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Tamiya's 1/48 scale
F4U-1A Corsair

Part Two - Painting and Finishing

by Tony Bell


Chance-Vought F4U-1A Corsair


Tamiya's 1/48 scale F4U-1A Corsair is available online from Squadron


Painting and Markings


Continued from Part One


After washing the model with dish detergent and letting it dry over night, I sprayed the canopy frames black and then primed the model with an airbrushed coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000 cut 50/50 with lacquer thinner. As usual, this revealed several small booboos - file marks, scribing slips, missed seams, etc. - which were fixed and spot primed. I then pre-shaded the panel lines by airbrushing them with Tamiya semi-gloss black thinned 80% with pure rubbing alcohol.

The underside white was a 50/50 mix of gloss and flat Tamiya white. The intermediate blue was Tamiya XF-18 Medium Blue mixed with about white, while the non-specular sea blue was mixed from equal parts XF-17 Sea Blue and XF-8 Flat Blue, with a bit of XF-53 Neutral Grey and XF-62 Olive Drab mixed in. Both of these mixtures were given a dollop of Future to give them an eggshell sheen and avoid the almost chalky texture that Tamiya paints tend to take on when thinned with alcohol and misted on in light coats.

I free hand airbrushed the colours, working from light to dark. The paints were thinned about 75% with rubbing alcohol and sprayed in light coats to gradually build up the colour density until the pre-shading just barely peeked through trying to strike just the right balance between heavy-handed and a solid colour.


Next I mixed a lighter and a darker shade of each of the blues by adding white or XF-17 Sea Blue, respectively. I thinned these about 95% with alcohol and sprayed random patterns at low pressure, keeping the lighter shades generally more towards the middles of the panels and spraying the darker shades more along the panel lines. I then mixed a dark brownish grey shade of paint (the “schmutz” shade, as I like to call it), again with Tamiya acrylics, thinned it 95% with alcohol and sprayed random patterns around the areas where grime would accumulate, such as the wing roots, the ammo bay covers, engine panels, etc.

Decals and Weathering

To prepare the surface for decals, I airbrushed the entire model with Future cut about 15% with Tamiya thinner. I find that doing so vastly improves the evenness of the coverage and avoids the pooling/fisheye effect that I sometimes get with Future.

Being the iconoclast that I am, I decided to do Lt Ira Kepford’s VF-17 aircraft, because hey, you just never see it on the contest tables. That’s sarcasm, in case you missed it. Actually, I chose Kepford’s mount for the same reason that most people probably do: the cool Jolly Rogers emblem on the cowl and the big block of kill markings. That and the fact that there exist several clear photographs of the aircraft from different angles, making it easy to get the painting and weathering just right.

The markings came from the Sky Model sheet number 48042, which includes markings for approximately five hundred Corsairs (thirty four, actually). The decals are printed by Cartograf, and consequently feature perfect registration, excellent colour density and thin carrier film. Unfortunately the Stars ‘n Bars national insignia are useless as the Bars are ill-proportioned. It appears as if they are centred on the circle, whereas they should actually be thinner and slightly offset towards the top. The other issue I discovered was that although the photos of Kepford’s aircraft clearly show kill markings on both sides, the sheet only includes one decal. Fortunately there are plenty of miniature Japanese flags on the sheet, so I was able to piece together a second 4X4 scoreboard for the other side.


The Sky Model decals went on without a hitch, responding well to Solvaset and conforming nicely to the details. I took a chance and decided to use the Tamiya national insignia, in spite of their apparent thickness on the sheet. I have to say I was pleasantly surprised with them as they worked very well with Gunze Mr. Mark Softener and a few sparing applications of Solvaset along the panel lines. I take back the bad things I’ve said about Tamiya decals all these years.

Once all the decals were on and had dried for a couple of days I sealed them in with another coat of Future and applied a “schmutz” coloured wash of artist’s oil paints (Payne’s Grey and Burnt Umber) thinned with turpentine to the recessed panel lines and details. After the wash had dried for a few hours I wiped away the excess with a paper towel moistened with a small amount of clean turpentine. I then sealed everything in with an airbrushed coat Polly Scale clear flat thinned with distilled water and strained through a piece of old nylon pantyhose.

Using reference pictures as a guide, I drew the paint chipping on with a silver Prismacolor pencil. The great thing about this method is that if you make a mistake (like “chipping” the fabric wing panel - oops), you can simply wipe away the offending marks with a damp Q-tip. The chips were done by using Brett Green’s method of lightly and repeatedly tapping model with the pencil to build up the wear areas without them looking like scribbles. Another coat of Polly Scale clear flat sealed things in for the next steps.

The fuel stain on the fuselage was the same artist’s oils “schmutz” wash mixture which I had left out to evaporate over night. I applied it with a soft No. 6 sable brush and touched it up with another clean brush dipped in mineral spirits. The wings were dirtied up with a 50/50 mix of MiG Pigments Europe Dust and Light Dust applied dry and fixed in place by jabbing at them with a soft brush moistened with mineral spirits. After I finished with the MiGs, I went back and added a few more “fresh” paint chips with the coloured pencil.

Once the topside weathering was all done I gently ran a new X-acto blade around the masks to break the paint and removed the canopy masks. This is always one of my favourite tasks as the model really starts to look finished at that point. In many close up photos of the Corsair canopy I’ve noticed a light coloured seal around the windscreen Perspex panels, which I attempted to duplicate with very thin strips of white decal stock. Man, what a pain in the butt. It took me two or three attempts at each strip, as each time the strip would either break or curl up on itself. To top it all off, I don’t like the look of it at all; it’s far too pronounced for my tastes. To tone it down a bit I mixed up a medium grey wash of Citadel acrylics (“Chaos Black” and “Skull White”) and carefully applied several filters to the seals with a fine pointed brush. Better, but still less than perfect.


The underside was weathered with dabs of oil paint streaked back with a paintbrush slightly moistened with thinner, and exhaust stains were airbrushed on with highly diluted Tamiya - you guessed it - “schmutz”.



Finishing Touches


The IFF lights under the port wing were first painted silver, followed by clear red (Gunze), clear green (Tamiya) and amber (Gunze clear red plus clear yellow). The wingtip position lights and the blue formation lights on top of the wing were painted likewise, while the landing light recess was painted silver and the clear lens fixed in place with Future.


The landing gear doors were first “pre-washed” with a mix of Future and India ink and then painted Tamiya flat white with Future and thinned with alcohol, allowing the shading to peek through. I then dry brushed them with white artist’s oils and airbrushed some streaks with the heavily thinned Tamiya schmutz colour.

After priming the landing gear legs and wheel hubs with Future, I sprayed them with Alclad II aluminum and picked out the details with a wash of Polly Scale semi-gloss and India ink. The tires were brush painted with Aeromaster tire black and the treads were airbrushed with a light dusting of heavily thinned Tamiya buff. I attached the gear legs and wheels with five minute epoxy and carefully aligned everything before the glue set.

Now, in pictures of Kepford’s aircraft in flight the bases of the blades look to be the same colour as the hub, but I believe this is an artefact of motion blur. There is another photo of VF-17 pilot "Bitz" Bitzegaio standing in front of his aircraft, in which the hub is clearly depicted and the bases of the blades are clearly natural metal. I extrapolated this to Kepford's mount and painted the prop accordingly. The Hamilton Standard logo decals came from a spare Aeromaster sheet and the paint chips were drawn on using the Prismacolour silver pencil. The detail on the hub was picked out by brush painting it with a mix of Polly Scale flat and ink.

One more note about the propeller. Although VF-17 flew the -1A Corsair at the time the pictures were taken, the aircraft actually had the later -1D style of props fitted. These props were smaller in diameter and broader in chord than the ones used on the -1A. I could have raided my Tamiya -1D kit for the prop or I could have replaced it with the correct resin prop from Ultracast, but in the end I chose the simple (OK, lazy) route and stuck with the inaccurate -1A prop.

The tape over the gun ports and around the fuel tank was made from strips cut from a piece of cigarette paper that had been airbrushed off white and attached with diluted white carpenter’s glue.


The final detail to be added was the antenna. Referring again to pictures of the real thing to get the configuration correct, I made the antenna wire from monofilament nylon thread brush painted with Humbrol Metalcote steel thinned a bit with lacquer thinner and fixed it in place with superglue. The insulator is a small section of styrene tubing heated over a candle and stretched like sprue.





Due to the complicated nature of the foldable wings, this model wasn’t quite as much a shake ‘n bake as other Tamiya kits have been for me in the past. It is, however, still a Tamiya kit with all that implies. It can be built up into a very respectable model straight from the box, and yet there are heaps of aftermarket accessories out there for those who are so inclined.

Although very well printed, the quality of the Sky Model decals was diminished somewhat by the inaccurate national insignia and the lack of kill markings for both sides of the aircraft.


Additional Images


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Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2006 by Tony Bell
Page Created 14 July, 2006
Last Updated 13 July, 2006

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