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Curtiss P-1A, Chile, 1929

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A bit late for a start I know, Gentlemen, but I think I have a decent shot at bringing this in under dead-line.


Chile was the first substantial export order for fighters Curtiss managed to land. By the end of the run of the Hawk biplanes, Curtiss had sold almost as many of them abroad as they did to the U. S. Navy and Army combined.


This will be something between a scratch-build and an extreme conversion. I will be using the wings and interplane struts from an Accurate Miniatures re-issue of the old Monogram Curtiss P-6E kit (from start to finish of the taper-wing Hawks, the wings remained identical in dimension and appearance), and if time pressure requires, I may wind up using the rear portion of this kit's fuselage, though it is not my intention now to do so. Dimensions from the cockpit to tail of the P-6E fuselage as the same as for the P-1, but it is not really just a matter of grafting on a new nose. Although the overall lengths of both types are just about the same, some of that length on the P-1 comes from a spinner and a broader chord rudder: the nose of the P-6E is longer, and its wings are set further forward. There are also some appreciable differences in the appearance of the fuselage sides. My intention is to scratch-build the fuselage, and the tail surfaces and under-carriage, as well as cabane struts and some other bits.

The boxed kit is an Olymp Resin kit of the F6C-1, the Navy equivalent of the P-1A. It was mis-packed, with one fuselage half having the early shallow radiator tunnel and the other having the later, deeper tunnel, so it is not really buildable, and in any case, I do not think I would succeed at building it. But it does have some use as a sort of 3-D reference for some shape considerations, and it does have reasonably accurate interior details, which I intend to copy.

In doing the fuselage, I have started with the nose, by far the most complex bit, and here is the result of this weekend's sessions:




This piece is basically a box, which once assembles is filed and scraped and sanded to shape. In making it, an end-plate for the rear was cut from 1mm sheet, to 16mm x 10mm (a hair over-size to allow for clumsiness). Cheek-pieces of 2mm thickness were then added. These were roofed over at the top with a piece of 1mm sheet and a piece of 2mm sheet. Then a 1mm piece was cut to fill in the bottom between the cheek-pieces, and two sections of 2mm sheet were added to the front. After rough shaping, a 6.5mm circle of 1mm sheet was added at the front. The shape is 'interesting': there is the sort of a ghost of a normal streamline cigar-shape lurking within it, with a vee-motor sprouting out its top, behind something that always reminds me of a dolphin's forehead. The rear of this piece is 'adjustable': I may trim a millimeter or two off when I decide finally where it will match up with the rest of the fuselage, but in any case the plan is to next cut out fuselage sides, prepare them, and attach them to this piece, then add the fuselage bottom.

Edited by Old Man
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Looking forward to more of this one!

Thank you, Sir.

I have made a good deal more progress over the last wek. This is sort of a 'clap on all sail' project, as I do want to get the thing done by dead-line.

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Most of the fuselage is now assembled, and interior work begun.

First fuselage sides were cut, from .03"/.75mm sheet. A template was made by taping a cut-out portion of the profile plan to a sheet of plastic and then trimming to shape. The sides were taped together for final shaping to ensure similar results.




The inner surfaces have been scored to receive the stringer that bulges out the sides (and will be visible in part in the cockpit sidewalls). The inside is also heavily scored for bending to shape towards the tail.

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The fuselage side were bent at the scores, then fixed to the nose piece, and anchored at the tail by a plate. The bottom of the sides was trimmed away to allow for a bottom piece of .03"/.75mm sheet (this was only crudely shaped, glued on, and trimmed to match the sides).




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The final shape of the tail is put in by cutting off the last 5mm on the fuselage, replacing it with solid plastic, and sanding the final taper into it. The fuselage are blended into the nose, and given their 'bulge' in front from the stringer. There is a 'ship in a bottle' quality to doing interior work from the top, but it has some good points, and as a technique, and is unavoidable given the construction method.




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I will be using a portion of the Ac/Min/Mngm kit for the front decking, as it will same time and trouble. It has been clipped to fit, and given shim at the front to give it the proper level line. Here it is resting in place.



It will be filed down a bit more, mostly at the top, and the rear of the nose-piece will be blended back into it. Actually, in the Curtiss vee-12 Hawks, the transition at this point was pretty awkward....

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nice work!!

really awesome scartch building sir!

soo old men are good at something :P :P

Thank you, Sir, and always remember: old age and treachery beats youth and strength, every time....

"I ain't so good as I once was, but I'm good as I ever was once."

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for your kind words, Gentlemen.

As things are getting near the end, I am making a picture-less up-date (some have been taken, but not yet processed).

I do feel I have a decent shot at getting this done by the dead-line, though probably just under the wire....

Fuselage, lower wings (from the Monogram kit), tail surfaces (scratch-built) and under-carriage (scratch-built, with wheels from the spares box), are complete, assembled as a unit, and painted (except for the upper tips of the lower wings, where the inter-plane struts have yet to be attached. The upper surface of the upper wing (from the kit) is painted; its lower surface still requires a bit of work.

Wife has done wonders producing decals for me on this project (she is a true witch at photo-shop and manipulations). The national markings of the period had a different proportion than the modern ones, so some serious work was necessary. The tactical marking (or serial) is in hand, as is the Curtiss logo. I like to give a couple of days drying for the inks and clear-coat, so this is the last scheduled delay in the work. I expect on Wednesday to be putting these on prepared surfaces.

I have to contrive a windscreen and sighting rod before I can put on the upper wing, but otherwise except for the pad on the head-rest, shoulder belts, and a bit of a shoe on the tail-skid, the fuselage is complete. Exhaust pipes, header tank, carburetor intake, radiator tunnel with shutters and choke flap, are all there, with surface detail (raised fasteners from heavy foil, and lacings from wife's decals). Metal areas have been painted with silver paint tinted with tan, and fabric areas painted with straight silver paint. Propeller and bell-crank fairings (under the lower wingtips) must still be made. I expect I will be scratch-building my cabane struts, and doing cabane wires before these are made and added. Kit inter-plane struts will be used, I will scratch the aileron rods.

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Just a quick uo-date, Gentlemen. Here is one picture that pretty well reflects the state of play (a bit more detailing has been done on the fuselage)....


I will post more when I have the next enforced pause for drying, which will probably be after I put on the wind-screen and sighting rod, and get the upper wing on....

Edited by Old Man
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Very nice, OM! That cowling looks great - it really looks like a P-1A.



Thank you, Sir. This is my third run at one of these 'dolphin's brow' cowlings: I have scratch-built a Boeing FB-1 (with the D-12), and an N.E.I. Export Hawk (based on the original P-6, with the Conqueror). It is an interesting shape....

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I will post up the 'missing links', Gentlemen, but here is how matters stand as of now:


Cabane struts are from .75mm x .50mm strip, and are assembled on the model, after the upper wing is attached to the interplane struts. Cabane rigging (.004" wire) is in, but does not show in the picture. The odd angular bit behind the cowling is the starter crank, which Curtiss provided clipped to the airplane itself (doubtless of some assistance in event of forced landing). The fairings on the ends of the kit struts have been trimmed off; they were on the P-6E, but not the P-1. Fairings for turnbuckles show prominetly in photographs, and have been provided with bits of 1.0mm x .50mm strip.

Am moving directly to painting the remaining areas of wing and struts and fittings, and will then be doing the rigging. I am about halfway through concocting the propeller. National markings will be the final steps.

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Well, Gentlemen, I will avail myself of the extension here. I have the structural rigging done(but not photographed as yet), and from incidents during it, fear if I push things to try and make a tomorrow midnight deadline, I will screw something up. Next weekend should see this complete, though.

I will take the opportunity here to post up the 'missing links' between a few weeks back and my last posting....


Here is most of the interior before the fuselage is closed. Gun breeches are tucked in under the fore-decking.



Here is the thing pretty much assembled. The exhaust runs are from .75mm rod. The lower wings are filled at the top to make up for root fillets moulded into the kit fuselage pieces. The turtleback is a solid piece, filed to shape. The tail surfaces are .375mm sheet. The radiator tunnel is assembled on the model.

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Here is the assembly under a first coat of primer.


Here is the model re-primered, after adding raised detail from strips of foil tape, adding radiator shutters, and landing gear.


Here is a look at the landing gear, which is practically invisible at most angles on the model.


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Here is a good look at the radiator front.


Here is a good look at those of the decals already applied.


And now we are up to where the last posted pictures were...



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  • 2 weeks later...

I have slowed down a bit on this, but am pretty near done. Painting, rigging, and decaling are complete, and aileron actuating struts have been applied.





The best thing I can say about the Testor's decal material is that it is readily available. There was some bleed in some of the decals, even after a week's drying for the ink, and for the sealant coat. It was not immediate, but became apparent ask the decal settled in drying after placement. One was bad enough it had to be removed, but otherwise it could be dealt with by over-painting. I usually over-paint a bit anyway with these, as it eliminates the bit of white edging from the thickness of the decal film itself that is often apparent when white film is used, as it often must be.

The rigging on this is a hair trickier than usual. All lines are doubled; the landing wires must past between the rear flying wires, and the front flying wires are not parallel.

All that remains is doing the propeller (the Hamilton-Standard forging employed with the D-12 motor has a distinctive appearance), add the bell-crank fairings under the lower wing tips, and put in the bracing wires and control wires at the tail. Hopefully this will be all in hand by next week.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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