1999, Grenoble, a few weeks after my arrival in France. Bright blue endless skies, sunshine and cool mountain breeze conspired to make me happy. And when I'm happy my fidgetyfingers want to make things out of paper. So this model began as a sort of 'celebration' of my new chapter in France.
I chose to build this plane because I was fascinated by the form of it's cockpit canopy which at the rear end has two bulges on either side, ending in flat panes. The rear gunner was supposed to peek through these, aim and shoot with a pair of remote-controlled machine guns mounted on turrets on either side of the fuselage. I also found the overall form nicely streamlined and proportionate and being a twin engined aircrft, it gives the model-maker plenty of details to depict.
|The streamlined profile|
The fuselage, wings and engine nacelles took shape pretty quickly and then the fun began with the engine block. Working from old fuzzy photographs I tried to get the overall look right. Ball-point 'nibs' and guitar strings, thread and toothpicks came together and an engine was born. Next stop, the cockpit. I had so much fun doing the two seater cockpit with the seats in tissue paper, the levers in bits of telephone wire and the guages and dials punched out from cardboard and then hand painted.
But the entire momentum came to a grinding halt with the canopy shape. I spent hours in all the supermarkets examining blister packs from electric bulbs to screwdrivers but just couldn't get the right shape ( I knew the shelves by heart then ...Danone cherry flavoured yoghurt 3rd row from the back 2nd shelf from the left...)..
And eventually the unfinished model found it's resting place in a cardboard box in the damp confines of the basement.
|The unfinished model, 11 years later|
|The unfinished cockpit and engine bay|
2010 and several basements later, the model is brought out into daylight once again. No more time is wasted scouring supermarkets for packaging. Cockpit canopy building technology has progressed by leaps and bounds! Aha! In my kitchen the oven and the vacuum cleaner have formed a new alliance and a vacuum-thermoforming machine is the new pride of the hangar. I shaped a mould of the canopy out of MDF and painted and polished and varnished it several times to get as smooth a surface as possible. A sheet of transparent PVC, the kind used for slide presentations, was the support and within half a minute (after some skillful burning of hand hairs and insufficient suction due to air leaks) a beautiful shiny smooth canopy was ready, perfectly scaled and perfectly shaped. Carried away by the success of this marvellous machine, I went on a vaccuum forming spree and several random objects that happened to be at hand were subjected to the wrath of high temperatures and air deprivation.
|Cocpit with and without canopy|
|From the pilot's seat|
|The gunner facing the rear. The pilot's inverted gunsight (photo at right)|
|The vacuum formed canopy|
The cockpit thus brought to a long awaited close with the fitment of the canopy I turned to the remaining parts, the wheels and the propellar assemblies. The propellar hubs were carved out of cork (France is the right place to be in for modellers who need a never ending supply of bottle-cork).
For several years I had been noticing that Shasha's autumn coat buttons looked remarkably like aircraft wheels. And in order that they take their rightful place attached to the undercarriage assembly of my model I had to do better than just point at the sky and gasp and rip the buttons off while she was looking up. No. I had to bribe her with orange coloured buttons (she finally gave in to olive green ones) and tubs of dark fat cherries and then wait for summer to relieve the coat of it's burden of aircraft wheels. The wheels got their hubs in the form of press button centers and the tread...the worn dusty tread was made from wrapping the wheel in mosquito mesh and then airbrushing on a dusty grey. The mesh acts like a mask and gives you pair of delightfully real-looking wheels!!
|Perforated paper gun barrel. Miniature gunsight sits in my palm.|
Dusty wheel treads. Riveted wing panels
Painting. This was a real adventure where I lost a lot of hair and whatever is left has gone grey. The German War Bureau excelled in camouflage schemes which had gradations of soft edged spots that adorned the fuselage sides and I wanted to try and get that effect. That meant an airbrush which if I remembered correctly was buried somewhere in a box 22 years ago. I suddely realise that my model making is at present more of an archealogical exercise with all this unearthing unfinished models and ancient buried equipment...
Anna, a dear friend lent me a compressor that once belonged to her dad, a cast iron behemoth on rubber feet ( the compressor, of course).
It took me an entire day to spray on a scheme which was better than satisfactory. But of course, in a moment of mindless inventiveness I have to go and ruin it all. I decided to overspray a coat of gloss varnish to protect the waterbased paint and the paper underneath, to render my little plane more wear-and-tear proof. The varnish was all too happy to land on the paper and went straight on to attack the glue underneath and within seconds I had the most horrifyingly impressive mess that was once nicely even painted surfaces.
I buried my head under my pillow, pressed the 'pause' button and decided to show any signs of existence only the next morning.
And so it was repainted. Not as good as the first time, but it'll do and then this is a warplane after all and in war planes do get bashed about a bit.
|Adorned in greys and greens|
For those who have noticed me staring at long haired women lately, I have a perfectly reasonable explanation. Antennae wires. I can't help it, I just see headfulls of scale antennae wires bobbing all over the city! And so, a couple of co-operative "Ouch!"es later, taut antennae wires were superglued into place and painted black.
|1944. The Me 410 is fuelled, armed and ready to touch the skies.|