Tamiya's 1/32 Zero

Model, Text and Photos by: Steve Jantscher

Part 3

Day 14-15 - Actually it should be days 21 and 22 as I took a small break with the family to vacation in the South Dakota Badlands and Black Hills. If you'll recall, I had left the main fuselage fully painted, Aeromaster Japanese Navy Green topside and Navy Gray on the bottom. It had plenty of time to dry and cure during my hiatus, so I got right to the finishing steps.

I started by examining the paint finish, and upon finding some rough paint patches, I softly sanded those areas down to a smooth finish with 12000 grit Micro Surface soft polishing film. I did go through the finish in some places, and touched it up with small spray painting sessions. Once that was done, I sprayed the top and bottom with a nice clear coat of Future Floor finish.

After a night of drying, I spent a few hours applying the decals. Now I was somewhat apprehensive about Tamiya decals going into this step, as they've never seemed as good as the best US made decals, but since there was no alternative (right now), I resolved myself to make the best use of the kit decals. A nice surprise came to me. For most of the decals I used Micro Set applied to the model before laying down the decal, but I think one could skip this step without hurting the final effect as I tried some decals without anything other than water, and they settled down just fine. I found that water alone, with a healthy application of pressure, pushing the decal down into the model recessed lines, worked just as well as using setting solution, without running the risk of adverse chemical reactions. I then scrubbed down the model with an old toothbrush with soap and water to remove decal glue marks as well as dust etc., before overspraying the model and decals with more Future Floor finish.

After a day of drying, I washed the bottom with raw umber. This shows up great against the gray undersides. A nice dirty effect. For the blue-black cowl I carefully applied a wash of titanium white (again Winsor & Newton colors). This really brought out some of the fine line and rivet detail. I will also apply some model wax to the cowl to give it that perpetually oily wet look.

I was also planning on painting on the yellow identification wing stripes, but laziness and a desire to stick with the "out of the box" nature of this review left me with the option to use the supplied decals. I figured that if they turned out badly, I could always lift them off with tape and still paint them on. They actually went on quite well. I just had to trim the clear off of the fuselage and gun door ends of the decals to get them to fit well. Still, they didn't lay down as well as I would have liked, so I took out some Mr. Mark Softer, Gunze Sangyo decal solution and that stuff was just the ticket. I wonder if this stuff is formulated to work well withJapanese decals, because the little I used seemed to work like a champ. I got that stuff from Roll Models last year (never can have too many different decal solutions!). Make sure you double check the numbers for each yellow stripe decal. I misread the diagram (upside down airplane) and almost tried putting a section on the wrong wing. They really are very well sized to fit exactly.

I had some thoughts of using a lighter wash on the top surfaces, perhaps an ochre yellow, or light tan colors, to better highlight the panel lines and rivets, but chickened out and went with the dark raw umber. After that was done, and wiped down, I set it aside overnite to dry.

Day 16-  I started this day with another light wash of the model using soap and water. I have a dusty house, or so it seams when I go to paint. Actually, a wash is cheap insurance against finding big dust bunnies showing up in the paint finish.

Unlike my tank models, I don't like my aircraft, especially 1/32nd scale beasts, dead dull flat. For that reason I used a final coat of Humbrol Satin Cote. This produces a pleasing semi-gloss finish, giving the model a better scale effect (in my opinion) than the standard dullcoat or similar finish.

With the body set aside to dry, I finished up the small bits, two antennas (I used Tamiya Hull Red vice the called for RedBrown because I like it a little better), the cannons (Model Master gunmetal, another great color), gunsight (Floquil RLM66 cockpit black), tail hook, tail wheel and cockpit combing part (Tamiya X-18 semi-gloss black). I may have mentioned this before, but if one goes by the Tamiya instructions, you'll end up painting an awful lot of parts X-18, semi-gloss black. I like to vary the hues of what
is basicly supposed to be a slightly shiney black, so I use different blacks and dark grays.

Concerning the large antenna post, Tamiya calls for it to be painted red brown, and I believe the cockpit section in the Imperial War Museum is so painted. It doesn't apear to be a raw wood color, but painted that way. Other Zeros seem to have the post painted in the top (green) color. I went with the red, but I'm going to attach the canopy with white glue, so I can get to it later if I change my mind.

Day 17- The end is in sight. Today I ended the project by attaching all the little subassemblies I had laying around. The landing gear went on just fine with the little screwdriver provided. Their operation is slick, but I'm still not sure that all the functionality was needed. I like the shock absorber functionality, but not so much the movable up/down positioning. One should be given the viable option to build the kit with gear up or down, but movable? I don't know.

I used the supplied very fine metal wire antenna, but  if (or when) I build another Zero, I'll definitely use either stretched spru or the excellent Dai-Riki monofilament line (also available from Roll Models). After gluing it to the tail (in the very nice molded-in hole), I carefully measured the wire distance from the tail to the support post, and carefully crimped the wire 90 degrees, so that it would catch on the top slot of the antenna post. After a dab of CA glue, and set aside to dry, I used my toe nail clippers to nip the wire as close to the post as I could. Even being as careful as I could,  I still managed to unset the wire from the post. With a bit of care, I glued the wire back onto the post with the wire sufficiently taut. Even so, the advantage of stretched spru or monofilament is the ability to use the heat method to make an antenna line very tight. I'd recommend builders not use the supplied wire.

The cowl flaps go onto the motor frame with two pins. Make sure to test fit the flaps with the two large removable cowl pieces attached as the glue sets, because the flap rings can pivot on the pins if you're not careful.In gluing the motor to it's mount, one has to be careful to set the "power egg" in line, both as seen from the top and from the side. I used slow setting super glue, and tried to make sure I got it right. I think I did.

I was a little worried when I attached the ailerons to the wings as they are a tight fit, but the design with the hinges supported by a metal shaft makes for a pretty strong part. Even so, I had to use my knife to open up one of the hinge holes in the wing. Before I attached the ailerons, I painted them by hand with Polly Scale flat finish, along with the rudder and elevators. This extra flat finish I've found is just the thing to suggest a difference in surface texture between a metal skin and the fabric covered flight surfaces. I think it looks good.

The flaps go on simply, but be careful. I bent one of the hinge hooks on my first attempt. Take your time and they'll go on easily.

I was a little bit worried when I saw just how small the on wing navigation lights were. Even in 1/32nd scale they're tiny. I decided to paint them the correct colors (clear green and red) and then cut them from the spru with my #10 surgical blade. I painted the area on the wings where the little lens were to go silver, to act as a base to reflect some light back through the tinted lenses. I carefully cut the parts away from the spru with my finger on top of the lenses, visions of parts flying through the air. My thoughts centering on "Where can I get replacement parts...". Thankfully all four little parts were under my finger when I raised it, and with the help of a dab of Testors Clear Parts Cement, they went into place. I think they look neat, adding a little sparkle to the drab green coloring. The wing tip lights fit like a glove, and I painted the insides of those lenses the proper clear color, and also attached them with the Testors Clear Parts Cement. According to both Tamiya, and my reference materials, the "green" light lens actually look green on the aircraft, instead of clear blue, as I've used instead of green on some of my Luftwaffe subjects.

All I did after the main painting of the satin finish was to apply a little red-orange pastel to the hinomarus to give them a little bit of a faded look. I plan to give the model some serious weathering,paint chipping, more pastel and perhaps some exhaust staining etc, but since I like to paint my "chipping" on one "chip" at a time, I didn't have time to do this before finishing this review. I would also like to try to hang a big bomb on the bottom centerline making this model 52 a special attack aircraft.

That is basically the model build. I'm surprised at myself, but I haven't glued on many parts I normally would, the fit is so good. The cowl parts of course are meant to be left unglued, but all my canopy parts are press fit into place. The engine accessories hatches are also press fit, but they aren't a tight fit. My port side part required a little white glue to tack it into place. The gun barrels (beautifully detailed parts) are just sitting in their cannon parts. Also left loose is the main landing gear wing leading edge forms. They are necessary to remain loose to enable retraction and deployment of the main landing gear.

After finishing the whole project, the only big nit to pick over this model is the very prominent ejector pin marks on the inside of the flaps. They're not easy to fix because of the surrounding raised ribs. You might see them in some of the photos. There were a few other problems that will require more than average attention to detail. The seat alignment still doesn't look right. That is too easy not to get perfectly true, and I think mine might be twisted  or off center a bit. The fault is mine though. Tamiya exactly  reproduced the seat framing, but left out the bungie cords. With the beautiful photoetch fret, I'm surprised Tamiya didn't include an ignition wire harness. Also, I personally would have liked a PE seat belt and shoulder harness. While the kit supplied ones turned out OK, they did require a lot of work to get that way. I suppose there are aftermarket belt sets available...

This is a great model, and thank you John and Mary for letting me build this online! I believe it has made as big a positive impression among most of those who have seen it as the Accurate Miniatures Avengers did a few years ago. This has got to be THE kit of the year. Now, Mr. Tamiya, think 1/32nd scale P-38 or Fw-190 D-9...

References- Brent posted the covers of some Zero books available from Roll Models, however, my book sources are listed below, with their pictures too.

-Aero Detail #7, Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter, This is a great photo book, with close-ups of all of the remaining Zeros. Line drawings and color art. Available from Roll Models.

- Japanese Aircraft Interiors 1940-1945 by Robert Mikesh. Published by Monogram books, this book is  obviously a labor of love. An excellent source for Zero as well as other Japanese aircraft cockpit detail.  Available from Roll Models.

- Japanese Navy Aircraft Coulours & Markings in the Pacific War ... and before, by Ian K. Baker. This is a self published book of Japanese navy aircraft camouflage, one of two (the other covers army aircraft) he wrote. I don't think this is available anymore, but parts seem to have been reprinted in SAMI over the last year.

- Illustrated Zero Fighter, illustration and text by Shigeru Nohara. Published by Green Arrow, this book has everything you need to know to build your own Zero, or it seems that way at times. The one disadvantage, and it's a big one, is that it is totally in Japanese. It seems that some of the drawings from this book (and there are hundreds) were reproduced in the Aero Detail book cited above. I purchased this book through Hobby Link Japan.

A Few Available References:

Stock Number: RZMG107
Publisher: RZM Imports

- Finally, I have the advantage as I mentioned earlier to live near one of my Japanese "experts", Dave Pluth, creator of J-aircraft.com. While I didn't specifically go to this site looking for Zero information, I have in the past both picked Dave's brain (it's a big one) and spent too many hours at his web site. I can't recommend his web site too highly for those interested in Japanese WW II Army and Navy aircraft and the war in the Pacific. Thanks Dave.

Back to Part 2

The author and his Zero