When I was still halfway working on the Academy F-16I Sufa in 1/32 scale in early 2015, I started to open a new large scale project: The Hasegawa F-104G/S Starfighter in 1/32 scale. It happened because the local hobby club in my town wanted some lesson on scratch-building cockpits so I thought the kit would be a perfect platform for everyone to learn.
As you know, this is an old kit, with very fine and intricate raised panel lines and rivets. The surface detail is good (albeit raised) but nothing beyond that: interior parts such as the main wheel bay is sparse and so is the cockpit. When opening the box, the box gives you the impression of a box full of big plastic pieces, but in reality it only contains few parts. Reviews show that this is an early G version, with Lockheed’s own seats (not the later models with the Martin-Bakers).
The kit provides you with:
- Resin tires and resin wheel doors with the corrected bulge.
- Steel wire to strengthen the main landing gears.
- Optional M61 Vulcan gun bay open or closed
- Full General Electric J79 Turbojet replica
- Aft fuselage that you can open or close
- Canopy that you can open or close
- Radar cone that you can open or close
- Wingtips of either drop tanks or AIM-9B
Decals are great with three selection of air forces… Italian, Spanish, and Taiwan. Please do a bit of a research if you are planning to do one of these jets. Your reference photos should tell you which camouflage, ejection seats, other external features that are correct with the markings in the decal sheet. With my decision not wanting to do a natural metal finish (NMF) Starfighter, my option dwindled. … unless I am willing to spend on aftermarket decals and a resin seat.
Like I said earlier, your options become limited without any aftermarket parts or decals. With the decals that I have from the kit, I would be better off if I do a Spanish AF version, based on my assessment, below:
- Option #1: a F-104G in Italian service. These are initial models in NMF. I don’t think the model as a whole can support NMF as a ton of work needs to be done and I don’t think I want to invest that much of a time.
- Option #2: a Spanish AF version. A nice sample here http://www.916-starfighter.de/Large/Stars/wS733.htm
- Option #3: a Taiwan AF version. Promising but the livery seems a bit boring, or maybe I am not looking hard enough. Sample photo http://www.916-starfighter.de/Large/Stars/wR301.htm
Building the F-104G
Here are the main pieces. very simple construction. It took me only a few minutes to put these pieces together. I want to show thr sleek and long body of the Starfighter, so I opted not show the engine exposed (this saved construction time too)
This is how I showed my friends at the hobby club on the cockpit. I started working on the cockpit by adding stuff to the ejection seat. The back cushion is made of two-part Tamiya Epoxy Putty, while the straps are from masking tape. Hooks are from copper wire.
I think the most difficult part for club members is about the mind set of being analytical on their approach, answering the question: “what building materials would work best to represent the real artifact as close as possible.”
There was much to show when the cockpit had all the different materials in their original colors. And for some it proved to be too overwhelming. Primer is also a new thing too for some club members. After I sprayed Mr Surafacer 1000 primer, they began to get more sense of some of the useful use of primers.
It became more apparent from club members when I showed them the final results by extensively using flat brushes for detail painting and dry brushing: the importance of owning high-quality brushes vs cheap ones; acrylic versus enamel paints; the type of brushes for dry brushing and how little paint is need on the sable.
The next step is to put the fuselage together. Not much can be seen of the cockpit’s interior by then. Putting the two halves together was easy breezy. The whole length of the fuselage at this point measures more than 55 cm (longer than my cutting mat).
Below is an image of the cockpit once it is placed inside the cockpit tub and enclosed by the fuselage halves.
The unique shape of the Starfighter (like a rocket ship) as I observed.
This point is where the line drawing comes into play. lost of panel lines and rivets were lost during the sanding. I did not want to do a whole re-scribing as I did in the past. As I found out, the exercise did not add a lot of significant difference, compared if I would had done a ‘partial’ re-scribing – focusing only the areas where the panel lines were lost. Again, this can be a hot issue for discussion. By the way, I cut off the flaps.
Here is the wheel bay…..plain vanilla…. 75 percent of it will be hidden under the bay doors so I did some partial detailing.
The start of re-scribing lost panel lines and rivets. The PE tool is from Hasegawa Tri-Tool set. These tools are gorgeous and they will serve you for life. I recommend to get these tools. nowadays, many companies sell them too under their own brand. whatever brand it is… make sure they are part of your inventory.
I use this tool for the riveting process from RB Production “Rivet-R-Mini”. I use the handle from a pen cutter (like the one from OLFA). I think RB Production riveter is way BETTER than Trumpeters. A friend of mine has the “Rosie-the-Riveter” and it looks better than RB’s though I have not tried it yet.
My effort to make the undercarriages more better looking. Lots of sink holes to fill and sand.
Copper wire and masking tape, glued using ordinary super glue (cyanoacrylic glue).
Working on detailing the wheel bays. again, 75% of it will be unseen, so I just touched up on the areas where it is likely to have some visual. Materials are stretched sprue, copper wire, and Tamiya masking tape.
Finished working on the wheel bay… here, with the “upgraded” landing gear. Everything still looks busy and chaotic!
Tamiya Surface Primer blends everything to white. My regular mix is 1:3 of surface primer and lacquer thinner. I use regular lacquer thinner that you can get by the litre at any building materials, home appliances or handyman stores.
Images of the bits of pieces that got a coat of Tamiya white primer.
Italeri was gracious enough to provide some resin replacement bits, like the main wheels and bulge doors. though I think they are rather on the thicker side, and have inconsistent detail. But hey… its free!
I am closing in on painting this aircraft! Masking the canopy. The masking is easy but the fitting of the canopy needs some extra work. I filled the gaps with Tamiya epoxy putty and sand then until they are no longer visible. How did I secure the canopy in place? I use Tamiya Extra Thin Cement (TET for short). Just a small dab is needed at the connecting end of the clear plastic, and then capillary action will help spread the cement to the inner parts of the clear parts. TET does not develop any gasses or fumes that would damage the transparent parts.
With and without the main canopy. I use blue-tack to keep the main canopy in place while I do the painting.
Progress so far is painting the Starfighter using Doogsmodel’s “three layer blend”. A friend of mine posted the link and immediately I was intrigued with the concept. I have been doing post shading almost all of my recent builds so I thought that it maybe the time to experiment with this new approach. Here are images of the F-104 that has been covered with the second layer (lighten version of the base coat (XF-19+XF-2). The base coat itself is Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey
Being such a long aircraft, it was difficult to take a picture of the whole plane except if I move backwards!
Now, with the other colors, things got a bit more complicated with masking (boring!). I use my trusty Tamiya masking tape to get a clean and sharp edge, and I use generic masking tape to cover some of the areas behind that.
The intakes need to be painted black (Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black). After the XF-1 base, I then re painted the area a thin layer of XF-1+XF2 on a 9:1 ratio.
I painted the anti glare panel with Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab. Painting was done using a black base (Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black), then gradually building up the panel to a lighter colour (XF-62 and XF-2) on a ratio of 9:1 and then adding more XF-2 to get a lighter shade.
I think I am quite satisfied with the end process. Pretty neat would you say? I just need to make sure that it keeps intact (i don’t ding/chip it) until the project ends. with lengthy model like this… its so easy to ding it. I usually cover these kind of protruding areas with Tamiya masking tape.
The top wing area are pre painted with XF-1, then painted a mottled white with XF-2, gradually filling the whole area, but keeping it in a variation of shades.
Once that is done then I gave it a coat of Future (I usually mix my Future 50:50 with water). At this stage, I am quite satisfied with the pain job.
Natural Metal Finish (NMF)
The next obvious step is to prepare the aircraft for the NMF section, which is at the aft of the aircraft. lots of photos shows early Spanish F-104 having bare metal skin near the exhaust. Aside from that, there are the two wing tip fuel tanks.
Its all about masking. The NMF will be Alclad ALC101. this will be the basic colour. Paneling were done using a mix of Alclad and Model Master Steel, Burnt Steel metalizers, Tamiya Titanium Silver. The whole area was pre-coated using Tamiya X-1 Gloss Black.
One thing I hate about masking for Alclad or other natural finishes is that the surface prep must be utterly perfect.
The image above shows you how the first layer of Alclad. To get a good shine, you need to prep up the plastic properly. First, you cannot have a layer of flat paint (Sky Grey in this case). It has to be something glossy. The surface must be kept clean and glossy at all times. Here is the sama NMF area with extra masking.
After the masking has been lifted. I think I have the results that I wanted.
Here is another angle of the F-104G with the NMF completed and masking tape removed. What do you think?
I got the wheels attached. I assumed this is a very light plane. Struts looked so thin and tiny!
Main wheels. You can see three things here:
- The interior with the scratch build pipes (I thought they were wires), with pre shading, and all hand painted. The pipes are made of metal, and many of them have metallic/aluminum colour
- The resin doors is thicker than I thought. There are no hinges so I drilled holes for three copper wires to go through them as a way to anchor them to the body.
- The intake root cracked as I was working on the landing gears. Hence, the need to add new putty and do the obvious sanding routine.
The drop tanks got a nice coat of Alclad and paneling. the darker NMF is a mix of ALC-101 with MM Burnt Steel.
Worked on the tidbits like the double missile rails and the AIM-9B Sidewinder. I added copper wire into the Sidewinder so that it adhered better to the rails. The AIM-9B are very simple, but in good shape. It was easy to clean up. Alternately, the rails sucks, and I had to do some work to clean it up.
Here, I am using 0,75mm copper wire, which are easily available here in Indonesia as insulated telephone cables. Each cable contains a pair of copper wire (that are also individually insulated). They cost like 15 cents per meter
The twin rails and AIM-9B Sidewinders attached (wires inside)
The schematics is very simple.
The holes were drilled using mini 0,75mm bits.
The whole A/C looks very boring, just light grey and white. But once I started to place the roundels, the A/C suddenly looked alive with colour!!
Everything seemed to worked out just fine until one of the coloured rings (locater for the fuel cap) broke as I rinsed it out of water.
All the decals are like this… rigid… and easily broken. Before, I spent around 2-3 minutes to work on the individual decals. But now, I was very cautious. I don’t want to loose anymore decals, and now I am beginning to understand that the whole decal sheet has gone beyond its “useful life”.
As I continue to place more decals, I saw more cracks. Like the Spanish AF roundels broke up to seven smaller pieces. The hull numbers broke up to 5 pieces. Now I had to spend around 8-12 minutes for each decals. I spot-repaired the chipped decals by using a pointed brush (Cotman 000) on the missing colors – either that of the Tamiya Flat Yellow, Flat Red, or Flat Black. The red fuselage band (in the rear of the A/C) came as decals but I opted to paint that instead with Tamiya Flat Red.
To reduce the effect of brittleness, I brushed on Testor Gloss Coat. It was a very slow and painstaking process. I had a hunch that the decals would behave that way, but OK I learned my lesson. Miraculously, I am done with it, even though it took many hours to do the decals.
So my next step was to make more stencils as I think at 1/32 scale, the A/C looks too plain (even with the big colourful decals). Well… here is my home brew stencils: black injet printer on clear decal film. pretty straight forward.
I made sure I got some good reference for it. I used Corel Draw to manipulate the text and AMARILLOUSAF for the fonts.
I made sure too that all the decals were tested first before printing them on the expensive paper.
The image below shows the varnishes that I have used to protect my home-made decals. The micro scale is a bit quirky. You could only brush it, and it leaves brush marks and a thick coat. Would not recommend it.
The Testor Gloss Coat is what I am using right now. YOu can thin it with thinner and spray it through your A/B. gives a thin but strong layer. Elasticity is a big question. I have not tried it on complicated curvy surfaces, but it works so far on simple fuselage curves and flat surfaces.
Here is some of the other detail work that I am still doing at the end of the project. The Starfighter is now 99% complete and I just needed to add the main canopy. The pitot tube is all masking work. The pointy end is Mr. Color Silver brush painted. while the red-white pole is using Tamiya Flat White and Flat Red. This section is 24mm long, so all I needed to get an even stripes is to divide it by seven which means each stripes is approx 3,4mm each.
The dull coat that I used was Gunze No.30 flat base. I thinned it with 1:4 lacquer thinner and sprayed it several thin layers.
All the masking has been taken off. The Future-coated clear plastic canopy windows really show off its shine. Last bit is installing the main canopy glass in an opened position.
Spanish Air Force F-104G
Ala 16 104 Escuadron C8-04, Torrejon AB