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Early Beaufighter IF, Tamiya 1/48


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I am having a bit of a break from building large ships, and have decided to do some pre,during and immediately post Battle of Britain RAF and FAA builds. I’ve completed a Hurricane, Defiant, and two Spits, all in 1/48, and have started in on the larger planes in service or coming into service during 39-40. I just plain like the early RAF camouflage schemes with all their variations, and the FAA equally, and its an interesting period historically, where the RAF was undergoing rapid development in its organisation, doctrine, tactics and equipment.

 

I was in two minds about starting a WIP about this particular build, but I thought I would post some progress photos and also draw on the collective wisdom on the forum when it comes to RAF aircraft in 39-40.

 

For the twins, I’ve started in with one of the first Beaufighters to see service, but haven’t yet decided on the precise airframe. There are only a few reasonably documented aircraft from this period, so the choices are few. Its likely to end up being the well-modelled R2069 from 25 Squadron, or possibly a slighter later aircraft from 252 Squadron. I am tending towards R2069 because that fits the period and the photos of the 252 Squadron aircraft may be from early 1941. Also, the excellent side view published in Wingleader ‘Bristol Beaufighter’, puts the serial number for R2069 and its presence in 25 Squadron beyond doubt as long as you only use the Squadron Codes and not an individual aircraft letter.

 

I’ve used the old but still good Tamiya Mk VI kit as the starting point rather than the newer, but reputedly more tricky Revell 1F. The Tamiya is an easy build and, in any case, the Revell kit still needs a few changes to model one of the first production batch. Most importantly, the required ‘early’ style cockpit canopy is available as a vacform from Falcon, and is designed to fit the Tamiya kit. I hope I have picked up all of the external features needed for an early 1F. The list of changes, related to the Tamiya kit goes like this:

 

- no dihedral tail, in this case the Red Roo resin replacement.

- early cockpit canopy with additional framing and a different shape. This is a Falcon vacform, designed to fit the Tamiya kit. The early canopy is a little longer than the late style, has a curved edge to the lower front, and the nose needs to be trimmed then built up to the correct profile to meet the canopy base. The canopy itself fits very well, but needs some plastic strip shims ( about 15 thou) added to the rear and lower mating surfaces of the fuselage for a good firm fit and a larger gluing surface.

- short square section air intakes above the engines. I cut these down from the long intakes supplied in the kit, and added the small auxiliary intakes to the rear, visible on early aircraft. According to the Wingleader book, these are something to do with the early heating system on Beaufighters.

- clearance bumps removed from the engine cowling, and the extended glow preventer panel removed from the front of the collector ring, and fresh air intakes removed from the front of the exhausts. These are all more typical of later Mark I and Mark VI on aircraft.

- short plain exhausts.

- battle damage repair scabs removed from the wings. These are a peculiarity of the Tamiya kit due to their using an ex-Portuguese Mk X which had been used as a repair hack as the information source for the kit.

- .303 gun ports and ejector openings plugged as the first batch of production machines were built without wing guns. I don’t know whether the access hatches remained and have left them in place for now.

- early style tailwheel (supplied in the kit), early style main wheels (CMK make these).

- oil coolers in the wing leading edges without louvres or control rod. I have looked at every photo I can find of the early Beaufighters and these don’t seem to be present. Later machines show them clearly, even in shadow, but early machines lack them. I modified a pair of Red Roo resin replacement oil coolers to this plain style.

 

I am building the machine all buttoned up so I have left the interior largely alone, except for depicting the early drum feeds and spare drums ahead of the navigators position. You really can’t see them, but they are in place.

 

I have the Beau basically ready for painting. If I model R2069 as photographed then I have to add a VHF aerial immediately below the cockpit, and probably remove the mast between the cockpit and observers dome. The Wingleader book suggests that these early machines only carried VHF sets, rather than the earlier TR-9 sets with associated masts and aerials. The odd thing is that the photos of these aircraft show that the attachment points for the TR-9 aerial were fitted to the fixed rudder and likely the fuselage. I am wondering whether the removal was only temporary, as other early machines (eg 252 Squadron) show both the mast and aerial in place, or if these photos were doctored by the censor for some reason to erase the aerial and mast. There also seems to be a short antenna or mast just in front of the pilots canopy. I won’t copy these photos out of respect for copyright, but other, more learned members may have seen the same photos. Any thoughts? What else have I missed?

 

cheers

 

Steve

 

 

 

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Having done some more reading about Fighter Command’s attempted conversions in 1940 from the old TR-9 High Frequency radio sets to the TR1133 Very High Frequency sets. It appears 25 Squadron was converted around the beginning of September 1940. With better range, multiple channels, clearer reception and resistance to jamming, the VHF set was a priority for Squadrons earmarked for the Night Fighter role.

 

I think I will settle on building R2069 in its near factory fresh appearance in September 1940, leave off the HF mast, and fit the VHF mast below the fuselage. Still have no idea what the short mast is in front of the cockpit. The same feature appears on photos of R2054, the third prototype, and it is situated on the centreline of the nose. Possibly part of a back up ring and bead sight? It only appears on a few early machines then its gone.

 

Steve

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Ready for painting. I have plugged up the location where the HF mast would go, drilled the locating holes for the short mast in front of the cockpit - it has to be a fixed foresight I think, and one for the VHF mast under the cockpit. Strips of self adhesive aluminium foil now frame the edges of the cockpit to better blend the edges into the airframe. This is reasonably thick stuff, and I embossed lines of rivets in it, and put a couple of reinforcing strakes along the edges of the navigator’s hatch as well.

 

Bit paranoid about spray drifting into the cockpit and settling on the clear canopy, so I have plugged every drilled hole temporarily with white glue, and also stopped up the ejection chutes and tailwheel opening. Won’t do a primer coat as such, just interior grey green on the canopy then an overall coat of sky to check for areas that need more work. I think the undercarriage and bays were aluminium, so I will do them as well.

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Thanks Chris

 

The foil comes from a self adhesive sheet retailed by a company called T2M. It’s basically designed for use on car models. I also have some ‘baremetal foil’, which is a lot thinner, and some foil tape made by Mig. I think the Mig stuff is just repackaged aluminium flashing tape judging by its thickness. I used the T2M stuff because it had about the right thickness for the strips I wanted and, unlike the baremetal stuff, is thick enough to allow some gentle embossing.  Being a flat sheet, it was also easy to cut to size. The Mig stuff is a little thicker, and, (in testing it before doing anything to the model), has a pretty aggressive adhesive - great stuff for sticking, not so good for repositioning. I have used a little bit of it on the undercarriage, for the sliding sections of the oleos and struts (see below). Hopefully you can see the shiny bits contrasting with the matt silver paint. This is also the first time I have used the newish Tamiya Lacquer paints, and so far I’m impressed, easy to spray, very smooth and a very fine grain - finer than the rattle-can stuff I have used before. I am using these plane builds to fiddle around with different techniques and products - I am too cowardly to experiment on a ship model that might be months or years in construction!

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After spraying interior green over the canopy it was apparent that I needed to do more blending work on the front of the nose where it joins the canopy. I just masked off the panel in front of the canopy and blobbed on a thick coat of neat interior green. This dried overnight and I did some gentle wet sanding with 800 and 1000 grit to blend things in nicely. After this came the combined undersurface camouflage sky and witness coat.  I built up a proper coat on the undersurfaces and went a bit thinner everywhere else, just enough to check that seams etc are doing what they should.  The very light tone showed up very slight longitudinal sink marks along the top of the wings, just in from the trailing edge. Not bothering about these as I don’t think they will show under the darker disruptive paint scheme - you can just see them in the top photo.
 

The rest of the plane looks okay so a little research now to work out the boundaries of the top surface colours  - painting is the fun bit! I am using Colourcoats for all the camouflage colours. I used the proper MAP shade for Sky as it really looks like a factory paint job - very sharp demarcation between top and bottom colours, and a very fine blended line between the Dark Earth and Dark Green

 

 

 

 

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Next step is to draw up the templates for the TLS camouflage scheme. I checked the references I have, the old Dulcimus publications monograph on Beaufighter colours and markings, and the excellent photos of R2069 in the Wingleader Photo Archive Publication. I drew out the results over the painting guide that Tamiya supplies in the kit. Its not quite a mirror of the pattern on the Tamiya scheme. The result of this is photocopied, cut out, tested on the model, adjusted, then made into masking templates.

 

Interesting also that most profile depictions of this aircraft get the fin flash angle and its extent wrong. It doesn’t follow the angle of the upper moveable rudder, but is more upright and aligned more with the base of the tail where it meets the fuselage. The red section is the same width as the other colours so there is a small section of normal camouflage at the forward base of the rudder. Hobby 2000 got this right in their reissue of the 1/72 Hasegawa Beaufighter, while Hobbymaster got it wrong on their diecast version of R2069. It’s also wrong on the old Cutting Edge decal sheet, and I think also the Aeromaster decal sheet. I am also still struggling to find any documentation or photo of this aircraft having subsequently been painted with the individual letter ‘A’ as it is sometimes depicted. It would be nice to give the plane more of a specific squadron identity, but not essential.

 

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Next comes the masking for the disruptive scheme. Over the past four builds I have used paper templates raised on ‘sausages’ of masking tape and also hard edged masking using Tamiya tape cut to shape and placed directly on the surface. i have found it difficult to keep a consistent blended edge with the paper template method. The  paper itself can be reluctant to bend or crease around curves, and its difficult to keep the ‘sausages’ all the same height. I have hit on the following method to help me overcome these problems, get a more consistent soft edge, and stop me from inadvertently getting paint where I don’t want it to go. First I put down a layer of Tamiya tape down on a cutting mat, overlapped in a consistent pattern so that it will lift as one piece when cut

 

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Next I add a layer of grey double sided automotive mounting tape

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Another layer of Tamiya tape goes on top of this, in the same overlapped way and direction as the first level

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when complete this is tidied up, and the camouflage templates are traced on with a pen

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 A test piece cut out and attached to a paint bottle. I use a very sharp scalpel blade, and try to cut at a slight angle so the base of the mask is a bit smaller than the top. This helps to avoid a hard line when you spray. You can see that the mask is very flexible, and sits at a consistent height above the model’s surface.

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And here’s one I prepared before, as the TV chefs say! Spitfire 1A masked and sprayed using this method

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The things you have to do when you are a lousy freehand airbrusher!

 

cheers

 

Steve

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Lovely build, I do like the beaufighter. And very Interesting masking technique!

 

I use rolled up white tack, and it’s difficult to get the patterns exactly correct, and difficult to get a ‘consistent sausage’ - so the fade between colours isn’t consistent either.

 

I may pinch this idea and give it a try…

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The masks cut and weeded. The adhesive on the automotive tape tends to stick to the scalpel blade and cause it to drag, so I wipe the blade with IPA frequently.

 


p?i=7f4591775f0ea01b57b7db2768600b15Then its time to attach the masks to the model. There is always a bit of adjustment needed, extra bits added or cut away, and some masking tape used to seal gaps

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And first results out of the spray booth, with all the masking removed. I have some overspray shadow lines here and there, but I am going to gently rub the paint down with some fine wet and dry and this usually gets rid of the worst of it. Nice clean demarcation between upper and lower camouflage, with only a few bits to touch up. I breathed a sigh of relief as the masking came off the horizontal tail- it’s resin, and I forgot to prime it. But this time my luck was in and the paint stayed where it ought to - thank you Colourcoats! I’ll leave it all to harden up, while I head off to the high country for a few days of motorcycling about😎

 

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Back to it after three days away on the bike, enjoying a burst of good weather through the Australian Alps. There are still patches of snow visible on the NSW side, and riding down the Alpine Way from Deadhorse Gap, the temperature at midday went from 14 C at the Gap, to 29 C at Khancoban.

 

Next job was finishing off the paintwork on the engine cowlings by doing something about the prominent collector ring/exhaust. These change appearance depending on how long the plane has been in service. They start off a reasonably bright metallic silver, but change to a dull, brown coppery appearance after repeated cycles of heating. Various techniques were used to seek to hide the glow from the ring at night - either a cooling jacket pierced to allow air to flow through, or high temperature paint. R2069 was fairly early production, and doesn’t appear to have any special measures applied. I masked up the camouflage and put down a base coat of Tamiya LP aluminium, mixing up a satin from the matt and gloss. Over this I rubbed and buffed various shades good old Rub ‘n Buff, using pewter, Autumn leaf (coppery) and a mixture of ebony and autumn leaf.

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This was sealed with a filtering mixture of Vallejo satin varnish with a bit of dark earth mixed in - this just cuts the sparkly back a bit and provides a base for the next step. Regardless of the mark, the forward face of the collector ring always seems to be a brighter more pure silver colour. I carefully touched this in using Floquil Old Silver and a fine brush, just following the line I had scribed into the ring. I ran some along the back of the collector ring as well. Looks okay I think, after the masking is all removed. Decals next!


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22 minutes ago, Stephen Allen said:

Back to it after three days away on the bike, enjoying a burst of good weather through the Australian Alps. There are still patches of snow visible on the NSW side, and riding down the Alpine Way from Deadhorse Gap, the temperature at midday went from 14 C at the Gap, to 29 C at Khancoban.

 

Next job was finishing off the paintwork on the engine cowlings by doing something about the prominent collector ring/exhaust. These change appearance depending on how long the plane has been in service. They start off a reasonably bright metallic silver, but change to a dull, brown coppery appearance after repeated cycles of heating. Various techniques were used to seek to hide the glow from the ring at night - either a cooling jacket pierced to allow air to flow through, or high temperature paint. R2069 was fairly early production, and doesn’t appear to have any special measures applied. I masked up the camouflage and put down a base coat of Tamiya LP aluminium, mixing up a satin from the matt and gloss. Over this I rubbed and buffed various shades good old Rub ‘n Buff, using pewter, Autumn leaf (coppery) and a mixture of ebony and autumn leaf.

p?i=061cbe99019296112ef473d4ae99b2f9
 

This was sealed with a filtering mixture of Vallejo satin varnish with a bit of dark earth mixed in - this just cuts the sparkly back a bit and provides a base for the next step. Regardless of the mark, the forward face of the collector ring always seems to be a brighter more pure silver colour. I carefully touched this in using Floquil Old Silver and a fine brush, just following the line I had scribed into the ring. I ran some along the back of the collector ring as well. Looks okay I think, after the masking is all removed. Decals next!


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Stephen,

 

A very effective treatment of the collector rings, and a pleasant change from the copper-bronze which seems to mistakenly appear all too often!

 

Cheers,

 

Roger

 

 

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Thanks for these Chris, interesting and shows when the high temperature paint came into being - if I ever get to another Beaufighter (likely!) and its a nightfighter, this will be a nice way to show the collector rings also.
 

I have started on the decals. R2069 carried fairly standard day fighter markings for September 1940, and I am following the Wingleader photos for their application. One of the benefits of the relatively sparse surface detail on the Tamiya kit is that the decals don’t have a nightmare task in sinking into and onto the surface detail. To make up the decals needed I am borrowing upper and lower wing roundels from an Airfix Blenheim kit (for which I have some Xtradecal substitutes), 35 inch Type A1 roundels from a Fundekals Spitfire sheet, codes from an Xtradecal code sheet, and I am contemplating how to do the fin flash. I thought I had one that would work, but it’s too short, so I will probably make up a template then cut sections from a larger 1/32 flash. I could paint them - I paint many of the markings I use on ships - but it would mean an awful lot of masking for a very small area of paint.

 

After a lot of trial and error, my method for decals is a combination of two products. I use Airfix Decalfix to soak the decals, apply more to the surface where it is applied, get the decal settled with bubbles etc removed, then put a bit more Decalfix on top. I use enamel gloss coats, and they don’t suffer from the kind of problems that Decalfix can cause on Acrylic clear coats. I use a slightly damp brush to remove the excess Decalfix from the decals surround - as well as being a softening agent it is also a kind of soft, resinous clearcoat in and of itself, and it can cause sticky patches if left to dry in thick coats. When the second coat of Decalfix is dry I use a short bristled brush to poke the decal down into surface panel lines etc, then I coat the decal with Daco decalset. When this is dry, I use the short bristled brush to go over the panel lines again. The method varies according to the decal manufacturer - I test each kind by applying one to a piece of N scale plastic corrugated siding and seeing what happens. I also keep checking the decal using raking light to see how it is settling into the surface. Its a fairly fast process, not one of those wait overnight then burst the bubbles and try again methods. This Beaufighter is easy compared to something with complex raised detail, like the Eduard Spitfire 1A. That was a pig to get the decals to conform!

 

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And in editing the above post I have also found that there are words that you can’t use in this forum, presumably because they may be misunderstood. I am no genius at decals - it is the step I hate most because there are so many variables involved - is the surface smooth enough, will surface details make it difficult for the decal to conform, will the decal react well to the setting solutions, will the carrier film silver, will bubbles appear, did I get it in the right place and if it all goes pear-shaped, can I get it off again without ruining the paint job? Its all a bit fraught and so I just try to do what I can to learn from the last model, what worked and what didn’t. In the course of the past few months I have used Microset and Sol, Humbrol Decalfix, and Daco products of various degrees of mildness and ferocity. They all have advantages and disadvantages. Building a Defiant a little while ago I thought things were going swimmingly until I washed the model to remove some residue - and the old Xtradecal code letters and serials I was using just fell off… oh well!

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