A Furious model update
Welcome to the latest edition of Workbench and our regular look behind the scenes at the world of Airfix modelling. We have something a little special for our readers in edition 45 as we are going to be taking a closer look at one of the most important components of any Airfix kit and the talented man behind its production. Most Airfix modellers will usually begin their latest build project by studying the instruction sheet for a little guidance before reaching for the glue and craft knife and over the course of our next two blogs, we will be looking at the fascinating subject of how these important documents are put together. If that were not reason enough to grab your attention, we also have the latest update from the popular and much-anticipated 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.II project, along with the final instalment of Dave Haddican’s impressive RAF Jet Provost build review. A veritable modelling feast awaits in Workbench edition 45, so we had better get straight into it.
Camm’s ultimate piston
Without doubt, the British aviation industry has been responsible for producing some of the most impressive aircraft ever to take to the skies. Amongst this celebrated group of machines are just a handful of aircraft that represented the very pinnacle of aviation technology when they were being developed, but almost as soon as they were introduced into service, were overtaken by the pace of technological advancement. Aircraft such as the Hawker Fury and Gloster Gladiator were two of the finest biplane fighter aircraft the world had ever seen, but their triumphant service introduction was overshadowed by the advancing spectre of the fast monoplane fighter, which was already heralding the future of aviation. Just eight short years after the Gladiator had entered service with the RAF, the Fleet Air Arm unveiled their mighty Hawker Sea Fury fleet defence fighter, arguably the most potent piston-engined fighter ever produced, but despite its stellar performance, aviation technology had advanced once more and the era of the jet engine had arrived.
The Sea Fury has been a favourite on the UK Airshow scene for many years
It is interesting to note that the development of the Fleet Air Arm’s most capable piston powered fighter can actually trace its lineage back to the inadvertent landing and subsequent capture of a Luftwaffe Focke Wulf Fw190 at a South Wales RAF airfield in the summer of 1942. Evaluation of this new enemy fighter led to the development of a new British high performance fighter, which looked to marry a light and agile airframe with the most powerful engine available at the time, producing an aircraft that was superior to the Focke Wulf in every respect. Although there are undoubtedly some similarities in the profiles of the two aircraft, the Hawker Sea Fury is a much cleaner, slender aircraft when compared to the rugged and purposeful design of the Focke Wulf – for many aviation enthusiasts, the Sea Fury not only represents the pinnacle of piston engined fighter design, but also one of the most attractive aircraft ever produced.
Airfix Sea Fury update – first test shots arrive
CAD image file showing the wing position options on the Sea Fury tooling
With the popularity of Fleet Air Arm subject matter and the stunning good looks of the Hawker Sea Fury, it is hardly surprising that this latest 1/48th scale announcement has been extremely well received by modellers and we are delighted to bring you the latest update from the project. With a host of build options available to the modeller A06105 incorporates all the latest design and production technologies available to the Airfix team and will build in to an extremely accurate scale representation of this famous naval fighter. The design team are always excited to receive the first test shots of any new model kit, but its arrival also heralds a further period of hectic activity, as every aspect of the kit components are evaluated with attention to detail being very much the order of the day.
This exciting stage of any new model project sees plastic injected through the model tooling blocks for the first time, with the resultant component frames sent back to the Airfix design team for detailed evaluation. Many hours of painstaking inspection will now take place as every aspect of the tooling effectiveness is assessed and a report compiled which will usually include instructions for further tooling refinements.
We are pleased to share these first ‘Test Shots’ of the 1/48th scale Hawker Sea Fury FB.II with Workbench readers
As well as having the opportunity to inspect the individual parts of the new model, the arrival of the first test frames allows the development team to construct the Sea Fury kit from its component parts and further evaluate the fit and finish of individual parts. This important process may again throw up the need for some tooling refinements and even result in some slight alterations to the production of the instruction sheet, which will by this stage be quite advanced, but may require additional detail or construction order change. From the modeller's perspective, even though these are still only pre-production test build samples of the new kit, they do look particularly impressive and we can officially start to get excited at the prospect of adding this beautiful model to our build schedules.
This first test build model already shows why this has been such a popular addition to the 1/48th scale range
The Hawker Sea Fury is one of the most attractive piston-engined fighters to ever take to the skies
We hope that these latest development images have managed to whet your Sea Fury appetites, as we know many Workbench readers are particularly looking forward to this model being released. Currently scheduled for a winter 2017 arrival, we will continue to bring you regular updates from the project over the coming weeks - you can also reserve your example by visiting the Airfix website, or placing an order with your usual model supplier. Come to think of it, most of us will want to build at least two examples to show off the different wing configuration options on this beauty … roll on winter 2017.
The art of instruction sheet production
An integral part of any Airfix kit, the instruction booklet is a work of art
In the first of a special two-part behind the scenes feature exclusively for Workbench readers, we are pleased to showcase the impressive talents of a particular member of the Airfix team who could be described as something of an unsung hero, but whose work will be familiar to every Airfix modeller around the world. One of the most important components of any model release is the inclusion of an accurately produced instruction sheet, which helps to guide modellers of all abilities through the construction process and acts as a focal point for every build project. Although he receives valuable input from other members of the Airfix team, much of the work in producing these instruction sheets comes down to one man and even though he is rather reluctant to do so, it is time he stepped into the modelling limelight for a while.
Anyone fortunate enough to meet Richard Petts will certainly describe him as a gentleman, but if you are trying to hold a conversation with him whilst he is at his Airfix workstation you will probably be disappointed, as he will be totally engrossed in his latest instruction sheet project. That is not to say that you won’t be fascinated in what he is doing, because he will be in the process of creating instructions you may very well be referring to in the coming months and his desk will probably have notes, sprue parts and models in various stages of construction scattered across it. For anyone with even the slightest interest in modelling, a chat with Richard about his work is absolutely engrossing and this modest man has no idea how important his work is or how much it is appreciated. We are pleased to say that he has kindly allowed us into the world of instruction sheet production, but before we move on to this it is worthwhile to look at the man behind this work and how he came to join the Hornby family.
When you see some of Richard’s work, it will come as no surprise to hear that he has had a love of art and drawing for as long as he can remember. All through his school years, he proved to be an extremely gifted artist and both his teachers and classmates would not have been surprised when he went on to accept a place at art college, where he would study Technical Drawing and Graphic Design throughout the early 1980s.
Alpaca for the love of art and a truck's transmission for a day job
After honing his skills at art college, he went on to spend the next twenty-five years producing illustrations in workshop manuals for cars, trucks and tractors, mostly for the Ford Motor Company, but also on projects such as the Smart Car. Richard recalls that in those days the work would be done on drawing boards with a rotary pen and ellipse guides and when he was working on a project such as a truck transmission, he would invariably have all the component parts of the item strewn across the floor of his office. Thankfully, things have moved on a little since those days and the computer screen is now his drawing board.
Richard’s love of art is certainly not confined to his office and in his spare time he loves to draw and paint wildlife and landscapes. Combining this with his love of photography, he will often take inspiration from one of the photographs he has taken before turning it into his latest artistic masterpiece. The picture above shows a pastel painting of an Alpaca he did for his sister’s birthday, because she is mad about the creatures and one day hopes to farm them – when you see the original, the fine detail on the picture is incredible. Richard also has a flair for drawing cartoons and caricatures of friends and family, which has certainly kept him busy over the years and make unusual and very personal gifts for the lucky recipient.
The Hornby Hobbies Visitor Centre showcases more of Richard’s impressive work
After a few years working as a freelance illustrator, Richard was delighted to join Hornby Hobbies 10 years ago just as the Airfix Brand came under the umbrella of the company, and he has been producing the famous Airfix instruction booklets ever since he joined, with one or two jobs for our other brands along the way. One of his more unusual projects was to produce a 1950s style toy shop mural in the window entrance of the Hornby Hobbies Visitor Centre at Margate – Richard described how this was a particularly enjoyable project to be involved with and from the look on his face in the picture above, he certainly looks like he is in his element.
The iconic Airfix instruction booklet
Having been involved in the production of instruction booklets since the Airfix brand came under Hornby ownership, Richard is incredibly experienced in every facet of their design and makes everything sound so easy, which clearly it isn’t. For the purposes of this review, we have based our illustrations on the new Hawker Sea Fury, to coincide with the latest update on this popular model and to give Workbench readers an exclusive preview of this ongoing work.
Richard working on his latest Airfix instruction sheet masterpiece
Workbench readers will now be extremely familiar with the development images we regularly include in our blogs that have been taken from the CAD files used to develop the models we are featuring in any particular edition. It will come as no surprise that these CAD files also form an important part of the work Richard does in producing the instruction booklets, where he takes this information and manipulates it for his own purposes using powerful software programmes. Indeed, before looking at the actual process of creating the instructions, it would probably be useful to note the programmes used during the various stages.
The CAD design files are an important part of Richard’s work
Richard describes how he will normally use three pieces of software to help him with his work - IsoDraw to manipulate the CAD files from the designer and make all the exploded images he needs when working in 3D and Adobe Illustrator to create all the artwork from these images, including line weights, white halos, annotations and various other effects such as transparent cutaway areas and adding a tint of blue on all clear parts. Finally, Adobe InDesign is used to create the pages themselves with all the step numbers and frames to import the artwork into. This will also include creating the front cover sheet with some history of the individual aircraft/vehicle and the language translations of this information, along with the model colour scheme layouts and stencil placement data, although this information is created by another artist.
Time to instruct on the latest Airfix masterpiece
Although Richard is clearly integral to the production of these important modelling documents, he is quick to point out that this is very much a team effort, with every member of the team bringing years of experience to their particular roles. Before most projects can begin, Richard will be looking to receive a set of model sprues on which to base his artwork, which are usually the first shots through a new model tooling. This will be accompanied by a design brief and a CAD file compiled by the Designer, and some detailed information regarding all the various build options prepared by the lead researcher.
After assessing the design brief, which draws heavily upon the wealth of experience within the Airfix development team and will suggest the most logical model build order in the majority of cases, Richard will begin to plan how many pages the booklet will require. This will depend on a number of factors, such as the scale of the model, the number of paint schemes and the number of step by step illustrations needed after making some thumbnail sketches first. He knows that he will need to keep related assembly sections together on the same page wherever possible, such as the undercarriage and weapons pieces for example. Importantly, even though this is the ideal structure behind any new instruction sheet project, the team are now so experienced in the production of these documents that Richard can easily make a start, even if he has not received all the support information described above.
The first test shots of the Sea Fury will help Richard to construct his instruction files
Richard was keen to point out that there a few important things he needs to bear in mind whilst creating the step by step assembly images on his instruction sheets. He needs to incorporate enough background detail around the item(s) being featured to allow the modeller a clear indication of where this particular assembly relates both to other parts and to the main assembly itself, also leaving space for the addition of annotations at a later stage. If a section of the assembly is likely to be a little unclear due to being partly hidden by other parts of the model, Richard will always include additional detail with clearer reference images, in an attempt to help the modeller during construction.
Building the model at the same time as the instruction booklet is being planned
As can be seen in the photo, Richard will build each model he is working on at his desk, and at the same time he is creating the instruction sheet artwork on his computer. This will help him to clearly understand the most logical assembly order of the kit parts and also to see any areas of the construction he feels will benefit from either additional reader guidance, or changing the construction order. As we have already touched upon, Richard is working to produce a document that will aid modellers of all abilities – logical assembly order and a good parts fit are very much the order of the day.
As Richard has been doing this kind of work for over ten years, he told us that as the supporting software is always improving and as a result of adopting these new technologies, he has lost count of how many times he has switched from PC to Mac and back again, but he is more than happy to work on either system. His first step is to open the model CAD file in IsoDraw and familiarise himself with all the parts of the new model – this will usually involve exploding every individual part and using his experience to inspect everything, before starting to assemble everything back in the reverse order. He describes this process as working on an X, Y and Z axis, usually starting with the cockpit section first on most aviation projects.
An exclusive Workbench look at one of the new Sea Fury FB.II instruction booklet pages in production
Richard described how he will sometimes create special views in perspective but most of the time, all the graphics tend to be kept isometric, as these are much easier to open up again and modify at a later date, should this be required. This may be as a result of building the model himself and finding a challenging section of the build or a later team project review, where the team decides to alter the build order, or feels that a particular stage requires additional information. This can also be particularly important when working on a new booklet based on an existing model tooling, which is being released with additional parts or alternative construction options. After some manipulation in the IsoDraw software programme and once Richard is happy with the resultant image, he will crop it to keep the file size down before converting it into an Illustrator file in preparation for building the actual instruction sheet artwork pages in Adobe Illustrator.
You might have noticed that PDF instruction sheets for the majority of models are now available on each model's webpage
We are going to leave this first fascinating look behind the process of creating Airfix instruction sheets at this point, with our intention to conclude the feature in the next edition of Workbench. We would like to thank Richard Petts and the Airfix development team for their invaluable assistance in producing this feature and for allowing us to see how this important modelling document is produced. We would also like to let modellers know that the Airfix website now includes many kit instruction sheets that are available as downloadable pdf files – we have included a link to the Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress instruction sheet above, so you can have a closer look at some of Richard’s impressive work.
RAF Jet Provost build cleared for take-off
The modeller currently has a choice of Airfix Jet Provosts kits to build
Over the course of the previous two editions of Workbench, we have been pleased to bring you details of an excellent 1/72nd scale RAF Jet Provost T.3A build project, sent in by Workbench reader Dave Haddican. In this final instalment, Dave moves on to preparing, painting and finishing his model, in the hope of adding to his growing display of RAF training aircraft models – here is the final part Dave’s review:
Painting and Marking:
"Once the construction was completed, there were very few areas of the model that required filler, although I did find the main area being around the air intakes - once dry, a small amount of Mr Surfacer was applied to the fuselage seams and the air intakes. The surface was then cleaned up using increasingly fine grades of wet and dry paper until a smooth, polished finish was achieved. I then re-scribed a few panel lines that I had removed during sanding and applied a couple of coats of black (Humbrol 85) to the whole canopy area in order to ensure that the inside of the frames would match the cockpit interior colour. The whole model (and various bits still stuck on cocktail sticks) was then given three heavily thinned coats of primer (Humbrol 1) in preparation for the base colours. The primer showed up a few small areas that needed further sanding around the intakes but otherwise the kit goes together really well.
Applying the iconic RAF training scheme colours of the Jet Provost
The wings and horizontal stabilisers were sprayed with a couple of thin coats of Light Aircraft Grey (Humbrol 166), I decided not to apply any sort of pre-shading as the RAF training aircraft fleet were normally kept in a pretty clean condition and certainly weren’t covered in large stains and dirt. Once the paint had dried overnight the grey areas were masked off and four thin coats of Satin White (Humbrol 130) were applied to the upper fuselage. This was left for a couple of days in order to allow the paint to dry thoroughly before the aircraft was masked off in preparation for the coats of red. Signal Red (Humbrol 174) was then sprayed in thin coats until the colour was even across the entire model. This took at least six coats (although if I am honest I lost count in the end), primarily because the red was applied over areas of Satin White, Light Aircraft Grey and Primer.
It was then time to hold my breath whilst I removed all of the masking to reveal a set of good demarcation lines between the Red/White/Grey colour scheme. This is the point on any build where I cross everything, as a few small runs can really destroy all of the hard work. I masked off the anti-glare panel around the nose of the aircraft and sprayed this with a couple of coats of Matt Black (Humbrol 33) and then took out the brush and painted some of the smaller areas of detail by hand such as the undercarriage oleo’s and tyres.
With the paint finally applied, it’s time for the all-important finishing touches
The undercarriage legs and wheels were then glued into position before the whole model was given a couple of coats of gloss varnish using Johnson’s Klear floor polish. I know some modellers have trouble with this product but I prefer it to any of the other gloss varnishes that I have tried and it really does provide an excellent surface for the decals to adhere to.
For such a small model, there are a serious number of stencils to be applied and it took me a couple of sessions to get them all in place. The decals were of good register and adhered to the contours of the aircraft beautifully with only small amounts of Decal Fix needing to be used. My only criticism of the decals were the RAF roundels (Decal No: 82) on the fuselage and the no step markings (Decal No: 89) on the intakes - with the former, if you look really carefully then the Signal Red of the fuselage can be seen through the white. With the latter, the black shoe print should have a red cross printed on top of it to denote a ‘no step’ area, however the cross is printed beneath the foot and therefore when applied to the Signal Red fuselage the cross isn’t visible, making it look as though this is actually a walk way. I’m now being really picky – such is the quality of this kit.
The finished model looks fantastic in this eye-catching scheme
Once the decals had dried fully, the whole kit was given a final coat of Satin Varnish before the canopy masking was removed. Again, the results were excellent with the inner frames appearing to be black and the strengthening strut now painted on the inside of the main transparency. The seats were then glued into position and a light panel wash with Payne’s Grey oil paint was applied followed by some small weathering around the main control surface actuators using pastels.
Overall, the kit was an absolute joy to build, and it almost went together without adhesive. The engraved detail is sharp and the panel lines are not too deep, meaning the finished product looks and feels just like a Jet Provost to me. It certainly compliments my Red/White/Grey Tucano on the shelf and I have already invested in a Hawk to add to my collection of training aircraft. Retailing at just under £10, the kit is a little ace and I will certainly be adding a few more to my stash in the near future, with some interesting aftermarket decals providing a number of unusual liveries for future projects. If this is a taste of things to come, the Airfix releases for the rest of 2017 are going to be right up there."
Taking its place next to the Tucano featured in a previous review
This is the second build review Dave has produced for us and we are extremely grateful that he has taken the time to produce these fantastic articles. He is probably responsible for encouraging a great many modellers to re-visit the subject of classic RAF Training aircraft over the past few weeks, as he used his love of modelling to help him to recover from a serious leg injury. The Workbench team would like to thank Dave for sharing his passion for modelling with our readers and we would all like to wish you a very successful and speedy recovery from your injury. We are also very much looking forward to seeing your Hawk review when you manage to get around to it.
Dambuster Lancaster box presentation
That’s all we have for you in this latest edition of Workbench, which we sincerely hope included something of interest to you. We would just like to draw your attention to an extremely popular 1/72nd scale kit that has just come back into stock and marks one of the most significant RAF raids of WWII. A09007 is our Avro Lancaster B.III (Special) The Dambusters which depicts an aircraft that took part in the famous Dambusters raid of May 1943 - incorporating extremely high levels of detail, this is one of our most popular kits and is available once more just in time for the busy summer Airshow season.
We are always interested to hear what our readers have to say and to receive any pictures or features you feel may be of interest to fellow modellers in a future edition of our blog. There are several ways in which you can contact us, including our dedicated e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org and of course the Workbench thread over on the Airfix Forum.
If social media is more your style, you could access either the Airfix Facebook page or our Twitter channel, using #airfixworkbench where you will find plenty of modelling news, views and discussion. Whichever medium you decide to use, please do get in touch with us, as it is always great to hear from fellow modelling enthusiasts.
Finally, the Airfix website is the destination to find out all the very latest model release information, with our New Arrivals and Coming Soon sections accessed by clicking the Shop button at the top of the webpage. As work on the website is a constant process, a quick search through all the Airfix web pages will usually reveal new information and updated images in many of the product sections, so this is always a rewarding way to spend a few minutes.
We look forward to bringing you our next Airfix update on 28th April.
The Airfix Workbench Team
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