Scratchbuilding parts for the Vigilante project is pretty much a project in it's own right. Anything relating to it will end up here.
The presence of photo-etched cockpits called for open canopies. The canopy roof is a fairly complex shape, and is moulded as a part of the fuselage halves. Cutting it out and then using the cut out pieces is not possible, because the cuts themselves would remove some plastic even if I could do this perfectly, and the resulting roof would be too small.
I've cut out the canopy roof halves, filled up the cockpit space with plasticine clay, and taped the fuselage halves together. I then made sure the clay was pressed down to below the level where the canopy roof used to be, and filled in the resulting gap with miliput. I intend to sand down the milliput to the point where it is again flush with the fuselage, and then carefully peel the fuselage halves apart. Hopefully, the new milliput canopy roof will break away cleanly, and be the correct size and useful after minor corrections.
The replacement cockpit roof turned out perfectly. No problem in separating it from the fuselage, reasonably even thickness, and, of course, a perfect fit. I'll add that to my standard bag of tricks. As 'overambitious' seems to be my middle name nowadays, I'll repeat this for the pilot's canopy, so I can open both of them.
A total of four replacement cockpit roofs are now complete in their raw form, that is, without slots cut into them for windows. In the case of the front cockpits, making room for the 'window' will of course mean major milliput removals.
I've started cutting the holes for the backseater's windows in one of the roofs, and predictably, one of the corners came off. Milliput is tough, but there are limits to what it can take.
The two rear cockpit roofs are complete. Other than the occasional broken off corner, these presented no further difficulty. The front pair is going to be nasty about things though. The might look the same, but it turns out that upon closer inspection, they are longer and narrower than the rear ones. In addition to this, the strip of fuselage between front and rear roof is very thin, and tries to brake of at every opportunity. Back to square one for some serious planning on how to fix this.
The front canopy turns out to be a completely different shape from the rear one, so I won't be able to use the ones I made for the rear cockpit for the front ones after all. Oh well, back to the plasticine clay and milliput it is.
The clay and milliput technique works well for large, sturdy bits, but alas, it's useless for any parts with long and this extensions. I've ended up with a barely recognisable blob with the lower canopy frames sticking out. The lower frames really, really love to break. I've lost track of the number of times I had to repair them while beating the main hatch into shape, and even now the shape leaves a lot to be desired. A lot of filing, fiddling and filling is still ahead of me before I'll have a decent front cockpit roof.
The rest of the batch will either have a closed canopy, or I'll try to cut along the recessed panel lines and use what I can cut from the fuselage halves. I've obtained some photo-etched saw blades that should be thin enough that I can get away with the slight loss of material caused by cutting.
Given that the milliput copies didn't work out so great, and that making them is an unreasonably large amount of work, I decided to make masters and moulds for these as well. With the (relatively) new etched saws, it has become feasable to cut out the canopies from the fuselage halves without losing too much material. When I started work on Viggie4, one othe first things I did was cut loose the canopies. The results are probably good enough to make moulds from. Once I'm satisfied with the castings of the front canopy, I'll be adding the relevant transparent part, and try to make castings of the complete front canopy in transparent resin.
The three top pictures show the master I built for the ejections seats. Its been cobbled together from a seat from the original kit, milliput, filler, stretched sprue, bits of square plastic rod and insulation tape. That, and loads of all kinds of glue..
The bottom picture shows the master seat, and the first three castings from the mould. The mould is now behaving properly, and almost every attempt results in a good quality ejection seat. Whether this amounts to bragging rights is debatable, but it sure does wonders for my ego.
With the long suffering 'assistance' of Viggie2 I've come quite a way to the creation of a new upper fuselage. Construction of the fuselage plug is loosely based on Paul Boyer's article in the Januari 1993 issue of Fine Scale Modeler. The reason I say 'loosely based' is that the procedure described in the article assumes that the canopies will be closed, and that this conversion will be a one-off, that can be built directly onto the model under conversion. Neither assumption holds in my case, which means certain tricks (forcing things into shape by glueing them to the kit comes to mind) are not possible for me. I guess I'll just have to do things the slightly harder way.
As can be seen from the pictures below I started out by chopping the top off the fuselage fore and aft of the 'shoulder' plug from the kit. From this shoulder plug, I separated the central part of the hump, which will become the much smaller hump that forms a kind of extended cockpit fairing on the A model. As per the article, this central hump was cut in half and otherwise mutilated to form the part at the lower left of the top picture. From the diagram in the article, a new upper deck plate was made out of 1.5mm plastic card. Dry fitting results in the lower picture. This reveals the first batch of trouble. Even if I'd been a obedient little boy and made the front of the deck plate from 0.25mm plastic, the front would have been just over 1.5mm above the tops of the air intakes, and that same space would be found between the deckplate and the top of the space where the shoulder plug is supposed to go. On a one-off, this can be solved with filler and glue, but not on what is to become a master for mould making. Also, cutting off the fuselage forward of the shoulder plug, as shown here, will result in the loss of the canopies, which is equally unacceptable. The gap between the shoulder plug and air intakes and the upper deck is being dealt with by adding more plastic card to fill the gaps, and shaping theforward sections into presentable air intake tops. The latter is going to involve copying the shape from the Monogram kit, and making a slightly enlarged template from that. This template will then be used for what I fear will turn out to be multiple cycles of sanding and applying filler until the correct shape is reached.
Glueing the plastic card parts that will fill the gap has decided to turn nasty. The forward parts now curve slightly upwards. I'll have to come up with some trick to bend them back without glueing them to something else. I've done some careful bending by hand, which seems to fix the problem, but I'll have to see if the material doesn't decide to creep back over time.