1/48 Sanger Boeing B-47E Stratojet

 by Darius Aibara



The kit itself

This is the Sanger 1:48 scale vac-formed kit of the B-47E.  This is an "old school" type vac-form kit and so needs a bit of care and attention during the build, not to mention a lot of scratch building, scribing, occasional swearing and what seems like hours of sanding.  In summary this kit does not fall together.  I started building in August 2006 and finished in May 2007 - with some large breaks to build smaller and simpler kits for the sake of my sanity.

The kit comprises several large sheets of vac-formed plastic for the fuselage, wings, fin, tailplanes, engine nacelles and pylons, main gear wells, wheels, and various fuselage bulkheads. In white metal you get gear (main and outrigger) legs, seats, yokes, main wheel hubs, outrigger wheels and engine intake fans.  One vac formed clear clamshell canopy is provided. There are no decals provided with the kit but Gerald Elliot of Sanger does provide a sheet that can be purchased separately and which contains the SAC "milky way" sashes, a/c numbers and US Air Force titles. 

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Tailplane and elevators

The parts were cut from the backing sheet in the usual way - scoring around them with a sharp knife and then breaking them free. The fuselage outline is not too bad but the cockpit cut-out location is a bit vague so this will need to be done with care.  To ease into the project after removing (but not sanding) the fuselage and main wings I concentrated on the tailfin and tailplanes. These were removed from their backing sheets and sanded to shape on a piece of medium grit sandpaper laid flat on the cutting mat. The panel lines are well located but a bit indistinct so I rescribed them with an Olfa P-cutter.  To reinforce the tailplane to tailfin connections I glued a block of styrene made from strips of the plastic backing offcuts laminated together. This was cemented to the inside face of the tailfin and provides an anchor for the steel pins that will attach the tailplanes. Similar blocks were glued in place for the tailfin to fuselage connection. 


The vac-formed tailfin and tailplane halves were cemented with Humbrol liquid poly and set aside to dry. Once dry, the shiny outer surface was sanded to remove those little blobs of plastic that you find on the surface of vac-formed kits.  The mating surfaces of the tailplanes were profiled to meet the tailfin and blocks of laminated styrene cemented into the open ends of the tailplanes to act as anchors for the steel pin connectors. These are snipped from sewing pins using wire cutters and cyano glued into holes drilled into the styrene blocks. I also ran some cyano glue down the inside joint of the tailplane leading edges to reinforce them.

Main wings

Next to feel the sandpaper were the mainwing halves and once the fit was acceptable I rescribed the panel lines (after sanding off the vac-forming "dots"). In a fit of enthusiasm I removed the flaps, which now meant that I had to box in the flap wells.  I measured the internal gap between the wing halves using a piece of scrap cardboard and cut "walls" from the leftover backing sheets from the vac-formed kit.  I also added stiffeners for the engine pod attachment points - also cut form scrap backing sheet. The wing halves were then cemented together, clamped/taped and left to cure.   The flap well ribbing was marked on a sheet of plastic card and the lightening holes drilled in the card before I cut them out - it is easier to drill the holes at this stage and the plastic is less likely to tear during the process.  I cemented flat plastic card strips inside the flap well to set the positions for the ribs, which were then glued in place.  Additional strips were then added to complete the job.

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Fuselage part 1

I sanded the fuselage halves and removed the main gear doors and cockpit aperture from each half.  Sanger provide vac-formed main gear wells and gear door inner surfaces. The latter were cut from the backing sheet and skinned with thin plastic card. The gear wells were detailed with additional ribbing and stiffeners cut from scrap parts of the vac-form backing.   Sanger provide a set of fuselage bulkheads which are very useful.  I switched bulkheads A and F from their instructed positions as their shapes were better suited to the tail and nose respectively.  The bulkheads were super-glued (cyano) into the port fuselage halves along with the gear wells.  I also cemented strips of plastic card to the fuselage edges between the bulkheads to serve as attachment points for when I glue the fuselage halves together.  Lengths of old injection moulded kit sprue were cemented between these strips to maintain the fuselage profile between the bulkheads.

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The cockpit was scratch built using plastic card and bits of sprue, as were the pilot and co-pilot's seats - using plastic card of various thicknesses, plastic rod, soft steel wire and some oxygen hoses generously donated by some spares box pilots.  For the main instrument panels Sanger provides printed panels on glossy paper that are reasonably representative of the actual panels (at least the ones that I have pictures of).  I copied the Sanger panels using the B&W copy function of my printer and cemented the paper copies to some plastic card. Once dry I drilled out the instrument faces using a pin vice and suitable small diameter drill bits.  The drilled plastic panels were cleaned up and used as overlays to the Sanger printed panels (a bit like photoetched panels).  Unfortunately the completed panels did not exactly (i.e not at all) fit into the fuselage so I had to cut them down a bit. Fortunately the offcuts could be used for the cockpit side consoles.

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I drilled and cut out the navigator's station windows in the nose and cemented the fuselage halves together using liquid poly and superglue (cyano) in the awkward places. The seams were then filled with Humbrol plastic filler and sanded smooth.  Feeling brave, I cut out the one and only kit-supplied vac-form canopy from its backing sheet and cut and sanded the lower edges to fit the fuselage curve using a cardboard template that I had inserted into the cockpit opening to mark the edge profiles.  After a couple of rounds of filling and sanding the fuselage seams I started the re-scribing process. To do this I rested the fuselage on a cushion, which made it easier to scribe the lines - the cushion stops the cylindrical fuselage from rolling around. For scribing I used an Olfa P-cutter, a steel rule and some old photoetch frets that can bend to follow the curved fuselage surface.

Fuselage part 2

I re-primed the fuselage and inserted plastic card main wing spars through holes cut in the fuselage. The kit provides a vac formed tail "bulb" but no details for the gun turret etc. Using a Mattel vac-former I vac-formed a "cover" to the tail bulb and cut away the end to from the "turret". Slots were then cut using a razor saw for the gun tracks.   The whole was then super glued to the rear of the fuselage and a large amount of filler used to smooth the "graft".  Once dry the joint was sanded smooth and primed.  I glued the main wings and tailfin to the fuselage using cyano glue,  which left an approximate 2mm gap at the joint between the wing and fuselage surfaces - so much for my careful joint profiling!!!  I roughly filled the gaps with strips of plastic card and then spread Humbrol filler over the joint. Once set this was sanded using rough and then smooth grit papers and the process repeated until I was happy with the result.  The joints were primed and then re-sanded and finally re-scribed and primed again. This kit used up several cans of Halfords grey primer!!!

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Engine pods

The engine nacelle haves were removed from the plastic card backing and sanded to shape. The plastic covering the engine fronts was removed and the openings shaped using a half round needle file. The same process was followed for the exhaust openings.  The kit supplies six white metal engine fronts. Unfortunately they are far too large for the nacelles and so they were discarded (future nose weights?). I made a new pair of engine fronts using parts from the spares box (two F-101 voodoo exhaust rings, & two sawn off drop tank tips) and plastic card. Two further F-101 kits in the stash were raided for the remaining four engines!!!

To create the landing light in the outrigger gear front fairing I cut out the white plastic fairing and vac-formed a clear fairing over it.  This was grafted onto the nacelle and then masked to form the clear light cover.  The vac-formed clear cover that I had made was coated with Johnsons Clear and cyano glued in place - the Clear stops the cyano from "white misting". The joints were filled with Humbrol putty and left to dry. Once set the whole was sanded, re-scribed and masked. I used Halfords spray white primer and Nissan Silver.

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I separated the single engine pod halves from the backing plastic and removed the mangled plastic at the rear of these units - the pen-nib shape at the jet exhaust being too complex for the vac-forming process to replicate.   The shape was reconstructed by cementing bits of plastic card using cyano, which were then filled and sanded to shape. 

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The kit provides vac-formed main wheels that to my eye did not look quite right - the white metal hub inserts are nice though.  In place of the vac formed wheels l used some Paragon resin wheels (intended for the 1:48 Italeri C-130), which had approximately the right tread pattern and diameter. I sanded down the outer hub inserts so that they fit snugly in the Paragon wheels.  The Sanger wheel hubs are only correct for the front main wheels, however, the back ones are a completely different hub, which I scratch built using various plastic offcut bits.  I used the Sanger main gear and outrigger legs but discarded the axles as they were too large. Using Aeroclub plastic tubes, plastic card bits and mild steel wire I added details using photos as a guide. The whole was sprayed Halfords Nissan Silver with the hydraulic lines picked out in Humbrol matt black.

(Thanks to JC Bahr for the tip on the rear wheel hubs and to Colin Whitehouse for photos of the USAF Museum B-47 undercarriage and wheel bays!!!).

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Painting and finishing

Painting was accomplished with Halfords "Nissan Silver", "White Primer", "Satin Black" and "Plastic Primer" spray paints, several yards of Tamiya masking tape and many sheets from one of those free local newspapers that gets pushed through my letterbox. The Halfords "Plastic Primer" kinda sorta has a zinc chromate hue and so was used for the main and outrigger gear wells and the wing flap wells.  The White Primer coat, once dry, was sealed with a couple of coats of Johnsons Clear, which means that any future smudges can be wiped clean.

I glued in the main undercarriage and secured the bay doors with steel pins. The engine pylons were then glued to the wings - these are not a particularly good fit and so needed to be filled.  I established the outrigger length by sitting the model on the main gear and cutting wooden cocktail sticks by trial and error.   About 12mm needs to be removed from the top of the white metal legs. The outrigger wheels are from the spares box (ex Testors Bearcat).

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I sprayed the canopy with Halfords satin black and then added white decal strips to represent the sealant around the clear panels. The canopy was dipped in Johnson's Clear and fixed to the fuselage, where it touched, using cyano glue (applied with the end of a sewing pin) and PVA white glue to fill the gaps where it didn't. The tailguns are from the spares box (from an ICM Spitfire I think) with plastic card stub attachments.  I used a mixture of the Sanger B-47 decals and walkway lines and stars & bars from the spares box.  Finally 156 individual vortex generators were cut from a strip of plastic card and separately cyano glued to the wings.  A very large drink and a lie down in a darkened room followed!!!

Full marks to Gerald at Sanger for producing this kit - in my mind it is great value for money and gives months of fun modelling!!!  Looking forward to his 1:48 B-52, although I am still looking for a permanent place to put the B-47.





Photos and text by Darius Aibara