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1/32 Kitty Hawk F-5E Kicked Up A Notch. Oct 3/19. Finished!


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September 20/19



As the weather starts to turn a bit colder, I start to get back to modeling and this project.  I just finished the decals, which fought me every step of the way.  First the problems I had sourcing decals in the first place:


1. Nobody makes decals for VFC-13 Saints F-5’s entirely in red, which are on all of their gloss black Aggressors.  The only red decals I could find are for VFC-111 Sundowners, and not all of them are red.


 2. The VFC-111 Sundowner decals that available are from the kit or the OOP Two Bobs 32-040 decals.  Thanks again to “Dragon” (Mike) who sent me some of the Two Bobs decals he wasn’t using.  However, the Two Bobs decals are a dull red and not bright red as they should be, especially on black.  The kit decals, on the other hand, are very thick and hard to apply.  Many of them are out of register, so you can see a thin strip of white behind red, so they were rarely used.


3.  Nobody makes the big red and yellow nose number “13”, other than ProfiModeler and they only make a “01” (or “10” if you turn it upside down.


4. Nobody makes decals of the US Insignia emblem in red- or at least as far as I can tell, so I used Maketar masks for them and painted them.


5. Some placards are simply not available, like the “AF” on the tail.  Oh well.


Now the problems, which are mostly user error. 


1) The ProfiModeler nose number was applied, but it looked funny.  Sure enough, there was only a yellow outline on the outside of the numbering and not inside the “0”.  In the decal package are the corrected ones on a separate sheet, so I had to tear them off, repaint, then do it all over again.  Of course I screwed one up, so I had to tear it off as well and wait 3 weeks for replacements in the mail!


 2) The kit decals look good on the decal sheet, but when applied to a jet black background, many out of register imperfections show up, so they had to be replaced as well.


3) The Two Bobs decals applied easily as always, but against the black background, they are not as bright red as they are on the decal sheet.  Too bad, but there’s nothing I could do with them to make them better.


4) I used Maketar paint masks (USAF Stars and Bars, Vol II, 32-066) for the red insignias, using Kabuki tape versions as I did for my recent Spitfire build and Model Master Chrysler Engine Red Enamel, which was bang on the kit decals.  The insignias on this jet are very small, so I used the smallest ones which are 14” equivalent, which is very close to the ones required.  Unfortunately, the very small and sharp detail of the stars and bars does not lend itself to this kind of tape, so the edges of the tape were a bit ragged, as were the insignias.  I had to remove them and re-paint- and also order new insignias made from vinyl instead.  I had to wait for 3 ½ additional weeks for them to arrive (6 ½ weeks with the ProfiModeler decals)!  The vinyl worked much better, BUT, they left some of the adhesive behind when pulled off.  Normally you could easily remove this adhesive with a bit of solvent, but with fresh enamel paint next to it, I had to wait for the enamel to dry rock hard before attempting to remove.  With care and microbrushes I managed to do it fairly well, as you can see in the pics below.


Moral of the sad story:  Don’t make a gloss black F-5E until somebody makes proper decals for it!


First a minor update and another reminder that the kit instructions have many of the clear lenses mislabeled.  First, the wingtip navigation lights should be GP-7, top and bottom and not GP-1.






The square red lights on the vertical stab are GP-5 and not GP-7






The tiny hydraulic fluid window on the sides should be GP-9, which is not labeled at all.  You can find many builds of this kit with nothing at all in these holes for this reason.






And last, the two lights on the bottom of the front fuselage should be GP-1 and not GP-9, which don’t fit at all anyway.






Now another small discovery.  There are two holes on the bottom of the front fuselage, forward of the guns.  These holes are vents which are almost always closed, so I filled them accordingly, retaining some of the oval feature of them.






There is only one “decal” of note on the bottom, which is on the starboard wing, which was painted with a Maketar mask.  Note that all flaps and rudder have not been installed yet for ease of painting and handling.






Now a bit of a walkaround.  The ProfiModeler red star is awesome for color and ease of installation, with no decal film.  The kit “NAVY’ decal was OK, but a bit thick.  Excuse the dust.  This glossy bird is has lots of static and is IMPOSSIBLE to keep completely clean!  Painting was very, very difficult, due to crap being attracted to every coat.  BTW, all decals were then sealed with Tamiya X-22 to blend into the paint.






This busy area has a bit of everything, with the walkway masks hand made.  Yes, they should be that wide….






Thanks to the Two Bobs decals, I could install all the placards, even if they are a bit dull.





The other side.










Now I bet a few of you are thinking that this jet is way too clean and way too shiny.  I don’t think so Tim!















The end of this build is obviously near, so I have already ordered my next model subject and some aftermarket parts, which I will disclose later.  Next up should be cockpit and landing gear details, the center line tank and missiles.  With the engine nozzles and pitot tube installed, this sucker is LONG, so I have no idea how I will photograph it until it is completely finished.






Edited by chuck540z3
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I think the decals look really good.  You would have to see them side by side with photos of the real aircraft to notice a difference.  On a side note, have you ever thought of getting a cutter to recreate the decals?  Either way, it looks fantastic!  I'm always going through your threads to see what kind of ideas I can learn from you.



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Thanks guys!  


One of the most stressful steps we modelers face is the removal of masks to see what might have snuck underneath, especially the cockpit and windscreen.  I am very happy to report that all is well, but it hasn’t always been that way.  You may have noticed my heavy use of liquid mask on the masking tape, which acts as a second line of defence against overspray sneaking underneath.  Since I started using it I have never had a problem, so I highly recommend it!


15 hours ago, scvrobeson said:

Excellent work. Just excellent.  Like I said earlier, I think a 2k urethane clear coat would make this thing bulletproof, and make it reflect enough light to blind people at shows.  But leaving it how it is looks pretty great too.



You are probably right Matt, but I didn’t for two reasons:


1). Unlike a car finish, where a deep shine is the goal, I don’t want this finish to look too “thick”, if that makes any sense.  I also think it’s shiny enough and although not perfectly uniform, either is the the gloss finish on the real deal.


2). Fear of the unknown.  I have no idea how that urethane will react with my lacquer paint and X-22.  It will probably be just fine, but taking chances at this late point in the build is likely not a good idea.


I will have one more update before I finish this beast, because I want to show off some final details before completion.  Stay tuned and thanks for your continued interest in this thread.




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