Tamiya 1/48 Bf-109E

KIT #: ?
PRICE: $26.00 MSRP
DECALS: Three options
REVIEWER: Mike Moore
NOTES: TGR Decals and Ultracast seat used

HISTORY

I think most everyone interested knows the history of the Messerschmitt Bf-109.  This one landed by mistake in France on November 22, 1939.  The French tested it extensively at Orleans-Bricy, and then turned it over to the British just before the invasion of France.  Initially flown by the British into Boscombe Down on May 4th 1940, it was evaluated there for 10 days before being moved to Farnborough.  There it was repainted and assigned RAF serial number AE 479.  Ultimately, it was crated and shipped to the US where it ended its days at Wright Field.

THE KIT

The Tamiya Bf109 E is quite well known, and has been covered here at Modeling Madness by others.

CONSTRUCTION

 As far as I can tell, this kit has no vices in regards to construction.  With a little care, and I do mean little, this kit can be built with no putty or filler needed.

 I started this one, where else, with the cockpit.  The only aftermarket here is the seat.  Ultracast makes such beautiful resin seats with cast harnesses, I just canít resist.  It, and the basic cockpit were painted with Tamiyaís recommended mix, and the details picked out with appropriate colors.  The instrument panel decal settles down very nicely with a couple applications of Micro Sol.  A coat of flat and then drops of Future in the individual dials, and it is complete.  The cockpit was finished with an oil wash of burnt umber.

 From there, the rest of the assembly goes very quickly, and easily.  The only real question for me was whether or not to eliminate the seams on the top and bottom of the fuselage.  There seems to be a small bit of debate about if that seam would be visible on a 1/48 scale model.  Iíve seen photoís showing the lapped joint on the spine, but for some reason, I couldnít bring myself to not eliminate the seam.  Once the wings and stabilizers are on, itís time for paint.

COLORS & MARKINGS

The first mission is to mask the cockpit.  This is actually very easy by simply using the canopy.  I masked the canopy glass with Tamiya tape.  As long as there are raised frames, I find I get the best results from Tamiya tape.  It is thin enough to see through when trying to trim it, and it doesnít leave a lot of adhesive behind when I pull it up, sometimes weeks later.

 I started painting by attempting to pre-shade the undersides with black.  Thankfully, neatness doesnít count here, and with a light color on the undersides, I do like the effect.  I followed up the pre-shade with a mix of yellow trying to get to a nice Trainer Yellow.  Unfortunately, all I remember about the mix is that it is all Polly S.  This is the first time Iíve been happy with the final pre-shaded effect.  I then masked off the undersides and shot the uppers with Polly S Dark Earth.  Finally, I cut masks out of 3M blue masking tape and shot Polly S British Dark Green.  To get a slightly soft edge I lifted the edges of the masks with thread.  If you do lift the edges of the masks, be sure to aim pretty much straight down with the airbrush or you can end up with some very fuzzy and inconsistent edges (go ahead, ask me how I know).  The wings around the gear wells were masked with wide pieces of Tamiya tape and then shot with the interior color, as were the landing gear.  The prop and wheel hubs got Polly S Interior Black, while the tires were painted Polly S Grimy Black.

 After a coat of Future, the TGR decals went down great with Micro Set and Sol.  After the decals had set for a couple of days, I gave the whole model a light coat of Polly S clear flat and it was time for weathering.

 I had recently read an article in Fine Scale Modeler about weathering with pastels and I decided to give it a try.  Now I have used pastels for quite a while for applying some grime and dirt, but this was the first time I tried to use them to simulate paint fading.  Essentially I used some white and mostly yellow in the middle of panels to simulate faded paint.  If you are a little hopeless with fine airbrush work like I am, this is a great technique to post shade with.  While the effect here is quite subtle, I am very happy with how it looks.  In addition to the post shading of the paint, I also used pastels to weather the deals and apply a bit of soiling to the undersides.  Before doing anything else, remember to seal the pastels in with another coat of clear flat.  And be prepared to redo some of the pastels as I have found that the flat coats will tone down the weathering.

 The worn paint on the wing roots is done with Tamiya Metallic Grey, applied with a mangled paintbrush by stabbing the brush down onto the kit.  I toned it down a bit with some brown pastel dust.  The exhaust staining is a combination of Tamiya Smoke augmented with gray pastels.

 The final weathering step is an oil wash for the panel lines.  I like to use artists oils thinned with Napatha.  The Napatha evaporates quickly, and doesnít react with the acrylic paints I use.  If a little, or a lot, too much ends up on the model, it can easily be removed by wiping with either a tissue or a Q-tip moistened with Napatha.  Wipe in the direction of airflow and you will not only remove excess weathering oil, you will leave some subtle streaks.  If you donít like the streaks, just wipe them again.  In this case I used mostly burnt umber, with a little black here and there. 

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

 After paint the last bits go on.  I left the stabilizer struts off to ease the painting so on they went.  The landing gear was detailed with brake lines from fine wire held on with thin strips of Testors chrome foil.  The foil got very toned down with some last minute oil wash on the landing gear.  The wheels also got a bit of a black wash to pop out the tread.  The dropped flaps and slats go on with no issues, and leave only the gear covers, antenna and canopy.  The antenna and canopy closing cord are done with invisible thread painted with Polly S Grimy Black.  The insulator is a drop of super glue.

CONCLUSIONS

 This has got to be one of the easiest kits going.  The fit is fantastic, and the engineering is great.  Both the stabilizers and the landing gear are designed to only fit on the proper side.  The decals lend an interesting twist to a popular subject.  I thought it was great when someone looked at the model on a show table for a bit before it sunk in.  He said his initial thought was that it was the strangest looking Spitfire he had ever seen.

 The only disappointment I have is what has happened to the paint job.  I finished this several months ago, and the paint was fine.  However, over the months, the paint appears to have shrunk back from a couple of areas, most noticeably right over the wing roots.  I have never seen this before.  Iíve had incompatible paint failures, and cracking when undercoats have cured more slowly than topcoats, but this is very strange. If you have any idea what caused this, Iíd love to hear from you.  The paint is Polly S, with Future, Polly S Clear Flat, and Tamiya Smoke over it.  As I donít really work all that fast, everything has plenty of time to cure before the next coat was applied.

Mike Moore

March 2005

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