January 09, 2016

BEST OF 2015! AK Interactive's Aircraft Modelling F. A. Q.

Aircraft Scale Modelling F.A.Q.,  is authored by renowned modeler Daniel Zamarbide and aided by the most prominent aircraft modelers in Europe. The book covers 385 pages which are luxuriously printed on heavyweight glossy paper stock feature over 2500 beautiful, high quality photographs and is packed with step by step guides for WWI, WWII, cold war and modern aircraft, showing a wide range of painting and weathering techniques. All aspects of aircraft modeling are covered in a way that is both easy to understand and follow. From tools, and how to use various materials, to camouflage painting, markings, engines, pilots, etc. This is a must have for aircraft modelers. F.A.Q. is a compendium of the main techniques used in aircraft modelling, explained from a beginner level, through to the most complex of tasks.

The book breaks down into two main sections. The first 100 or so pages is along the lines of a traditional modeling encyclopaedia, and gives a detailed breakdown of the essential materials and techniques - e.g. preparation, gluing, filling and painting. The sequence is nice and logical, starting with the real basics of how to remove parts safely from the sprues and a good explanation of the various types of glue and putty and how they work. All the staple techniques are covered - using wire, polishing canopies, creating lamp covers and stretching sprue, while Daniel covers some quite advanced methods such as scratchbuilt turnbuckles. The section then heads into painting and weathering - introducing washes and filters, applying decals, and then shading and highlighting, realistic chipping, fading, rust and corrosion techniques are all covered in detail. There are no less seven different methods described - all useful in their own way, depending on the circumstances.

The second half of the book takes a quite unique approach in tackling various parts of an aircraft kit, on a case-by-case basis. So it breaks topics down into eras and nationalities. This format works really well, as it means that whatever type of aircraft you might be building, you can go straight to the appropriate chapter for some help and inspiration. While, clearly, the techniques overlap and aren’t mutually exclusive, it means that you can pick say, a German WW2 cockpit, a WWI rotary engine, Soviet jet camouflage or Cold War-era missiles and find pertinent techniques.

Overview of the major sections
▪ Introduction
Assembly, Preparation and Materials: This is reasonably substantial at 37 pages, but actually covers basic areas such as glues and seam filling relatively quickly, before diverging off into more advanced topics such as adding your own rivets and creating a stressed-skin effect. There are even sections on vacuum-formed canopies and scratch-building tools and materials. This chapter is really about kit construction, and as such, begins to feel a little brief in the wider context of the book.
▪ Painting Guide: The main focus of this book is really painting, finishing and weathering, and this leads you straight into chapter 3, Painting Guide. This a 15-page examination of the various types of paints, primers, thinners, and brushes available to paint your model. It's more of an overview than a comprehensive discussion of each topic, though the information presented is certainly useful.
▪ Techniques: Techniques, is where this book starts to get serious. The author is a leading exponent of what has come to be known as "The Spanish School", a stylised approach to painting and weathering that is designed to produce heavily-weathered, high-contrast finishes. All of the examples in this chapter, and throughout the rest of the book, are built around this approach, and in some instances the effects seem somewhat exaggerated. It's important to remember, however, that the basic theories expounded are still sound, and less dramatic results can be achieved simply by moderating the extent of their application. The author states as much in his preface to this chapter:
▪ Interior: Takes you through painting and weathering those elements that constitute the interior of an aircraft, with the primary focus being on the cockpit. Seats and instrument panels receive the most attention, and the author tackles examples from several major WW2 combatants, as well as some jet cockpits. This provides some nice variation in color palettes for the weathering examples, and serves to expand the reader's understanding of how the techniques work. There are also some sections on painting various pilot figures, modifying pilot figures, scratch-building an instrument panel, and detailing internal fuselage structures. There's a lot of repetition in this chapter, which initially seems a little redundant, but it's the small variations between each example that help reinforce the ideas at work here, and this ultimately assists the reader in transcending a mere copycat approach.
▪ Exterior Details: Is much as the name implies. Quite a bit of space is given to propellers, but wheels, tires, landing gear, wheel bays and doors, bombs and ordnance, are all covered in detail. Further sections show how to paint and weather exhaust stacks, jet nozzles, and walkways. There's a section on masking canopies, and a substantial sequence on how to make and use your own paint masks.
▪ Camouflage, Painting and Weathering: This section is broken down into a number of sub-sections, the first of which covers WWI aircraft. Here we see the expected tutorials on emulating wood grain finishes and fabric-covered surfaces, with a variety of methods covered. More unexpected is the tutorial on masking and painting a lozenge pattern finish. The next sequence of sections covers WWII aircraft, and is further broken down into British Schemes, U.S. Schemes, Japanese Schemes, and German Schemes. The final set of sections in this chapter covers jet aircraft, again broken down into U.S. and Soviet finishes. The pattern here is by now familiar, with each nationality and era presenting a different color palette to work with, and the tonal modulation and weathering effects adjusted accordingly. Even if the results presented here go beyond what suits your personal taste (as they do for me in some cases), there's still plenty to be learned from studying the techniques on offer, always remembering that you don't have to follow them slavishly.
▪ Special Finishes and Markings: Topics covered include Burnt Areas, how to paint black aircraft, a terrific sequence on masking and painting chequerboard patterns, painting invasion stripes, weathering metal finishes and more. One of the hallmarks of the author's approach to finishing a model is that he prefers to paint as many of the markings on the model as possible. He brings this preference to bear again with an impressive tutorial on masking and painting shark mouths on a pair of 1/32 scale models. If you've ever been bitten by poorly-fitting or poorly-conforming complex decals, the masking and painting tips in this book are worth the price alone.
▪ Scenes: The author walks you through the creation of three simple bases, on which to display our finished models. The first is an aircraft carrier flight deck, the second is a desert scene, and the last is a concrete apron. Each is extremely well done, and apart from some simple accessories, they're largely created from scratch. In his preface to this chapter, Zamarbide notes that this is not intended to be a comprehensive look at the skills needed to created dioramas, but rather, something to show how easy a simple base can be, and a launch pad for the modeler's own explorations. In that regard it's a very useful chapter. It doesn't end there, however, as the next sequence deals with building and modifying airfield or carrier deck vehicles. Again, it's not comprehensive, but fulfils its aim of showing what can be done, and providing suitable inspiration.
▪ Gallery: The book's final chapter is a photo gallery of finished models, many of which feature in the earlier tutorial chapters. Each shows a model built and finished using the approaches and techniques outlined in the tutorials, though again the real value is in the inspiration they provide, rather than any further insights into how they're accomplished.
Included are:
A-4E Skyhawk / B6N Tenzan / B-25J Mitchell / B-26 Marauder / Bf 109E-4 / Bf 109G-6 / Bf 109G-10 / Buccaneer / Buchon / CASA 2111
F-4D Phantom II / F-4J Phantom II / F7U Cutlass / F-14B Tomcat / F/A-18 Hornet / F-51D Mustang / F-84G Thunderjet / F-100D Super Sabre / F-105D Thunderchief
Fw 190A-6/R11 / Gnat T.1 / Hansa-Brandenburg W.29 / He 219A-0 Uhu / I-16 Mosca / Ju-87G Stuka / MiG-21F-13 / Mosquito NF.2 / P-39 Airacobra / P-40N Warhawk / 
P-51B Mustang / J2M3 Raiden / SB-2 / Spitfire Mk.I / Spitfire Mk.Vb / Spitfire Mk.IXc / TBM-1 Avenger / Wellington Mk.X

All in all this is a fantastic compilation of aircraft scale modeling techniques, step by step guides with hundreds of colour pictures, showing a wide range of painting and weathering techniques.  From tools, and how to use various materials, to camouflage painting, markings, engines, pilots, etc. This is a must have for aircraft modelers. 


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