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"Some thoughts about 1/144 gashopon planes as gaming models" Topic


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Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 9:54 p.m. PST

My CY6 group settled on 1/144 planes for dogfight gaming years ago, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was the availability of really nice looking pre-painted models. Assemble, glue, play!

It turns out that in my hands, gashopon planes are about equivalent in time and effort to blank pewter or resin single-piece castings. I thought others might appreciate knowing why.

Pre-painted models with complicated cammo patterns do save me some painting time. I don't own an airbrush and I'm no good with one, so some kinds of fuzzy edges and color blends just look better when done by the model maker. Many complex regular patterns like Vichy stripes, invasion stripes, or checkerboards look best on pre-painted models. I could theoretically do all of those by hand or by decal, but only at a significant cost to my crafting time and sanity. I'm short of both time and sanity already, so I choose not to. That leads me to do things like buy four of these:

Conversely, pre-painted models in one or two colors don't save much time at all. It's so fast and easy to primer in the correct underside color and then spray a topside in green or blue or tan, there's just no advantage to the pre-painted models. In cases where I have matching paint in both spray and brush forms, I actually prefer to paint the models myself, because touch-ups and corrections are a cinch.

Touching up a damaged paint job on a pre-painted model is a special kind of ḩe11. There is no way to know for sure which brand and color of paint was used by the manufacturer, so color matching is a game of guesses, experiments, and maybe mixing. Even a slight shade difference can look like a glaring imperfection, so many touch-ups become highly artistic blending jobs, mixing ever-lighter or ever-darker shades of paint towards edges, and/or extending to visual breaks like panel lines or corners or shadow lines.

This touch-up problem also makes modifications hard. Many pre-painted models come with the serial numbers painted on, but I don't want all my planes of the same model to have the same serial number. Once ,I got lucky and discovered I could erase the serial numbers with lacquer thinner, but most of the time I just have to figure out how to turn a 6 into a 3 and an 8 and a 9, or convert an D into an E and an F and a B… or something like that. The process is always a creative challenge, and a physical challenge as well. I CANNOT MESS UP, because that means "fixing" the bit outside the lines with a color that doesn't quite match the surrounding fuselage color, and after enough of that, the whole accident area looks messy and awful. This is especially hard when the numbers/letters aren't black or white…. I had to individualize some Polish Spitfires with blue serial numbers outlined in off-white. That should have been almost impossibly hard, but I got very lucky, and had near-exact matches for the aqua blue and greyish white, and a very close match for the desert tan.

Plastic models require some assembly that single-piece castings do not. This turns out to be far more time consuming than I expected. First, the good glues evaporate toxic and smelly fumes for more than a day after application, so all assembly and gluing has to be outdoors in clement weather (I don't have a well-ventilated room I'm free to smell up). Second, the glue is very thin, so it easily runs all over the area around the glued seams, and has to be cleaned off really fast before it damages anything, while also holding together the parts while they set. Third, the glue damages most paints, so any glue running outside the seams creates a future touch-up job.

Plastic models are also a bit fragile for gaming uses, because they are generally made for display, not handling. Many of my models are missing antennae, pitot tubes, and MG/cannon barrels, and I'm not going do anything about it. Worse is the horizontal stabilizers; on many models these are extremely vulnerable to damage, and some seem ready to bend right off under a hard stare. Pieces like this require reinforcement or replacement, which is extra work drilling, filing, shaping, gluing, then [re]painting.

I prefer to weather my planes, because warplanes at the front almost never look fresh and clean, and some kinds of weathering make a bland model pop. It takes time to add flourishes like chipped paint, fuel and oil stains, faded and chalking paint, dirt and dust, etc. This applies to both pre-painted models and the ones I painted myself, so it's a not a net disadvantage to either, but it does extend the length of time gashopon models are stuck on the crafting desk. I don't just glue-and-play with mine.

Nearly all planes require decals, and gashopon planes have few exceptions. Again, this isn't a disadvantage to the gashopons over self-painted models, but it is an extra time sink added to the model build. It takes time to apply all the decals, then they have to dry overnight. Then they have to clearcoated, so they don't come off during handling. Then the clearcoat has to be matted down to match the rest of the model, unless I sprayed on the clearcoat and matt coat. If I sprayed the clear coats, I have some final gluing to do afterward (DO NOT CLEARCOAT A CANOPY!!! Glue it on after all spraying is done.). After spray-matting a model, I then have some spot-glossing to do on metal parts, because metal paint looks fake if it isn't shiny.

Finally, there is the issue of sticking planes to flight stands. All dogfight gamers have a slightly unique system for suspending a heavier-than-air model above the table, and I'm no exception. Every system requires installation of something on the model: a magnet, a screw, a tube, a nut, a bolt, a threaded stud… something. Whatever you decide to use must be mounted to the plane. Most of my friends just superglue a magnet on, but superglued magnets just break off sometimes (the glue grows brittle with time, and supermagnets pull really hard against it), and if the maget polarity doesn't match the magnet on the stand the plane won't stick at all… Ugh. I settled on the most versatile fittings I could find (more about that later), and drill and tap and glue them into the plane. This is more time-consuming, but also sturdier, sticks to any magnetic polarity, and I'll never have to redo it.

- Ix

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 9:58 p.m. PST

My CY6 gaming group settled on telescoping rods with magnets at the top, so I did too. This gaming group has always had a bit of a collaborative nature, so we do try to make sure our planes and stands are compatible.

I decided very early on to use the most versatile fitting I could, so I chose steel #4-40 jack screws, like the ones that hold a printer port or video port on the back of a PC:


They're steel, so they're magnetic. I use a 1/4" diameter diamond ball grinder to make the fat end concave, so they are cupped enough to stick to ball magnets. The profile of the fat end is still flat, so they also stick to flat magnets. They have a hexagonal profile, so when mounted with flats front and rear, the plane can be stuck to a flat magnet in a vertical climb or dive, or a steep climbing or diving bank. There is a threaded hole in the middle, so I can mount them on wire or 4-40 posts if I ever need to. I could also make an adapter with a 4-40 post to screw into the jack screw, if I ever needed to make them stick to some system I've never thought of.

To mount these, I drill a hole in the plane, drill out the hole with ever-wider bits until I get up to a #46 drill bit, then thread the hole with a 4-40 tap.

The jack screw threads in, gets rotated to the right position, then glued into place on the back side (inside the fuselage). These are usually being mounted near the trailing edge of the wing root, so on many models all this work is done before the plane is assembled. This can be tricky because the threaded post has to be behind or ahead of the pilot's seat it will displace the pilot and be visible through the canopy if it's in the middle of the cockpit.

If you decide to look for these yourself, be forewarned: it can be hard to find them in magnetically receptive steel. Most are made in an alloy or a variety of stainless steel that is not magnetic. I got about 500 of them from Allied Electronics in two batches a couple years apart.

- Ix

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 9:58 p.m. PST

As an aside: I'm never as proud of my gashopon planes as I am of the plain pewter or resin models I painted myself. There are a few things I definitely prefer about gashopons clear canopies I can put a pilot inside, exquisite details, excellent proportions, sometimes fancy cammo and insignia I can't do by hand but I have a special regard for the toys I painted myself. I notice I am more fond of the gashopons I heavily modified with paint and weathering than I am of the ones I just glued together and flew straight into combat without much crafting time.

- Ix

Finknottle02 Apr 2020 10:45 p.m. PST

And the best part! Putting the landing gear up! My favorite!

Personal logo Yellow Admiral Supporting Member of TMP02 Apr 2020 11:21 p.m. PST

I totally forgot to mention the landing gear.

F-Toys and Bandai models are pretty good about that. The landing gear generally has pieces that fit in the up or down position. They also have replacement panels for those pesky retractable rear wheels so you can choose to deploy or retract those too.

Some Sweet models can be gear up, but most are made to be gear down only. My Sweet Wildcats are still lingering around in a box because filling in the GIANT landing gear compartment and making it look like a nice panel is such a big project. I love Sweet models, so the badly designed landing gear is an especially bitter disappointment.

The 21st Century Toys planes are hopeless. Not only is the gear glued in place in the down position, it breaks when you try to pull it apart, you have to carve bits out of the way, and then the gear panels don't fit in the gear spaces. I just gave up and painted the empty gear bays of my 21st C. Toys Thunderbolts in neutral gray, and extended the invasion stripes across the parts where appropriate. It doesn't look too good on examination, but to a casual glance it doesn't stand out, and the empty caverns are under the plane where nobody is looking during a game.

I built one set of 4x 1/144 Revell P-40Es. The sprue included both deployed and retracted landing gear, which was nice. Other than that, the model was very meh, with low detail, nearly invisible panel lines, poor fitting joints and big gaps all over the place.

- Ix

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