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

Ol' Scrapiron

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For those that want to EASILY improve the tailwheel position in the Monogram kit, I came up with a MUCH SIMPLER modification that does the trick.


Problem was that I had ASSUMED the upper arm and the lower arm are different diameter... they are the same. That means you can use the upper arm in the lower hole location.

While I am waiting for the fuselage to dry properly (yes, I glued it together this morning) I whipped up this graphic to demonstrate.




Again, this is going to give rivet counters a heart attack, but it is super simple and gets the tailwheel location modified easily. You can detail to your own taste from here.

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I'm very very happy the interior of Ol' Scrapiron has been properly documented :thumbsup:. We often say "can't wait to see it finished", but then there are build threads like this we wish would go on and last forever! V-P

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Thanks VPP.


Well, I figured it was about time I stopped stalling.

There were other details I was thinking of adding -- generator motor at the back of waist position, motor for extending antenna, etc. -- but I am already planning how to make improvements on THE NEXT ONE.

I look back at the first few posts I made around Halloween and what I had thought was pretty nifty back then I just want to rip out and re-do now. Best thing is the looming Group Build deadline (I'm not going to use the extension, but I'm glad others can take advantage of it to make their projects as nice as possible.)


The point is: I am sooooo glad I stumbled on the STGB to coax me back to building a model with some seriousness after so long a hiatus. I have tested new techniques and tried things I never would have before. Once this one is done I look forward to building a simple Vac-u-Form machine and also dabble in making resin casting. Even though I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, I am licking my chops for what I can do with the next project.

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Two steps forward... one step back.


The Good: Fuselage is together and puttied. Paint touched up and Future applied and is currently drying. I expect to apply some decals to the main body tomorrow.


The Bad: I don't like -- no it's worse than that -- I HATE the window setup in this kit.

1. The astrodome is supposed to be inserted up through the hole as you glue the fuselage parts together. First of all, it makes for a very weak bonding surface that is ready to push back into the nose if you ever accidentally press down on it. Second, the installation process becomes nearly impossible if you have added any details to the nose (which of course I have) but really even the Norden sight and the gun yoke become obstacles in getting the dome piece inserted.

2. The little side glass for Radio room, waist door and nose/cheek areas don't seem to fit flush with the outer surface at all. These small parts also threaten to pop back into the kit if they get touched at all. There is just no positive fit to them, the tabs sort of loosely float in oversized flat areas on two or three points of the window seal. The large oversized clear nose/cheek pieces on some of the 1/72 kits I'm seeing built here seem like a superior design.



A question: For the clear parts I am using Elmer's white glue for the initial placement and then a backup coat of Modge Podge for reinforcement... but I don't trust that these won't just disappear into the kit forever someday. When I was growing up the definite rule was NEVER use normal model glue for the clear parts or they will craze and totally ruin your project.


What does everyone suggest for attaching the clear parts these days?




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I use a thin white glue to tack the clear part in place, then as long as I have dipped the part in Klear I use a very thin cement as VP has mentioned above and allow capillary action to draw the cement around the join.

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Decision time...


I have spent a little time looking over my grandfather's flight records and the history of the plane.


Granddad Loran's first mission was April 29 '44 but it was in a different plane. That was the Berlin mission that was a dark day for the 447th BG as they lost 10 of 33 planes dispatched. It also was the one that Pilot Stevenson was killed on, so I pretty much rule that one out.



The one I have settled on is the Dec 4 1944 mission to strike the marshalling rail yards at Mainz, Germany.

It was granddad's 30th (and final) mission and his crew in Ol' Scrapiron led the 4th Combat Wing Low Group. 447th BG planes led the entire 4th Combat Wing for that mission with Lt Col. McRay leading the Combat Wing and Capt. Skinner leading the High Group (both in PFF ships) and Dahlgren's crew leading the Low Group for the Combat Wing.


Granddad was on the lead crew for seven missions (essentially a quarter of his 30 combat missions) so I knew I was going to pick one of those, and this makes a lot of sense. That was the 34th mission for 42-31582 so there will be a healthy string of mission marks on the nose. 


I may continue to look at his other missions (such as the two on D-Day) to see if any others can match this in terms of significance, but as of now I'm pretty sure this will be the mission depicted.




For those that do not know the story of Ol' Scrapiron, she flew 63 missions, the last on March 23 1945. On that day it was being flown by the Bruckman crew.  After the bomb run in Holzwickede Bruckman's crew dropped from the 4th Combat Wing formation and joined the 34th BG formation also returning to England. Sadly, Ol' Scrapiron was hit by a 34th BG plane that had been involved in a collision with a 487th BG plane above. Ol' Scrapiron broke in half and dropped out of the sky. The tail gunner Byron Schlag tried to exit through the normal tail access door but it was stuck. He climbed through the tail wheel area and eventually bailed out through the now-open fuselage moments before the back half of the plane hit the ground. Edmond Schibble actually rode the front half all the way to the ground trapped in the ball turret. His back was broken, but he survived the war. I'm not sure when he passed away (or IF -- I guess I should look that up) but he was reported as alive and still good friends with Schlag as late as 1996.

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Starting to take care of the final bits and pieces that are too small a task to warrant pics along the way. It's not done, but definitely getting closer.











Here's a rundown of recent activity:

  • Closed up the fuselage (nearly wrecking half the clear parts in the process)
  • Painted and Future applied.
  • Most of the decals applied.
  • More scratchwork on the main landing gear and also added the extra bracing (may need a bit more work)
  • Glued on the remainder of the clear parts following advice from others.
  • Bored out a lot of plastic around the top turret to ensure it could be taken off easily


Next up on the to-do list:

  • finish the canvas insulation on chin turret
  • finish canvas and lights at tail gun
  • paint gun barrels 
  • Weather exhaust staining
  • Weather and chip outer wings
  • Antennas and aerials, add retractable antenna near radio room
  • various mini details touched up (to enhance or conceal)
  • repair all the things I've broken off -- mostly cowl flaps. Several missing flaps can be seen (or not seen) on Engine 2 in pics above.



The vinyl masks for the tail numbers and Group/Squadron ID letters are still being made so that will help a lot.


Wings are just slid into place so they are still removable at this point. I haven't decided if this convenience is worth the seam showing, especially on the bottom where the gray really reveals the separation. I'll probably glue them in place before I'm done.... probably.



Oh, to demonstrate the benefit of modifying the tailwheel, here's a comparison between the original stance (in red) and the same lines after the tailwheel modification (in blue). 




The nose has dropped a little lower and the tail has lifted. I know this may seem subtle, but the correct stance should be noticeable when compared to other B-17 models while displayed together

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The story that goes with this model really makes is something special. I'm used to building models of machines, the crews have never been a feature of my building before. I can see that changing thanks to this build. Having a very personal and human side to a model takes things to a higher level somehow. Your Grandfather would be proud.

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She's got legs, she knows how to use them...

ZZ Top; 1983




For the mian landing gear, I added the extensions for the single retraction struts. The kit's depiction of the wheel well was just a flat plate that only had a hole big enough for the wheel if it was to be built as an in-flight display. When I opened all that up to scratchbuild the inside of the wheel well I left the kit's strut part as-is, so it just needed some extra length to represent the threaded part that goes diagonally from the bit of the original plate to way up inside the nacelle.


Here's the MLG with the extension (look for the unpainted silver length of solder) 






Note that the cowl flaps have been falling off every time I brush a hand across them. I'll repair/replace all of them at the very end. At least I haven't sliced a finger yet (they are very sharp!)




Here are a couple examples of the real deal, showing a difference in this strut.


On B-17G 44-83735 Mary Alice (at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford) the threading on the strut is clearly visible.






This strut is sheathed on current flightworthy examples such as:


B-17G 44-85734 Liberty Belle (well, it was flyable when I took this shot)






B-17G 44-85778 Miss Angela in Palm Springs






B-17G 44-83546 “Movie” Memphis Belle with struts looking freshly painted in 2010  





but showing some heavy wear in 2014






I guess the fairly thick solder pieces I used could be interpreted as either style.


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"There's too much chin music and too little fightin' in this war anyhow..."

Stephen Crane; The Red Badge of Courage




I have to say that my work on the chin turret is an example of doing a lot of work and not getting the results to show for it.


I started out with a bit of Sculpey clay (far right) and then crammed it into the inside of the turret piece so that it would push out into the slots and represent the canvas covers. I took a sharp Xacto blade and poked a series of tiny (TINY) holes to represent the zipper and then punched a couple larger holes to receive the gun barrels. Problem is the soft clay was prone to distort when I tried to remove it from the turret piece. I'm pretty sure they clay won't harden on its own so I needed to get the clay out. I considered baking it at low heat but thought better of it when I finally got one blob out without messing it too badly.




I fired two attempts, one of which you can see looks horrible -- well, neither one looks like I expected when I got this idea.



I glued the clay blob into the turret and found it retained its shape well enough to still fit into the slots. Then I cut the kit's gun part so I could position the back of the guns so they'd protrude slightly from the large holes in the bottom of the turret -- guns will be pointed upward so the back of guns should be visible.




I also painted the inspection windows on the back of the turret even though the kit won't allow the turret to turn enough to reveal these. Just another "gopher" as Pin recently pointed out in the Dragon Lady build.





Because the barrels needed to be clipped from apart so they could attach at the front of the clay/canvas part, it was challenging to get them attached parallel to each other. I'm not sure they are aligned as well as I'd like so they may be a little surgery before I am done. One thing I'm learning on this build is to save some of the fine-tuning of the delicate parts is wasted effort if it's done too early.








I haven't tried to paint the zippers... probably just let that idea go.



I think my idea would have worked much better if I had a self-curing clay to work with because the whole thing looked really good when I first carved the zipper detail -- it was pulling everything out of the turret for the baking process that distorted all that fine detail work.



For reference:

Chin turret on B-17G 44-85718  Thunderbird






B-17G 44-85734 Liberty Belle back in 2011 with my son (10 at time) in the nose section.





Damn! I have noticed a few things I wish I had changed before I glued the nose plexi on. Arrrg!!!






One last thing, I did glue the wings on permanently. The visible line at the wing root was bothering me and I was starting to wonder how many times I could remove and re-attach the wings before some DISASTER busted parts loose inside. Even without putty, the top join is hardly noticeable and the dark lines on the underside are way less prominent. On more item checked off the to-do list!!!










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Sooooooooooo.... after all that work creating and firing a Sculpey piece that was a "passable" representation of the canvas covers on the chin turret >>> wait for it >>> I decided it was not good enough after all.


Looking back at the covers on the Fortresses I've photographed it is pretty clear that the canvas is up flush with the front of the turret and not inset at all.


I took a small sheet of kitchen foil and poked two small holes. Then, with a VERY SHARP new Xacto blade I cut around the holes so that there was a strip of foil just barely wider than the width of the gun slots and quite a bit longer. I worked the barrels through the holes and gently pushed the strips back to the face of the turret. Working one end at a time, I glued the strips to the turret (just a single drop of cyano glue at the end of the slot is sufficient) and carefully trimmed the length to be correct. a little dark pint to represent rivets and the whole thing looks much better -- even though these greatly magnified images really look terrible compared to the real model!!!













Looks like the gun barrels aren't in line... I'll have to fix that. Funny thing is, if I hadn't attempted the Sculpey modification I could have left the guns connected so they'd be perfectly aligned. Lesson learned.


Still some touch up work left to go on the turret and other areas up front, but much happier with the canvas as it looks tonight than I was with last night's attempt.



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Here we are on the 19th and I have a work commitment that will take up most of the day followed by a banquet -- end result no progress today.

I really didn't want to tap into the extension time, but I guess I will have to anyway.


I must say that progress slowed considerably when the extension was announced and the pressure was off (or at least delayed!)


Still picking away at little details and it is nearing completion, but I miss the evenings where each subassembly seemed like a gigantic step taken.


I'll post some pics later in the weekend -- and in the meantime, I'll take a few minutes to enjoy looking at all the other builds that are getting close to finished.



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I publish my own magazine (been in journalism for almost 30 years) so deadlines are my best friends -- they keep me moving!!!


One of my favorite sayings: "I love deadlines... and the whooshing noise they make as they fly by"

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Lots of little "micro-advancements" since my last major status report, but this latest change was spurred on by some interesting discussion over on RJ-WobblyHands's build concerning the color changes of the tails and markings.

Since I had chosen to depict Ol' Scrapiron after granddad finished his 30th mission (the plane's 34th mission) on Dec 4, 1944. The 447th BG was the Lead Group for the 4th CW and Ol' Scrapiron was Lead Plane for the low group. Granddad actually had seven Lead Crew missions, but this one being his final mission seems like a good one to represent.


I had a bit of a panic when I learned that the 381st BG (actually the whole 1st Div/1st CW) implemented their red tails as early as late June 1944. So was I going to need a yellow tail on my build? I dug into the Roger Freeman book on Markings and Heraldry and confirmed that the yellow tails of the 447th (and 3rd Div/4th CW) were introduced at the beginning of Feb 1945. OK, no yellow tails in Dec 1944. HOWEVER, the four Squadrons of the 447th BG (708/709/710/711) did paint the prop hubs and cowls starting in the Spring of 1944, so I would want to reflect that on the model.


Granddad was in the 711th Squadron so those would be dark blue (708=yellow; 709=white; 710=red). I have always thought that "dark blue" probably was the same REALLY dark blue as used on the insignia and on the Group "K". I actually was having trouble recalling ever seeing what this “blue” looked like on actual planes so I jumped into the 447th BG archives to find an example. It must not have been a permanent practice because so many of the NMF planes just have NMF cowls – they must have grown tired of trying to keep replacement parts matching. Obviously there are some shots with the colored cowls (mostly yellow or white as on Bit O’ Lace) and it is hard to make out on BW pics.

Then I stumbled on this nice color shot of a 711th Squadron plane that clearly shows the blue (maybe faded a bit, but probably accurate).






Having discovered the pic of the 447th BG's "Lucky Stehley Boy" (above) I thought back to having searched for an airframe very close to 42-31582 to ensure I had depicted the correct OD wrap around the cowls…



Looking at engines 3 & 4 you can see the wraparound style on 42-31585 "Mount N Ride" (only 3 airframes later)


…and then began brushing that cobalt blue over them. Those prop hubs I had carefully applied multiple coats of AK Dull Aluminum paint to get a nice shine are also now covered in cobalt. Because this represents a paint update to a veteran airframe I decided to go with a perfectly "less-than-perfect" application.  I still need to add some chipping at the front edge of the cowls.




I hope this color will grow on me, but for now I’ll have to steel myself with the knowledge that it should be accurate for that time period.





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Time for another decision, so I welcome any counsel (but be warned that I may blatantly ignore your advice! 😉 )

Please bear with me as this is a long-winded explanation because there is much to ponder...




As we discovered early on, the main crew photo in my grandfather's scrapbook that I had always associated with Ol' Scrapiron turned out to be the B-17F that they had trained with in Pyote, Texas. That's OK, in the 447th BG's pictorial history that photo is captioned as Ol' Scrapiron so I'm not the only one that made that assumption.





There is another crew photo with the nose of a NMF Fortress so that would not be 42-31582, but most likely one of the other planes they happened to be flying with on "picture day" -- and might be when they had their first Lead Crew mission (but who knows?)









The only other photograph of Ol' Scrapiron was taken on March 23, 1945.

I've mentioned the fate of the plane before and I'm not really looking to dwell on it again tonight -- I just wanted to make some observations that I am considering at the moment.




Here is a detail of 42-31582 cropped from the photo above





This is looking at the bottom of the plane (ball turret is visible)

The tail probably was not yellow yet, but the wingtips look to be yellow or white (some color that looks lighter than the gray underside) and the dark blue chevron is on the bottom of the left wing. Outer right wing looks to have been replaced (possibly NMF?)


And another after the tail has broken off




Being that most of the crew is about to perish (all but tail gunner and ball turret) my heart aches when I see these photos, but it weighs into my decision on what to do with my model.



OK... enough about that. On to the plane during granddad's time.


The "scuttlebutt" is that the plane never had nose art.

I know this was granddad's crew's "official" plane even though they were assigned to fly other planes at times.

I also know they were the ones that named 42-31582 as Ol' Scrapiron as a tribute to the Pilot Stevenson that was killed on his first mission (not aboard this plane) during the Berlin mission back on April 29, 1944.


All future references to the plane are as: Ol' Scrapiron -- even the other crews that flew her, including many months after the original crew had finished their missions and were no longer flying.


Soooooooo.... I ask why would the later crews still refer to the plane as Ol' Scrapiron if there were no nose art to identify it as such? Even the planes with distinctive nose art were sometimes re-named by later crews to make it their own. If 42-31582 really had "nothing" on the plane surely it would have picked up another moniker by other crews (and don't call me Shirley).


My hunch is the plane had the text "Ol Scrapiron" somewhere but no "ARTWORK" which is why the description is that there was no noseart.


The tailgunner on granddad's crew (Jack Keller) had a jacket during the war that actually did show some artwork...



and he later had a painting made with that on the nose



I have asked one of Jack's relatives if they still have his jacket so I could see what exactly is going on in that artwork. I was told long ago that that art was not on the plane, and due to the nature of the crash (tail breaking off due to collision) that art on his jacket is either eerily prophetic ar was done after the fate of the plane. Looks like some Sad Sack is carrying a whiskey jug or a yellow O2 tank or ??? Also, just to the left of the B-17 tail looks suspiciously like the Playboy bunny ears (maybe Hugh Heffner was in the 447th BG🐇)


OK, the weird thing is that in my grandfather's stuff there is a very old cardboard stencil made with the lettering Ol' Scrapiron about right for a jacket and there is paint on it like it had been used.




So, my inclination is to put the text Ol Scrapiron on the nose is a fashion similar to other "named" planes in the 447th that did not have additional artwork. This is just a hunch, but with nothing to contradict it, it seems at least plausible (and does put a name on the model rather than being a plain plane.)


Anyone out there have any other thoughts I should consider before I paint it?

(and thank you for making it this far into the post!)



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Big day today.


The neighbor brought her Silhouette vinyl cutter home from work so we had a chance to cut out the stencils for the markings on the tail and nose.




Next time I'll see if she can get some translucent vinyl as it would have been much easier to align if I could see through to the lines of the model. I had made left and right versions of the tail markings so they could be applied together.

To make the colors stand out more (especially the yellow) my first coat of paint was white. Then a very light blue/gray for the Squadron ID and yellow for the AC number. The white square looked pretty anemic so I applied 4 coats before I was ready to peel back the vinyl.







The white I used was really thin and had managed to seep under quite a bit. Suddenly all those recommendations to use a clear coat first began to ring in my head. Yet another lesson learned… the hard way.




I began a process of patch up the dark green, fix the yellow, retouch the green, touch up yellow… until it looked satisfactory.







Up front I placed the 34 mission marks and the Ol’ Scrapiron name. I intentionally used varying coats so that the bombs would not look like they were applied at the same time. After the vinyl was removed I was able to carefully scrape any stray yellow between the bombs and am quite pleased with how they came out.






I had used this photo of 42-39874 to size the vinyl but I think I may have been a little generous on the size of the AC numbers. All-in-all it is not too far off -- maybe just a little too low... which the see-through vinyl would have helped..







Oh, the wing marking applied as well. A little crude, but I have seen some photos of real aircraft that would make a judge's head explode.





Very close to being finished… just need to keep from screwing it all up in the final steps.






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A tip for masking is to first spray the base colour which seals the edges to subsequent colours.

looking good though a really comprey and well researched project coming together.

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Thanks Mark,

I think next time I'll just pay someone with an ALPS printer to make them up as decals. Using clear or the base color is fine to seal the masks, but those bombs are about as tight as I can imagine being able to handle and the "holes" in the lettering were next to impossible (I actually wound up not using them and just painting them in freehand in green later. And this only worked at all because everything was a single color. Yes, I think a set of custom decals would have been worth the cost!

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This is a technique/trick I used to use back in the early 1990s when I was going to IPMS meetings in Tacoma.



When the plane is ready for its final finish:


1. Start with an overall coat of future to make sure everything ( paint, decals, extra markings, touch up ) is sealed in and top surface is at the same level.





2. Spray a coat of flat coat on that to give a nice consistent matte finish (let dry completely)





3. Brush on stripes of Future where the major panel lines are. (let dry completely)





4. Last coat of matte finish to make the difference more subtle.






It works really well on single-engine fighters where you can afford to repeat this 3-4 times to build up a nice depth of sheen variation alternating between major and minor panel lines (or t indicate structure that isn't marked on the model). Because this is a fairly large bomber that uses plenty of spray just to do once I will stick to a single run through. I hope this will show up in the pics I took as I was doing the different stages.


We did this back in the days before "pre-shading"  ... and I prefer it (especially when done multiple times using major and minor panel lines) because it is a change of sheen that the eye notices rather than a change in color. Better in person when even a slight change in angle reveals the differences.


Now I need to give the glass a last coat of shine.


Getting really close now!






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OK, today's task was to make a color change.


I had based my use of "Cobalt" on this photo in the 447th BG archives




The problem is that the photo is clearly way overexposed so I couldn't trust the highlights or shadows because they are either bleached out or over saturated to black. I figured the small area of prop shadow on the No. 4 cowl would be closest to true... and it looked fairly close to the cobalt paint I had on hand. I just had to hope the intense color would grow on me.


After a few days I still wasn't convinced so I turned to a good friend who is even more of a 447th BG historian (yes, that really is possible!) and he was able to provide me a much better copy of that same photo. The version he sent me did not suffer the same overexposure problem and looked very good to my eye.





I snapped a pic of the image and headed to Hobby Lobby to see what I could find.


Two colors caught my eye so I splurged and got both so I could make the decision with the actual model in front of me. Here is a comparison of that "Cobalt" to the new choices of "Bright Blue" and "Riviera".




I found that Riviera reminded me very much of the US Army squadron inter-war pursuit groups, and had more of a "pop" to it than the Bright Blue (which actually looks rather un-bright in my opinion.



So here is Ol' Scrapiron sporting her new 711th Squadron cowls and prop hubs. I read in the Roger Freeman "8th AF Heraldry and Markings" book (excellent resource) that the 447th BG was actually the first Group to experiment with using the cowl colors to indicate squadrons... Probably because the 447th BG did not use the two-letter fuselage codes for that purpose.






Anyway, MUCH more pleased with the look of the cowls now -- except those missing cowl flaps are starting to bug me, especially on engine No. 2 where there are a bunch in a row that have gone AWOL. Sometime in the distant future I am going to slice a foot open on one of these mini razor blades lurking in the carpet.





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