Vintage Build - Tamiya A6M2-N Type 2 (中島 A6M2-N 水戦二式)

This is an OLD kit, but that’s the reason I chose it.  When my local IPMS chapter decided to add a ‘Vintage Kit’ category to the regional contest we are hosting this year I decided this would be a good one to tackle.  The biggest plus was that two of these kits had been sitting in my stash for, and I’m not exaggerating, decades.

Tamiya has been the poster child for perfectly engineered kits for a long time but it wasn’t always so.  Back in the day there was significant room for improvement in both the level of detail and fit.  This kit came out of that era.  All that being said, this is still an excellent kit that can be had for a fraction of what the Hasegawa kit (the only other game in town as far as I know) costs.

The cockpit was fairly well detailed for 1977, the year it first appeared in the Tamiya catalog. It had actually been available in Japan for a few years before that.  By today’s standard however it is pretty sparse and simplified.  The instrument panel has no raised detail, although an adequate decal with instrument bezels is provided.  I dove into my spares bin for some photo etch detail left over from several earlier A6M projects.  Luckily I had a PE A6M seat, instrument panel and some other bits and bobs that I was able to effectively use.

I painted the interior with Tamiya XF-71 Cockpit Green.  I chipped the interior lightly with a Prismacolor gray pencil and gave it a wash with black artist oils and turpenoid.
This kit is definitely a product of 1970’s molding technology.   For the time period it was cutting edge but… there were times I wanted to pull some of my hair out.  One of the reasons my IPMS chapter chose to include a vintage kit category was because in some ways we modelers have come to take for granted certain features in kits that just weren’t there a few decades ago.  Even knowing this, I wanted to throw the half completed model against the wall several time throughout the build.
Modelers today demand kits that fit well and have a significant level of detail stock in the kit.  Many manufacturers have filled that market need.  This has become prevalent that today when a kit is reviewed it gets dismal marks if the builder needs to fill more than a seam or two.  By going back and building a vintage kit every now and then we appreciate how good we have it now.  It also helps sharpen those basic modeling skills we learned by trial and error when we started slapping kits together as kids.
Unlike Tamiya products from the 1980’s onward, the fit on this kit is average at best.  Some of the locator pins on the fuselage and wings were slightly off register so it worked best to shave them off and match up panel lines.  This would have been easier had not the fuselage and wings been straight.  They were pretty warped though.  Patience prevailed though, and once the parts were sticking together they fit pretty well.
There were a few seams that needed to be addressed, but nothing terribly frustrating.  One unfortunate engineering feature was the cowling.  I can’t remember the last radial engine cowling I ran across that wasn’t slide molded in one piece.  Not this one.  It’s a two piece affair with prominent seams down the sides.
 The dated engineering techniques showed in the cockpit too.  The cockpit assembly is assembled separately and inserted into the finished fuselage halves from the bottom up.  This used to be the way almost ALL aircraft kits were put together.  It has it’s advantages but it’s easy to get the assembly misaligned.  I ran into this problem and had to settle for an instrument panel and machine gun breaches that are slightly off center.

Tamiya kits hit the US market in the late 1960’s.  Most of the initial offerings were industry standard and mostly unremarkable.  By the early 1980’s Tamiya had become the stand out leader in the field.  This kit was produced right when Tamiya was ramping up its game in the engineering and molding technology areas.   It has an almost schizophrenic combination of raised and recessed panel lines.  I had to erase and rescribe several raised line sections for consistency sake if nothing else.
The assembled model is very tail heavy and comes with a clear piece to prop up the airplane when on display.  This wasn’t the direction I wanted to take so I added a few 54 caliber muzzle loader bullets in the nose.
The pontoon went together well but the rear pontoon support was another story.  It didn’t fit well and left some large gaps that were terribly hard to fill and sand.
The kit came with both closed canopy and a three piece open canopy.  The fit of the front windscreen was so bad I was sorely tempted to model the canopy closed.  In the end I decided to go with the open cockpit and fill the gaps as best as I could.
The navigation lights on the wings are molded in gray plastic on the kit.  Nothing looks quite like clear parts as clear parts though so I cut these spaces out and fashioned my own clear parts from heated clear sprue. 
After heating a clean piece of sprue over a candle I smashed it flat with a pair of pliers.  This gave me a nice rounded piece of clear styrene.  All I had to do from there was to cut the correct size right angle in the piece and, viola!  Instant navigation light.  I set them into the wings and tail with Micro Clear and painted them red and blue with Tamiya X-27 Clear Red and X-23 Clear Blue.
Aside from the cockpit, the only other place I used parts that didn’t come with the kit were the flaps.  I had a pair of them rattling around in my spares bin so I used them.  I painted the interior surfaces with “aotake”,
the metallic blue color used on Japanese aircraft interiors, of my own mix.  I created the “aotake” by mixing X-23 Clear Blue, X-25 Clear Green and a touch of X-24 Clear Yellow. I painted the interior wing surfaces with XF-16 Aluminum first, then the “aotake” mix.
The antenna wire is Fine gauge EZ Line set in place with CA glue.  The insulator connectors are a dab or white glue.
The cradle was pretty straight forward and went together without any trouble at all.  I painted it with Tamiya XF-75 IJN Gray (Kure Arsenal).
The painting was very straight forward.  I planned on doing some chipping using sea salt so I did base coats of Tamiya XF-16 Flat Aluminum.  More on that later.  I painted the under surfaces with Tamiya XF-76 Gray Green (IJN) and post shaded with XF-2 Flat White.
The flat base colors are laid on over the positive masks.  Here you can see the relatively heavy post shading.
I painted the upper surfaces with Tamiya XF-11 Japanese Navy Green.  I wanted the aircraft to look very faded so I heavily post shaded the upper surfaces with XF-57 Buff.
This is always one of my favorite steps of the painting process.  The mask come off and I get to see how good a job I did.  I followed this up with a light coat of Future to give the surface a semi gloss finish as found on many IJN aircraft.
Tamiya has made huge improvements in their molding technology over the years and have amazed me with the level of sheer cleverness they put into the engineering of some of there kits.  Their decals however, have always been and I believe always will be, just awful.  They look good on the sheet but are invariably too thick.  No amount of clear or dull coat makes them look “painted on”.  The best remedy for this I’ve found is to actually paint them on.  I used a set of vinyl stencils/masks from Paasstella in Poland which were very inexpensive and very nice.
Painting hinomarus with the white border can be a little tricky but with patience they work out well.  I usually make “positive masks” where I paint the marking on the aircraft first, then the base color. 
This has always worked well but I wanted to try the opposite method and do a “negative mask” where the marking goes over the base coat. 
I found that what grandpa said, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” Is true.  Positive masks are much easier.  Both methods work but the former is much more fool proof than the latter.
I did use a positive mask for the wing walkway markings as well as the tail and float stripes. Once the red or white colors were down I masked them off and painted the green or gray over them.
The tail numbers are from an aftermarket set by Aviaeology.  They are very thin and while slightly more translucent than I would like, they stick to flat or gloss surfaces like glue.  The kill marking is from a very old decal sheet in the “decal bin”.  I have no idea which kit it came from.

The markings I chose for this kit was from the 802nd Kokutai which operated in the Southwest Pacific throughout WW2.  Environmental conditions in the south pacific were harsh and photographic evidence show the paint jobs on IJN aircraft in varying stages of deterioration. 
A 'Rufe' showing heavy wear and tear in the Southwest Pacific.
Japanese aircraft staged together in Japan at the end of the war.  Not the varying levels of scuffing and chipping.  Even late in the war not all IJA and IJN warplanes looked like a rusted out abandoned 1973 Chevy Impala in South Philly.
I don’t know why, but chipping seems to be one of those things that modelers routinely overdo on German AFVs and Japanese aircraft.  True, there were recorded instances where these vehicles got to look very bad.  With chipping though, less is almost always more.  Nothing will make a model look amateurish faster than overdone chipping.
After seeing a masterful job by a friend I was inspired to give the salt technique a try.  I had never tried it so it was a first for me.  I wasn’t happy with the results though.  I learned enough to realize though that it wasn’t the technique that was at fault.  I simply need a little more practice.  I experimented with parts from the second Rufe kit I had on the shelf and learned a lot.
I wanted to show all the layers of finish on the aircraft so I started with bare metal.  Sea salt in a grinder makes a good medium since you can adjust the size of the salt grains. 
Next was the IJN Gray with additional salt grains.
And finally the IJN Green with a final level of salt grains.
In the end though, I wanted something more subtle and went with a silver Prismacolor pencil.  I think pencils give you the most control and the results are easily reversible if you slip.
Once the chipping was done to the level I was shooting for I gave the entire aircraft a wash with black artist oils and turpenoid.
As far as the kit goes; this is a gem.  I think every aircraft builder should tackle one just like it every so often.  It is readily available for under $10 and simple enough to complete in a weekend or two if you don’t go crazy with aftermarket parts.  The best thing about it is that it isn’t perfect.  It will force you to fall back on your basic modeling skills which, let’s face it, are perishable skills if we don’t use them.

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