Aircraft Completed Builds

Hobbyboss’ 1/48 F8F-2 Bearcat: Weather It’s Finished Or Not

Most of the time when I start a new project, there’s a certain level of enthusiasm. It may be for the subject, or for the paint scheme, or perhaps simply the fun of doing it. Most of the time, that enthusiasm carries right through to the end. (Except for Special Hobby kits… to paraphrase Mojo Nixon, “Special Hobby has no Elvis in it.” How’s that for a media reference…? 😉 )

This model, however, lost a bit of shine towards the end. 

There’s no problem with the kit, none at all. It’s a great little build, with no real vices to speak of. Only a little seam clean up is needed, and the fit is very good. It’s what I call a “Tami” kit. Almost Tamiya. 

But the problem I ran into was… well, I’ll get to it.

😉 

As noted in a previous blog entry, the interior builds up into a nice little unit. All that is needed is some Zinc Chromate Green, (yes I know that does not actually exist… go back to eating your nachos), some black, a few dots of colors, and if you like, some aftermarket seat belts. I used an Eduard color set that was actually designed for the F2H-2 Banshee. All the interior bits – cockpit and inner gear well area – fits nicely into the fuselage halves. A bit of Mr. Surfacer was needed to address the seams, but only to properly cover up the joins.

The upper and lower wing parts go together nicely, and set into the fuselage with no trouble. Again, a bit of Mr. Surfacer was used to smooth the join. I didn’t try and actually fair it in, though. I simply painted on the Mr. Surfacer in somewhat thick fashion, and gave it half an hour to dry a bit. I then grabbed Mr. Cotton Bud and Mr. Isopropyl Alcohol, and cleaned off the excess, leaving a nice join without any sanding marks.

The engine is a bit simplistic, but because it sets back a bit in the cowl, and the cowl opening itself is rather small, I didn’t worry about doing much more than painting, washing, and drybrushing the unit as-is. The tailplanes fit nicely with little adjustment needed. The forward windscreen was masked and glued on, some masking material applied to the various places I didn’t want painted, and the airframe was ready for priming.

The whole thing was primed in Badger’s Stynylrez Gray Primer, and a coat of Model Master Acryl Dark Sea Blue was applied. As I’d noted previously, this is certainly not my go to brand of paint, but as it was the best color I had at hand, I went with it. I initially did a bit of fading to try and break up the monotone look, planning to do more after adding decals.

For the decals, I went with Starfighter Decals’ F8F-2 Bearcats set. Though the markings I wanted to use were included in the box, the Starfighter set’s colors looked a bit better. Plus, I’ve used them before, and as they are made by Cartograph, I knew they would be excellent. And I was not disappointed! They went on nicely over the previously glossed surface, and settled in perfectly with Solvaset. 

Once the decals were on, I applied a final gloss coat (Future, of course!), and prepared for the weathering.

It was at this point I lost a bit of my steam. More than a bit to be honest.

I’d been examining reference photos for Bearcats, to get a feel for how the paint weathered. Photos of the F8Fs the French used in Indochina showed they could get remarkably beat up. All those who say that the dark sea blue “rarely weathered” never took a look at those photos. But the USN birds were well maintained, so most photos show fairly clean aircraft, with at most some general scuffs and scrapes here and there. I found a photo that showed what I thought was the most excessive chipping on a USN bird I could find, and used that as an example. 

But try as I might, I’ve never been able to capture the way that dark blue color weathers. It is glossy, but after some use, it gets a somewhat satin sheen to it. In places, it’s fairly matte. And while it does hold color very well, it’s not completely monotone. And of course, I’ve always felt that my job as a modeler is to not so much mimic reality, but rather to “trick” the brain into briefly forgetting that what it is seeing is not really a plastic toy. (Check out my “Mick Foley Theory of Suspended Disbelief“.) So ultra realism is not my goal. Making the viewer think it looks “just right” is.

I’ve read articles, watched videos, and questioned other modelers. Yet I’ve not felt I found a way that to my eye cracks the acorn on how to properly do a good USN dark sea blue finish. Thus, the end result you see is (in my mind) more of another failed experiment. But I’m OK with that… I now have learned another way to NOT do it. 🙂

I first tried some various panel lines washes- light gray, light browns, even a light blue. I like the look of panel lines standing out a bit, yet against this blue, none suited my taste. I actually left it with several different styles, randomly applied across the model.

Paint chipping was done via the sponge method, using Citadel’s Leadbelcher. Weathering on the wing walk strips was accomplished with a light gray artist’s pencil.

Still not sure what I wanted to do to break up the blue monotony, I began further experiments with light blue colors, and some light tans, to suggest panel separation without invoking the “quilt effect” – easy to do on this type of finish. While it did partially get to where I wanted, the vision I had in my head was not realized.

Ultimately, my steam ran out. I knew if I applied to much more, the chances of being pushed into the comical realm was a bit high. And I wasn’t unhappy with the overall look of the model. It just did not represent what I’d hoped for in terms of final finish.

So I bailed on it. I added the gear, some exhaust stains, a satin varnish coat, and then applied some streaks of matt varnish here and there. 

The finished Bearcat is not a bad result by any stretch, I think. Yet it shows how much work still can be done on this type of finish. I need to keep working to find the right combination of effects to make the vision in my brain a reality in plastic. (Minus the monkeys and llamas running about in there… 😉 )

If you’re looking for a fun kit, I can highly recommend this one. It’s not the least bit fiddly, fits well, and out of the box produces a very nice result.

And if you have some ideas for how to make these Dark Sea Blue birds pop, let me know!

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