Hi-Tech 1/48 Sopwith Salamander TF.2

KIT #: HT 017
PRICE: $49.96 MSRP ($44.96 at Squadron)
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Kyle Bodily
NOTES: Short run with resin and photo etch parts

HISTORY

I canít think of much more to say about this aircraft except that only two were in service as of the end of the October reporting period in 1918.  All of the other completed airframes were still going through the acceptance process.  There is no doubt that if the war had gone on, this aircraft would have made a mark on the German Infantrymanís psyche just as the German J series aircraft did to the allies. 

 For more information on this kit, see the in box review.

THE KIT

You will find the instructions are hard to read.  Their grammar is worse than mine.  It is as if they just word for word translate from the original French.  They also put a curious rivet detail on all the ribs of the wings and tail surfaces, but this is only on the top.  I canít find any evidence of this on the photos that Iíve been able to find of this aircraft.  I assume that this is an attempt to replicate the stitching that is sometimes seen through the pinking strips ďrib tapesĒ.  The wings on my kit were very bowed and needed to be straightened.  The kit also contains parts to make a Sopwith Snipe since the Salamander was an outgrowth of the Snipe.  This is a good idea as it allows the manufacturer to build two kits at a lower cost.  Lastly the plastic parts have a good deal of flash but this cleans up easy enough. 

 You will need some references for things like exact positioning of parts and rigging.  The kit contains the parts necessary to build all the variants that I know of, from the first prototype to a production aircraft. There were many variants of the Salamander, so look at your references and study the particular aircraft you want to build. 

CONSTRUCTION

I removed all the plastic parts from the sprues and cleaned them up.  The flash came off well and the parts look nice.  However Iíve noticed that the wings are not going to be of equal span.  I think that the top wing will be to short but am not quite sure at this point.  Also my research shows that Salamanders had three different types of tails.  A small one that was like the early snipes, (this seems to only have been used on the prototype Salamanders) an intermediate tail that looked like a cross between the early and the late tails and then the late tail.  The late tail was the largest rudder and vertical stabilizer, while the early tail had the smallest rudder and vertical stabilizer.  The kit does not come with the early tail, so Iíll have to reshape the intermediate tail that is included in the kit.  I donít see this kit as a stormy build yet but I am starting to smell rain. 

 I started by gluing the fuselage halves together and then glued on the firewall.  I figure that I can assemble the cockpit and slip it in from the top this way.  Since the instructions donít give basic assembly suggestions as to the best way to assemble your model, you are just left to figure it out the best you can.  Since the kit was originally designed as a Snipe, I have had to reshape the fire wall and rear bulkhead in the kit.  This took some time since you have to build a component and let your work dry before you go on to prevent your work from mis-aligning before it dries. 

 I had to shorten the bottom wings by about 3mm on each wing panel and had to shorten the ailerons.  The prototype Iím building had short span ailerons.  The top wing came in three pieces and took a little work to get everything squared up.  The bottom wings were just butted up against the fuselage and the dihedral set.  One thing that I did here was to build the kit on a set of drawings in scale to help get everything set up.  Because as you will see, not all the parts fit like a glove and building on the drawings help to compensate for this. 

 I needed to use some filler putty to fix some of the fit problems in the fuselage.  Basically all the joints including the cowling on the fuselage needed putty.  The cooling cut out on the underside of the cowling and the under side of the forward fuselage is that of a prototype and incorrect for a production aircraft.  All in all you will need some good references to build any aircraft at all.  This kit requires you to do a lot of research and to add to that, I found it very hard to get good references.  There just arenít any references that specialize in the Sopwith TF2 Salamander.          

 Iíve had to modify every part to one degree or another, but that is a hallmark of limited run kits.  Another thing to keep in mind is that you will have to build several parts from scratch, including many of the cockpit details and the tail skid. 

 I think that you should only use the color guide in the instructions as a suggestion since it tells you to paint the sides of the fuselage clear doped linen.  The cockpit was a 650 pound all metal tub similar to the German Junkers J.I, not fabric. 

COLORS & MARKINGS

The kit gives you only one decal option.  It is of a prototype aircraft.  I am told prototype #3.  This was the first of the prototype aircraft to have redundant or duel control horns for the ailerons, to increase survivability and harden the aircraft against ground fire.  However I have seen some post war aircraft that had only one set of control horns, so check your references.  The photographs also show that it had the short, non-horn-balanced ailerons like early Snipes.  Further the tail looks to be braced by wire instead of the metal tubing as on later models.  The rudder also looks to be the early type.

  I have seen many different interpretations of this prototype aircraftís camouflage.  As I study the only picture that I have been able to find of this aircraft, I see shades that look to me like French five-color camouflage shades.  So that is what I am going to do.  Paint it Beige, Light Green, Dark Green, Chestnut and Black.  This could be wrong but I can find nothing official that states the true colors.  This is where you have to sometimes take your best guess.  I painted a base of beige and then masked it off.  I applied the rest of the colors and masked as I went.  I like to use the low tack type tape by Scotch.  Low-Medium adhesive #2080 for delicate surfaces to be exact.  I have found that this is the best brand for me.  It adheres well to complex surfaces and wonít lift the base paint.  Iíve tried other less expensive brands but have not been happy with them, I guess you get what you pay for.  Any way, I put the tape on parchment paper then draw out the pattern and cut it out with scissors.  The parchment paper will not stick the tape so you can just pull it off and apply the tape to the model.  I finished this paint job with a border of black where the different colors came together.  The struts are painted by first applying a coat of paint, I used Model Masters wood.  You can get lots of different wood hues just from the shade of your base paint, and I like to use oil paints to make wood grains.  I just apply a few splotches on the part and drag a Boars hair brush across it.  The stiff bristles will cause a wood grain to appear.  The only draw back is that you canít touch it after it until it has dried thoroughly.  That takes about two to three days.     

 I applied all four decals and did a little weathering.  I like to weather with alcohol based paints.  This prevents the weathering paints from interact with the paint job.  A little oil paint also does well here.  You can dry brush and wash with them to get very different looks. 

 Lastly before final assembly I drilled all the little holes that I will need to rig.  Rigging was done with 2lbs fishing line.  This is fine and imparts a lot of strength to the kit. 

 I find that there is a universal thread in building limited run kits.  They start out fun and as you build it gets progressively harder and not so fun.  There seems to be a hump point were things start to get easy and more fun again.  Usually by the end of the build you look back and see just how far youíve come and you start to really like the kit.  Oddly the more difficult a kit is, the more rewarding it is also.  So many people get to a difficult process and they quit.  The kit gets put on the back shelf to slowly get destroyed by neglect.  I am always amazed by what I can accomplish when I continue to wade into the build and not give up.  Some times I feel that the model is starting to look like a soup sandwich.  But if I keep with it I always seem to pull it out in the end.  Bottom line, nothing is more rewarding in the realm of model building then turning a difficult build in to something that you are proud of.     

CONCLUSIONS

Well, this was not an easy build but I am very happy with the completed model.  It is for the advanced modeler or the modeler who really wants to stretch his/her skills.  If you want to build this kit, wade into it with your eyes open and I think it will be rewarding for you.  It was rewarding for me.

 Manufacturers of limited run kits need to put more thought into the kitís instructions.  I canít emphasize this enough.  Good instructions are one of the most important items in a kit and should be well thought out.  If for no other reason then to assist a modeler who wants to improve his/her skills and tackle something a little beyond their comfort zone.  Limited run kits are difficult and I think that these companies do themselves and the modeler a disservice when they dismiss the less experienced or the more timid builders out of hand.   

 This kit took me more time to build then I had expected.  This was mostly from trying to think of different ways to get things to fit.  This kit was designed as a Snipe and it is very obvious that the TF2 Salamander was an after thought.  The Snipe would be easier to build if only just barely.  I think that the Blue Max Snipe would be easier and that if they wanted to use their Snipe as a springboard to do a TF2 Salamander then Blue Max would have a better kit. 

 That being said this is the only Salamander in 1/48th scale that I know of.  Toko/Eastern Express and Pegasus all have made Salamander kits.  Eastern Express is the only company with a kit in production and is a very nice kit.  If you want to build a Salamander and 1/72nd scale is OK then I recommend the Eastern Express kit.  If you are like me and are not afraid of the challenge or just plain crazy enough to try it.  Iím not quite sure which of the above I am, probably the latter.  And youíve got to have a 1/48th scale Salamander, then I guess this is the Beach youíll have to come ashore on. 

 A philosopher once made the statement that ďLife without pain is meaninglessĒ, so go build this kit and give your life some meaning!!!!!!!    

REFERENCES

ďJaneís All the Worlds Aircraft 1919Ē (Janeís Fighting Aircraft of World War I)

ďFighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 WarĒ Harleyford Publications limited Letchworth, Herts

ďSopwith Fighters in ActionĒ Squadron/Signal Publications, By Peter Cooksley

Lots of Google searches on the Internet.

Kyle Bodily

August 2005

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