Scale Modeling Tutorial by Alan Nadel
This tutorial originally appeared at PCModeler.com



 
 
   Back in 1964 (way back), the Beatles were achieving a level of fame unsurpassed by any popular music artist or group either before or since. That same year, Revell issued injection molded figure kits of John, Paul, George and Ringo. Nowadays, these kits are extremely rare.

   Being a Beatle fan, I was naturally thrilled when in 1995, I was given the opportunity to restore a kit of George Harrison, the Fab Four's lead guitarist. It belonged to a friend, an even more avid Beatle fan who kept it stored away with the rest of her very large collection of Beatle memorabilia. It was put into storage after her brother, who was twelve years old in '64 had painted and partially assembled it.

   Out of the box, the kit appeared to be in very good condition and even included the original instruction sheet. While no longer on the sprue, all of the parts were there and there were no broken pieces. The only piece still on the sprue was the guitar strap (top right) which ended up not being used.

  The only sections glued together were the head and the guitar. Both of them would need a bit of work to align the parts.

   Most of the kit was covered with a thick, hand-brushed coat of enamel paint. I would have to strip all that paint off before I could begin building it. Another challenge would be my limited experience painting figures - my experience is in fact and fantasy spaceship modeling. I was looking forward to something different.

I: STRIPPING THE PAINT

   Stripping old dried enamel paint is fairly easy but very messy. There are a few solvents known to do this well. Gasoline and brake fluid are often used by modelers. I tried Easy-off oven cleaner only because I had a used can in the kitchen cabinet.

   One thing that I can't emphasize enough is how much care must be taken because oven cleaner and its fumes are really nasty. For safety's sake, all precautions should be taken to keep it from contacting skin, clothes, pets, furniture, food and just about everything else save for the inside of a dirty oven. Good ventilation is also important so the oven cleaner doesn't stink up the house.

   A plastic container was placed in a sink protected with plastic wrap. A fan was placed, pointing out of a window just above it.

   Painted parts were placed in a plastic tray. Oven cleaner would be sprayed on until the parts were covered and left on for a half-hour. The parts would then be scrubbed with a toothbrush under warm running water.

   The oven cleaner had no effect on the old plastic. Some parts had so much paint slopped on that they needed the whole process repeated once or twice but the end result was that all of the paint was removed without any damage to the plastic.

II: ASSEMBLY

   Like most figure kits, George was an easy build. The instruction sheet consisted of two exploded view drawings clearly showing part placement along with a painting guide and Beatle Bio:

"George, a Liverpool lad, has always had a flair for the arts, which meant anything that allowed freedom of expression. (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.)"

   George's body went together easily with no filling needed. Part fit was excellent. Not only were there no gaps but most glue seams perfectly matched the seams of George's suit. The finely detailed hands were each molded in one piece, each attached to an arm half. Mold parting lines were easily scraped off with a hobby knife. The left arm attaches to the body at the left elbow; the right arm (with hand holding a teeny little guitar pick!) at the shoulder. Only the left elbow needed puttying. The right arm attached cleanly at the suit's shoulder seam.

   George's head, one of the two assembled parts was glued with a considerable offset which would require some work to fix. The seam was puttied and the hair was reshaped with a needle file and re-textured with a hobby knife as were the backs of both ears. Any seams or blemishes visible after misting with Bond Tite spray automotive primer were filled with Model Master enamel primer (liquid, in a jar). The head was finished when the skin was smooth and there was no remaining trace of the seam.

   George's Gretsch "Chet Atkins Country Gentleman" electric guitar was originally glued together with a wide gap with a location tab holding the gap open. It was necessary to cut through the tab with a razor saw in order to close up the guitar body. A piece of .015" thick sheet styrene was laminated against the side to repair a slight offset. This was blended in with putty and sandpaper. A coat of primer brought out the beautiful molded-in detail of this part including screws on the pick-ups and excess strings hanging off the tuning pegs.

III: PAINTING AND FINISHING

   Using my trusty Badger 200 airbrush and Tamiya acrylic paint, a 1:1 mix of (gloss) White and Flat Flesh was sprayed onto  the face and hands as a base coat. Then, from below the face, I sprayed a 5:3:1 mix of Flat Flesh, White and Flat Brown and from above I sprayed a 12:6:1 mix of White, Flat Flesh and Red. This brought out light and shadows, highlighting facial contours. The ears, nose and knuckles were lightly dry-brushed with a 4:2:1 mix of White, Flat Flesh and Red for added realism. Clear acrylic mixed with a little Flat Base was airbrushed on to give the skin tones a satin finish.

Click on the images above and below for
larger views of the instruction sheets.

   A base coat for the hair and eyebrows was hand brushed on. A 3:1 mix of Flat Black and Flat Brown was used. The hair and eyebrows were then dry-brushed with 100% Flat Brown, and then lightly dry-brushed with a 6:2:1 mix of Flat Brown, Lemon Yellow and white.

   The whites of the eyes were hand brushed with White mixed with just a trace of Blue and the irises with Flat Brown. The eyes are just large enough to paint Black pupils with a 10/0 brush. After the eyes had dried completely, they were overcoated with Model Master clear enamel. When that was dry, the eyelids and lips were highlighted with a 5:3:1 mix of White, Flat Flesh and Red. Finally, the eyes were lined with a 2:1 mix of Flat Flesh and Flat Brown.

 
   Both hands and the head were masked with Parafilm "M" laboratory film and the shirt collar and cuffs were sprayed with an equal mix of Flat and gloss White. Parafilm is a great masking agent because it clings without sticking, it cuts easily and it can follow any contour (see Fine Scale Modeler, Feb., 1993: "Parafilm `M' - the latest word in masking" by David Lennox, p.30). The right arm was then glued to the right shoulder.

   After masking the hands and cuffs, again with Parafilm, the suit was sprayed with Light Gray. After that coat dried, it was re-sprayed from above with a 2:1 mix of Light Gray and White.

   The buttons and coat trim were hand brushed with gloss and flat black respectively. George's tie was hand brushed and his boots were sprayed with a 1:1 mix of the two. The cufflinks were painted Chrome Silver. After the boots were glued to the body, casting resin was poured into the body via the neck opening, filling both legs to make the figure sturdier and more bottom heavy. The finished head was then super glued to the body.

   The guitar was sprayed Black with White trim along the head neck and body, a Flat Brown fingerboard and a Gold Leaf pick plate. Parafilm made the masking of sharp borders easy. (I noticed that it did cling better to glossy surfaces.) The image at left shows the guitar covered with Parafilm with the pick plate exposed for painting.

   The bridge and control knobs were hand brushed and the strings and frets were dry brushed, all with Chrome Silver. The pick-ups and tailpiece were covered with Bare Metal Foil. The foil followed every contour of the pickups revealing the tiny molded-in screw heads. Using a Badger 250 mini spray gun and Tamiya Clear, I was able to get a nice glossy finish. The guitar is then located via the hole on the back to the locating pin on George's waist while the left hand cradles the neck.

   The guitar strap is represented by molded in detail on George's left shoulder and back and by a thick, oddly shaped molded piece which connects the strap shoulder pad to the bottom of the guitar neck (part number 15, still on the sprue in the top-right corners of the photos above). This piece neither fit well nor looked good. It was replaced with a 1/8" wide strip of .020" (very thin) sheet styrene which looked much better, especially where it attached to the shoulder pad. When the guitar is in position, the other end realistically curves up to meet George's axe in the right spot (arrow, right). The entire strap was painted with a 1:1 mix of Red and Hull Red. This was the only part of the kit that was replaced.
 
   The display base, which has a raised reproduction of George Harrison's autograph, was sprayed with an equal mix of Light Gray and (gloss) Black. Lightly scraping the autograph with a single edge razor blade, a technique called "adzing" revealed the white plastic underneath, bringing out the signature. Attaching George to the base with a #4-40 screw through the left heel finished the model.
IV: YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!

   When finished, I'd spent eleven hours on George: one hour stripping, five hours building and reworking and five painting. Not only did I learn and use some new techniques but I now understand why some people get hooked on building figure kits!

   George stands nine inches tall, making the model roughly 1/8 scale. The likeness is actually very good considering that most 1960s figure kits featured generic faces that came close but at best only approximated the actual look of the model subjects. This model really does resemble the pre-Hard Day's Night George Harrison.

   Click on the picture of George on the right to go the gallery page.


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