Well, it's December and we've made it to our annual holiday madness…again. And considering that you're reading this on the 1st of December and we still don't know who won the Presidential election, 'madness' is a more appropriate word than we care to admit to. In spite of all that, if you haven't already begun dropping hints -or flat out telling- the right people what you'd like to see ensconsced in all that fancy giftwrapping, get a move on. As Snuffy Smith is fond of saying, "TIME'S A'WASTIN'!"
If you're looking to add another airliner to your commercial collection, consider the latest 1/144 scale offering from MINICRAFT MODELS, INC. This time the subject is a very nice McDonnell-Douglas MD-80 in the markings of Trans World Airlines.
Those of you who read my reviews of the last two airliners from MINICRAFT in the October Scaleworld will know what to expect. But a brief rundown for you who didn't (and why didn't you?).
At any rate, captured inside two bags are some 52 parts molded in white styrene except for a clear section of the forward fuselage that incorporates the windscreen. This approach makes it easy to eradicate any seams and wind up with a seamless windscreen. All parts are crisp with no visible flash and lightly engraved surface detail. As with previous airliner releases from MINICRAFT, there are no open windows. The only alternate part is the choice of a pointed or blunt tail cone.
Those parts, along with the instructions and decals, reach you in a conventional top over bottom box. Despite the fact that this is a simple kit, the instructions are quite thorough. If you get yourself into trouble building this model, you're going to have to work at it. MINICRAFT has even included parts sprue diagrams and a very clear multi-view painting guide.
The excellent Invisa-Clear decal sheet is produced by Scale-Master and printed by Microscale. There's really no need to say more, but I'll say it anyway. Opt for the pointed tail cone and you'll need to use four alternate decals that are provided. You're also given the choice of windscreen frames that apply over the windscreen and leave the glass clear…or a set of blackout windows that'll match the passenger window treatment.
So what else can I say about this kit? It's $16.00. If you're an airliner nut…hrrmph… enthusiast, go buy one. Or hope it lands under the tree.
Is there a one of us who hasn't had trouble handling some of the miniscule parts found in our kits? Particularly small window inserts? If so, then a solution…or at least a partial one…has arrived from a firm in Colorado called VIRTUAL INDUSTRIES, INC. (www.virtualhobby.com).
They produce a little item called Hobby Pal that is, in actuality, a suction pick-up tool. Essentially an air bladder stuffed inside a hard plastic cylinder with a rectangular button on the side. You also get a pair of tips and four suction cups of various sizes.
The reason I say Hobby Pal is a partial solution is two-fold. First, there'll never be a single solution to handling or manipulating small windows or other near-microscopic bits and pieces. Secondly, there's a fine line between what Hobby Pal can handle and what overloads it's suction strength. Exactly where that line is depends on the size of the suction cup you're using. This is due to the fact that Hobby Pal is a manual device as opposed to those high dollar, compressor powered, suction tools. Reasonably priced at $19.95, it fills a specific niche and makes an ideal stocking stuffer.
Prefer to prowl thru print catalogs on the chance that you'll run across that exotic item you've been chasing for years? Or hoping you'll find just the right gift for you know who? Then take a look at the latest copy from HISTORIC AVIATION (www.HistoricAviation.com) . Running to 90 pages in length, products range all the way from books and aviation prints to fully finished desk model aircraft. In between you'll find videotapes, CDs, plastic kits, calenders, et al. It's even possible to find a couple of things on ships, but their focus is 99.9% aviation as their name implies.
Tools are a virtual obsession for many of us. And that's as it should be since, without the right tool, we'll never be able to replicate certain details, effects or even complete models. To that end, check out the EXCEL HOBBY BLADE catalog. Knife handles, saw blades, self-healing mats, boxed gift sets, even double-honed #11 blades in stainless steel. A website is currently under construction with a projected completion date of January 2001. I'll pass along the URL as soon as its operational. In the meantime, you can request a free catalog via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
And lest we forget that all important airbrush, without which most of us wouldn't be painting models, you'll want to peruse the BADGER AIRBRUSH (www.badger-airbrush.com) catalog or check out their website. Besides an extensive line of airbrushes, you'll also find complete sets that are optimized for specific interests, compressors, all kinds of support equipment and a full list of their acrylic paints.
Books, videos, calendars and just about any other form of reference material you can name is critically important to the serious model builder. Matter of fact, it's not unusual for a modeler to spend far more on books and references than he/she ever does on kits and construction supplies. To that end, check out the following book catalogs.
ZENITH BOOKS (www.motorbooks.com) offers a 72 page catalog that is heavy on aviation but also contains a good selection on subjects you wouldn't normally think about. Uniforms, for example. Model building, ocean liners, air bases, etc.
SPECIALTY PRESS (ph. 800-895-4585) produces a relatively small 24 page catalog that is packed with an excellent selection of aviation titles. If you've been a regular reader of this column, you're familiar with their Warbird Tech, Airliner Tech and Air Combat Photo History Series, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. And a phone call will net you a free catalog.
Then there's NAVAL INSTITUTE PRESS (www.nip.org). Their 74-page catalog nearly qualifies as a soft-cover book in it's own right. The focus, as you would expect, is naval and marine vessels and aviation. You'll find an excellent selection of references for the modeler on ship building, particularly sailing ships. Two pages of listings for naval literature, ranging from history to biographies to fiction. Superb aviation selections that include the Putnam Aviation Series. I could go on, but why? Call'em and request your own copy.
If you've been hoarding one or more of those 1/48 English Electric Lightning kits from Airfix, waiting to build it til more reference material was available, your wait is over. One of the latest additions to the WARBIRD TECH SERIES from SPECIALTY PRESS is Volume 28, English Electric Lightning by Kev Darling.
Those of you familiar with the Warbird Tech Series will know exactly what to expect and that's precisely what you'll get. 100 pages, semi-stiff covers, 160+ photos and drawings, including 4 pages of color and an 8 ½ x 11 vertical format. Price is the usual $16.95.
Early history of the design concept is discussed, including a brief description of how Luftwaffe designs (like the Me-163 Komet) influenced it's development. You'll find complete descriptions of the aircraft's development, excellent cockpit photos, drawings of the different variants and more. There are tech drawings of the interchangeable weapons packs, details of the overwing fuel tanks, descriptions of the foreign sales efforts that were made and more.
Color photos depict aircraft wearing three different camouflage schemes. Of particular note is a color shot of a bare metal Lightning of the RSAF (Royal Saudi Air Force) with the Saudi roundel positioned on the aft fuselage just forward of the tailpipes and directly above the horizontals. Since the roundel was soon moved to a more conventional position, it'd certainly make for a unique model.
Support your local hobby shop or order the book directly from Specialty Press, 11605 Kost Dam Road, North Branch, MN 55056 or call them at 800-895-4585. Keep in mind that there is a $4.50 shipping and handling charge per order.
Those of you in the United Kingdom can order from Airlife Publishing, 101 Longden Road, Shrewbury SY3 9EB, ENGLAND or call them at 01743 235651.
WARBIRD TECH SERIES, VOL. 29, MARTIN B-26 MARAUDER by Frederick A. Johnsen is the next offering in the line. At the risk of repeating myself, it's everything you expect from a Warbird Tech volume.
Officially named Marauder by the AAF, it was widely referred to by such epithets as Widowmaker, Flying Prostitute, Separator and worse. Yet it eventually proved itself to be a superb, reliable, tough aircraft that would bring you back more often than not… regardless of the battle damage it absorbed.
All of that is covered in this book. Everything from it's design concept thru it's operational life, even postwar activities and it's final repose for the precious few in air museums. Particularly interesting is the model-by-model breakdown, especially four photos of the one-of-a-kind XB-26H, also known as the Middle River Stump Jumper. In particular the rarely seen in-flight photo of the Jumper.
You'll find tech manual drawings of the instrument panel, other drawings showing fields of fire for the guns, exploded views that show all components and more. And then there are the color shots. How about a Navy JM-1 in three-tone camouflage? Or a yellow JM-1 target tug? A beautifully restored B-26G in French markings? Would you believe a WW-II era color photo of the Terre Haute Tornado that belonged to the 344th BG, 9th AF? And let's not overlook the cover, a georgous short-wing B-26, fully restored and photographed in flight during 1998.
There's also a chapter on weapons installations, one page listing the various USAAF units that flew the Marauder, two pages of specs and a page of significant dates.
Format is identical to all other Warbird Tech volumes. Again, the price is $16.95 and all ordering information is as listed in the previous English Electric Lightning review.
Armor enthusiasts will love a new book out of the ZENITH catalog. PATTON AND THE BATTLE OF THE BULGE by Michael and Gladys Green. Utilizing an 8 1/2" x 10 1/2" format, the semi-stiff covers hold 160 page and over 195 photos and illustrations. While the photos are 100% black and white, the cover is a superb and rare color shot of a pair of snow covered Sherman tanks.
The bulk of the book is contained in four chapters and range all the way from opening moves that preceeded the actual battle to the clearing of the Bastogne area. Photographic subjects cover the gamut and would take half this column to properly describe. Suffice to say that you have everything from troops to tanks, destroyed buildings to bulldozers. You'll find photos of action in the Huertgen Forest, bulldoPhotographic subjects cover the gamut and would take half this column to properly describe. Suffice to say that you have everything from troops to tanks, destroyed buildings to bulldozers. You'll find photos of action in the Huertgen Forest, bulldozers burying pillboxes on the Seigfried Line, German armor (both operational and destroyed) and more. And, of course, many photos taken in Bastoge while the 101st Airborne held off the German assault. Of course, Gen. McAuliff's famous "Nuts!" response to the German surrender demand is described. We also learn that the Germans had no idea what the term meant. An American officer had to tell'em that it meant "Go to Hell!".
All in all an excellent book that deserves to be added to the bookshelf of every armor modeler. And if your interest lies with Patton and/or the Battle of the Bulge, it's essential. The price, at $19.95, is also quite reasonable.
Last, but certainly not least, don't forget the CD-ROM produced by ProWeb Ft. Worth (http://last.b-36.homepage.com/). B-36: SAVING THE LAST PEACEMAKER by Ed Calvert, Don Pyeatt and Richard Marmo.
Containing 219 photos and 17,000 words of text, the trials and tribulations of the last B-36 ever built (and the last to leave USAF service) is fully documented. If you're interested in the B-36 in any way, this disc is for you. Modelers, in particular, will want it for photos of details that cannot be found anywhere else. $19.95 plus $3.00 s&h.
And that is it for this month and the year. I would say Feliz Navidad, but it turns out that Navidad is the name of a worm virus, so I won't. Happy Holidays and I'll see you in 2001.