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American Airlines DC-4 (Minicraft 1:144) - Complete


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To give myself some more practice (and some hoped-for redemption) at natural-aluminum finishes before starting into my Tamiya Mustang, I decided to quickly build a couple of prop liner kits that had been collecting dust on the shelf for a while. 


This Minicraft DC-4 is boxed with a 1945-46 era American Airlines scheme.  



It's almost entirely bare metal, so ideal practice.  The subject plane, "Flagship Monterrey", is a sister ship to the first land-based plane to make a commercial transatlantic flight, this plane:


Although some sources say that it was re-branded "Flagship London" for the flight.  That was on October 23, 1945 (article in Smithsonian Air and Space is where I'm getting this).  The first commercial crossing by a land-based plane bit is important because of course the Boeing clippers (flying boats) had started doing this before WW2.


My other subject is a Roden DC-7C in JAL livery.  It's white over natural metal in a more modern-looking airliner scheme, albeit from only about 10 years after the DC-4.



The box art would not pass muster as acceptably PC today, but it does evoke some serious 60s nostalgia for me.  I don't often save the boxes that kits come in, but I may hang on to this one.

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I started with the DC-4.

It only took a few hours to get to an airframe and all of the ancillary bits ready for painting.  The overall fit on this one is better than some other Minicraft kits I've done.




This, BTW is the bees' knees:




I've had the little rotary tool for quite a while - what I just got is the felt polishing bobs.  Along with them I ordered a block of the one compound that the manufacturer said was "for plastic".  Couldn't be easier - just run the bob against the block for a moment to pick up some compound, then polish away.  It won't remove material - I had already sanded the seams through 1000-2500-6000 grit as I often do, but in seconds this thing brought the dull, smooth sanded finish up to a bright shine like untouched plastic.  Also revealed a few little spots that needed attention.  Anyway, I'm hopeful that this will help out in getting a really glossy base ready to spray Alclad on.

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I made a mask set for the DC-4.  It won't completely replace the decal sheet, but it should make it easier (than tape) to paint the black and orange edges fore and aft on the wings and empennage.  Also lets you paint the larger registration numbers.  The bottle of Vallejo Model Air 71.083 that's on my shelf seems to match the orange of the decal sheet pretty well.




Once I've had a chance to use the masks and verify that they work OK I'll post them to the Scale Model Paint Masks site...

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As I said above, this is a *practice* (and experimentation) exercise to hopefully help me get a better handle on NMF.  In that spirit, I did some tests.  I started by cutting three strips of styrene about 10" long and 1.5" wide.  Two of them I painted black directly (after wiping down with rubbing alcohol).  One with Mr Color Gloss Black diluted 50:50 with Mr Leveling Thinner (my usual mix, at least for a fresh jar of paint), one with Tamiya TS-14 decanted and degassed from the spray can, mixed 70:30 with Tamiya lacquer thinner (Chuck's recommended gloss black base).  The third I sprayed with gray Mr Surfacer 1200 prior to painting, since the MRP paint I bought suggests using a primer.  I then masked that strip down the middle and painted half of it with MRP Super Gloss Black, leaving the other half as primer.


This is what they looked like after I had already started masking off strips to paint different metalizers on:




General impressions: I found the Mr Color paint easiest to spray to a good shiny opaque coat, but this could just be due to familiarity.  The Tamiya seemed a touch too translucent - maybe I should have thinned it less.  The MRP paint (first time I have used it) sprayed a lot like properly-diluted Mr Color.  One impression (corroborated while spraying the MRP metalizers) is that it goes fast - I get the feeling that one 30 mL bottle doesn't cover a huge amount of surface area.


I also got some annoying dust specks in my gloss black.  This seems hard to avoid, especially since I'm working in my basement.  I spent some more time cleaning the area I am painting in, and I got this on Amazon:




It's a small electrostatic dust precipitator, which I've been leaving on 24/7 for the couple days I've had it, in the small room where I set up my spray booth.  Hopefully it is reducing the amount of ambient dust.  We'll find out when I next try to spray a gloss coat on something large.  It is sitting on my CNC router, which God knows when I will use again as I've kind of accepted that with the amount of space I have it's either models or woodworking - the amount of dust that the latter generates is not compatible with keeping a clean enough space to paint in.  When I retire I will move somewhere that I can set the two activities up in completely separate domains.


To further the experiment I went and sanded the dust specks off of the Tamiya strip with 6000 then 8000 grit cloth, while leaving the other black strip alone.  I wanted to see if this would have any effect on the final appearance of the metallic finish, and it did not (other than eliminating the dust specks).  So I conclude that it's desirable to gently sand/buff out defects in the black base before overspraying.

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I used masking tape to define 3/4" stripes across the plastic strips that would get the different metallic paints.  I did half of them and then waited a day, masked over the ones that were done and painted the others - so interdigitated.  One thing that I noticed right away is that the slight overspray from some sections that landed like staticky dust on the adjacent ones really telegraphed through some of the Alclad paints.  They are very translucent.  This suggests to me that I may want to paint Alclad in sections on a larger model, masking some areas off just to avoid getting paint on the prematurely.  I wrote the paints I used on the backs of the strips.




The Mr Color and Alclad paints were things I had on the shelf.  I bought a number of MRP colors, including metallics, a few weeks ago because there's been so much enthusiasm on these forums about them.  The colors I got should be sufficient to do my group build Mustang once I get there.  I got a few AMMO acrylic metalizers in the spirit of experimentation (spoiler alert, probably the last time I fool with acrylic paints for anything other than easily-distressed camo finishes).


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This is what they looked like after the first round of painting




And after all the metallics were painted




Some general impressions.  AMMO "Polished Metal"?  It would work well as a base layer if you wanted to represent a textured, non-skid surface.  WTH?  The other acrylics were just ho-hum dull finishes.  They also picked up a ton of adhesive when taped over, which none of the lacquers did.  As noted above, not going further down the acrylic road.  


Dang that Alclad Airframe Aluminum is shiny!  Also nearly translucent at some angles - looking straight on it almost seems like the black paint has nothing on it, and the gray primer telegraphs strongly through.  The gray was visible to a lesser extent under the other Alclads, very little under the Mr Color or MRP paints.  I think that I would mostly use the Airframe Aluminum as an overcoat to pick out certain panels after a base coat of a different Alclad.


The Alclad and MRP pairs I had (two White Aluminums, two Duraluminums) were quite similar to each other.  The Alclad Dark Aluminum, which I had never tried before, was surprising.  It's like a semi-gloss dark gray with a subtle metallic sheen to it.  Maybe a good accent color somewhere, not sure where yet.  Maybe even a base color for jet exhaust?


Also as noted above, the MRP paint goes away fast.  I used more than I had anticipated just to paint these swatches.

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My next goal was to see how well these finishes held up to masking, since any project I do is likely to include a lot of this, with both Tamiya tape and Oramask-type vinyl cutouts.  So I cut a bunch of small star masks in Oramask and put them over one of the test strips, then masked the surrounding bit with tape.  Here's what they looked like after a base coat of Mr Color gloss white went down.




I let this dry overnight and then painted the stars orange with the Vallejo Model Air color that I hope to use on the DC-4 (yes, it's acrylic, but I have it and that's easier than going and buying a bunch of lacquer colors to see if I can find or mix an equivalent).  The end result was this:




Which is positive in that none of the metallic paints peeled off at all when I pulled the masks.  As noted, the acrylic metallics (but not the lacquers) held on to visible amounts of adhesive from the vinyl film and the masking tape.  That's especially bad in the context of having painted this detail with acrylic - it would not work well to go try removing that adhesive with alcohol now.  The other plus is that the Vallejo color sprayed over gloss white looks acceptably close to the DC-4 decals, so I'm definitely using it for the wing and tail color borders.  I also need to use it to paint the fronts of the engine nacelles before putting the decals on them.


To that end, I've decided that for the DC-4 I'm going to base coat with Mr Color Black, do the main NMF with Alclad White Aluminum, and then paint some accent panels with MRP Duraluminum.  I'll try a different combo for the DC-7C, TBD.  I started with the small bits, which came out well (but they always do; it's big swaths of metal that I still need to refine technique on):



Edited by Alex
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Adding a little pop to the "engines" - just a bit of relief molded into the bits the props attach to.  Painted black, dry brush some acrylic Steel on the cylinders (another application I do like acrylics for), paint the crankcase gray.  Some decent detail provided for a 1:144 kit.  I'm not adding plug wires ;-)




I'll hit them with a matte coat before installing...


Then the landing gear.  Again some decent detail for an inexpensive kit at this scale.  Just white paint and gray PLW.  Will flat coat later.  Not adding brake lines...




Finally decided that I had fiddled with the airframe enough and I had to suck it up and paint it.  Wiped it down with lacquer thinner first.  Here it is before.




And after




Not absolutely uniform gloss, but not bad.  No major missed defects, surprisingly, given how hard it was to see if that white plastic was really smooth.  And not much dust - so maybe that electrostatic filter is doing something.  I'll let it sit until tomorrow, knock off any dust specks, and hit it with the Alclad.  At the rate things are going it *has* to turn out better than the P-36...

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Started playing with the DC-7C parts.  Definitely more of a short-run experience than the Minicraft kit.  The fuselage halves will need some sanding on a flat reference surface to get them lined up (extra plastic in the middle).  Fortunately I have the top of my tablesaw for that purpose.

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Sprayed the Alclad White Aluminum coat with pretty good results.  Before doing this I thoroughly sanded out the black base coat 4000-6000-8000-12000.  Intriguingly no dust to speak of stuck in the Alclad when I sprayed it, which is very different than spraying the black lacquer base.  





Got the wheels painted and assembled to the gear.  It's nice to be able to custom-cut masks.  Pretty good detail from Minicraft for a 4.2 mm wheel.




Getting the cowls ready to decal required masking and painting with white lacquer...




Then the orange.  A little bit of orange crept under the tape, but because it's acrylic I was able to take it off with rubbing alcohol on a microbrush.




Hopefully the decals will more-or-less appear to blend with this paint when overlaid.  Where there's a small ridge at the edge of the orange I'll try to VERY carefully sand a bit before decaling.  Gotta let it dry until tomorrow first.


I had intended to experiment with painting a different metalizer on a few panels to provide visual interest.  So I masked around the panels at the back of the engine nacelles.




Curiously, while the MRP Duraluminum was noticeably darker than the Alclad White Aluminum when both were sprayed side-by-side on black, the MRP *over* the Alclad is barely discernable.  It's more a different sheen than a different color.  Very subtle.  Maybe if I want to do this I need to not start with an all-over base metalizer but instead actually paint in sections over the black.  That could get complicated.




Anyway, it's down to paint and decals now for the DC-4, although the paint will be four colors and a bunch of masking so several days' work.  Hopefully the end result will be worth it.  So far this little diversion to do a simple kit is restoring my confidence that some patience and forethought can lead to a good quality NMF for my P-51.  Now the question in my mind is: do I still do the Roden DC-7C now (with significant short-run kit time investment in getting stuff to fit smoothly), or SOD it for a while and start the P-51, which I'm itching to do (especially since my other open project, the Tupolev arctic transport float plane, is on the cusp of being done now too)?  I could have the decks cleared for the Mustang by the end of this weekend...

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