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B-17G 42-31582 Ol Scrapiron --- FINISHED!!!

Ol' Scrapiron

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My wife was open to the idea of one of those picture books you can have made for about $25 -- we sometimes make family year-in-review books as Christmas gifts to the grandparents (our folks, the kids' grandparents) or as mementos from serious vacation trips.


I also am still seriously considering what it would take to run some wiring and illuminate the various stations. I'm pretty sure the modern LED bulbs available are not as hot as the old wheat grains we had 35 years ago.



One other thought I had was to choose a side and riddle it with view holes. Strangely enough, while I was searching for oxygen tank locations I discovered a build of this same kit that was done doing exactly what I had envisioned (built by Joe McCaslin in 2017; link to his build is https://www.cybermodeler.com/hobby/builds/rm/build_rm_5600.shtml ) Ironically, after seeing his Chowhound build I decided not to do this ... with the possible exception of being able to cut out the portions and then install tiny magnets so they could easily be put back into position. By the way, I get the feeling his treatment of the fuselage was simply to be able to overcome the staggered/non-staggered wait position dilemma.



At this point, the only plexi I have installed are the two waist windows -- which are only attached by an all-purpose Elmer's glue and could easily be removed and replaced. So far I have shied away from the idea of buying any aftermarket stuff but maybe a really good set of vacuformed clear parts would make all this work more visible (especially if I also wire in some lighting.) I guess I'd have to order some pretty soon in order to meet the mid-January deadline. Decisions, decisions, decisions...

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Decided to tackle the radio room this afternoon.

You may be asking: “didn’t you already do the radio room?”

Yes, but the crazy bug bit me today and I’ve gone beyond what the kit would have you do.


Here’s a few reference pics I used for inspiration…


My shot of B-17F 42-29782 Boeing Bee (calling the F model close enough) ....






... and my shot of B-17G 44-8543 Madras Maiden






I started with a piece of soda can cut to shape and gently bent to match the curve at the top of the radio room forward bulkhead. I bent the sides up and trimmed so they would form a chute when attached to the bulkhead. A couple of very small Evergreen strip were added to make tracks will eventually hold the stowed window.


Next I bent a length of .5mm wire to make the gun mount that extend from that same area between the circular fuselage and the bulge along the spine. (Looking back I would have used a thicker wire, but I ain’t changin’ it now!)











Looking at this reference pic from the American Air Museum archives I added a few bits to the ring.....


...and made it look like this



The front part that the barrel will feed through was made by drilling a hole in a scrap bit of plastic sheet and then carefully trimming in toward the hole. Another bit of plastic was attached to represent the small plate visible in the photo.




This extra effort would be incomplete if I didn’t represent the distinctive pull handles for the lifeboat compartments.

I found a snippet of soda can on the workbench (which is now littered with bits of scrap of all types) and made a 90-degree bend. Then using the same pin vise that drilled out the gun barrels, I drilled two close holes that I could feed an inch or so of the wire through (overall length not important as they will extend into the plane farther than visible. A strip of aluminum was arched over the roof piece (in orange) and then the wires went under and the angled bit (in purple) attached to the top. Two of the shortest lengths of the thinnest Evergreen strip were glued on as handles.










The small size is such that the handles needed to be attached in an up/down fashion rather than side-to-side like on a real Fortress. I apologize to anyone that has a problem with the handles being the wrong orientation.




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You are too generous, but I am glad others are enjoying it.


Years of just watching others build here on Britmoddeller, Large Scale Planes, ARC and Hyperscale has inspired me to do things with this kit I NEVER would have tried before. Of course, there's plenty of motivation to "do it right" in granddad's memory.






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Just a short illuminating update...

I drove around town to make stops at several stores before I found what I guess passes for wheat grain bulbs these days. It was a micro LED string of Christmas lights (I think they called them Starry Lights)



Not at all sure that I will actually install these when I close up the fuselage for good, but I did put them (temporarily) in to see what they would look like placed around the various stations in the plane.






My hesitation is that once they are in, they are in forever. I've worked it pretty well burying the wires, but in areas like the Radio room it is difficult to "hide" the freakishly bright bulbs (or diodes I guess).


Decisions, decisions... 

Any advice from those who have done lighting before?





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I've been thinking more about this and am almost convinced it will work out.

The subassemblies and the wiring are just taped in place so disregard the odd blue and black pieces.








I think I can squeeze a small baffle under the Radio Room roof to block a direct look at the LED.



I also have another idea brewing, but I'll keep it under my hat for the time being. 🤐




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Too bright.

Now we can have an endless discussion on:


 Some of the lights will have shades , I found some in HO accy sets.

 Other than the fact that the Carpetbaggers and Leaflet droppers had red interior lights I cant offer any more info.

I have a  B17 that is in progress as well. this and a few more threads are interesting.

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4 minutes ago, TonyW said:

Did the real thing have lighting on board?


Just now, krow113 said:

Too bright.



These lights are simply so that a viewer can see what is inside the model. Not trying to duplicate any real lighting in the plane at all.

I might give that some thought when I get up the courage to start the HK kit I pre-ordered back in 2013. It was suggested elsewhere to use surface mounted LEDs, which I might be able to place correctly and dim to the proper luminance.


These just light up areas that would be too dark to see through the clear parts... which may be my next challenge as I run out of reasons to stall on closing her up.

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New breakthrough for today on the subject of the ammo chutes/belts -- I know this is a lengthy description, but please allow me to walk you through my thoughts...



OK, about a week ago I was all giddy about discovering the ammo chute appearance of zipties. Turns out others had made that same discovery before, but it was still fresh and exciting to me (at least for the moment). I even went out and purchased a pack in a smaller size, closer to what I expected in 1/48. Problem is they are just too rigid. Unless both ends of the ziptie "belt" are securely attached to something really solid, they are going to work really hard to unflex themselves and wreck everything in their path. A machine gun in the swivel stand of the waist window is not tough enough to endure.


My next thought was heat them in warm/not water to see if I could impose a permanent curve to them. Didn't work.

Next attempt was to sand them until they were really thin and thus might be more pliable. I gave up on that pretty quick.


The next iteration was to vigorously rub the striped texture of the ziptie onto a strip of kitchen aluminum foil. That worked OK, but the more I tried to get it to conform to a natural curve, the more it wanted to lose the embossed texture. It also kinked a lot during the shaping process being really flimsy.


I contemplated putting a layer of rubber cement on the back to give it some durability, which led me to trying to do the same thing with a strip of lead foil from a wine bottle (my go-to for seat belts back in the day.) That was almost passable, but it really needed a wire glued to the back to give it support and hold the natural curve the way I would need it.


Then I thought about maybe pounding some solder onto the ziptie to get the "bullets" embedded and be sturdy but pliable -- that seems like a good idea so I went out and bought a small roll. The challenge would be to flatten it out to a consistent width.


But in the very next store I decided to get some thicker wire in case I wanted to replace the Radio room gun ring and made quite the discovery. Flat wire. It was in the jewelry section of Hobby Lobby -- $3.99 buys enough to last a lifetime. It comes in a few colors, but the only size they had on the shelf was 5mm wide. I bought a roll and hammered it into a ziptie to make an impression (only works on one side because when you do the backside, you actually re-flatten the front).



Here are the materials I experimented with during the process (from left): Oversize ziptie >> kitchen foil >> lead wine bottle foil >> solder >> flat wire 5mm width (cut into half)





I used some scissors to cut it into a narrower size and worked it like clay to make it soft and pliable. With some trial and error I was able to get a nice natural twist that went from the magazine to the gun and painted a gold/brass stripe down the center. I like it a lot.





I did a quick online search and see that you can buy this in 3mm width as well, and that should be perfect as-is for 1/48th scale Fortresses.



And here is some 2mm flat wire that has an irregular surface that might work for 1/72




I'm happy with the new look and am eager to run some long belts across the front/nose to the cheek guns. Might try to get better bullet representation since those will be considerably more prominent.




Edited by Ol' Scrapiron
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Not much progress, but I did add the second ammo belt to the other waist station and re-adjusted the flooring that goes over the seam in the fuselage.

As I was doing that I got a look straight down the nose to the waist with nothing else in the plane but the lighting.


Color balance is freaked out by the LEDs, but hopefully these shots will capture at least part of what I'm talking about. 








I'm working on the Tail Gunner's station now and looking into what I'm going to do about the Ball Turret mount. After that I'll be going back over each of the stations to make sure I didn't miss anything (decals for the door behind the Top Turret, manuals and pin-ups, crew gear, Bombardiers seat, gun yoke, etc.)


Then I think I am getting to the point where there are no more excuses -- permanently close her up. (That buzzing sound is me nervously chewing my fingernails :worry: )



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A Tail of two Fifty’s


I looked at the simple gunstocks and knew something had to be done to make it look like these pics of B-17 Tail Gunner stations that I have taken of various Fortresses (with estimation made to compensate for the different modifications)



Paul Allen's B-17E 41-9210 project








B-17G 44-85778 Miss Angela







B-17G 44-83785 Shady Lady







B-17G 44-85829 Yankee Lady







On to the model...


I started with the post that the guns pivot on, which was made from a length of paperclip snipped to size. Small Evergreen strips (should have used rod) were attached as handles. Then I had to do some shaping to get the ammo belts to go from where the guns will be to where the ammo boxes are. This is challenging to do on the side that has the notch top locate the guns, but on the other side it is next to impossible – just try and make it match the other side and err a little on being short so it doesn’t break off when fitting the fuselage together.





There is not nearly as much detail on these guns as the waist guns, but I did a little creative painting to give them life.







For the seat I used a length of soda can bent to represent the floor, platform and armor plate. In a momentary lapse of reason (Pink Floyd fans, you’re welcome) I managed to bend it so that all of the unpainted side is hidden or painted over in black/dark gray, and all of the “orange” side is painted over in silver. I really could have made that easier if I had folded the other direction.






The seat was cut from a piece of styrene card with the wood grain paper glued to it, and then small black dots to represent holes (rather than drilling out real holes.) That was then glued to a mount which is just a short segment of sprue. It’s a little oversized, but totally not visible when closed up. Now I'm thinking I might just cover the seat with a thin lump of padding.


Like the wood plank that runs along the bottom of the fuselage in the waist area, the trick is to get the seat to attach to one side in such a way that it will span to the other half when it’s closed up.









I used balsa wood chunks for the ammo boxes, but now I think I might cover those in the wood grain paper for consistency.


Anyway, the Hun won’t be attacking unopposed anymore.




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First Attempt:

I had an idea to use the small ziptie pattern to create the ring around the ball turret, so I created a sleeve from 5mm flat wire that fit very snugly into the hole in the bottom of the fuselage and then added a strip of ziptie inside that – an adventure in itself, as the ziptie wants to be free and will spring (repeatedly) out of your hands when trying to get it to conform to a round shape.






Like originally cutting into the ball turret, I again made some snips to the mount that I could not take back if I wanted. Unfortunately, the decreased perimeter of the ring made it too small to accept the ball turret.




Second attempt:


What I really needed was for the ziptie to be the size of the flat wire ring – but without the ring. I realized the original ring could be used to fashion a second flat wire ring by wrapping the two together. I used superglue to attach a small piece of extra wire over the seam to ensure it would not spread later.


The inside surface of the new ring now represented the size of the hole (rather than the outside surface of the first ring) so I could use it to get the proper length of ziptie that would fit just within the hole in the fuselage. And yes, I could have used PI x D to determine the circumference … but where is the fun in that?




Cyano glue attached the new ziptie ring to the trimmed mount pieces, to complete the portion that will be visible from outside the plane.


Moving inside, one of the prominent differences between the model and the real thing is the way the model’s yoke is essentially two-dimensional with only one “leg” on each side. The real thing has two legs angling down to each side of the ball. I drilled holes in the yoke to thread some wire through and then bent the wire to angles downward. I used a tiny bit of my daughter’s Sculpey clay to form crude mounts on the upper sides of the ball (I think those parts on the real planes are pretty hard to depict anyway.) I poked holes to receive the wire before I baked the Sculpey so the admittedly undersized wires could be attached securely.




Then I attached one of the Oxygen tanks that I had made earlier to the yoke and made straps out of some very fine vinyl tape (I have a stash leftover from my newspaper days.) A short piece of solder was bent to form an air hose from the tank to the upper plate of the turret.


The last step was to glue a length of .05mm wire to the yoke and make sure that was very securely attached. I drilled a hole into a section of sprue that is intentionally too long. That will be trimmed to size when I am ready to close the fuselage. The original plan was to just slip the whole assembly up into the hole at the very end, but I am not sure I trust myself to not break the extra details off and at that point it would be nearly impossible to repair.





(note: after seeing this pic I have brushed on some Future to remedy the scrape marks on the front round window)




Besides, this will make for a better view when I do the final “pre-closing” shots … in the very near future.





Edited by Ol' Scrapiron
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Another update because (once again) I am an idiot!!!


After carefully determining how the yoke would align with the ball turret to ensure I could point the guns forward to allow people to easily see the work done within the ball turret... I installed the oxygen tank to the back side of the yoke such that it would be toward the bulkhead shared with the radio room. After manhandling the delicate subassembly and forcing the now-cured superglue to yield its grip on the tank and solder tubing (and a considerable amount of paint!) I was able to re-attach the tank on the correct side of the yoke. The solder needed to be reshaped and repainted, as did the yoke and other sections of the contraption. I added some putty to the gap visible between the ring and the mount -- and proceded to stretch a thin wispy strand of putty across the back of the ball (clear panes included). Aaaaaaaaargh!!!!


I think I have most of the mess taken care of, but I'll wait til morning to paint it all and take new pics.



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Wow... some really sharp looking Fortresses having crossed the finish line recently and several that are well on their way. Kudos to EVERYONE for such nice work.


I took a bunch of photos this morning but decided they really weren't ready for primetime -- I will retake them when I am ready to call the interior done. It is really close though, so here's a teaser shot for the moment.




Recent work was attaching the subassemblies to the right half of the fuselage, including installing the Ball turret. In the nose I added the Norden sight and the nose turret controller. I used a section of paperclip to replace the yoke for that after the misshape was pointed out by someone here looking at one of my reference shots. I'm not sure what I did was 'better' but it is different than the kit supplied part. Ammo belts were added to guns in the cheek windows (although looking at references later I discovered that I have the belts going to wrong guns but I'm calling it close enough. I'll shoot some pics of that area and you'll see what I mean.


Final items: I really want to actually depict the tail wheel mechanism more than the "loose interpretation" in the Monogram kit... but that design is sturdy, so any changes I make can't compromise the gear that still needs to support the plane. Other than that, the last thing is to figure out how to make the wiring-to-powerpack connection such that I can easily hook it up after the plane is glued together and trust that it won't break free in the future. I'm thinking a phone jack setup that just has a small hole on the fuselage hidden under one of the stabilzers (or some similar small connector from a train set or computer)


That's it -- do those two things and the fuselage is ready to close up forever (knees shaking) ... and not too soon as there are starting to be all sorts of really fragile parts sticking out all over the place as well as a battery pack dangling off a pair of wires that could easily be ripped out of the plane in a mishap.


Nervously pushing forward.



Hey, I hope everyone has a great New Year's Eve and a wonderful 2019 -- From the Heeb family here in Puyallup, Wash., to yours, Happy New Year!!!




Edited by Ol' Scrapiron
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Felt good to show off the project to friends over the Holidays, but I did manage to fumble a couple pieces loose and narrowly averted serious disaster when I got careless returning it to the workbench.

The build is on hold for a day so the ground crew can get her back to mission-ready status.


In the meantime, I'll present you with this as a reminder of why I make time to do this...











I look forward to wrapping this up (by the 20th!!!) so I can display it with granddad's medals and memorabilia.



Edited by Ol' Scrapiron
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I have been enjoying everyone else's builds to the point that I got gunshy about the next step on my own --- solving the power plug situation. It seems like such a simple hurdle, but the build has been stalled a few days until I took the leap.


I bought a 1.7mm DC power jack and the matching power plug (like an earphone plug) at the computer store (25+ miles from home) for just over $5. I've only ever soldered when I was Scoutmaster for summer camp a few years ago and I sat in while some of the Troop earned the Electronics merit badge. This was no time to see if I could still do it so I enlisted a good friend to make the connection reliable.


Then I glued the jack inside the plane where I had drilled out a hole under the right stabilizer. Some extra sprue was added to really shore up the bond to the plane -- and I think I will add another piece that goes over the top of the jack so it can't separate when I use the plug (did I just jinx myself?)












So while I was showing off this to my (reluctantly) understanding wife, I realized that I should have cut out the tail gunner's access door and just hidden the jack in there behind a hinged door. Now THAT would have been awesome. As it is I am going to make a little plug that fills the jack and sits almost flush with the fuselage for when I am not running power. That way there isn't a dark black hole in the side of the plane all the time. Hmmmm.... some flak holes would have been an option for camouflaging the jack as well.


Why couldn't I have thought of these during the days when I wasn't working on the plane?!!! No -- they come to me AFTER holes are drilled and the superglue has dried.


Anyway, fulselage is just about ready to go together.


Oh, I also am having a mask made for the tail numbers, etc, by a friend with a Silhouette cutter. My first impulse was to pull the Roger Freeman books and see what size the different stencils should be. Problem was that nothing looked right and to be the correct height the numbers would be kerned a lot. My solution was to use a photo of a 447th BG plane and scale it to the correct dimensions for the 1/48th-scale tail as measured from the kit. By building the numbers and the "Square K" right over the image I knew it should be a good representation on the model of Ol' Scrapiron.




If these come out OK I'm sure I will have more custom stuff made for future projects.


Less than two weeks to go but I'm sure I'll be posting in the Gallery before the deadline. 






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With the power problem solved, there are only a few minor hurdles before sealing up the fuselage. One is the tail wheel situation.


I've heard others say the tailwheel position makes the plane sit awkwardly low so I taped the fuselage together (with the tailwheel assembly in place) and added the wings with the landing gear so I could get an idea how she will sit.




Looks passable in this profile, but I wanted to see how it compares to other B-17s. In the following examples I have used a photo of a B-17 as close to profile as possible (lower panel), then matched it up to the photo of the model (overlayed in the center panel). The tailwheel of the model is highlighted in red on the 'merged' image in the center.


First up was B-17G 44-85740 Aluminum Overcast...



The difference is dramatic, but I realized this might not be a good comparison because Aluminum Overcast is in flight so there's no weight on the tailwheel.


Next up was B-17G 44-85734 Liberty Belle...



Pretty close to the difference seen in the Aluminum Overcast shot... but this is not conclusive as my shot of Liberty Belle was during takeoff and may have already started to lift.


I pulled up a pic of B-17G 44-83546 “Movie” Memphis Belle I took at Grimes Field and it definitely is sitting on the ground.




There is still a difference there so I am going to "adjust" the location of the tailwheel in relation to the bulkhead in the kit so that it sits slightly forward and a little lower. I might be able to accomplish this by just changing the angle the supports come off the bulkhead. Hopefully it's that simple.



Edited by Ol' Scrapiron
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WARNING: This post may cause rivet counter's heads to explode.



Set out to alter the tail wheel without sacrificing the strength of the simplistic design of the kit's parts.


While I did look up diagrams of the actual mechanism for retraction of the tailwheel, I only used the "spirit" of the drawings guide what I did to rig it together. You probably would NOT want to use this as a reference to build an ACCURATE tailwheel assembly.


So, here's the bulkhead and tailwheel piece as it comes in the kit.





As I determined yesterday, the tailwheel should sit lower and farther forward.


I also found this drawing online that I used "loosely" to modify the kit parts.





I salvaged the lower arm of the tailwheel structure (black part in the kit) since I knew it would offer the best fit to the bulkhead piece.


First I cut off the tail wheel preserving as much of the arm as I could (cut 1)

Next I separated the lower arm preserving as much of the vertical connector as possible (cuts 2 & 3)




Then I flipped the lower arm upsidedown so the connecting part that was above the arm would now point downward. I drilled holes in the wheel and the arm so I could install a short piece of wire to really strengthen the bond when I glued them together.




A short piece of solder was glued from the wheel to the bulkhead at a slight angle to form the "triangle" structure similar to the schematic mentioned earlier.

Then I used lengths cut from a jumbo paper clip to loosely represent other parts of the mechanism with the added benefit of adding considerable strength to the whole thing.







If you compare the wheel location in this photo to the unmodified parts in the first photo you can see that the wheel has moved lower and farther forward as it should be.





Just for the heck of it, I made this overlay to easily show how the location of the tailwheel has changed.





Like I said before, this was not intended to be a completely accurate representation of the actual tailwheel assembly, but I do think it will be a great improvement in how the plane looks when she's sitting on all three wheels.



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  • Ol' Scrapiron changed the title to B-17G 42-31582 Ol Scrapiron --- FINISHED!!!

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