Heather Kay

Signature: A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Bio: With my younger sister, we enjoyed adding details to our doll's houses. I learned to build plastic kits at my father's knee. I am particularly partial to the aircraft of 1940, although almost anything with some kind of engine fascinates me. People now commission me to build O Gauge model railway kits, so my light relief is settling down to building the new generation of Airfix kits.

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Heather Kay

260 posts

This is bringing back a few memories. I distinctly recall building one of these in my early teens. I think it was the first model aeroplane I built that I painted using the right colours - and they would have been Airfix paints back then. The smell of Airfix enamels was always different to Humbrol. 

 

Looking forward to to seeing this progress. 

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

Thank you both for the kind words.

 

Yes, even the pros make mistakes - but it's how you learn. I like to think that although I've been building models for fun for most of my life, I'm still learning. And what I learn can be adapted and melded into what I now do for a living. My motto is "always learning".

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

My main aircraft modelling passion is the Battle of Britain. I did a CSE history project on the Battle when I was a teenager, and I became hooked on the period ever since. As well as amassing a fair library on the subject, I’ve tried to get a scale model of each of the aircraft types that served both sides during the period from the Phoney War to the beginning of the Night Blitz. 

 

For the Bomber Command representatives, I’ve always wanted a Whitley. In fact, safely stored in my stash I have an old unboxed unbuilt Frog kit I bought at an IPMS show many years ago. I also have a later boxed Novo version. Both have been patiently waiting for me to pluck up the courage to attempt them. 

 

Then Airfix announced they were releasing a brand new tooling of the Whitley, I must have been one of the first in the pre-order queue! At last, an accurate representation of a type that is often overlooked. I couldn’t wait. 

 

The box duly arrived. I had to inspect the contents, of course, but the actual build would have to wait for some time between my other commitments. Ah, the joys of being a professional modelmaker - someone else’s model always comes first.

 

The contents of the box showed a well thought out model. Plenty of small details for the cockpit, bulged main wheels, clean transparencies… I was itching to begin putting it together. I decided I would like to lash out a little and get some cockpit PE detailing, and a transparency mask set. From what I could see, little else needed upgrading.

 

 

I followed the instructions, and started with the flight deck and nose assemblies. While the PE set included a lot of new parts for the navigator and wireless fittings, I reasoned there was little point going boss-eyed trying to fit them as they’re not visible once the flight deck is installed in the nose parts. I encountered a small amount of mis-alignment with the fuselage nose sides, but a smear of filler solved that.

 

 

Next was the wing spar section. I loved the way the kit had been designed to essentially follow exactly how the real thing was constructed. No issues encountered here, but if I build another I won’t bother painting so much that won’t be seen!

 

 

The nose, central spar and rear fuselage came together and the characteristic drooping chin becomes apparent. Some variation in the thickness of fuselage windows meant I had to sand them down. A drop of gloss varnish after finishing would restore them to something with a glint, event if you couldn't see through them.

 

 

Next came the wing and engine assemblies. I had a lot of problems with the fit of the nacelles on to the wings. I thought at first I may have inadvertently swapped the nacelles over, but the problem persisted. Some rude words, a fair amount of filler, careful sanding and replacing panel lines followed. I am not really happy. 

 

 

A note about the construction sequence might be prudent: The engine chin radiators really ought to be fitted at the same point as the nacelle halves are assembled. I followed the instructions, and found it very difficult to insert the parts through the hole and fix them.

 

 

The main undercarriage legs are well detailed. There’s a lot going on, and inevitably a lot of is all but invisible when finished. Still, we know it’s there. I didn’t like the vague way the rear main wheel strut is located through a gap into an invisible location hole within the nacelle. It took several attempts, and in the end I’ve cheated with a drop of cyanoacrylate securing the strut to the edge of the slot. By the way, I tend to paint tyres using Hu32 Tank Grey. 33 Black is just too black. I find the grey better matches the colour of rubber tyres.

 

 

I wanted the model to be shown in an early stage of preparation for a mission. I have a photo in mind of just such a situation. So, the main bomb bay doors are posed open. There’s not much to locate them, spatially or physically. The first attempt was very flimsy, the centre doors held only by the extreme edges at each end. I decided I needed to add a styrene strip reinforcement along the centre line to give the door edges something to glue to. Now it’s very firm.

 

 

With the wings and fuselage assembled, the empennage was fitted quickly. I posed the rudders slightly offset, because we can. The horn balances were very vulnerable, and indeed broke off pretty quickly. I stashed them safely, and eventually drilled the weighted end to take a short length of fine brass wire. This was glued into a hole in the top of the rudder near the end of the main construction.

 

Other vulnerable parts to note are the aerial masts and the DF loop fairing. There isn’t much in the way of a peg and hole to locate these, so again I drilled them to take short brass wire pegs. I still managed to knock one off, but at least it was easy to relocate!

 

Before long, the main construction was complete. Time to get painting. I grew up with enamels, and find acrylics a dark art. Nevertheless, I had opted for aftermarket transfers for this Whitley (the kit covers a plane from March 1940 and one in 1941, outside my preferred time slot), and I thought it might be an idea to acquire the same maker’s paints. With luck that would avoid a while sequence of gloss varnish before the transfer stage, as the paints are already effectively gloss, or at least a good satin finish. I wanted the enamels, but they appear to be like hen’s teeth. I could get one colour, but not the others. I was almost resigned to the good old Humbrol enamel route, when I thought it might be worth tracking down sources of the suitable acrylics from various places. 

 

Finally, I managed to get the brown, green and black, from two different suppliers. The next question was should I break out the airbrush? I’ve never airbrushed a model aircraft from choice before, but I thought it was worth the go.

 

 

The transparency masks went on over a couple of days. I placed felt tip dots on the parts so I could find them on the sheet as I worked! Like acrylics and airbrushing, this was my first precut mask experience. It wasn’t entirely successful, but that’s my inexperience showing through.

 

I painted the undersides first, having laboriously masked off the upper surfaces. Acrylics dry quickly, so I could get the masking off and consider the reverse for the upper colours. Of course, idiot here didn’t think to prime the model first. So, the black didn’t adhere to the surfaces properly, and lifted as I tried to mask it for the upper colours.

 

Swear words at my own stupidity. Why didn’t I prime it? Gawd knows! Anyway, I gently rubbed down the black paint so the loose stuff flaked away. I’d make good later, and decided to press on with the upper surfaces - this time spraying primer first.

 

 

I managed to get a good coat of earth brown on. It was slightly patchy, but I felt this would help represent a somewhat weatherworn aircraft.

 

 

 

After my experience of masking the black, I really didn’t trust the brown even on a primer layer, so I brush painted the green. There is some discussion online about whether the edges of the camouflage pattern ought to be feathered. It boils down, at least for 1/72nd scale, that if any feathering was evident it would be all but invisible at scale. A hard edge is was then. Finally, I brush painted the black undersides, and I was more or less back where I started.

 

 

The transfers went on okay-ish. Sadly, the printing hadn’t been quite on the mark, and a fine white line was evident along the edges of the grey code letters. Too late now. Live with it. I used some of the smaller detail markings from the Airfix sheet. While I used the traditional setting solution to get the transfers to sit down nicely, there was some silvering where they went over the brown paint. Another lesson learned. The sprayed paint had ended up slightly duller than the brushed paint. Perhaps brush painting isn’t so bad after all!

 

Once the transfers were dry, over a couple of days as it turned out, I got some matt varnish on to flatten everything down and protect the transfers. Finding a good matt varnish is a trial, I find. I know there are some good makers out there, and such products can be purchased from some importers. However, in my “day job” I need some good varnishes, and the pre-thinned airbrush ready enamel varnishes from Phoenix Precision paints have been a god’s send to me. Additionally, their matt varnish is actually what is says. It dries absolutely flat, with no shine to speak of. 

 

A day or so later, it was time to remove the transparency masks. Not so clever. The build of up paint, allied with the lack of primer probably, meant some of the panels came away with the surround paint. Perhaps I should have run a sharp scalpel blade around to help. Inexperience shows. Anyway, it wasn’t a total disaster, and some careful retouching using an old draughtsman’s bow pen (I use it for lining coaches in the day job) repaired the worst.

 

Where I had rubbed down the sides of the fuselage, inevitably some of the tiny oblong portholes had become frosted. I dabbed some gloss varnish on them.

 

The final step was to rig the wireless aerial. My favourite fine copper wire, 0.2mm thick, I think, was carefully threaded through holes I’d drilled through the masts before they had been fitted. I began with the rear mast, tied a with tiny knot, secured later with a drop of cyano. Passing the wire through the front mast, I gently pulled it as tight as I dared, and again secure it with a drop of cyano. The tail end was passed into a hole drilled in almost the right place in the transparency. Matt black enamel was painted on the wire, and a thicker blob was placed near each mast to represent what was either a balun or tensioning block on the real thing.

 

Just to fit the props, access ladders and the plane was complete. I set up my light tent to play dioramas.

 

 

I will talk about the vehicles another day.

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

Cheers Ratch! Yes, I was aware of the image approval, and dislike of non-Airfix brands. The images I tried to post were of the TSR2 with aftermarket parts. They were the same size as previous images, so I don't think that was the problem.

 

What I encountered wasn't due to the approval process. I was getting an immediate page redirect failure when submitting a reply, and then the forum software seemed to throw its toys out of the pram. I took screen grabs and reported a bug to the forum@ address. I think I'm wandering off topic into a past life when I tested software for a living! Cool

 

Anyway, I shall let the dust settle and attempt posting the images again tomorrow. I suspect this might be my last allowed post as a newbie today! Wink

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

This will be my umpteenth attempt at replying, as I've managed freak the forum software out several times this weekend, and failed to post! I understand and accept the post limit for new members, and I'm happy with moderating posts with images, but something went very wrong yesterday!

The Gladiator is the old Matchbox kit. I have a new tool Airfix one arriving soon, which I am looking forward to. The rigging is fine tinned copper wire from a reel I've had for over 30 years now. I read a technique in an old modelling mag where you roll the wire between a steel ruler and a hard surface, which straightens it out. Using dividers, I transferred the length required from the aircraft to the wire and then carefully placed it with drops of cyanoacrylate. I don't remember whether I had drilled location holes.

I have located some detail shots of the TSR2. If things settle down with me being able to submit posts, I'll try and post them up tomorrow.

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

@John Symmons

I did notice the Gladiator with the rigging, would be nice to know how you did that.

The Glad is the old Matchbox kit: I have a new tool Airfix one coming soon, which I am looking forward to. The rigging was done using dividers to measure the distances and fine copper wire. The technique was one I noted in an old aircraft modelling magazine where you roll the wire gently under a steel ruler on a hard surface so it ends up dead straight. Using the dividers you can then measure off suitable lengths and carefully stick them in place. They're not under tension, so if you accidentally knock one, the wire does bend and kink, causing swear words. I can't remember if I drilled small holes for wire tails to be glued into.

As requested, a few shots of the cockpit and wheel bays of the TSR2.

This shows the main wheel bogies slightly better. Although it's not absolutely correct, it gives a good impression of how the real thing looks.

The main wheel bays have the basic structure moulded already. I added various styrene strips to fill in the detail, and finished off with various washes and dry brushing. 

I can't recall exactly whose detailing kits were used, but they came from the usual suspects such as Czech Models and Eduard. The cockpit tubs were resin, with etched details. I think the instrument panels were mostly precoloured, which saved a bit of work. As you might expect, the resin tubs didn't quite fit neatly in the place of the original kit parts, needing a little work to smooth things out and support things within the fuselage.

The cockpit canopies were also replacement resin parts, quite fragile and a pig to clean up, with vac formed transparencies. The mark on the side was a pencil mark to remind where the front screen was supposed to sit. This close-up shot is a bit cruel, showing my crude punched screw heads, but I think the end result was pleasing. The real thing has lots of screws around various panels, and the panel lines looked a bit plain to my eye.

Thank you to everyone for your kind comments. My professional modelling involves a lot of etched brass, cast metals and resin work for the various railway models I build. Compared to some of the fine details possible with modern injection moulded kits, it's a bit agricultural! I don't profess to being a clever modeller, just with a fair amount of experience under my belt. I mix and adapt techniques to suit the model on the bench. My biggest beef is where a kit designer doesn't allow sufficient location for a fine part to be attached. On another build I shall post soon, I've had to use brass wire pins and cyanoacrylate to ensure the part isn't demolished during final assembly.

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

I may have some shots of the cockpits and wheel bays. I'll have a rummage.

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

I've always had a love of the TSR2. I think it's the shape that first got me. Then I learned more about the potential the aircraft showed, and I fell more deeply in love.

A documentary film about the development of the planes, and their eventual demise, can be found on YouTube. I was watching the film, when footage showing the first prototype XR219 being prepared for ground tests and first flight testing at Boscombe Down appeared. There, I thought, was a diorama. I took some screengrabs and squirreled them away, and over a period of time located suitable kits for some of the vehicles. And, of course, managed to get a TSR2 kit - or whatever the funny anime kit was at the time. 

I wanted the plane to be in pre-flight order. I sourced after-market details, such as cockpit tubs and MB ejection seats, new canopies, wheels and so on. I even found an old photo-etched detail set, which provided me with the correct access ladders. The idea is to present XR219 being prepped for its first flight, so the various covers over intakes and so on are still in place, and the towing tractor has just been unhitched.

I wanted to go a bit overboard on the details. It was apparent the kit main undercarriage oleos were incorrect. It looked rather like they were taken from the Duxford airframe, which doesn't have any internal equipment. Having had the opportunity to visit the RAF Museum Cosford, whose TSR2 is pretty much complete, I took photos of the undercarriage. Mods involved a bit of cutting and shutting, and I also fabricated the hydraulic retraction arm. This was from brass wire and tube, and I left it so it really works. The bogie still pivots, so if the model is placed on a slightly uneven surface it sort of self-levels. Some fine copper wire was added for the various hydraulic lines, and the whole thing topped off with aftermarket resin wheels. What you can't see up inside the wheel bay is the a load of extra detailing - which of course is never seen again!

After knocking it off more than once, the nose probe is another brass tube and wire concoction. Now you know if you knock it! I checked many photos to see if the front of the canopy was also given the orange tint. I've seen some modellers do it, but when you look at XR220 at Cosford, the canopy is clear.

The paint finish was originally brush painted. I used the Humbrol satin white, let down with a drop of blue. After squirting Humbrol gloss varnish rattle can all over the place, it inevitably went slightly yellow, so I had to strip it all down again. The second time I broke out the airbrush, and finished off with an artist's gloss varnish, again via airbrush. Once the transfers were done - which was a two-day job one Easter weekend! - a quick coat of satin protected things.

There was a small amount of silvering under some of the transfers, but you only catch it in certain lights. 

In my stash is a selection of BW Models whitemetal cast kits for the Leyland Hippo refueller, a fire truck and one or two other vehicles. If I ever get to finish the diorama, I would like to perhaps donate it to Cosford or Hendon to display. Near the real plane at Cosford would be most apt.

I'd like to say I did clever things with this build. Aside from the aftermarket detailing, and making a point of replicating the screw and rivet holes on the airframe, it's just an average build. I'm pleased with it - and might be tempted by another. I noticed my local model shop seems to have a kit... Innocent

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

Thanks for the kind welcome John and Ratch!

I have a web site, but I didn't post it as I didn't really feel it was pertinent. For anyone interested, though, www.heatherkay.co.uk is the place to visit. (You may need to copy and paste if this site doesn't resolve the URL.) I am pretty active on the Western Thunder model railway forum, where a lot of my professional and personal builds have been documented.

Yes, the TSR2 is 1/72nd. I missed the 48th scale one, sadly. There's the issue of space, so most of my models are 72nd. Having said that, I got my order in sharpish when Airfix announced the BP Defiant in 48th! That's safely in the stash!

I will post new threads for some of the recent models in the relevant sub forums.

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

Heather Kay

260 posts

Hello!

I've been lurking for ages, following the various discussions on the forum. I thought it was about time I broke cover.

I'm Heather. Yes, a girl - well, mature lady nowadays - who builds kits! I blame my dad all those years ago. I began building Airfix kits as a very young child, and have never really grown out of the habit. I love the new quality kits coming from Airfix, and I'm slowly adding to my collection of dust magnets.

A little about me: I began my working life as a drawing office technician for a civil engineer. I realised I really wanted to be a graphic designer, and eventually, after several different jobs, ended up working as such for a medium sized printers. I then went freelance, which died when the economy crashed in 2008. After stumbling along, I found myself becoming a professional modelmaker instead. I mainly build O gauge model railway locos and rolling stock, for clients across the UK and even as far as Australia. For light relief, I like to build model aeroplanes and ancillary bits and bobs.

My main sphere of interest is the summer of 1940. I've been slowly building 1/72nd models representing every aircraft type that served on both the British and German sides during the Battle of Britain. I haven't restricted myself to just the traditional stuff of Fighter Command and the entire Luftwaffe, rather trying to cover all the bases, including Bomber and Coastal Commands on the British side. If I live long enough, I may add French and Italian, perhaps even some of the more esoteric players into the mix. Although my passion is stuff from 1940, I do occasionally head off elsewhere. I have a plan for a diorama showing TSR2 XR219 being prepared for its first test flight at Boscombe Down. More on that elsewhere, I suspect!

I will post images in new threads, but for now - pending moderation - here's a shot of XR219.

A professional modeller of railway subjects, and a reborn Airfix fan. Definitely into combat aircraft in service on all sides in the summer of 1940, but known to occasionally veer off into other interesting things!

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