Box art picture of the sprues

Airfix DST Flagship conversion

Project start 2016-04-16

Build thread

I've sanded the inside of the left fuselage half smooth, since all that lovely detail would have been covered on a liner, and would get in the way of work. I then stuck a sheet of Evergreen to the inside, covering the double doors, and filled the 'bucket' so created with Milliput from the outside.
This looks a total mess, of course, but that's all part of the plan. The Milliput will be sanded flush with the fuselage from the outside first, and then I'll have to find some way to transfer the panel lines from the other half over in reverse. Once that is completed, the Evergreen sheet (and any Milliput that got into seams) will be sanded off from the inside. At that point, all that will bind the new panel to the original plastic will be the bond along the thin edge of the plastic. Previous experience had show that this bond is not strong enough to hold it in place, so some wiggling should break it loose cleanly, and give me a master to make copies from for a fuselage panel. The first resin copy will then be joined to the fuselage 'for real'.

plugged up door picture of the decals

Already hit the first self inflicted problem.. I started sanding down the door insert, and found some of the milliput had been imperfectly mixed, and so not set. Well below the surface, of course, otherwise I would have spotted it..
Put on my best 'sadistic dentist' face and dug out the rot, them plastered over with filler. More sanding later..

The fuselage insert is coming along nicely. One, maybe two visits to the 'dentist' and I'll have this completely smooth.
After that comes the job I really dread: carving the new panel lines and restoring the original ones.

I thought I was never going to get the surface of that insert smooth.. Still, this evening, I finally got there. Next, some panel lines.

Scribing scares me silly, but I have little choice in this case (also, little success so far). A big featureless blanking plate doesn't work. I'll just have to learn, quickly, and right now.
Due to the heterogenous material, I don't think I'll be able to use a normal scriber. I fear anything like a needle or those dedicated scribing tools will tear out some of those tiny bits of filler that took me so long to get right. I'll have to use one of those wicked looking diamond files I have lying around, and grind rather than cut the lines.

raw window frames

So far, the chosen tooling seems to be bearing up. I've finished the easy bits, that is, repair of the original panel lines around the door, and extension of any existing lines that simply cross the new panel.
I'll be adding at least one extra window to the left side of the plane. Airfix have chosen to include the window frame on the transparency (good call, this will absorb any minor cracking when removing the parts from the sprues, but for this conversion, it creates a problem. For obvious reasons, there are enough windows, but no more than that. The newly created windows will therefore be different from the kit supplied ones, which will show. Obvious solution is to make all windows the same, either from clear sheets, or from Clearfix or some such. But that in turn means I'll need the window frames in the original windows (I could simply cut the extra's a little smaller). Cutting out the window from the frame on the kit supplied parts does not appeal to me. The alternative is to make the actual window frames myself. Enter a piece of wood of the correct dimensions for the actual window, and some plastic card of appropriate thickness.
The 'wings' have by now been removed. To my relief, I got the size right; the plastic lines up nicely with the holes in the fuselage. Now, I'll have to cut thick slices from this bar, and hope I can get the wood out.
Even if this works out, it doesn't work for the emergency exits, as these are a bit wider. I'll have to cut out the window after all for those two parts.

Real life got in the way for a bit, but I got the panel lines copied from the right side of the fuselage to the newly blanked off left side. Some lines also had to be covered over; not only were they not needed in this situation, but they were quite disorienting during copying.
That done, it was time to cut out the extra window, or rather, the hole for this window. That way I could neatly line it up to panel lines, rather than try to keep some distance from them. I'll be making window frames anyway, so the hole is the same size as the kit holes. Just for kicks, I marked the original panel lines black, and the new ones red for the photo.

rear door marked

Didn't come out too bad, I think. Pity I then had to rip the whole lot out again. The plan has been all along to use the parts made here as masters, and that means separating them from the large model just when they're at their best. I added the section below the new rear window to the door insert, in hopes that this will help lining up the cuts for similar windows of future conversions.
The door insert, along with a bunch of windowframes, is now sitting at the bottom of a slowly curing pool of rubber. I suspect it will be tomorrow before I can pour on the second half of the mould, which means the first casts should be available on Wednesday. Fingers crossed...

The first casts are done and de-moulded. Looks good, I think. I'll leave the inserts to cure overnight, then get down to the job of actually installing the final panel and the windows into the left fuselage half.

Got myself persuaded to go for a DST, instead of the normal Flagship I'd intended to build at the start, and chopped extra holes in the left fuselage accordingly.
DSTs are funny old critters. Aside from the extra row of top windows, they had 6 windows on the left side (losing the front most window from the usual 7), but 8 on the right side (gaining one in front of the first). The top window that would sit over the front window on the left is there, despite the fact that the window is not, providing some extra light in the luxury front compartment. Later on, the DSTs became rather less exclusive liners with 8 rows of seats, gaining the full eight windows on the left side. This means I'll be making a panel with the extra windows up front, and then blanking out the front two main windows.

Restoration of the left fuselage half has begun. The cast rear door section has been mounted and lightly sanded. This was enough for all but the rear edge, which needed just a dab of filler. I've also inserted the window frames on this side. They're visibly raised above the surface, but that is by design. There's no way I can get them thin and accurate enough to fit perfectly, so I didn't even try. As long as length and width are OK, sandpaper will deal with the rest. The front window was then plugged with five minute epoxy (I could have saved myself the effort of fitting a window frame first, but in my enthousiasm I forgot to skip the first window..). Making a virtue out of necessity, I glued a frame without the backing sheet sanded off into the new window hole; this does not have the rims for the frames the original holes have, and I figured the backing sheet would be just the thing to keep the frame in place until the CA is cured. A bit more in situ sanding will obviously be needed, but that's a small price to pay for not having to hold the parts together with big clumsy fingers while the CA sets, running the risk of developing the wrong kind of attachment to the project..

masters for the door inserts

I need DC-3 doors for both sides of the fuselage (not just for this build). The doors are a complex shape, with only a few straight lines, so freestyling those was out of the question. The Esci kit has just such a door in the civilian inserts they supply with the corresponding boxings, but unfortunately, it is not a separate part. That means scratching out the door from the kit part (this is why I opted to use the Esci part; the Italeri has a much thicker wall...). Half an hour or so with a pin in an appropriately named pinvise gave a separated door, and a frame with a door shaped hole in it. I then used the frame as a guide to scratch out the outline of the door on one of the castings for the left side fuselage plug, and then proceeded to scratch all the way through that horribly thick piece of resin. This gave me the master for the left-doored DC-3s, as well as the actual door.
With the position of the door now easily determined relative to the panel lines, I stuck the Esci door to the right fuselage half of the Airfix, and got down to some further scratching.

Moulds for the final exterior parts are now curing. Some will get their second halves tomorrow (two part moulds all the way), which means I should be able put the final fixes into the fuselage halves on Thursday.
I found I'd made the little skylights too wide. Part of the problem could be fixed on the replacement parts, four small patches will be required on the fuselage parts themselves (trivial compared to the rest of the surgery).
I've smoothed over the floor, since passenger planes don't have cargo tracks on the inside. A new forward bulkhead, to be located just in front of the eighth row of seats has been made of some very shaky extensions to the kit part that forms the rear of the radio rack. If I can complete this without breaking it in the process, that's the next part to be introduced to rubber and resin. The main door is also almost complete. No point waiting before setting up the current batch of moulds; I'm out of Lego anyway..
Then there's chairs, bunk beds, cabinets and lots of other stuff I'll never finish on time to work on..

I took a radical step today: I actually put in place two kit parts, without even altering them. I must be losing it..
The moulds for the remaining fuselage inserts are curing, just the emergency exits and the door left to go (masters are waiting for use), and I'll have all the parts for the exterior.

I've been racking my brain all evening, but I can't seem to find any way of getting those interior bulkheads right without fitting them in place (no two are the same..), which is not what I want, but I may have to do just that. That would mean grabbing another Dakota from the stash, and building it to the point where I have the floor attached to the right fuselage half, which will have to be stripped of all ribbing. To keep things (relatively) simple, that means starting the build of a civilian with seven rows of seats, with the door on the left side. Fortunately, that means most early civilian Dakotas, so there's plenty to choose from. Still, this was not a sidestep I'd planned for..

luggage holds of both Dakotas

Not having been able to come up with an alternative for starting another Dak to use as a scaffold for building the bulkheads for the DST, I got to work on just that. Since the cabin module will have to be firmly fixed to a fuselage half for this to work, I have no option but to build and paint most of it before use, I had another modification/scratchbuilding job to do on the floor and luggage area. In parallel, I did the same for the DST. In both cases, I "artist's impressioned" the radio and navigation area to storage. On the DST (the one with the green resin bulkhead) this area is clearly shortened, while the post war liner (I've decided this will be a converted C-47, almost certainly with Sabena) has the full size compartment.

I finally managed to cast the last exterior piece (bungled the first mould, and had to start over). Integration with the fuselage halves enters it's final leg tomorrow.

Except that on closer inspection, the second one wasn't right either. The mould is perfect, the master is botched (see the second skylight from the rear on the starboard side). I'll have to rework the master, and make yet another mould.
The escape hatch wasn't right either, the window was far, far too small. I've done the necessary rework on the master, and a new mould is in working order.
The picture below shows the fuselage halves as they were prior to priming. At this point I was quite optimistic about them, but the primer changed all that. Multiple surface problems remain, I'll have to widen the skylight mentioned above, and quite a number of panel lines need restoring. It's not like I haven't done that with some of them half a dozen times before...

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