Friday, March 23, 2012

Here are some pictures of the latest work on the Spitfire IX kit.

The gloss coat here is Tamiya TS-23 “Clear” synthetic lacquer, sprayed right from the rattle can

I then applied decals, using the great markings set from Roy Sutherland’s Barracudacals , Sheet BC32004, “Spitfire Mk IX Series, Part I”.  I am using the RAF markings on this sheet for the Roundels & Fin Flashes and also for the Spitfire stencil markings.  There is a great narrative on “how to apply decals” in Roy’s instructions.  As he suggests, I used the Micro Set and Micro Sol solutions for all the Barracudacals.  I am especially a fan of the part where Roy writes about Gloss, Apply Decals, and Then Gloss again.  More on that later. 

I had one of those “Ah shucks” moments with decals on this model (or rather, that is nearly what I said).  As the upper wing Type B Roundel decals were setting, I had to leave the model bench. I should have stayed there and babysat these, because they both sat wrong as they dried. Instead of snuggling in tight with the panel lines like all the other Barracudacals did, a crease formed due to the blister over the outer wing .303 machine gun cover panel.  The crease was nearly symmetrical on both wings, extending from just outside the Dull Red inner disc, pointing towards mid span of both ailerons. As much as I worked these, I could not get the crease to disappear. 

In a near panic I called Roy to tell him that I was going to have to buy another sheet from him.  He suggested that I carefully sand the crease away and then re-airbrush this spot with some insignia Dull Blue.  I tried that  and to my great surprise it actually worked… using sanding sticks and eventually progressing to finer grit sanding pads (from Micromark), I was able to reduce the crease down to a smooth flat surface. I was careful not to “burn” through the decal down to paint, only to the white ink underlying the blue.  I cut curved masks from Tamiya tape with an Olfa circle cutter for both the outside and inside perimeter of the Roundel Blue. The closest paint I had that matched the Blue ink of the decal was Tamiya acrylic X-3 “Royal Blue”.  I loaded this into my Paasche “H” and with a number of light coats, covered the offending spots.  Just to blend everything, I sprayed a few light coats of Royal Blue over the rest of the blue parts of the Roundel.  The effect served to slightly discolor the original ink in just a few spots, much like post shading.  Spray some Gloss TS-13 Clear on top, and you can see the results.  Not for the faint of heart, but here is something new  I have added to my experience base.  Someone important to me used to say it was a poor day when you didn’t learn something new. 

For individual aircraft markings, I am using the decal sheet made by Techmod from Poland that is included in the Kagero book on the Spitfire IX / VIII, for that of  306 Polish Squadron.  The first of these I applied, is the serial number of this particular Spitfire IX, BS403.  At this point, the markings reflect what BS403 would have carried as she rolled out of the factory doors, before unit codes and badges would have been applied. 

Techmod decals can be very tricky to use.  The first rule to remember with Techmod is that you must start with a perfectly glossy surface on the model, much like for any decal application process.  The second rule is: do not use any commercial decal setting solution – use only water.  Counter intuitive, you say? Yes I know.  Modelers are brainwashed to think that decal solution is imperative, just because since the advent of Microscale in the late 1960’s it has always been so.  You frequently read postings on Hyperscale where modelers will rant about Techmod decals (in addition to ranting about everything under the sun like Life, The Universe and Everything) not responding correctly to setting solutions.  The trick is they should not use any setting solution on them.

Take a deep breath, step back from the model and say to yourself, “I am a modeler, I can figure this out; I can do this”.  Set aside your Micro Set and Micro Sol for your next Barracudacals masterpiece decaling project.  Just understand that Techmod decals are slightly different in design than conventional brands you’ll find from the USA or Western Europe.  Techmod decals are thin, perfect in register, slightly brittle and surprisingly opaque.

Do the following when applying Techmod markings:

1              Start with a very smooth glossy surface.

2             Do Not Use any setting solutions (Solvaset especially; it is way too hot for this decal brand); “Water Only”.

3              Place the decals is a dish of water as you normally would to loosen them from the backing paper, but also put some water on the model where you intend the decal to go. 

4             Float the decals onto the model, moving it around with a paintbrush.  (Side note: At the 2008 IPMS USA Nationals in Virginia Beach, I stopped by the Mushroom Model Publications booth and talked with the Polish guys that work with Roger Walsgrove at MMP. I mentioned that I used Techmod Decals, but had trouble with using Micro Set on them - that it stuck them and it was very hard to move. The Polish guys said not to put any solution on them at first.)  Just apply them, and blot out the water. I have done that, and it works.

5             I also had success wetting a cotton bud (Q-Tip), and rolling it across the decal as it was setting, very much like when you've had your fingerprints taken (in the old fashioned way with ink, I mean).  If it sticks in the wrong place, float some more water under it, working the decal around with your paintbrush.  Loosen it and start over.  Take care not to handle it roughly as it will tear.  Did I remember to say “Water Only” yet?

6             The clear carrier film has a slightly translucent quality. Don't freak out, it will disappear later when you spray on a second coat of Gloss after it dries.  

7              Allow the decal to dry.  With careful blotting and your rolling wet Q-Tip action, it will settle into the panel lines of your glossy surface.  It is a beautiful thing.

8             When it is all dry, spray on your clear gloss again (can you say: refracted light?),
 followed by your favorite clear Flat (Matt) of choice.

Check out the close up of the Air Ministry serial number, on the rear fuselage of BS403 above, to see the results. But you’ll see more of all that during the next segment, as I apply unit codes and markings.