Tamiya 1/32 Grumman F-14A Tomcat
Model, Text and Photos by: Bob Derham
Building the Tamiya 1/32 F-14 Tomcat
Since I saw "Top Gun" when it was first released in theaters, I have wanted to build a model of this mainstay of the US Navy carrier force. And the plane I wanted to depict was the one piloted by Lt. Larry Muczynski with Lt. Jim Anderson as the RIO. Part of this was driven by the fact that I had purchased the Jerry Crandall print of the Gulf of Sidra Incident entitled "Tomcats 2- Fitters 0 - The Gulf of Sidra Incident" depicting this particular F-14. I bought the Tamiya kit when it was first released and just recently decided it was time to finish the model. I had started the cockpit several years ago and set it aside to undertake other modeling projects as it was taking some time to complete the cockpit. Three months ago, I decided it was time to pick up where I had left off and finish this big kit. In this first installment, I'll cover the "front office" and the front portion of the fuselage which is separate from the rear fuselage portion in terms of constructing the model. I actually built the kit in modular fashion painting and decaling several subassemblies before joining them together. With the size of the model, this made it much easier to paint and work with. And the results look fine! On to the front cockpit and front fuselage!
I wanted a detailed cockpit; therefore, I decided to incorporate Waldron Model Products, instruments and F-14 Placard set. The first step was to make up the instrument panels for the pilot and RIO. I'll give a brief description of the process I used, but won't get into too much detail as the instruction sheet provided with the Placards is very detailed.
First, I decided to build the two instrument panels. One thing I did not do that is recommended by Waldron, is to channel the cockpit tub and make it slightly wider. I found that by using a Dremel Tool and removing plastic from the sides of the cockpit tub where the pilot's panel went, I was able to make enough room to fit the panel(see figure 3). I also removed plastic from the both hoods as indicated in the instructions.
For the pilot's instrument panel, I used the template provided and cut out the shape from 1.5 mm plastic stock. The lower screen is removed from the kit panel and set aside as it will be attached to the new panel. The "box" above the two screens was also salvaged from the kit part. The instrument locations were drawn in and then holes were drilled into the plastic. I did not drill the holes through but just deep enough to accept the instruments. I then used a small drill to open a small hole in the back of each cavity to allow glue to get out. The panel was painted aircraft gray (Model Masters Paint) and a fine brush was used to paint black frames around the openings. Using Waldron's Punch and Die set, I punched out the instruments and super glued them into their respective locations. The upper level box was glued in place and the upper screen, made from transparent styrene, was painted transparent green and glued in place. The lower part of the instrument panel was cut from 1mm styrene (the instructions suggest brass sheet), scribed and bent as noted in the instructions (See Figure 1). The lower screen was made from clear styrene, painted transparent green and glued in place using the kit part as its base. Holes were drilled using a number 79 drill for toggle switches which were cut from wire painted white. These were glued in place and toped with additional white paint. Knobs and dials were made using Waldron's Subminiature Punch and Die set by punching discs from .5 mm and 1 mm styrene then glued in place using super glue. Painting was based on colors from Detail and Scale's F-14 book. The channel for the canopy release is not installed as I decided to do this during final assembly. The completed panel is shown in Figure 1.
The same technique was used for the RIO's panel with the screen again cut from clear plastic and painted transparent green and glued into the kit part. The upper portion of the panel was cut off so that the clear plastic could be easily glued in place. The kit panel attached to the screen was used in tact and instruments were inserted using the same technique as for the Pilot's panel. The top portion of the panel was glued back in place and the panel was painted aircraft gray with black frames around the instruments. Toggle switches, knobs, and dials were added as before to complete the RIO's panel shown as Figure 2. Now it was on to the side panels!
This part of the build was straight forward as the techniques used on the panels transferred. The placards were cut from there sheet using a very sharp number 11 Exacto knife. One of the keys here is to change the blade frequently to insure a sharps blade. The placards were glued in place using super glue and in some cases; there were films that were placed under the placards. Again, toggle switches and dials were made as note previously. The only new construction was making the throttle quadrant. For the levers, I cut pieces from the frame of Waldron seat belt sets. These were super glued into place per the locations in the instructions. The throttle control grips were made using from 1mm plastic sheet and shaped using sandpaper and files. The flap lever was made form the frame and the bent at 90 degrees to make the handle. The levers were then placed in plastic discs as shown by the instructions from Waldron. Again, the toggle switches were painted white (prior to attachment) then touched up when in place. Dials and switch covers (made from sheet styrene) were painted according to photos in Detail and Scale.
The cockpit tub was complete (Figures 3-6) and now the front fuselage assembly could be constructed. The nose gear wheel well was painted flat white then coated with Future to produce the gloss white color of the well. The fuselage front was then built following the kit instructions. One deviation was I did not install the radar choosing to glue the nose cone in place to create a better looking connection. After the wheel well and tub were in place, the front halves were glued together. I used styrene glue to soften the plastic so that when held together, the plastic would actually form a weld that could be sanded down to obscure the seam. For the nose cone, I was careful to prevent this as it is a panel line. Seams were then sanded and where needed, gap filling super glue was used to fill any remaining seams. The seams were sanded and panel lines rescribed as necessary.
The cockpit was masked and the front fuselage was painted using Model Masters acrylic flat gull gray. Seams were checked and repaired followed by another coat of paint. Twenty four hours later, I highlighted the panel lines using a drafting pencil then brush painted three coats of Future over the fuselage. I let the Future set for 48 hours, and then, in keeping with the modular approach, I applied the decal following the Detail and Scale Decal instructions. The D&S decals went on fine, but the kit decals were not easy to work with. There age definitely showed. Microset was used to get the decals to settle. After another 48 hours, I finished the forward fuselage by adding two coats of Testors acrylic flat clear. There was no silvering and the seams were invisible. Figure 7 shows the forward fuselage after it was attached to the rear fuselage. I will cover the rear fuselage, wings, and joining of the fuselage halves next.
Building the Tamiya 1/32 F-14 Tomcat-PartII
With the front portion of the fuselage completed, I decided to build the rest of the fuselage and the "attachments" for the Tomcat (e.g.: wings, ventral fins, etc) as subassemblies. I constructed as much of the rear fuselage as possible prior to preparing the wings. This included painting the interior of the afterburners and gluing them to the bottom of the fuselage. I decided to use the Floquil Gun Metal which has a bluish color as I thought this would add some color. This assembly is straight forward and the inside seam is not that visible when complete. The inside of the Fuselage where the dive brakes are located were painted flat white following the instruction sheet. Part A8 was glued in place and this is one part that, in my opinion, should have been molded to the bottom half of the rear fuselage. All it does is create a major seam filling area that has a fair amount of raised detail. To avoid all but a minor seam fill, I opted to add the rear Phoenix missile racks when I was doing the final assembly. Though this was not the configuration of the aircraft during the Gulf of Sidra Incident, I felt that at some point the craft carried the additional Phoenix missiles complementing the 2-2-2 configuration at the time.
Attaching the upper and lower fuselage halves proved to be one of the more difficult operations in building this aircraft. The seam did not line up well and it required a fair amount of aligning, gluing with Super Glue to hold the alignment, and then using liquid cement to weld the parts together. Even this failed to get the front portion of the seams aligned well. More Super Glue was used and much sanding was required to get a reasonably smooth seam. But as you can see from Figures 8 and 9, it is not perfect. The good news is that the Stabilizers could be positioned strategically to cover this seam. I think if a tab of some type had been placed here, it would have helped keep the parts aligned during the assembly.
Having decided to use the Eduard Exterior set for the F-14, I added the chaff dispensers to the underside of the aircraft and the screens near the vertical fins as well as the formation light frames (See Figures 9 and 10). I drilled and filed the molded parts out leaving openings where the detail parts were glued into place. Prior to this, I painted the inside surface visible through the openings flat black to give the proper depth appearance. And when I airbrushed, I covered these parts to retain the black inside appearance and hand brushed these details.
Foam was stuffed into the afterburners and the fuselage was painted flat gull gray using an Aztec airbrush. When dry, seams were checked and repaired as necessary followed by a second coat of paint. The scribed panel lines were again highlighted with a drafting pencil, the chaff dispensers and screens were hand painted (as noted earlier) flat gull gray, and then three coats of Future were brushed on. Forty-eight hours later, the decals were applied followed, after a 24 hour period, by two coats of Model Masters clear flat. Note that the "no step" decals were made using an inkjet printer and Bare Metal Foils decal paper. The kit decals make the two words look like one. The wheel well walls were painted and coated to yield a gloss white color and then glued into place as shown in Step 4 of the kit's instructions. Before I could finish this assembly, I needed the wings. Hence, that was my next step.
The wing, stabilizers and vertical fins were all now constructed and prepared for assembly to the fuselage. The halves were glued together and the seams were filled and sanded; Super Glue was used as the filling agent. The parts were all painted flat gull gray, seams were repaired, and a final coat of painted airbrushed on to the parts. Three coats of Future were brushed on and, the same procedure was used as previously with the decals applied followed by a flat finish to complete the parts. One of the wings is shown in place in Figure 11. Again, the "no step" decals were the ones I made earlier. At this point, I deviated slightly from the instruction's assembly sequence.
The bladders were painted and glued in place and in my case I used the ones for the swept wings. I completed the rear fuselage assembly following the procedure in Step 8 of the assembly. In effect, I reversed steps 7 and 8 in my assembly. Prior to attaching the forward upper portion, I painted the wheel wells flat white followed by Future. After drying, these areas were masked and the part was painted flat gull gray. Once dry, the wings were trapped between this part and the previous assembly to complete this part of the fuselage. The fit was very good and no seam filling was necessary. The fact that forward upper part joins the rear portion at a natural seam made this a smooth operation (See Figure 12). Some minor filling and sanding along the left and right sides was needed but this was easily handled. The screws also helped pull the parts together tightly. Some minor touch up painting was required.
To complete the fuselage, I glued the front and rear portions together. This was not as difficult as I thought and it went smoothly. The only challenge is the seam line that results. After many tries to fill and sand the seam to make it invisible, I got an acceptable finished product (See Figure 13 just aft of the rear most panel line). The area was repainted with flat gull gray blending the new coat in with the old effectively. It seems (pardon the pun) that Tamiya could have moved this joint about ¼" forward so that it would have been at a natural seam line. This would alleviate a lot of extra work in hiding a join line. The final step was adding the engine intakes. I followed the instructions, but again painted the parts and Futured them prior to attaching to the body. The fit here was excellent requiring no seam filling and/or sanding. Thankfully, the joins are on seam lines. I added the decals making the necessary changes to the kit decals as noted on the Detail and Scale decal instruction sheet. Figure 14 shows the attached intakes and the "jet intake" decal in place; note that the "DANGER" portion is not parallel to the upper red band, but at an angle to both red bands. The remainder was then given two coats of clear flat to match the rest of the plane. The fuselage is now complete except for a few small items that will be added in final assembly (Figures 15 and 16). The next task is the landing gear, cockpit seats, canopy, and weapons to complete the model.
Build Up of Tamiya's 1/32 F-14- Part III
The next task I undertook was building the landing gear and gear doors. This was relatively straight forward except that I added details from the Eduard Exterior Detail set. The landing gear was constructed following the Tamiya instructions (don't forget to place the metal rods into the struts prior to gluing; I almost did!) adding the appropriate details from the Eduard set. The wires were not added yet as I wanted them to contrast with the gloss white of the gear. I brush painted the completed gear with Tamiya flat white, then I brushed on Future to attain the gloss white. Then, I used a dark wash on the gear in some areas wiping it off quickly to add depth. The wiring was then super glued in place following the Eduard instructions resulting in realistic looking landing gear as shown in Figures 17-19.
The gear doors were next with the first step cleaning up the ejector pin marks. The nose doors proved most challenging as I was replacing the molded screens with ones from the PE set. The molded screens were drilled out and filed to accept the PE screens from the detail set. This required a number of test fits and constant checking to make sure the opening was the right size. Too small and the parts will get damaged; too big, and, Oops!!, the parts fall through. With this done, the remaining main gear doors were modified using the detail parts. Some sanding was needed to remove kit details, but the rest was straight forward posing no problems. The exterior was painted in the flat gull gray (Model Master Acrylics) of the fuselage and the interior was painted with Tamiya flat white followed by Future. The last step was painting the red trim accomplished with a very fine brush. Break out those magnifying devices!! The finished product (inside portion) is shown in Figures 20-22. Note that both exterior and interior of the nose door is shown in Figure 20.
With the gear and doors complete, I then attached these to the aircraft using gap-filling super glue. This was easily accomplished but once the gear doors are in place, be careful when handling the plane as it easy to accidently knock off the main gear doors. Easily fixable but a bit annoying!!
The tail hook and glove pylons were the next two items that I constructed. The tail hook was painted gloss white with the "hook" painted gun metal. The black stripes were made using Super Scale 1/8" stripe decals cut to length and applied. The housing for the tail hook was painted light gull gray and then the pieces were attached using super glue to the fuselage as shown in Figure 23. The glove pylons were assembled, gaps filled and sanded, and painted gull gray then glued to the fuselage as seen in Figure 24. The afterburners were now painted with Model Master jet exhaust. Once this was dry, I over painted the burners with Model Master's burnt metal metalizer. According to the instructions, this paint is for airbrushing only, but I found that by brushing it over the jet exhaust paint, I got the effect I wanted: an uneven burned look to the afterburners. And, yes, one burner is open and one closed as, according to my research, this was the typical configuration after engine shutdown. Figure 23 shows the afterburners.
It was now time to finish the cockpit by building the seats and installing the seats, panels, and canopy. I built the seats as per the instructions using Tamiya paints for the seats. To add depth, I used a wash on the seat back and bottom which seeped into the crevices on these parts. For the seat belts and shoulder harnesses I used the Model Technologies PE buckles and Johnson and Johnson cloth tape. I use the cloth tape as it has a texture that resembles the real belts and tend to use as is, without painting, as the color is similar to many belts. In reviewing the photos of the seat belt arrangement, I noticed a retraction device located in the gap between the seat back top and the headrest. This device is similar to your car's seat belt retraction device as it pulls the shoulder harnesses up when disconnected from the harness. To simulate this, I scratch built the retractor using 1mm plastic sheet, fine wire, the appropriate part from the PE set and cloth tape. I cut a plastic box about 3mm X 1.5mm from the sheet plastic. Holes were drilled on both sides of the box with a number 79 drill and then a 3mm piece of wire was glued in the holes. The Model Tech part was then attached to the wire simply by looping the wire and closing the loop with super glue. Another 3mm piece of wire was looped through the round opening of the Model Tech part. A piece of the cloth tape cut to the correct width was then folded over this second piece of wire to complete the assembly. The tape length when folded was about 3-5mm. This retractor was then super glued into the opening. Figure 25 is a drawing (NTS) of the retractor showing just one side completed.
The shoulder harnesses were built up with the Model Tech PE parts as per the instructions and then attached to the seat at the horizontal indent on seat back with super glue. The harness back, which was the sticky side, was then attached to the tape from the retractor using super glue as shown in Figure 26. The lap belts were constructed using the instructions and super glued onto the seats. The completed seats are shown in Figures 27 and 28. When adding the seat belts, reference material is a must to see the way the shoulder harnesses are set up in relation to the seats.
With the seats completed, I then glued them into the cockpit, added the completed instrument panels and control sticks, and then painted the canopy front and glued it into place. The canopy was dipped in Future after sanding away the center seam, then masked and painted. The pilot and RIO name decals were added as this models the aircraft after the Gulf of Sidra incident and the names were added after that engagement. Figures 29 and 30 show the cockpit interior with the seats and panels installed.
At this point I glued the vertical tail fins and horizontal stabilizers in place. The canopy metal support was glued to the cockpit so that the canopy can be displayed open. The canopy was set aside as I did not want to damage it while finishing the details of the plane. In the end, I did not glue the canopy in place, but simply set it on the support so that it could be removed to easily view the cockpit. I was nearly done except now it was time to add the ordinance. Easy to say, but this seems to always take longer then I think it will. Too many seams to deal with and why is it that weapons are white!!??
For the weapons configuration I decided to build, I needed 2 Sidewinders, 2 Sparrows and 4, count em, 4 Phoenix missiles! I built up the missiles per the Tamiya instructions, but left off the 4 "rails" on the Sparrows until the seams were sanded. All seams were sanded, and then the missiles were painted via air brush with Tamiya flat white. After 24 hours, I coated the missiles with Future to get the gloss appearance, painted the additional details (such as the sky gray nose on the Sparrows) and added the decals. The stripe decals came from the kit set (on the Phoenix's in between the fins) with the remaining stripes from Super Scale stripe decals. The marking for the missiles were from the Scale Master set containing markings for the entire ordinance used. Figures 31-33 show the missiles with and without the appropriate markings. Once these were set, I super glued the armament in place with one Sparrow and one Sidewinder on each glove pylon (Figure 34) and the four Phoenixes on the underside of the fuselage. Figure 35 shows one of the Phoenix missiles in place.
The final step was gluing on the antennae and sensors and painting them as noted in the instructions. Finally, the project was complete and after photographing the final picture for this article, it was placed in the cabinet in the dining room!! The completed aircraft is shown in Figure 35. If you have any questions regarding this build or would like more details to assist in building this kit or other F-14 kit, send me an email and I am more then happy to give you my inputs.
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