Over the last few years, Eduard and Tamiya have really stood head and shoulders over other aircraft manufacturers. While there are certainly quite a few others releasing high quality kits, those two seem to be the ones to be chased.
Still, it’s interesting to note the differences in the approach each takes.
Tamiya tends to put a strong focus on ease of build and wonderful fit, yet maximizing very clever engineering to make sure that detail is not sacrificed.
Eduard, in my experience, seems to flip that around a bit. Their focus is on high detail and stunning production quality , but that sometimes means sacrificing ease of build.
In both cases, their kits are stunning, in terms of build experience and final result. Yet, if I could have my way, I’d rather every kit be in the Tamiya style.
The Eduard Dilemma
The problem I’ve had with Eduard is admittedly minor. When writing a critical editorial, it can be easy to oversell the critique, so I want to be very clear upfront – I like Eduard a lot. They put out high quality kits, engage the community, and really are good for the hobby overall. I build their stuff, and will continue to do so. They’re top of the line products.
And the castings they produce are simply the best in the industry. No one packs scale appropriate surface detail into kit parts like Eduard. While I believe Tamiya is capable of it, I think they deliberately choose a different course. (More on the why later…)
And Eduard has made great strides in the quality of their kits. The oldest kit of theirs I’ve built – the original Tempest from Eduard, was a decent kit, but obviously lacked finesse in many ways. Still , it was very buildable. I built three, in fact, and quite enjoyed them. Fast forward a few years to their P-39, and they’d made a very big jump in quality of casting. Their Fw-190, though a bit over engineered, was a further step.
But I think it was the release of their 1/48 Spitfire series in 2013 that really rocketed them ahead of most others. Aside from a few engineering decisions I questioned (that split cowl… ugh), it was a stunning kit. And their work since that time has only improved on that stellar effort.
So when they announced in December 2015 that a new Tempest would be forthcoming, I was quite excited. I’ve been looking forward to this kit for quite some time to say the least.
Every Rose Has Its Thorns
As I’ve made the pivot to building more genres, I’ve had less time to keep up with news from the modeling world, especially aircraft. So the release of the actual kit surprised me a bit – happily so. I immediately contacted my favorite hobby shop, Hayes Hobby House in Fayetteville, NC, and asked that one be ordered – along with Tamiya’s new Spitfire Mk. I, incidentally.
When it arrived, I eagerly examined the parts. As I’d expected, the casting was breathtaking. Photographing the recessed rivets makes it almost impossible to capture how fine they are. A camera overemphasizes the shadows, and makes them look deeper than they really are. They’re truly a whisper in depth. The aft fuselage had fine raised rivets, just as the real thing did. Though a bit out of scale, they demonstrated how wonderfully Eduard can squeeze out some plastic.
Yet I also felt a bit of a disturbance in the force. There were a lot of parts. The tiny framework parts of the cockpit sidewalls were so delicate that they were broken in multiple places. (I have checked with several others building the kit – all report similar breakage.) Many parts that other manufacturers would cast as engraved detail were keep separate. Though the beauty of the work was obvious, the sniff of the old Fw-190 over engineering was strong on this one.
Still, I love the Tempest, and I knew that in the end, this model would look good. Eduard knows their stuff.
Making Some Decisions
As is typical, the first release of a kit from Eduard is a ProfiPack, meaning it has photoetch, several decal options, and canopy masks. It makes for a very complete, though somewhat expensive, package. (Retail is about $60.)
Personally, I’m not a fan of photoetch. For one, it’s fiddly to work with. I’m not a fan of fiddly by any means. I like to move forward, steadily, enjoying the process. Removing tiny throttle levers I somehow managed to superglue to my forehead is not enjoying the process.
Another turn-off for me with regards to p/e is the pre-painted stuff. It looks fabulous, of course. But… stuffed into a cockpit of 3D parts that are hand painted just looks a bit odd to me. It may look realistic, but to my eye, it looks too realistic against the backdrop of the plastic parts. And on more than a few occasions, the stuff does not always fit well.
So the first thing I did was examine the kit to see how will it could be built apart from photoetch. Happily, Eduard provide most of the parts needed to build it sans p/e.
Except they did not document it. :/
Still, I moved forward.
I removed all the parts from the sprues for the interior areas – cockpit, air intake, and tailwheel well. A little fix it work was required to repair the parts damaged in the box. Because I was avoiding the p/e parts, I began by gluing together several subsections. The seat was built up, as was the rear firewall. A few bits were added into the fuselage sidewalls, and to the delicate framework parts. The criteria for what to glue – or not glue – was simply based on later ease of painting.
There are plastic rudder pedals that can be used in place of the p/e parts. Unfortunately, the connection for those parts to the rudder bar was a bare minimum. I resorted to the “Tamiya squoosh” method. Apply a load of Tamiya Extra Thin, squoosh the parts with tweezers, and hope it holds. The connection of the rudder bar to the cockpit floor was equally non-existent, so more glue was applied.
The forward air intake and rear wheel well parts were also put together, these going together rather easily.
Painting The Parts
Everything was primed with Badger’s Stynylrez Black primer. Next, a coat of Tamiya’s XF-71 was sprayed on to approximate the RAF’s interior green color. A touch of white was added to the mix, and some fading here and there was added in. Later, this same light shade was brushed on to a few areas for more highlighting.
Paint chipping was started using Vallejo’s Mecha Color Chipping Brown (69.035). This was applied with a fine sponge piece. I wanted it to be fairly high contrast, so the color worked well. A few more chips were added in hard to reach places using a mechanical pencil. Everything was then sealed with gloss coat.
For my wash/shade, I opted for Vallejo Weathering Effects Petrol Spills (73.817). Normally I would have used Citadel’s Nuln Oil Gloss, but a brief comparison showed both products looked identical. I’ll of course use up the Citadel shade I have left, but next resupply, it’s Vallejo all the way. At $1 less per bottle, and getting 14 more ml, it’s a no-brainer for me. 🙂
After the shading, I painted various black boxes, colored dials, and a few other colors scattered around the cockpit. More wash was applied, and a few stains dropped here and there completed the painting.
And then the real work began. And the frustration.
Growing A Third Arm
Assembly of the parts looked to be straight forward. Seat to rear firewall, floor to that, those delicate sidewalls next, and the front firewall to close it up. But…
Test fitting showed ALL of the mounting pins were slightly larger than their associated holes. The fix was easy, of course… I determined what drill bit fit cleanly, and went one size up from that. But drilling into those delicate side sections was nerve-wracking.
With that sorted out, I restarted the work. It was obvious that having a third hand an arm would have made the work easier, as not only must the spindly sidewalls be set in place, but a cross-bar for the compass. Then, adding the forward firewall requires more delicate balancing to get that set in place.
A small side panel must then be glued in place along the port side – again with very minimal mounting points , and then the instrument panel goes in afterwards.
Now, once it’s all glued together, it makes for a solid, good looking unit. But getting it all together was more than a bit frustrating.
Getting Things In The Fuselage
After allowing things to set a bit, I started test fitting all the parts into the fuselage. The cockpit unit has small alignment pins that allow it to be set in place easily. The tail wheel unit set perfectly in place also. The forward air intake required some sanding on either side of the widest part to get a good fit, however.
Overall, the fuselage was eventually glued together with a very good fit. Still, there is a seam line. And this is another area that I think Eduard hurts itself.
While all that superb cast in detail look awesome, it’s just about impossible to not lose some of it when closing up the seams, no matter how carefully glued and sanded. And while I know many IPMS-US card carriers will say “just restore the detail!”, I think that misses a point.
Most modelers aren’t low-number card carriers. Most want to build a cool model that goes together easily and is a lot of fun. the gorgeous casting is completely lost when sanded. And restoring rivet detail that is so fine is very difficult to do well. It’s certainly not a show stopper… but it doesn’t have to be.
Chasing A Tamiya Rabbit
I decided at this point to do a gut check. Grabbing Tamiya’s new tool Spitfire Mk. I from the shelf, I began to examine it. The parts count seemed less than half of Eduard’s, yet the detail was quite good. The instructions showed a very logical, modeler friendly assembly. In fact, I started nipping parts from the sprues, and in a very short time, had it together in logical subassemblies, ready for priming and paint. All in far, far less time than it took to get the Eduard kit to the same point.
And this brings me to the main point of this whole slightly rantish blog… Tamiya designs kits to be built. I think that distinction is critical. Certainly Eduard does not design theirs to be unbuildable. But the focus, as I mentioned earlier on, is so very apparent.
Which is why I think Eduard will be constantly chasing Tamiya. They’ve proven they can produce castings that are superior to anyone’s work – even Tamiya. They pack detail in like no one else dares to. Yet in this relentless pursuit, I think they lose a bit of buildability. Again – I don’t want to overstate the case. They’re not Special Hobby, which almost drove me from the hobby. (Darn IL-10!) Eduard’s kits go together, no doubt. But Tamiya stands head and shoulders above them when it comes to the build process. Eduard still misses that to a certain degree.
I wish they’d have a broader focus in terms of factoring in the build experience. I’ve always suspected that the most vocal people in the aircraft community are the minority – and the feedback I’ve received when I state that notion over the years has only made me believe it more. For every one fellow that talks of “modelers not assemblers” or “stay away from them if you can’t handle it”, there are ten that write and say “you nailed it.” And most also append that with “but I never speak up.”
Back On Track
Eventually, the fuselage dried, and I examined it. The seams are minimal. Some detail will be lost sorting them out. That’s just the way it is, I suppose. (Just like the Spitfire cowl I mentioned earlier…)
I started to sand things down, but decided it was best to perhaps set it aside for a few days, and focus on something else. While I was happy with the look of the interior, some of the shine of my enthusiasm had been removed. And if you’ve read this blog more than a few times, you know I’m all about fun.
I did try to test fit the insert that goes over the cockpit opening. The placement of certain interior parts, glued in during previous steps, caused problems. The part itself did not fit well either. I eventually sorted it out, but the decision to set the kit down and wait for it to return to the publish schedule in 2-3 weeks was fully affirmed.
A Hopefully Helpful List
Taking what I’ve learned, here are some pointers that I hope will help you if you decide to build the kit without the p/e, as I did.
- Plastic rudder pedals, and the small adjustment wheel, are available on the E sprue.
- It may be helpful to glue a small piece of rod in place to firmly mount the rudder bar to the cockpit floor.
- I recommend gluing the seat adjustment lever (E5) after placing the p/e belts in place. Otherwise it’s almost impossible to get the belt between the lever and the seat, and you’ll just have to put it over both. (As I now know… :/ )
- There are tiny plastic levers that can be glued in place of some of the p/e levers. Don’t use part E8 – those go on the wings. But there are 4 other parts that are shown as not used next to E8 that can be utilized as levers
- Sand the sides of the air intakes down for a good fit
- Do not glue in part E24 when shown in the instructions. Rather, I’d recommend waiting until after part F8 is added, much later in the build.
I really hate writing blog entries like this. Because my focus is always “have fun”, that is what I like the underlying theme to be about. And I suppose once this is all assembled, and I get to painting and weathering it, the fun will return. But I’d be missing the boat if I did not point out the difficulties I’ve had. In over 270 aircraft builds, this is one of the more fiddly cockpits I’ve built. It’s not top 10, certainly. But given the capabilities Eduard has, it’s a bit of a let down.
Of course, that brings me back to the bigger picture. Models are meant to be built. To be enjoyed. And certainly there will be folks who build this one that don’t have an experience anything like mine – I get that. So I’m certainly not saying “don’t buy this kit”. Just the opposite – do buy it. In terms of detail it’s simply one of the finest kits ever produced. And if you like Tempests, you’ll work through the bumps, just as I have.
I just wish that Eduard would choose a slightly different strategy of differentiation. It’s OK if they are not Tamiya. But I do think they still have something to learn from Tamiya.
Because if they ever solve the buildability issue, and maintain their amazing detail, they’ll be the top of the heap.
Either way… they’ll continue making kits. I’ll continue buying and building them. Despite the warts I’ve mentioned, the truth is, everyone else – aside from Tamiya – is chasing Eduard.