Finished model 2013-II

While I arrange modelling competitions, I don’t compete, mainly because I’m just not good enough, but when we were at Model Expo in Helsinki last year, one of the IPMS Finland guys pressed a Frog Fokker D21 in my hand as a parting gift. I could but take it as a challenge.

I presumed the idea was that I would build a Finnish Fokker (as FR-92 was one of the decal options), but that seemed too easy, and instead I decided I would make a Danish Fokker, inspired by the picture in [Munson 1969]: J-50 of 2. Eskadrille of Hærens Flyvertropper, based at Værløse. A historical note is that while the Fokker D.XXIs in both Dutch and Finnish service acquitted themselves well in the beginning of WWII, the Danish ones were never used in combat, for reasons that are fully covered in [Ancker 1997, 2001a].

The Frog model, while older than I, is not completely horrible. The shape is OK and it has separated control surfaces, which, when offset, would make for a nice effect, as I decided to build it in flying configuration (which otherwise would not affect the exterior, considering the fixed landing gear). But there are deficiencies: The cockpit is completely bare, there are no wing guns (not relevant for the Danish version, but definitely for the Finnish), the engine is such a pathetic effort that all around the building table burst out laughing when I showed it, and the rather prominent exhaust pipe is completely missing. All of this is of course amenable to scratch building, which I did (I didn’t bother with the engine, though) and in addition I made elevator actuators and the large landing light present on the Danish aircraft. The rather shapeless original pilot figure was replaced by a Matchbox pilot, sculpted and painted to look as much as possible as flying suits I found in [Ancker 1997] (photographs of Danish pilots in 1940 are really rare, not to say nonexistent, on the web). A length of thick soldering wire turned out to be perfect for making the exhaust. The hemispherical landing light lens was created by heat-smashing a bit of transparent sheet. (Or rather, heat-smashing several sheets until I got a decent shape.)

By this time it was just a week left before the competition was on (as getting my Tunnan done had had priority up to that point) and I had to start the painting process. Since I persist in using Humbrol colours, which take considerable time to dry, I set up a schedule where I would paint a layer in the evening, get up before dawn to paint the next layer, go to work, come home, paint another layer, sleep a few hours, etc. In the middle of it all I ran out of adhesive tack for masking, so had to run out and buy some, but my favourite Sense 60 g tack just didn’t exist anymore, all shops suddenly carrying Pritt Multi Tac instead. I had to buy this instead. To my horror I found the next morning it would actually lift the underlying paint. I’d never seen Humbrol do that, but apparently I was cutting it a bit too fine with the drying times. In all, the paint job is pretty horrid, you can even see a couple of obvious fingerprints in the photo below. I added the decals the same morning as we were leaving, using some leftover Danish national insignia, unfortunately somewhat undersize.

For the camouflage I went with [Eberspacher 1994] and its suggested colour scheme of Olivengrøn/Brun/Skyblå, which is not inconsistent with the high-contrast camouflage apparent in contemporary photographs, using Humbrol 131 Satin Green, 9 Gloss Tan, and H.G.3 Hellgrau 76 as matches. Acquaintances frowned at this and wondered if I’d purposely chosen the most garish combination.

So, it’s not a great model by any means and will never win anything, but I did get it done in time for the competition.


De danske militære flyverstyrkers udvikling 1910–1940, Bind I, Paul E. Ancker, 1997, Odense Universitetsforlag.
De danske militære flyverstyrkers udvikling 1940–1945, Bind II, Første halvbind, Paul E. Ancker, 2001, Odense Universitetsforlag.
“A Design of the Times—The Fokker D.XXI in Development and Service”, Srecko Bradic, in Military Aircraft Monthly International 9(7), July 2010, pp 32–41.
Fokker D.XXI—Dutch & Danish Service, Vol. 1, Warren Eberspacher, 1994, Phalanx Publishing.
Fokker D.XXI, Suomen Ilmavoimien Historia 3, 2. uusittu painos, Kalevi Keskinen, Kari Stenman & Klaus Niska, 1977, Tietoteos.
Fighters 1939–45—Attack and Training Aircraft, Kenneth Munson, 1969, Blandford Press.
Fokker D.21, Seria „Pod Lupą” 10, Przemyslaw Skulski, 1999, Ace Publication.


Finished model 2013-I

This year’s modelling competition had the theme “What if…Sweden” and Kipper had one of his brilliant ideas—he bought up every 1:72 kit of Saab Tunnan he could find and pressed them in the hands of all modellers he met against the promise that they would build it, but not in the kit configuration. Mulling things over, I had a brainwave and accepted a bagged Heller Tunnan.

Several things came together in my head: the Prusa Mendel 2 3D printer I had just bought together with some friends (including Kipper), my interest in the Saunders-Roe SR.A/1 flying-boat fighter, the rotund shape that gave the Tun its name, and the wonderful diorama of a wartime S-17BS base in the Stockholm archipelago at a previous 08-Open, so I thought:
What if the Chief of the Air Force had been to the British Gas Turbine Week in 1951, where the SR.A/1 was displayed [Jones 1993], and had decided that it would be possible to convert the all-new Saab 29 Tunnan into a flying-boat reconnaissance version that could deploy from easily-constructed archipelagic bases, the road base system not yet having been built?

I decided that it would have been designated S29H, obviously popularly known as ”Vattentunnan”. Perhaps this would be a proposal interesting enough to extend the production run of fpl 29 beyond serial 29976 in 1956 [Flyghistorisk Revy 27], so I could depict an individual palindromically serialled 29992 (coincidentally 99210 = 11111000002). Like all other seaplanes in the Air Force, the S29H would obviously be operated by F2 at Hägernäs, extending their life as aircraft operators. F2 aircraft did not normally wear squadron-specific colours or numbers, instead using the two final digits of the serial number on the fin [Hellström & Fredin, 2000], and I presume that F2 already being special in their marking schemes, they would never bother transferring to fin letters, so 2-92 it would be. However, they probably would use the high-contrast olive green fields prescribed for A29 and S29 from 1954 onwards (not least because it would add a little splash of colour). The result would be a Tunnan as it would have looked in the late 1950s.

For the actual design of the aircraft I foresaw giving it a boat hull directly based on that of the SR.A/1, retractable wingtip floats that could double as wingtip tanks, and a couple of holes in the wings for the cameras. The cameras mounted in the actual S29C recce aircraft were pretty bulky, necessitating an entire new nose section, but this design was dragooned by Colonel Beckhammar, whereas the original plans called for a rather simpler solution, so the S29H can be taken to be based on these original plans and some clever optics. The model turned out to have a convenient panel line running all the way from air intake to exhaust and I set the razor saw to work on this. Now I could tape together the two fuselage halves and scan their outline for later use.

Then I scanned Barrie Hygate’s SR.A/1 plans [Aircraft Archive, 1988]. Kipper tipped me off to Rhino 3D, which happens to have a free beta version for OS X, and during a modelling day at the Army Museum, showed me how to loft the hull profiles into a 3D structure. Then I stretched and squashed that structure in order to match it to the previously scanned Tunnan outline. I now clearly saw how much smaller Tunnan was than the SR.A/1. I created the wingtip floats, which had fewer constraints, so did them more or less free-hand. (All this took considerably more time and fiddling around than is obvious from this short description.)

The plan had been to print the hull and floats on the 3D printer, but that was a project in itself and I hadn’t even managed to get it to communicate with my MacBook yet. On the other hand, Kipper had gotten access to a Roland 3D router, and used it to produce the desired parts for me. The material used looked like some kind of light wood, but apparently was a resin. The resolution of the router was outstanding and I was very pleased with the bits. Except for the wing-tip floats, whose size I had completely overestimated—they were just little pods. I would have to rescale them by at least a factor of 2. Still, that could wait for later.

I continued putting the model together. Heller models from the 1970s, such as this, are really not bad, with good fit, and the cockpit was reasonably well detailed. I still added a thin copper wire for the ejection handle and a bit of plastic to represent the quite prominent canopy opening mechanism.

The new hull had a big lug left from routing which I had to spend a few hours to sand away with wet paper, as I’m a bit wary about resin dust, but eventually it was in a state to be mated with the (remains of the) Heller fuselage. It fit surprisingly well—I had apparently done a careful job scanning and lofting. The only trouble spot was at the air intake, where I’d sawed through the bottom part of it, this necessitating a bit of scraping and puttying. In retrospect I should have kept the intake as was, but so it goes.

In the wings I took out a section of each lower part, in order to create the attachments for the floats. I added various tubing to represent the retraction mechanism. In the meantime, the router had broken down, so Kipper was unable to supply me with resized copies, but being the man of bright ideas that he is, he came up with an emergency solution: pilfer the wing floats from a Tamiya 1:48 Rufe, and indeed they were perfect in size.

Soon it was time for painting. I went with straight Humbrol 56 overall, and Humbrol 30 for the olive green fields (really too green a shade, I should rather have used 116, I made a thinko). Finally, the day before the exhibition, it was time to add the decals. The kit-supplied national insignia went on without problems, but my Specialtryck Swedish numerals completely disintegrated on contact with water. On this short notice I had no option but to leave the aircraft unnumbered. As I arrived the next morning, looking very glum, older hands laughed at my ignorance of the short shelf-life of Specialtryck decals. Still, there it was, and so were all the other ones! Kipper’s campaign activity had paid handsome dividends, the What if competition category had to be divided in two: one for Tunnan entries, the rest for everything else and then about as many additional entries in the hors concours exhibition. This caused some amount of excitement even abroad, and I was chuffed as nuts to see my flying boat singled out for comment.

A couple of weeks later I brought the Tunnan along to the Helsinki competitions, where it received IIIrd prize in the Jets 1/99–1/51 category, though that was really an artefact of their no-sweeps rules, it was in fact way down the list, but all the entries ahead came from only two builders…

Much later, with the help of Microscale Liquid Decal Film, I managed to get the numerals to stick together, and then scratch-built beaching gear for the aircraft, trying out the hairspray method on it. And here it is:


“SAAB 29 Tunnan” at Aircraft Walkaround Center, 2003.
Aircraft Archive: Post-war Jets, Volume 3, 1988, Argus Books.
Kronmärkt – Målning och märkning av svenska militärflygplan under 1900-talet, Leif Hellström & Leif Fredin, 2000, Allt om Hobby.
J29-klubben, 2010
“Saro’s flying-boat fighter”, Barry Jones, Aeroplane Monthly, 22(7), July 1993, pp 34–41.
Flygplansritningar 4: Svenska Flygvapnets Spaningsflygplan 1926–86, Björn Karlström, 1988, Allt om Hobby.
”Saab 29 Tunnan · Västerås Flygmuseum”, at 4πsr, Lennart Möllerström, 2011.
Att flyga är att leva: Flygvapnet 1926–1976, Gösta Norrbohm & Bertil Skogsberg, 1975, Bokförlaget Bra Böcker.
Flyghistorisk revy Nr 27: SAAB 29 Tunnan, 1977, Svensk Flyghistorisk Förening.
Gula Divisionen, 1954, Terrafilm.