MPM/HML 1/48 Blohm & Voss Bv 138
Model, Text and Photos by: John C. Valo
As part of MPM's HML (Hand Molded Limited, I believe) line of large resin-cast model kits, the BV138 exhibits the three major characterisitics of the line: it's big, it's rather pricey, and it's heavy!
The parts are very well molded, including the hollow fuselage, but the wings, booms and empennage are solid (read:heavy) resin. The kit provides a rather complete cockpit and armament group, with simple turret interiors and beautifully molded guns. Vacuformed transparencies are provided for the cockpit and turrets; these look very nice after a bath in Future. Propagteam provides a beautifully-printed decal sheet with three marking options.
From the outset, I noticed a number of pinholes in the major parts, which I filled with putty and coated with primer. All of the smaller resin detail parts were clear of pinholes, but I did spend a considerable amount of time liberating the parts from their casting blocks and cleaning up the resin flash. All of the smaller parts were bagged in groups according to which assembly step they pertained to.
After studying the fuselage halves and test-fitting the cockpit structure, I elected to scratchbuild bulkheads for the aft fuselage, to avoid the 'see-through' effect through the portholes. These were made from .040 styrene with the assistance of a contour gauge. Frankly, I don't think anyone has ever noticed...
The cockpit is very nicely done, and fits well. I chose to make a new instrument panel from .020 styrene, and used a punch and die set to make the instrument holes. A Black-painted backer was scribed with the instrument markings, then a drop of Future was placed in each hole. This sandwich panel was then glued to the resin instrument panel/coaming.
The seats are molded without seatbelts, so I cobbled up my own using electrical tape strips and fine wire for the buckles. Once painted, they were quite convincing.
The balance of the cockpit was assembled per the instructions. I added a bit of detail to the dorsal gunner's interior, and opened the hatch on the side of the fuselage. Both interior assemblies were installed before joining the fuselage halves and top. The turrets were left for later, as they could be installed after assembly was complete.
Before continuing assembly, I added brass mesh radiator faces to the center and boom engines. Now came the fun! Common sense advised me to build a jig to assemble the fuselage (hull?) and wings/booms, but some perverse sense of adventure led me astray. The constituent parts fit together with only a bit of sanding and tweaking, but the things are heavy! It's amazing what gravity can do to skew things when you're trying to assemble them. After a few false starts, I did set up some supports for the tail booms and made a small jig to hold the fuselage in the vertical position (recall that these flying boat things have a double-concave bottom with a pronouced step - they don't just sit on the workbench straight up-and-down). Once the booms and horizontal stabilizer were aligned and glued into place, the major battle was won. The solid outer wings are mere butt joints, but I felt there was plenty of surface area, and didn't reinforce them structurally.
I then painted the model with PollyScale acrylics that I mixed to approximate the maritime colors of RLM 72/73/65. The decals worked great, after cautiously applying lots of water before positioning and floating them into place. After decaling and clear-coating with Future, I lightly sprayed Badger Air-Opaque White for the splotches, giving each a very quick and light wipe with a dampened soft cloth to streak them a bit. I applied a wash of artists' oil paints thinned with mineral spirits, then a final coat of flat/satin PollyScale clear. Weathering was completed with chalk pastels.
The floats were then painted and weathered before attachment. The floats are each a three-piece affair that need some care in aligning also as there are no positive locating guides - just scribed lines showing the position.
The turret assemblies consist of vacuformed front and back halves which join on a frame line. After gluing the halves together, I framed the turrets with strips of electrical tape painted the appropriate color. The resin cannons are beautifully molded, but needed to be shortened at the breech end to fit into the turrets. Likewise, I wound up replacing some of the turret interior parts as the kit parts wind up being too crowded for everything to fit. The turret interiors were glued into the fuselage, then the transparencies were fitted and glued in place.
I elected to open the top hatch of the canopy, as well as the pilot's side window. These sections were replaced with clear sheet styrene. I used a sharpened brass tube to punch out the porthole windows from clear acetate, and glued them into place with thinned white glue.
The dorsal gun position was detailed with a counterbalance spring and a section of Cavalier flexible-resin ammunition belt. I built a new D/F loop from thin wire, as the kit part was just too much hassle for me to clean up.
A few gizmos, do-dads, props, antennas and beaching gear later, and the job was done.
Overall, this was a challenging but rewarding kit. In the end you wind up with a 23" wingspan, 16" long, 5" high, two-pound, six ounce model, so you do have to plan ahead what you're going to do with it (glass display shelves don't sound too promising!).
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