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Tamiya 1/48 Spitfire Mk.Ia K9906

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Two things I'd like to say right off the bat. One, I did not do this kit justice. And two, wow this is the best engineered and best detailed aircraft kit I have personally ever built. It is a jewel. The cockpit alone is crammed full of detail and has plenty of options depending on which specific Mk.Ia Spitfire you choose to build from the kit. There are several parts and panels you can wait until the model is entirely finished before installing, the fit is that good. 







While this kit is incredibly good, it did prove to be a bear of a build but that was no fault of Tamiya.



The first issue I had concerned the seat harness. I built and painted the photoetched harness supplied by Tamiya and was really proud of how well it was looking. All I had left to do to complete the cockpit assembly was glue the finished harness onto the painted seat. Unfortunately as I was pressing the harness down onto the seat I accidentally flinched and caused the super glue to smear over the seat. The harness was now glued to the wrong spot and there was a big smear of glue on the seat. To fix my clumsy mistake I had to remove the harness supplied by Tamiya which naturally ruined it. And then the seat could be stripped of the excess glue and then repainted. With the Tamiya harness now ruined I needed a replacement. I purchased a sutton harness from HGW. The detail was good but definitely trickier to assemble than the Tamiya item. And while the HGW belt material does have some flex, it is still a pretty delicate item. I was being very careful trying to assemble the harness but it tore along the series of laser cut holes. I really don't know how I could have been more careful to avoid this happening. I messaged HGW and they offered to send a free replacement right away so I was pretty happy with their response. Unfortunately after a few months, nothing had arrived. I eventually chose to purchase a second harness from HGW and very frustratingly, it tore in the exact same place again. I decided to try and repair the torn harness. I glued the harness to some very thin metal foil. This would be thin enough to hide and retain some flexibility. Once the cockpit was finally done the rest of the construction went incredibly easily. Again, the fit of the parts was near perfect and only the bare minimum of seam filling was needed along the top of the engine cowl. I did lose some of the fastener detail while sanding which I replaced with some 0.88mm diameter rod which I then hollowed out with a 0.4mm drill. 



The pitot tubes are very delicate on the early Mk.Ia Spitfires. This is nicely represented by Tamiya but I felt I could do better so I sliced off the pitot tubes and replaced them with some stretched sprue. 



Other modifications I made were repositioning the rudder and elevators. The tail wheel was also turned to the right and a thin steel wire inserted into the tail wheel strut to maintain its strength after the modification. Lost rivet detail on the tail strut was replaced with Archer 3D printed rivets. The solid plastic tail light was cut off the rudder and replaced with clear stretched sprue that was shaped with sanding sticks and then cut to length. 



My goal with this build was to represent an aircraft that had only acquired a few hours of flying time on it so I figured my best bet was to study some recently restored Spitfires. The exhausts showed a lot of interesting subtle tones and colours which I tried to represent here. The kit exhausts have excellent detail and shape but are molded solid. It was challenging due to the shape but I used an exacto blade to very carefully hollow out the exhaust pipes. 



Looking at references, the exhaust residue colour is close to Tamiya buff or deck tan which was airbrushed on then complimented with some pigments. 



The wheel down indicators, external gun sight and small nut on the tip of the spinner were all made from stretched sprue of varying thicknesses and shaped as needed. I even used very thin stretched sprue to make brake lines mounted to the main gear legs. 



After the struggle that was the seat harness, everything was pretty smooth sailing until I got to painting which proved to be an even bigger headache. The Spitfire was built over the course of the last two and a bit years so some of my memories are a little vague. I began by priming the model and spraying Vallejo Aluminum on the lower surfaces. The aluminum was masked off and I began painting the upper surfaces. The masking was then removed and big sections of aluminum paint went with it. All the external paint was stripped, and I chose a different aluminum but again, I had large sections of the paint come off. My third attempt to paint the Spitfire started by painting the upper surfaces but when that masking was removed, more paint came off. 



The fourth and final attempt was thankfully uneventful. The previous paint had been stripped and the model cleaned thoroughly with alcohol and primed with Tamiya grey. This was allowed to sit for a solid month before tackling the aluminum which this time was Vallejo silver 77.724. The upper surfaces were painted Tamiya XF-52 Flat Earth but that looked a touch too dark so I went over it with Vallejo Dark Earth 71.323. Blutack was used to mask the camo pattern and Tamiya XF-81 Dark Green 2 mixed with a small amount of XF-67 NATO Green went on. The blutack came off with no problem and I could finally move onto the gloss coat. 



That whole painting saga actually took place over a span of about six months or so as each failure was rather demoralizing. And with covid in full swing at the time, it's not like there were any model shows to take it too. I would normally have spent a fair bit of time post shading but again, this is meant to look like a pretty new airframe so that would have been inappropriate. I honestly can't remember if I forgot to clean the model of dust prior to painting (the model had sat for a few weeks after its final coat of primer but it was covered) or if the top colours weren't thinned enough as certain areas came out with a rather rough finish. After so many earlier failed attempts at painting I really wasn't in the mood to try painting the model AGAIN. I said to myself screw it and chose to simply press on. I just wanted this thing to be done. 



I used Pledge (formerly Future) clear gloss to prep for decals. I must admit, after all the issues with the seat harness and painting I had been borderline throwing the model away several times. I decided at this point, even with its flaws I just wanted the model to be done so I could move on. I sprayed one rather heavy coat of Pledge, let it dry and began applying decals. Admittedly, this was a mistake as the surface was really not glossy enough for the decals which is why you will notice a fair amount of silvering. I had initially planned to only use the small decals included and airbrush on the larger markings using custom vinyl masks. But I was still rather paranoid about masks potentially lifting off paint so I chose to only use decals for the markings. 



With a crudely repaired seat harness, rough camo paint and silvered decals, it was time to start the final weathering and assembly. A dark grey wash was applied to a few inspection doors and the panel lines that outlined the flaps and flight controls but that was it. I wanted to keep the panel lines subtle. 



Oil paints and pigments were used to simulate a small amount dirt and grime from flight and ground crews walking along the wing roots. Again, trying to keep the aircraft looking pretty new. 



The model was placed on fine sand paper and the sand paper gently moved back and forth to flatten the bottom of the tires. Later I managed to lose the light that sits just behind the antenna mast while trying to install it. Thankfully I saved the leftover clear sprue from a Spitfire build from well over a decade ago which still had that piece I had lost so chock up another win for the spares box. 



The only other adventure I had involved the windscreen. When I removed the masking from the windscreen I saw to my displeasure that at some point the masking I used to protect the inside of the windscreen had lifted just enough to allow some paint in. It was pretty prominent but to be honest since the model was already a disappointment (again, that's on me, not Tamiya) I wasn't going to fix it. But after a few days it started to really bother me and I decided that even though the model was virtually done I elected to remove the original windscreen and replace it with the second one included in the Tamiya kit. The new windscreen was quickly faired in with some milliput and the windscreen once again masked and painted.  I should add that while using water to help smooth out the milliput around the replacement windscreen some of that putty water began to stain the paint. I rushed the model to the sink and washed it off. Unfortunately washing the model caused some of the Tamiya clear flat to come off which is why you see some silvering in some odd areas like over the roundels on the wings. It was one adventure after another!



Let's see, what else. I removed the molded on door release handle and made a new one from styrene. And I had scratchbuilt the handle mechanism you see inside Spitfire canopies to slide it open and closed. Turns out while it looked the right size when I was making it, but turned out to be fractionally too big and wouldn't fit when the canopy was installed in the open position. Oh well.





Based on footage I have seen of Spitfires from the time on YouTube, they seemed to operate from grass field runways but were maintained on concrete aprons. To replicate this I lightly weathered the tires with some old medium brown looking pigment from Mig. Then I took a cotton swab and ran it along the middle of the tire to show where the dirt had been worn off when the aircraft was moved across the concrete apron. 



I had planned to add the three antenna wires to the model but after such a problematic build I just wanted the model done. So I simply omitted them. 



There were other problems that cropped up and a few other mods I made but I covered the main ones. Not sure if what I wrote made any sense, it was tricky trying to write the key points down only after the model was done and after so much time had passed since I had begun building it. 



So what I initially thought would be a quick build back in June of 2019 would wind up being one hell of a roller coaster and I didn't finish it until the end of April 2022. And while it did come close to being chucked in the garbage several times, I'm glad I chose not too. I can't stress how much I learned building this model. From all sorts of problem solving to my first real attempts at scratchbuilding several small parts, even though they didn't all make it onto the model. And despite all the flaws (most obvious being all that silvering) I'm honestly surprised it turned out as goods as it did!



Now that the Spitfire has been finally completed I will get back to the M4 Sherman "Thunderbolt VI" I have going in the armour section. 


Thanks for looking. 





Edited by M_Sinclair
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Beautiful Spitfire! And you seem to have harnessed the cockpit problem really well…


Amazingly thin aerial wire, too.


Now I wonder if there's space in my basement for a Tamiya Spitfire kit.


Superb modelling!


Kind regards,



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It turned out great, and the seat harness looks very good to me.  One thought is you could have used the stencils over the future.  I have touched up some boo-boos from decaling by painting over the future.  I go over it with another coat of future and it looks no different than the original paint job.  You don't have to worry about the paint pulling up that way.

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Methinks the modeller does protest too much. Amazing work my friend. Like the exhausts especially. The deflected flying surfaces is a realistic touch, but could have been enhanced by deflecting the ailerons too. Never seen a "cleaned up" a/c. But that's nitpicking.

Very well done. Exceptional finish. Stand tall and proud my friend.



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