Box art picture of the sprues picture of the decals

Zvezda MiG-31 FoxHound

2015-08-01 Project start

Since this build coinceded with an appropriate UAMF GB Build thread here.

I guess this is where I have to declare my "no Migs allowed" policy broken...
Over the years a few have snuck in, either in the shape of a WWII propellor beasty, or as part of some of my crazier collection projects. I could live with those.
And then there was a slight complication during the recent vacform GB, and a highly illegal 31 snuck in, because I needed one of it's missles as a master for conversion. Let it not be said that I'm a dogmatic ingrate; this plane has earned it's place on the shelves by it's most generous donation of rocketry.

I've made a modest start on this kit, and initial dry fitting suggests fit will be OK, but with some gaps needing filler. Nothing to worry about.
I've also run into the first quirk of the kit: the main undercarriage legs are supposed to be trapped between the fuselage shell and the wheel well. This has the advantage of being a fairly sturdy way of connecting things, but it also means the legs (or at least part of them) are going to be sticking out in a very vulnerable way throughout the entire build. It also means I'll have to paint these bits sooner than expected, which will delay the actual construction.
The wheel wells themselves have enough detail in them to look acceptable (the AMS crowd will certainly disagree with this). Unfortunately, they're also peppered with ejector marks, so I'll have to spend some time cleaning up before painting.
I also threw some initial colour at the crew figures, which I'll be using to make the cockpits a bit less empty.

Usually builds like this start relatively slowly with interior work, but this kit has only minimal interior details, and what is there, is easily accessible through the canopy opening. That's a good thing, as it enabled me to skip the slow start and go straight to coarse construction. Just some tail surfaces to go, and the main parts will be in place.

One of the reasons this initial burst of speed makes me happy, is that there's going to be quite a bit of work around the various seams to be done, and this way, I can start that about a week sooner. First priority will be to clean up the sides of the front fuselage (still attached with tape here), so it can be permanently attached to the rear, which will finish the lining up of the upper and lower decks. Only then will I be able to get to work with filler and sandpaper on the joins of the rear.

The rear half is a bit of a jigsaw. It consists of top, bottom, side panels (which include the wheel wells and one side of the air intakes) and the single piece wing. All but the top have to be juggled into position before glueing things up in segments, so once again I found myself wishing I had just a bit more in common with an octopus. After that, the top goes on, but this leaves the front end only roughly aligned. The front hull and the air intake assemblies will be needed to get everything lined up permanently.

The undercarriage is cleverly designed, but execution leaves something to be desired. With the design as it is, near perfect fit is required, and unfortunately, the dimensions of the various locator pins and holes don't match all the precisely. Especially annoying when widening a hole means breaking through the surrounding material, and evenly reducing the size of the pin rather beyond my skills with a file..

More blitzery today. Apart from some 'fletching' at the rear, the basic shape is complete.
I found out rather too late that the view through the air intakes of the very empty interior is rather excellent, which is not good. I don't think I can do much there anymore, other than make sure the interior is very deep black..

I just spent some time with the things under the wings. The fuel tanks take a lot of sanding to remove the seam between the halves, and the AA-9 missiles are frankly hopeless. The bodies are OK with a bit of work, but the cruciform tails have slightly different dimension from the rear end of the body/wings subassembly. I've lined things up on the lower, most visible side, and can only hope the rest will be sufficiently hard to see that it doesn't really matter. I might have cut off the tail fins from the centre section, and put them on separately, but I just wasn't in the mood for that. Only the AA-6 missiles were any good in this department (good thing too, since they were the reason I bought the kit..)

Lots of filler got hit with lots of sanding, after which the tailfeathers went on. I think this lump of plastic is actually starting to look migish.

The initial coat of primer went on today. Initial inspection shows fewer problems than I'd expected, but that still leaves a fair bit of cleanup and correction to be done.

Picture of the finished model

The work on the exterior has been mostly completed, so it was time to complete the interior and seal things up. I even remenbered to shoot some pictures of the office before closing the lid..

The interior is just a coat of green and some black drybrushing; the IP are decals. Zvezda had two decals, one for each IP, but that just doesn't work for the RIO, so I had to cut the decal into the two parts it should have been all along: the main IP, and the part on the upper console. Please observe that for just this once, I didn't forget or lose the control columns

Once the interior was finished, I turned my attention to the transparencies. I'm of two minds where these are concerned. On the one hand, they're very nicely moulded, and the plastic they use was not the rock hard, brittle stuff you so often find. Instead, it was rather softer plastic, and very easy to work with. On the other hand, fit was only marginal, and because there are four parts to the canopy with next to no alignment, errors stack. It doesn't show in the picture (in part because transparencies are hard to see by design), but there will be some work there with filler before this is done.

A mean case of blitzery prevented updates (not to mention work) on this last wednesday, but now the Mig is back at the front of the queue. I've completed the final pre-paint odds and sods, filed the worst edges of the transparencies, managed to get the nose probe on only slightly wrong, and have just sprayed on the final coat of primer. Painting should begin in earnest tomorrow.

Yesterday was a bad day at the paintshop for the Mig. I just found out the anti-glare panels (real and dummy) cover much more area than I thought and painted, and while masking the engine exhausts, I ripped some of the paint off primer and all. In other words, I'll have to do most of yesterday's work over again..

This thing hates me. After repainting yesterday's stuff this morning, I remasked later in the evening. I then hit the model with some old (yeah, I know, STUPID) Humbrol airbrush 127. So far, this paint has been very well behaved, despite it's age, but tonight it decided to come up with airbrush clogging lumps. After doing the bottom half of the plane, I stopped for problem #2 (see below), and cleaned out the airbrush. I then attempted to shoot some paint onto my Mosquito, only to find the airbrush jamming up again. Even deeper cleaning appears to have cleared the problem, although I have yet to retest it with more than thinner. Still, ugly, half useable paint on one side of the Mossie, rest of the batch of paint lost, not a happy camper..

Problem #2: the Revell black I hit the Mig with to create anti-glare panels has a rather grainy surface, which doesn't really show until you put a lighter colour over it. Then you gets black grains sticking through your nice new paintjob. Yet another bit of paint I'll have to sand smooth after drying. I also suspect it compromised masking tape adhesion enough for paint to sneak under it in some quantity.

By now so thouroughly enraged that I don't trust myself with anything that could break or break other things anymore, so I'll just step away from the bench, put on some really, really stupid movie, and slough on the couch till I cool off

I know, half of this is my own stupid fault for provoking fate like this, but really, it didn't need to take every opportunity to mess me up did it?

Picture of the finished model

Sanding and repainting with the newer 127 did the job, or at least as near as I dared go with the sandpaper. Unmasking proved a bit frustrating though: once again I'd lost some jet pipe black, and the initial batch of grey had indeed managed to wreck the fake canopy on the bottom. And then there was the nose <whimper..>

Somehow, a lighter grey ring had formed completely around the nose cone. No idea how or why, but there it was, and it would have to go.

First attempt to fix this, was lightly hitting it with the 0.2mm airbrush, freehand, with just a scrap of handheld paper for rough masking. It wasn't pretty..

I then decided to completely re-paint the nose cone, masked, and hit it again with the airbrush. By all rights that should have resulted in a nice even finish on the nose. Dream on. Despite the fact that this area had never been exposed to the degraded black paint, some areas were rough surfaced, and refused to accept a smoothing layer of paint.

Picture of the finished model

Fine, you want it rough, you get it rough... No more of this modern artsy fartsy airbrushery, hand me my hairy stick. All else had failed, the kit was scoring way too many trashcan points anyway, so why not. Completely re-painted the nose cone, the forward section of the fuselage, and the anti glare panel.

Not half bad, even if I say so myself..

Of course, after some further drying it's beginning to look like the nose cone will need another layer of paint, and I can only get this right so often before I slip and really wreck it...

I handpainted the canopy frames today, then hit the plane with (another experiment...) Alclad high gloss varnish. As can be seen from the picture, two coats produce a nice gleam, and hopefully a good base for decals.

I find the canopy frames to be a bit too clunky, but there's little I can do about it. The colours on the front part of the canopy don't look right; I'll check some references and adjust as needed.

Picture of the finished model

The Alclad varnish does an admirable job of providing a smooth glossy finish, but it's still slightly tacky after two days. Maybe it will cure completely eventually (gloss varnishes can be like that), but I don't have time to wait for it. Now holding the model with a latex glove to avoid fingerprinting..

I decided to take a shot at smoothing over the ridges and gaps between the canopy parts after all, and have hit them with some Vallejo filler. Quick drying stuff, so I should be able to paint over it all soon.

The kit decals are all on now, and are waiting to set before getting hit with MicroSol. Well behaved decals, if very slightly yellowed (realised this too late to apply a few weeks in direct sunlight), and the bort numbers look a bit chipped (built in weathering?)

The wheelbays and undercarriage have been painted, and are ready for assembly.

I just found out I'd completely forgotten to paint the wing tanks. Cue a scramble for the airbrush..

I've also discovered the one part of this kit that cannot be fiddled into proper shape: the lenses for the lights in the front wheel well door are significantly smaller than the holes they're supposed to cover. I hoped to fix this with drops of learfix, but the holes are rather too shallow for that.

The paint filters I bought work, but not well enough. The old paint still had very fine, but noticable grains in at after putting it through the filter. They did do an excellent job on paint with some blobs in it earlier, so I don't consider this a loss, but for paint with bad habits, it's not enough.

Since I was deternined to use this paint, I then ran it through some tissue paper, and this removed the grains nicely. It also soaked up about half of the paint, and made an ungodly mess in the process. Clearly, this isn't the solution either.

Still, that's the price of experimentation, and I did end up with enough workable paint to do the tanks.

Picture of the finished model

In the mean time, I stuck on all the undecarriage bits (except the forward nose wheel door, which will go on last, even after varnishing). The undercarriage, especially the front wheel, is not particularly well engineered; large numbers of parts, that don't neccessarily fit all that well, and all have to be lined up before fixing anything. Predictably, this did not go perfectly in several ways, but it will do.

The things under wings have been stuck under wings and fuselage (why don't we have a catchy phrase that acknowledges the fuselage hardpoints?). The final decal has also been applied: the fake anti-glare panel that I so thouroughly messed up while airbrushing. In the picture, it's still soaking in MicroSol, hence the very high gloss. Don't tell the folks at MiG, but I used the side door of a DC-3 for a pattern

One of the red stars jumped off the model while I was washing it to remove decal fluid residue..
Replacements in the process of being fitted

I think this is where I call it a Mig.

Picture of the finished model Picture of the finished model

Finishing materials:

Motip primer overall
Hu127 overall
Alclad gloss overall
Alclad light sheen

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