and Just Plane Stuff Japanese Carrier Base
Text and Photos by: Eric Whipple
When Hasegawa began releasing their newly-tooled series of Zero fighters in 1/48th scale, many modelers were hopeful that a surge of new Japanese WWII aircraft kits would follow. They were not disappointed, and I have been very pleased with the spectrum of new Imperial Navy and Army aircraft that have since become available. In 2001, the level bomber version of the Kate arrived- followed in the Spring of 2002 by the torpedo version. Although my concentration has been on fighters, I was quick to gobble up examples of the many fine assault aircraft kits for future projects. I hadn't mustered the bucks to pick up the torpedo Kate yet, when somehow I had the good fortune, among a group of truly excellent modelers, to win the Roll Models online contest for which it was the featured prize. I immediately ordered a Japanese Carrier Deck from Just Plane Stuff in order to provide a suitable base for the finished model. In this article I will describe both the Hasegawa Kate and the Just Plane Stuff base.
Hasegawa Kate: Measuring 21.5cm X 32.3cm when finished, the Hasegawa Kate consists of 109 parts molded in grey and clear plastic, with some of the softer plastic bushings that aid in propeller installation. All the sprues are crisp and devoid of any flash whatsoever. Modelers should be mindful that parts F1, F9, K7, and K28 are not intended for use with this version. Two decal options are provided for Pearl Harbor attackers; one from Akagi, the other from the Hiryu. The instructions are clear and thoughtfully laid out, although I did deviate from the suggested order of assembly for a few items. Any deviations from the instructions will be addressed under construction or in the photo captions.
Plane Stuff Resin Carrier Deck: Single piece of sturdy cream-colored resin;
very clean mold. Planking is straight and tiedowns are crisp, 10" x 13".
Direction of planking attractively offset from lines of the overall shape. Comes
with a color photo of the finished product, and full instructions for just about
every known carrier deck including markings and notes on Japanese aircraft carrier
Building the Kate: Construction & Painting Notes
Construction follows the usual progression for Hasegawa kits, starting with the cockpit, then basic planform, adding the engine, landing gear, and smaller details later. I encountered no difficulties during assembly, and most of the parts fit perfectly. I'd like to summarize notable elements of construction, the few instances where I found that a few parts required a little extra attention, and outline steps when I deviated from the suggested order of assembly:
1. The cross sprue spanning the opening of the engine cowl is quite stout; extraction requires the use of narrow sprue cutters or a small saw blade- the use of a freehand hobby knife would be my last choice as the risk of damage to the well-rendered cowl is high.
2. Ejector pin marks number about a dozen in each of the cockpit sidewalls, but they are shallow and only about four would be visible once the fuselage is sealed up.
3. A decal is provided to represent the perforations in the pilot seat. I applied it to the back of the seat, allowed it to set, and used it as a template to drill through the seat. Then I sanded the remaining decal film from the back of the seat.
4. Main wheel dimensions and details seem very good, but I decided to use the True Details set because I loathe gluing wheel halves together and then sanding the seams away.
5. The instructions do not call out colors for many of the knobs, switches, and levers in the cockpit. Decals are provided for the instrument panels. A good reference would come in handy for painting these features.
6. Current fashion dictates that most- if not all- aircraft built by Nakajima had cockpit decking painted the same color as the interior. I couldn't bring myself to do it because I didn't want all that bright bamboo green screaming back at me from inside the canopy, so I painted all features above the sills in IJN Dark Green and my model may prove to be inaccurate in that respect.
7. I found one trouble spot involving the fit between the lower wing half, upper wing halves, and the fuselage. It is easily overcome. The angle of the tongue portion of the centrer aft lower wing was too flat and pushing it into position would result in a prounced step in the trailing edge fillet. I assembled the wings first, then applied glue only to the marrying surfaces for the upper wings & fuselage fillet, and the forward edges of the lower wing where those meet the fuselage. I inserted toothpicks between the tongue of the lower wing and fuselage in order to support the alignments of the upper wings at the fillet. Once dry, the toothpicks were removed, some glue applied to the tongue portion of the lower wing, and then the tongue was gently squeezed into position and held by rubber bands.
8. I left the flaps off, painted them separately, and installed them much later than suggested by the instructions. After the model was almost complete I installed the flaps, flexible gun, and canopy pieces. The box art and instructions indicate that the Akagi option did not have an antenna post, but I installed a wire aerial configured as it appears in the box art
9. The kit provides clear parts for an open or closed canopy. I wanted to use the open option, and found that the inner surfaces of the corners of the triangular gunner's hatch (Part R4) required filing down to provide a proper fit for the sliding and fixed portions that had to rest above it. Test fitting these pieces is recommended. All other parts fit perfectly without adjustment.
10. Despite my best efforts
to prepare the surface of the model with successive Future Floor Wax and Testors
Gloss, I experienced severe silvering when the decals were applied. I went ahead
with another coat of Future to seal them, then used a fine brush to fake in
thinned IJN Green over the silvered portions and shot another coat of Future
to blend them in. The decals also proved very sensitive to Microset so use it
with caution to avoid disintegration of the large hinomarus and fuselage band.
11. Exhaust stack openings are not molded in, so I drilled holes and used a rounded file to open them up.
12. The instructions offer the option to paint the torpedo grey or natural aluminum with a black warhead. I chose the latter because I believed that the natural metal and black would contrast well with the Ameiro "caramel-colored" underside and also complement the blue-black cowl color. Temporary wooden Pearl Harbor fins were made from thinned balsa. I could not find a good reference for the design of the fins, so using the pause feature on my DVD player I froze the instant in the movie 'Pearl Harbor' when the Admiral is shown a diagram of the fins that displays them from the side and top. Sketchy reference at best, but it was all I had to go on. It also looked as though the shapes of the fins differed between the movie mock-ups and the diagram, so I went with the diagram.
13. I found that the kit parts for the gun sights and other tiny items were a bit bulky, so I used a Copper State Models photoetch sight for the flexible guns, and some appropriately shaped bits from a Eduard set to dress up the pilot's torpedo sight. Kit part K-12 was replaced with a duplicate made from .016 & .009 steel guitar strings with three beads of Micro Kristal Klear cement.
14. The kit instructions call out a Natural Metal or Duralumin silver underside, but I disagree with this after reviewing the research topics at Dave Pluth's marvelous website dedicated to japanese aircraft. I elected to paint the belly Ameiro, using a custom mixture of Floquil IJN Sky Gray, Butternut, and RLM02 Grau. While the boxart and built example in the instruction photos indicate a ragged treament of IJN Dark Green over the fuselage, I painted mine pretty solid as it shows in the painting guide because I liked the wavy demarcation line along the lower aft fuselage.
Just Plane Stuff Resin Carrier Deck: Preparation & Painting
As I hinted at earlier, the instructions for the Japanese Carrier Deck from Just Plane Stuff exceeded my greatest expectations. JPS recommends that the base be washed in warm soapy water, then thoroughly rinsed- pretty standard for all resin hobby materials. Referring to the excellent diagrams provided for the various Japanese decks, I chose to represent the Akagi at an area just forward of the aft deck elevator and slightly athwartships to port. This was so that I could include a bit of both the hinomaru and port wingtip guides that were painted on the deck. The hinomaru was centered over the aft elevator, but since I have no clear photos of that feature I did not attempt to recreate the joint between the elevator & deck.
Deck planking was usually sealed during installation by layers of manila fibers impregnated with tar, known as "oakum". Believe it or not, we still had some sections of this type of planking on the deck of the Coast Guard Icebreaker that I served on during the late '80s. The JPS instructions suggest using a filler material to caulk the grooves in the planking, but I did not want to risk messing up the pattern on my example.
Having worked for weeks on end to polish & dress up a ship for a big event, I decided to make the deck pristine as though it had been worked on prior to the Akagi's climb up Mt. Niitaka. I was going for that honey-golden basketball court look, so the entire piece was airbrushed with Floquil Butternut, then the planking was rendered with a hand-held Post-It-Note mask in Floquil Webbing. Manila folders were used for the hinomaru and wingtip guides. After all the paints had dried a spare blunt airbrush needle was used to run some scratches along some of the joints and the white red areas. Tiedown sockets were brush-painted with Testors Metallizer Steel. A coat of Future sealed the whole thing in.
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