Well, like an out of control logging truck hurtling down a mountain freeway, work on the Farpro Saiun continues apace here at the Lagoon. Rarely one to back away from a modelling challenge, I’ve managed to get this thing to the point of actually making it into an airplane! For more details on what came before, check out:
With the rescribing done, it was time to get the major subassemblies together.
The wings are made of seven pieces; the two halves of each outer wing, the top of each inner wing and a bottom pan that has the gear bays in it. The wings actually fit together very well. I was surprised to find that the alignment was dead on, and despite the fact that the entire assembly was essentially quartered, it all came together with surprisingly little effort. Sure, the leading edge seams were messy as all get out, but the inner and outer wings were at the same level as each other, both on top and bottom. While this old bird may have its rough spots, I do have to give marks to Aoshima for accuracy in general fit.
Mating the wings to the fuselage wasn’t as easy an exercise. There were some pretty severe gaps on the underside where the pan meets the back of the wing fillets. I could have cut some strip styrene, I guess, but I decided to use the natural looseness of the fit to my advantage. I poured on a lot of glue so I could melt some plastic and stretch it around for some natural filler. As I shimmied the wings from side to side, the plastic melted and made a “bridge” across the gaps. It formed a good “load floor” for the rather copious amounts of putty I would need to use to finish the job.
I’m sure it’s no surprise that a lot of putty was needed for this kit. However, it wasn’t to fill seams, it was to fill sink marks. There were many places on the wings and lower fuselage where the plastic just seemed to ‘sag’ like the fabric on an old and beaten circus tent. These depressions, and the bad fit of the wing pan/rear fuselage joint, made me want to find a putty that was more fluid than standard Tamiya Grey putty, because I find that it just doesn’t get everywhere I need it. What I wanted was liquid putty, something so thin I could almost daub it on with a brush, and let it harden up.
So, what do you do when you don’t have what you need? Right! As a modeller, you make it up! In the past, I’d used nail polish remover to smooth Tamiya putty during application. Logic dictated that since that worked, if I used more, stronger material, I should be able to dissolve the putty totally. Of course, the risk was I’d also dissolve the kit, but it was worth a shot.
You know what? I was right! (About thinning the putty, not melting the kit, thank goodness!) I found out that you can dissolve the Tamiya putty using straight acetone. How thick it is depends on the ratios. I was able to make a putty that was almost milk-like in consistency, and apply it in daubs using a toothpick. Because it was thin, it flowed into the depressions and self-levelled perfectly. It also dried much faster than normal putty and there was less sanding required!
The odd thing was the tailplane. It was designed to slide into an opening in the vertical fin, like the tails on Styrofoam gliders I remember buying at Becker’s and Mac’s when I was a kid. It was one piece, and I feared it would either flop round or that the hole would be too small. Surprising me once again, Aoshima delivered a flawless fit, and with proper alignment to boot! Talk about hot and cold…
The Mother of In(ner)vention:
With everything more or less together, and sanded in place, it was time to go back to the interior. I cut some random-ish “headrest/seatback” shapes and glued them in the appropriate places. A cutaway on the internet showed me roughly where they ought to go, and that was good enough. I painted everything Model Master Acrylic Interior Green and then applied some thin masking tape seat belts. I washed everything with Citadel Nuln Oil wash to give it some character, and I made sure to put a lot more on the “floor” to make it seem like it was more shadowed, and deeper into the plane. I didn’t bother with instrument panels, control columns or the defensive gun; I’m pretty sure you aren’t going to see them when all is said and done!
Flash! Extra Extra!
If it’s one thing that the Saiun was good for, it was giving you more model per pound for your money. Sadly this was because there was a lot of flash and other extra plastic on the parts. If you’ve built any ‘70s Monogram/Revell kits, you know what I’m getting at here. The gear doors were very heavy with flash, and also had a few sink marks and holes that needed filling. However, one of the most hideous examples of poor moulding was on the prop.
The Saiun uses a three-bladed prop with a very pointed spinner for good aerodynamics. This mode comes, as was standard, with the spinner and prop moulded as one piece. That’s okay; painting the blades a different colour isn’t that hard. However, what was hard, was carving away the giant mould “shoulders” at the base of each prop blade. Sure, we’ve all had to clean up props before, bug the Saiun’s seemed particularly hatefully encrusted with extra squareness. Remember the points I gave for precision? I want them back.
I carefully trimmed and sanded the spinner until it was actually aerodynamically feasible again, and I trimmed the flash off the gear doors. The, I came to the main gear legs. Oh boy… these are poorly cast, and are really more flash and “badly-aligned mould escape” plastic than they are a part! The legs are fragile and easily bent, so I had to take a lot of care cleaning up the mountain range of extra plastic found all over the gear.
The last part that needed work was the cockpit canopy.
The canopy on this kit is really rather poor. It is quite foggy, and has a lot of distortion. It was also slightly yellowed from age. However, I wasn’t in the mood to sand it smoother or mess with it. The frames on the Saiun’s canopy are barely defined as it is; I didn’t want to lose them completely. Being a WWII Japanese plane, there many small panes of glass, meaning a lot of masking. I really wish the Japanese had figured out how to blow Perspex domes and other cockpit shapes, rather than resorting to so many flat plates and frames…
To make masking easier, I used an LED trouble light as a light table to illuminate the canopy from behind. This made the frames just visible through Tamiya tape. Using a BRAND NEW Xacto #11 blade, I went about cutting the masking free hand based on the lines I could see. Is it perfect? No. Are the frames too thick? Sure. Do I care? Not at all. This project proved I could use my backlight system on even horribly under-defined canopies, and that’s a win in my books!
Well, everything’s more or less together, so I guess it’s time to get my paint on!
Tune in next time as I get this monster done. I hope.