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This beautiful T-38A Thunderbird took a long time and she took a short time. I began a year ago and made good progress through learning to vacuum form a canopy. Then with the pending release of the KittyHawk F-5's I decided to wait it out and gather up some cockpit and clear parts to really make her look sharp. So a year long build timeline with about 4 months of that being actual bench time. The final model is a combination of the Hasegawa F-5E, Belcher Bits F-5A conversion, KittyHawk F-5E/F and some Bondo spot putty! The cockpit and pilot are painted with Vallejo acrylics and the helmet is handpainted. Interior details are scratch built in combination with the Hasegawa side panels and KH seats. The paint is MCW lacquer 60/40 with MrColor Leveling Thinner, 2 coats of MCW clear thinned as well, and wet-sanded to 12000 grit. She's all show AND go with BMF Chrome on the pitot, wingtips, and exhausts. Those exhaust can corrugated metal liners are birthday tiaras for a kids party lol. The decals are a combination of CamPro from the F-4 Thunderbird set and the KH kit. She is adorned with Archer rivets, doors, and hinges to show off her classic airframe! I scribed all the other elements of the fuselage and airfoil surfaces to match the Daco Book as much as possible. Lastly a big thanks goes out to the Aviation Museum of Kentucky who graciously let me take pictures all around their AT-38B Thunderbird including some great shots of the cockpit.
Hello everyone, my name is Woody and I’m a rivet counter. Before we get started, a little more about myself. I started building models “seriously” in the late 80s, but building a business doesn’t leave time for much else so the last time I actually finished one was back in 1996. Keeping in mind that I’m now 72 with cataracts developing (surgery is scheduled) and hands that are slowly turning into boxing gloves - onto the build. The Wildcat would never have been something I would choose to build, but in the course of developing our line of aircraft rivet sets I figured it would be a good choice for no other reason than it’s small. My opinion of the F4F was probably typical of what most people who know little about them thought, but after I started researching the plane my opinion changed considerably. That fighter, and the pilots who flew them during the darkest days of WWII proved to be up to the task of holding the line until the Corsairs and Hellcats became operational. The Wildcat’s contribution to victory in the Pacific may be a footnote but it’s a BIG footnote. I always start with the engine and promptly screwed up my first attempt so bad I had to buy another kit, which is usually the case for me - for that very reason. Regardless, I got that together without any major disasters and even wired it with .010” lead wire used for wrapping fishing lures and stuck one of our generic placards (not visible in this picture) on the case. Exhaust is Ammo Track Wash over AK Extreme Metal Steel. Not sure about the gloss black…. things like this happen when you use “restored” aircraft pictures for reference. Having survived that, it was on to the cockpit and wheel well. Since I had already gone off my original intent of building OOTB by wiring the engine I decided to make a set of cockpit placards and instruments which we now sell. I guess it turned out okay especially since almost none of this is visible once installed, but I developed a serious dislike of acrylics in the process. I’ve always used enamels and found out the hard way that my technique for chipping and weathering simply doesn’t work with acrylics. Okay, lesson learned and more on that later. Ignore that "interior green" on the instruction sheet, the correct color is bronze green. Then it was on to riveting the fuselage. First order of business was filling the recessed kit rivets which slowed down my progress considerably. At first my plan was to use diluted Tamiya putty. Thinking this would be quick and easy I thinned it out and filled every rivet hole. I was feeling pretty sure of myself until I started sanding and realized no one in their right mind could ever suffer through this mind numbing process. I had to find a better way so it was back to the “lab” where I came up with a way to fill the kit rivets with minimal to no sanding. For the sake of brevity, I’m not going to go into details on the process of making the filler or the actual process of filling the kit rivets here - it’s all outlined in our manual which you can download HERE. You have to break eggs if you want to make an omelette. Some tests. With the kit rivets filled in I highlighted the panel lines with a #2 pencil sharpened to a chisel point. This is a great help getting the rivets on straight and an even distance from the panel lines. Once that was done I shot a coat of Aqua Gloss over the parts, but I’m not sure this is entirely necessary. Kit rivets filled and panel lines highlighted. At this point I figured that it would be a lot easier to rivet the kit parts prior to assembly leaving off the ones where I would be sanding. As of this writing I don’t know if this is a good idea or not, but I can honestly tell you that during the entire process the rivets never gave any hint of coming off. I also learned about Gunze Mr. Mark Setter… this stuff is outstanding because it has adhesive properties. To avoid having to keep it mixed by shaking it frequently I just put some in a paint palette. You don’t need much; I use a micro brush to put a series of small drops along where the rivets will go to keep it from puddling and running. As for setting solutions, I use MicroSol, Solvaset and Mr. Mark Softer and can see no obvious difference between them. Don’t be stingy with the setting solution - slather it on. I started at the bottom of the fuselage halves to get the feel of working with the rivets figuring these would least likely to be seen and by the time I got to the more visible areas my skills would have improved, which they did. Frankly, applying the rivets is surprisingly easy - much easier than working with PE. Yea, it’s tedious as hell but other than that it’s just a matter of time. Call it therapy. Again, for the sake of brevity here, detailed rivet application instructions are in the manual which you can download HERE. Starting to apply rivets Both sides finished. (Ignore the turn lock fasteners on the cowling for now, we’ll get to those in the next installment.) I started with the longest continuous runs and I think that works best. After I had all those laid in I filled in the gaps with individual pieces rather than long pieces over the others which would result in rivets on top of rivets and irregular spacings at the intersections. I also ignored much of the kit rivet placement for several reasons too technical to get into here. Let’s just say that my four years in the USAF as an Airframe Repairman is a curse. We can stop here for now so if you have comments or questions we can deal with those before proceeding.