Scale Modeling tutorial by Alan Nadel

   Chance Vought's F4U Corsair was an aircraft carrier based fighter plane which saw service in the 1940s and '50s. Distinctive for its graceful "Reverse Gull Wings," it gained a reputation as one of the fiercest fighter planes of the Second World War.

  My father served in the U.S. Marine Corps working as a mechanic on F4U-4s. I wanted to pay tribute to him with a model of one of these great planes.

Image courtesy Dave Gorman
   My experience in building historical aircraft is limited compared to other modeling genres. I wanted this model to not only be appreciated and displayed proudly by my father but also to be a model that showed the same kind of quality of workmanship that I would expect to put into a spacecraft or sci-fi model. I was ready to have some fun!

   At 1/48 scale, Hasegawa's Corsair is a nice size without being a particularly complicated kit. The complete kit consists of 47 gray injection-molded parts. Two more clear molded pieces make up the canopy. Molding quality is excellent without any sink-marks or flash, surprising as the molds for this kit go back to the 1980s. Detail is crisp but limited to the basics. Panel lines are raised rather than engraved, typical of kits of this vintage. 

Parts is Parts

Your unfinished model should look like this.

   The instructions above consist of a single sheet with detailed drawings of each step of the kit's assembly. Painting recommendations are for Humbrol and Mr. Color paints. Printed on the back is a brief description of the plane and a decal  placement guide.

    The nicely printed decal sheet below includes markings to make a U.S. Marines or a U.S. Navy Corsair flown during the Korean conflict in the 1950s. I was looking to model a Corsair flown shortly after World War Two so alternative decals would be used.

The Decal Sheet


   I started the kit by assembling the Pratt & Whitney R-2800 radial engine. The engine consists of a low profile back piece representing the engine cylinders and a separate front portion depicting the engine's bullet nose and cylinder push-rods. The entire sub-assembly is about an inch across.

   I sprayed the engine cylinders with Model Master Silver Enamel (#1246 in a "rattle can") and gave it a wash of Tamiya Acrylic Flat Black (XF-01) to bring out the details of the part. Flat Black was also painted onto the engine's back plate. Fuel lines were hand brushed with Tamiya Copper (XF-6). The front section of the engine was airbrushed with an 8:1 mix of Tamiya Light Sea Grey (XF-25) and Clear Blue (X-23) and then given a wash of Model Master Flat Black (#1749). The push-rods and other details were then painted with Tamiya Black (X-1).

   While the finished engine sub-assembly is not completely accurate, it looks very good and even better when placed in the nose of the plane. A more detailed engine would be a nice touch, but most of that extra detail would be hidden once it was assembled into the model.

More Parts

   The cockpit is typical of older aircraft kits. The shape and overall design is correct but detail is kept to the most basic of representative shapes. Side consoles are covered with simple rectangles, circles and points which do roughly correspond to the locations of actual instruments and controls in the cockpit of a Corsair. 
the Thingie-pit  
   The cockpit interior was airbrushed with a 5:1 mix of Tamiya Park Green (X-28) and Flat Black. The control stick was also painted the same color.

   I planned on building this Corsair with the canopy closed and knew most of the cockpit detail would be hidden so I worked with what the side panels had to offer. Tamiya Flat Black, Flat White (XF-2) and Flat Red (XF-7) were used. Details were hand-painted to as closely match the correct positions of the instrumentation of an actual Corsair cockpit as the molded parts would allow.

  The main instrument panel has some nice looking raised instrument detail but that detail is not even vaguely accurate. All of the dials, gauges and switches were filed off and the part was sanded flat and smooth. A color image of an actual Corsair instrument panel was printed out on glossy paper using a laser printer and glued on. Less than an inch wide, it looks really good and even better through the canopy of the finished cockpit.

   The kit's tiny pilot is nicely detailed. Only an inch tall in a sitting position, its size made it a real challenge to paint. Assisted by a 2x magnifying visor, I was able to get a satisfactory look using a base of Tamiya acrylics.

   The tan flight suit was colored with a 5:3:1 mix of Flat White, Lemon Yellow (X-8) and Flat Brown (XF-10). The life vest was painted Lemon Yellow and the face was hand brushed with a 3:2 mix of White and Flat Flesh (XF-15). The seat harness was painted with an 8:1 mix of Flat White and Flat Brown. The helmet was painted straight Flat Brown and the oxygen mask and gloves were painted with a 3:1 mix of Flat Brown and Black. The entire figure was then given a wash of Model Master Burnt Sienna to bring out details and accentuate facial features.

Give the pilot a hand!

   Like many aircraft kits, Hasegawa's Corsair was designed to be built and displayed "on the tarmac" with landing gear deployed and the gear doors assembled in the open position. The gear doors were not meant to be assembled in the closed position and so did not fit into the gear bays properly. I've always preferred to display aircraft models "in flight" with the landing gear up and the gear doors closed. This would require a little work.

   Blocks of plastic, .080-inch to .100-inch thick needed to be glued into the gear wells to support the gear doors when glued in the closed position (arrow, top photo at left). While the left-side main gear doors fit into the gear wells almost perfectly, the right-side doors needed a spacer of .015-inch thick sheet plastic to fill a gap between them (arrow, middle photo). When sanded flush, this filler piece made just enough of a step to show the separation between the two gear doors.

   The oil cooler vents were sprayed with Model Master Silver. A wash of Tamiya Flat Black really brings out the details (bottom left photo). They were glued into the wing bottom-half and masked with low-tack masking tape before the wings were glued together (photo below).

   I would display the model in a "flying" pose by suspending the model from the rear by a 1/4 inch diameter clear acrylic rod. To make this mounting as secure as possible, I cut a section of aluminum tube with an inside diameter of 1/4 inch and used Milliput epoxy putty to hold the tube in position.

   The engine and cockpit sub-assemblies were glued into the fuselage and the two fuselage halves were glued together. The thin cellophane bag that held the kit parts was cut to mask over the cockpit for spraying the model with primer. Once the cockpit tub was glued into place, the cellophane was so positioned as to be easily removed after painting.


   The tail gear, which is designed in the kit to assemble in the extended position would not be used. The tail-hook would be seen behind the mounting rod, however. It was removed from the tail gear and glued into the back of the gearwell. The gearwell door was then cut up to clear the acrylic mounting rod and was glued into position.
  The kit is designed to represent a Korean War era Corsair and has two very delicate antennas on the bottom of the fuselage. Since the Corsairs of the mid 1940s did not have these antennas, they were removed. A small mast was also removed from the top of the vertical stabilizer.

   The wing was glued to the fuselage. Where the wing upper surface met the fuselage on each side there was a gap  which was easily filled with Model Master brush-on primer.

  The model was primed with the typical spray-can light gray automotive primer. Any visible seams and flaws were brushed with Model Master primer and sanded out.

  The clear canopy is very well molded. This delicate part is very thin and strap detail is very crisp. It was masked off with Parafilm laboratory film to prep for painting and was glued into position using Elmer's white glue. The model was ready for painting.