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Douglas A-4M Skyhawk
VMA-214 "Blacksheep"
MCAS Iwakuni, Japan, 1976
(Take 1)*

* This page refers to my first attempt to build the Hasegawa A-4M. Sadly this model had a terrible accident. I liked it so much that I decided to have another go. For photos of the second attempt, hopefully incorporating the lessons check here, see this page.

What was added

Hasegawa kits don't come with external weapons. So, although the kit itself was out of the box, I did add some bombs for the central station from the Hasegawa weapons set A, and had my first go at resin add-ons by buying the Bullpupus from Eduard.

Notes and lessons learned

This was a much nicer kit in comparison with the A-10, but my learning curve continued...

  • Canopies are hard, but this one almost became a complete disaster when I realised, too late, that I had not masked the frame properly. This required some late sanding and hand-painting. In the process I destroyed some of the riveting, which had to be re-done. So lesson number one, always check the reference photos before acting hastily.

  • As much as this kit had a nice fit between the parts, it required filling and sanding which destroyed some of the details. Some were re-scribed successfully, some not so much. I found Vallejo's plastic putty to be a lot more forgiving than Tamiya's.

  • It is hard to find an exact match of colours when you need to combine decals with paint. The jet intakes are an example. The rim does still look a bit different from the "danger" sign that comes out of it. Still don't have a good solution for this one.

  • Cleaning lacquer-based paint with generic lacquer thinner from the hardware store is not good. The eagle-eyed will notice that the jet exhaust is not appropriate for an A-4M. This is because I destroyed the proper part by melting it with too much lacquer thinner. Fortunately the kit had a similar part for another A-4 model, which I could use, which did not look too different.

  • Cementing the canopy in place with normal Humbrol cement is also risky. Some of it ran, and I ended up with opaque regions on the inside. This problem reoccurred in the Super Étendard, and it was not until later that I discovered the right technique: for me, it is to keep the canopy out until the final step, and use the fantastic Microscale Micro Kristal Klear, which becomes transparent once dry...

  • I tried in this kit the Vallejo Model Air paint for airbrushing. The light gull grey top applied very well. For the bottom part I used a Tamiya spray can of insignia white. This was much harder to control, and I ended up with a layer that was too thick, and masked some of the riveting and panel lines. For future models, I will stick with Model Air or with diluted Tamiya lacquers, heavily diluted, applied by airbrush.

  • I also learned here to use Microscale's Micro Set and Micro Sol for the decals. It would have been impossible otherwise to get the US Navy roundels on the top the wing to sit properly against the little vortex generators. Still, the process was not smooth - against all advice online I tried to "fix" the position of the red decal in one of the slats, which (predictably) broke into pieces, requiring some repair painting and "weathering" to hide cracks.

  • Another problem is the black decal with stars in the tail. It does not set well due to the raised "fins". This requires a lot of patience, and copious amounts of Micro Sol, followed by pricking some remaining bubbles. 

1/48 A-4M Skyhawk: About Me
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