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Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I

by Brett Green


Supermarine Spitfire Mk.I
92 Squadron RAF Pembry, Flt. Lt. Robert Stanford-Tuck, 24 May 1940


Cutting Edge's Spitfire cockpit and Black Magic Masks
are available online from
Meteor Productions




Released in 1993, Tamiya’s 1/48 scale Spitfire Mk.I was the spearhead for Tamiya’s second-generation of aircraft models. This kit was a revelation at the time in terms of fit, detail and surface features. Ten years after its initial release, Tamiya’s Spitfire Mk.I is still a great little kit.

The model comprises around 50 parts laid out on two sprues of grey plastic and one of clear.

Tamiya 1/48 Scale Spitfire Mk.I Highpoints
  • Excellent overall fit.

  • Clever and thoughtful engineering.

  • Attractive and crisp surface features, including recessed panel lines.

  • Very easy to build.

  • Good level of detail.

Nit Picks
  • Some questions about exact accuracy of semi-elliptical wing shape and width of fuselage

Options include alternate canopies, windscreens and separate pilot’s entry door. The engineering of the kit ensures warp-free alignment of the fuselage, and excellent fit between the main components at the wing root and lower fuselage. Surface detail is by way of crisply engraved panel lines and recessed holes representing rivets and fasteners.

Interior detail is not bad. Tamiya have attempted to depict the “floorless” cockpit. Dials on the instrument panel are flat discs. The modeller can choose to paint these or apply instrument decals.

There have been some questions raised about the exact shape of the semi-elliptical wing and the thickness of the fuselage, but even so the model captures the lines of the early Spitfire very well.





Tamiya’s 1/48 scale Spitfire was one of the first models to be dubbed “shake and bake”. Many modellers claim that this kit is so good that it virtually builds itself.

They are just about right. Tamiya’s Spitfire is almost completely viceless.



The small parts count does not compromise detail, but certainly speeds construction. Clever engineering ensures a gap free fit and perfect alignment of tricky aspects such as the wing dihedral and angle of the gear legs. The fit of many parts (including the undercarriage gear) is so good that glue hardly seems necessary. In fact, I did not bother to use cement after dry fitting exhausts and wheels.

The focus of this article will therefore be the additions and modifications that I made to the kit.


Cutting Edge Cockpit

Tamiya’s cockpit is good, but the Cutting Edge cockpit, based on the earlier Teknics set, is excellent.

Cutting Edge’s 1/48 scale resin cockpit for the Spitfire Mk. I/II comprises 20 pieces of medium grey resin and a single sheet of acetate dials for the instrument panel. The resin is well cast and crisply detailed.

Some of the casting blocks are quite stout, so a razor saw and some course sandpaper will be helpful. This is especially the case for the fuselage sidewalls.

Cutting Edge's Spitfire cockpit totally replaces the kit parts. There are new lower sidewalls, floor, a seat with moulded-on harness bulkheads and frames, instrument panel and compass, rudder pedals and control rod sections, cockpit door and control column. The detail on the sidewalls alone makes this accessory worthwhile.


As usual, Cutting Edge offers the option of a painted instrument panel or an acetate sandwich.

Another nice touch is that the cast-on Sutton Harness has a small section of the belt protruding above the seat to permit it to be fed through the slot in the seat bulkhead.

The lower sidewalls are chunky pieces of resin with substantial casting blocks. I removed the casting blocks with a Tamiya Razor Saw. I then further trimmed and undercut the piece with a sharp hobby knife. This additional trimming is absolutely essential to obtain a good fit between the lower wing and the fuselage after the resin parts have been added.

The rear of each sidewall features indentations that correspond to details on the kit lower sidewalls.

I was a little skeptical when I read in the instructions that these big resin castings would simply snap over the top of the kit sidewalls without the need to remove the raised detail. However, that is exactly how it worked.

I also fitted the cockpit floor to the lower wing as instructed. The fit was almost snap-tight.

When I offered the lower wing to the taped-together fuselage halves, I found that I had to trim more resin away from the bottom of the sidewalls. After a few minutes of scraping, a perfect join was obtained.


Painting the Cockpit

The Spitfire's cockpit is quite exposed, especially with the pilot's access door open. A thorough paint job will be clearly visible on the completed model, and will also show off the great detail of the Cutting Edge cockpit.

I started by spraying a base coat of flat black on all cockpit components. Polly Scale British Interior Gray Green was then sprayed at a consistent downward angle (on vertical surfaces) so that naturally lit areas received a good coat of colour, but the natural shadow areas remained black.

Spitfire seats were made of bakelite, and were generally left unpainted. Tamiya Hull Red was used for this colour. The harness was painted Buff, with buckles in Silver.

When dry, the components were washed with a thin mix of black oil paint. Details were then picked out using Tamiya Acrylics.

When the instrument panel was dry, the acetate instruments were sandwiched between the resin parts.



More Construction

The remaining construction was very fast and straightforward. The major sub-assemblies were glued together. The resin cockpit did not have any adverse impact on the excellent fit of the kit.



The only other major noticeable deviation from the kit was replacing Tamiya’s propeller assembly with a resin item from Ultracast.

The caramel-coloured tailplane in the photo is from the Tamiya Spitfire Vb Tropical kit. One of the horizontal tailplanes in my Mk.I kit was broken, so I raided this compatible part from the Mk.V kit.



Painting and Markings


This model was almost ready for paint by June last year. While at the IPMS USA Nationals in July 2002, Paul Cotcher from Victory Productions showed me the artwork for the instructions of their forthcoming "Spitfire - Aces of the Empire" sheet with 41 options for the mounts of Aces from all corners of the British Commonwealth.

I was hooked.

Painting and finishing of my Tamiya Spitfire was promptly put on hold until the sheet was released. My set arrived early in May, and the final version lived up to the high expectations set by the draft artwork.



I decided to finish my model as an interesting Spitfire Mk.I flown by Flt. Lt. Robert Stanford-Tuck during the evacuation of Dunkirk on 24 May, 1940. This aircraft had non-standard "C" type roundels on the fuselage, with large Medium Sea Grey codes and lower surfaces split between black and white.



Photos of mid to late-war Spitfires show significant variation in the demarcation of upper surface camouflage colours. Some aircraft have razor sharp edges between the colours, and some are a very soft blending. These variations may have to do with different applications in the factory, field repainting and/or weathering.

However, Spitfire camouflage colours in the first year of the Second World War seemed to feature a consistently hard edge.

I therefore decided to use Cutting Edge's Black Magic Mask set for the early Spitfire "B" camouflage scheme. Although the set is labelled for the Mk.V, it is also relevant to the Mk.I and Mk.II.

First, however, I sprayed the panel lines black. This technique is called pre-shading, and is intended to retain a subtle hint of a darker shade along structural features and in shadowy areas after the camouflage paint has been applied.

Next, Flat White was sprayed under the starboard wing and the fuselage. The lower fuselage was then masked along the centre line and the remainder of the bottom of the aircraft was painted with a 50:50 mix of Flat Black and Red Brown. This mix actually looks like black, but permits additional shading and weathering in black. Also, it is not as unrealistically stark as 100% black can appear when applied to a large area - especially adjacent to white!

The camouflage demarcation on the lower cowl and fuselage was masked with narrow strips of Tamiya tape before a coat of Polly Scale RAF Dark Earth was applied to the upper surfaces. This is my favorite choice for this elusive colour. The Dark Earth was "thinned" with Polly Scale Gloss Clear. In addition to improving the performance of this sometimes temperamental paint in the airbrush, the Gloss Clear method gives the paint a decal-ready sheen.

I also like Polly Scale paints in general because, unlike some other acrylics, they dry rock hard and resist wearing off (eg at the edges of wings and other oft-handled areas); and they do not show fingerprints. To speed the hardening process, I use a hairdryer set on low heat for a few minutes between coats.

Next, I masked around control surfaces and a few random panels, then sprayed them with a lightened shade of Dark Earth (mixed with Polly Scale Middle Stone).

Before applying the Black Magic camouflage masks, I made a few minor adjustments to the black vinyl with a sharp hobby knife. I thought that the pattern was a little too "busy" in some areas, so I smoothed out some of the curves with some selective trimming.

One of the advantages of having a large forehead is that it is a useful surface to reduce the tack of masking sheets! After peeling each mask off the sheet, I pressed them against my forehead and then applied the less-sticky vinyl direct on the model. The masks fitted very well.

RAF Dark Green was sprayed between the masks to complete the camouflage pattern.

With the painting finished, the Black Magic masks were peeled off the model and stuck back onto their original sheet. These masks can be re-used. In fact, I think they are actually better the second time as they are less tacky than when they are new.

Black Magic masks were also used on the canopy. I painted the oval vent/window outline Interior Grey Green, but next time I will simply spray this area with flat varnish for a more subtle result.


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Lower surfaces have been painted black and white, and are masked in preparation for the upper surface paint job.

The entire upper surface has been painted with Polly Scale acrylic RAF Dark Earth. A lighter shade has been applied to control surfaces & some panels.

Black Magic masks were also used to assist painting the canopy.

Black Magic masks are now in place waiting for the Dark Green

The basic camouflage scheme is complete!



The upper surface of the model was already glossy, so I simply applied a quick coat of Testor Metalizer Sealer to areas on the bottom of the wings that were destined to wear roundels.

Victory Productions decals performed beautifully on application. I used Micro Set and Micro Sol, and the markings responded by obediently sucking into the panel lines.

An overall coat of Polly Scale Flat Clear sealed the paint and decals.


Weathering and Finishing Touches

Weathering was kept light on my Spitfire. I applied an exhaust streak to each fuselage side with a thinned mix of brown and black using the Aztek airbrush, followed by a breath of light grey over the top.

Lower surfaces received a slightly heavier application of black streaks, representing the typical oil and grime seen on the bottom of Spitfires. I lightened this mix with grey for the black half of the fuselage and wing.

Wing walkways were "chipped" with a silver artist's pencil.

Early Spitfires had aerial wires running from the middle of the fuselage to the tips of the horizontal tailplanes in addition to the mast-mounted wire and lead-in. These were added using smoke-coloured monofilament (invisible mending thread).



Navigation lights on the wingtips were first painted with a spot of white, followed by Clear Red (on the port side) and Clear Green (for starboard).





Summary of Modelling Resources and Modifications
  • Tamiya kit number 61032 - Spitfire Mk.I

  • Cutting Edge CEC48329 Spitfire Mk. I resin replacement cockpit

  • Ultracast UC48112 de Havilland Spinner and Prop

  • Black Magic™ CEBM48316 Spitfire Mk.I to Mk.V Camouflage Masks ("B" Scheme)

  • Black Magic™ CEBM48180 Spitfire Mk.V Canopy/Wheel Hub Masks

  • Victory Productions' VAPD48006 Spitfire: Aces of the Empire

  • Monofilament (invisible mending thread) for antenna rigging

  • Polly Scale Acrylic Paints:

    • RAF Dark Earth; RAF Dark Green; British Interior Grey Green; Flat Clear.

Tamiya's Spitfire Mk.I is a great kit straight from the box for the beginner; but still offers plenty of potential for extra detailing for more ambitious modellers.

The Cutting Edge cockpit adds very useful detail to the very visible cockpit.

The Victory Productions decals were excellent too - and only another 40 Spitfire options on the sheet to choose from after this one!






Thanks to:



Additional Images


Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

Model, Images and Text Copyright © 2003 by Brett Green
Page Created 04 June, 2003
Last Updated 17 March, 2004

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