Saturday, August 22

Build Review Pt. II - Kitty Hawk's 32nd scale Dassault Mirage 2000C

Superglue, talcum powder, a craft cutter and a whole lot of modelling savvy - See how Gary Wickham's Mirage 2000C from Kittyhawk is moving to a higher plane with his additions, fixes and adjustments in part II of his build guide...

Build Review Pt. II -Dassault Mirage 2000C 
Kitty Hawk
Kit No #KH32020
1/32nd scale
Available from Hobbylink Japan for  at this link

Previous parts of this story:
Build Review Pt. I - Kitty Hawk's 32nd scale Dassault Mirage 2000C

Build Review Pt. II - Kitty Hawk's 32nd scale Dassault Mirage 2000C - Sealing the fuselage
A quick modification to allow me to slide the engine in from the rear after joining the fuselage was to cut it in half. The best place to cut is just forward of where the afterburner section fits inside the engine.
The interior of the engine exhaust (like most modern engines) is made from heat resistant ceramic material which has a white appearance. The Mirage engine has very distinctive stains that run the full length of the exhaust and I have added these freehand with my airbrush.
A test fit of the engine and resin nozzle shows a pretty good fit. I have seen other modellers comment that their resin nozzle was undersized (possibly due to shrinkage). Luckily KH is very good with supplying spare and replacement parts, you just need to email them.
The Mirage has a couple of glass 'windows' on the fuselage. The one on the port intake houses a searchlight. Of course on the real thing the glass is flush with the outer skin of the aircraft. KH provide the glass as a clear part which is designed to be mounted from the inside (good idea so far). Unfortunately the thickness of the clear window is not the same as the thickness of the intake skin. This results in the glass sitting way too low and looks silly. To fix you can either cut the clear part to fit inside the hole, then mounting it flush or do as I did by thinning the intake plastic (with my Dremel motor tool) so that the clear part now fits properly.
The intakes require a bit of prep work before attaching to the fuselage. I would recommend you glue them on before joining the fuselage halves rather than after as indicated by KH. I was not exactly sure what color the intake trunking should be but from photos they mostly look like a grey not white like most other modern aircraft. Now is the time to also paint the inside edge of the intake lips to match the camo color you will be using. Because I will be doing the Gulf War (Operation Daguet) desert sand scheme I have used Mr Color 313.
Prior to mating the intake to the fuselage I have also pre-painted the inner parts of the fuselage that will still be visible on the finished model but very hard to paint later on. 
 Pre-planning tasks like this is a good habit to get into to make your life a lot easier.
When test fitting the intake to the fuselage I noticed that there was a noticeable step between the two parts. In order to eliminate (or at least minimise) any such mismatch I used plasticard blocks on the inside of the join to help force the parts to mate up correctly. This worked a treat and meant that I needed no filler or sanding on the seam line (which is also a panel line). 
 The other subtle benefit of fitting the intakes now (before mating the fuselage halves) is that I could gain access to apply all the liquid glue from the inside of the join. This meant no visible glue marks or damage was made on the outside seam.
The same idea of using alignment/strengthening tabs can be applied to the fuselage main join. Due to the length of the Mirage fuselage there is a lot of flex along the join which can interfere with obtaining a strong bond. The addition of several plasticard tabs across the join helps a lot to take the flex away once glue is applied.
With all the preparation complete its time to start gluing parts into the fuselage interior. 
The cockpit and nose wheel well are secured on one side making sure to eliminate any gaps while the glue dries. The fit is good with only minor trimming needed to get everything lined up.
I've been a user of CA (Super) Glue as a filler for many years. I like to use it in places where I know I will need to re-scribe the surface after filling and sanding. I've occasionally seen other modellers mention mixing other material with the super glue to give it more strength and 'body' when used as a filler. Material like talc powder or baking soda (bicarb soda) are often mentioned. I was curious if it really made any difference so on this model I have been using a range of mix ratio's of super glue & talc powder. The jury is still out on the benefits over using straight super glue alone but so far I can say that it does sand smoother and more easily. Larger gaps can be filled more easily and consistently due to the thicker mix. On the downside it does seem to go off quicker so you can't muck around.
Sometimes when sanding it's impossible to retain all the surface detail, especially across seams. Rescribing straight lines over such seams is not so hard with the help of vinyl tape but when you have complex curves or angles you need some help from a template. If you are lucky and its a standard shape (oval or square) there are many spring metal 'scribing templates' available to purchase but what happens when its not a standard shape like I came across on the base of the vertical fin here. In this case I once again turned to my new favourite tool, the Silhouette Portrait Cutter, which allowed me to design and fabricate a custom scribing template from 0.25mm plastic card. It worked very well and I'll be adding this use to the growing list of things I can now use my cutter for. 
If you are wondering what the black liquid is, it is Tamiya Panel Liner (Black). I have started using this to check my surface detail work prior to paint as it's much easier to visually find bad panel lines and rivets at this stage of the build.
Of course once you realise you can quickly and accurately make up scribing templates you find lots of places to use them. Many of the hatches, panels and rivets on the rounded 'shoulder' area of the fuselage were poorly molded. These would not have taken a wash after paint etc so now is the time to find and fix them.
The bottom of the fuselage is covered in hatches, rivets and vents just like the real thing. Some of these needed sharpening up with my scriber, but for the most part the detail is sharp and ready to comfortably hold a wash. You can see I have spot primed areas where I have filled and sanded seams to check my work. Never assume a seam will be ok until you have at least put a coat of paint on it.
One of the ventral vents (some form or exhaust I imagine) located just behind the nose gear bay has four louvers that KH have lazily molded into each fuselage half. They expect these louvers will match up and you will sand them to remove the seam. Well good luck with that because I found it much easier to cut away the overscale kit parts and replace each one with 0.25mm strips of Evergreen plastic. This is a super simple solution to bad design by KH.
The rear lower fuselage likewise has a myriad of panels which look great but care will be needed as you fill and sand the main centerline join. As I plan to attach the centerline fuel tank much of the main center seam will be hidden by the pylon (whew, what good luck), so I have tidied it up a bit but will not fill or sand.
I had now reached the point where I needed to make some decisions on which of the optional parts I should use. Using photos (where possible) of the real thing is always the best option, especially given the somewhat shabby experience I have had in the past trusting KH's instructions. This photo, taken in 1991 during Operation Daguet (Desert Storm) shows me the correct tail configuration and various other useful little details about the aircraft.
After locating the correct tail top option (of the four provided on the sprue) I glued it in place on the tail base. Checking photos I realised that the horizontal join lines did not fall on any natural panel lines and so I would need to eliminate them. The first step was to fill the seam, without doing extra damage to the surrounding detail. 
For this I applied tape close to the seam and spread a thin layer of Tamiya Basic Putty. I left the tape in place as the putty dried and also when I began wet sanding with 600 grade wet n dry paper.
The tape does a good job of protecting the surrounding detail from a) the initial application of putty and b) damage done by the sanding block. It's expected the tape will be worn away by the sanding but in this case that's exactly it's job. You should end up with a smooth result but as mentioned before I never trust what I see until its under a coat of grey primer. 
In this case I was not entirely happy that the seam had been eliminated completely and so I applied a second layer of putty and repeated the sanding.
The end result shows the horizontal seams have been eliminated and the lines of rivets have now been replaced (using my 1mm rivet wheel). The grey primer coat gives me absolute confidence that the job has been done properly. It's also worth noting the Milliput filler I had to use on the gap at the base of the vertical fin. Some gaps are in such an awkward place that filling and sanding with normal putty is not practical. In these cases using an epoxy putty like Milliput is ideal as it can be applied into the gap and cleaned up with water using a cotton bud to smooth it off.
Whilst researching the configuration of the French Mirages 2000C's deployed to the Gulf I noted that each of them had ECLAIR-M decoy dispensers fitted. These were a bolt on pack (in different layouts) for flares and chaff canisters.
As Kitty Hawk does not provide the ECLAIR I once again turned to my Silhouette cutter to design and fabricate one from 0.25mm card. I have been advised that the layout of canisters I used is not accurate but I'm ok with that.
Next up on the list was the cockpit windscreen and canopy. First step was to install the HUD. Kitty Hawk provides the HUD frame as PE parts (which is great) but the reflector glass parts are way overscale. To correct this I used clear acetate film and cut some new glass parts to shape. This was all glued together using CA and PVA.
The canopy benefited from some additional detail items such as latches, grab handles and a PE mirror I had in my spares box. Tamiya tape was used to mask the canopy both inside and out.
The masked windscreen was now glued in place using Tamiya Quick Dry Extra Thin cement. I like this glue for tasks where the parts can be held together and the glue then run into the seam.
The completed fuselage is now ready for the wings.
That is it for part II - To keep it flowing and break up the experience part III will come next week here on the news...

Gary Wickham

Thanks to Kittyhawk for sending this kit to Gary for him to build and to review. You can see more about Kittyhawk's models on their Facebook page and right here on the news...
If you like Gary's work then please do go to his website for a whole lot more of that...