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A6M2b Zero - shades of grey

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13 hours ago, A6M said:

Hello Sean,


Great work so far. I hope you had a good holiday break. I was sent to western Manitoba 10 days back and suffered through 4 days of -35 C cold weather.


What is next? should I post fuselage/tail details or are you going to work on the wing? I want to tailor my postings to your progress on the kit.




Hi Ryan,


I had the good fortune of going to Mozambique instead of Manitoba, and I saw the same temperatures as you did - except with a plus sign in front! We also complained, believe it or not, because it really was too hot!  Try walk on a beach at midday in those temperature :o. I am planning to assemble the fuselage and empennage next, and the wings will follow in short order. I'm keen to see what extra information you have for us.


Thanks for looking in Mark, Tom and Spyros. I noticed that Spyros has the good sense to keep his flip-flop sandals on in case the sand is hot!


Keep asking questions Uwe, we are all learning from the answers.



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Hello Gentlemen,


I don't have much more to add to the rear fuselage details apart from the proper rudder hinge cut-out and  the antenna bungee cord grommet. I've also included some details on the rest of the antenna arrangement even though it is not applicable to this particular aircraft.


54 Tail Details

55 Antenna


The forward fuselage can be further detailed by drilling out the holes on the accessory section panel mounts. Of the four mounts on each side three of them should have the two holes by the base of the mount drilled out. The one mount has should have NO holes visible (unless the accessory section panel is removed). The Blayd 1:1 kit is in error here. LOL




56 Panel Mounts

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As the rudder and horizontal stabilizers are part of the fuselage construction I have sort of jumped ahead to detail what is mostly a decaling issue. However, as related below it may be considered to add a small “bump” onto the rudder and elevators to simulate the data plate positioning.


Tamiya has included both Nakajima (Decal 112) and Mitsubishi (Decal 113) plate and stencil decals. The instructions give the proper positioning for these decals except for the decal on the underside of the ailerons. This should be repositioned as is seen in Image 4 below. The stencil below the plate should be parallel to the plate and trailing edge of the aileron.


So let’s start with some background detail.


In the early summer of 2017 I worked on revising my painting manual for the Blayd A6M2 Zero. A prop strike incident had made it necessary to rebuild the rear fuselage. This rebuild also called for the repainting of the entire aircraft so there now was the opportunity to go back and correct some of the painting errors that an additional fifteen years of research had revealed. In addition to the painting revisions, several small details were added to further improve the historical accuracy of the plane. One of these details was the inclusion of sub-assembly manufacturer data plates.


The A6M Zero, in common with other Japanese naval aircraft, had metal placards attached to various sub-assemblies. These placards named the manufacturer of the particular sub-assembly and provided both the part number and the serial number of the component. The location of all of these plates on the exterior of the Zero is well established, but what is detailed here are how the plates were affixed to the fabric covered control surfaces.


Up until this revision work my assumption had been that these placards were attached directly to the control surfaces, but Kenji Miyazaki mentioned in an e-mail to me that these plates were protected by a plastic cover. He included an image of such a plate cover from a B5N2 rudder. Further research revealed that this artifact had at one time been in the collection of Jim Lansdale. Jim was kind enough to send me an image of this particular plastic cover that was originally placed over the placard attached to the rudder itself (Image 1).


A close examination of the clear celluloid window indicated that it was glued to the back of the outer layer of fabric and then a fabric “picture frame” was applied over the window from the back to hold the plastic cover in place. The resulting window opening measured 5x5 cm in size. The two layers of fabric, combined with the celluloid window, as well as the aluminum plate underneath, created a distinctive bulge in the covering fabric where the plate was located.


Confirmation that this same procedure was used on the Zero can be seen in Image 2, a wartime photo of Nakajima-built A6M2 A1-1-129 s/n 6544. The distinctive bulge or bump of the plate and its cover are clearly visible. Note too the stencil of the aircraft serial number which was placed adjacent to all external sub-assembly plates.


The plate itself was riveted to a flange which in turn was attached to one of the ribs of the rudder. The rudder in Image 3 is believed to be from A6M3 22 s/n 3753. Photos indicate that Mitsubishi switched the location of the rudder plate from the starboard side to the port side of the rudder at some time during the production of the Zero Type 22. This port side location was not found on any Nakajima produced Zeros.


The location of the plate on the underside of each aileron is also verifiable as can be seen in Image 4. Although it again cannot be confirmed by photos it is reasonable to assume that this plate was also covered by a small celluloid cover. As was the case on the rudder, the airframe serial number stencil was applied adjacent to the covered plate.


A similar plate was found on the underside of each of the elevators. Kenji Miyazaki provided Image 5 of the underside of the port elevator that indicates how, as on the rudder, a flange was attached to one of the elevator ribs to which a sub-assembly plate was then riveted. Here too an airframe serial number stencil was painted onto the fabric next to the plate.


During the Zero restoration and repaint project AirCorps Aviation incorporated the data plate cover into their work. The result can be seen on the rudder and elevator plates which have both the clear cover over the plate as well as the airframe manufacturer’s number stenciled below the plate. Similar work was supposed to be done on the plates attached to the ailerons but this, unfortunately, was not completed (Images 6, 7, and 8).


The 1/32nd scale Tamiya A6M2 provides decals for the fabric control surfaces’ plates, but I am not sure yet how I would duplicate the finished result on a model. Perhaps one idea may be to use a very thick clear decal or several layers of thinner clear decals to recreate the bulge of the plate and then over-paint everything apart from a clear “window” over the plate. A second option may be to glue a small plastic rectangle in the plate decal’s position and then smooth down the edges to give a bulge beneath the decal.  


Tamiya correctly includes one other position for Decals 113 or 112 on the underside of each horizontal stabilizer. This plate would not have been covered with a celluloid panel as it was riveted directly onto the stabilizer skin. (Image 9)




Image 1 B5N2 Plate Window

Image 2 A6M2 Rudder Plate Location

Image 3 A6M3 22 Rudder Plate Location

Image 4 A6M2 Aileron Plate Location

Image 5 Elevator Plate Location

Image 6 A6M2 Rudder

Image 7 A6M2 Rudder Plate and Stencil

Image 8 Elevator Plate and Stencil

Image 9 Horizontal Stabilizer

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Ryan, your insights into the detail surrounding the control surfaces has been fascinating. The data plates are particularly interesting, as is the outsourced manufacturing process that they signify. Luckily Tamiya got the number of holes in the accessory-cover mountings right - I had blindly followed their moulding before seeing your post! :whistle:


Back to the gear, briefly. The inner doors are complete, with the hinged parts folded to accommodate the drop tank.




I added the Eduard details for the wheel covers, as well as an attempt at replicating the rosette welds along the lower gear legs.




Although an epoxy putty is probably the best way of making a canvas cover for the tail-wheel assembly (as Antonio has demonstrated in his P-51 build), I decided to try a canvas substitute. This is a dried out moist hand-wipe that has a nice rough texture, cut to shape and then soaked in thin cyano. I used some stretched sprue to simulate the seam where the panels are stitched together. I then slipped the "boot" over the arm and glued it in place above the etched hinge plate which is provided in the Eduard set. A piece of scrap riveted brass was glued on top of this to complete the securing plate. A flap was attached to the front and some press studs added (not really clear from this angle). Great fun!








With the tail wheel completed, I could now finally join the fuselage halves. Tamiya would have you sliding the cockpit assembly into the already joined fuselage from below, but the little details I foolishly added behind the seat frame were catching on the fuselage structure when I tried a dry run for the procedure. If you also go crazy and detail the unseeable, the problem is easily solved by going old school, and glueing the cockpit assembly to one half of the fuselage , and only then joining the halves.






With that sorted, I charged off to get some data-plate mountings onto the control surfaces, only to realise that I first had to work out how to get them mounted without being movable and with the hinge details closer to what one sees on the aircraft.




The hinges on the Zero are very neat and tidy, and only a tiny opening is cut into the fixed surfaces to allow access to the adjusting nuts.  Since all the surfaces are designed to move on the model, the accuracy is compromised to accommodate working hinges. My initial feeling was to simply ditch these, as well as their wire shafts, but then I realised the ailerons would be very difficult to glue in place. The ailerons are very long and flexible, so it made sense to glue the wire shafts in place. Before doing that however, I widened the hinge openings to look more like the actual ones. These are really only visible from below, as the hinges disappear under the lip of upper the wing. 




The etched hinges provided in the kit were ground half-way so that the shaft can still slide into place, and provide a point to glue the aileron.




With the movement no longer a factor, one can also open up this part of the hinge line where the control rod comes out of the wing to attach to the distinctive faired arm.




I used the kit's hinges in the horizontal stab and the fin, cut little access notches and glued in a little styrene adjusting nut. Note repair to the left stab - there is no access to the inner hinge from above. Not sure why?




Then I could finally get around to making bulges in the canvas for the data-plates. I simply glued 0.13 mm styrene plates in position, and filled the edges with medium CA. these were then carefully sanded and voila...






When I bought the model some years back, the first thing I did was search for reviews of the kit. The first one I read was by Tom Cleaver, and I thought I might share it with you. It is a very forthright review, and now I understand what he was saying about the toylike aspects of the kit. It is a strange mix but since I had read his take on things, at least I was prepared for it, and not quite as put off as he was. :lol:  https://modelingmadness.com/review/axis/cleaver/tmc32a6m2.htm


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Great update, and I took notes as always. There is so much to learn here, especially when I think back to my Tamiya A6M5 build years ago, and think ahead to resurrecting my A6M2. I especially like your solution to the tail strut boot.


Cheers,  Tom

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I like the bump for the cover, I think that is the best way to approach it. The tail wheel well cover turned out nicely. Be sure the upper edge inside the well is pressed tightly against the inner skin of the tail cone. The fabric was sandwiched against the inside of the tail cone by a longitudinal brace riveted in against the inner edge of the well. Behind the tail wheel the two halves of the cover were laced together. I cannot confirm whether this lacing only went halfway down the cover or if it extended along the its entire length. But the lacing is there and in at least one photo can be seen tied at the front end with a nice big bow knot.


I'll detail the wing next.




  Wheel Well Cover

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I’ll try to look at the upper wing moving inwards from the wingtip. First are the starboard navigation light covers. These should be clear blue, not clear green. The Zero used blue covers over a yellow incandescent bulb to provide a green light effect.67 Kamikaze Museum A6M7

The aileron actuators are depicted below. Note that this is just a streamlined hinge cover; it is not an aileron balance arm.

68 Aileron Actuator Linkage

I think I posted my notes on the gun bay window elsewhere on LSP, but I’ll include them again here for the sake of completeness. Tamiya interpreted the window as a removable panel and so added a small latch just below it. This should be filled in.


69 Ammo Bay Glass Insert

The landing gear position indicators are shown below. To replicate the protective plastic cover on the indicator’s inner face I had the following idea. Make the indicator out of clear plastic sheet. Paint the outer side first with the white “squares”, then apply yellow paint over that and then add the final red layer of paint. The white and yellow will show through the clear plastic on inner side and the outer side will be its proper red colour.


70 LG Position Indicators


I mentioned the gun camera hole in the fuselage on 1 January (page 5) and it comes into play here. The first 46 Zeros had the camera mount on the left wing. It was then moved onto the right wing. The mounting screws can be seen on the kit just in front (4 screw heads) and to the rear (2 screw heads) of the front spar at the base of the wing. A little further back from the front spar is a round access panel through which the control lead for the camera was fed back into the cockpit. I have seen this panel on a photo of a Mitsubishi A6M2. However, A6M3 32 c/n 3148 (made mid-August 1942) shows that by that time Mitsubishi deleted the panel on the wing and instead adopted the use of a hole in the side of the fuselage.  Nakajima did the same as can be seen by the image of A6M2 c/n 3471 (built early December 1942).

71 Access Hole For Camera Lead

 Underside of the wing next.




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Hello Tom,


Thank you for your encouraging words. I have been thinking about a Zero reference book for some time. The problem I need to work out is a format. What I have been posting here references a particular kit and a particular model - the Nakajima built A6M2 between about September 42 to March 43. The question is how to set up a larger study? One approach is to go over the plane section by section and detail changes over time and model type. Or should there be chapters on each model - A6M2, A6M3 32 and 22, A6M5, etc.? Should some profiles and operational history be included?


I have done similar commentary on several other Zero model builds and I find it a very useful exercise in it shows me were I am lacking information. For example I just realized I do not have hard data on how the inside of the oil cooler inlet was painted. Is it aotake or the external olive-gray? I suspect the former but I need to check the artifacts to be sure.


At any rate as of the start of this year I have ay least semi-retired (half-time, but HR unfortunately wouldn't agree to combine that with double pay) so i'll have more time to Zero away my time.



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Hello Gentlemen,


Here is a look at the underside of the wing.  I’ll again start from the outer edge and sort of work inward.  Also included are some details about markings and/or decals. 

The small round access panel on the folding wingtip should have a red line (Decal 108) on the forward edge of the panel.

72 Red Line on Inspection Panel

If the flaps are depicted as being open, a sub-assembly plate should be added. Interestingly, the one example of such a plate I have examined has been given an overspray of aotake.

73 Flap Data Plate Locations  Top Nakajima Bottom Mitsubishi

On each of the panels covering the gas tank bays was a vent that could be opened from the cockpit to allow air circulation into the bays. This was probably done to reduce the problem of vapour lock as in mid-1943 these vents were eliminated and addition booster pumps were added to the fuel system.

74 Cooling Flaps

The load indicator markings on Nakajima Zeros consisted of a wide blue band. The kit decals (129) are consistent only with Mitsubishi’s practice.


75 Load Markings

Do not use Decal 135.


The demarcation of the Nakajima wing IFF markings is as below. 

76 IFF Markings

On the underwing centre-line is an opening to allow for the ejection of expended 7.7mm MG cartridges. This opening could be closed by a small panel fastened with 4 Dzuz fasteners. I do not know whether this was done on combat missions or if the opening was left open. Thoughts on this, anyone?     

77 Cartrige Ejection Shute

Looking at what is left I should still detail the prop and spinner, the tail hook, and the gunsight.


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Here are the details for the tail hook. Note that this is particular hook was manufactured by Mitsubishi. The steel components were painted gloss black while the aluminum shaft was painted with of a coat of aotake.

The Nakajima hooks had an identical design but they were manufactured by Nippon Kenketsu Kogyo KK. Ironically Nippon Kenketsu was a subsidiary of Mitsubishi that was located conveniently close to the Nakajima factory in the Tokyo area. Nakajima / Nippon Kenketsu tail hooks also had the steel components painted gloss black but the aluminum shaft of the hook was painted with the same olive-gray paint found on the exterior of the Zero. And instead of a metal sub-assembly plate an aluminum coloured stamp was applied in the same location .


It should also be mentioned that the tail hook well was painted with the same olive-gray as the rest of the Zero's exterior.




78 Tail Hook

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On 2/2/2020 at 9:05 PM, Uncarina said:



If you wished to compile it, this would be an amazing reference book!


Cheers,  Tom


100% agreed!

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