Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Build Review - Revell 1/32 Heinkel He111 P-1

Well, here is a kit that I would defy most modellers to turn down if offered the chance to build it. It's only been out a short while and followed hot on the heels of the 1/32 Ju88 in Revell's new drive to produce a ranges of 1/32 models of larger WWII subjects. Not so long ago, this aircraft in 1/32 would simply have not been technologically possible to produce in the mainstream but Revell have stepped up to the mark and what a beauty they have created! I always used to be in to building the largest models I could get my hands on, but since turning professional and having to ship the end results all over the world practical matters took over. However, a very good customer came to me with this one and I simply could not resist.

So on opening the large box one is presented with some 18 large sprues brimming with parts. Also, the instruction sheet contains well over a hundred stages which means you know you have a big project ahead. That is daunting enough, but my customer had also opted for every additional detail set going, and so I also had to plan out the incorporation of the Eduard "Big Ed" detail set which incorporates internal and external details plus a full bomb bay replacement, along with undercarriage enhancements and, mercifully, a pre cut canopy mask set. Without that latter item building this monster could tip one over the edge of sanity. So with this build, planning is more important than ever to identify the deviations from the manual I will need to do to incorporate the extra detailing parts.

Let me get my only major gripe about the kit out of the way first. The parts are numbered in a totally random fashion across the sprues, there are no sprue level labels to help. There is no particular logic to the parts placement at all and so every part number you are pointed to involves a scan across all 18 sprues because it could be anywhere. With this number of parts and complexity, (and also given that in true Revell style the parts don't always look exactly like they do in the instructions), this is a serious mistake on the part of the designers and adds a significant degree of frustration to what should otherwise be a very enjoyable build. At least most other manufacturers point you to the specific sprue for each part - BIG black mark against Revell here. But that's it, pretty much everything else is first rate. I do get a little annoyed with Revell colour call outs generally however, and this kit is no exception. They assign random letters to colours that differ for every kit, and one of the things I like about being an experienced modeller is getting to learn various manufacturers colour codes (at least the common ones anyway) which means you don't have to look them up as you progress. But its not a deal breaker!

And so on to the build. I decided to trust the instructions build sequence on this one, I don't always do that, but with such a large project it made sense to me. Cockpit first, as ever. This was my first experience of the fit quality of this kit, and it is superb. Everything clicked together without any complaint, the only complications I encountered were all related to getting the additional Eduard photo etch in place, which is fair enough. However Revell call out a dark grey for the cockpit main interior (presumably RLM66) but I am not convinced this is correct for early era He111s. So I went with RLM02. The large number of parts make this quite a prolonged stage to get the whole cockpit area together, with the added complication of having to shave off the instrument panel details to replace them with the Eduard etch. But despite this, the experience was very rewarding as once painted up everything started to look absolutely stunning. The Eduard details really add to this, but to be honest I reckon even without it you will still have a very impressive result.

The bulkhead panels to the rear of the cockpit (and rear fuselage for that matter) need their doors removing to incorporate the etch details, but this is very worthwhile as it really adds a nice "corridor" through the plane that can be seen fairly well from the cockpit, and given the amount of interior detail this adds a lot to the model. If you are going to build a model of this size, it is really worth making the most of what is provided.

On to the fuselage halves next, and there is a lot of work to be done inside the body, including benches, ammunition clips, radio and navigation equipment and also a few extra panels and details from Eduard in my case. The side windows have to be installed at this point as well, and it is a sign of the excellent fit of this kit that they fitted in perfectly. This is an area that often suffers even with the best of kits but not here!

Before one can close up the fuselage the tail wheel gear must be installed. I never like doing this since it is my preference always to leave such things off until after the main painting and finishing to make the model easier and safer to handle. But there is not really any choice here so I put it together and carefully masked it off. Next I installed the cockpit assembly into the port fuselage half, not the starboard as indicated in the instructions. This is because only the port half contains locating grooves and even these are not particularly positive, so take a lot of care here if you build this. Line up everything to make sure it really is in the right place before committing to glue because the instructions are a little misleading here.

Normally putting together fuselage halves of this size is fraught with stability problems but fortunately no extra bracing was required since there are four kit supplied bulkheads overall (rear cockpit, bomb bay, navigator area and tail wheel) that provide more than adequate stability to the large areas of plastic being fixed together. But it is testament to the quality of the kit that it went together with very little complaints, just a little jiggling of the interior parts. And what is more, the halves lined up beautifully with no significant seams. However I still smeared filler all around and wet sanded thoroughly more out of habit than anything just to be safe.

The engine cowlings are constructed next, and they are a little tricky. After installing the intake scoops (and attendant battle with the Eduard etch grills) they are comprised of four separate panels (sides, top and bottom) that have to be joined carefully in order to preserve their shape. I made life even more difficult for myself by opting to leave off the front spinner plates at this stage so that I could install the exhaust stacks after painting, but these plates were useful to ensure the pieces were aligned correctly. No actual engine detail is provided, nor provision for display, which is a little disappointing in a kit of this scale, but I personally am not really into such things so was not bothered. There are some after market options coming on line now if that floats your boat.

Next the wheel wells are built, and for my build, these had to be lined with the Eduard photo etch versions (and associated details) as well, which do look good, I have to say. These wells are then attached to the centre lower wing section which will be joined to the fuselage momentarily. Once the inner wing top surfaces are installed this same section also supports the engine cowlings which have to be attached carefully ensuring that they line up correctly and also that the various vent flaps are in the right place. The results of this is a centre underwing section containing the wheel bays underneath and the engines on top but also the bomb bay in the middle of it. Here came my first major challenge. The Eduard bomb bay set requires that the moulded bomb bay opening grid is removed from this piece, which results in only a couple of thin strips of plastic still holding the whole section together. Great care is needed here and I did take the precaution of using some thick styrene card to add strengthening to the spars - otherwise I am sure it would snap in two.

And so I had to skip the next few instruction sections on building the kit bomb bay and construct the Eduard equivalent which is incredibly detailed (for that read complex to build) and formed out or large sheets of etched metal. Very hard to do and keep everything in line, and I will admit to leaving out some of the finer detailing parts on the top of the bomb bay as these were never going to be visible on the final model. But once this was done the whole assembly needed to be slotted in to the hole in the centre section and finished off with etched metal strips to represent the hinging mechanisms. These do, I must admit, look fantastic but they are a royal pain to install. I left off the etched bomb doors themselves for now since they would only get broken during the rest of the build.

Now the next big step, to install the centre section in the fuselage. This is one of those operations that experience tells you is going to be hellish in terms of alignment and seams. But would you believe it, it clicked into place pretty much perfectly. So perfectly when I dry fitted it, that I was reluctant to pull it out again to apply glue in case I could not repeat my good fortune. Top marks indeed to the kit engineers there!

The next step is to put the wings together including the flaps and ailerons  but these were no more difficult than most other kits, just a lot bigger. A bit of sanding down and these were done with no problems. Likewise the tail section and fin, all very straightforward and fitted well, just a lot of glue. The wings and tail were now attached and left to set overnight. For the first time now you get to appreciate the sheer size of this model, smothering my entire work bench, and I was already trying to devise a strategy as to how I was going to get this inside my spray booth for painting.

But before that, there are still a few bits and pieces to install. The underside gondola is next. And here is probably the only area of the whole kit where I had some fit issues. Made up from a combination of clear parts with normal plastic, it simply would not sit correctly, and each section displayed a noticeable step where it butted up to the others. But with a little packing, filling and sanding I managed to get it settled down to an acceptable level. I left the gun window out for now and masked it off to avoid damage and tricky masking.

Also the top gun turret section panel needs to placed in the top of the fuselage, filling a rather large section with one piece but my initial fears about fit and seams were, once again, unfounded. It dropped in place absolutely perfectly. But I left out the actual gun and mounting until later.

The cockpit glazing is one of the last items to go in place, and this is a very different prospect to your normal "drop on" cockpit canopy. There are six main glazed parts that need to be fitted together, not forgetting as you go, to install the main instrument panel (which is attached to the ceiling) and the bomb sight. The canopy parts are formed from two main "rings" of glass and a nose bubble fits on the very front at the end. I opted, unusually, not to apply the canopy masks until the glazing was installed as I had a suspicion that the masks might hinder my ability to get everything lined up correctly. The parts all fit together very well considering these are clear plastic. Usually, clear plastic, being very brittle, is very had to line up correctly because it has no play in it (or not that you can effect without cracking). However because of the sheer size of these parts there was a little flexibility that enables me to get a really good snug fit to the front of the fuselage with the help of some tape and clamps. The second "ring" was a little more problematic, leaving a distinct ridge at the join that there was no obvious way to get rid of by positioning. So in the end I sanded down the edges of both parts and with a little (very carefully applied) filler I had things looking a lot better. The nose bubble I installed but left unglued so that I could install the nose gun later, and also to allow me to get into the cockpit to deal with any post painting problems. I also left loose the slide hatch on the upper left part of the fuselage for the same reason. I then applied the masks to all the glazing, which took a fair while but was nothing compared to what I would have to do if it was not for the Eduard masking set!

And so on to painting. The first problem was fitting this beast inside my spray booth. I could get about two thirds of it in and this would have to suffice. I began by spraying the glazed areas with RLM02 and I also covered the key seams to check their quality. A couple of areas showed up as lacking in this respect so the model was back to the workbench to have a bit of filling done. A subsequent check showed that all was now well.

The next painting stage was a thorough coat overall of Tamiya fine grey primer. This smoothed out the surface beautifully. Pretty much a whole pot of RLM76 was then used to cover the underside. Masking off the edges of the underside suffices in a model of this size, before spraying the whole topside RLM71. Once dried, I used a number of rolls of Tamiya tape masking the splinter pattern before applying the RLM70 on top. After removing the masks, I then went around the border with the underside colour carefully with a close spray to soften up the join. A hard edge on a model this big would be just too clinical. That essentially concluded the primary painting stage other than to mask and spray the white fuselage band for the particular markings I had selected (5./KG54). A decal is provided for this, but again in this scale it would always look like a decal so I opted to spray it on. A thorough coating of Klear finished at which point I left things overnight to ensure a good cure.

Next morning, and on to the decals. The decal sheet is very good indeed. It is crisp, sharp and glossy - just the way I like them. Some of the markings are, naturally, pretty big and this is always a worry with decals, its very easy for them to curl, split, or stick too early with disastrous results. But these decals are just about right. Thick enough to survive manhandling and thin enough to bed down nicely with the help of some Microsol, although I did spend a lot of time chasing air bubbles out. There are plenty of good stencils, although I suspect it is not entirely complete in that respect, but no matter. As is the way with Revell, no swastikas are provided, so I turned to a Techmod sheet I happened to have in stock, to get those.

Decaling took some time, as you may imagine, but once done I then applied two coats of Klear to seal them in. Once dried, we had one very glossy He111. My intention was to now apply an oil panel line wash but one thing was bothering me. The vast expanse of the wings is very stark and seemed to lack a little detail for my taste. The problem is the lack of riveting. Some rivets are represented along key panels, but the majority are not there and this is a little bit of a shame for a model in this scale. So before proceeding, I cracked out my trusty rivet tool (the cheap Trumpeter one, but it works well for me!) and whiled away a long time applying rivets to the panels across the whole plane. Once you have started this, you have to finish, and after some time I was regretting my decision as this is probably one of the most tedious jobs in the world of modelling. But I persevered and the end results was well worth it. The panel line wash now brought out all the existing features and my newly added rivets as well and really made the whole thing appear so much more lifelike.

Once the panel wash had dried and been rubbed down, I then applied two coats of matt varnish and the model really came to life. But I was not yet done. I post shaded the panel lines with brown/black mix and also bleached the main panels with a fine diluted white sprayed at high pressure to diffuse it properly. The combination of these two turned a great looking model into a superb one. It was now safe to remove all the masking and fortunately this had performed well, only a couple of panes of glass needed a little cleaning up with some thinners. A few judiciously placed exhaust stains, oil streaks and dry brushed chipping added to the effect nicely.

I always get a mixed feeling at this stage of any model. It feels like you are on the home straight but then you realise how much detail is left to be installed. Fortunately in this case it "only" leaves the exhausts, propellers, undercarriage, aerials and guns. The propellers were constructed carefully (they are, understandably, broken down right to the blades in this kit), sprayed RLM70 and the spinner treated to a bright red. By the time I had provided a little weathering and matt coating they toned down quite a bit, however. The QuickBoost exhaust stacks I had bought were painted up and installed, but I have to say the benefit they provide over the kit parts is only marginal. Once in, I could fix on the front plates to the engine housings. Fortunately due to the excellent fit of the kit these left no significant seam, since I would not like to have had to fill any gaps at this stage after painting.

Next the undercarriage. I had purchased the Scale Aircraft Conversions white metal undercarriage for this kit, thinking that it would both provide better detail and also strength to support this large model. I was sadly mistaken. The metal parts are blatant remould copies of the kit parts, and not particularly well defined ones either. And what is more, the metal is exceptionally soft and would provide less strength than the plastic kit ones in my opinion, especially given they would have to be attached with cyano rather than welded in with polystyrene cement. So rather annoyed at the waste of money, the SAC kit was discarded. Internet searching shows I am not the first to come to that conclusion, and I suppose I should have done my research better.

The undercarriage construction appears rather complex in the (slightly misleading) instructions, but actually comes together rather well once you make sense of it, and I was pleased to note that once the oleos and associated struts were glued in place, and despite their apparent lack of substance, the undercarriage is actually rock solid even before the glue has set. One slightly annoying element is they way you have to bend the legs to get the wheels on. Do this before you glue the struts in place otherwise you are sure to unwittingly dismantle your carefully assembled undercarriage through the sheer pressure you need to apply. Ask me how I know. And what is more, the flexing you have to do feels very close to the breakage point of the plastic to me, this is possibly a bad engineering decision on behalf of the designers. But I do appreciate that keeping the front struts in one solid piece of plastic does add a lot of strength. The final part of the undercarriage work for me was to add the final bits of Eduard etch, which are exceptionally fiddly, but do add a lot of realism. I finally turned the model over and tried the legs, and it felt as solid as any model I have ever made - more so than most if I am honest about it.

I installed all the guns without incident, including the top roof mounted gun on a rather precarious assemblage of thin plastic, added to which were the Eduard belt assembly which actually represents the whole seat bottom - a nice touch from our Czech friends there. Similarly, on went the handful of aerials and some fishing twine for the aerial wire. A nice touch in this kit is the inclusion of the attachment rings on the top of the tail fin. I wish more manufacturers thought about us addicted wire riggers in this respect. The final job was to build and finish the bombs, glue them into the bomb bay and then finally to attach the rather beautifully done Eduard bomb bay doors. Plug on the spinners, and she was finished. Phew.

In conclusion, this kit ranks right up there with the best I have ever built. It has one or two foibles, notably the maddeningly random parts arrangement on the sprues and the fact that the instructions are a little misleading in places. There are also one or two incorrect numberings as well - watch out. But the fit is as good as anything from TamiGawa (sic), better in many ways. This is astonishing considering the size of this model. The level of detail (with the possible exception of the lack of complete rivets) is similarly excellent. But that said, hats off also to Eduard who have done a fantastic job on the available etched details. They do add a lot of work, but they are more than worth it. In this scale, you really want to make the best detailed model you can and I do recommend you consider the Eduard sets if you ever take on this challenge. But if you can't stretch to the extra cost you will still be rewarded with a stunning model. Nothing less than modelling heaven.

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7 comments:

  1. First: superb craftsmanship and writing! Next: regarding the application of rivets--it seems from your post you did this AFTER painting. Then you go on to write "Once the panel wash had dried and been rubbed down..." what did you "rub" with? Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. The rub is purely to remove excess panel wash, using cloths and Q-Tips...

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  2. Wow! That is one super model you built there Steve.

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  3. I have found a benchmark for building my He! Thanks for sharing such cool tips. Loving this great plane..!!!

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