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Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

The two decades between the First and Second World Wars saw major advances in all areas of technology. In military and civil aviation, flimsy wood and canvas biplanes and triplanes gave way to sleek all-metal monoplanes. The lumbering "land ships" of WW1 were replaced by maneuverable tanks and armoured cars. In this GB, anything that was developed and operated between 1919 and 1939 (but not WW2) is fair game.
Runs from 10 August 2019 to 26 January 2020.
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smeg1959
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Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#1

Post by smeg1959 »

There’s an adage that encourages one to bite off more than one can chew then to chew like hell. I’ve adopted this approach regularly during our group builds, with the inevitable outcome being me choking on whatever it is I’ve bitten off. My ever-increasing contributions to the Shelf of Shame are stark testimony to that. So have I learnt my lesson yet? Have I, hell! Despite facing a P-36A with more masking than grains of sand on a beach, I’ve started on a second model for the Interwar GB. Actually, it’s because I need plenty of drying time between each of the colours on the Hawk that I’m going down this rocky road.

As I wrote in the lead-in to the Hawk build, I had a smattering of contenders for inclusion in the GB. I avoided resin believing that the Mark I kit would save on sanding. Fat chance. So this time I did some background reading, including a couple of online reviews from our colleague Matt Bittner, and the choice came down to a pair of Armory “2-in-1” kits, the Messerschmitt Bf109A/B and the Polikarpov I-16 Type 5/10. The decal sheets for both kits feature numerous examples that either served during the Spanish Civil War or in Spain following Franco’s victory. The kits themselves make an interesting contrast, too. The Russian aircraft features plastic parts, a highly detailed PE fret and a number of vacformed canopies whilst its German counterpart is a more traditional kit comprising plastic parts only. Close contest but I’ve opted for the early 109. With some reservations given F_IV’s less-than-flattering appraisal of the accuracy of the kit.

A quick comment on the “A/B” reference. Whilst the Armory kit provides directions to build both variants, it does not feature any “A” options amongst the 15 kit decal schemes illustrated in the instructions. No matter as I am going with a Bertha from the Condor Legion. And, as 13 of the 15 schemes are 109s that served in Spain, the next step is to choose which variant will be built as there are subtle differences between the B-0, B-1 and B-2 sub-variants, all well illustrated in the instructions. More of that shortly.
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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#2

Post by smeg1959 »

The kit comprises two identical sprues in grey plastic (one shown in the photo below) and a third sprue in clear plastic. The moulding is quite crisp and the panel lines not too obtrusive.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (01).jpg

A feature of all the Armory kits I’ve seen to date is the comprehensive and well-printed matt-finished decal sheet.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (02).jpg

As we’ve come to expect in this day and age, the instruction sheet relies on a handful of diagrams with sparingly few words (all in English) to advise the modeller. Page 3 is the key to the differences between each of the sub-variants.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (03).jpg

A second sheet printed in colour shows port side profiles for all 15 options, as well as 6 pairs of upper and lower views that cover all the possibilities. Unlike the instruction sheet, the legend for each profile is in both English and Ukranian. What is missing is a callout for each of the colours depicted (I see from reviews of the subsequent Bf109E-3/E-4 release that not only are the colours identified, Gunze and Humbrol acrylic equivalents are also listed). So to help myself and anyone else who will build this kit, here is my reading of those colours:

Profile 1: RLM63 Hellgrau (pale grey) overall. I read in some references that RLM63 is the same colour as RLM02 RLM Grau. Currently looking for a definitive answer here.

Profiles 2, 3, 6: The profiles show a medium grey colour, but all references again point to RLM63.

Profiles 4, 9, 13, 15: Armory’s top view is the same colour as the one covering the previous three examples, yet the grey colour is noticeably lighter on the side profiles. The latter is bizarre because, like the earlier trio, the upper colour is definitely RLM63. Predictably, the lower colour is RLM65 Hellblau (pale blue).

Profiles 5, 7, 10, 11: Whilst the underside is again the ubiquitous RLM65, there is conjecture regarding the green. A couple of references ascribed this to RLM02 but it is more likely that it is RLM62 Grün (green). The fact that it is a different colour to the RLM70 on profile 8 suggests Armory is in agreement here.

Profile 8: RLM70 Schwarzgrün/71 Dunkelgrün splinter over RLM65.

Profiles 12, 14: Another case of confusion between top and side views on behalf of Armory. The side views are the same greens as Profile 8 suggesting RLM70/71, but the top view suggests otherwise. Whilst the “otherwise” is most likely correct, both the choice of colours and the hard-edged splinter pattern appear to be wrong. From what I can gather, the upper surfaces should be RLM62 and RLM63 and the pattern should be wavy, a little like the standard RAF dark earth/dark green camo of the same era.

Conclusion? Choose your decal scheme then be prepared to check it out further before proceeding. And while you’re at it, check the propeller, too. Armory provide a pair of twin-bladed alternatives, the earlier wooden type with its broad blades and rounded tip spinner, and the later metal type with its flat-ended spinner (much like many of the 109E series). Five of the profiles (2, 3, 6, 7 and 9) have the rounded tip spinner. All of these represent aircraft that saw action in the SCW, yet some references suggest very few 109’s in Spain retained the older wooden prop.

I found three online completions of the kit. Two belonged to our colleague Michael_XIII, and are exquisitely finished. The third is a finished model that Peter reported sold on Japanese Yahoo for a mere 27,000 yen despite some pretty ordinary framing on the canopy. For the record, Michael built kit options 3 and 13 (a B-0 coded “6-3” and a B-2 coded “6-53”) and the Japanese example covered kit option 7 (a B-0 coded “6-1”).

My choice? Haven’t got anything on the shelves finished in RLM62 so I’ve gone for kit option 5, a Bf109B-1 coded “6-10” of 2.J/88 flown by Fritz Mratzek during the SCW. I question the “1936” on Armory’s profile, believing that 1938 is much more likely.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 in Spain (02).jpg
Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 in Spain (01).jpg

Neither of the photos here depict the aircraft at the time the model is purported to represent. Indeed, I’m not sure whether the “6-10” was worn by more than one aircraft, or was simply repainted on numerous occasions. Perhaps one of our resident SCW aficionados can answer that. The second photo is intriguing in that the tail bears 15 bars. If these are victory marks then something is awry. SCW experts point out that the top Condor Legion ace was Werner Mölders, who reportedly had 14 confirmed kills. Mölders was to later again achieve ace status with at least 82 “kills” over France, England and the Eastern Front in the early years of WW2. In an ironic twist of fate, he was killed whilst a passenger in a He111 in transit to the funeral of his commander Ernst Udet in November 1941. One explanation for the 15 bars on the tail of “6-10” is that the number may have corresponded to the total victories achieved with the aircraft, which apparently had at least three different pilots if my sources are correct.
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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#3

Post by smeg1959 »

To the build.

The parts have a modicum of easily removed flash and, like Mark I and JACH, locating pins are conspicuous by their absence. I started by joining the fuselage halves making sure everything was aligned. I then attached the cockpit floor and instrument panel wall to the void in the wing, omitting the seat rear, bizarrely the only bit of the seat supplied by Armory. This was reshaped and glued to a Brengun PE seat, which looked much more convincing. At this stage, I went to attach the wing section to the fuselage only to find the fit was totally wrong. If you don’t do some major trimming, the rear of the wing protrudes way below the underside of the fuselage, resulting in a horrible stepped profile. Methinks I’ve been down that road before with my other GB10 build. Could Mark I and Armory be related?

When I was finally satisfied that I’d corrected this issue, I attached the wing and the two tailplanes. For some odd reason, there are locating slots on the fuselage for the latter yet neither tailplane has a matching lug! At this stage, I added the tailplane struts, cleaned up all the joints and gave the beastie the usual coat of Tamiya grey primer.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (04).jpg

From the photo, you can see the modified seat was yet to be installed. Normally, I’d complete the cockpit before getting this far but, given the ready access to this region, I decided that addressing the wing issue was best dealt with upfront. As with all Nationalist aircraft during the SCW (and, for that matter, a host of aircraft serving with the Ejercito del Aire thereafter), the rudder is white with diagonal black lines (supplied in various thicknesses as decals by Armory). The outer wing sections were also painted white during the SCW, as was the spinner on this specific 109. These areas were painted first then the wings and fuselage masked, whereupon I gave the underside an airbrushed coat of RLM65 (Lifecolor UA503). The underside was masked and RLM62 (Vallejo 71.104) applied to the upper parts of the model. Here she is after the masking was removed prior to the odd touch-up.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (05).jpg

Yes, I did write “Vallejo” despite the horrors that befell me during the Vickers Type 432 build back in 2018. Unfortunately, I have been forced to put trust in a Model Air product by virtue of nothing else being available here in Melbourne. The entire Vallejo range is maintained by my “local”, The House of War in Ringwood so I’m gritting my teeth and going with the Model Air version of RLM62. Needless to say, I won’t be using Tamiya clear at the end of the build as it is too “hot” for overcoating Model Air. It’ll have to be Vallejo’s own matt clear which is an acrylic, not a lacquer.

Only time will tell whether this strategy works or whether I’m finding a new use for my modelling scalpel. :roll:
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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#4

Post by ajmm »

Good luck Smeg. That’s certainly looking good. I don’t have issues working with Vallejo but climate and gravity probably help. I’ve never quite worked out how you airbrush things upside down. Most impressive. Have at it!

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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#5

Post by BigReg »

Wow a Smeg blitz build.
David

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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#6

Post by smeg1959 »

Cheeky monkey! :P
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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#7

Post by F_IV »

I hope I wasn't too hard on the Armory kit. You definitely look to be bringing out the best in it though. My main gripe was with the wing in plan view, but depending on where you place it in your cabinet this probably wont be an issue. The nose looks good though, and that is probably the hardest thing to capture in the early 109s.

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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#8

Post by smeg1959 »

It was a fair point, F_IV, and there's certainly a number of issues with the kit.

Brief update. Typical of early Luftwaffe aircraft, both the cockpit interior and wheel wells were finished in RLM02 (Lifecolor UA504). I added tape seatbelts, a control column and a printed mock-up of the instrument panel. The kit panel does have embossed circles to simulate the gauges, but I prefer my approach in this instance. Should add that reviews of the later E-3/E-4 kit clearly show that Armory changed tack and opted for a decal as the panel.

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (07).jpg

At this point, I applied Vallejo’s acrylic satin clear coat to protect the model. This was considerably sooner than my usual “just before decals” approach, but comments on the fragility of Vallejo Model Air spooked me a little. As mentioned earlier, I decanted enough from the rattle can to use in my airbrush. However, unlike other aerosol paints, it formed a bubbly foam in the collection jar which needed to degas for some time before eventually being transferred to the airbrush. In hindsight, perhaps I should have gone with the bottled version from the get-go. It did settle to a thin liquid with a milky colour, but happily it airbrushed well and dried crystal clear (if nowhere near as shiny as, say, Tamiya’s TS-79).

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (06).jpg
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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#9

Post by smeg1959 »

Whilst paint issues with the P-36C are threatening to derail that build, I feel far more comfortable about Bertha. With me avoiding breathing on the Vallejo RLM62, much less exposing a fingernail near it, I turned to the remaining external components, beginning with the two-bladed prop. As I said earlier, Armory give you a choice between the broader bladed wooden version or its metal successor, and all evidence points to the latter for 6-10. Whilst the white spinner is obvious in the instruction profile, the fact that most Bf109B’s had the front of the blades natural metal whilst the back was black is not mentioned.

Next, the undercarriage. I revisited the online completions and something didn’t quite seem right in the side-on photo of the Yahoo example. I’ve built way too many 109s and the legs looked too long for an aircraft sitting on the ground. So I checked the kit parts against several completed Bf109s in my collection, but was relieved to find they were the right length. I suspect Mr Yahoo had not quite nailed the front-on angle of Bertha’s legs, a common fault in 109 builds where the locating pins don’t “force” the legs into the correct configuration (i.e. most 1/144 and some 1/72 kits). I simply used one of my previous builds to get my angles correct. If it looks right …

Armory provide both open and closed versions of the canopy. I considered the former for a bit of variety but, whilst clear and undistorted, the transparencies are also very thick. F_IV’s approach of using a dental burr to increase the internal dimension was tempting, but time is of the essence so I went with the closed option. I used my painted decal approach for the frame lines then attached the part to the model using Kristal Klear. The SCW era photos of “6-10” I’ve included don’t show any aerial or wire but, as I said earlier, neither depicts the aircraft at the point in time that this model represents. Of all the Armory profiles on the painting instructions, only option 5 – THIS build – has an aerial. That being said, many Berthas in Germany were fitted with one, so maybe its absence was an SCW thing. Whatever the case, I gave the company the benefit of the doubt and attached the aerial. Strangely, the assembly instructions don’t point out that it (part number 4) is optional. Even more bizarrely, they suggest gluing it to the fuselage when, like most 109s, it should be at the back of the rear window. And in true Armory style, there’s a slight indentation on the rear window for that precise purpose. Go figure.

OK, it’s at this juncture that Vallejo got a lifeline in the House of Smeg. A previous photo showed the model after three albeit light airbrushed coats of the company’s acrylic satin clear coat, decanted from its rattle can. Some might go for the full gloss approach but I find semi-gloss is perfectly adequate for decal application. However, whilst the paint didn’t cracked up like it did with Tamiya’s clear on my Vickers Type 423 in the RAF GB, there was precious little sheen. I looked momentarily at my can of TS-79, recalled the 432 then reached for my trusty and still near-full 5+-year-old bottle of Future (well, our local equivalent). Has always worked well on my transparencies and to toughen up my painted decal paper for frame lines, so why not do as many modellers recommend and airbrush the model to build up the gloss? It didn’t do anything adverse to the Vallejo RLM62 on the decal paper for the frame lines, so why should it do differently on the model?

Messerschmitt Bf109B-1 - Condor Legion 6-10 (08).jpg

Phew! The Future is bright! The only negative is that I forked out 24 bucks for the Vallejo satin aerosol, purchased solely to “protect” Vallejo finishes. We live and learn.

All being well after work tonight, it'll be decal time. :roll:
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Re: Smeg’s Messerschmitt Bf109B (Armory)

#10

Post by smeg1959 »

Quick update. This build is finished and did make it prior to the GB deadline (unlike its American colleague). Unfortunately, I can't post anything like photos for a couple of days whilst all our work PCs are being upgraded. I don't have home internet access, so this entry is via my mobile phone.
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