Tuesday, November 10

Read n' Reviewed: Encyclopaedia of Aircraft Modelling Techniques Volume 1: Cockpits

Remember encyclopaedias? Those thick hardbound books that you got as a kid that let you know about the world and all you needed to know in your then young life? Don’t you wish that when you used your dad’s house paints there was a bit more guidance on your favourite subject of modelling? Well now MiG’s AMMO brand bring a new set of five issues to make your own comprehensive Encyclopaedia on Model aircraft making. We read “Volume 1: Cockpits” and we thought you would like a look at it in our review…
Encyclopaedia of Aircraft Modelling Techniques Volume 1: Cockpits
 Publisher: AMMO of Mig Jimenez
Written by: Diego Quijano,
Product No# A.MIG-6050
128 pages in English.
(vol. 1 of 5)
Available from the AMMO site in single issues or a subscription which includes all 5 the issues.

This is a new way of learning how to make models – all spread over five volumes and each volume concentrating on one or two areas of aircraft modelling. AMMO of Mig Jimenez has created this series with author Diego Quijano at the helm, it all sounds rather promising. First let’s look at what the book series will look like, then this volume before we walk you through issue 1.

The five volume series will feature the same format right throughout – this book comes in at 128 pages and ours is printed in English although a Spanish language edition is also available. The lovely models and the main areas of concern in each feature on the A4 portrait matted softcovers feature through these books.
The format of the books is roughly a picture to a paragraph of caption so there are not any large blocks of reading to get through. Indeed, you can read this one in one or two afternoons (if you are not otherwise always distracted like me) and the text is well written and never dull. In fact, I really did appreciate the Author’s passion in the prologue. It really got me bursting to read this book and get into my own kit. However, the book soon does settle down to a picture/paragraph format like and SBS (Step by Step) model build almost. 
Well that is the overview of the book – the precise nature of what is covered in this volume:

1.Tools and Preparation of Parts
Materials, Tools and Paints
Separating Parts from the Sprue and Cleaning Mould Lines
Removing Ejection Marks

2. Cockpits
Simple Cockpits
Advanced Cockpits
Wooden Cockpits

OK so let’s go through it all…

With any volume so all-consuming as this the author starts at the start. He takes us through what is to the be the cornerstone of any good modeller – his tools. I know you say “a poor tradesman….” and all of that – but having the right key tools and understanding what they fully do is important, especially in what I think is the target audience for these volumes. Twelve pages are taken in describing the most basic of tools, knives, cutting snips, cutting mats and saws, to sanding equipment and photo etch bending tools. We progress to the chemical side with paints including lacquers and acrylics, enamels and metalizer paints and varnishes.
We then go through and look at some of AMMO’s paints including acrylics and specific aircraft sets before we look at the matching washes. Streaking effects, filters and pigments with a few oils added in there too. Now I don’t mind a bit of product recognition, but too much of one brand is one thing that the makers of this book might look at addressing. Too much of one thing and it becomes a sales catalogue and no reader likes to just see one way of doing things. So Diego next time please keep it a bit more varied!
So you think we started at the beginning? Well let’s really start at the start with Diego’s methods of part removal from sprues. He uses a curved blade to trim some of these which I really never thought of before – it’s worth a look always at the way others do the basics as you might learn something (like I just did) in the process.
Diego shows us how he disguises and removes ejector marks from quite sensitive places in the next few pages – a most useful kit to have in your skillset nowdays as injection moulders are still forgetting to eliminate these where visible.
We go on to section 2 next – first the practice of creating simple, then advanced and then on to wooden cockpits.
It starts off rather simply like the title suggests. These chapters on cockpits are however much more detailed then the first on equipment and basic techniques.  Firstly we look in an SBS style at the detailing of a regular cockpit construction and more so the painting, then instrument dials, pilot’s seats and seatbelts. The results are said to be basic and I suppose they look like the best cockpits you ever saw ten years ago – but times have changed and expectations have grown in that time. Still a lot of people would like to come out with a result like this.
Indeed although he does a great job with the basics of modelling you can see these basic techniques have much been surpassed with today’s add-ons with extra seatbelts, cockpit dial fascia and photo etched materials. It’s almost like Diego was holding something back previously as these advanced techniques seem more like what we see nowdays from the best modellers. 

While reading the section about closed cockpit I saw an interesting passage. While showing us how to both close our cockpit and deal with any problems of fit Diego mentions that often the more advanced levels of detail you add might be lost to most onlookers. I know that he has something here – but also noted is the completest in me who must make it as realistic as possible – well there is something for both schools of thought here. Next we go advanced…
Looking to the higher end of cockpit detail, this chapter focusses on the improvements you can make to make your pit stand out from the crowd. The preparation and installation of resin cockpits and the art of scratch building parts and even whole cockpits is shown and it is indeed a level above what we have seen in detail so far in the book. The detail of the F-104 cockpit he nearly makes all by himself is really impressive.
The painting is taken to “a whole new level” (TV drama cliché) in the Zero that Diego demonstrates with some deft painting, weathering and chipping skills. Even if you don’t have his skill this book might set you on the path towards his level. 

Some might say that his painting is a little dark – but that is personal preference I suppose as some will love the results. We also look at a spitfire, a MiG-21 and an F-16 in this advanced painting section to show these effects on different coloured and aged aircraft. 
We go more advanced with firstly, resin, then photo etched and then scratch built instrument panels. Often though one of the more important parts of a kit that you are going to show off and with good reason. This part of the aircraft is often where people look at a lot and the realism you display here is important. Diego cuts decals and plastic instrument film to insert into these panels to create a neater IP and it’s good to see this in action in an easy to follow format.
Seats and ejector seats are next explored in this advanced manner. Not only the painting of the seats and the use of resin and alternative mediums but the scratchbuilding of materials like seat cushions and straps for seatbelts in plastic and tape are displayed.
Canopies can be tricky – but next we look at the mastering of not only open and closed cockpit but the safe removal of any fit or seam problems is discussed. The little block weathering strips are often a bugbear for many modellers and the replication of these is talked about here also.
Lastly we look at the pilot that you put into the aircraft. How to detail him and slightly change the pilot’s stature is discussed. However I would like to see in the future(and there are other issues so fingers crossed) some scratch building or altering pilot figures both standing and seated. Also painting realistic faces would be a VERY appreciated chapter as many aircraft modellers do not get much practice with the human form.
With all of the WWI aircraft in the mix recently (especially in large scales) we see the need for improved wooden cockpits on our models. Diego takes us through his skills in this very subject with firstly enamel painting of the wood grain….
Then with decals that have been so helpful to so many modellers of recent days. These can give a spectacular result if handled correctly and this technique is shown again in SBS form.
Lastly we look at painting this grain with acrylics and with pencils. This section also shows the finishing detail of these cockpits like the dials and leather finishes. All of these chapters feature the use of washes and extra painting of highlights as well for high and low lights in the cockpits you want to recreate.
Well that is all for volume one in this series! I like what I see. Although like I said there could be a little more variation of paints used and some (hopefully) more work on the pilots and crews that make these aircraft come to life. I like the way the author is passionate about his work and it would be good to see more of his thoughts in the writing. The SBS sections are really helpful and the book is easy to read.
I think this book is good for beginners and “experten” alike and I reckon we could all learn something from it. The easy to look up reference can really be a first stop for you if you have this book ready next to your workbench.
Issue two is already out and in our hands so we will get reading that now to fill you in on what the companion volume 2 out of 5 has to offer. We hope it’s just as good as this one.

Adam Norenberg.

Thanks to AMMO of Mig Jimenez for the book – you can get yours (plus Volume 2: Interiors and Assembly) from the AMMO site in single issues or a subscription which includes all of the issues.