Thread Tools
Oct 26, 2018, 04:06 PM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP
Build Log

Repainting the FMS 1500mm P-47D Razorback (and other ideas)

In June 2017, I had the opportunity to purchase a slightly used FMS 1500mm P-47D Razorback from a fellow modeler in nearby Jacksonville, FL. The price was half the cost of a new one, so worth the drive. I figured it would be a good model for to learn some larger warbird flying skills, and in that capacity it served me well.

For some time I had thought about repainting it as others have done. I had recently done a complete repaint of my FMS 70mm A-10 Hog, which turned out very well, but cost a small fortune. Why? I had chosen to use Model Master enamels in spray cans as well as bottles (to be airbrushed). I did not keep close tabs, but counting empty cans and bottles, I know I spent over $100. One of the reasons I went this way was because I could research the exact Federal Standards (FS595) color swatch numbers, and Model Master offered paints in those FS numbers -- the shades in the 3 color camo scheme were a little odd, and even more so when not applied next to each other. However, all finished it looked just like photos of the full size Hog, as intended.

I've read much about using latex housepaint samples from a big box store, and seen some beautiful examples online and thought I should give this a try. I was especially encouraged by a well written and very informative article in Model Airplane News by Rich Uravitch. The article is available online in PDF format here, and I recommend downloading and reading carefully, even if you don't want to see how I did things. I'm not doing anything really new here, except for a few things which I may have thought of, or was unaware that somebody else had done.

One of the real eye-openers in this article is the fact that Home Depot has all the FS595 formulas in their computer database, making it unnecessary to bring swatches in to scan, or taking guesses as to color. But there are some caveats to that which I will mention in due corse.

I'm not going to do a step by step on this, but rather show some highlights. So instead of a big reveal at the end, I'm going to start with the before and after for this project and go from there. Between the Uravitch article and what I write, maybe you'll discover something useful. While I used an airbrush for a few parts of the project, by and large this was done with brushes and a very inexpensive trim roller.

I will say at the outset, that I was very happy with the results, ease of use, and especially with the incredibly low cost. This will not be my last such project.
Sign up now
to remove ads between posts
Oct 26, 2018, 04:31 PM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP

Getting Started

Right off, I'd like to point out that while there's nothing particularly hard about any of this, it is rather time consuming. If you think you are going to start repainting on Saturday morning and fly on Sunday, well, you might -- but it won't look like the results I'm showing. In addition to being easy, I found many of the steps rather relaxing to do.

The first step for me is getting the kit decals or stickers off the plane. Many guys choose to paint right over these, and to each their own. Mr. Uravitch removed them, and I did as well. However, I found that using a particular CA solvent, along with a heavy dose of patience, allowed me to remove the decals with only a relatively small amount of paint pulling up. This translates to much less filling and smoothing in the prep process, so worth the time and trouble.

(I had figured that this CA solvent was probably acetone, so I tried some acetone on a piece of the P-47 foam, and it melted it! I know FMS used a particularly soft and spongy foam on the P-47, much more prone to dings and damage than what they used on the A-10 for example.)

You simply peel up a corner with a good tweezers or xacto, apply some of the solvent and start to peel back on itself. Try to pull the sticker down top to bottom so that the solvent can run left and right horizontally and not run right down and out. Keep the "edge" wet and keep pulling. Expect to spend an hour or more doing this to remove all of the decals from the fuselage, wing panels and rudder. If you don't have the patience or inclination, then simply rip them off, and deal with the pulled-up paint in the priming process.

NOTE: while I did not see the CA debonder affect the foam, I let a puddle sit on one of the molded plastic parts, where the stab halves mount -- it will eat into the plastic if you let it sit long enough, so quickly wipe off any excess.
Last edited by MrSmoothie; Apr 09, 2019 at 08:37 AM.
Oct 26, 2018, 04:43 PM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP

Mitigating the Foam Gatoring

One of things I really hate is when foam "gators" or "popcorns" from being left out in the sun. Black or dark-painted areas absorb more heat and are more prone to this. Of course, any dark areas under the canopy are likely to gator no matter what you do. This model came to me with moderate gatoring in the black striped areas. I wanted to see if I could effectively reduce that in the repainting process.

I've read that sanding is ineffective because of the way foam compresses unevenly around the beads, and I can see how that would be true. I felt that if I used only new, good quality sandpaper of considerable grit, I could "cut" the foam without compressing it too much. -- and also use a sanding block. I've always used 3m wet or dry and think it's by far the best. I tried a few grits and found that 180 to 220 worked best. And it's important to change out the paper often, as soon as you notice it's not really cutting any more. Anything finer grit, and you're not really cutting the bumps level, but smoothing out the tops of them. If you are too aggressive with this process you can easily make the foam much rougher and a mess. The idea here is not to make the foam completely smooth, but to cut the high spots on all the bumps, leaving minor "valleys" between them.

After this step, I brushed on two coats of Kilz2 latex primer (per the Uravitch article). A can is quite inexpensive and judging by how much is still in the can, I can do many more models. I used a 1.5" artist's brush. Mr. Uravitch uses foam brushes, but I don't like those myself.

A few notes about brushing on paint... this may seem basic to many of you, but I've watched others paint and not use this simple technique to reduce brush marks. Most right-handed people start painting on the left, and paint going to the right. The problem with this is that you are constantly starting new brush strokes in the just-applied wet pain, leaving marks the width of the paint brush. Instead, start at the right and work towards the left, with your brush motion going left to right. This means your stokes trail off into the wet paint and leave less marks. If possible, go over that entire section (say panel line to panel line) with continuous strokes from one side to the other.

I realized that this primer dried fairly thin, so it didn't do much to help smooth out the gatored areas. So here's what I did: I took some regular DAP vinyl spackle, the plain white stuff, and mixed this in to a container or Kilz2 until it became a thick but brushable consistency. I applied this to any areas that didn't seem smooth after the first two coats of primer, and when completely dry, came back with 220 wet/dry on a block.

Any previous dings or dents were filled with the same vinyl spackle, to which a bit of minwax polycrylic had been added. This can be done before the primer, or after, as the spots become more visible. Sanding is done with 180 or 220 wet dry as well, using a small block until the only spackle left is what's actually filling the dent (and not the surrounding area).

The results were pleasing and seemed to match the areas on the plane that had not gatored -- in other words, it was still clearly foam, but not bumpy.

I didn't bother to take many photos of the primered parts -- not too much to see really. However, in the wing panel shot, you will notice that the area above the retract has not been primered. More on that in the next installment.
Last edited by MrSmoothie; Aug 02, 2019 at 11:34 AM.
Oct 26, 2018, 08:44 PM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP

Using fiberglass to reinforce the wing skin over the retracts

One of the "weak spots" in this 1500mm P-47 is the area immediately above the retracts. The foam between the retract well and top of the wing is maybe 1/16" at most. The plastic retract mount is "U" shaped of course, and while very sturdy, when the strut is flexed rearward, the "U" twists -- kind of a torsional load. If enough, the foam wing surface will crack, usually in two parallel lines.

I couldn't see the point in repainting this model only to have that crack re-appear after one landing. After throwing out some ideas to model building friends, "FlyBoyKen" suggested fiberglass cloth, both above and below.

I then consulted with a club member with extensive experience with FG cloth and resin. He gave me a couple of feet ot 1.6 oz cloth and recommended a particular resin from an outfit in south florida, which was surprisingly inexpensive.

First, I removed the retracts. Then I did two layers inside the well, one layer (and resin batch) at a time. Then I did a layer above, extending nearly to the panel lines (where the primer stops), then a second piece, smaller, immediately above the retract mount. As was pointed out to me later, I should have done the smaller piece first, then the large pice, so it would have taken less effort to blend. One tip which I was surprised by was using toilet paper to "sop up" the excess resin, leaving only enough to fill the weave. This works great in spite of being completly counterintuitive, at least to me. After sanding the edges with 220 wet dry to feather, I did a couple of coats of my Kilz2/vinyl spackle mix. After sanding and priming, you can't even tell I fiberglassed the area.
Oct 27, 2018, 11:31 AM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP

Color Scheme, Paint and Markings

Being a professional graphic designer, I admit that I get way too obsessive when choosing the color scheme and graphics for a model. And being a scale modeler, I make sometimes obsessive efforts to make sure the work is accurate and documented as much as possible. I don't "compete" and in the end, nobody but me will ever notice if my work is accurate or made up.

A couple of years ago I repainted my 32" Alfa Models P-47 Razorback, and in the course of poking around on the web, I discovered many photos and profiles for the 19th Fighter Squadron, 318th Fighter Group. This unit was based in Hawaii, until such time as they loaded the Jugs onto a Jeep carrier, which delivered them to a barely-completed base on Saipan in 1944. The P-47's were actually launched from the carrier deck!

What caught my eye was the unique basic scheme for the squadron-- the usual olive drab/neutral gray, but with a natural aluminum cowl and tail surfaces, along with several areas of medium blue trim. Most of the planes had nose art too, and there is a surprising number of photographs, as an Army photographer took quite a few at the base which are available online. My Alfa was painted as "8-Ball." After much deliberation, I chose "Big Squaw" for the FMS. Another cool name was "EL SMOKO".

As a graphic designer, I enjoy doing my own graphics including the US Stars & Bars. I have worked in CorelDraw for 25 years, and I still like it best for doing "vector" (or outline) graphics. Happily, it turns out that Callie Soden also uses CorelDraw, and has been willing to print out the files that I send her. Take it from me, Callie is a fine professional who takes great care with her drafting -- better by far that some of the kit manufacturers, who play very "fast and loose" with the graphics, especially with the US Stars & Bars, which are frequently rendered as horribly incorrect! This drives me a little nuts. The Dynam P-61 Black Widow has some of the worst I've ever seen, but that's not entirely surprising. On the other hand, the nicely done Flightline P-38 Lightning has very poorly (and incorrectly) drafted stars and bars -- this was surprising to me!

One of the things I learned from Rich Uravitch's great article was this -- Federal Color Standards FS595 formulas are already in the Home Depot paint computer system! This is a great color palette used by many to define the color, and the plastic scale guys (who are far more obsessive than RC modelers) have figured out the closest FS595 paint number match for nearly any color. A quick google image search for almost any color scheme will turn up a graphic with the FS numbers indicated.

The "rub" is that when you go to Home Depot and ask the poor paint person to make you a sample of an FS595 paint number, you will almost certainly be greeted with a blank stare. Chances are good, you will be the first to make such a request. I got lucky -- the guy who helped me was ex-Navy and builds ship models, plus it was 6:15AM so there weren't 5 others in line waiting for samples. What we discovered is a section in the system called "Competitive Colors" and within that list of other maker's color formulas, was the Federal Standards palette! One in that, it was simple to type in the number I wanted and in minutes have a sample for less than four bucks. I always recommend getting flat latex, regardless of the eventual sheen you want. It's easier to use, dries faster, and sands fairly well if you need to. Rely on your final clear coats to get flat, satin, semi-gloss or whatever. So remember about this place to look on the computer when you go to Home Depot -- I keep a shot of the screen on my phone in case I get a different paint person who doesn't believe me.

The FS 34088 for Olive Drab looked pretty much as expected, and toward the green (and not brown) side. The Neutral Gray (FS 36173), however, looked much darker and a bit bluer than what most ARFs have on the lower surfaces. I did some research, especially articles by noted plastic modeler Dana Bell, which included color photos taken during WWII. And amazingly enough, these clearly show the Neutral Gray to be just that dark and slightly bluish. In fact, in many black and white shots, you can barely see a difference in the transition from Olive Drab to Neutral Gray, as their "value" (dark or light) is nearly the same! I think the manufacturers "cheat" with a lighter gray (about like Testors "Dark Aircraft Gray" which I've used many times), in the belief that this helps visibility.

I liked the bold logo-like design of the "Big Squaw" nose art, as it's a big cowl to fill. Amazingly, I found a website done by a plastic modeler whose father was one of the pilots of "Big Squaw" and included more history and photos of the actual plane. And yes, he's modeled the plane in plastic. Unfortunately, the plane already had the name when his father flew it, so I have no clue as to the back story.

I'll include a bunch of photos and profiles here from this squadron. If anybody would like to start with my Corel file but do different nose art, just ask. I took a lot of time to scale the Stars & Bars and other markings accurately per the photos.

To simplify things, I used cut vinyl strips for the blue stripes on the tail surfaces -- Callie found that "Sky Blue" vinyl was a very close match to what is thought to be the correct squadron color. However, I had some latex matched from a sample of the vinyl to paint the wing tips and cowl trim. I'll post that formula eventually. I was pleasantly surprised how close the blue paint matched the vinyl.
Last edited by MrSmoothie; Apr 09, 2019 at 05:30 PM.
Nov 02, 2018, 08:21 AM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP

Painting the Silver Areas

This particular squadron was unique in that they left the cowl and tail surfaces natural aluminum. Silver can be tricky, and doesn't lend itself very well to brush painting. In the past, I've typically put down a gray primer coat, often Testors "Dark Aircraft Gray" (spray can) and then sprayed Testors Silver. If you use that silver, a couple of notes -- it works much better on a sunny day with low humidity, or it may look "grayish" instead of silver. It's kind of amazing how even when the sun dips behind clouds how it can change. Spraying in an AC equipped shop seems to solve the issue most times. Also, do not try to accelerate the drying with a fan, or the silver pigment can't "flow out" evenly and it won't look uniform. Once semi-dry, you can then use a fan to speed things up.

Once I did my Kilz2 primer coats and smoothed out areas where the stickers had lifted paint, I resorted to my old technique of spraying Testors Dark Aircraft Gray. I mostly did this because it allowed me to see the surface better and touch up a few things. Honestly, it could have been gray latex.

Then I tried a water based silver paint that I purchased some time ago, but hadn't used much: Modern Masters Metallic Paint, ME150 Silver (Opaque). I believe I bought this at a local house paint store which had a good selection of decorative paints. It is available online at Amazon and others. The bad news is that it's rather expensive. But it's very good quality paint and super dense with respect to pigment. It can be brushed on, but you will probably see some variation. One way to go is to brush on one thin coat and then spray on a coat to even things out. I chose to spray only, thinning with just enough windex to make it work. You will use very little of the paint, so one container will last for several projects, offsetting the initial cost.

I did the silver parts first, since I knew I'd be airbrushing these areas, and brushing the rest. Only "rough" masking was necessary and I used blue painters tape and also tried something new to me -- Post-It "Extreme" Notes. I've heard of using Post-It notes and tried them, but they never seemed to have enough tack to stay put. Not so with "Extreme" -- definitely work yet did not pull up any paint.

Now on to the color latex. On the fuselage, I very lightly painted the wavy separation line down the side. A pencil would have worked, but this foam was so soft, I was afraid I'd cause damage. I already knew from tests that the gray covers much better than the olive drab, so I did the OD first, using a 1" wide artists brush from the Hobby Lobby crafts store. They sell decent, but inexpensive brushes. Using a brush for the first coat allows you to work the paint into all the panel lines, etc. Just a thin coat is needed and it will not cover completely. This will dry pretty quickly. A fan or even a cold setting hair drier will speed things up if you want.

Then I used a very inexpensive trim roller with a small-cell white foam roller about 3" wide. This puts the second coat on much more quickly and evenly and you will be surprised how smoothly this dries out. As with the primer and first brushed coat, you want to feather the roller into the wet paint -- don't put the roller down in a wet area and work towards unpainted.

Once dry, the lower neutral gray areas were then painted. Note that you have a hard line separating the colors. Many WWII camo jobs had just that, as they used big rubber mats as mask when spraying the colors. I've looked at lots of good close-ups and planes like the B-17, B-26 and others had hard line separation. P-47's seem to have all had a soft separation, so now I go to the airbrush, thinning the latex with some windex just enough to allow it to spray. Just go over the hard line with one color and then probably the other as well until you get the results you want. I go back and forth a few times. Use a double-action airbrush and really dial back the flow so you can work quite close to the fuselage, like 2" away, without creating a puddle of paint. I use a very inexpensive setup (compressor and airbrushes) I found on Amazon for $100 delivered. If you take the airbrush apart after every use and immerse the parts in windex or otherwise clean, they work great.

For the squadron blue trim, I used vinyl strips on the tail surfaces -- Callie's "Sky Blue". I took a piece to Home Depot and had them match the color and it turned out perfectly. This was used on the wing tips, cowl flaps, and cowl top surface. This can be brushed, rolled, or sprayed, or a combination.

I'm a big fan of Minwax Polycrylic and do multiple coats of the satin, and not to "dry" to start with. Why? Getting a good smooth clear coat at this point provides a better surface for the application of my vinyl graphics. After they are applied, I do more "wet" coats, which does two things -- seals the vinyl around the edges, and second, evens out the surface gloss with the paint so the look "painted on" and not "applied".

I am now using a final coat of something I mix up to make the paint look faded, and also to make it as matte as possible. I start with Minwax matte polyurethane, add some light gray Tamaya acrylic (because it's so pigment dense), and finally something called Golden Acrylic Super Loaded Matte Medium, which I learned about from a fellow RCGroup member. That can also be found at Amazon or elsewhere online. This mix is thinned with Windex until it sprays nicely, and this I spray on so that it goes on closer to dry, and quite a bit of back and forth. You will will really see the color and markings fade and blend together.
Last edited by MrSmoothie; Apr 09, 2019 at 05:34 PM.
Nov 07, 2018, 04:14 PM
It's all about scale models!
MrSmoothie's Avatar
Thread OP

Pilot and Cockpit

One of my pet peeves with many otherwise great foamies are the horrible pilot figures. Sometimes the scale is way off (especially on EDF jets), other times, just badly rendered and painted. The latter is the case with the P-47's provided pilot.

I ordered an Aces of Iron 1/8 US pilot, which, while not inexpensive, is very nicely done with lots of detail. Unfortunately, it's only a bust, and cuts off above te elbows.

The cockpit is fairly complete in the FMS model, so it kind of demands a full pilot. I decided to try making arms, hands, lower torso and legs from foam. I'm quite sure that I'd have been better off starting with "blue foam", but I didn't have any on hand. So I grabbed some white foam, the kind ARF models come packed in, and proceed to cut and sand some of that. I honestly didn't think it was going to work and regarded it as practice.

To my surprise, things turned out well enough to use, so I proceed to glue these parts to the AOI bust. To fill the foam and create simulated fabric wrinkles, I applied several coats of "spackle slurry" -- a thick, but paintable mix of Kilz2 latex primer and plain DAP vinyl spackle. In the last coats, the brush was used to make the wrinkles.

The figure was painted with Tamiya acrylics. Photos indicate that the Pacific theater pilots wore khaki uniforms and helmets, quite different than ETO.

I did some research on the Razoback cockpit and constructed additional details like the gun sight (several types were used, but a good shot from Saipan indicated the right kind) and the armored glass frame that was mounted inside the windscreen, ahead of the gun sight. I was unaware of the his interior frame -- one of the great things about scale modeling is learning something new all the time. Another thing I learned: P-47 cockpits were NOT zinc chromate as FMS provided. Instead, they used what was officially called "Dull Dark Green". I used a green acrylic that approaches that color, but not quite as dark and not as "blue" tinted, as I felt that color would pretty much look like black once the canopy was reinstalled.

The instrument panel was replaced with a printed out image that I found on the web and photoshopped until it was corrected for distortion and color.

The rear view mirror was carved from basswood, and vacuformed (only because I have one -- just makes it a little easier paint), and a piece of foil covered cardboard added for the mirror. This was glued to the canopy with Formula 560 canopy glue, which was also used to reattach the canopy to the hatch.

Another detail footnote. The jury is out as to whether the "rear view" side panel interiors were dull dark green or olive drab (like the rest of the exterior). I looked a lot of photos for clues and thought the evidence pointed to dull dark green. But definitely not zinc chromate. Another thing I learned -- for the wheel wells and gear door interiors, they did use zinc chromate, but not the green variety used by FMS -- the color was actually closer to yellow! This was a case where I decided I didn't like how it looked, not to mention it would require an explanation to anybody that noticed the odd color.

Quick Reply

Thread Tools

Similar Threads
Category Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
New Product New FMS 1500mm P-47 Razorback Force RC Electric Warbirds 3 Jul 16, 2016 06:42 AM