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RAAF Westland Wapiti - in Doug McHard's footsteps


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Hi

 

Modellers have been converting the Frog/Novo Wallace into Wapitis for over fifty years. I’d  been contemplating starting my attempt for what seemed nearly as long.  The danger I faced was that I would have carked it before I’d even glued part 4 (port fuselage) to part 5 (starboard fuselage) and started the sawing, cursing, drilling, cursing, sanding and more cursing. (I love this hobby).


Then I came across an article from the May 1966 edition of Meccano Magazine by Doug McHard detailing his conversion. (Other features for that month included an electronic metronome and plans for a schooner.) Doug's piece gave me the impetus to carry on with this tradition before the anticipated Dora release makes this perhaps a bit of a needless exercise. So thank you Doug for giving me the push I needed. (and thank you @Ed Russell of Red Roo Models for your welcome suggestions)


I never met Doug McHard who was, by all accounts, a popular man. He was involved with Model Aircraft Magazine and Meccano Magazine back in the 50s and 60’s. In the late 70’s he set up Somerville Models making high quality die cast model cars. Sort of upmarket Dinky and well sought after.  His primary interest however was always model aircraft, both flying and static. He was a major figure with the RAF Model Aircraft Association for decades. He died at a competition being held at RAF Honington in 2002 aged 73.


This is my first WIP apart from a ZELL F-104 done for the Starfighter GB. I am a slow builder which has put me off from previously posting but I am about half way through this build so am confident it will get finished by Christmas. Not sure which Christmas.


The Aircraft: RAAF A5 -12 when it was with No 1 Flying Training School at RAAF Point Cook, south of Melbourne in the late 30’s. (There are claims that RAAF Point Cook is the oldest continuously operating military aerodrome in the world. I used to think it was RAF Upavon but not sure what it’s status is these days).


Here she is (courtesy of the Australian War Memorial/ C A Lynch) at about that time.

 

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A5-12 lasted about 15 years. The McGuiness RAAF Archive gives some nice history details. For instance on 9th Oct 1934 A5-12 was one of nine Wapitis that flew in formation with three RAF Short Rangoons that had flown in from Iraq. That would have been a nice sight. In 1930 it had a ground collision with an Avro Avian Sport. In the A5-12 corner was  Pilot Officer AC Campbell McMullew. In the Avro Avian corner was Air Commodore Kingsford Smith. Not sure how the conversation went when the two got out!  I will do some more digging on that. A5-12 suffered a few engine failures in its time and it once force landed 5 miles from Point Cook when it ran out of fuel. Oops. In 1944 it was deemed incapable of flight and was allocated for components. Here is the link if interested http://aircrewremembered.com/mcguiness-raaf-archive-westland-wapiti.html

 

Price quoted £3,500 - (For today’s prices this is where it gets a bit interesting if you like this sort of stuff (!). In 1928 the Australian Pound v UK Pound had parity. As a very very very rough figure, I make £3,500 from 1928 at today prices AUD$250K/GBP £140K using Australian CPI or AUD $400K/GBP £ 220K if using UK CPI. But then when you start look at exchange rate histories….. )


Here is the kit. Price AUD$5  from a swap and sell (a little bit over £2.50). I also splashed out on a Pegasus engine- yep it should a Jupiter but it wasn’t an option at the time.  Both have 9 cylinders, virtually identical diameters and you won’t see much of it when encased in piping so am happy.

 

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The main tasks are shorten the fuselage, add some internal detail , create the observer's position, sort the engine out and modify the undercarriage.

 

Shorten Fuselage: the fuselage will need to be re tapered and the fuselage decking will need to be sanded down to meet the new tailplane position.

 

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I am not one for doing too much internal detail, especially if it cant be seen , but some is definitely needed. The instrument panel, joy stick have yet to be added in this shot.

 

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Will post more detail over the next few days. The sun is out, the lawn needs a mow and I'm expecting "Wonky"  to appear at the back wanting some bread shortly. ( and St Kilda are playing the Western Bulldogs this afternoon so the day is taken - Go Saints!)

 

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This is interesting,  I have the same kit languishing in the stash and always wondered what to do with it.  I have added to faves so I can blatantly stead, ahem use ideas .  

It's lovely when the birds come along waiting for food.  My parents used to have a blackbird that use to do the same and if the front door was open would hop in and and make its way down the hall.  It got very tame and took food from Dad's hand which was lovely.   

Great start. 

Chris

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Oh beaut, real old time modelling, the sort I grew up wanting to do but never quite got around to it. :(   I think I had that isssue of MM at one stage, long gone now I think, haven't seen any of my MMs for decades but I did find a link to the PDF of that one.

Fairly crude by todays standards but a good basis for some extra work as you're doing. I'll tag along on this one I reckon. :)

Steve.

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18 hours ago, bigbadbadge said:

ahem use ideas

Feel free Chris :)

17 hours ago, stevehnz said:

real old time modelling

Yep - Doug would not have had the luxury of an aftermarket engine back in 1966. If it had not been for the one I obtained I don't think I would have made the starting line on this one:)
 

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8 minutes ago, Pinback said:

I don't think I would have made the starting line on this one:)

I was quite impressed by how good his looked, maybe not up to today's standards but ok if you didn't look too closely. :)

Steve 

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Hello again - yesterday the lawn was cut :), the Saints won :) (bit of a nail biter) but Wonky had better things to do. I can hear him fluffing about in the back garden as I type this.

 

For the observer's position Doug McHard drilled a hole in the kit's fuselage transparency. He then sawed the back end off the engine part and used that as the Scarff ring.

 

The transparency in the kit I have was a bit too brittle for drilling and I don't think the angle would have been right with mine. I opted to use the transparency as a mould for a replacement bit of fuselage made from plastic card. A piece of card was simply cut to roughly the same size but larger, plunged into very hot water. It was then pressed and rolled into the transparency using a paintbrush handle. The plastic card was then trimmed to fit the fuselage. It took two goes as I was a bit too keen on my cutting back first time round. (I leave my good lady to do the pruning in the garden- the rosemary bush I did looks as though it has an extremely bad haircut)

 

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I was looking to use plastic tubing for the circular aperture, but came across a silver band on a ball point pen that had the perfect diameter. It was carefully filed so that it would sit like a saddle. Below is the kit's clear transparency that was used as a mould, the new plastic card fuselage part waiting to be trimmed with the filed pen band perched on top.

 

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The trimming needed a bit of care  - Pegs were used to ensure a close fit on the lower sides.

 

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Hole cut (still to be sanded smooth) and the kit fuselage edge masked. Filler is used to smooth the step between the card and kit fuselage part. I am quite messy at applying filler. It can go everywhere. The masking makes the sanding down a lot easier.

 

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Pen band fixed into place and filler being added

 

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Once the sanding had been completed the lower wing was attached. The fuselage and wings were then primed to pick up further areas that needed more filling and sanding. The stretched sprue is for the engine piping. I will explain how I have done the engine next time.

Over fifty holes were drilled in the wings, fuselage etc for the rigging, new undercarriage joint points and exhaust join points. An electric modelling drill was a must.

 

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Initial silver spray

 

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Will look to do the engine update next week . :)

 

 

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I'm going to watch closely. I'm a huge fan of the wapiti and want to build my own someday. It looks like you have done a good job on the rear seat and I'll borrow your plasticard trick for my own.

 

I have got some good plans for the wapiti which I am happy to share over pm if you are interested.

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Loving this; it’s like stepping back in time (in a good way!).  And that MM pdf is priceless!  The “Wants” ads on p46:

 

1.  “Attractive girl pen friend aged 16-17 years; write with photograph” [good luck with that one, mate...], followed by

2. “Geared roller bearing, complete”.  Only in Meccano Magazine...

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Excellent progress, looks great in silver and the scarf ring is inspired.  I have been saving the spare coloured rings from the electric toothbrush ends and have put these somewhere safe, I just need to remember where that safe place is!!!🤪

Great work 

Chris 

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On 10/4/2020 at 5:38 PM, mahavelona said:

I have got some good plans for the wapiti

 

Thanks  @mahavelona - much appreciated.

 

I have a couple of plans but am trying to track how the undercarriage sits. The plans I have both have the wheel to wheel cross axle as in the Meccano Magazine plans that @stevehnz kindly linked us to. (thanks Steve :) I only had the Wapiti article. As a very young kid I had the Plastic Meccano advertised - had completely forgotten about it !).

 

The RAAF Wapitis (not sure if all) had an "x" shaped brace similar to what is supplied in the Frog Novo Wallace kit. This Australian War Memorial shot gives an idea. So if your plans show this then yes please!

 

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Pinback

 

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On 10/7/2020 at 7:52 AM, dogsbody said:

All I have on the Wapiti

BIG thanks Chris - they both help!- the second one especially for the main engine exhaust detail and deck access above the wireless compartment

 

Really appreciated:)

 

Pinback

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Really nice this,...... I remember trying the same donkey`s years ago and although I was pretty chuffed with my efforts at the time, they never really looked like a Wapiti and merely resembled a Wallace pretending to be a Wapiti,...... unlike yours which looks superb.

Looking forward to seeing the rest of the build now,

Cheers

           Tony

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The engine... so far. :)

 

This is what you get with the kit.  Doug sawed the back off to help make the observers cockpit. I sawed the front off for the exhaust collector ring.

 

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I obtained an aftermarket Pegasus (should be a Jupiter but you wont see the difference- honest). This shot below also shows the exhaust collector ring sawn from the kit's engine. 

I could not just slap the ring onto the front of the engine. To get the dimensions right the ring needed to stand further forward and I was toying with the idea of using a washer as shown but ended up adding plastic card to the rear of the collector ring.

 

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Here is the plastic card stuck to the rear of the collector ring prior to filing back and drilling out.

 

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I sacrificed a part from an Airfix Gladiator for the rear piping on the engine cylinders (below). You could use stretched sprue as you will see later. The piping was separated from the central hub and superglued onto the rear of the cylinders. So now we have a Pegasus/Mercury combo purporting to be a Jupiter! Progress has been made on the collector ring on the right in this rather blurry shot.

 

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I used stretched sprue for the front exhaust piping. You need 18 bits of piping. The piping needs to curve slightly when it meets the collector ring (the curve goes anticlockwise when viewed from the front). You can sort of see this in this photograph on Wikipedia.

 

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This is where the trusty kettle comes into play again.

 

I cut about 30 sections of stretched sprue for the piping and stuck them down on some masking tape which itself had been stuck down on a piece of scrap tin. You don't need a metal edge - you just need a straight edge. A school ruler should do it. The sprue parts will be trimmed to size later. I should have done 40 (they take no time at all to cut) as a lot were unusable due to thickness and bend. A lot ended up pinging into the carpet monster when I tried to glue them to the engine. The tighter you grip with tweezers the further they travel , believe me!

 

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A second piece of scrap tin was fixed on top. Again just need a straight edge. Variations in thickness are apparent here - the thick ones were discarded.

 

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Press and bend in very hot water

 

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And there you have it. Some of them should be usable! I would do 40 plus next time.

 

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Just have to start trimming, gluing, cursing now. One down, seventeen to go in this shot. One pinged out of the tweezers and ended up in my hair. I did not realise until I had a shower that evening.🤨

 This task was made more complicated as I used PVA glue for the pipe/engine cylinder join and polystyrene cement for the pipe / collector ring join.

 

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Here's how it has ended up. Its getting there. The glue has dried and the piping/ring joins now need careful sanding as they are a bit pronounced. I may yet replace a couple of the pipes as not 100% happy with some of them.

 

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Should have more progress next week.

 

Pinback

 

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Coming along nicely - looking forward to seeing this progress!

 

Cheers,

 

Roger

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18 hours ago, mahavelona said:

Here is a plan I found from aeroplane monthly

Thanks @mahavelona appreciated! - not seen the Mk IV layout at the bottom of the page before .

 

If you like birdwatching you may be interested in the live feed to this peregrine falcon nest. The nest is situated right in the heart of Melbourne over 30 stories up a skyscraper. We are 10 hours ahead of the UK at the moment so if you take a look in the morning your time you will get a night view . There are three chicks at the moment and  plenty of pigeons about for food! There have been peregrines nesting at this site for nearly 30 years

 

https://www.367collinsfalcons.com.au/

 

This screenshot gives an idea of the height its at

 

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Pinback

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Hi :)- More progress. First to the engine.

 

The two main exhausts leading from the collector ring were fashioned from wire.

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I was mulling over what glue to fix but decided on heating each wire and melt/forcing it through the collector ring. Sometimes you just have to be a bit brutal! I first drilled two indentations in the collector ring to help locate. I had a practice heat and force on spare bit of sprue from the kit. Had no issues apart from slightly burnt fingers from the hot wire.

 

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The main problem now is the colour of the exhaust. The RAF Museum's Wallace's exhaust looks like plain shade of aluminium. I have seen a museum Jupiter exhaust (can't remember where) that looked a very pale bronze / almost aluminium. Most profiles seem to show a brick red/ bronze. (An illustrator once gallantly admitted that he had got his interwar roundels wrong by making them pale blue; not realising that the photo film stock made certain colours very pale. Very honest but made me wary of relying on any profile). At least one Wapiti had almost black piping from the cylinder to the collector ring. A lot of exhausts are just plain filthy which may be my salvation :)

 

A5-12's exhaust is showing quite dark so have opted for a paler sort of silver/bronze to start with. I will dirty this up a bit later.

 

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I have also added some control wire horns to the tail surfaces from scrap plastic. These will be trimmed back a bit.

 

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More painting to the fuselage, wheels and propeller. The top fuselage decking colour is my interpretation, a sort of dark NIVO. There is always a lot of discussion on NIVO which I will stick clear of. (There is so much discussion you would think that there is more than one shade). I have made an executive decision here. This is my take and I certainly won't trust any profiles either! If mine is wrong then I will live with it :).

 

There is a RAAF Wapiti propeller down the road at the Australian National Aviation Museum at Moorabbin. Interestingly this is apparently painted NIVO (Just been corrected by @Magpie22 - it would not have been NIVO but colour would not have been dissimilar - Thanks Magpie 22) so have painted A5-12's the same unless I find any other evidence. It looks to be a dark green in the photos I've come across. Here is the link if interested- check powerandpassion's post - 24th November 2017 at 00:13

 

https://www.key.aero/forum/historic-aviation/147340-colour-code-for-anti-glare-green-on-bristol-bulldog

 

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Lastly (!) here is how the three (yep there are three) peregrine falcon chicks were looking about an hour and a half ago from the live feed linked previously. They seem to get through a fair few pigeons/seagulls. My aim is now to finish the Wapiti before they fly.

Time to go- (the Bathurst 1000 is on) - Further update next week . Stay fit.

 

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Pinback

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Great update and the engine looks great with  collector ring and pipework.  Nice to see all the main components ready too. Great work. 

The three chicks look kinda cute fluffy things at the moment and did check out the live feed too.

Chris

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The collector and pipes are looking good. It's difficult to say just what colour they should be. In reality, new and unused would be a lot lighter than with a couple hundred hours of running time. As it comes out of the cylinder, exhaust gas is at least 800 degrees Farenheit. Heat staining will soon darken the metal. How dark may depend on what alloy is used in those pipes and collector.

 

Just please don't use bright shiny copper/bronze!

 

 

 

 

Chris

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On 10/19/2020 at 4:28 AM, dogsbody said:

Just please don't use bright shiny copper/bronze!

 

Agreed! :) Nor brick red

 

Will dirty it up a bit too

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