Hobby Boss 1/72 MiG-3
Putting Old Life Into a New Kit

By Stephen Tontoni

Introduction

In this little article, I’ll talk about how to add a considerable amount of detail into this very basic kit; I won’t go into the operational history of the MiG-3 or anything like that. If you’re interested specifically in this MiG-3 model and/or the MiG-3 history, I would refer you to Jim Shubert’s review of this kit in Internet Modeler; he has some terrific references you can use. My approach will work with any of the Hobby Boss kits that have very basic interiors.

When I saw the Hobby Boss easy build kit of the MiG-3, I figured there must be a way of adding detail to make a more competent model from it. After all, the kit itself is finely molded, and looks accurate (no I didn’t actually check [it is the most accurate 1/72nd MiG-3 model - Ed.]) in profile etc. To make this a very quick building kit, Hobby Boss eliminated two problem areas for modelers: the fuselage seam and the wing half seam. They did it by using a one piece wing and a one piece fuselage that fit together very tightly. I talked to several friends about the idea, and one suggested trying to find the Encore kit (re-release of the Cap Croix du Sud kit), since it came with excellent decals and a True Details resin set. That includes: instrument panel, wheels, cockpit sidewalls, radio, pilot’s seat, control column, gun pods, exhaust stacks and shroulds. I wasn’t able to find the True Details resin by itself but a few quick enquiries landed me an Encore kit!

The Hobby Boss kit and the related stuff I had acquired languished on the shelf for some time, until we were coming up on the IPMS Seattle Spring Show, and I realized that my year hadn’t been as productive as I’d have hoped. So I pulled the kit down and figured I could put all this together in about a week or so, and got busy with it.

First Step; the game plan

There really wasn’t much to this; I pulled out my Mushroom Models book on the MiG-3 and started thinking about what color schemes were available for the late version. Then I went through all the resin stuff that was in the Encore kit, and pulled out what I could use. That amounted to the interior and the wheels; I decided to not use the gun pods, exhaust stacks and shroulds. It was very quick work cleaning up both the resin and the injection parts, then I headed off into Dremel-land…

Dremel-land

Looking in the cockpit of the Hobby Boss kit, you’ll see that it’s got a seat molded into the floor, and what would be the intrument panel surface goes straight down to the floor. They also made a half-hearted effort at molding a radio behind the pilot’s seat. I turned the fuselage over, and started drilling holes with a pretty hefty bit on my Dremel tool, intent on making a fuselage shell.

(NB, if you have a regular Dremel tool that you plug in, it will probably spin too fast even at its slowest setting. The plastic will melt and you’ll probably end up with a drill bit covered in plastic. Worst case scenario could have you deforming the part you’re working on. As a solution, I went to a sewing machine store (yes, they are still around, but you have to look for them) and bought a foot pedal rheostat. To govern the speed of my Dremel, I turn it on the lowest speed, then apply foot pressure; the bit then rotates as slowly as I want. That was about a $30 investment, and it was well worth it.)

While I was drilling holes, it didn’t occur to me that I had made a tactical error; I should have covered the exterior of the fuselage with masking tape, or even duct tape, to protect it. I ended up nicking the fuselage in a couple of places that required filling that would normally not have been necessary.

Anyway, as I drilled holes, I used the heavy drill bit (a #40 bit is “heavy” in 1/72 scale; it’s about the diameter of a human leg) like a router bit, and the hole started opening up. Once I had an opening for the cockpit, I switched to a conical router bit so that I’d have better control. It’s very helpful to have some calipers nearby; I checked the wall thickness frequently as it got thinner to make sure I wasn’t going to punch through. As it got quite thin, I switched to a sanding burr to make it nice and smooth inside. Whether it’s smooth or not doesn’t really matter; it’s just easier to gauge thickness if it’s uniform.

After the fuselage walls had been refined, I rebuilt the structure that would hold the radio equipment behind the pilot as well as the sharp lip on the sides of the cockpit using sheet styrene. You can see pictures of what that looked like, but I further refined that later in construction. I also drilled a large hole in the slanted back behind the pilot’s head from which various wires attached to the radio, per my references. You can see that in the close-up pictures that I took. I slipped the resin radio into position then was ready to move on to the cockpit proper.

The resin set for the interior is designed to be built up as a box, then slid into the closed up fuselage of the Cap Croix du Sud kit. You can try to replicate the dimensions of the that when hogging out the interior of the Hobby Boss kit, but it’s the hard way to do it. Rather than that, I decided to install mine in sections. First I removed the backing behind the pilot’s seat in the resin set. I dry-fitted many times to make sure that it would all fit, then installed in the following order (after painting):
1) Instrument panel
2) Cockpit sidewalls
3) Bulkhead behind pilot’s seat
4) Floor

I added the seat and instrument column at the very end, and also scratchbuilt a gunsight.

The Wing

I had studied Jim Schubert’s review of this kit, and followed his advice in scribing in the missing flap detail. Using Dymo (label-making) tape as a guide, I was able to scribe the flaps pretty easily, then decided to drop the slats. My logic was good, but the result was shoddy; they just didn’t quite fit. I first used Tamiya masking tape and burnished it down to the recessed lines for the kit slats. Then I used a very sharp scalpel blade to cut at the recessed lines and removed the tape. I applied that tape to sheet brass, and cut that along the tape; theoretically, I would now have the correct shape and dimensions of the MiG-3 slats. I just had to bend them around the leading edge of the wings to replicate them. Having done that, I again used Dymo tape to isolate the slat area from the rest of the wing, then scraped that with a sharp scalpel blade to lower the surface. In the end, they didn’t fit very well, but I think it’s a learning process; that will work better the next time I try it. Hobby Boss styrene, by the way, is a joy to work with; it’s hard enough to hold crisp detail, yet it’s soft enough that scraping with a scalpel blade takes off a lot of material very quickly. While doing that, I decided to drop the slats too, so I shaved that area down as well.

The Hobby Boss MiG-3 used very crude looking raised lines to represent the navigation lights. Rather than messing with that, I decided to use an old method I had in my bag of tricks. I made deep cuts that would result in a right angle at the wing tips, then glued in clear red plastic and clear green plastic (from a set of picnic cutlery I bought many many years ago!) which I then I filed, sanded and polished. To achieve the rounded back look of the lights, I used liquid mask applied with a toothpick. I left that mask on until the very end.

In order to make the wing fit the fuselage, it’s necessary to remove any fitting pins as well as other molded in wing structure that would interfere with the resin floor. This will take many dry fittings, but it’s pretty easy.

Assembly

The rest of the build it pretty much per kit instructions; everything until now had required some sort of modification. The wing slips in easily and won’t require filler as long as you didn’t nick the fuselage and so forth. All the kit parts fit with very little filling or sanding needed at all, but I still recommend dry fitting and sanding to make sure. I had to fill in some places that I expected the fit to be much better. Good planning almost always means fewer issues later in the process.

Decoration

After attaching the windscreen and the rear canopy area, I attached the canopy hood in the closed position with double stick tape, then masked it all with Tamiya tape. Then, I could just paint the hood in place, and slide it back to and glue it in the open postion. I chose to build White 54, which sported a very unusual color scheme. It’s a late type Mig-3 of the 7th IAP VVS ChF (Black Sea Fleet) through part of 1942 and 1943. To do that, I first shot it over all with Soviet Sand, followed by Soviet Dark Green, and then the stripes using Grimey Black. After masking it, I then shot the underside, which is a generic light blue. I used a combination of kit decals and some other Soviet insignia that I had in my stash, and shot it all with Dull-cote to finish that off. I followed this up with some light weathering, and the project was just about complete except for some minor odds and ends.

Conclusion

The approach that I took in removing the kit's solid interior and replacing it with an aftermarket set will work with any of the basic builder kits. Using a rotary tool to remove the interior is messy work, but it’s not that difficult to accomplish. I made a couple errors along the way, but learned from them and will avoid similar ones in the future. In fact, I’m keen on doing another MiG-3! Also of note, since this was a fairly basic kit and I only made one major modification in installing the interior, it was very fast to get to the painting stage. I managed to build this kit to completion in 4 days, and came away with a third place at IPMS Seattle.

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