Tamiya’s 1/48 F4D-1 Skyray: Paint And Decals

I don’t know that I had an excessive number of toys growing up as a kid. We were a middle class family in small town, and my dad did OK. While there were plenty of kids who had more than I did, there were far more who had less. Of course, as a kid, I never thought about that. I just wanted cool toys.

Keeping my room clean was a constant battle with my mom. For some reason she insisted on things like baths, brushing teeth, regular changes of underwear, and clean rooms. I thought it was rather unfair and arbitrary myself, but she was mom. She made the laws and applied the penalties, so to speak. 🙂

Of course, being a clever kid, I found a way to short-circuit the process. When mom said “clean your room”, I set all of my favorite toys in their appropriate place, so I had quick access to them. Everything else – right under the bed it went! Genius! 😉

Inevitably though, I’d later want to play with a particular toy, but it was nowhere to be found. I’d look in the usual places, but somewhere along the way, a light would go on (I have a 2-watt bulb installed in my thinker), and I’d realize where it was.

Under the bed.

Getting Back To The Skyray

This Tamiya Skyray had last been on the workbench in the late spring of 2017. I’d posted a blog entry about finishing up the cockpit, and had intended to follow that up fairly quickly with the airframe build, priming, painting, and decals. I actually did the work, up to te painting, but I set it aside.

There it sat. And sat.

I can’t say I completely forgot about it. I mostly forgot about it. Kind of like “mostly dead” from the Princess Bride. If I’d have completely forgotten about it, there would have nothing left to do but rummage through its pockets for loose change. 😉

Now and again I’d look up on the shelf over my workbench, and think “I really need to get that one back in the flow.” But my initial enthusiasm for the uniquely shaped jet had waned. The kit itself was good. Even a decades old Tamiya kit is better than many recent releases from other companies. 

I think the plain look of it… white and gray… just really wasn’t doing it for me. I’d started building it when I’d gone through a phase of late 50s US Navy aircraft, and this little guy happened to come along as that focus went away. To quote that great American philosopher, Curly Howard, the Skyray was “a victim of soicumstance.” 😉

Restarting A Stalled Project

Last week I was cleaning up my model space, and in moving some boxes around the shelf, pulled down the Skyray. I’m not sure what had changed, but the mojo to finish came back. Weird how that works….

I’d left it off in a state that was almost ready for decals.

Assembly of the fuselage had been simple enough. As with any Tamiya kit, fit was very good. Though some sanding was needed along seam lines, I don’t recall any of it being too egregious. Because the Skyray’s gear doors cycled closed again after the gear were down, I’d made the decision to mount the struts and doors in place beforehand, and simply work around then for the rest of the build. There is some risk to this, as breaking a gear leg is certainly a possibility. However, I’ve always felts that a closed gear door applied after painting just looks too obvious. So careful handling would be the order of the day.

Painting presented a bit of an odd dilemma. My favorite aircraft paint, Tamiya, does not have a good match for the gray used on aircraft of this period. I tried mixing some up, but was never quite happy with the result. I’d used Gunze’s color for a previous build, but it just seemed a bit too warm for my tastes, having a bit of a reddish tint to it. I picked up a bottle of Vallejo Model Airs offering, and though I liked it much better, I had some concerns.

Naval aircraft of this period had lots of little color details – Coroguard surfaces, red warning areas, varying nose colors, walkway strips, and so forth. Painting all of that would require a lot of masking. And while Model Air has reasonably good adhesion, masking off the various areas required for this particular scheme would greatly increase the chances for paint lift.

Avoiding The Lift

Because I had Tamiya paint for all other colors, I decided to paint those bits first – using a hotter paint thinner that would stick better – and then masking them off. With all of those areas painted I could then spray the Model Air paint over it last, avoiding any masking.

US Navy aircraft of the 50s and 60s had a protective coating called Coroguard applied to the leading edges of the wings and tailplanes. The color varied from a shiny silver to a metallic gray. I mixed a but of Tamiya Flat Aluminum with Metallic Gray, and called the color “correct”. I sprayed this along the leading edges of the wings, tailplanes, and underwing pylons, and masked them off with Tamiya Tape,

Next up was the red coloring on the air inlets. I’d anticipated this step ahead of time, and had painted and masked the demarcation inside the intake lip ahead of time. For exterior painting, I simply stuff the intakes with tissue, painted the outer area red, and masked it off too.

The two-tone nose color was done in similar fashion, with the dark gray being applied and then carefully masked, and then the black nose cone itself. 

Next was the undersides, sprayed with Tamiya Flat White. Looking back, I wish I’d have used a touch of gray in the white, allowing for some highlights to be added. Still, I can work that out in the weathering stage. After allowing that paint to dry, the undersides were masked off, leaving only the upper gray areas.

That, of course, was easy enough. Vallejo Model Air goes on very nicely. It flows nearly as well as Ammo of Mig, but with far less fiddliness than that paint. Ammo has a very narrow window in which it goes on nicely… apply it too thickly and an overly glossy, even orange peel look can result. Yet to avoid that, by building it up in thin coats, can take a maddening amount of time.

Model Air, on the other hand, seems to hit the right balance. While it can’t be blasted on too thickly, the paint is much more friendly, and a few passes will build up good opacity and yet retain a nice smooth finish.

With the gray paint applied, all of that masking was removed. And though the masking bit was tedious, the theory proved correct – no paint lift. 

Back On Track

All of that had been done prior to bringing this back from the shelf of doom. All that I had left to paint were the wingwalk areas.

The kit originally had decals for this, but somewhere along the way, those had been misplaced. And while I had avoided masking over the Model Air paint initially, I hoped that 19 months drying and curing time was sufficient for it to be pretty well set in place. Using heavily de-tacked Tamiya tape, I outlined the wingwalks. To avoid having too much marking to account for, I covered areas beyond the tape with sticky notes. This would have minimal “sticK’ that might lift paint, but would also avoid  overspray.

The wingwlaks were painted with Tamiya Nato Black. In order to further reduce the chances for overspray, I used heavily thinned paint, at a reduced air pressure. This allowed my to have a greater amount of control over the flow, and while it did take a bit longer to apply, no excess paint was flying all about the place. When the masking was removed, all looked good.

In preparation for the decals, I added a good coat of Future. Too often I’ve seen modelers apply it very thin, which often results in a pebbly finish. For Future to really work well, it has to be applied in a fairly wet coat. Because the underlying paint was matt, I knew it would grip nicely. In applying it, I go for a very smooth put glossy coat. While Future nicely self levels, it requires that enough be applied so that it can level. Once applied, it tightens down into detail nicely, but gives a smooth, hard shell for decal application.

The decals for this aircraft were a bit of a mix-and-match. Some kit decals, some aftermarket. I’m not sure how I ended up with multiple partial sets, but I decided to make do with what I had. Overall, the markings and placement are correct. I’m not sure the serial number and aircraft number match, but the style and placement are consistent with period photos.

The last bit of decal work was the stencils.

I hate stencils.

And, He’s Off On A Rant….

I do not like applying stencil decals for obvious reasons… boredom and tedium. But I really don’t like the way they look on my models.

Take a look at most period photos, or even modern ones, and from a typical viewing distance, meaning fifty or more feet away, the stencils begin to disappear for the most part. Yes, there are exceptions, of course, And some photos in some conditions do clearly show them. But for the most part, viewing any airplane in real life does not reveal the maddening number of stencils that may be present. At best, a few darker areas are seen. Only the more colorful ones really show up.

When I have placed all those stencils on a model, I always felt it looked less realistic in the end, not more realistic. Instead of seeing the model as it would be as viewed from a distance, it would rather appear as though how it would look to a giant if he picked up the real thing.

So while I admire the patience it takes to apply them, more and more I’ve simply sworn them off for my builds. More colorful ones are applied, and perhaps a few larger ones in some areas, but for the most part – I’ve decided I’m a no-stencil guy. i know… purists will hate that.

But it comes down to my core matra – I don’t find stencils fun.

Back On Track… Again

The realization that the “lost” toy was under my bed always brought a bit of decision time. Do I really want to play with it? The price for playing with it meant pulling out everything, potentially. And if it had been a while since my mom had discovered my “secret toy stash”, the number of things under the bed could be quite high.

So the decision was not made lightly. That toy better be pretty important, and have some fun attached to it, before I started digging around under there.

In a way, resurrecting a stalled project is very similar. The evaluation must be made about a restart. Something caused me to put that kit aside… if I restart it, will those conditions be gone? Often times I prefer to just let it sit, realizing that what made it end up on the shelf of doom in the first place is still there. And when you’re like me – focusing on the fun – projects that may run contrary to that are best avoided.

For some reason though, this Skyray passed the test. After 19 months of sitting dormant, I now want to see it through. It’s certainly one of the coolest looking airplanes ever to fly from a carrier deck. If Batman were to be a naval aviator, this would be his mount.

Still to go on this build will be some light weathering, the underwing stores, and a few other final bits and bobs to be added.

If you’re looking for a nice yet simple jet build, cast your eye on Tamiya’s Skyray. It looks cool, doesn’t cost too much, and is relatively drama free.

Even after sitting patiently on a shelf!

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