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1/48 Academy F-86F-30 Sabre

by Dean Large

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Iíve always had a soft spot for the early jets, as they were uncomplicated, with smooth rounded lines and the air of the pioneer about them. None more so than the F-86 Sabre, so I decided that the Academy kit would be the next out of the stash and onto the work bench.
 
Iíd done a bit of internet research regarding this kit before I started it, and so was well aware of the poor fit of the intake trunking which many other modellers have disguised with the intake FOD cover. In my case it was taken care of by dry fitting the trunking to see where the step would be, filing it down to nothing, and then filling and filing when the fuselage was assembled. Itís awkward filing inside a confined space like this, but by rolling abrasive paper into a tight roll I was able to make do.  The rear jet exhaust was open inside up into the fin, so I covered this area over with plastic card cut to size, and added detail such as ribs and panel lines to the inside of the rear fuselage.
 
I took one look at the kit supplied seat and was grateful that Iíd invested in the Eduard PE set for this one. Even so, I scratchbuilt all the seat cushions, armrest pads, oxygen hose and seat pitot using internet references. The photo shows the difference between the kit part and what I ended up with. Those are 1cm squares on the black cutting mat, to give you a sense of scale.

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There were sink marks on the fuselage around the airbrakes which had to be filled, although I left the ones on the nosegear door and the gun access covers, since they gave the impression of rippled metal quite nicely, something common on riveted panels.
 
One thing which I tried for the first time was using a 0.1mm thick piece of plastic card glued to the inner face of the upper wing roots. When trimmed to match the aerofoil shape of the wing, it filled the gap between fuselage and wing root nicely, and made it the first model for ages which didnít need any filler at all at this joint.

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After the main construction was over, and the plane was primed with Halfordís grey primer, lots of polishing with fine wet and dry paper followed until the surface was as smooth as I could get it. Then it was on to the Alclad. I said after Iíd built my Starfighter that the Polished Aluminium was a pain to use and rubbed off too easily, and that Iíd need a pretty good excuse before I used it again. This, however, was the excuse I needed, and I decided to try spraying the whole airframe with it and then overcoating it after a suitable interval with several coats of Johnsonís. This seemed to do the trick, and made the whole model easier to handle when masking and spraying other shades of Alcad. I counted six different shades used on various parts of the airframe, to match as closely as possible the photos I had for reference.
 
One area of concern which nobody else seems to have mentioned is the decals. When compared to those on the instructions they are quite a bit bigger, which makes accurate placement difficult. The centre fuselage band is in two pieces, and once the top half was on, no way could the lower half be made to mate up with it. In the end I resorted to spraying the lower yellow band on with the airbrush, and using the black border decals to complete the effect. Generally the decals were the weak point of the kit for me, as they were very thick, didnít respond well to MicroSol and the carrier film showed up horribly against the NMF. After decaling the left wing and fuselage, I realised that the carrier film was showing up, so cut close around the designs on the remainder of the airframe, but with things like small stencils of course, this isnít possible. As a result, the model looks ok from a couple of feet away, but not so good in the close-ups or under certain lighting conditions, as you can see from the photos.

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I kept the weathering to a minimum, just my usual pastel wash in the panel lines, although I did try the technique of chipping the paint around the lip of the intake by attaching tape to it and ripping it off to reveal the aluminium underneath. This had limited success, so the rest of the chipping was done with a sharp blade. I decided I didnít like the large cartoon nose art, so simply left it off. I reasoned that the plane must have been supplied without it in the first place, so that should stifle the cries of horror from the history buffs.

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As a finishing touch, I took the head of one of the two pilots Academy thoughtfully provided in the kit and hollowed it out with the Dremel to leave just the bone dome. To this I attached the oxygen mask (again separate Ė thanks Academy!) with fine wire, and perched the helmet on top of the windscreen frame where itíd be handy.

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All in all, not a bad kit. The only fit problems are with the intake, watch out for the sink marks, and see if you can get some other decals for it. Itís worth doing...it brightens up the display case amongst all the camouflage.

Dean

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Photos and text © by Dean Large

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