Hello! Long time, no Airfix builds! I have been busy with building planes, but they have all been from other manufacturers, so I'm afraid you've not had the pleasure of following along with the fun and games here.
Having finished the last French single-seat fighter of my collection, I felt it was time to pull a red box from the stash, and settled on the Blenheim MkIV. My 1940 obsession means I must have at least one example of every type that was operational during that year, and with the display cabinet already containing a MkIF and MkIVF, it needed a straightforward MkIV bomber. (The MkI bombers were mainly superseded by 1940, though they were still operational in North Africa, the Middle East and beyond. Those theatres are currently not being considered for my obsession!)
Because of the way Airfix make and sell their kits these days, and because I'm old school enough to believe a kit will hang around the market a long time, I missed the original release of the Blenheim MkIV in bomber form. Actually, I'm not sure I did, but never mind. I did the same with the MkIF: I missed it entirely, and by the time I bought a box it was branded as a bomber.
Happily, all the parts needed for fighter and bomber versions are in the box, whichever version purchased. So, this rather convoluted introduction is by way of explaining why I'm building a MkIV as a bomber, but using a MkIVF boxing. Oh, and the instructions from the MkI. It'll probably become clear later.
My inspiration for this build is a photo of a MkIVF getting some (posed) TLC from its ground crew. I'm not sure how to embed the photo, but you can see it here on the Imperial War Museum web site. The aircraft is in the standard mid- to late-1940 Temperate Land Scheme camouflage and markings for daylight operations. It has the early "emergency" style of perspex Frazer Nash under-nose turret, and a terrier on the starboard cowling! Apart from the dog and ground crew, I have sufficient bits of set decoration in the form of vehicles and ordnance that I could have a stab at recreating something like this scene at 1/72nd scale.
By the way, the aircraft is from No 40 Squadron, Bomber Command. This fact will come back to bite me somewhat later.
I don't intend this thread to be a blow-by-blow account of building this kit. In most of its variants, build threads have done this kit to death by now. Being the third Blenheim I've tackled, most of the obvious problems are already noted, such as issues fitting the nose assembly to the fuselage and so on. Instead, I shall cover things of interest, and anything that crops up along the way. Apart from choosing aftermarket transfers - if I can find suitable ones - this will be a straightforward build to add a Bomber Command Blenheim MkIV to my collection.
The fuselage went together without fuss. The joint seams needed a little tidying, down to my own fault, but the only filler was a smear of Perfect Plastic Putty along the upper wing roots. I spent a bit of time fiddling about with the cockpit parts, but aside from random PE seat belts from the spares box and some masking tape, it is as the designers intended.
Of course, when you're busy working with bits, and with an Ashes test match burbling away in the background, you tend to forget to take the progress photos. Suddenly, the transparencies are fitted and we're about ready to start masking. The nose section isn't fitted in this photo, just posed in place. Being distracted by the cricket, I forgot to retouch some of interior paint damage before the glazing went on. It won't show. *innocent whistle*
On the other forum, where I am also documenting this build, I was asked whether there were problems fitting the nose to the fuselage, and whether it makes sense to assemble the various parts to the fuselage as you go. I posed these two photos to show the fit is actually pretty good overall, with only slight finger pressure to hold everything tightly in place. Underneath, however, due to the way three pieces come together to form the bomb bay, things can be a bit gappy. Nothing some styrene shims or filler can't solve.
I was more or less following the instructions step by step, but occasionally jumped ahead where I felt it was helpful. The main undercarriage was installed, and the horizontal stabilisers and rudder fitted.
I tried to work out a sensible method of masking everything, as I intended the bomb bay to be posed open. Inevitably, having detail painted parts as they were fitted, some were going to get primed again, but I wanted to minimise the damage as it were. I opted for some sponge packing material, cut to fit into the bomb bay and filling the main undercarriage wells. Masking the cockpit glazing, though, was another matter entirely. At this stage, I was still in two minds about airbrushing or paint brushing this model.
While England desperately tried to retain any credibility in the third Ashes test, I spent a happy hour or two masking the nose. I had looked at buying in pre-cut masking. The only one I could find was a vinyl set, and I am not convinced about them. My one experience with such a set proved they were completely defeated by curved surfaces, and curves are definitely a Blenheim signature. Using a sharp No15 curved scalpel blade, cocktail stick and plenty of Tamiya tape, I think it turned out okay. Of course, the proof will be once it is taken off after painting!
With glazing done, the schnozz was fitted to the fuselage. I pushed it into place, and while applying finger pressure to minimise the gaps all round, dropped some liquid cement into the joins. The radio antenna mast was pinned with some fine brass wire. I surprises me that Airfix don't provide a much more positive location point for such vulnerable items. Butt joints, I'm afraid, don't cut it.
The pitot and gun blister - suitably masked with tape and Maskol - were fitted under the nose, and work began on the bomb bay.
I also fitted the engine pods, though I have left off the exhaust collector rings until later. That will let me paint them off the model.
Bomb load and turret got some paint. I masked the turret transparency with Maskol. I hope it works, as I have yet to take it off again after painting the camo colour! A coat of Hu78 interior green was painted over the cockpit frames. Time for some primer!
I decided to brush paint the model after priming. I'll be honest and say I really don't like airbrushing at the moment. I think it's because I find masking the model a trial, and with bits sticking out that are very likely to end up broken, I just feel happier daubing paint about with a brush.
I have recently discovered the new range of Humbrol acrylics, and I like them very much. However, I don't have just the right colours in stock at present, so I fell back on my Xtracrylix pots for the main colours. Now, these are designed for airbrushing, but I have had good results brushing by hand. The technique is not to expect full coverage in one hit, and to thin the paint as you work with the manufacturer's thinners. In warm conditions, I find by the time I've completed the first coat the first areas are already dry enough for a second, without dragging the previous coat. The Sky undersurfaces took about four coats or so to get decent coverage, over the course of about half an hour or so. It has a slightly patchy effect, which I'm content with as it looks a bit like a working finish for a working aeroplane. You'll also note the finish is semi-gloss, which will hopefully avoid the need for a gloss coat prior to transfers going on. My experience is that an airbrushed satin varnish coat after transfers will eliminate any minor brush marks.
The top surfaces were treated to three or four coats of Xtracrylix Dark Earth.
I had to stop part way through painting the Green camo pattern as incredible things were occurring at the test match in Headingley. They say test cricket is boring...
My problem now is to find suitable markings to represent R3600 in the photo I linked to earlier. The problem is No 40 Squadron decided that the boring official edicts for squadron codes was terribly dull, and painted aircraft ID letters in white. While the national markings can be made up from my stocks of decals, I need to be careful to ensure the colours used in printing match each other. I need to do some digging around to see if anyone can provide suitable lettering or marking sets for Blenheims.
So, pending decals, this is where this Blenheim rests. More soon, hopefully!