This Revell Spitfire Mk.I is one of a series of old 1/144 scale model kits, some of which recently got re-released as 'Micro Wings' series.
There are not many early type Spitfire kits available at 1/144 scale, apart from this Revell kit there is a pair of prepainted trading models (both the Bandai 'Wing Club' Mk.I and the F-Toys 'Wing Kit Collection' Mk.Vb are nice and accurate, but both are becoming rare by now) and the rather flawed Crown/Minicraft Spitfire Mk.V .
Eduard recently released some very nice Spitfire Mk.IX kits, but sofar I have not heard of any plans for Eduard doing earlier marks.
It is rumored that Sweet plans to do an early Spitfire, but until the Sweet kit is available this Revell kit remains the best pick for an early type Spitfire.
The parts of the kits in the 'Micro Wings' series are thin and very delicate, so all parts have to be handled with care.
The good news is that most of the kits in this series are fairly accurate, including this Spitfire.
Open the box very carefully: the canopy is small enough to slip through the safety holes in the polythene bag, so make sure the carpet does not swallow it .
After opening the box I put the canopy in a separate small sealable bag.
As for detailing, Eduard does a prepainted photo-etched set of cockpit details (set 144006) and Brengun does a late style (internal armoured glass) 1/144 vacuformed canopy (set BRL144068). Both of these sets are meant for the Eduard Mk.IX kits but could also be used for an earlier mark Spitfire, although the Brengun canopy has the later style straight sided windshield which was introduced on the Mk.V.
Replacement decals were made by Japanese MYK Design, set A-06 'Spitfire Mk.I' (no longer available) or in case of converting the kit to a Mk.V (reshape prop, spinner and oil cooler, change windshield to straight sides and armoured front window, add cannon bulges and barrels to wings) A-233 'Spitfire Mk.V "British Aces" (no longer available) and A-234 Spitfire Mk.V "British Commonwealth Aces".
Do keep in mind that each of these items costs several times more than the entire Revell Spitfire kit !
As usual with kits from old patterns, the first thing to do is to fill some sink marks and remove some flash.
The hole for the stand can be plugged using either the tip of the stand or a tapered piece of stretched sprue.
While filling the sink marks (on underwing radiator and main wheel doors), also fill the oblong recess below the exhaust stacks on either side of the nose.
Trimming flash needs to be done carefully as in some areas (wing tips in particular) the flash is almost as thick as the part itself. I prefer using an old and worn sapphire nail file instead of a knife.
After removing excess flash, trim the outer edges and trailing edges of the lower wing until the upper wing halves fit perfectly.
Leave some excess plastic at the rear of the fuselage attachment of the lower wing section to fill the slightly large gap in the fuselage for fitting the wing.
The actual Spitfire wing is a complicated design, this old kit fails to capture its subtleties well.
With the real wing incidence at the wing root is +2.0° and -0.5° at the wing tip, the resulting twist is not obvious at the lower side of the wing but is noticable in (elevated) side views.
At its lowest point the wing trailing edge should be just below the outline of the fuselage, giving the underside of the fairing between the wing and the fuselage a gull wing like shape.
The forward part of the wing roots (9mm total span at the leading edge) should be straight (0.0° dihedral vs 6.0° for the rest of the wing).
|Problem||How to fix|
|Twist in wing is missing||Twisting the kits wings will distort the leading and trailing edges, so I prefer to sand down the upper forward part of the tips slightly.|
|Leading edge should be raised above outline of chin;|
Wing root section should be 0.0° dehidral
|Wing-fuselage fit is poor anyway, so the leading edge can be corrected while fitting the wing.|
Start by removing the carburettor intake, first drill a hole from the inside of the wing into the base of the intake and find a piece of rod that fits the hole, then cut the intake off the wing center section, finally glue the rod into the hole in the base of the intake and cut the rod to size.
Sand fuselage at forward wing join straight and insert a strip of thin plasticard
Use strips of thin plasticard to line up the wing with the fuselage
Apply a strip of thin plasticard to the inside of the leading edges of the lower wing and let cure for a week or more
Sand wing center section flat and sand the lower leading edge to create a U-shaped extension of the chin
Build up top of forward wing root with filler to a straight section
Once the wing and fuselage shapes are corrected, fit the carburettor intake
|Leading edge outboard of flap/aileron line too straight in plan view||Cut off the leading edge, cut the leading edge into two parts and insert a triangular wedge between the wing and the leading edge. Before fitting the wedge to the wing, fill the gap between the upper and lower wing halves with strips of plasticard. Finally sand the leading edge into the proper shape.|
|No gull wing effect in lower rear wing-fuselage fairing||This can be reproduced by carefully filing a shallow curved wedge in the lower wing roots along the fuselage.|
Use a pin vise fitted with a 0.5mm drill bit to open up the intakes and exhausts of the underwing oil cooler and radiator.
To open the radiator intake and outlet, drill some holes in a row and then 'connect the dots' using a sharp knife blade, be careful not to apply too much force to the knife !
The carburettor air intake below the wing leading edge needs to be trimmed back by about 1mm, its intake can be opened using the tip of a razor saw.
Note that the oil cooler differs between a Mk.I and a Mk.V: a Mk.I (and Mk.II) cooler has semi-circular intake and outlet and its front part is slightly more shallow, whilst a Mk.V oil cooler has circular intake and outlet of 0.7mm diameter (I started off by making a Mk.V cooler for my Mk.I ! It is corrected now).
To fit the main undercarriage a pair of strips is moulded into the corner of each wheel well, this leaves a lot of room for getting the angle of the legs wrong, so I replaced the strips with pieces of sprue.
The sprue was sanded flat and shaped to fit exactly between the wing halves.
Later I will drill a small hole in each piece of sprue and in each leg and insert a thin piece of metal wire.
The main wheels in the kit come with solid bulbous hub caps, unfortunately this type of hub was only fitted to the prototype. Early production versions of the Spitfire I came with solid flat hub caps. Later versions, like the one depicted on the decal sheet in the kit, came with '5-spoke' hubs.
Apart from having the wrong type of hub, the main wheels look a bit too skinny, the actual width should be about 1.5mm. Finally the wheels in the kit are set at the same angle as the legs, whereas the wheels should be set at a 9° angle (see frontal view below).
The exact diameter of wheel plus tire varies between 4.5mm and 4.8mm depending on the size of (low-pressure) tires fitted. During WW2 Mk.I Spitfires were not usually fitted with high-pressure tires, the diameter of which is about 4.3mm again depending on the exact size fitted.
To turn the bulbous hub into a flat one with a slight rim, use a motor tool fitted with a flat-tipped miniature cutter head.
The solid flat hub is the type of hub that was fitted to the first production Spitfires, all that needs to be added is a single 0.5mm hole near the rim for access to the tire valve and a 0.5mm circle scribed in the center.
To turn the flat hub into a '5-spoke' hub, use a pin vise fitted with a 0.5mm drill bit to drill 5 holes in each hub, then use a sharp pointy hobby knife to make the holes triangular in shape. Finally, use a motor tool fitted with a ball shaped cutter head of about 4mm diameter at a low speed setting to make the hubs slightly hollow.
Correcting the width and the angle of the main wheels can be done at the same time.|
The diagram on the right shows a frontal view of how the various new parts end up in the main wheel assembly, the gray parts are original kit parts, the colored parts are new.
Before cutting the wheels in half, use red (for part nr.6, left) and green (for part nr.7, right) permanent marker pens to draw a pair of lines across the lower end of the wheels to help with alignment and identification later. Draw the lines near the edges of the wheel doors.
Cut the wheels in half using a Czech razor saw.|
Attach a 0.5mm thick plasticard disc of 5mm diameter (blue in diagram) to the inside of each of the loose wheel halves.
Add a small piece of stretched sprue (green in diagram) to extend the leg and sand the lower outside end down at a 9° angle.|
Carefully bend the lower part of the wheel (that is still attached to the wheel door) down along the edge of the door, bend the wheel down by 9°.
Add a semi-circular disc to each of the wheel halves to make up for the missing inside top halves of the wheels (red in diagram).|
To do this, (use a paper punch to) cut two 0.2mm thick plasticard discs of 5mm diameter and cut off the lower 2mm. Attach one half disc to each of the loose wheel halves in such a way that the missing part lines up with the part of the wheel that is still attached to the door.
After the glue has cured, sand the 'step' in the edge of the semi-circular discs down at a 9° angle and round off the outside edges to create a symmetrical tire shape.
Sand the wheels and tires into shape, then mate the wheel halves with the doors and check fit and the angle of the wheels, adjust if necessary.
Once fit and angle are satisfactory, it is a good time to paint the legs and insides of the wheel doors aluminum, then fit the wheel halves to the doors.
The corrected wheels (on the right on the picture) compared to the original kit wheels (on the left).
It might be tempting to fit the spare 5-spoke wheels from an Eduard Spitfire Mk.IXc kit (the 'c' version comes with both 4-spoke and 5-spoke wheels) instead of detailing the hubs and widening the wheels yourself, but unfortunately the Eduard wheels are about 10% too small in diameter ! (I suspect Eduard used measurements of a Spitfire fitted with post-war high-pressure tires instead of one fitted with WW2-era balloon tires of slightly larger diameter).
The fuselage could do with some cockpit interior and it also needs its radio mast replaced and relocated. The tail wheel strut is too short and is fixed at a straight angle to the fuselage instead of the distinctive long slanted strut that can be found on almost all marks of Spitfire.
The exhaust stacks are 'staggered', the one on the righthand side needs to be 'moved forward'. The horizontal tail planes need to be moved forward by about 0.5mm, their mounting points should not overlap the rudder.
The outline of the rudder and the shape of the 'chin', the lower part of the nose between the propeller and the wing leading edge, need to be revised.
The outline of the rudder of each fuselage half can be checked against the scale drawings of the kits painting diagram and carefully sanded down until it matches.
I made the radio mast out of some thin copper wire which I flattened slightly between a pair of flat nosed pliers, then sanded into shape.
To replace the tail wheel strut I started with sanding a piece of sprue to fit in the tail above the location of the strut. Then I cut the tail wheel off the fuselage, sanded the cutting edges smooth, drilled a 0.5mm hole in the remains of the tail wheel strut and inserted a piece of 0.5mm diameter steel wire (magazine staple).
To correct the 'chin' I cut a template of the exact shape out of a piece of thick clear acetate (the black border along the edge of the template was only drawn to make it visible on the picture, the actual edge is smooth).
The template was used to cut a strip of plasticard in the proper shape. This strip was then glued to the centerline of the nose, it will help building up the shape with filler paste.
To build up the chin contour using templates I needed a type of filler paste that is smooth, is easy to spread and is about as dense as polystyrene once cured.
No modeling filler pastes matched these requirements but fortunately I found some Motip automotive 1-component epoxy putty (part nr.000057) that did.
Epoxy based products do need to be handled carefully (avoid skin contact, only sand cured putty wet with plenty of water, remove any sanded residue with moist disposable napkins, wash hands thoroughly after use and after sanding).
I also cut a template for the cross section of the chin (half a circle of 5.0mm diameter) out of thick clear acetate, this template was used to apply filler paste to the chin.
Finally I cut half a circle of 5.5mm diameter out of the edge of a popsicle stick and glued a strip of wet-or-dry sandpaper inside the cutout, this was used to sand the cured filler paste down.
After joining the fuselage halves I applied the filler paste in one layer using the template and the plasticard strip as a guide, with the paste just covering the strip.
After the paste had cured it had shrunken in some places, so I applied some more paste again using the template.
Once the shape looked right to me I used the popsicle sanding stick to sand the chin in shape, sanding down the filler until the strip just became visible again.
The shape of the canopy in the kit needs correcting and external armoured glass needs to be added to the center section of the windshield.
To correct the shape I used a fine single cut file to carefully reduce the rake of the windshield, then corrected the curve of the top and upper sides of the canopy. The violet lines in the picture were drawn along the original (top) and the corrected outline (bottom).
Note that the front edge of the canopy does not match the moulded line, the angle should be slightly steeper as indicated by the violet line.
The kits cockpit is completely empty, so I added some basic details from scratch: instrument panel, rear bulkhead, shelf below rear window, seat and headrest.
No need to go overboard on detailing as the canopy is not very clear so small cockpit details won't be visible anyway.
I made the instrument panel and the rear bulkhead a bit too wide so I could sand them down to a perfect fit afterwards.
I fitted a wedge of plastic to brace the instrument panel just so it won't break lose during sanding.
The seat I made is actually a little bit too large but I happened to have this nice bit of thin white polystyrene with curved edges.
At 4mm length the shelf below the rear window extends just far enough into the fuselage to use its edge as a second mounting point for the new radio mast as the (port side) fuselage itself is rather thin.
The propeller in the kit is a fair representation of a Rotol prop as fitted to Spitfire Mk.II and some later types, however the kit decals are for a Mk.I so the prop needs to be changed.
Fortunately the De Havilland prop as fitted to a Mk.I has more slender blades with the point of maximum chord much higher up the blade and a shorter, more pointy spinner so a bit of careful sanding can turn the kits prop into a decent Mk.I prop.
To handle the prop while sanding the spinner down I carefully mounted its axle in a pin vise.
The instruction sheet fails to mention a useful feature of this kit: when assembled properly the propeller can be fitted after the fuselage halves have been joined. This is particularly useful when correcting the shape of the fuselage 'chin' section as the prop blades would hamper sanding the fuselage into shape.
To be able to fit the propeller afterwards, the two rings (parts 9 and 10) need to be cleaned up, the hole in the larger one (part 10) needs to be drilled out to 1.0mm and the outside of small one (part 9) needs to be sanded down a bit.
After cleaning up the rings, fit the large ring (part 10) first over the prop axle with its widest part towards the prop spinner, then fit the small one (part 9). After adjusting the clearances, attach the small ring to the axle by applying a tiny bit of viscous glue to the rear end of the small ring.
To fit the prop assembly to the fuselage, apply some viscous glue to the sides of the larger ring (part 10) and fit the assembly to the hole in the front of the nose.
The aircraft depicted on the decal sheet (Mk.I, X4474, 'QV I' of 19 Sqn, Duxford) came off the production line in September 1940 when the colour scheme had just been changed to Sky overall undersides with Dark Earth and Dark Green topside camouflage.
The kit decals appear accurate in design and coloring (apart from the ID letters which should be Sky Grey instead of white) and are well printed.
Note that the shade of red on the kit decals was changed during production from a bright shade to a more accurate darker shade.
Note that the RAF WW2 shade of Dark Earth differs from the current NATO Dark Earth, the NATO shade (equivalent to Fed.Std. 30118 and B.S.381C/450) is slightly more greenish.
The Italeri, Model Master and Revell paint ranges all offer the more greenish NATO shade, fortunately Humbrol does offer a shade of Dark Earth (nr. 29 and the discontinued Authentic Colour HB-2) that matches the WW2 RAF shade.
Note that ANA 617 does not match the WW2 RAF shade of Dark Earth either.
Most of the WW2 RAF aircraft that are still flying today (Battle of Britain Memorial Flight a.o.) appear to be painted in the NATO shade of Dark Earth.
For the cockpit interior I picked Model Master (2) 2062 'RAF Interior Green' instead of Humbrol 78 or Humbrol Authentic HD-1 'Interior Grey-Green' because the Model Master paint is more pale, which looks more appropriate for the small scale.
The actual Spitfire seats were made out of pertinax (a fiber reinforced phenolic resin material; nowadays pertinax, a.k.a. FR-2, is still used for making printed circuit boards) and were not painted. I was not happy with the color I initially used, so I made a 1:1 mix of Saddle Brown and German Orange to arrive at an orangy-brownish color that looks more like pertinax and repainted the seat.
|Paints (to be) used|
|upper fuselage||Humbrol Authentic HB-1 Dark Green|
|upper fuselage||Humbrol Authentic HB-2 Dark Earth|
|lower fuselage||Humbrol Authentic HB-5 Sky Type S|
|cockpit interior||Model Master (2) 2062 RAF Interior Green|
|seat||Vallejo Model Color 70.805 German Orange + 70.940 Saddle Brown (mix 1:1)|
|spinner, propeller||Humbrol 85 Coal Black (Satin)|
|main wheel doors, hubs||Revell Aqua Color 99 Aluminum|
|tires||Humbrol 32 Matt Dark Gray|