On The Bench

www.scalespot.com

F-16C Aggressor
Tamiya
Scale: 1/48


Started: 28 March 2009
Finished: 24 April 2009
Updates:
Updated: 28 March 2009
It is my intention to build this kit pretty much out of the box. Having said that, even Tamiya kits benefit from a little extra detail now and then. To be fair to Tamiya, the Aces II seat provided in the kit is pretty darn good. Especially when you consider Tamiya provide an excellent pilot figure which they expect you to place on the seat (hence the lack of harness detail).
As I want to use the kit tub, I need to make sure the resin (Black Box) seat will fit the Tamiya tub to my satisfaction. To understand how the kit seat is designed to fit, I assemble the seat and dry fit to the assembled tub and fuselage.
Now I have a clear idea of how the seat is meant to sit in the cockpit, I can adjust the resin item to fit in the same way. To my delight I needed to do virtually no adjustments to get the Black Box seat to fit.
As I want to try and build this kit quickly and I know I will need to dip the canopy in Future, I decide to tackle this immediately to give the Future time to dry before masking it. Of course I need to remove the molding seam from the canopy before Futuring. As an aside, Tamiya provide two complete canopies, one tinted (as seen here), the other clear. The reference I have for the "Artic Bandit" F-16's show the canopy is tinted, whilst the rear section (the bit which is fixed to the fuselage) is clear.
First step to remove a canopy seam is to scrape away the main part of the sean with a sharp blade, drawn carefully over the seam lengthways. The tape is to protect the other parts of the canopy from accidental slips.
Once the seam is removed with the blade, 1200 wet n dry is used to sand away the scratches left by the blade. Here you can see the tape serves to limit the scratching done by the sanding.
After the 1200 sanding, I progressively use finer grades of abrasive. Switching here to Micro Mesh polishing pads, I start with a grade of 3200. Already you can see the cloudiness clearing on the canopy. The Micro Mesh pads are available from Micro Mark
Continuing to work thru the polishing pads here we the result after using the 8000 grade pad. The clouding is virtually gone.
Once I switch to the final grade, 12000, I remove the protective tape and buff the entire canopy to a high shine. This canopy is now ready for a coat of Future and then into a dustproof container to dry. The rear canopy part likewise had a seam and received the same treatment. Oh, BTW, if you wondered how long this whole "remove the canopy seam" sequence took, it was about 10 mins (including stopping to take photos).
The Tamiya cockpit side walls are a bit basic.
Luckily the Black Box replacements that are designed for the Hasegawa kit look like the will fit nicely. (what did I say about building this kit out of box ???? )
Updated: 31 March 2009
As anticipated, the BB side walls did fit. Of course, it did require some trimming and thinning of the kit side walls, but that is common practise for resin sets, even when applying them to the kit they are designed for.
Here we see one of the sidewalls with the kit tub in place. Again some trimming was needed to get everything to co-habitate nicely.
I was quite surprised to see so many ejection pin marks in the main wheel well. These are very nasty to remove and Tamiya would have been better to put the ejection pins on the other side (ie the intake trunking). These would have been much easier to clean up.
As a carry over from the 1/32 Tamiya F-16, they have engineered this kit to also have quick remove pylons (good idea) and vertical tail (not sure why you would want to do that in 1/48). Here we see the inner workings of the vertical tail base. The two "poly caps" which are used to mate with stainless steel pins on the fuselage top can be seen held in place via a special jig.
Tamiya have engineered this kit to allow them to punch out most variants of the F-16. Here we need to remove a panel on the starboard forward fuselage as its not needed by any of the variant in this boxing.
As I have now touched just about every major component in this kit, I believe I can safely say it is the most amazingly engineered 1/48 model I have ever built. The fit of the parts is simply stunning. To highlight this fact, you can see here two panels that need to be installed (I assume to allow other variants to be built). Look closely at the panels and realise that I have used no filler or sanding to get this result. The tolerances on this model really are that good. You can also see a couple more panels that needed to be removed for this variant.
Other assorted sub components are being assembled and can be seen scattered around the bench.
I want to put drop tanks on this model, so needed the inner pylons. Here we see the stainless steel pin I refered to earlier.
Here we see the pylon being mated to the tank. The pylon has the pin and the tank has a poly cap inside.
Updated: 04 April 2009
As you would expect with a modern Tamiya kit, there is not much extra work that needs to be done. Simple stuff like opening intake vents helps add that extra bit of eye candy to enhance your model. Here we see the intake on the forward edge of the vertical tail base as provided by Tamiya.
With a little effort from a #80 drill and a fresh blade tip, we can open up the front of the vent.
Intakes on modern jet aircraft are one of the trickiest areas to work with from a modeling perspective. Tamiya have given us the full length trunking for the engine which is good (from a realism angle) but painful from a modeling angle as we need to sand and paint it all :) Based on a discussion I had with a friend at the latest IPMS meeting (thanks Dave), I decided to try something new to fill the seam inside the intake. What you see here is chopped up sprue, dissolved in styrene glue for 30mins and then used like a filler. Once this mixture dries, you are left with the same plastic as the kit plastic. All we need to do is figure out how to sand it.
Another technique I have picked up off the net previously is to attach a section of wet n dry paper to the end of a toothpick (or bamboo skewer in this case) with some Blu Tac.
Our makeshift flexi sander can be placed into the intake and used to sand the hard to reach places.
The end result after much sanding and a coat of primer is shown above. Just take it slow and steady and you can get a good result.
The cockpit tub and side walls have received a coat of final color. Detail painting soon to follow.
Here we see the inner workings of the vertical tail base. Tamiya have provided a "quick release" mechanism for this and more usefully, the wing pylons (great for swapping stores as needed).
This view shows the tail base being test mated to the fuselage. I found that the resulting fit was not very tight and resulted in about 1mm of vertical movement. Of course this won't do so the tail will be glued to the fuselage at the appropriate time.
As I have worked more on this kit, my initial admiration for the Tamiya engineers has somewhat waned. Don't get me wrong, the fit of the kit is amazing, but the number of awkward ejection pin marks continues to grow. Just about every undercarriage component has several noticable ejection marks.
The Tamiya kits (unlike Hasegawa) do not provide a boarding ladder. Here I have fished a PE ladder from the cupboard.
With the inner portion of the intake sanded, its time to assemble the outer intake skin and intake lip. One of the distinctive features of the F-16 intake is a structural support close to the mouth. Tamiya requires that this item is inserted before the outer skin and intake lip is attached. This will cause me a problem when it comes time to sand the intake lip. What is needed to solve this problem is a revised order of assembly.
To enable me to insert the structural support at the very end (after sanding and painting) I have cut a hole in the top of the intake. I think this will work a treat. Remember, you don't have to do it the way the manufacturer designed it. Always look for ways to make your life easier :)
With the intake strut problem solved, next challenge is to attach and sand in the intake lip. Here we can the precision of the various parts that go up to make the intake.
The intake lip itself has been attached. Once dry, it will be sanded to blend into the inner trunking of the intake.
Even though you have not seen many photos of the other sub components of the model, I have been busy. Here you see every major sub assembly reader for a coat of primer. Not bad for 1 weeks work :)
Updated: 07 April 2009
I had originally not purchased any of the Tamiya PE sets for my F-16's (don't really know why). Of course once I started to build one and needed the re-inforcing plates I ordered them. Problem is, they will take some time to get here and I am on a roll with this model. To the rescue comes another friend, Brett (from R&R Models). He has kindly given me one of his sets until mine arrive. The set provides plates for all possible F-16 variants (which means on any one model you won't use them all). It also provides metal pitot and AOA sensors. Thanks Brett.
One trick I use for working with larger, flat PE parts is to glue them to thin plastic card (in this case 5 thou). This allows me to place the part onto the model and use normal styrene liquid glue (I have started using pure MEK) to secure it, rather than fiddling with super glue on the model. A simple way to avoid having to get the part perfectly aligned first go (as super glue is very unforgiving).
Once the CA glue dries, the plastic card is trimmed to shape and if needed thinned out so it does not adversely affect the scale thickness of the part.
The part is attached to the model just like any plastic part and MEK is touched to the edge with a fine brush and runs around the edge and under to secure the part. Simple but effective.
By far, the part which has required the most attention in this build is the intake. Here we see some Milliput (white) being used to fill in the step between the intake and the lip. The gap was fairly large as I had sanded too much of the forward intake away when working on the seam.
The fit of the other exterior intake parts are not real flash either. Milliput and subsquently Tamiya Basic Putty was used to repair these joins.
The cockpit panels have been painted black using Vallejo acrylic paints. These paints are ideal for brush painting as they leave no brush marks and don't dry too rapidly like Tamiya or Gunze when brush painting.
A light wash of artist oil paints has been applied to the cockpit tub to help highlight the molded in detail. Notice the wash color in the corners of the tub bottom and around the A/C vents on the back wall.
The sidewall has also received the wash and as you can see it gives the part more depth (and realism in my opinion).
With the Milliput dry, the Tamiya basic putty is applied to allow final blending of all remaining gaps and seams.
Up until now, I have been quite happy with the detail provided by Tamiya in the kit. When I turned my attention to the HUD and UFC assembly, I was quite dissapointed. As I will be displaying the model with an open canopy, I could not live with Tamiya's poor excuse for a HUD and UFC. Here we see on the left, the parts as provided by Tamiya. On the right, after some re-work is the assembly with new PE part for the UFC (Up Front Controller) and resin parts for the HUD frame. The kit parts were also thinned down to give a more realistic scale look. It just goes to show that even Tamiya benefits from a little TLC. (and yes Greg, I realise this is not out-of-the-box).
I have had people refer to my modeling as "tidy". I had not really thought about it that way, but I do like to avoid making work for myself. One good example is minimising overspray. Here I am ready to paint the black surrounds of the cockpit and have roughly masked the surrounding sections to minimise (not avoid completely) overspray. Yes I could just spray the black and clean up the overspray (or ignore it perhaps), but I think that is actually more work than taking 1 minute to apply some tape like this.
The black has been applied (btw, its a mixture of Tamiya Nato Black and Pure Black) and the tape removed. I hope you can see my point about reducing overspray and more importantly about saving myself the work of cleaning up a mess I did not need to create in the first place :-)
The intakes (fore and aft) have now received their final color coat (Humbrol H130 Satin White). I am generally happy with the intake, but have learned a few things along the way, so I expect my next Tamiya F-16 to go more smoothly.
Last thing for tonight is another before and after. Humbrol metaliser paints do not seem to be widely used by modelers. One color that I have found many uses for (especially in and around aircraft engines) is Humbrol Gunmetal. On the left we see the engine exhaust outlet after its coat of Gunmetal. On the right the only thing that has been done is that I have buffed the part/paint with a cotton bud once dry. The effect is really quite stunning as the recessed areas retain a dusty flat look , whilst the raised areas that are buffed take on a metalic sheen.
Updated: 10 April 2009
With the base painting completed on the cockpit tub, its time to add some detail and further weathering. Drybrushing is a technique that I really like for making a cockpit look worn. I use Testors Model Master Chrome Silver as my drybrushing paint. You can see the bottle lasts a long time as the printing has worn off the label :)
Drybrishing requires a light hand and simply involves dipping the brush into the paint and then using a cloth to wipe most of the paint away. This leaves the brush almost dry (hence the term dry brushing). In this pic you can see the brush has a small amount of paint left on the bristles.
The cockpit panels have been gently dry brushed to pick out the raised detail (ie switches etc). You can also drybrush other areas of the cockpit that come under heavy wear during operation. Rudder pedals and cockpit side walls are good candidates for heavier dry brushing. This time around I did my drybrushing before I did the detailed switch painting as I have found that small details can be lost during dry brushing.
With the major sub assemblies complete, its time to start major assembly. The fit of the main sections is very good.
A top view of the model coming together. Once this lot dries, some minor cleanup of seams is needed.
Screwups occur when u least expect them. Can you see my dirty big fingerprint etched in plastic ??? Lets all repeat rule #1 when it comes to spilt glue. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CLEAN IT UP UNTIL IT DRIES. Oh, yes, this effort was accompanied by several minutes of name calling and colorful language.
Notice the large gap here ? This is not due to a Tamiya mistake, but my mistake. When test fitting the part it looked like it needed a small section removed from one end. Well, guess what, it didn't. With these Tamiya kits I'm finding that whenever I get the urge to adjust a part to get a "better" fit, its worth taking a deep breath and have a second and third look before sanding or cutting anything. , more work for me.
Whilst I don't use two part epoxy glue very often, there are times it's the perfect option. Too make the glue flow more easily I warm it up in a cup of hot water for a couple of minutes.
So what am I going to use the epoxy glue for ? To hold the lead sinkers in the nose cone of course. Make sure you plug up the tip of the nose or the glue with run out thru the pitot hole.
Epoxy glue is a two part glue which gives you about 5 minutes working time once the two parts are mixed. To make cleanup easy I lay down some masking tape and mix the two parts with a toothpick. When dry, I just rip up the tape and throw the lot in the bin.
The nose cone is held vertical by some blu tac while the epoxy glue dries.
When doing my research for the aggressor F-16's, I noted that they use an inert version of the AIM-9M Sidewinder missile on the wingtips. The CATM-9M missile is the trainer version of the live AIM-9M and has some subtle differences. One of those its that it does not have the gyro stablisers on the tail fins. Tamiya provide us with a very nice AIM-9M which can be converted to the CATM-9M quite easily.
With the intake paint dry, its time to mask the interior. The trickiest part of this process is laying down the tape to conform to the complex curves present inside the intake.
Of all the parts on this model, the nose side sections and the radome causes me the most grief. Perhaps I was tired or the fit of my models parts was not 100% but it fought me all the way. In the end, I gave up trying to get them to fit like the rest of the model. Superglue filler, then sanded came to rescue once more. Panel lines had to be rescribed etc. Of interest here is the use of stretched sprue to restore the raised detail on radome. The F-16 radome has raised "anti static" stripes that run lengthways. The longest of these is on the very top of the radome, which is of course exactly where the model has a join seam. You can see the stretched sprue running from the tip to the rear of the radome.
Whilst working on the nose section, I decided to attach the photo etched RAM plates from the Tamiya detail parts set. To my dissapointment, Tamiya has used some form of spring steel (not brass) for this set. This mean its very hard, to get the parts to conform to a curved shape and stay there while being glued. In the end, after several attempts to hold the part in place while applying super glue, I gave up and used the Tamiya part as a template to fashion a plasticard replaement.
The plastic part performed much better than the steel Tamiya part and once thinned down a little should look fine. I expect I will have to use this option again for some of the rear re-inforcing plates as well. If someone out there has a workable method for using the Tamiya parts, please do let me know.
Updated: 15 April 2009
With the main preparation of the intake complete, its time to add the details. Here we see the navigation lights have received a coat of Tamiya Clear (Enamel) red and green as appropriate.
The PE re-inforcing plates have been added to the spine (just forward of the vertical tail). These plates actually worked better than the other items from the detail set. I've also started masking up the refueling receptical cover.
The task of masking the wheel wells has begun, with the edges being masked with tape and the main interior being covered with wet paper towel.
The shape is starting to come together now. The wingtip rails have been added, as has the rear canopy, intake and main landing gear.
The cockpit and rear canopy has been masked in preparation for painting. Humbrol Maskol liquid mask has been used to get into those hard to reach places.
Turning my attention to the main canopy, some basic detailing is needed to represent the canopy latches and grab handles. The latches are modified from a "Reheat" PE set of modern canopy details. The grab handle is fashioned from 12thou brass wire.
The detailing and masking is now complete on the canopy. This lot will be painted a toned down black and set aside to dry.
The radome and RHAWS sensors have been painted and masked. I have to say that my least favourite thing in modeling is the masking !!
A final shot of the underside with its masking complete. The green coating on the tissue paper is Gunze Mr Mask NEO, which I have decided I do not like as much as Humbrol Maskol. It takes too long to dry and is way too hard to remove.
It's time for the first camo color. I work on the principle of always paint in the order of lightest to darkest. That way you run into less coverage problems. As I am using the TwoBobs decals, I refered to their suggested color. They suggest HU28 Camoflage Grey (FS36222) which is shown on the left of the photo. To my eye, photos of the real aircraft look almost white (perhaps off white), certainly not Camoflage Grey. The Tamiya paint instructions suggest pure white, which I think is also wrong. So, I have ended up blending HU130 Satin White with a little HU28 Camo Grey to end up with basically an off white.
The off white has been applied roughly to the model. As this is a wrap around scheme, the color extends onto the underside as well. Left to dry overnight, this will be masked and the second camo color applied.
Updated: 18 April 2009
Once the white is dry (overnight) the masking is applied. As the pattern on these aircraft has fairly tight demarcations, I opt to use my Blutac masking method.
As each paint coat dries, details like the seat can be worked on. I like to use the Vallejo range of acrylic paints for brush painting. The seat (BB resin) has been undercoated in preparation for brush painting.
The second color, HU140 + HU130 has been applied now and also masked. All that remains in the third and final color.
Being a wrap-around scheme, the masking and camo colors extend to the underside of the model.
The final coat has been applied. For this color I switched to Tamiya acrylics, as I like the look of Nato Black in the Tamiya range.
The exhaust petals are bare metal and I have used Alclad Stainless Steel with a light coat of Titanium Gold to simulate the heat discolorisation that is normally present on these engines.
The Tamiya acrylics dry a lot quicker than the Humbrol enamels I normally use, so the masking can come off the same day. Even though you can't see them, there are several spots that need some repairs due to overspray etc.
Last task prior to decaling is the application of a gloss clear coat (in my case Future). I'll give this a couple of days to dry and then apply the Microscale printed, Twobobs decals.
Updated: 23 April 2009
The decaling has commenced. One unexpected event occured which had to do with the white decals. Because these decals will be placed on a black background, Microscale has printed them very thickly (to ensure good coverage). This means they do not respond as well to decal softening solution to allow them to pull down into the panel lines etc. I tried a couple of techniques to get them down into the panel lines and I am happy with the result. I also used some Daco Strong Decal softener, which certainly helped get them to co-operate.
The model does not really have a lot of decals. As the scheme I chose does not have walkway outlines, this makes the decaling task even easier.
The engine exhaust petals need to be masked up, to allow a couple of different colors to be applied. I tried to think of a quicker way than cutting out all that tape, but decided that as a rule, "quicker is not always better".
With the decaling complete and the decals sealed down with Future, its time to apply a panel wash. Because of the large contrast from one color to the next (Black to White) I could not use a single wash color. In the end I used Medium Gray on the black and white and Extra Dark Gray on the gray camo color.
The excess wash has been cleaned away using a cotton cloth and for the tricky areas, lots of cotton buds.
An increasing number of photos I see of F-16 have very visible "screws" on the canopy edge. All the Artic Vipers have this "feature". To reproduce it, I took a sharp needle (held in a knife handle) and accentuated the shallow holes that Tamiya provide on the canopy frame. I then applied a couple of washes of white Humbrol paint into the holes. After 10 mins, I cleaned away the excess and am happy that the result looks realistic.
Painting of the seat is now complete. I have applied a light wash of Artists oils to highlight the details. I'll dry brush the seat (to simulate wear) before gluing it into the cockpit later.
The final flat coat (Polly S) has been applied and I am very happy with the panel lines. The choice of wash colors seems to have been good. Mostly final details left now, like attaching of the undercarriage, drop tanks, stores etc. Definitely the home stretch.
Updated: 24 April 2009
Well, she is finished. Overall I'd score this model from Tamiya as an 8.5 / 10. The engineering is fantastic (except for the ejection pin marks) and the fit is just about perfect. I have a few Hasegawa F-16 left in my stash, but its gonna be hard going back to build them after this beauty. My favourite feature of this kit is definitely the canopy attachment method. No glue, just drop it in place. Brilliant !!
Four weeks from start to finish is a speed build for me. I doubt I could do it with any other model manufacturers kit and maintain a standard I am happy with. Cruise over to the Gallery section for some photos of the final model.

www.scalespot.com