Don't Be Afraid of Raised Panel Lines
Heller's Me 262B Night Fighter in 1/72 Scale
Much has been written before on the web about the Messerschmitt Me 262, so if you don't know anything about this airplane, Google it!
Suffice to say that the two-seater Me 262B variant of the Messerschmitt's jet fighter was initially devised solely for conversion training purposes. About 120 machines of this variant were finished during 1944 and 1945. However, by the end of 1944 the war situation deteriorated so rapidly that it was realized that existing trainers would have to be impressed to service as interim model night fighters becoming Me 262B-1a/U1. Before the collapse of German defences, only a handful of this type reached operational use with a single unit, 10./NJG11 at Magdeburg.
I built this model way back in 1997 and consider it a milestone in my modelling education. It has been my first class winner in a contest, first attempt at weathering, first freehand airbrushing job and the first attempt to detail the entire model rather than the ever-obligatory cockpit. And today, a few years later, I blush when I look at it!
If you are serious about developing your modelling skills, it is amazing how they can improve with each project!
Whazzup, ya pick an old kit?
My grown-up return to the modelling hobby was initially largely driven by nostalgia. Unaware of the technology improvements available in modern kits, I have come about buying 1/72 kits that I previously wanted to build, but could not afford or find as a teenager. Thus I collected kits like Airfix Mosquito, Matchbox Bf 109E, and a bunch of Heller kits, this Me 262 among them.
Heller's Me 262 is an old kit, but like many items produced by this company around 1980, it was very accurate and detailed for the time. It was only ever released as a two-seater version (that was the time before the idea of multi-version moulds came about). I'm not sure it is currently available, but it should be easy to obtain.
Shape-wise, the Heller Me 262 it is every bit as good as the later Hasegawa and (particularly) Revell offerings. Even better, compared with the Hasegawa kit it has the correct-size engine pods (which are undernourished in the Japanese kit) and it lacks a banana-shaped nose of the Revell offering. Yes, it has raised panel lines but I personally don't think raised panel lines are evil - if you treat them to a more subtle finish as I did.
In the cockpit, I have used several details from Eduard's photoetched set for the Me 262 night fighter, including the instrument panels, side consoles, pedals, radar boxes, handles and so on. The new crew seats were scratchbuilt and equipped with Eduard seatbelts.
Although these were the days before I even heard about kits that fit without any filler, I recall that filling on this beast was limited to the underside wing-to-fuselage joint and a few easy joints on top of the engine nacelles. The all-important upper wing fillet didn't require any filling or sanding.
The wings were given the usual thinning of the trailing edges. Also, contour lines lines of all control surfaces - flaps, slats and ailerons - were rescribed.
Following the painting, I went about adding an array of external details. For the radar antennae, Eduard photoetched parts were used. in retrospect they were way too flimsy - they bent at the slightest touch, not a good thing if you plan to keep your completed model and occasionally move it around! Other extra details were extra tank braces, tail warning radar, D/F loop, antenna mast and so on. Undercarriage covers and wheel hubs were also Eudard items, but the interior detail of wheel wells was scratchbuilt.
The canopy was the original Heller item and therefore quite thick. However, I found that fine-polishing inside and out can make wonders even to the crudest Airfix and Heller transparencies. No Future necessary! Several people that I have shown the model to could not believe that this wasn't a vacuformed replacement.
On the inside of the canopy, I added some interior framing and canvas blinds for the radar operator, made from blobs of Parafilm M.
The model represents "red 12" of 10./NJG11, also featured on the kit's decal sheet. It was probably flown by Kurt Lang during the last few days of the war. I only know one photo of this aircraft taken on the ground from around 10 o´clock, which does not show upper surfaces of the wings. Curiously, most of today's literature depicts this aircraft with solid camouflage rather than mottle on its upper wings. I don't know how believable this interpretation is, suffice to say that it wasn't yet conceived when I went about painting this model! I followed the traditional Luftwaffe nocturnal scheme of RLM 75 mottled over RLM 76.
Painting was done with Humbrol & Extracolour enamels applied by airbrush. Freehand application of mottled RLM 75 was quite successful, but I wasn't too happy about the grainy overspray which always seemed to found its way to areas outside the grey spots. Rather than re-applying the finish, I opted for gently polishing the surfaces with cotton cloth and polishing compound. This method is quite effective in removing oversprays and also produces nice soft colour demarcations on camouflaged aircraft. You also end up with a silky semi-matt finish, good for decal application and utterly realistic for many German aircraft of the period.
I used Heller's decals used for numbers, but the white outline was out of register so it had to be trimmed. The national insignia decals come from other sources, read the spares box.
Lastly a word about visible spots of bare metal. I chose to display a worn finish with abundant areas of worn pain - at the wing roots, on the engine nacelles, service access hatches and so on. The effect was achieved as follows. Prior to painting, I have covered a selection of panels with Bare Metal Foil. It is not really necessary to cover much of the airframe with foil, so you can avoid all cumbersome surfaces such as wing edges or double-curved panels. Just concentrate on spots where paint chipping was more likely to appear, such as cockpit access, opening covers and so on. Remember to mark the metalized panels on some drawing, otherwise you may easily forget where they were once the model is painted. Then paint the model as usual.
After the paint finish was ready, the paint was gently scrapped and rubbed away from metal panels with wooden chisel made from a match. It had to be used gently in order not to damage the foil, but otherwise the work was quite straightforward.
As mentioned before, the paint finish was also polished, and it resulted in two additional effects. First, during polishing a tiny amount of metal particles from the exposed chipped areas were rubbed into other, painted areas of the model which resulted in an excellent metal "feel" to the entire surface. Secondly, rubbing the raised panel lines caused the paint to disappear from the lines themselves, exposing the Bare Metal Foil or dark primer coat underneath. One may argue that the effect is not strictly realistic in that paint chipping didn't usually occur on riveted panel joints, but it looked very convincing, and that is all that model finishing is about!
The weathering was done with my then-favourite method of shading the selected panel lines with textile marker pen.
Building this model today, there are a lot of things I would have done differently, but I still like it very much. It's like an old school mate.