Airfix 1/48 Supermarine Seafire FR.46

1832 Naval Air Squadron, Royal Navy, UK 1947

One of the main advantages of studying in Cambridge for nine years was the combination of the proximity Duxford and heavily discounted entry for students (not least for the airshows). On one of my regular visits in 2002 the value was further enhanced by stumbling across this kit in the gift shop priced at £8, about half the regular price at the time. I enquired as to whether it had been mispriced; it hadn’t, so I bought it!

Completion of this kit completes the Airfix quartet in my collection. With most of the potential pitfalls already known to me, construction was very quick. Unlike my three previous attempts at this model, I made some simple changes: the raised rectangular lumps towards the trailing edge of the wings were shaved off and rescribed as panels, and the missing wing trim tabs (I assume that is what they are) were scribed on the wing undersides.

Other than that, drilling out the guns and exhausts, and the addition of some masking tape seatbelts, I don’t recall making any other changes. I did not spend much time at all with the cockpit; it is black and barely visible though the thickish canopy, which I knew I was going to close (as I generally do these days). In an effort to eliminate ghost seams, I went back to my method of gluing all major components with super glue. This takes longer to clean up and results in more gaps to fill initially, but once done leaves absolutely no visible seams. I only seem to be able to manage this with super glue; all the liquid glues I’ve tried (Tamiya, Tenax, Revell, Testors) leave some ghost seams somewhere.

Somewhere in the construction phase I lost the tail skid. That’s the second time I’ve done that, since I also lost the one for my FR.47. Eventually I built a new one from brass rod before painting.

Following an almost entirely uneventful building phase, I approached painting. In an effort to reduce dust and other bits of rubbish in my paint, I cleaned the model in water and then gave it a coat of Mr Surfacer 1200. This was pretty smooth, with no dust, so I followed with preshading in black and white. Mr Color paints were used for the main colours (Sky and Extra Dark Sea Grey).

The colour callouts for the undercarriage and doors seemed a bit random, but according to a kind fellow on Britmodeller they are accurate, so in the absence of any other information I followed them: Sky on the outer doors and tailwheel, silver on the inner doors and legs. The props were assembled as a unit, sprayed yellow then black and masked for the Sky spinner. The shape of the prop blades looks a bit off to me.

Up until this point it was looking like I might have built the perfect model (by my standards anyway). But removal of the Tamiya masking tape was like the reoccurance of an old nightmare. Paint lifted, all the way down to the bare plastic. The last time I used Mr Surfacer 1200 as a primer this also happened (see my Hasegawa Super Hornet). It must be something about that bottle of paint. Fortunately, in this case the areas affected were small, mainly around the gun barrels. (Which, by the way, are a nightmare to mask and, along with multi-pane canopies, another reason I’m glad I don’t build too many WWII era models!) Touch up with an airbrush was pointless since more masking would just lift more paint, so I used a fine brush and hoped that no one will notice…

One unforeseen disaster down, two to come… A quick coat of Johnson’s Klear and a wash with the new Tamiya enamel wash products made everything pop out nicely, just how I like it. I love these Tamiya products and this is the first model in nearly 20 years that I finished without using oils anywhere.

Decals were next. Being fairly familiar over the years with Airfix decals from the 1990s, I knew these were going to cause trouble. Thick. Very thick. A search through my spare decal sheets produced some alternatives for the generic markings: roundels and tail flash. I had some old Aeromaster stencils as well to replace a couple of the kit-supplied items, but for most of it I was going to have to go with Airfix. The upper wing roundels I used are not quite the right proportion or colour, but would behave better than what came in the box. Aside from their thickness, the decals behaved surprisingly well. I believe the secret is to use Gunze products only with Gunze products. Therefore, Gunze gloss was airbrushed over the Klear and Mr Mark Setter used to settle the decals down. Although I use Mr Mark Softer as well, I actually think the Setter is the important bit; the decals settled very easily into the recessed detail with this alone. Softer just provides the last step. No silvering and I was a happy bunny.

I found a photo of LA561 on the web which had a nice view of the underside of the port wing and some very visible, dark and thick streaking, especially on the wing in front of the radiator and on the radiator itself, as well as around the intake below the nose. I loaded up my new H&S airbrush with some Lifecolor Tensochrome smoke and went to work. For a first effort I was very satisfied. My hands are not steady, and the airbrush frequently clogged with the quick-drying paint, but I got what I was looking for. I used some Tensochrome oil too and that worked very well. Some exhaust staining was added just because I wanted the practice, and I was still a happy bunny.

Until, that is, it came to installing all the little bits before the matt coat. The undercarriage on this model is well known for being tricky to install. Goodness knows why Airfix engineered it this way, but it involves a lot of twisting, some bending, praying and mild curse words. When they lock into place, they lock into place. And for some bizarre reason they toed out. None of my other Airfix Spits have done this. There’s almost no play in the attachment and I still for the life of me cannot see what went wrong. Everything appears to be the right way round, and it’s not a problem at the axle because the Airfix wheels don’t attach via an axle. I bent them in as far as I dared without snapping the legs and applied liquid cement. They still toe out and it looks like I have a clown-footed Seafire. Weird.

That was the second disaster. The third manifested itself when my 50/50 concoction of (well thinned and strained through an old pair of my wife’s tights) Vallejo Matt and Satin varnishes left little white splatters all over the finish. I managed to wash some off and recoat, but that brought the whole port wing out in frost! Panic. Then apply Johnson’s Klear and try again. Most of the frost disappeared, but some remains and the white flecks are still everywhere. The photos make it look worse that it is; the white is hightlighted by the lighting, but still very, very annoying. It’s been a brief relationship with you, Vallejo matt varnish, but so long; won’t be using you again. With my next model it will be time to get Gunze matt varnish to work; the gloss is excellent so I have high hopes. If only I could go back to PollyScale…

So there we have it. I am jolly glad to have the complete set and they are really nice kits, especially at the prices I paid for the second two. Aside from the wheels pointing in odd directions and what looks like bird poo splattered over the wings, I am pretty happy with the end result.

Year bought: 2002 (Duxford, UK)

Year built: 2012 (Tianming Road, Zhengzhou, China)

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