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Junior Modelling
Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3

by Charlotte Green


images and text by Brett Green

Tamiya's 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 is available online from Squadron




My 11 year old daughter, Charlotte, had a school project on Aerodynamics this term. As part of this project she had to build a plastic model aeroplane.

Charlotte had built a plastic dinosaur some years ago, but this would be her first ever aircraft scale model.

I wanted to suggest a kit that she could build and paint mostly on her own, with only occasional hands-on assistance from me. Not surprisingly, my thoughts turned toward Tamiya.

My first preference, Tamiya's 1/48 scale Spitfire, is not available in Sydney model shops at the moment but their 1/48 scale Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3 is on the shelves. Charlotte said that she liked the look of the kit, so we made the purchase and headed home.

I was amused when Charlotte wanted to tear off the shrinkwrap and check out the kit in the car on the way home. That's my girl!



Once we were home, I offered Charlotte a choice from a large range of after-market decals. To my surprise, she selected a subject in Spanish Civil War markings.from Cutting Edge's new sheet "Bf 109E The Augsburg Zoo", finished in overall RLM 71 Dark Green upper surfaces.

The real appeal of this subject was, to quote Charlotte, the "evil Mickey Mouse" on the fuselage side. Intentionally or otherwise, she also managed to choose one of the simplest schemes ever to adorn a Bf 109 - a sensible selection for a first modelling effort





Now that we had the kit and markings, we could start building.

I cleared a space on my workbench and supplied Charlotte with a basic set of tools. These were:

  • Sprue cutters

  • Hobby knife

  • Emery board (sanding stick)

  • Small scissors

  • Tweezers

  • Revell polystyrene cement with needle applicator

  • Tamiya Extra Thin Liquid Cement

  • Super glue

  • Tamiya Masking Tape

  • Plastic clamps

  • Two paint brushes (one fine, one medium)

  • Paints (RLM 02 Grey, RLM 65 Light Blue, RLM 71 Dark Green, Flat Black, Gloss Black; Red Brown, Flat Yellow, Flat White)

  • A water filled jar (for rinsing paint brushes)

  • A shallow dish filled with water (for decals)

  • Decal setting solution

Charlotte first pre-painted cockpit, undercarriage, wheels, hubs, propeller and interior components. I pointed out the parts on the instruction sheets and marked the sprues adjacent to the pieces to be painted. Charlotte used a medium paintbrush (No.2 Synthetic) to coat these parts.

Next came a demonstration of removing parts. I showed how to cut the plastic pieces close as close as possible to the part using the sprue cutter to minimise further cleanup. When parts were removed from the sprue, Charlotte tidied up any remaining sprue connector with a hobby knife and sanding stick.

When the cockpit parts were ready for assembly, Charlotte applied the dial decals to the instrument panel. Setting solution was lavished on the decals once they were applied to help it conform to the raised dials and switches. The results were quite good.

There were only a few areas where Charlotte needed help on basic construction. The interior of the oil cooler proved to be a bit tricky, and I also checked that all major parts were free of sprue or flash before the main components were assembled.

Charlotte now clamped the fuselage halves together and I showed her how to flow Tamiya Extra Thin Liquid Cement into the top and bottom joins. The beauty of this cement is that even if it does get on the surface of the model (and it did), it can be easily removed with light sanding. Charlotte got the hang of it by the time the fuselage was secured.

The wings were glued using conventional Revell cement, then clamped. After allowing these sub-assemblies to dry for a few minutes, the wings were mated to the fuselage and glued with the liquid cement.

Horizontal tailplanes, flaps and slats were added, but the rudder and small details were not glued into place yet. One of the few mistakes that Charlotte made was to cut the bottom off the tailplane reinforcement struts. We simply glued the strut slightly higher on the empennage to avoid a more complicated remedy.

We had spent a total of around 3 hours on the model to date. Remarkably, not a single gap was to be seen anywhere on the assembled airframe.



Painting and Markings


Next afternoon I brought out the Aztek airbrush and gave Charlotte a spraying demonstration on some scrap paper. She took over and quickly picked up the technique.

I really did show her how to operate the trigger conventionally with the index finger, but she seemed to prefer my weird method of cupping the airbrush in the hand and operating the trigger with the thumb.

Several people have unkindly suggested that it looks more like I am going to stab something rather than paint it when I am using this grip.



I mixed the paint and thinner in the paint cup and then Charlotte commenced the paint job by spraying the wing tips and rudder white. I painted the spinner yellow (because, for whatever reason, yellow is a pain to spray); while Charlotte masked the newly painted wingtips with Tamiya tape. She painted the bottom of the airframe light blue before I showed her how to mask the demarcation on the lower fuselage - I did one side then she finished the other. The cockpit and lower tailplanes were also masked before Charlotte sprayed the top and sides of the model in two thin coats of RLM 71 Dark Green.

Her paint coverage was very even and opaque with no lumps or runs - terrific for a first airbrushing attempt. I simply gave the leading edges of the wings a squirt where the paint was a little thin.



Decals were sourced from Cutting Edge's recent 1/48 scale release "The Augsburg Zoo", CED48215, with four subjects featuring different animals. The decals were in perfect register and performed extremely well.

I initially demonstrated decalling technique by brushing on some Micro Set and applying the first couple of markings, then left Charlotte to carry on with the job. Even though she lifted one of the bigger decals after it was applied, it settled down again under a further coat of Micro Set.


Finishing Touches

We used True Details Fast Frames as a quick and neat alternative to painting the canopy frames. The set was designed for the Tamiya Bf 109E-4 so the frames did not really match the canopy layout of the earlier E-3 variant, but it looks okay from a distance!

The model was destined to be transported to school so I thought we should leave off mass balances and the pitot tube. We can add these delicate items when the plane comes home again.

I sealed the paint and decals with a coat of Polly Scale Flat Clear and glued the canopy in place with watch makers' cement. With the addition of the previously painted rudder, undercarriage and exhaust parts, the model was now ready for Charlotte to take to school.





I think the results of this project are a great credit to both Charlotte and to Tamiya. All the parts are well aligned, there are no gaps and Charlotte did 90% of the work herself.

It was also a quick build. We spent no more than 7 hours on the entire construction and painting of the model.



With her interests in drama and music, I do not expect my daughter to take up plastic modelling as a long term interest, but it was fun to share some time building Tamiya's Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3.


Model by Charlotte Green
Images and Text Copyright 2003 by Brett Green
Page Created 18 September, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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