1/24 Supermarine Spitfire MK Vb "The Few"

"Never in the history of mankind has so much been owed by so many to so few - Winston Churchill"

The symbol of British aviation and the fear of the German Luftwaffe. The Spitfire left a huge impact on history ever since the first introduction in the early days of WW2, and is regarded by many as the plane that saved Great Britain from a German invasion. Now living in the UK myself, the time was right to cross her off my model-bucketlist. 'The Few' is dedicated to this great icon of aviation, and the pilots that flew her.

Kit by Trumpeter

This project started on 01 August 2016 and was finished on 13 July 2017

Photos of this project can be found here:

The Making of Photoshoot

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13 Jul. 2017 | Kibworth, UK | By Niek Nijsen

With the engraved title plate added, I can now call this model finished.

It was a really nice day yesterday, so I decided to take some photos of her out in the garden instead of in a photobooth. I'm a strong believer in that real light brings out the details a lot better. But you can be the judge of that. Find all the photos via de link provided above and please, do let me know what you think.

Thank you very much for following me on this build, and I hope to see you all back at the King Tiger project, which is now back in full force. See you there!


Ready for battle

21 Jun. 2017 | Kibworth, UK | By Niek Nijsen

With the model now pretty much done, I started work on the base. I saw this great idea on the Flory Forum and thought it would look really good for this model. As you may have noticed, I like to create a diorama-type base for all my models (Aside from the Space Shuttle). So for this one, I would add a few figures and place it all in a muddy field somewhere in the UK.

I bought a cheap photo frame and removed the glass before gluing the bottom to it. I cut strips out of 2 mm plastic card, which would form the sides of the box. To strengthen it all I placed rectangular tubes on the inside of each corner. The top was made of a thin hardboard sheet. Once all the glue dried (I coated the inside with regular hobby glue to get a solid bond and fill all the gaps the superglue had left behind) I coated the top with a layer of filler and shaped it to my liking. The sides where then filled as well to make all the corners look smooth.

Now that the basic shape of the box was done, I gave the whole thing a coat of primer before spraying the sides in the same camouflage style as the aircraft itself. On the left side I added some invasion stripes and the right side received the RAF roundel. The front remained in primer only as I would add a printed decal later on. The top was sprayed with a green base coat before thinned wood-glue was painted on and grass added on top. In an attempt to keep the grass on the box and not fall off with the slightest of wind, I applied a little trick my dad taught me when I was younger and build landscapes for model trains, which is to thin the glue enough so it can be sprayed on using a hand spray bottle (same as used to water plants).

The basics for the diorama were now done and I continued by applying mud (a mixture of pigment, hobby glue and water) which was then followed by applying different tones of green paint with the airbrush. Lastly I used “Woodland’s Realistic Water” to add puddles.

The figures were next to be painted. A primer coat was followed by a blue coat with the airbrush (the same blue I used for the markings, MRP-124). The jacket, boots, and lifejacket were all painted with a brush. I tried to follow a guide I found online to get some “life” to the face, but I guess a little more practice is required. Anyway, I’m quite pleased with the result for a first attempt. The figures received some detailed painting and a wash to bring it out some more. Lastly was a layer of matt varnish before adding mud effects to their boots, too.

In order for the Spitfire to match the diorama with the opened up front section, I printed various blueprints on A0 paper (all in scale of course). These were then rolled or folded before glued onto the wings, as if they’re being used as a guide while working on the plane. The .303 gun I removed from the wing was placed on top, ready to be fitted.

All the sub sections were now finished and ready to be fitted. I glued the custom-made decal (which I designed in Photoshop and then printed on labelling paper) on the front of the base before placing the plane and figures on top.

And that’s it, job done. The engraved plate, which will be mounted on the base of the frame, is being made at the moment. As soon as it’s finished I’ll take the proper reveal photo’s. So this will be the last build entry, the next being the official reveal. I hope you’ve enjoyed following this build and the accompanying photos. I’ll be going back to the King Tiger (finally) when I’m back from work in 3 weeks. The Spitfire build will be replaced by a new project, the McLaren MP4/4 F1 car. But more on that in the near future. Until then!

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Oldschool for old plane

05 Jun. 2017 | Kibworth, UK | By Niek Nijsen

Last time I wrote something about the Spitfire I left you with a model halfway stripped of its paint. Now, after going back to using lacquer paints again, I’ve got some good news! But let’s go back to the where we left off previously.

I continued the process of stripping paint as described before, only this time I was clever enough to wear some cloves. Saved me a lot of cleaning up afterwards. Using a big brush and lacquer thinners I stripped the remaining paint before priming the whole model again with Mr. Surfacer 1200. This was then followed by pre-shading using MRP’s Nato Black (MRP-77). I’ve heard Phil talk about it a lot, but I couldn’t believe how easy this stuff is to spray! I was hooked straight away and will never use any other paint again. The fact that it’s so extremely thin makes it perfect for spraying in thin layers, allowing previous paintwork to come through without covering it too fast. Brilliant.

After pre-shading I gave the bottom-half a coat of Sky (MRP-118), which covered beautifully after only 2 layers. The top half was then sprayed in two-tone camo using Light Green (MRP-109) and Medium Sea Grey (MRP-112). As before, these when on very easy when spraying at a very low pressure (about 10psi). I didn’t cover the model the same everywhere in an attempt to start some of the weathering and colour modulation.

With my mind set to having the invasion stripes on the model, I measured the width of each band using photos and drawings and masked the area that was to be sprayed. A layer of white (MRP-4) went on which was then masked again to allow the black stripes in NATO-black to go on top.

With the basic colours now back on the model, I applied the masks in order to spray on the markings. For this I used White, Marking Red (MRP-123), Marking Blue (MRP-124) and Marking Yellow (MRP-122), in that order. A slight misalignment happened when spraying the yellow band, but this was something I was able to fix later on during the weathering phase.

The next step consisted of applying the decals. Despite having a few options from the box when it comes to squadron markings, I didn’t really like them and decided to find something more suitable. As I went through my spare decal box, I found some left-over markings from the Hind build which were perfect for this kit. A fierce looking tiger that appears to be jumping its prey. I cut of the front paw as this would be located on the tank cover (which is not present on my model) and placed the main body under the window in front of the door.

The remaining markings were sprayed on as well, using the colours described before, which consisted of the leading edge and gun ports. I then mixed the original colours with a bit of white or black to create high- and lowlights on the panels and panel-lines.

At this stage I thought it’d be nice to have a look at the final diorama setting, see if it all works out like I had it planned in my head. I ordered a photo frame a while ago and will attempt a somewhat raised pedestal.

Back to work; the whole model was given a matt varnish before being covered in the Flory dark dirt wash. This was then wiped off using a paper towel and earbuds until I was happy with the result. The wheels were given the same treatment.

Finally I made it to the weathering stage, something I very much enjoy, especially now that I’ve got some new reference books and techniques I wanted to try. Using a sponge I dabbed on metallic paint to create chipping. Knowing the previous technique, that of a masking fluid, didn’t go very well, I figured this would be a lot easier. In a random pattern I dabbed the paint on, creating small, medium and large chips as I went along. I then used the same trick to “repaint” certain areas that had too much chipping by going back with the original colours.

Since my bird is located in England, and weather isn’t always that good, I thought I’d be interesting to go with a muddy field diorama. So in order to make this work, I used pigments to create the mud stains and effects on primarily the bottom half of the aircraft. The result is pretty good I think, but it created a big mess on my bench!

Time for the uncovering of the engine. I removed the masking tape and blue-tac, which resulted in having to do a few repair jobs, but nothing major. I attached the prop and wheels before placing her on her feet enjoying the evening sun. A wire was strung between the tail and antenna using Uschi 0.005 rigging wire.

And that’s it for now. I still want to do a few touch-ups to the model, but I’ve started work on the base first. More on that later. Thanks for following and your kind comments as always.

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Another real update?!

28 Apr. 2017 | Kibworth, UK | By Niek Nijsen

Before I start writing to you about the latest on this build, I owe you a big apology for the enormous gap in updates. As you may know, I have moved house a few months ago and had to rebuild my modelling cave from scratch. This resulted in preventing me from doing any work on my models and caused a big delay in the overall progress. However, the new cave is finally complete and I am ready to get back to work on the Spitfire. For those interested in my new (and old) model cave, have a look at the special page I’ve created for it. It has photos of all my model areas, starting in the USA all the way up to the latest one in my new house.

So, with the formalities now out of the way, let’s get started with this update and get you back in the loop on what’s going on with the Spitfire.

The previous entry left us with a model drying in the sun after the cockpit had been completed and the fuel tank painted. I continued my build by shifting my focus to the front section of the plane, namely the engine and mountings. I decided that I would have the bottom panel installed, so I began by filling the ejection markings with putty and sanded it all smooth once dry. The engine itself was put together and the frame was dry-fitted to make sure it would all fit before painting the various sub-assemblies.

Next I started detailing the front bulkhead, on which a lot of components and wiring are visible. Using various spare parts from other kits, I tried to add the missing bits and connected them using different sizes of lead wire. A few plastic strips were added to give the bulkhead a more 3D appearance and holes were filled with putty. Once this work was finished, I painted all the parts (bulkhead, engine, mounts and panels) and used a small brush and various metal colours to paint the wiring and other small items.

With the paint dry and all the small bits painted, it was time to start detailing the engine, which will be one of the focus points of this build. Again using lead wire for most of it, I also used thicker electrical wire to create the piping for the cooling system. These were then bend into shape to follow the same route around the engine as in the real machine. The more wiring I added, the more this engine started to come alive. And by the time everything was painted, it looked quite convincing. The “straps” that hold the wiring in place were made from hobby glue using a cocktail stick, which I then painted black.

With everything now detailed and put together, I shifted my focus back to the fuselage, as I would have to add the wings before the engine could be mounted. To my surprise these fitted exceptionally good (especially for an older kit like this) and took little effort to be sanded smooth and make them seamless. I re-scribed the panel lines that disappeared during the sanding before adding the flaps that I build earlier on. I finally got a real sense of the size of this kit, despite having the engine and prop not attached yet.

Now that the wings had been attached, all the mounting points were now in place and the engine could be fitted. I made a small support for the front bulkhead, primarily because the engine had become quite heavy with all the lead wiring, but also to make sure the bulkhead would sit properly. The “cage” around the engine, which is used to attach the panels to, was put in place and the whole assembly then glued into the plane itself. I temporarily attached the prop to make sure everything lined up correctly and allowed the glue to cure overnight.

I noticed that a lot of the reference photos of cockpits showed a large amount of maps laying around in them. So I searched the web for some good photos and scaled them down to the correct size using Photoshop. These were then printed onto paper and cut out using a knife. I folded the maps many times in different ways with a ruler to weather them and make them look old and used. A very diluted wash went over to tone it done a bit before I glued them in place. Two were placed between the seat and side of the cockpit, while one is laying on the seat, resting against the yoke. I think it all adds to the realism and really brings the cockpit to life, especially once the pilots have been added standing around in the final diorama.

All the subassemblies were now completed, and the time had come to start painting the model. As I initially mentioned, I wanted to paint this using acrylic paints, instead of my old-school way of using enamels. It turn out this was the biggest mistake I had ever made in modelling so far, but more on that in a bit. The model was masked using the panels to cover the engine and a combination of blue-tac and masking stencils for the cockpit windows and instruments. I started by applying a primer coat using thinned Mr. Surfacer like I always do. I then followed with a layer of metallic paint, which would be underneath the final coats of paint, allowing me to chip the model in the stages that followed. Various places all over the model were masked using a liquid masking solution (Masking Sol Neo) before pre-shading the entire model using black paint. This is were I started to notice the trouble with acrylic paints, as my airbrush struggled to spray it, no matter how much I thinned the paint. Spitting, irregular coverage and constantly having to clean the nozzle severely slowed down the process and resulted in a finish far from perfect. But I decided to push on, determined to make this stuff work.

The bottom was sprayed in Sky-Grey, which went on pretty good actually. Weird when I think of it now, as I hadn’t changed anything to my mixture or airbrush setup. But when it came to the top half of the aircraft, I ran into the same problems again. Eventually I managed to spray the whole model, but it had taken me almost 4x longer than usual. The only advantage I noticed was the quick drying process, which took mere hours instead of days. Using a cocktail stick and an old toothbrush, I proceeded to remove the masking solution, which had turned into a rubbery layer. It wasn’t too difficult to remove, but for whatever reason it decided to lift large parts of paint that surrounded it along the way. I was left with a model that was chipped so badly, I had to start over. Instead of re-applying the liquid masking stuff, I decided to try something else. I had this small bottle of chipping solution laying around and sprayed the whole model with it. Technically this should form a layer between paints that can’t be removed using water or scraping, allowing for fine chipping and scratching effects. It only works with acrylics, which made it “perfect” for this project. Anyway, with this product now covering my metal paint, I covered everything with the grey/green paint combination again. Once dry, I gently scratched the surface using cocktail sticks, water and paintbrushes to try and let the metallic paint shine through. I must say, it didn’t turn out too bad on the wings, but the main fuselage still wasn’t looking like I wanted it to. Instead of trying it again, I figured adding metallic paint using a sponge later on would be a lot easier and continued to mask the model in preparation of the invasion stripes.

Never had problems with Tamiya masking tape before on enamels, I was unsure of the effect it would have on acrylics and I opted to “de-tac” the tape by sticking it on my arms and hands a few times before applying it to the model. I sprayed the black and white, which took forever and left me with a horrible finish, before removing the tape. And what then happened became the final straw for me in my short adventure of acrylic paints. As you can imagine, it lifted most of the paint, leaving a horrifying scene behind. Having pulled out a few hairs while shouting various words that can’t be mentioned here, I was left with only one option. Adamant I wasn’t going to bin this model, I tossed the acrylics in a corner of my workbench (the only reason they didn’t end up in the bin is for the fact I might be able to use them to paint the figures for my models) and went straight to the website of MRP. It’s time to throw health and safety into the wind and go back to using proper paints. It’s time to bring in the lacquer paints from Mr. Paint. Sure, I’ll have to wear my respirator mask again, but that’s a price I am more than willing to pay. After having spend a small fortune on new paints, I was left with the job of stripping the paint off the model, all the way back to the bare plastic. Initially I tried using acrylic airbrush cleaner in an attempt to save my primer coat, it took way too long and I couldn’t be bothered any longer. Having tried using it on a test model, I continued using lacquer thinners to strip the model of this rubbish acrylic crap, speeding up the process quite significantly.

And this is where we are now, with a model that’s halfway stripped of paint. I have received my new paints from Slovakia and am eager to give these a try. So far I’ve only heard good things about them. As soon as I get to it, I’ll post an update on the process, probably once the painting is done. Until then, enjoy the photos and as always comments are welcome!

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In the name of details

20 Oct. 2016 | Sumburgh, UK | By Niek Nijsen

With the King Tiger set aside for this month, it’s time to focus on the Spitfire again. My aim for this period is to complete most of the detail work, which includes the instruments, fuel tank, and engine.

First I had to come up with something to avoid looking through to the front when taking a peak into the cockpit. I placed a vertical piece of styrene to block the view and glued another one on top to act as a support for the fuel tank. I’ve decided not to go into too much detail here as it will all be hidden from sight once the tank is in place.

Then I started work on the fuel tank itself. Using photos to estimate the distance between the bulkheads and the tank, I drew up a design on paper with the rough dimensions. I used thick styrene sheets for the sides and a rectangular beam to separate them at the correct length. I then covered this with a very thin sheet of styrene to create the correct shape. The bottom was the stiffened with two more beams and closed up with a thick piece of styrene for strength.

With the fuel tank now ready, I knew how much space I had to add all the instrumentation on the back of the panel. For this I’ve used a lot of spare parts from other kits (mostly engine parts from the Hind) that roughly looked like what I needed. Most of it will be hidden from sight anyway, so it’s more to give you the impression there’s something there. I filled the remaining gaps with pieces of styrene rod before coming in with lead wire. The wires were then painted in both aluminium and copper colours to give it a little more diversity. A grey wash went over afterwards to create a bit more depth to it all.

Next was spraying the fuel tank and weathering the cockpit a bit more with oils to match the looks I have in mind for the outside. Having received tips on painting from my fellow modeler Oliver (who’s models are a true inspiration to me, have a look at the last photo on the left to see what I mean). For this I’ve used LifeColor paints, black for the pre-shading and Italian brown for the main colour. I then followed with a mix of the two to darken the bottom halve of the tank. After cleaning the airbrush and letting the paint dry for about 30 minutes I used oils (yellow, white and black) to weather the tank. The same colours were used for the cockpit, although primarily yellow and white.

And that’s it for this short update, the model is drying in the sun (I know, very rare for the Shetlands, I better use it) before I can put it all together and start working on the front bulkhead before merging the fuselage with the wings (although I might do that first, see what’s the best strategy here). Hope to have another update for you soon!

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On the assembly line

21 Sept. 2016 | Sumburgh, UK | By Niek Nijsen

Time for another update on the Spitfire buddy build. Since I’ve got two projects on the go (yes I’m still working on the King Tiger) I will try to swap them each month, so progress will be going on with both models. Be it a little slower than before (if that’s even possible)…

So what has been happening to the Spitfire then over the last couple of weeks. Well, in a nutshell I’ve put the fuselage together, worked on the wings and upgraded the guns. But let’s get into a little more detail.

Although I was initially planning on showing the big Hispano guns as well, I think they look absolutely horrible and can’t seem to make anything good out of them. I’ve decided to cover them up instead and have the brass bits stick out from the front, with the rest of the guns actually missing. But you’ll never notice this as they’d be hidden inside the wings completely. The 2 Browning .303 guns in the right wing will still be on show. With a decent amount of scratch building they should look very close to the real deal.

I’ve spend quite a few hours on the internet looking for blue prints and the likes to use in the diorama. With the help of Photoshop, I’ve scaled these to A0 paper and printed them. Besides the blue prints I will also have a few maps of Western Europe in the cockpit with details of Operation Overlord (D-Day) on them. Reason for this is that I want to add invasion stripes on the wings and tail.

Back to the guns for a bit, in particular the Browning .303 wing mounted ones. At this point I have to send a massive thanks to my build buddy Stephen here, as he sent me parts of this Airfix kit, which happened to include the .303 guns. Man, do they look different to the Trumpeter ones! Many, many thanks mate! Having put then next to each other you can really see the difference, especially with the brass barrel. I cut the plastic barrel off and replaced it with the brass version. A few PE parts from the U-96 project and some lead wiring were added and the end result was a pretty good looking Browning .303.

Next up I painted the inside of the wings with my special RAF interior mix and added the guns and more wiring before weathering the gun bays. The ammo belts were placed after a slight adjustment to get a bit more of a bullet shape to them. A little dry-brushing and some pigment followed.

I’ve added the ailerons to both wings and spend quite some time fiddling with the PE flaps. In the end I opted to have a mix of PE and kit parts to complete the flaps, as I didn’t really like the look of the full PE bits (also this was a lot easier and stronger). With the flaps added, I glued both wing halves together.

And that’s about it, not much else to report for now. As I mentioned before, I’ll be swapping models every month, so the next time I’ll be working on the Spitfire will be in October. Until then I’m working on the King Tiger, which will receive its next update very shortly with loads of new photos, too. Thanks for following and commenting! See you next month.

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In search of Allies

14 Aug. 2016 | Sumburgh, UK | By Niek Nijsen

Having enjoyed building the F-16 as part of a massive group build so much, I became interested in finding others who were planning on building the 1:24 Spitfire as well. It seems there are a few different kits out there, and this would be a great way to compare some of them. After having posted the initial request on a model forum, I quickly got a few replies and a so-called “Buddy Build” was born. I had found my Allies for this project.

So where do I begin when I start a new project? Well, I basically stare at it for a few hours and draw multiple images of what I’d like to open up and display once finished. When I’ve got a few ideas on paper, it’s time to choose the best and most possible option and think of how to actually achieve this. Followed by a search online for the aftermarket parts I’ll need and (mostly) a huge shopping list as a result, I start spending some cash and collect the various bits needed for the project.

Interesting you might think, but where does this leave the Spitfire then? A good question indeed, and this is what I have in mind; The aircraft will be closed up from the cockpit to the tail and everything in front on the cockpit will be opened up, so no panels at all in order to show the engine, fuel tank and all the instruments. I’ll have to scratch build the fuel tank, firewall, and all the details that come with it. And that’s not even including the engine, which will be the main focus once finished.

This project will be enhanced by a lot of scratch building, but also the following aftermarket parts:
- Reference books
- SAC metal landing gear
- MST masking decals
- MasterCasters PE flaps
- Grey Matter Figures corrected vertical stabilizer
- Grey Matter Figures corrected seat
- Grey Matter Figures throttle / control stick
- Grey Matter Figures corrected aerial mast
- Grey Matter Figures corrected exhaust
- Master Model brass guns
- Airscale cockpit decals
- Airscale instrument panel
- Trumpeter masking decals
- HGW fabric seatbelts

The model isn’t designed to be opened up, and I began by cutting out various panels and support struts for the engine. With these bits out of the way, I could finally see how much work this was going to take, as most panels weren’t supposed to be shown. For me to add all the instruments, I’ll have to thin the instrument panel and move it slightly into the cockpit. To do this I had to shorten the side panels inside the cockpit, which will be super detailed with lead wires and various decals.

Having never worked with lead wire before, it took me a few attempts to get the hang of it and quickly began adding wiring to the both the left and right side of the cockpit. With photos of the real aircraft as my guide, I placed most of the wiring with various thicknesses of lead wire. Since we’re working in scale, I didn’t want to overdo it and make it look too busy in there, especially with the many decals that would follow.

With the wiring done, I added all the ribbing behind the last "frame" because you'll be able to see it when it's put together. For this I used thin strips of styrene, which were glued in place. I figured this would be enough to give that 3D effect without wasting too much styrene on something you'll hardly ever see. The resin seat was a real pain to put together and required quite a bit of changing to get it to fit eventually. A combination of resin, styrene rods and kit parts are used to achieve this.

Next up was spraying all the various bits for the cockpit with RAF Interior Green. I discovered an old pot of Humbrol Enamel 226 which is actually Interior Green, but found it too dark. I mixed it with Humbrol Enamel 34 white until I was happy with the colour before spraying everything with it (I used the usual Mr. Surfacer as a primer). Once dry I hand-painted all the small parts with various buffable colours (I like the metallic effect, not actually planning on buffing them) and anthracite black by Revell Enamel 9. Just before calling the cockpit done and ready for weathering and decals, I noticed the aft bit of the aircraft is supposed to be bare metal. So out with the Mr. Metal Color again to correct the mistake and make it all look nice and shiny back there.

Now that the base colours are all in place, I used the special RAF WW2 aircraft decals by Airscale to bring the cockpit to life. Again using the photos, I searched for similar looking labels and added them to various places. I must admit a bit of an artistic license was used here, too. With this job done, I weathered it all and made it look like a well-used aircraft. The instrument panel was painted and lightly dry-brushed with metallic paint to highlight the instruments before gluing this in place.