Monday, October 6

Gary steps into third.. Great Wall Hobby's 1/48th scale F-15B/D Eagle Pt III

Gary Wickham's own version of the revised Great Wall Hobbies F-15B/D Eagle is all but finished in Today's Part III of his truly inspiring build. The Japanese Aggressor scheme needs a lot of care and masking and today Gary shows you how he got the best from his Japanese Eagle...


Great Wall Hobby
Kit No: L4815
1/48th scale
Available from: Great Wall Hobby directly & most model shops
Model by Gary Wickham

GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle Correction set review here.
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Build Review Part I
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Build Review Part II
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Build Review Part III
GWH 1/48 F-15B/D Eagle - Completed Gallery

Today I conclude my build review of the Great Wall Hobby (GWH) kit of the F-15B/D Eagle. This is part three of the build and covers the painting stage. If you missed the earlier articles you can find them here :- Part 1 , Part 2

As the construction was coming to an end and it was time to make a final decision on which paint scheme to go with I seriously considered the very interesting brown scheme but in the end stuck with the 2013 Blue Splinter scheme that had got me started down this path in the first place
The Build (concluded)
The very final step in preparation for painting is to give the model a wipe down with Testors "Plastic Prep". This is a special cleaning product for styrene plastic and does a good job of removing any oil (from my fingers) or sanding residue that has come to rest in the panel lines. I use an old soft toothbrush dipped in Plastic Prep to flush out the surface detail. Let it air dry and you are ready for painting..
I wanted to have a try out a dark base (primer) coat over which I could apply the lighter greys. I have see this used to good effect on the net and with a boring grey scheme ahead of me seemed like as good a time as any to give it a go. I selected Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black and thinned it with the wonderfully versatile Mr Color Leveling Thinners. This made for fine paint that airbrushes wonderfully.. 
My Iwata Revolution CR was loaded up and a thin coat of the black was applied over the whole airframe. Even though the paint is semi-gloss and would normally take a while to dry, the Mr Color Leveling Thinners speeds things up a bit and also helps the paint to settle into a very smooth coat. Not sure if it’s the Mr Color thinners but the finish was not all that semi-gloss to my eye.. 
With the black dry I next applied several light coats of Alclad "Airframe Aluminium" on the exposed natural metal section between the tails. This went on smoothly with the trick to getting a good result with Alclad being to apply many super thin coats and build them up.
The unpainted panels on the F-15 extend further forward on the underside as shown here. Alclad "Airframe Aluminium" again was used.
It was at this point that things took a turn for the worse. As I was masking the Alclad I had to remove some of the tape to reposition it slightly and it lifted a big section of the Alclad and more disturbingly the black primer as well. I was left with several large chunks of missing Alclad and so I decided that if it happened here it could happen elsewhere on the model. I bit the bullet and sanded the entire model surface with some micro mesh pads to see where the black paint had not adhered to the plastic. You can see quite a few sections where the black paint came off with little or no coaxing. I thoroughly sanded each weak section back to plastic and then applied some real grey primer to check my repairs. This goes to show that no matter how well you prep the model prior to painting that things can (and often do) go wrong. 
After the repairs, I re-applied the Alclad, masked it and then applied the first of the two "mod eagle" greys. Gunze Mr Color have both of the greys required in their range. The lighter grey is C308 and over this we apply small sections of C307. Not having a very steady hand when it comes to airbrushing I always try to use a suitable mask if possible. Blu-Tack seems perfect here as the demarcation needed to be curved and slightly soft.
With the sausages of Blu-Tack laid in position, small segments of Tamiya tape are used to block out the sections that need to be protected. This is time consuming work but the end result is exactly what I was after so it was worth the effort.
Longer lengths of sausages can be made by slowly rolling the Blu-Tack into thinner sizes with a ruler. The lengths shown here are about as long as I think I could roll Blu-Tack without it becoming a big mess. As before once the Blu- Tack is where you need it, apply pieces of tape to protect from overspray (and help keep the sausages from moving while handling)
At this point the base "mod eagle" scheme was done. My real work in reproducing the 2013 Aggressor splinter scheme however was only just beginning.
One of the visually appealing features of the JASDF Aggressor aircraft is the way that all the stencilling on the airframe is masked over and hence appears as a patchwork of grey boxes over the entire surface of the aircraft. Anywhere there is a safety stencil or walkway, the grey paint had to be masked over, just like the JASDF do in real life. Tamiya tape was carefully cut to size and shape and applied to match the photos I had of the real aircraft (92-8068).
The stencil masking was very time consuming, as I had to continually refer back to photos and instructions from the Hasegawa kit. As it turned out I noticed that Hasegawa got a few things wrong in their paint layouts so that made me even more paranoid and I was more focused on double-checking everything. The stencilling was very important because it was one of the main things that drew me to this scheme in the first place and I wanted to get it right.
Once I was satisfied that the stencils were covered, I proceeded to mask off the first of the two blues. The colors used here are the same as used on the JASDF Blue Impulse display team (not surprisingly) and once again the Mr Color range came to the rescue with out of the bottle matches for both blues. The light blue is C323 whilst the darker blue is C322 "Phthalo Cyanine Blue". The splinter scheme is actually not that hard to mask (being straight lines) but again it took a lot of time because I needed to check and double check where each section was meant to go. I think overall I went thru about a roll and half of Tamiya tape.
The light blue was sprayed as normal and then the centre of each panel was "faded" with a lighter (ie whiter) mix. I prefer this method over the more popular "pre-shading" technique as I think it looks more realistic and is generally easier to make look convincing. When removing the tape for the splinter I had to be very mindful not to lift the stencil tape I had worked so very hard to apply.
Some of the areas which had to be taped were a bit challenging. Around the intakes and LEX (is it a LEX ?) was a bit tricky due to the curves and the angles needed to be dealt with. As usual, a modicum of patience served me well.
The vertical tails were also masked and sprayed along with the rest of the fuselage. I left the horizontal tails off during painting to make things easier for myself. I was pleased how well the panel lines and rivets were holding up under now 3 coats (well four if you count the primer) of paint. I had pre-scribed all panel lines and sharpened up most of the rivets as experience has taught me the value of this when we get to the panel wash stage. 
One of the more interesting masking challenges on this build was the star on each drop tank. The masks needed to be a reverse layout with the dark blue applied over the grey and a reverse negative effect below. The decal sheet did provide these stars but the color looked nothing like the dark blue I was using so a better solution had to be found. I scanned the decal sheet, printed it back out on paper so it was the same size and then using clear "invisible" tape stuck each star down over some Tamiya tape. I then used a sharp blade and traced out the star using the printed paper decal as a template. After a few wonky attempts I was eventually able to get a star template that would do the trick. I needed four of these, two for each tank.
It was now time to mask up the dark blue splinter sections. Looking at this photo it's hard to imagine how this would work out but again I proceeded slowly and carefully checked each piece of tape as I laid it down.
With the splinter edge layout in place I was able to finally fill in the blanks and mask up all areas that may have been subject to overspray. The dark blue is not the sort of paint you want to accidently spray somewhere it should not be. 
Once the dark blue was dry (this actually took a couple of days as the C323 was high gloss) the masking was removed. Whilst it may seem odd, the dark blue did not cover very well at all and I was forced to apply several coats. This resulted in a noticeable demarcation "ridge" due to the thickness of the paint which I then had to remove by careful sanding with 4000 grade micro mesh
It was this point that I felt all my effort was paying off. You now the moment when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel :) 
With the major painting done and dusted it was time to round up all the other stores and weapons that needed some paint. The AAM missile used on the aggressor birds are dummy (inert) rounds and hence painted in a medium blue color. The best match I have found is actually a Model Master color for cars, #2730 Chrysler Engine Blue.
The doors to the avonincs bay also had to be masked and painted to match the fuselage patterns. This was mostly easy and I used a rule to measure where the tape had to go. You can see here my scratchbuilt latches in the open position.
The modified radome lip and hinge were painted using XtraColor "Interior Blue/Green" X159 . The interior of the radome is fiberglass and was painted Tamiya Buff.
Next up was the decaling. As usual I applied two light coats of Future (thinned 50:50 with Tamiya Acrylic thinner) to provide a gloss surface. As before, when I was masking up for the stencils, this task was very time consuming in applying each stencil and panel number decals in the right spot. I have to confess that I did not apply each and every panel identification number (to their credit, GWH do give you a decal sheet with every one present). The decals I ended up using were a combination of DXM (Double Excellent Models), GWH, Two Bobs and Hasegawa. 
An overall view of the completed decaling. This model was finally starting to look like an Aggressor.
A closer photo shows more clearly the density of decals that were applied. It took me a couple of sittings to get this far progressed. Each and every stencil decal went down without a hitch, which was a relief because often such small decals are prone to silvering. You can see the sheen of the Future gloss coat which is so very important to make decaling easier and in my case provide a protective layer for the upcoming panel wash. Once all the decals were dry (overnight) I used a soft cloth and warm soapy water to clean away any excess glue residue from around the decals. Next I sealed the decals with a final light coat of Future.
Over the years (makes me sound old, I guess I am ...) I have refined a technique for doing my panel washes. I've actually done a small tutorial on my website here if you'd like to see a step by step guide. For this build I selected my default panel wash color of Model Master Burnt Umber mixed with white spirit for the grey and light blue areas. For the dark blue areas I needed to switch to a lighter shade and settled on Model Master Medium Grey.
The panel lines and rivets on the GWH kit are generally very sharp and for the most part deep enough. I did however lightly pre-scribe most all the panel lines on the whole model before painting as well as sharpening up any rivets that looked suspect. It’s a lot of extra work to be sure but when you get to this point and the panel wash comes out well it makes it all worthwhile. I know that my panel/rivet highlighting style is not to everyone’s taste but I don't mind as I like the results.
The final step after panel washing is an overall clear flat coat (I still have a pretty good stockpile of Polly Scale Acrylic Flat Clear) and then final assembly of the various components onto the main airframe. As a rule at this point I attach most parts with Super Glue or Two Part Expoxy (for extra strength) for things like undercarriage legs. Although not highlighted in the earlier construction I also used brass pins to secure the ACMI and AAM to the pylons, as much for ensuring accurate alignment as for strength.

The finished model displayed here on a pre-printed 1/48th scale base from Uschi van der Rosten.
So that's another one for the display cabinet. Overall I'd give this latest kit from GWH a 9 out of 10. I'm not going to compare it to the Haseagwa kit or anything like that. Sure as you have seen I used some parts from that kit in preference to the GWH parts but that’s really only because I had one spare and I was being lazy. I'm very happy with my choice of paint scheme and I have my eye on the GWH F-15C and who knows maybe that too will be a JASDF Aggressor.

So if you are looking to build an accurate, detailed, well-fitting F-15 two seater, then the GWH kit should definitely by on your shopping list.

Gary Wickham
Thanks to Great Wall Hobby for sending this neat F-15 for Gary to build and review here on TMN.