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Academy's 1/48 F-86 Sabre


By Andrew Johnson


I must admit to being a bit nervous about starting on a silver aircraft, having read so many do's and don'ts and magic recipes. As it turned out though, I found it was terribly easy to do. From now on I feel aluminium-finish will be an easy route to getting a good-looking model.

The Kit

With the Academy kit you get a finely detailed aeroplane for little money which is a great start. The cockpit is hopeless, but that is what keeps the thriving cottage industry of detail sets alive. I used a Reheat brass set and lots of scratch-building for the cockpit, following the supply of much information kindly given by Chris Bucholtz. What I enjoy doing with instrument panels is following the painting of instruments on the back panel, putting in a sheet of clear styrene before cementing on the outer panel. That way you really do get glazed instruments!

It was nice to actually put an engine as well as a cockpit into a fuselage before putting the halves together. It makes it seem more the real thing and less of a fraud somehow. Also if you look down deep into the air inlet you can then see the turbine blades. My fuselage was a little warped, so plenty of glue and tape was used to weld it together. There are a couple of separate access panels that need to be attached to the fuselage spine. You don't get the great fit you might expect a jet fighter would need, more like an old VW Beetle door panel! So some filler is needed here, though the wings fitted well.

The Bare Metal Finish

Following consultation of Chris' photos and the F-86 web page, I masked and painted some of the panels different shades of grey acrylics. The darkest greys going on the gun cover panel and rear jet pipe. Then it was onto the SnJ aluminium powder. Word of warning; do wear gloves (e.g. disposable latex). Do not have an iced bun and tea cake just before using this stuff, your fingerprints will be left on the plane for eternity! I simply dipped some tissue paper into the pot and started rubbing. What a revelation! Even a complete novice could get a wonderful finish. The more powder you rubbed in, the more shiny the finish. The powder was then polished with a soft duster. The different greys underneath gave the subtle changes in finish (thanks to Steve Abbey of Wallingford IPMS for the tip). The aircraft now looked fresh off the production line. Careful examination of the photos showed the front 1/3 of the aircraft was a slightly darker hue. By rubbing a pencil against some sandpaper I soon had a small amount of graphite powder, wonderful stuff! Only a tiny amount rubbed in soon gave the finish I was looking for. I learned about graphite by reading an article in Tamiya magazine on their new F-84. It was also used extensively on the tailpipe. The SnJ gives a finish so good it is almost difficult not to give the plane a tap to see if it isnít really made out of aluminium alloy after all!


I gave the plane two coats of Johnsons Klear polish before applying the decals (I found that Micro Set/Sol reacted with the naked SnJ). You need to trim most of the decals very accurately to remove a white border, which is quite a pain, I was horrified to see what happened when I forgot. Before applying the big fuselage yellow id band I needed a stiff drink. It was a terrible fight to the death, with lots of Set and Sol thrown in before I had it in the right place without creasing. If you had the right paint I would try to do this with a spray gun. Why do American aircraft need so many stencils? Don't they trust their groundcrew? Do they think he is going to feed ammo into the fuel tanks? I don't believe the Canadian and British-operated F-86s were so daubed. I promised myself no more American aircraft with all those stencils! However, as time goes on I am beginning to weaken and think about an F-84.

I believe Academy did their best job on the undercarriage that has, to my mind, the right amount of detailing. I put on some more Johnsons Klear before weathering. I cut through with a knife anywhere where the decals went over a control surface. I then put on brown and black oil washes. The panel lines came out well they seemed to be just about the right depth, neither too deep nor too shallow. I then put in a few modest streaks of black chalk pastel on the wings. I put plenty of brown pastel inside the jet pipe at the rear.

I put on the drop tanks, which appear most frequently in the historical photos. You have a choice of drop tanks, bombs and sidewinders but no advice on what to fit. These extras are fine for the spares box.

Certainly in those days planes seemed to reflect the national culture. Coming from a British background I am used to something more restrained not to say camouflaged. My previous model was a Blenheim Mk.I; it was like leaving a performance of Bach in a concert hall to entering an eye-popping discotheque. Yet despite myself I find myself enjoying the aggressive lines of a Sabre with its gaudy war paint. The more I read about the Korean conflict, the more I wonder what would have happened had the swept wing F-86 not been available?

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

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PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM

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