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A6M5c Nakajima Zero, 1/72 Academy

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Hello all


Here are pics of the build process for this kit, the model is already finished and you can see it here.


Complete model


This is the academy kit along with the eduard photoetch set and cmk cockpit resin set which also include a vacuformed canopy and photoetch parts. The kit was modified to make it more accurate or to enhance the detail; my knowledge on this subject is limited so feel free to comment about so others could benefit.


If you are going to build this kit I recommend to correct the wing dihedral at least, otherwise the model will look odd at first glance, in this pic you could see the difference.




The first modification was to carve the oil filter duct to make it thinner and to insert the detail from the eduard set.



The wheel wells in the kit are too shallow, pieces of thick styrene strips were glued to the top side in order to increase the depth.




The wells were cut through and then covered with thin plastic card. A more accurate representation would be to extend the wells all the way to the upper wing.


The spent shell chutes were cut off and covered with hollowed pieces of sprue, also you can see that the flap sections were replaced with parts from eduard.




The two tiny white squares in the center are styrene strips to support the upper wing part at the proper height and were added before cutting off the flaps otherwise it would be difficult to properly align them. 




Detail on the wells were added using styrene strips and eduard parts.

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Thank you Peter, I'm following your Tomcat build by the way, excellent job you are doing there.


Moving in to the engine area.


Kit’s engine is fine for the scale and, since little could be seen once the engine cover and the propeller are in place, adding only the detail provided in the eduard set would be enough to make a fair representation of it. In my case went a different route.


The detail in the cylinders were refined using a sharp blade, push rods made from stretched sprue were inserted in holes drilled previously but only in the front cylinder row.



Ignition ring and cables made from stretched sprue; it seems that most modelers prefer using fine wire for this kind of work, in my case find sprue easier to glue to plastic using tamiya thin cement and because it’s stiffer than wire keeps the shape during handling and painting.




Last details added, a small box in line with the ignition ring (magneto maybe) and photoetched details over the cylinders heads, don’t know what they are.


The exhaust tubes are molded solid over the forward fuselage, to enhance them I carved around the tubes to simulate a separate part and sanded smooth, then hollowed the ends using a new x-acto blade and tamiya cement to soften the interior.




On the real airplane there is a narrow open area forward of the firewall on the fuselage sides, in the kit this is represented as a recessed detail, I don’t think paint and washes would make a good impression so I hollowed them and thinned the interior of the forward fuselage to give the look of single metal sheet.




Thank you all for stopping by.



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Now is the time of the wing, first both parts of the top of the wing were glued in place, is important to be sure the bond is firmly in place before proceeding. A jig was made using two pieces from thick styrene strip, this jig was inserted between the top pieces of the wing so it changed the angle, several adjustments were made sanding the ends of the jig until the dihedral matched the diagrams included in the book A6M Zero by Artur Juszczak.




Once the adjustments are done the jig was glued in place to the bottom of the wing, avoid using solvent based glue where the jig’s ends meet the wing so the angle doesn't change. This is the final result, the red line shows the kit’s original dihedral.




During the research of this build found several pictures showing the boarding steps in the extended position, I thought it would be a nice touch to include this detail on the model, in this picture you can see the rectangular recess made for one of this steps. Also, the bottom part where the fuselage meets the wing was shaved off to make room for the wing correction jig.




Some parts of the Eduard set include details for the main landing gear, here you can see a few of them along with parts of the kit after some rework.




Kit’s cockpit detail is ok if you plan to build it with a closed canopy, for an open one I’ll recommend either the Eduard or CMK sets although neither is completely accurate, in my case I used a combination of both together with some scratch build details.




In this picture you can see the cockpit sidewalls glued to the fuselage, the white styrene parts simulate the firewall and corresponding interior details, and also help to keep in place the instrument panel and the pilot’s seat without the need to glue them.




Based on the research material, the type 52c  variant included an armored seat and bulletproof glass in the headrest area but I couldn’t find pictures or diagrams to make the corresponding corrections.

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Thank you Rocat and Wolfgun33 for your kind comments.


Continuing with modifications to the wing.


Navigation lights in the wing tips were replaced with pieces of plastic proportionally larger than real ones, proper size will be given during painting. In this cases, I prefer plastic that is compatible with solvent-based glue so the bond will withstand filing and sanding.






Ribbing detail on the control surfaces of the kit was represented as thin raised lines, to make a better depiction, the lines were shaved off and replaced with a wider and slightly flatter line. This detail was made using Mr. Surfacer 1000 airbrushed over the previously masked control surfaces.








The surface detail was slightly sanded to remove the rough edges, a final coat of Mr. Surfacer blend everything smooth; another detail missing from the kit was the trim tabs, this was added using thin plastic strips.




In the case of control surfaces, even if washes could simulate the effect of separate pieces, I prefer to either separate them to change the position or to scribe deep under the wing like the ailerons in the picture above.


Finals corrections to the wing were the addition of the protruding fairings of the inner cannons, this was done gluing thicks sections of sprue carved to give them the proper shape, and also the relocations of some panel lines either to match the references or to aligning them between the top and bottom of the wing.




A last-minute decision was to remove the little navigation lights over the wing, little holes were drilled to mark the original positions: this lights will be replaced with ones made from plastic similar to the one used for the wing tips.




Edited by cruiz
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The cockpit was painted with Tamiya XF-71 other details painted also with Tamiya acrylics; chipping and worn effect were made using dry brushing and aquarell pencils, finally, a dark brown wash to pick up details; you can see the first attempts to create the Aotake effect using clear blue over flat aluminum from Tamiya.




At this point, the parts are only dry fitted.




One more area needing attention is the external fuel tank, in the kit the supports are represented straight and with a square profile while references show them angled outwards and tapered.


Here is the final result after the modification of the kit's parts, the supports were widened using plastic strips and then sanded to give the tapered shape. Reference photos showed some kind of reinforcement rods between the supports, also the detail of the fuel line and what appears to be a central support, all this detail was added using stretched sprue.




The angle of the supports was made so they would match two recessed circles in the wing bottom just behind the wheel wells which I’m almost sure are the correct ones in the real plane; this circles and two more holes corresponding to the back supports were drilled through. Short lengths of stretched sprue were added to each support tip’s to help secure them to those holes so the fuel tank will be aligned and in the exact position.




Here is the fuel tank after a coat of the new Vallejo Metal Color (aluminum if I remember correctly) acrylic paint. The overall shape of the fuel tank didn’t quite match the reference pictures but I decided to leave it there, also I believe there must be a filling cap somewhere on top but couldn’t find any photo or diagram so didn’t make one.




As a side note, for me, the main goal of this build was to start switching from my beloved Model Master enamels towards the unknown realm of acrylics. Aside from some difficulties to get a grip on the correct airbrush setup and thinning ratios, the overall experience with them has been positive, I’m particularly happy brushing the small details of the cockpit.


Thank you for dropping by, more to come soon.



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With the cockpit attached it was time to close the fuselage, the bulkhead that supports the seat and the deck with the headrest were placed after that to allow me to minimize the gaps in between so they could be filled and retouched easily.



The above picture shows the modification for the two boarding stepps on the fuselage side and two small holes for the corresponding handgrips just below the canopy; note also four small holes below the rudder representing structural detail because the elevons would be modified in the up position, the dome in the tail’s navigation light was cut off and replaced with clear stretched sprue sanded to shape.


A piece of plastic card was inserted inside the front fuselage perpendicularly to the firewall to prevent a see-through void in the vents.


Research material shows black as the correct color for the dashboard and the area behind the headrest, in the picture you can see the loop antenna behind the headrest; only after gluing the aft canopy I did found this antenna could swivel and be lowered through a rectangular hole parallel to the centerline so this detail was omitted.




The gunsight was built from scratch and parts of the Eduard set. In the aft canopy, you can see a smear in the interior lower corner near the headrest, this was my best effort to fix what was a nasty blob of Tamiya glue mixed with black paint. Not perfect but wouldn’t be so evident because the sliding canopy frame would cover most of it.


Lesson learned!


My preferred method for attaching transparent parts is to use Tamiya ultra thin glue, the strength of the bond is superior to what I can achieve with cyanoacrylate or PVA glue, also the capillary action makes the glue fill in the voids between the parts and minimizes the silvering effect caused for the air trapped. In this particular case everything was going well, the aft canopy was just been attached and, with the glue still fresh, the final adjustments were made; once it was placed in the correct position, applied a little more glue to reinforce the joint but I forgot the remove the excess from the applicator so, a drop of glue was sucked into the space between the canopy and the deck, dissolving and mixing the black paint making a small but nasty mess. Used some paper towel to carefully absorb most of the glue and hoping it would not be noticeable.


Once the glue was dry I realized that the black paint made the error evident even with the sliding canopy over it so, in order to correct it scraped the area with the tip of a fresh #11 Xacto blade, working slowly I managed to remove most of the glue without affecting the rest of the part, carefully working with the corners of sandpaper pieces the scratches were removed and finally a buffing using Tamiya compound applied with toothpick tips covered in cotton. An easier approach would be to remove the canopy to repair it but in this case the lower frame was too thin it could be lost in the process. A backup plan was to use the CMK vacuform part.


On a happier note, this is how the engine turned out; airbrushed with flat black, originally planned to be painted with a metallic finish but references show these engines were black so the cylinders were dry brushed with gloss black instead, cables painted with desert yellow and aluminum, crankcase painted grey and finally a subtle drybrush of steel.



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  • 4 weeks later...

The corrections made to the wings affected the way they fit in the fuselage, extra work was needed to ensure everything was centered and square. The tail planes were attached first and they worked as a visual reference to help with the alignment of the wings.


Kit’s parts were used for the windshield and aft canopy, they are thin and have little distortion; the CMK parts were very similar in shape to them but my set had a rough texture on the inside that gives them a foggy appearance.


The canopy was first airbrushed with the same cockpit color followed by a Vallejo primer coat along with the rest of the model, the Eduard mask was used for the kit’s parts of the canopy.


Since this was my first try at Vallejo primer I was constantly adjusting the settings and thinning ratios and sometimes the airbrush spat small drops of dried primer over the model; at first I didn’t worry and let the primer cure for a day, only when I started sanding the primer I realized that this was not the same as Mr. Surfacer, the thing is so hard that once you got to the plastic the primer starts to peel off and leave a step, all attempts to soften the edges were in vain so, in those areas I ended up removing the primer with isopropyl alcohol and airbrushing it again.


Once the primer was sorted out, the wheel wells and flap areas got my attempt of an Aotake finish consisting in a Tamiya flat aluminum base followed by Tamiya Clear Blue and finally, a mist coat of Gunze Clear Green applied randomly. The undersides of the model were painted with Tamiya XF-12 J.N. Grey.


References indicate that this planes had a brownish red primer that prevented the paint from peeling off in big chunks the way that it’s represented in some models I saw before (which I thought was the norm). Since I want to have some worn out and chipping of the paint, the areas I believe were prone to this where painted aluminum and protected with a coat of Tamiya clear followed by a mix of red and brown to imitate the metal of the plane covered by the primer.






In the next image you can see the tail landing gear, this part was entirely built from scratch, Mr. White Putty was used to simulate the tarp cover between the fuselage and the gear. 




At this point, while surfing the web, I found an article describing a very interesting technique known as black basing, the result is so nice that I have to try it.

In the next pictures you can see how my first try is going, after the mottling was completed the model was covered with light thin coats of Tamiya XF-70 Dark green.





Edited by cruiz
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The Hinomarus in the kit’s decals had an irregular edge so they were airbrushed instead; the masks were cut from blue masking tape; to avoid the paint build up at the edge of the masking I used two layers of masking tape, the circle in the first layer was cut slightly larger in diameter, about the thickness of an X-Acto blade; the second layer with the correct size was placed over it so it overhangs, this almost eliminate paint build up at the edge while maintaining a sharp demarcation. This technique was used to mask other areas like the yellow lines at the wings and the separation between the gray and green on the fuselage side.




Random patches of yellow were airbrushed before the red to lighten the color and make it look slightly faded.

The decals instructions indicate, for the version I chose, that in the upper wings and fuselage the white stripe around the roundels has to be covered with a light green one, reference material says that in this cases crews painted black over the original white so I emulate this by airbrushing a mist coat of flat black.








Left the paint to cure for several days as a precaution before starting to make the effect of paint chipping and worn-out.


Instead of representing dramatic paint chipping over large areas of the model I chose a more discrete approach; using the tip of a blade scraped the paint along the edges of the machine gun panels and also on the edge of the cockpit opening, this method shows random patterns of red primer and aluminum base; the worn-out paint effect was achieved sanding the paint in the areas I suppose were prone to this like the fuselage and wing near the cockpit opening, the wing’s leading edge and around the boarding steps.






A coat of Tamiya clear was airbrushed over the model in preparation for washes.

Edited by cruiz
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Work for the propeller consisted of some minor scratch build to close the gaps between the blades and the hub’s base, also engraving a separation line in the middle of the hub along with some rivets.




Black primer was the base for a coat of aluminum, both from Vallejo, and let it cure for some days then applying a light coat of “chipping medium” before airbrushing Tamiya brown, this was my first try with this technique and I'd put too little of the medium and let the paint dry for too long so I wasn’t able to make the paint to peel off as expected; The chipping effect was achieved by sanding over the paint and using color pencils for minor scratches.




The main landing gear benefited by the use of the Eduard set; despite the small size, the painting was mostly done by airbrushing and careful masking. Brake lines and the corresponding wheel attachment was made from stretched sprue.






Weathering started with the application of pastel chalk over the tires and the low portion of the gear covers.




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For this build, the most challenging part was the engine cover, consisting of three parts and without attachment points between them require careful assembly. The aperture for the carburetor intake at the front was rebuild from scratch using reference photos.





The primer coat revealed the errors that have to be fixed, after trying without success to sand the Vallejo primer in those areas it was completely removed instead and decided to try another product; in this pictures, it can be seen areas of white plastic card that were used to correct or repair the detail.







A new coat was applied using One Shot primer by AMMO, the finish is not as smooth as with Vallejo but easier to airbrush.





The engine cover received the same treatment of aluminum, clear coat and red-brown primer before the final flat black coat.

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  • 4 months later...

Final part


Pictures of the real plane show the sliding section of the canopy with a soft curve at the top that follows the one of the aft section, neither the kit’s or the CMK one has that feature, they are straight instead. I used the CMK one because is thin enough to place it in the open position, here is the part covered in metallic paint to better the opacity of the frame’s painting.




External fuel tank painted and weathered.




Main landing gears got similar weathering treatment.




The model received a wash using Tamiya’s panel line accent, weathering on the underside was completed using pastel chalk powder to simulate the exhaust stains and dirt splashes from the main wheels.




Here is the completed model.




Aber’s set for this model included the gun barrels and the pitot but, the 13.2 mm barrels don´t have the perforated cooling jacket, so those were replaced with cal .50 barrels from Master.


Landing gear indicators over the wing were made from plastic strips, the boarding steps were also made from scratch;




The most challenging part of this build was attaching the engine cover, aside from not having a dedicated support point you have to align it to the exhaust tubes, gun barrel and also keep the carburetor intake horizontal. My solution was to glue strips of packing foam around the engine, so the cover fits snugly, after several rounds of trials trimming the foam here and there finally got the cover aligned and centered, gator glue was used to keep it in place.




More pictures of the finished model here .


Comments and critiques are welcomed.




Edited by cruiz
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Thank you, Captain, I'm glad you liked it. 


I'm always learning and get inspiration from the work of others on the forum, so this is my way to give something back; maybe not with an example of modeling skills but at least sharing the information I got along the way.



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