On The Bench

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Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress Build Review
HKM (Hong Kong Models) HKM-01E04
Scale: 1/32


Started: Aug 2013
Finished: Project on hold for now.
Thanks to the fine folks at Frontline Hobbies I picked up one of the HKM 1/32 B-17G's and figuring if I did not build it straight away it would never get built, I jumped straight in. I also wanted to build it before the inevitable avalanche of after market parts got too big to resist, so to minimise the temptation my build will be finished (or well progressed hopefully) before they start to be purchasable. Its a big kit for sure, but not a complicated kit from my intial analysis. At 577 parts its not really that complex by todays standards (the Tamiya 1/32 F-16 has 526, the Tamiya 1/32 F4U has 453 etc)

Storage for me is a problem. This model will be a monster with a 1 meter wing span when complete. I simply have no place to display a model that big in my home. So why buy it I hear you say ? Well the folks at HKM have come up with a clever idea. They provide us with a wall mounting kit. Thats right, a special jig thats designed to slot into the models bomb bay and allow you to hang it on the wall. I really liked that idea and so the single biggest roadblock to my purchasing this kit went away.

As I built this model I found many useful links to reference material on the B-17 and I include the best ones here:
Accessories used in this build:
Errors found in the kit instructions:
  • Step 20 - G34 should read J34
  • Step 20 - G35 should read J35
  • Step 23 - R5 should read K5
  • Step 24 - N22 should read N12
  • Step 29 - N5 should read N6
As usual the build begins in the cockpit. In general the accuracy of this kit is pretty good and as a result I have not felt too tempted to undertake major wholesale corrections or indeed detailing (as a quick dry fit of the cockpit in the fuselage reveals that you really won't see that much anyway). Simple enhancements like the seat cushions (back cushion to be added yet) and the canvas boot on the control columns are easy (and fun) additions.
The top of the armour plating on the seats will be visible through the cockpit windows and I chose to replace the trim with 10 thou plastic card strip. Some ejection pins marks also have to be removed (the lower mark will be covered by plastic card)
The completed seats attached to the armour plated stands. If you wanted to super detail this model there is plenty of scope and in 1/32 it would not be that difficult.
As I was test fitting the cockpit together I looked at the instrument panel and wondered why the B-17 would have such a large gap at the top between the dials and the shroud. Out of curiousity I consulted my reference material and then realised it was the kit and not the real aircraft that was off. I thought about leaving it alone (after all how much would you really see) but thats not how I roll and after about 30 seconds of analysis decided that it was a quick fix to reposition the IP dials a little higher to make it more acceptable.
The Duxford restored B-17 is one of the most accurate examples of a wartime aircraft. Here you can see the actual position of the instruments. Compare this to the image above of the kit IP and you can see the problem.
The first step in removing the excess space above the IP is to cut up the panel into four parts. This is easiest because the only section that needs to be raised is the center section with the actual instruments.
Even though the dials should be raised virtually to the top, right under the shroud, this would cause another problem with the position of the top of the center console in relation to the IP. When I raised the dials, the center console also needs to be raised but if you raise it too much it throws everything else out. So I decided to raise the IP enough to make it look more accurate and then raise the center console by the same amount so overall it still looks right. The Tamiya tape is used a simple template to cut along to ensure I get the shape correct.
The modified IP now reassmbled (note I chose to leave off the bottom section).
I'm not a fan of putting the instrument face (decal in this case) behind the dials. Instead I prefer to punch out each dial face decal and place it on the front of the dial bezel. To ensure the dials are not too deep I am using 20 thou card discs to partilly fill the holes for each dial. This way when the decal is applied to each dial it sits at an accurate depth. My Waldron punch set comes in handy on just about every modeling project.
One feature I noticed in the cockpits of B-17's is the use of canvas quilting on the sidewalls. Always looking for something new to try I grabbed some aluminium foil from the kitchen and glued it on using white glue. Using a sharp knife I roughly trimmed the foil around the consoles and switches.
Both sides of the cockpit get the foil treatment.
The base detailing of the cockpit is now completed to a level I am happy with (and will be somewhat visible on the finished model). As I mentioned before there is so much more you could do with this model in terms of detailing but I have chosen to draw the line here.
With a model this size it was inevitable that there would be a lot of ejection pin marks. There are several common ways to deal with these marks, in this case I used a round blade in my knife and carefully scraped them away.
The end result of the ejection pin removal is not perfect as you still see the scrape marks but in this case I think it will be fine as most of these are buried in the fuselage interior and will be covered with a coat of Dark Dull Green paint.
I had heard that the main windscreen clear parts had some fit issues so at this point I decided to test this out. To my relief the fit of the main clear parts was very good. Some minor adjustments will be needed but nothing too much.
A simple enhancement to the interior was to open up the three cabin doors. The old doors were drilled and cut away and new doors fashioned from 20 thou plasticard.
One of the more puzzling features of the HKM interior is the position of the ammo boxes for the ball turret. HKM have positioned these on the rear bulkhead which I cannot find any supporting reference for. In fact my research would indicate this is totally wrong as the ammo for the ball turret was either stored internally within the turret (early model) or on larger trays positioned on the top of the turret (late model). I decided that these boxes needed to be removed from the bulkhead completely.
The ammo boxes were cut away with a blade and dremmel tool. The large recessed gaps in the bulkhead are also inaccurate (and correspond to the radio equipment on the other side of the bulkhead).
Plasticard is used to cover the recess. Unfortunately none of this will be visible on the finished model, but it was an easy fix so no harm done.
As I plan to use the wall mount provided in the kit I did a test fit. As you can see the mount is designed to lock into the bomb bay and is supported by two strengthening spars that are positioned fore and aft of the bomb bay bulkheads. Quite a clever inclusion by HKM
Next correction was to remove the step in the floor of the radio compartment. This step is needed because HKM have included two strengthening spars that run across the fuselage into the wings and one of those spars is attached to the front bulkhead of the radio room. The spars are crticial if you plan to use the wall mounting option (as I do) so you cannot simply leave them off. A plan for removing the step was needed to restore the floor to a more accurate shape (ie flat)
I determined that the spar could be cut to accomodate the floor without substantially weakening it. This would have been a lot easier if I had done it before I glued the spar to the bulkhead, but oh well. I marked out the section that needed to be removed and them used a blade and scribing tool to cut through the spar.
A view of the radio compartment looking aft. The non slip rudder walkway matting in the center of the floor is made from 600 grade wet n dry paper. Note the locating holes for the operators chair that I have built using spare parts from the kit sprues. The equipment boxes have simply been hand painted black and then drybrushed to pick out the raised detail. I am not overly concerned with details in this compartment as not much will be seen when sealed inside the fuselage.
Final touches being added to the radio compartment such as the chair (assembled from spare parts from the HKM sprues), the desk now has an angled metal support arm and some paperwork on the desk to add a little bit of life.
One challenge that you will have to meet if you build this kit is replicating the plywood sections. Most of the flooring and all the ammo boxes (plus table tops etc) in the B-17 were made from plywood (to minimise the use of precious metal and keep the weight down). I found some useful tutorials via Google that made this process fairly painless. Basically a base coat of Tamiya XF-78 Wooden Deck Tan has been covered with a brushed coat of Raw Sienna oil paint. The oil paint has not been thinned and is therefore fairly thick which results in visible stroke marks of differing shades just like real wood.
Experimenting with some extreme weathering on the bomb bay doors and forward crew entry hatch. Applied a base coat of Mr Color C8 Silver with random masking using Mr Masking Sol Neo. Painted a thin coat of Zinc Chromate Yellow primer followed by a second masking with Masking Sol and then final coat of Dark Dull Green. Once dry remove all masking with toothbrush (ie scrub the hell out of it). Happy with the result, should get more control (ie better) with practice.
The Mr Masking Sol Neo was applied by dipping a some packing foam in the liquid mask and then lightly dabbing it onto the model surface. The idea is to get a random mask that when removed reveals the silver underneath.
With the major and detail painting of the cockpit (and other interior sections) complete its time to start gluing things into place. All the parts have received a light wash of Burnt or Raw Umber and a dry brush with Model Master Chrome Silver.
A close up of the pilots area reveals some light chipping on the floor. I was also happy with how the canvas boot on the control columns came up after painting and a wash.
The only thing left to close out the cockpit was the seats themselves. HKM does provide very basic PE belts but for the main pilot and co-pilot seats (which will be quite visible through the main windscreen) I wanted to add some belts that would look a bit better. I used the buckles from the WWII Verlinden set and the belts themselves were from lead foil (from the top of a wine bottle). Super glue is used to hold everything together.
The belts are not that complex on WWII aircraft (not like modern jets) and so only a couple of buckles and straps are needed.
The completed seats (pilot, co-pilot, radio operator, navigator and bombardier). The HKM PE belts have been used on the radio operator and navigator seats. The bombariers seat has belts from a Lion Roar generic belt set.
The cockpit is now complete (well its had everything done to it that I'm going to do). Very happy with how its turned out and the only shame is that most of it will not be visible on the finished model.
Just to satisfy my curiousity I assembled the completed cockpit into the fuselage and I'm glad that the extra work done on the seats will be quite visible from the outside.
General purpose aerial bombs have (not surprisingly) remained largely unchanged since WWII. They are still painted Olive Drab, yellow bands still indicate live explosives and the basic ballistic shape of the bomb has not changed all that much. After the modications I made previously to the mounting locations of the bombs on the racks all that remained was to paint them. I have used a primer coat of Tamiya X-18 Semi-Gloss Black followed by Tamiya Yellow for the bands. I have used a random selection of multiple bands per bomb to make things look less uniform and hence more realistic.
This image shows an ammo dump at a USAAF base in England during WW2. Ordnance crews are preparing the bombs for the next day's mission. Of note here is the finish on the bombs. During WWII most ammo dumps were outside exposed to the weather. Notice how the bombs are stained and marked and thats just from sitting outside.
With the basic painting of the bomb body (Tamiya XF62 Olive Drab) and the fin (Tamiya WF51 Khaki Drab) complete I wanted to try and replicate the stained appearance of the real thing. I have recently puchased several of the Vallejo Washes and have been looking for a reason to try them out. This seemed the perfect test bed.
As I did not have an exact color match for the wash I wanted to try I simply mixed two of the washes I had together. This was liberally applied over the bomb body and fin. Several coats where required to build up the effect I wanted. This stuff dries very quickly (about 5 mins) so it did not take too long to punch out 10 bombs.
With the Vallejo wash not quite dry I used a toothpick to randomly scratch and mark the bomb body to try and simulate the effect shown in the photo above. I was pretty satisfied with the end result. I like the Vallejo washes and will be adding them to my modeling toolkit. If you look closely you may notice a subtle rust wash on parts of the bomb fins.
Last step is to glue the bombs to the racks and here we see a final test fit of everything in the bomb bay.
The B-17G has four .50 cal machines guns that are not part of any of the turrets. Two in the nose and two in the waist (rear fuselage). These guns are fed from plywood ammo crates by flexible belt chutes. The chutes were made from aluminium and of course the ammunition casings were brass. The kit supplied parts look very nicely detailed and I have painted them Mr Color C8 Silver followed by handbrushing the ammo in the middle of the belt with Tamiya X-12 Gold Leaf. Note that this is the enamel version of X-12 and not the acrylic version. I have yet to find an acrylic metal paint that has the pigment fine enough to be convincing when applied to the model, hence my regular use of laquer and enamel paints for metalics.
Once the base colors are dry, a wash of Vallejo Dark Grey was applied to pick up all that fine detail in the belts. The Vallejo washes are really very easy to use (no thinning needed just apply directly from the bottle)
Another shot of how the wash picks up the very nice detail in the ammo feed belts provided in the kit. Really no need for aftermarket here.
The waist guns have fairly hefty ammo feed belts attached to the side and HKM does not provide any real secure way of mounting these. I decided to add a couple of 30" brass pins to the end of the belt to securely lock the gun body and belt together.
The waist guns are attached to the fuselage windows via a swiveling mounting bracket. A quick test fit of the parts as shown here reveals some minor adjustments are needed to get everything to line up properly but when it does it looks quite convincing.
The painted waist guns with the newly arrived ProfiModeler Brass barrels. The only kit part (other than the barrels) that would benefit from replacement is the crosshairs as these are way over scale.
If you are trying to decide if the cost of brass replacement barrels is warranted, these photo comparisons of the kit and aftermarket set from Profimodeler may help. In my opinion the kit barrels are not good enough for a 1/32 B-17 which after all is bristling with these things.
A close up shot of one of the barrels to give you an even better comparison of the plastic and brass parts.
The waist guns needs to be attached inside before you close the fuselage. A nice touch by HKM is the ability to leave the barrels off until the very end of the build. This will make handling the model a lot easier during subsequent assembly and painting.
With all the interior work now complete (well as complete as I wanted to make it) the time has come for some final photos before gluing the fuselage halves together. The following images give a good impression of what the final result looked like.
With the fuselage interior mostly finished I wanted to build the assorted turrets before I glued the two fuselage halves together. This way I was able to test fit the turrets into the fuselage and deal with any issues more easily. First cab off the rank was the top or dorsal turret. As this will be quite visible on the final model I did some research on the turret interior and added the firing/steering mechanisms, ammo boxes and assorted cables. To be honest some of it is educated guesswork.
The completed turret with the addition of the flexible ammo feed belts (which were borrowed from the Trumpeter 1/32 P-47N kit). Once I add the glass panels to the turret framework I hope that most of this extra detail will still be seen.
The tail turret interior is also nicely detailed (if not strictly accurate). Notice the finish applied to the brass barrels. I have used a new technique of chemically burnishing the brass parts (dipping them in a bath) rather than painting them. The end result is quite realistic and unlike paint does add add any extra thickness to the parts. The chemicals to achieve were from Uschi Van Der Rosten - Burnishing Agent for Brass Barrels and Photo Etch
The nose is a separate sub-assembly and its sensible to assume HKM will release earlier variants of the B-17 with different noses. I've built this area pretty much out of the box and believe it will be quite adequate once closed up and viewed from the outside in.
Sorry to say that's as far as I've gotten. For the moment this project is on hold pending some more time and motivation.