Hobbycraft 1/72 DHC-3 Otter

KIT #: ?
PRICE: $7 from an IPMS Show Vendor
DECALS: Two options
NOTES: Currently Out of Production, but not hard to find.


            Here am I, Lord. Still stuck in this Utility / Transport / Trainer rut. Yes, I was supposed to move on to a new theme; but it wasnt my fault.  How could I pass up an OOP kit still in its shrink wrap for that price?  Besides, it would make such a neat companion for its little brother, the Beaver, which several decades ago started off this noncombatant collection.

            What can you say about say about an off-the-shelf transport that GOOGLE cant say better?  De Havilands DHC-2 Beaver worked out so well that they decided to build a larger version. The US Army was its biggest customer, using its 200 aircraft everywhere from the arctic to the tropics. One is enshrined in the Armys Transportation Museum at Fort Eustis VA (A.K.A. Fort Useless). 


            Not much to write about in this department either. Hobbycraft kept true to form, boxing a fairly simple kit sans too many problems and exhibiting only one molding fault the cabin windows. These are clear and properly fitting, but thick and shrink-dimpled on both surfaces. Ive yet to devise a totally satisfactory cure for this disorder, but settled on my least unsatisfactory technique.

            This consists of discarding to kit panes, backing the openings with acetate sheet, filling the resultant cavities with masking medium, then in-situ casting with epoxy, post painting. Epoxys strong capillary action causes a pronounced meniscus, either concave or convex. A perfectly flat window is possible only by sanding and polishing a slightly over-filled portal prior to painting, which  then complicates masking. The alternative is to settle for a slightly bulged appearance, which is how many aircraft windows really look.

            The best epoxy applicator is a fine or super-fine Testors Micro-Brush, which picks up then relinquishes a generous droplet of the clear goo without danger of dripping it on an undesired locus.  If too much is applied, wipe off the applicator then dip the dry tip into the puddle. The M-B will wick off some of the excess.

(Though not precisely the same boxing, if you actually want to see what comes in the box, then visit this preview.  Ed)


            The build discussion is getting ahead of itself, though. After backing the cabin windows, attention turned to the flight deck.  Not a bad representation, with seats and instrument panel that resemble the real thing. The yoke / control column is a different story. A giant handlebar is provided that both pilots are somehow supposed to share, like the cyclic of a Robinson trainer. Scratch building skills werent overtaxed by fashioning a pair of proper yokes out of wire or whatever.

            The flight deck doors are molded separate from the fuselage and openable. An Otters doors, fully opened, pin themselves forward against the cowling.  Since the inner surfaces werent all that purty, I glued them in the half open position, so authorized viewers (no one but me) can peek inside and admire the set belts fashioned from masking tape with paint buckles. But, again, the build report is getting ahead of itself. The flight deck windows are optically OK, with a snap-tite press fit that was permanent-ized with a bilateral coat of Future.

            But Im getting ahead of myself yet again. Aft of the flight deck bulkhead there is nothing but a floor to fill the cavernous void.  A motivated modifier might cut away the molded-in doors, adorn the inner walls with formers and stringers, and stuff the innards with crates and barrels but thats not me.

            The airframe went  together without cussing, fussing, fuming, or fidgeting. Didnt even need any filling or filing. To facilitate cabin window casting, I deferred wing attachment and painted everything separately. If a multi-color scheme is planned, the stall fences and flap hinges should also be left for later to make masking easier. When wing fixation time did roll around, I found the struts were too long, imparting excess dihedral. Sanding them shorter fixed the problem sorta. I think theres still  too much up angle, but the instructions didnt include a head-on drawing to get things right. On the subject of struts, theres an extra pair on the sprue, which should be disregarded, and an extra pair of holes  in the mid-belly, which should be filled.  Must be for the floatplane version.



            Hoo boy! Heres where I ran into difficulties and tripled the price of the kit. Markings are provided for one Canadian and one US Army version, an arctic supply ship with  high visibility dayglo orange panels. I put out a query on the Readers Forum  requesting info on the proper shade of orange.  Amid a slew of differing opinions, I received from Hawkeye Hobbies a very generous package containing a bottle of their newest airbrush finish, dayglo orange, along with several bottles of their aluminum NMF and sealer. My sincere thanks,  and apologies for not being able to report  on their product.  As the photos show, I abandoned the arctic scheme in favor of boring old olive drab. I promise to paint something  in orange and aluminum and let everyone know how  the stuff works.  I did try the aluminum on the engine exhaust stacks and it worked fine without rubbing off, though the metallic sheen is hard to appreciate on such limited application.

            Blame for the livery switch  gets put on the kit decals, which lack the white surrounds on markings placed over orange painted panels. My attempts to mask these areas made an utter no Otter mess, particularly on the corrugated rudder. After several strippings and re-paints I settled for pre Viet-Nam overall glossy green, amply represented in several GOOGLE images. (Shiny OD wont be found in any  paint collection.  Its made by adding gloss orange to gloss green.) Even if the masking had been successful, the kit decals would still have bunged up the project. They are off register, off color, off size but do adhere and settle down well.

            Procuring the yellow lettering  became a frustrating, and eventually expensive, project. I had an ancient Micro Scale  sheet of yellow alpha-numerics, but the letters self destructed into a gazillion shards as soon as they touched water. Several overcoats of Testors Decal Saver  helped not  at all. I managed to print all the codes using an ink jet on Testors DIY decal kit.  They looked beautiful on clear paper  with bright white backing, but once transferred to an olive drab surface they became invisible.  There was no way to duplicate the required ink density.

  Squadron Shop had a replacement sheet on sale for only $5 but shipping cost $6. Eventually I broke down and ordered it. Prof. Murphy (of 1st Law of Physics fame) must have had a hand in printing the new sheet, because it no longer contained all the small sizes needed for the tail codes. I added several additional clear varnish coats to the old set and managed to convince a few characters not to disintegrate.  Unfortunately, these were not the ones I needed.  All the letters for U.S. ARMY had been used on previous projects. Modelers are, of course, expert innovators. Us and Ss were made from zeros and eights respectively, with portions painted out.  As  came from inverted Vs with hand painted cross bars. Rs were fashioned from Ps given prosthetic limbs.  Ys were Frankenstinian creations born of half Xs and Is. Ms were the most difficult, being made from inverted Ws that had been split and re-angled. From a normal viewing distance  it al looks acceptable.


Not much to say about the Close of Business fiddly-bits. The windshield is clear and fits with minimal caulking.  The engine is a rudimentary button that gains respectability by grace of a nosecone/push-rod spider. The exhaust tubes should go on before the landing gear struts  to avoid a tricky threading-through task.  


Thanks again to Hawkeye Hobbies for the box of sample paints. I will color something silver and fluorescent orange and post the results right here.  Eventually I will run out of utility / transport / trainer thingies and move on to a new theme.  Maybe Ill shock all  the MMers and build up a one-oh-niner flug Nazi. 



Several months after completing the project, which would be more than a year since receiving Hawkeyes paint samples, I tried to use them on a test project but found that they had all coagulated despite having never been opened.


Joel Hamm

August 2008

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