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Special Hobby's 1/48 scale
Blackburn Skua Mk.II

by Brett Green

 

Blackburn Skua Mk.II

 


Special Hobby's 1/48 scale Skua Mk.II is available online from Squadron


 

Introduction

 

Background

The Blackburn Skua was an idiosyncratic aircraft. Designed for the British Fleet Air Arm to perform as both fighter and dive bomber, it performed neither task particularly well.

Nevertheless, the Skua had the honour of being the first British aircraft to claim an aerial victory in World War Two. The victim was a Dornier Do 18 shot down by two Skuas on 26 September, 1939. Skuas were also responsible for the destruction of the first Axis capital ship of the war, sinking the German cruiser Konigsberg in 1940.

By June 1940, Skuas on board HMS Ark Royal in the Mediterranean were the first British fighters to encounter, and to be shot down by, enemy Vichy French fighters.

The last Skuas were withdrawn from front line service on the HMS Ark Royal by April 1941. Despite its peculiar assignment and underwhelming specifications, several Aces scored more than five victories in the Skua.



Special Hobby's 1/48 scale Skua Mk.II in the Box

Special Hobby's 1/48 scale Blackburn Skua Mk.II is typical of recent releases from this Czech company. The plastic is smooth with a satin texture. Sprue attachment points are admirably narrow. Surface detail comprises crisply engraved panel lines combined with impressively restrained fabric texture on control surfaces plus raised features wherever appropriate.

In fact, in my opinion, this is the best surface detail I have seen on any MPM / Special Hobby kit to date.

The kit comprises 97 parts in grey styrene, 6 parts in clear injection plastic, 38 parts in cream colored resin, 1 photo-etched fret and a printed acetate film for the instrument panel. Markings for three aircraft are also provided.

 



Resin parts are cleanly cast and well detailed. These cover the engine, wheel wells and the optional Vickers gun. 22 of these resin parts are individual exhaust stubs.

The canopy is broken down into a separate pilot's sliding section, and the independent clear part for the rear gunner's clamshell. Clear covers for the landing lights in the wing leading edges are also supplied. The transparencies are thin and very clear.

No ordnance is provided, but the centreline bomb sling is present if you can source your own British 250lb bomb.

 

 

Construction

 

In common with most limited run kits, the first and most important task is preparation of the parts. The plastic and resin parts were removed from their respective sprues and casting blocks, and packed into separate re-sealable bags.

Remember, there are no locating pins on major parts, so some extra care will be required during assembly to ensure perfect alignment.

I started construction, not surprisingly, in the nicely detailed cockpit.

It is very important to note that the instructions are incorrect in a couple of areas relating to the cockpit:

  1. Step 2 shows Part C7 being installed on Part A4. This is incorrect. Part C7 should be installed at the front of Part C9, the forward cockpit floor. Part C7 is actually the forward cockpit bulkhead

  2. There is no positive placement for the pilot's seat, Part D4. I recommend that this part is installed after the rest of the forward cockpit has been assembled. I initially installed the seat far too low on the rear bulkhead, which interfered with the fit of the floor.

  3. I built my cockpit as two distinct sub-assemblies - the forward cockpit ending at the rear bulkhead (Part C5), and the rear cockpit. This is the best way to ensure a good fit inside the fuselage halves.

Apart from these wrinkles, the cockpit was easy to assemble and offered a well-appointed canvas for painting and extra detail. I added a few wires and boxes from scrap plastic, plus throttle and mixture handles on the port sidewall.

The Vickers gun mount, Parts B12 and B8, was not yet installed to avoid damage during the course of assembly.

The cockpit was painted Xtracrylic XA1010 RAF Interior Grey/Green over a base coat of Flat Black. I thinned this acrylic paint with Windex and sprayed it through my Aztek airbrush fitted with the grey-coloured medium tip. Weathering was by way of a thin oil wash and "chipping" added with a dark brown artist's pencil. Coloured details were picked out with a fine brush. Several placard decals from Reheat were applied inside the cockpit.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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The pipes from the collector ring to the engine cylinders are provided as 22 individual resin parts. Combined with the cowl brace and the horn intakes, this assembly requires some patience and a delicate touch. I glued the pipes to the top of the engine cylinders, checking alignment with the collector ring (Part D1) as I went. The cowl halves, Parts D2 and D3, were also assembled at this stage. However, I did not glue the collector ring to the assembled engine or the cowl until the cowl, engine and ring were all painted, weathered and ready for final construction. The horn intakes (Parts D24) and the cowl brace (Part D6) were also painted separately and left until final assembly.

A piece of plastic tube was glued to the rear of the engine in order to ensure a solid fit between the engine and the front of the fuselage. This was slightly smaller than the diameter of the hole in the front of the fuselage, so I glued four pieces of plastic strip to the sides of the tube. These splines ensured a snug fit inside the fuselage locating hole.

I now turned my attention to the wings. The casting blocks for the wheel wells are attached to the side via side strips. This makes clean up and installation much easier than with a traditional casting block above the wheel well, although some thinning of the resin wheel well roof and the inside of the upper wing is still required - especially on the starboard side.

At this point, the fuselage halves were joined and the centre section of the wing offered to the assembled fuselage. Fit was really very good, with only a few minor gaps on the bottom of the fuselage and an almost perfect fit at both wing roots.

There are no locating aids between the outer and inner wing panels, so I glued a series of small plastic tabs inside the rim of the inner wing break. Test fitting suggested that there would be a large step on the starboard side, so I installed a spacer from plastic strip between the top and bottom starboard inner wing halves.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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After being lulled into a false sense of security, the kit's Achilles Heel now revealed itself. Fitting the assembled outer wing panels to the centre wing section exposed large gaps on both sides of the upper wing surfaces. I considered a number of solutions including cutting back the bottom wing fold join, but these proved impractical. There was no choice other than to fill the gaps, which were around 1.5mm on one side, and over 2mm on the other.

Fortunately, the plastic tabs were long enough to bridge the gaps and provide a solid join. Lengths of plastic strip were now squeezed into the gaps as Stage One of the filling process. Once the glue had dried, the excess plastic was sliced off with a fresh hobby blade.

Milliput was then used to smooth the steps and eliminate any remaining narrow gaps. Heavy sanding followed, which obliterated all raised and recessed panel detail within 20mm of the wing roots. However, the result was a smooth surface without too much effort.

The canopy parts were now test fitted. The sliding section fitted nicely over the centre canopy, but it was a fraction too short to reach the canopy sill. I glued strips of .015" x .020" plastic to the bottom of the sliding section to prevent the dreaded "floating canopy". I also glued strips to the inside of the cockpit sill to better represent the canopy rails.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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The missing panel lines were now rescribed - never my favorite job - by running my scriber along self-adhesive Dymo tape for a precise result. Raised non-slip walkways were restored using self-adhesive foil cut to shape.

A few smaller details were now dealt with. The horn intakes for the front of the engine cowling are moulded solid, so I hollowed out the intakes using a pin vise and a hobby knife. The large exhaust outlet was also hollowed out using the same method. Four holes for the wing machine guns were drilled into the leading edges.

 

 

Painting and Markings

 

Prior to painting, the entire model was sanded first with my Blue Mastercasters sanding stick, then with 3600 grit Micro Mesh cloth.

The canopy parts were dipped in Future then masked with Eduard Masks and sprayed Xtracrylics XA101 RAF Interior Grey/Green prior to the application of camouflage colours.

I primed the entire airframe with Tamiya Grey Primer straight from the can. I like Tamiya primer, being fast drying and a good way to quickly check for any persistent gaps or other surface imperfections before the final colours are applied.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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All remaining painting was applied using the Testor Aztek metal bodied airbrush fitted with the "Fine" tan tip.

First, the lower starboard wing was painted white. The port wing was then painted "scale black" - a 50/50 mix of Tamiya Red Brown and Flat Black - before both wings were masked.

Next, the upper half of the fuselage and the top of the wings were coated with Tamiya XF-22 RLM Grey. This does not really look much like RLM 02, but it seems to be a reasonable match for faded Dark Slate Grey. The disruptive pattern was applied using paper masks lifted slightly off the surface with small blobs of Blu-Tack to achieve a fairly hard edged demarcation. After experimenting with a few colours, I finally settled on Tamiya XF-24 Dark Grey for the "mixed grey" used on the real aircraft.

The high fuselage camouflage demarcation, wing root and horizontal stabilizers were now masked with Tamiya tape before the lower fuselage and fin were painted with Tamiya XF-19 Sky Grey.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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With all the major colours applied, it was important to apply a protective top coat. I find Tamiya paints are almost chalky once applied, and can very easily be scratched or worn off even with careful handling. I therefore immediately applied two light coats of Polly Scale Gloss to seal the paint job. This also created an ideal surface for the decals.

The kit decals were used. Although the box is labeled "Norwegian Campaign", it would appear that the combination of Type A roundels on the upper wings and carrier codes on the fin were phased out by early 1940. I liked the look of these markings, however, and decided to use the kit decals to depict the aircraft in late 1939 or early 1940, prior to its Norwegian exploits.

The decals, produced by Aviprint, performed flawlessly in combination with Micro Set and Micro Sol.

 

 

The engine cowl was masked and the cowl ring sprayed with Testor's Brass non-buffing Metalizer. The exhaust pipe received a mix of Testor's Burnt Iron and Flat Black.

A coat of Polly Scale Flat Clear was sprayed over the model before the airframe was shaded with a thin mix of Flat Black and Red Brown. This was sprayed along control surface hinge lines, selected panels, in a few random spots and streaks and along the demarcation line between the Dark Slate Grey and Mixed Grey. This slightly reduces the harshness of the sharply masked demarcation.

I also made a point of spraying this weathering mix on the bottom of the wing fillets to emphasise the gull wing effect behind the bomb recess.

A finishing coat of Polly Scale Flat sealed the weathering.

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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Finishing Touches

The engine components, including the horn intakes and the fine braces, were installed in the cowl and glued to the fuselage.

The hub and front of the propeller blades were painted silver, while the back of the blades were painted flat black. The propeller assembly was sealed with Polly Scale Flat, although I polished the front of the blades with a fingertip to restore some lustre to this area. The undercarriage was also installed at this time. I found that the retraction struts and gear covers were too long, so they were cut to size before installation.

I had earlier carefully assembled and painted the well detailed and extremely delicate Vickers machine gun, but I could not find it when I was ready to install it. To my horror, I found a small, mangled piece of the gun butt on the floor, obviously run over by the rollers on my chair! Fortunately, I had a spare Vickers gun from my Classic Airframes Avro Anson kit.

 

Click the thumbnails below to view larger images:

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The tall canopy lends a large dose of character to the Skua. Without the canopy fitted, the slim lines of the fuselage and wings are almost graceful. After the canopy is installed, the Skua looks like a bus.

The clear gunner's clamshell was squeezed into the open position inside the rear cockpit prior to installation of the other canopy sections. These clear parts were generally a good fit, but there was a noticeable gap at the front of the windscreen. This was dealt with using two treatments of Micro Krystal Kleer. When dry, the windscreen was masked again and the area sprayed to blend the transparent filler with the surrounding paintwork.

Wing tip navigation lights were painted using Clear Green and Clear Red over a base of Sky Grey.

The final job was the aerial wire. Nylon Monofilament (smoke coloured invisible mending thread) was used for this task, with isolators from small blobs of Krystal Kleer.

 

 

Conclusion

 

Special Hobby's 1/48 scale Blackburn Skua Mk.II is a well detailed kit featuring extremely fine surface detail and very nice decal options.

Being limited run, some extra time and care is required when preparing and assembling the plastic and resin parts. The nasty gap between the inner and outer upper wing halves is the only serious fit issue, but be careful of the couple of errors in the instruction as mentioned above too.

Keep these couple of points in mind and this kit should not present any major problems, especially if you have a few limited run models under your belt already.

Thanks to MPM for the sample kit.

 

Photography

 

The model was photographed in HyperScale's studio using a Nikon D70 digital SLR. Illumination was via two studio flash units - one Bowens 250 and a generic 100 flash - on stands and illuminating from a high 45 angle from each side of the front of the photography table.

The camera was fitted with a Micro Nikkor 60mm lens.

ISO was set to 250, and the manual shooting settings were 1/100 of a second at f.29. The high aperture ensures good depth of field.

 

 

The model was photographed against a plain blue cardboard background.

For the scenic images, the model was placed on a base of static grass in front of an enlarged photograph of sky. The model photo was merged with a photograph of foreground grass taken at Bankstown Airport in Sydney's south-western suburbs. The colour and tone of the grass in the airport photo and the model photo were matched with Photoshop's hue and saturation tool. The demarcation between the model static grass and the real grass in the foreground was merged using the Clone Stamp tool.

A number of additional photos were taken on plain blue cardboard.

All of the images were optimized (brightness and contrast) in Photoshop CS, resized to 700 pixels in width and saved as 75 dpi .jpg files using Photoshop's "Save for the Web" option.


Model, Images & Text Copyright 2007 by Brett Green
Page Created 12 July, 2007
Last Updated 24 December, 2007

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