint pen that only rarely gets used as the density of the ink is thin. It was, however, just the right size to repair the white pin stripe. Worth a try. It couldn't get any worse.




This one's a silver one, which I also used to give me a bit of a cheat line under the bottom edge of the transfers to paint up to later on. Anyway, long story short, the white pen did the trick. It's a horrid bodge, but I rather fear this is all I will be able to manage with what I started with. 




Here you see blue blobbiness, some white repair, and silver cheatline. Pretty, it ain't. Onward!




At the front end, the white line is showing a little of the lack of density. Once it had dried, I went over it again, which helped. Note the blue blobs from earlier colour match tests. 




Happy with the bodge repairs, I decided it was worth just getting on and painting the bottom of the fuselage. Flat sable brush, Humbrol polished aluminium paint, a steady hand, slow and carefully painting up and just over the silver cheat line. I managed it without Captain C*ockup making further appearances.




The big reveal: time to take off the cockpit masking. What horrors would be revealed? Well, surprisingly few, and nothing the odd touch-up with a fine brush and suitable colours couldn't deal with. One sigh of relief.  :fingerscrossed:




Something that's always been missing from this kit is the instrument probe on the nose. Yes, I know there are other things missing, but you know what I mean. As I'd started adding details, like the window runners, windscreen wipers (soon), and even the cabin door handle (again, soon), I had to include the probe. Diving into my metal stocks, I took a length of 1mm diameter brass rod and trimmed it what I felt was the right length. A slight kink lets it pass through the nose and up into the instrument binnacle beyond while remaining horizontal on the outside. If you look at photos, you will see the real one does this, too. I spent a while carefully attempting to file the round rod square, and imparting a taper towards the end. I finished up soldering a shaped bit of 0.45mm nickel silver wire (it's what fell out of the packet when I dragged it off the store shelf) to the end. Soldering is bread and butter work for me in the "day job". I know it's something some of the BM community struggle with it. I'm not about to set myself up as any sort of expert. I chemically blackened the probe, polished it up to get it slightly shinier, then painted Humbrol Metalcote Polished Steel on it. That was also polished up to a nice shine.




Push in the nose, bedded in with a drop of canopy glue at the hole, and checked for being square on and level. Happy with that. Something going right again.




Having painted the lower fuselage, it was time to think about *shudder* the final set of transfers. As I trimmed them from the wreckage of the sheet, the surface felt gritty. Alarm bells began ringing, and I feared contact with water would result in an immensely complex and minute million piece jigsaw puzzle. After comments up-thread, I thought I'd try a coat of two of Clear over the transfers, which I also split up to make it easier to handle in case of disasters. My current thinking is if the Clear holds them together, we're winning. If it doesn't, and they still fall apart, I shall simply leave them off the finished model. We shall await the outcome in due course.


What's left to do? Fit the wings and tailplanes. Final paint touching up as required (the tailplane support struts, for example, which are the last kit components to fit). Oh, and windscreen wipers. Where's me road vehicle bits box? :drunk:


Edited by Heather Kay
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21 minutes ago, Dave Swindell said:

Just got the latest issue of Aeroplane Monthly mag, the Database section is a history of the Rotodyne.

Useful, but a bit late for me. Might be helpful for other Rotodyne wannabe modellers, though. :thumbsup:

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You're doing a fantastic job on the Rotodyne and giving us all a lesson in overcoming 'old kit' issues. I learned a hard lesson on masking over coated transfers in the Matchbox GB so just wish I could have got a warning in earlier - however, you solved it with more top tips. Very impressed! By the way, there are some railway engines and rolling stock kits that would be eligible for this GB.......

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Time to attempt the last transfers...




Well, they sort of worked in the end. Plenty of silvering, but I'm not going to worry over that. For the other side, I split each individual word in half to make it less of a chore. In fact, it might just have been simpler to chop out each letter, but I didn't. No point speculating, eh? A quick brushed coat of gloss enamel varnish will stop these beggars being accidentally wiped off by my typically careless handling.




Oh, hello? What's this then? Actually gluing a wing on? What am I thinking?


I'm thinking "How the heck can I prop this to glue the other wing on!"










Just a quick snap as I think this is all but finished. Tomorrow I'll clear the decks and get some decent photosnapticating done for the Gallery.


Well, that was actually quite a fun build. It didn't end up quite as "classic" as I'd originally intended, but then I've added one or two simple enhancements to just keep me satisfied and to correct one or two issues. Other builders have reviewed the Rotodyne and claimed it was frustrating at times, but ultimately rewarding. I think I can agree there. For a kit that really hasn't changed since it first popped out of a moulding machine in 1959, with some care and attention it scrubs up pretty well.


There are areas that could definitely be improved with more care. A dedicated builder, looking for a super-detailed scale model of a Rotodyne could quite probably make a decent replica using one of these kits as a basis. I'm sure better turbo prop details could be made, the undercarriage could be jazzed up a lot, some interior fittings and a more accurate cockpit could be done. The rotor head and blades are a bit basic, and could be made a bit more accurate with some care, too.


So, let's see: I last helped build one of these something like 45 years ago. I'm pretty sure the one that Dad built, with my help, didn't end up half as neat as this one. Would I build another? Well, should Airfix decide to reissue the kit in their new Classic range, I might give it a second glance and consider whether it could be converted to the RAF transport role I had originally envisaged for this model. Then again, perhaps not.


Now, where am I going to put this one now it's finished? I don't have a shelf big enough!

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6 minutes ago, Ratch said:

You're doing a fine job Heather 😍

Ta. It's been fun. I do, however, really need to get on with paying work next week. I haven't really had a proper holiday for a while, so I treated this past fortnight or so as annual leave. It's been good to let my mind wander free, to reset things a bit in the old noggin, and get myself back into feeling like doing the work people pay me to do.


I mustn't forget I also have that FrankenDornier to work on.

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1 minute ago, MarkSH said:

A very impressive build on all counts, especially with the decaling and colour matching. Great result.

Thanks! It's not perfect, but it's about as good as I can make it, all things considered.


Now, if the kit transfer designers had bothered to match Humbrol Gloss 14 with their inks (and got the registration of the print better), I wouldn't have had to mix and match. :drunk::rofl:

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You’re certainly putting both boots in to try and make the most of this classic plastic Heather, and have to say this is a fantastic result and a truly entertaining ‘Warts and All’ thread. Most of us would have given up way back, however you’ve shown all of us that perseverance always pays off in the end. I would have to agree that a reissued kit with new and workable decals is the only way I’d part money to add this to the stash - then I’d need to be injected with a large dose of whatever you take each morning to even attempt to build this thing. 


This is the type of thread that should be published in magazines as it relates more to most of us, than whats on offer at the moment. I don’t mean to denigrate many of the splendid modellers on BM who actually do write in model magazines. All I’m saying is that it is a refreshing change to read ones recovery techniques on top of their excellent modelling abilities. 


Cheers and thanks.. Dave

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2 minutes ago, Rabbit Leader said:

All I’m saying is that it is a refreshing change to read ones recovery techniques on top of their excellent modelling abilities. 

Exactly Dave, All too often the magazine write ups portray builds as fall together, perfect fit, no skill required to build type reports. Its refreshing to have someone explain where the pitfall lie and how to overcome them :star:

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Thank you Dave. I do enjoy knocking together older kits. They hail from simpler times, and can make a very refreshing change from the more technical modern kits. I like the modern kits a lot, but in a way I miss the simplicity when bogged down in interior details that may never be seen again.


I shall take proper photos tomorrow and get them in the gallery. Then I shall have to consider if I have another older Airfix kit around I might build for this Group Build. I have an idea already, actually, and it’s definitely not as big as the Rotodyne!

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On ‎11‎/‎06‎/‎2018 at 22:32, Kirk said:

To drift a little off the topic of the build, what was the physics behind the ram jets on the rotor tips? Presumably, the rotor is limited aerodynamically to subsonic speeds (I half read something complicated about rotor blade motion by John Farley once...) so does all the complex plumbing offer efficiency advantages or what?


Confused of Hove (actually)

Without wishing to hijack this fascinating thread and excellent build, I thought this was worthy of a bit of exploration and fortunately my son is currently studying aeronautical engineering at one of the UK's top engineering universities so I thought I would summon his help.  As a former Lynx Observer, I have a pretty good idea about the aerodynamics affecting rotor blades including the blade tips approaching supersonic speed, the effects of retreating blade stall etc, but I had no idea how to calculate the amount of lift from a given rotor disc with blades of a specific aerofoil section at a given angle of attack, or how to calculate the amount of energy you needed to accelerate them and then maintain a constant speed.  And after an hour on the phone last night in which he explained a whole raft of stuff involving differential equations, I'm still not entirely sure, but in a nutshell, it is this. 


The speed of sound at sea level in a standard ICAO atmosphere, is give or take, 1,100 feet per second (fps).  An aircraft travelling forward at 100 kts is around 165 fps, at the Rotadyne's cruise speed of 168 kts it is 280 fps.  You then have to add the forward rotational speed of the advancing blade.  Given that the effects of compressibility start acting around M0.85 (actually they start lower than that but they become much more noticeable at that M number), aircraft designers aim to keep the maximum speed of the blade tip below 935 fps (1,100 x 0.85).  That means that at cruise speed the maximum speed of the rotors can be 935 - 280 = 655 fps.  That in turn with a 45 ft blade equates to a rotor RPM of about 140.  The next bit of maths I didn't understand but essentially 140 RPM with that rotor blade aerofoil section cannot generate sufficient lift to get the aircraft off the ground.  To achieve a vertical take off, a minimum rotor speed of around 200 RPM would be necessary.  This equates to 940 fps.


Since the rotor disc itself is unpowered, it acts like an autogyro.  In other words, the disc only generates lift in forward flight.  And so to get that 200 RPM, you have to somehow drive the blades.


After this he had to make some assumptions about rotor blade mass (early rotor blades were extremely heavy; Rotadyne blades had a cast steel main spar) and the likely energy available from the compressed air bleed.  Based on a main spar of 25mm x 50 mm, 3 mm thick, the blade would weigh ~ 60 kg.  It's important when advancing the rotor speed to do it as quickly as possible to avoid the phenomena known as droop when the blades drop down below their normal flight path and can hit the airframe.  The YouTube video of a Rotadyne engaging rotors seems to show it going from stopped to full speed in about 15 seconds although I suspect its actually slightly longer and the video has been edited.  Either way the torque needed to accelerate the tip of a 60 kg blade from zero to 200 RPM in let's say, 20 seconds, is around 690ftlb.  The next bit got very hazy as he lost me in the maths, but essentially the compressed air fed alone would be insufficient to accelerate the blades up to 200 RPM and therefore needed the added thrust afforded by the fuel injectors - a sort of early afterburner if you like.


Of course once the Rotadyne starts to transition to forward flight, it benefits from transational lift and the energy needed to drive the rotor disc reduces.  At this point the fuel supply to the jets can be cut off and the compressed air supply withdrawn.  At that point the rotor disc generates lift but only in forward flight.  It's actually a very simple and neat system and although the pipework would be an engineering challenge, its a lot simpler than adding a drive from the engines to a main rotor gearbox (and then a tail rotor gearbox to counter the torque) or a separate lift engine (again with a tail rotor),


Hope that helps and once again apologies if this has hijacked.  Back to the build!





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Heather thanks very much for sharing and amazing build resulting in an amazing model - she looks 'the business' and I'm envious... :envy:

I've also added the bow pen to my wish list - can't resist 'new' tools :D 


I'm looking forward to the next build....

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