Tuesday, February 26

Review: Eduard BRASSIN Bronze MiG-21 Undercarriage Legs in 1/48th scale

It seems Eduard has raised the bar with their new bronze undercarriage for their excellent MIG-21 kit in 48th scale. Big things are said about this set, so we thought it best that our man Gary (who is making their bunny fighter MIG-21 as we speak) investigates them to see if they are as good as we want them to be….

Eduard BRASSIN MiG-21 Undercarriage Legs BRONZE 1/48
(Part # 648-080)
Kit contains: 3 brass parts & 10 resin parts
Available from: Eduard directly and your local hobby shop.

Eduard continues to extend the Brassin accessory series at a healthy pace and the subject of this review is one of their newest offerings for their own MiG-21 family. Designed for the Eduard MiG-21 third generation family (MF, SMT, BIS) kits, this set is noteworthy in that it is Eduard’s first foray into the use of metal parts. Eduard has chosen to use bronze as the material for the main and nose undercarriage legs. They are not the first company to use this material for model undercarriage parts, but when I first heard about this set I expected it to be something special, given Eduard's well known eye for detail. I was not disappointed.

Bronze is an alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive and it has been used thru the ages to manufacturer items that incorporate intricate detail and require strength. Bronze is traditionally cast using a "lost wax method" but I am not sure how modern manufacturers like Eduard create these mass produced items.

As best said by Eduard themselves "The surface quality, as well as the stoutness, surpasses solutions made from other material, including white metal."

The set is designed to be a direct replacement for the kit plastic parts and provides the following items:
Main Undercarriage Legs (Bronze).
Nose Wheel Leg (Bronze)
Main Gear Doors, top and bottom (Resin)
Main Gear Oleo Scissors (Resin)
Main Gear Retraction Struts (Resin)
Linkage Mechanisms (Photo Etch)
Because the set is designed to be a direct replacement for the plastic parts provided in the kit, I thought the most obvious way to review it was a side by side comparison of the two. The MiG-21 in 1/48 is not a large model and therefore does not really warrant the use of metal for strength, so when we consider purchasing this set for our kit, the main draw-card will be the extra detail it offers over the kit parts.

Eduard have created a beautifully detailed master for the main legs and cast that in bronze. As you can see from the comparison below, the Brassin parts contain a noticeable amount of detail compared the simplified plastic parts. The limitations of injection moulding technology become apparent here.
There is a very fine seam that runs along the edge bronze parts. As the metal is quite hard this may take some effort to remove, but as I said it is very minimal and you may even choose to leave it alone.
So how do these new parts compare to the real thing ?
The Brassin parts do have the additional linkage rod visible on the forward edge of the leg, but they do not have any of the hydraulic lines or couplers seen from the rear view. These would still need to be added by copper or lead wire for that perfect replica.   
The nose undercarriage leg is not only more detailed than the plastic part it replaces (with added cabling and piping), it is cast as a single unit, making it a simpler option to assemble and install than the plastic parts.
Turning our attention next to the main gear doors, which are supplied in resin with two parts for each side, an upper and lower door. The corresponding plastic parts are molded as one piece and the Eduard instructions have the modeller bend this part at the join. The resin parts are as you would expect are far more detailed than their plastic cousins.

These photos show the interior faces of the doors. Much of this detail will not be seen as it sits up against the main gear leg itself.
The exterior of the doors are quite plain so there is little difference between the Brassin and kit parts. Both of these are accurate when compared to the real aircraft.

And a look at the real thing...

As the real MiG-21 main gear doors are hinged at the lower 1/3 mark, the kit part needs to be bent to a 28 degree angle (I believe this equates to the maximum deflection with full weight on wheels). The Brassin set instead provides the door in two parts that will need to glued together (with the same 28 degree angle between)
The resin is once again is very nicely detailed on the inside face (shown above) and is a considerable upgrade from the kit part. The outside face (shown below) is very similar between the resin and plastic.
The oleo scissor coupling is also provided in the Brassin set and once again is molded as a single unit compared to the plastic parts that need to be assembled and glued at the hinge point.
The main gear retraction struts are likewise noticeably more detailed in the Brassin set.
The last item included in the Brassin set is a small PE fret which includes the linkage mechanisms for use on the lower section of the main gear. If you have any of the Profipack boxings of the Eduard MiG-21 kits you get these linkages in PE anyway.

Now that I have had a close look at how the Brassin components compare with the plastic parts they will potentially be replacing, I would conclude they are a significant improvement. I like the way that the nose wheel gear and much of the main gear legs have been molded in one piece. They are designed to allow you to literally drop in the bronze and resin parts in an almost 1:1 swap for the plastic. This is the way detail sets should all be done.

The only thing that gives me pause is the asking price. When you consider the RRP from the Eduard website for this undercarriage set is 595 K? (US$30) and the price for the ProfiPACK MiG-21 kits themselves are 795 K? (US$41) you are being asked to pay 75% of the kit cost for just the undercarriage!!!

I assume that the manufacturing costs of the bronze items may account for this extremely high price but I fear that this will not be a big seller for no other reason than it's just too expensive. There is no doubt the quality is there and its certainly worthy of the Brassin name, I'm just not sure how many modellers will fork out these sort of dollars for items that will mostly not be seen on the finished model, and it’s not like the plastic parts are glaringly inadequate.

Many thanks to Eduard for the review set and for being willing to try something new with the use of bronze. I hope it works out for them financially and that they can find a way to drive the costs down so we see more of these coming down the line.

Gary Wickham