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Reviews : British Last Updated: Dec 23rd, 2013 - 13:52:10

Avro Vulcan. Aeroclub. 1/48th
By Derek pennington. IPMS Canada.
Apr 15, 2006, 16:03

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When this kit was first announced, I felt that I had to have one in my collection. There were the usual choruses of size and expense. Plus the fact that it was a vacuform, which had some waving it away. But for those of us who have seen this aircraft, it presented a golden opportunity of doing the machine in a size that would do it justice. In 72nd, the built up kit is impressive, in 48th, well!!

As an aircraft, the Vulcan always invoked superlatives, its size, as a delta, its power and the fact that it always gave spectacular displays at airshows, made it a firm favourite with just about anyone who had seen it. My first sight of this machine was at the Farnborough Air Shows where Roly Falk, test pilot for Avro, rolled the prototype straight after take off. When the Air Ministry banned even the mildest of aerobatics which the Vulcan was quite capable of doing, the crews declared that all they had left was "clambering swerves and noise"! My deepest regret is that during my years in the RAF, I never got to work the Vulcan. But then I feel that way about the Hunter and Lightning, too!

Back to the kit. For those who still have this one, and who have not succumbed to the siren calls of ebay, this build is meant to make you want to 'butcher plastic' as Dave Fletcher, a long time member of IPMS Canada, would say.

What do you get for your money? Four large sheets of thick plastic, one each for the upper and lower fuselage halves, one each for the left and right wings, plus another which contains the fin, the wheel bays, fuselage formers, round and oval, and the cockpit. There are also two canopies. The most impressive parts of an impressive kit, are the air intakes, which are molded in resin, and are beautifully done, as is the jet pipe exhausts. A heavy bag of white metal parts, decals, instructions and camo patterns complete the picture.

I started by laying everything out and studying the instructions. There are some non-scale drawings that require a little thought; Jim Howard in his review of this kit in SAM complained that the instructions could have been more precise, and I agree, but by laying everything out, and looking hard at the drawings, I was able to come to the right conclusions.

Using a new No 11 blade, I lightly scored around the upper fuselage part, holding the knife at a 45-degree angle. I then followed this with a heavier score, at the same time drawing the cut to the edge of the sheet, so as to break off smaller parts. The plastic came away easily, by breaking in a downward direction. Using 320 grit wet and dry emery, taped to a T-bar; I carefully sanded away the plastic until the edges were flat. When you break the plastic away, you are left with a triangular edge; this is what you sand off. I did the same thing with the lower fuselage, and put one piece on top of the other, for a look-see. Even now the fit looked good.

All the above took no more than an hour. Following the instructions, the cockpit was cut out on the upper fuselage using a razor saw, and the crew entry door, nose wheel well opening, bomb aimer's window, were removed from the lower fuselage.

Attention was then turned to the fuselage formers. These were identified, and being raised, were razor sawed off the backing sheet. It was obvious that there was some flare on the formers, which pushed the fuselage out a bit, so they were thinned down until they dropped into place with a light contact. The cockpit parts, the nose wheel bay and crew floor was also cut out, after some head scratching. While the cockpit was easily identified, the nose wheel bay could be easily confused with the main wheel bays.

The cockpit parts were assembled, painted black and glued in place using the cockpit cutouts as a guide. The nose wheel bay was assembled, glued to the larger former, as was the crew floor for the three GIBS. All this was glued to the lower fuselage, the wheel bay making its location self-evident. Good so far.

There is a cone shaped nose weight that goes into the extreme nose, this provides an anchor for the refueling probe. Trouble is, the cone does not come anywhere near to the shape of the vacuform nose. Added too, is the fact that there is a hole in the cone, which is to act as a guide for drilling through the plastic for said probe. The thought of removing all that white metal so that the cone would be shaped to the nose had me seek an alternative method, which was to drill the hole from the outside after referring to many photos, and then attaching the nose weight in such a way that it picked up the probe.

I next cut out and installed the former through which the engine intake tubes would pass. I cut away all the plastic for the tubes on the former, as I felt that there would be some interference when it came to installing the intakes. This proved correct. Forewarned about the fit of the rear former for the tail pipes, in Jim Howard's review, I spent some time figuring out where it should be installed. Going by his photos, I saw that Jim had his too far aft.

After some fitting, I taped the upper and lower fuselage halves together and applied MEK in generous amounts. This was allowed to set, while I tackled the intake tubes and the white metal engine fan faces. There is a generous amount of white plastic tube provided, and four 30mm long pieces were cut, using a razor saw. The edges were cleaned up and cyanoed in place on the intakes. The ends of the tubes needed some beveling to make them fit on the resin intakes. The engine faces were then glued to the tubes.

The next day, the tape was removed from the fuselage, and it now struck home how large this model was going to be! Following the instructions the intake waste plastic was cut away and before it was cleaned up the resin intakes were trial-fitted. I cleaned up the contact ledges on the intakes, as there was some pips and such. I then carefully filed back the plastic, trial fitting as I went. I found that the forward bulkhead for the engines was interfering a little and more plastic needed to be cut away. The resin intakes also include the boundary layer splitter plate, which goes close to the fuselage, so the fuselage plastic has to be pared back as well. Eventually, I was happy with the fit, and I cyanoed the left intakes into position. This side had been relatively painless, but the other, right-hand side presented several problems. The fit was not as good and required much trial fitting, before I realised that it was never going to go in place as well as the other side. The reason for this was that there seemed to be different angles in the plastic, which although small, were annoying. Finally, I committed the intakes to the plastic. Later there was to be some filling in this area.

I turned my attention to the exhausts, and cut out the waste plastic. Again there was much fitting and testing, but this was just caution. While the upper fuselage half fitted with little problem, the lower side was a different story and this I felt was because the resin parts were a little shallow in this area. So, out came the putty to fill up.

The instructions give you the option of having the air brakes deployed or closed. Since all Vulcans in photos have their brakes closed, I decided to do this as well. Six pieces of 10 thou plasticard were cut to size and glued into position on the upper and lower surfaces. Some filling with Mr Surfacer was necessary, but nothing outstanding.

When all this had been cleaned up, with some wet and dry, curiosity got the better of me, and I just had to cut out one of the wings. Following the usual procedure, this was done. I resisted the urge to make the trailing edges thin, as looking at photos in the Vulcan Aeroguide; it was obvious that they were blunt ends! After rubbing the upper and lower wing panels down, I taped them together and offered them up to the fuselage. Impressive!

To take a break from the fuselage, I glued the left wing upper and lower panels together, just the leading edge and wingtip. I felt that it might be prudent to allow the trailing edge to float until it was time to fit the wing to fuselage. Using the cutout lines molded on the lower panel, I removed the plastic to open up the main undercarriage wheel bay. The parts for this bay were identified on the sheet and cut out. After some minor clean up they were trial fitted, and then glued in place. The inboard wall of the wheel bay is formed by the fuselage attachment point.

Putting this aside, I returned to the fuselage and the chore of cleaning up the intakes and exhausts. The only area of concern was the right hand lower panel where it attached to the resin intake, this required some putty. There are myriad small pips over the plastic, the result of the vacuform process, so these were cleaned off.

Various intakes and exhaust outlets need to be glued in place on the lower side of the kit, these are provided in white metal. A quick study of the instructions, and of the SAM review showed where each should go. I dug out the bag of white metal parts and separated the required pieces. They required some minor clean up, and I test fitted them in place. Since most of them are glued onto the jet pipe forms, they have been molded to take into account the radii of these forms. A light rub down was all that was required to get a close fit.

There are lengthy white metal parts that are installed between the jet pipes at the rear. I referred to the Aeroguide publication for location and use, they are engine oil breather pipes. Those on the left side are covered by an ECM counterpoise plate, which is provided in plastic. This fitted well. Aeroclub provides two of these plates as the fit changed from aircraft to aircraft.

The tail cone is provided as a substantial lump of white metal. The waste plastic was cut away, cleaned up and the cone installed. Some blending, using putty was necessary.

By now, it was obvious that this was going to be a weighty model, so the quite substantial undercarriage was going to be put to work.
The wings came in for some work next. I had assembled the left hand one, just to get a feel for the size and work involved. This meant that the undercarriage bay was already installed which I was to regret. There was interference with the recesses in the fuselage, which formed the inboard side of the wheel bay, plus some rather large gaps where it touched the fuselage. These were filled in with plastic strip. After some fiddling, the wing was glued in place, first with cyano at the resin intake area, then with MEK for the rest. It was then left for the night.

Following on, by clamping the trailing edge, I saw that there were going to be several warps that would cause trouble. After some pushing and shoving, I decided that the leading edge should be unbuttoned and the trailing edge glued in such a manner that the warps could be 'glued out'. By careful use of an Exacto this was done, the trailing edge glued and clamped and left to dry. It worked. Then the leading edge was re-glued as was, which resulted in a reasonable looking wing. Now for the right wing. The same thing happened only more so. There was no way it was going to fit onto the fuselage without some serious filing. As I studied it, I realised that the inboard edges of the wing panels were not straight, the troubles I had fitting the intakes exacerbated the problem. So I went for installing each panel separately, having built the undercarriage bay, I let it float inside the two attached panels, which hadn't been glued together. This would be glued in place later.

Attaching the panels individually meant that they went on well, but such is the size of the wing that any small problem on the inboard side is exaggerated on the outboard. There was some slight overlap at the leading edge, which was held true with cyano, and the trailing edge had a 3mm difference between the two panels!

While letting the right wing set, I decided to fill in the seam at the attachment point of the left wing to the fuselage. This I did with epoxy putty, at the same time blending in the leading edge at the intakes.
I have given up using Milliput. I find that there is a shelf life to the product, and that it is expensive for what you get. One of our local hobby shops, NorthStar, was selling a two-part epoxy putty from Atlas, called Plumbers Seal Resin that is almost double the size and about 50% more in price. It is in two separate cardboard tubes which helps when deciding how much putty is needed. I used some of this to blend the intakes with the lower wing panel.

Looking for a change, I decided that the time had come to install the cockpit canopy. Aeroclub provide two. I trimmed the excess clear from around the canopy, using a pair of shaped nail scissors, cutting progressively smaller amounts the closer I got to the canopy outline. A test fit showed that with some light sanding, the canopy would go on very well. However, I felt it best to mask off the windscreen and the portholes. Using the Aeroguide photos as a reference the windscreen was masked using Tamiya Masking Tape, but the portholes would present a problem. Their outline was so fine and light, it would be next to impossible to use tape over them..Hmm.

At this juncture, my partner came down to see the progress of the Vulcan, and listened while explained my problem. She thought for a moment, then went upstairs, to reappear a few minutes later with a sheet of round white stickers. A quick application of a ruler showed them to be the correct size!
So what could have been a minor problem, was solved. With these jobs done, I used Micro Sol Krystal Kleer to install the canopy. Later when it had dried, I used more to fill any gaps, using a wet Q-tip to blend in the dried excess. In retrospect, it would have been better to leave the canopy off until all sanding and rubbing down had been done. There is nothing like clear plastic for picking up plastic dust!

Returning to the wings, the trailing edges were glued and left overnight. The following day showed that the left wing had a definite warp in an upward direction over the last quarter of the span. This called for a drastic remedy. Using a hair drier, set to max heat, with a cloth soaked in cold water nearby, I heated the plastic over a wide area on the upper side, at the same time pressing the wing down in an exaggerated fashion. While it was still hot, I applied the cold water cloth, still holding the wing down until it cooled. A check showed that although better, it would require more fixing. This was done twice more before I was satisfied. Days later the fix was still good.

Before installing the fin and rudder, I did some general airframe cleaning up, first with any sanding, and filling of scratches, then giving it a light wash using a rag and Rubbing Alcohol. At the same time, I painted the wheel wells with semi-gloss white, and force fitted the nose wheel leg in place. This is how it is advised in the instructions, it is then retracted until the final installation of the nose wheels and the retraction jack. The fin had been previous assembled, all that was required was some minor tweaking of the fit to the fuselage, this was aided by the instructions which suggested angling the inside of the plastic where it was to blend with the fuselage. MEK was flooded into the join, keeping a careful eye on the vertical aspect of the fin. It proved to be a simple fit. Later, some Mr Surfacer 500 was run into the join, and when dry the excess was removed using a Q-Tip and Rubbing Alcohol.

Things were getting serious. It was now time to consider the painting of the beast. I have always wanted to do a Black Buck aircraft, that took part in the Falklands War, so chose the one that did three raids. The underside is painted in Extra Dark Sea Grey, and a tinlet of Humbrol was used. But what a wearying chore it is to find out which is the correct number! I am sure that in the minds of those who produce the paint, it is worth it, but to those of us at the modelling bench, it is a puzzlement.

Using a large tip for enamels on my Aztek 320 airbrush, two fairly wet coats were applied, which proved adequate for the task. This was allowed to dry overnight, and the following day, the fuselage and leading edge of the wings were masked off. This masking goes under the intakes and lines up with the masking for the fuselage. Once this was accomplished, the upper surfaces were sprayed with grey, taking a full tinlet of Humbrol paint, even though it was diluted 50-50 with lacquer thinner. This too was left for at least 48 hours while I worked on something else.

Eventually, the task of masking the upper camo could not be put off if the model was ever to be finished! The layout is pretty consistent from aircraft to aircraft, it follows what I call the 'amoebae' layout, and I did this after some staring at aircraft, by pencilling in the outline for the green paint. At first, I cut strips of Tamiya masking tape to follow the many curves, but this was going to prove a long job, so I dropped this idea in favour of using Super Putty, a child's malleable putty, which, since it is for children, leaves no oily residue. The common name is Silly Putty, but that is over twice as expensive as the imported version, and not too good for our needs, being stringy. Super Putty does the job nicely, at a buck an egg.

To use this, you simply make a patty out of it, sized to the area you want to cover. It is laid on the model close to the line and then eased into position with a finger. It clings nicely and can be used quite thinly. Eventually, the upper surface and fin was masked, and again two coats of green were sprayed on. After 30 mins, the putty was peeled off, overspray and all, as you would masking tape. The edges come out very sharp. Should you want to make the camo less fine, simply curl back the putty at the edge.

The beauty of this product is that it can be used time and again, even with multiple over-sprays rolled in.

The rest of the masking tape was taken off the fuselage, and then any minor touch-ups carried out.

All this sounds simple, and it is, just tedious. Next came the decals. This kit was almost seven years old, and one would expect that the decals would have suffered during that time, but no trouble was experienced with them at all. I had sprayed two fairly heavy coats of Future Floor wax on the upper surface, and the fin, these were then left overnight to dry thoroughly. Next day, I did the decalling, starting with the roundels and going from there. They went down easily, and did not require any solvents. Finally, the whole model was given a coat of Testors Dullcoat, from a spray can. I can remember doing this 30 years ago!!

The model was laid on its back, and the fun started with undercarriage. This is an eighteen-wheeler, and the basic necessity is to get all these wheels touching the ground at the same time. Cleaning up the wheels and tyres, gluing them in place, painting the undercarriage semi-gloss black, took a couple of evenings. There are indications on the rear of the undercarriage bay where two holes for the main oleos are to be installed. I had drilled these out, as per instructions, but it soon became obvious that to install the legs on these hole locations would cause the undercarriage to be anything but vertical. So, I elongated the inboard hole a little to give some leeway. The forward u/c steady which attaches to the bay roof was taped into position and the whole thing offered up. The outboard locator on the main leg was eased in place, the forward steady place into position with tape, and then cyano was used to glue the steady to the main leg. This was done to the other side.

Having glued and painted the wheel/tyre combinations, these were installed on the undercarriage legs and the rear trucks. Much adjustment was necessary to get these to line up, the white metal taking all this abuse with no problems. Once this had been achieved to my satisfaction, the undercarriage was glued into the bays, and the model placed on its feet. This showed that some slight tweaking had still to be done, after which the model was dragged across some emery cloth so that the tyres could have flats on the lower side, and to aid the eighteen wheels to make contact! Then it was on its back again so that the undercarriage doors, and their actuator arms could be glued in place. At the same time the crew access door was plugged into previously cutout grooves. Being white metal, it added to the nose weight; up until now the model had exhibited an alarming tendency to tail sit.

All that remained was to locate the refueling probe, the terrain-following radome on the extreme nose, various small antenna, and the model could be declared finished. And what a monster it is, not so much in size, the Monogram B-29 in this scale has more span, but the delta shape gives it a massive look.

I have since learnt that another Vulcan is almost finished in this part of the world. I was contacted by someone in London, Ontario who was ready to paint his model and was doing the sister ship to the one I did. As with all multimedia kits, no two kits gave quite the same problems, which led to some interesting conversations with those who are building the model.

Sources of inspiration were:-

Aeroguide Publication on the Vulcan.
Scale Aircraft Modelling, March 1996.
Airwar in the Falklands. Photos of the aircraft that was modelled.
Many photos gleaned from various sources on the web.

There has been speculation on the web that John Adams of Aeroclub might be induced to re-issue the Vulcan. When I posted a shot of this beast, sitting on my work bench, he emailed me about the kit, and was most complementary, but declared that the molds for the Vulcan were now part of his garden rockery!!

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