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Tupolev TB-3

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Picked this one up for a good price at last years SMW, it's exactly the sort of subject I pick up, regardless of the quality of the kit.

Brutal, simple yet also complex!


Further research on the kit suggested I may have done something foolish, it's apparently an over engineered nightmare.

Sprue wise it's very impressive, especially as it may be short run (not sure if this is an ICM original or not). There's detail there & fine parts I've rarely seen in plastic. It seems clear that whoever tooled this kit cared for the subject. Noticable flash though, lots of cleanup to be done.




I'm adding some parts from this etch set, mostly for the instrument panels & the wheel hubs. I'm also using after market decals as I understand ICM ones tend to fracture, and with the corrugations I'll want a decent decal.

I'll be mostly busy with SMW builds for now, but couldn't resist starting... leaving the fiddly interior panels for now I've started on the main wing...

A curious makeup for this. There's a central frame you put together before adding the cladding panels to it. The parts are thin enough to be nicely flexible which helps. The fit was good enough to just friction fit the frame. I've glued on the main skin to start to tie things together leaving the frame loose enough to adjust as I add the rest.


With a 22" wingspan this isn't a small kit, but so far it's gone together a dream, if a little fiddly.

Edited by Stebos
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Heh, I'm not brave enough to try adding parasite fighters, I'll be pleased enough if it comes out as-is half decently.

That said, having a blast with this kit so far, put aside more pressing projects to add some more:


The underside is paneled out now, had no real trouble here. Taking each section slowly, using clamps and very thin glue seemed to do the trick. I've not seen styrene react so well to plastic weld before, it bonds so strongly I have to take extra care as adjusting afterwards is tricky.

From the top the structure is still seen, and the rear fuselage I also started on.


The top panels will be more problematic I think, they'll need bending down to fit the curve... yay for elastic bands!


No problems so far, the fit is *perfect*, each piece slotting in neatly and needing no filler at all. There's zero tolerance, so hopefully nothing is misaligned which could cause a major headache. The parts breakdown is so complete that it's almost impossible to test fit much in advance.

Edited by Stebos
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Quite a feat of engineering, both the design of the kit and your ongoing construction...looking very impressive!!!!!!



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  • 2 weeks later...

That all looks very sturdy and well built.....Bravo! :speak_cool:

Following the builds from the VVS site it appears that it's in adding the upper wing panels that things start to get scary.....Good luck with your corrugations! :winkgrin:

All the best

Andy S.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Looking good! Your build appears to be progressing nicely.

I'd heard horror stories about this being unbuildable- looks like

they were wrong- or the storyteller was a kitbuilder of MY

standard. Well done so far!! :goodjob:

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  • 2 weeks later...

Some more progress, and at last the kit seems to have some teeth as it's certainly starting to fight back...

Starting with the interior...

some simple detail is provided, there's a nasty punch hole smack in the middle of the very fine corrugations but it seems they won't be too visible so I'm leaving them alone.


The glazing will need some care as there's no lip to fit it to. I might run some strip around the internal borders as a frame. I'll see how the pieces fit first.

Most of the front cockpit is together. Fit was mostly good.



The edge of the lower seat needed trimmed a bit so it didn't clash with the side panel.

The dividing swing doors are clear, I've masked off the viewpanels. The kit pedals have been replaced with pe.

I can prime and paint it now, I've left off the control wheels, belts & the etch instrument panel for final detailing.

The rear section:


The indents for the weight reducing holes were drilled out.

It will make painting more awkward, but I glued the other side on. I felt it would be too fussy to fit after painting and the aggressive glue I'm using for extra strength would only damage the paint.

Ready for priming now.

Back to that huge wing...


These 3 part gun 'buckets' to the underside were a bit fiddly to put together, doesn't help with each one needing 4 tiny windows masked inside and out... Fit into the wing was poor, a significant amount had to be shaved off the holes. This loses a bit of the rim definition, but being pretty hidden underneath I can put up with it.

Another sign of potential trouble is the end caps, a poor fit and some really impressive sink holes.


This continues into some of the rear wing panels...


No sink holes luckily, but repeated sanding, trimming & test fitting still gets me a nice gap of .5mm or so, bit trickier with the corrugated finish but some careful indenting to almost set milliput should handle that ok.


I've stuck on some guide tabs for the front panels. The fit seems better than the rear, but getting a flush edge will defeat me. If there's a lip at all it will be impossible to sand out so I'll disguise it some with weathering & shading. There's a definite patchwork feel to the wing so it might work out :speak_cool:


The main upper panels have been ok to work with, sanding down the rough edges have them fitting quite well and not needing filler except for the leading edge. They need slight bending to fit the underlying frame but strong bonding weld seems to be good enough to hold them down.

Thanks for looking!

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  • 1 month later...

Yes Walrus, and sorry for the late reply! Haven't been able to do much modelling of late due to the holidays and a few other more pressing concerns...

With the deadline looming I broke out the airbrush for the first time in 2 months and got to work. The interior needs done before I can start finishing up the sub-assemblies.

A few things to note in passing:

One unexpected issue that's hard to notice from dryfitting is the flex I've ended up with:


More careful thinning of the spars can remove that, luckily you need to eye down the line to really notice it. If I was to build a 2nd one (ahaha) I'd know what to expect.

The engines are together, except for the exhausts.


Quite fussy to go together, 10 parts to each and getting them mostly straight and not slanted to one side is the order of the day. Not too much filler needed, the panelling is not quite flush (and I'm not sure they're meant to be flush).

As for the fit of the wing panels, this one has proved the worst so far:


there's a step of about 1mm... in theory you can sand down properly and try rescribing the corrugations but... no :banghead: not willing to risk ruining the wing or going mad in the process I've just blended in some filler and hope it passed after painting. I'm assuming the step is my error as the port side has a much smaller and more easily hidden step.

The tail area went together rather well:


The rather large gap indicated is meant to be there (luckily). Only being connected via the hinges gives the movable surfaces a nice seperation. I've placed them just slightly out of straight.

Last thing before the painting we have the wheels... all 4 need the hubs hacked or drilled out to take the etched spokes.


The insides will need filled... I hope the etch works because I'm stuck if not!

The painting though...

A simple coat in green to start with.


The interior green suggested is the same as the outer... I'm not sure if that's right, nor did I find a match for the suggested Humbrol 150. I played it safe and went for XF5, flat green.

After detail painting, drybrushing, a dark oil wash and some fiddly etched panels I have an interior of sorts.


A couple of things to note. I've circled a prominant punch mark I missed... as it's smack bang in a very noticable spot I'll have to fill it and repair.

A possible error in the instructions is also shown. It was very clear that the box went *above* the window but as it protrudes a few mm into the ceiling space, and doesn't match the opposite I think it should actually go where indicated. My fault for not being skeptical enough.

Another error caused by no placement marks on the sides is the little satchel/box... by chance it lines up exactly with the upside down 'cone' on the floor. Looks a little goofy but not really seen I hope.

The port side front seat also has a few mm shaved off it, the seat is too wide for the space and blocks the door if placed so it doesn't clash with the side wall.


A view from the other side showing the etch panels in place. The two cylinder indicators by the wheels don't quite match... one of the etched rings to the top pinged off the tweezers and there's no way I'll ever find it. Annoying, as the cockpit is open so it'll be noticed if you look closely.

That's it for now, not much left on the sprues now, but lots more still to do. Including the horrors of 3 extremely fragile and fiddly machine gun stations... :hanging:

Edited by Stebos
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Yay for weekends as this means lots of free time...

Here's the run up for todays events:


The rear subassembly... a bit of minor filling but nothing serious to be done. Starting to worry about the alignment of these major pieces...


The front section almost complete and in place (a punch hole is stopping me from adding the nose glazing). The wing bracing was a tad out here, so it was a little fiddly to stretch things to fit while the glue set.

The windows... arhhh :tapedshut: *none* of them fit of course, but luckily they are all oversize so it just meant slow and tedious filing and testing, filing and testing. Of course some over-zealous filing means that some are now *undersized*. I've masked them a little smaller to allow for the framing, and to hide the glue marks.

I could possibly have just left them friction fitted, but that was just asking for trouble. They're a little thick so don't show much, replacing them with acetate sheet would greatly improve things... but as there's only a hole to put them in I have no idea how replacement glazing could be neatly fixed and strong enough to survive masking.

The rear added:


No problems so far but ahh, those final wing panels are sure to laugh at such confidence...

And laugh they did... after much filing, testing, slicing, cursing, pulling off glued sections and more cursing the last 4 panels are on.


There are... gaps... of the filler swallowing sort, and they aren't quite aligned. You can see the stress discolouration where I've had to pre-bend them to help stick to the curving.

Engines on (bit scrappy in fit, but expected) and the final stretch is in sight...


A round of sanding and gap inspection to do, then it's adding what detail work can survive paint handling.

All things considered I'm happy with it so far, there is *zero* tolerance on the parts so most of these final gaps has been from slight misalignments I think. Short of building a set of custom jigs or planning things out more carefully, I'm not sure how to avoid those.

Not sure on the final paint scheme yet... options are limited due to ICM's decals being crap. I tested one and while it held together the pigment is very weak and really needs a white undercoat.

The problem here is the large tail numbers, distinctive and outlined in white. A nightmare to make a stencil for, especially with the corrugations. There is one scheme without them, this calls for a black/green camo (to main fuselage only I think). Maybe more interesting than all over green but those corrugations again, they just scream loudly 'colour bleed'.

I'll spend some time researching this, I've learned not to entirely trust kit instructions in such matters anyway.

Thanks for looking!

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Great progress Steve, looks an interesting build...usual ICM grade plastic by the look of it, ( as you say at least you can easily bend the stuff into shape!!)...should be an impressive beast when finished...

Are you going to add all the I-5, I-Z and I-16' parasite fighters ??? :whistle:


Amazing what can be done with this kit!!...just look what Ken did with his... :yikes:

TB-3 conversion

Edited by general melchett
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Yes indeed, he got a great result there (though I notice that punch mark in the cockpit is still there! :innocent: ), been studying other build reports to glean advice. Mostly to a higher level of skill and patience than I can muster up!

Pondering if I made an error on the green interior, the most common other modelers have done is grey or silver, not found any refs either way. There's clearly a few variants out there judging by the period photos (very diff engines and nose glazing layouts and bubble domes seem to be the biggest changes).

Leaning towards the black/green camo to break down the hectares of green, I'm not sure if the lack of a tail serial is because it didn't have one, or it did - but no one knows what it would be.

Lap belts too! I realised this morning I'd forgotten those, luckily it's an open top.

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Are you going to add all the I-5, I-Z and I-16' parasite fighters ??? :whistle:


TB-3 conversion

The one with the I 16's looks good, but that looks a bit over the top...

Wuld that design with so many parasite fighters even work?

Edited by NAKAJIMA15
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Time for another updateski!

Hopefully a final round of filler:


I had hoped to prime tonight but my milliput is nearing the end of it's useful life and is taking a while longer to cure. Detail has been added, I'm leaving off the tall pointy bits to help with handling.

I've added a thin sheet of plastic just in front of the cockpit, a ref photo of that area shows the corrugations being plated over at that point. Easy enough to do.

More detail:


Some of the finer parts are incredibly fragile and finely worked, these railings are a good example of the level of care put into this kit.

The main section of glazing, luckily it fits well with only the very slightest of projections:


Some ref photos show the framing here as a much paler colour (assuming underside blue, or maybe even bare metal), I much prefer how it looks blended into the rest.

The undercarriage legs were a very fussy fit that almost needed 3 hands to co-ordinate.


The vertical element only sits on a little 1mm dia plug, I hope the whole assembly stays strong over time... with all the internal work the TB-3 is a heavy beast.


The rear tail skid was even fussier... I think I got the 4 pieces aligned more by luck than design. There's an error here, I've marked where the control rods go (might even add them if I have something suitable) but the tail plane connectors are too far along... I've since broken them off and repositioned. Classic case of following the instructions before checking refs.

Speaking of instruction errors...

I was kicking myself when I realised the etch instructions had the gun mounts back to front! :frantic: Here's the villain:


Luckily I had only done the 1.

Broken off carefully and put back the right way round:


I hadn't intended to use the etched gun mounts as the kit parts are pretty fine as-is... but having the etch to hand I gave it a go, and I'm pleased at the results.

Finally we have the 3 mounts ready for the guns, and the 4 wheels butchered & re-filled so the etched spoke hubs can be added.


I'm ready to prime & paint now, then it's just adding the final detail parts (bombs & racks, aerials, rigging to the tail planes (12 lines, ugh), guns, wheel bogeys...)

At least there's only 6 decals to place!

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Thanks for the encouragement, onto the final lap now...

Free time's been short so far this week so all I have to show is some priming & pre-shading:



I really went to town on the preshade lines for this one, partly as the huge expanse of wings need as much help as they can get to add extra interest and partly to help hide where a tricky seam may be showing.

After this the u/s blue is on:


It's not strictly the right shade, being a bit more washed out & grey than perhaps it should be. I had thought to try a new technique - a mist coat of a medium blue underneath that would help saturate the paler shade on top but I completely forgot!

I do plan to add a oil wash 'filter' much like the armour guys do to the final result. To bring out the corrugations just a tad, and deepen the blue up.

I find it tricky to judge pre-shading subtlety, but without decent ref photos I tend to go with 'less is more'. Perhaps too clean a result, but a good test for the upper surface. I don't want to fuss too much over the u/s as it's generally never seen.

More confident in the plan to go for the camo upper, I don't think I quite have the skill to give an interesting variation to all that green.

Not sure of a masking method yet, it would be a soft edge but freehand spraying might be too soft for 1/72. Tape's no good as it's all soft curves.

I've tried blu tak before, but with limited success and it just screams bleed lines with all the corrugations, unless I'm very very careful in where I point things.

Will give it further thought... :hmmm:

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I'd just like to say...





Looking doubtful for finishing today, keep running into very time consuming problems... and some oils are refusing to dry...

:frantic::frantic: :frantic:

Edited by Stebos
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