On The Bench

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RAAF 737-800 Wedgetail AWACS
Revell / Hawkeye Models Conversion
Scale: 1/144


Started: 11 Sept 2005
Finished: Project on hold.
Latest Update: 7 Feb 2006

 
If you are not familiar with the RAAF Wedgetail AWACS project, here is an official RAAF photo to give you an idea of what I am working towards. This model will use the Revell 737-800 kit as the base and the Hawkeye Models Wedgetail Conversion. Many thanks to Clayton Fiander of Hawkeye for the reference photos and to Steve Evans who created the conversion.
Figure 1 The Wedgetail has a considerably shortened fuselage when compared to the standard 737-800. Two sections of the kit fuselage need to be removed. As I will be filling and sanding the windows, I have glued 10thou card behind those windows which will remain. Here you can see the empty (dark) windows in the sections of the fuselage (between the red lines) that will be removed.
Figure 2 The view from inside the fuselage. The section with the open windows will be removed in order to shorten the fuselage.
Figure 3 The Wedgetail has a shortened tail which is supplied in the conversion set. Some minor surgery is required to removed the kit tail fillet. The red lines indicate where the cuts are required.
Figure 4 Both fuselage halves have had the tail fillet removed. Before the replacement resin item can be fitted, the gap in the upper fuselage (see figure 5 below) will need to be filled with plasticard.
Figure 5 Rather than try to cut the fuselage whilst still in two halves, I decided to use my Olfa Cutter blade and dymo tape as a guide to create a straight clean cut.I have found this technique works much better than a razor saw or knife.
Figure 6 I normally use the Olfa blade for panel line scribing. However its also an excellent cutter, which when used up against a guide (such as the Dymo tape shown here), can result in a very accurate and simple cut..
Figure 7 After several forceful passes of the blade, the fuselage comes apart.
Figure 8 With the first cut complete, second cut is undertaken. Its useful to use a pen to clearly remind yourelf just which part needs to be discarded.
Figure 9 Here the rear section has been successfully separatd from the fuselage.
Figure 10 When placing the dymo tape around the fuselage as a guide for the cutting blade, its vital that the tape be perfectly positioned and run perpendicular to the fuselage axis. Using one of the exisiting radial panel lines, I used a compass to mark out several equi-distant points on the fuselage. These in turn are used as markers when laying down the tape.
Figure 11 The Olfa cutter blade is fairly thick (well at 1/144 scale, its quite thick) and removes about 1.5mm of material as it cuts. This is not a problem here are long as we remember to place the cut on the section that is being removed. You can see in Fig 12 below that in each of the four cuts I have placed the tape such that the cut is taken on the inner side of the tape.
Figure 12 Here we see the fusleage in its now 5 pieces. This whole exercise took about 45 mins.
Figure 13 Using some 600 grade wet n dry paper, the edges are cleaned up..
Figure 14 A testiment to the acuracy of the dymo tape and olfa cutter method is that an almost perfect butt join.
Figure 15 The same join as seen from below.
Figure 16 The new, shorterned fuselage.
Update: 3 Oct 2005
Figure 17 Before fitting the replacement resin (shorter and steeper) fin leading edge, the hole in the top of the fuselage has to be filled. Some 10thou card has been glued from the inside (one of the benefits of cutting the fuselage after joining the halves :)
Figure 18 A section of 40thou card has now been fitted into the hole. This, when sanded, will be flush with the fuselage surface.
Figure 19 Here the resin fin is being dry fitted to the modified tail (not a bad fit but needs some careful trimming). The thick beam protuding from the front is an internal mounting support for the brass pins that will be fitted to the bottom of the resin antenna (seen in the background). Without the strength of such pins, this would be a very weak butt joint.
Figure 20 To fill the 60 windows, I grabbed my trusty Chopper. This tool makes short work of cutting the 60 x 30 thou evergreen stock into identical lengths.
Figure 21 Accuracy when fitting the window fillers is not essential as they will be glued using super glue and then sanded flush with the model surface.
Update: 01 Nov 2005
Figure 22 Sanding the joins always results in some high and low spots. As I find these areas that need correction I mark them with a pencil so I can quickly add filler (or in the case super glue) later on.
Figure 23 If you don't have a set of Flexi-Files, then get some !! They are great for ensuring a consistent pressure is applied to curved surfaces (eg drop tanks) when sanding. I got mine from Micro-Mark
Figure 24 One of the challenges of the Hawkeye conversion set is the lack of instructions. Its at times like these you need to experiment a little to figure out the best way to use the parts provided. Here I am trying to figure out how the resin antenna is meant to be attached to the wingtip. Clearly its not meant to be attached directly like this.
Figure 25 Next attempt is to attach the kit wingtip and shape the resin antenna to fit the curve of the kit tip. Using reference pics, its not so hard to figure out where the resin part should go.
Figure 26 Here the resin antenna has been shaped, glued (using CA) and blended into the wingtip. To my eye the Hawkeye part is not bulbous enough, but in 1/144 scale I'm not going to stress over it.
Figure 27 One feature of the Wedgetail not provided in the Hawkeye conversion is what I assume are fuel dump outlets on each wing. These are simple enough to fabricate from plastic rod.
Update: 08 Nov 2005
Figure 28 Hawkeye provides a small PE sheet that contains the myriad of antenna fitted to the Wedgetail. They also provide the ventral fins as PE parts. I felt the PE was too thin (as well as difficult to work with) for these parts and here you can see the 10 thou plasticard replacements I have fabricated.
Figure 29 In case you wanted to know what else comes in the Hawkeye set, here are the resin parts.
Figure 30 Finally Hawkeye provide a small decal sheet that will allow the model to be finished as one of the two operational RAAF Wedgetails (A38-xxx).
Figure 31 As my model will be in flight, the wheels will be retracted. An interesting feature of the 737 is that the main gear doors do not cover the wheels when retracted. To ensure an accurate position for the wheels, I chose to use brass rod rather than the flimsy kit struts.
Figure 32 Test fitting here shows the desired effect.
Figure 33 With all the sanding complete, panel lines are being repaired/replaced. Here the nose wheel doors are being added..
Figure 34 For panel lines over curves I like to use Pactra tape as the guide. Its very thin and flexible, but is sufficiently thick to guide the blade of the scriber.
Figure 35 Where panel lines do not cross curved surfaces I like to use standard Dymo tape. Here the long panel lines on the fuselage are being added back in.
Update: 29 Jan 2006
Apologies to those of you who have been waiting for my latest update on this build. I had a lengthy break over Christmas and New Year. I'm back home now and ready to do some modeling :)
Figure 38 With the panel lines re-scribed, its time to check the results by applying a coat of primer. This way any blemishes are easily seen and corrected.
Figure 39 A close up shot of the left rear fuselage side. The rear join seam has been removed quite successfully
Figure 40 The resin wingtip antennas now look part of the kit. Exactly the desired effect.
Figure 41 Each major join receives a light coat of primer.
Figure 42 The canopy has been painted over as I will be using decals. You can get away with this in 1/144 scale.
Figure 43 The nose undercarriage doors where completely filled with plasticcard and super glue. The re-scribed results are seen here. Refer to Figure 33 for details on scribing
Figure 44 With the fuselage under control, it was time to turn my attention to one of the main Wedgetail features. The main antenna part has quite a few molding and manufacturing flaws. Here you can see the underside which has a major mold mismatch step that needs to be fixed.
Figure 45 The top of the antenna also needs some adjustment as the profile is not right. Here I have laminated two 20thou sheets to deepen the top plate. This was secured using CA glue and sanded to shape
Figure 46 A side profile view shows the result of the work with the plastic-card.
Figure 47 The final stage in re-shaping the antenna is with Tamiya Basic putty. This gives a very smooth finish.
Figure 48 One of the benefits of having a long break over Christmas was that it allowed some shinkage of the fuselage joins to occur. Here I have touched up some blemishes.
Figure 49 The fin fillet and antenna assembly have been test fitted to the fuselage. The antenna is held firmly using 20thou brass pins. These are firmly held by a section of plastic rod that was inserted into the fuselage in Figure 19.
Figure 50 The front fuselage joint had also shrunk, so a touch-up was required
Figure 51 The engines require some minor corrections. An obvious one is to remove the strengthening fillet in the upper roof of the intakes.
Figure 52 The engine exhaust nozzles have several different colours of metallic. Here the base coat of Alcad Stainless Steel has been masked with Gunze Masking Sol.
Figure 53 Upon a closer review of the available reference pics of the Wedgetail antenna, some very distinctive panel lines are evident. These have been re-created using dymo tape and a fresh knife blade..
Update: 7 Feb 2006
Figure 54 Since the last update I have attached the wing and fuselage assemblies. Unfortunately in order to get the upper join to line up, the lower joins suffered a fairly nasty gap and step.
Figure 55 To quickly fill the step I used progressive layers of super glue, cured quickly by CA Kicker. The super glue dries as hard as the plastic and can be re-scribed with a sharp blade in the scribing tool. If you have trouble blending the edge of the super glue with the surrounding plastic, feather the edge only with Tamiya Basic Putty.
Figure 56 The end result of the filling and re-scribing is being examined here under a coat of primer.
Figure 57 A makeshift fillet for the antenna has been fashioned from 80x10thou card
Figure 58 The forward join on the lower fuselage is also quite nasty. Here the super glue is being layered and cured instantly to build up the mismatched parts.
Figure 59 Just like a Hasegawa join !! :)
Figure 60 Working with 1/144 scale engines is quite tricky. They are small buggers ! The lip of the intake is provided as a separate part by Revell. Here the interior join is being filled with Tamiya Basic Putty.
Figure 61 Using a toothpick, blutac and 1200 grade paper, the interior join has been sanded. Following this I applied (using a cotton bud) a coat of Mr Surfacer 1000
Figure 62 Here the Mr Surfacer has been sanded and a final check coat of Alclad primer applied.
Figure 63 The interior of both engines have been coated in Alclad Stainless Steel. Once dry and wash will be applied to the blades and the center hub painted black.
Figure 64 With the major surgery complete on the fuselage, the Hawkeye resin bulges etc can be added.
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.

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