Weathering a Model

Well, the YT International Bf 109 that I reviewed in RCM&E is clocking up the air miles, and it’s all jolly good fun, but the old girl’s simply got no soul. It’s almost like she fell out of a cornflake packet, all clean and fresh, which is a crying shame. What’s more, she’s desperately in need of someone in the office to take care of business, instead of looking like an aeronautical Marie Celeste! The problem, is that in recent years my aeromodelling diet had degenerated into a procession of shiny, homogenized ‘buy today fly tomorrow’ designs of one type or another. Then, along came the ‘109 and suddenly I found myself needing to put a bit more effort in. Some skills need to be reawakened…

I drew up a shortlist of things that would elevate this bird into my own personal ‘object d’art’, but we’re not talking about turning water into wine here. What I was after were a few simple changes to make the model a little more believable in my own eyes.

Step 1: Grubbin’ Up

So, where to start? A little more interest in the cockpit would be great, I thought, especially when my clubmates are giving her the once-over in the pits. A bit of wear and tear to the exterior, and maybe a little extra surface detail here and there. Yes, that should do it. I could have gone further of course, but I wanted to keep things really simple and produce a practical finish that I’m not reluctant to take flying.

I particularly wanted to stay away from the airbrush this time – super low-tech, in fact! Arming myself with nothing more than a 2B pencil and a scrap of sandpaper, I set about dirtying up the exterior of the fuselage. It’s a simple trick. Rub the pencil on the sandpaper to create a pile of graphite dust, then dip your finger into it and rub the residue gently into panel lines and louvers, and in or around any areas you feel would get grubby – oil filler caps, service hatches etc. – anywhere that anyone would put their mitts. If you want a streaked effect to replicate oil runs and the like then simply wet your finger and wipe over the graphite – it’s simply amazing, giving a slightly metallic sheen at the same time. Try to imagine how the ingress of dirt and grime would be affected by airflow. If you overdo it then a simple pencil eraser or (even better) an artist’s putty rubber removes the offending splodge.

To add some highlights, get hold of a fine-nibbed silver paint pen from a stationer’s and hint at the edges of panel lines here and there. Don’t lavishly draw around every last detail – be a little ‘arty’. Tell yourself ‘less is more’ and you’ll wonder why you haven’t used this trick before.

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