Nitto’s 1/20 Ma. K Fliege: Revival Of The Rattle Can

I’d been given a Monogram 1/72 B-25 as a gift, though for the life of me I can’t recall the occasion. Each gift-able day meant a new model, so in the fog of time that floats in my mind (nice line… 😉 ) nailing down the precise celebration can be difficult. What I do know is that I thought it was a pretty cool model, especially the nose bristling with guns.

The box art showed it all in a silver finish. My typical plan for a model in all its aluminum glory was to simply leave the plastic unpainted. It wasn’t so much avoiding painting a metal finish, I simply thought that was what you were supposed to do. I reckoned they cast it in silver because it was supposed to be silver. Simple enough. All the other colors just went over the top.

However, the box art on this one looked decidedly shiny. It was obviously not the bare plastic, but real live paint. Figuring that painting a model is painting a model, I set out to make the B-25 very shiny.

Acquiring The Goods

I had a bottle of silver paint – one of those little square Testors bottles so familiar to American modelers of my generation. It wasn’t great paint, really. It always seemed  bit thick, and aside from painting instrument dials, landing gear, and prop hubs, it rarely saw much use. My bottle was almost empty though, so I’d need to get more. 

I rarely had money in my pre-teen days. My parents didn’t believe in “allowances”, thinking for some odd reason that food, clothing, shelter, cable TV, a bicycle, toys, and a yard to play in represented allowance enough. So life was pretty tough for me. I knew better than to ask for the money… that would simply result in a raised eyebrow.

However, my dad had taught me a sure-fire way to get some money. Work for it. Thus, I set out with gas can and lawn mower in tow, and within a few days had the princely sum of $5. A veritable fortune for a 10 year old in the mid seventies. Suitably equipped for my journey of acquisition, I picked up two bottles of Testors silver, a wide flat paint brush, and a Baby Ruth bar. The change went in my Model T bank – far more sophisticated than some porcine depository – to await the next modelling need.

A Sticky Situation

Armed with my paint, I began coating the model. I’d recently “discovered” the notion of thinning paints, so I mixed up a bit of my enamel thinner with the silver paint in an old jar lid. The thinner was definitely NOT the odorless kind… how I still I have brain cells I’m not quite sure. (And I suppose I am making an assumption there.

Carefully brushing the paint on, I painted the model in sections. I’d learned to do the wings first, using the fuselage as a “handle” of sorts. I don’t recall being too upset about brush strokes, as all my models had brush strokes. I assumed that was just the way hand painted models looked. But I did like to minimize them. Seeing that this silver paint was quite prone to it, I was ultra particular. (Oddly, it never occured to me to simply do multiple thin coats.)

Finishing the wings, I let them dry for a full day, planning to get started again the next day. Carefully propping it up on the fuselage and horizontal stabilizers, I admired the shiny silver wings.

Spoiled By Modern Kits

Though I am fairly new to the Maschinen Krieger genre, having only started building them in the last year or so, I’ve gotten to be quite a fan. In just a bit over 14 months, I’ve built 7 kits from the franchise, and this Fliege will be number 8. 

What is “new” about this Fliege is that it’s not new at all, but rather an older kit produced by Nitto. Years ago I’d actually had the chance to inspect a Nitto Ma. K kit, and I’ll admit I was less than impressed at the time. Having lived on a diet of Eduard and Tamiya kits for years, the relatively crude look turned me off a bit.

Parts casting looked OK, but fairly plain – much like many of the Special Hobby aircraft kits I tried to avoid. A little bag of wire, springs, and some form of round tubing was included, which immediately brought out the “nope octopus“. It certainly didn’t look unbuildable… but at the time, I thought “why bother?”

Things Have Changed

When I began examining Ma. K kits again early in the fall of 2018, my mindset had changed. For one, I’d watched quite a bit of Lincoln Wright’s Paint On Plastic videos, and you can’t help but feel enthusiastic about the franchise after that. His love for the genre is infectious.

But I’d also seen that the kits were now produced by a company called Wave, and they looked much better. Gone were the bits of wire and spring that had turned me off. The part casting looked very, very good. In every way, they seemed to be far superior kits.

An odd thing happened though. My affection for the Maschinen Krieger universe took over. While Wave offered a good variety of high quality kits, there were many more still only in the Nitto boxings. And I wanted to build a few – springs and all.

Providence Smiled

Happily, I had the opportunity sooner than I expected. My friend and Patreon supporter Chris Bernique kindly gifted me Nitto’s Fliege kit, which really blew me away – thank you Chris! Having a better understanding of the genre and its aesthetic than in my previous Nitto encounter, I felt ready to tackle it.

My pre-planning and test fitting showed that the actual fit of the plastic parts would not be too bad, and that once seams were filled and some texture added, any fit issues should be hidden away.

I also was armed with a better knowledge of replacing those rubber joints in the Nitto kits with Milliput. While certainly no master of its use, I felt confident that the barrier to entry had been reduced to the point I could be successful.

Now Is The Part Where He Actually Builds Stuff

Because I’d opted to to forego the use of the rubber joint pieces altogether, assembly was fairly straight forward. While the general fit was OK, a bit of test fitting, sanding, and minor shaping rewards the builder with fewer seams to fill. All of the plastic and polycap parts were glued up, and any resulting seam lines dealt with.

The arms could be cleaned up with with an hobby knife alone. The pre-assembly work, combined with a good squeeze after things were joined with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement, made for easy cleanup. The legs took a bit more work, with some Tamiya Basic Putty employed, thinned a bit with their Extra Thin Cement.

The upper hull required a bit more work to get together. While their is a semblance of an interior, I didn’t feel it was robust enough to feature an open hatch. Thus, I had to use some modeling strategery to sort it out.

Planning The Attack

The front hatch of the torso has a clear section, which allows the pilot to be seen. As the part is “smoked” much of the interior won’t be visible. Unlike the Wave kits, though, the waist is open, allowing light to shine up through from underneath.

After a bit of testing, I arrived at a build sequence. The full interior – to include the pilot’s torso – would be assembled and inserted in the upper hull halves. The main hatch, and a service hatch on the back, would be left off initially. All of the seam lines were then filled with the Tamiya Basic Putty and Extra Thin Cement mix, and after an overnight drying time, sanded down. The rear service hatch was then added, and any seams reduced with Mr. Surfacer 500, cleaned up with alcohol and a cotton bud. This left a panel line, but no gaps.

The interior was given a rough paint job and dry brush, as testing showed virtually thing would be visible. The kit’s pilot head looked a bit rough, so another was sourced from some Wave spares. The piece used had a full face shield, so I only needed to paint around the eyes. The helmet itself was painted white so it would show nicely behind the smoked faceplate, and some red adornments added to give it a bit of color.

The pilot’s head was added, the hatch masked, and the part was added to the upper, firmly glued in place. Two small parts that allowed it to be assembled for opening and closing were clipped, and added to close two slots in the hatch for those parts.

A Joint Operation

When I’d first tried to do Milliput joints, I’d gotten hung up in making them look “appropriately wrinkled”. I found it quite difficult to give a natural appearance though. On a later attempt, I realized it was far easier to simply focus on getting the Milliput stuffed into the joints and smoothed over. Once it had partially dried, I could introduce a few simple folds and ridges. The goal is not to be precise, I felt, but rather to simply suggest the texture. Careful paint work can bring out highlight and shadow.

I made a fairly large lump of the Milliput, keeping it moist as I worked. Cutting off a small piece, I’d roll it into a string, wrap it around a joint, and then if needed fill in more until it was “full”. This was repeated for all the joints. Once all had their Milliput in place, I positioned the model. While the putty had begun to dry, there was enough elasticity to allow me to pose it. A toothpick was used to add a few wrinkles, and after re-checking the pose, I left it to dry overnight.

In the morning I was rewarded with a nice, fixed pose model. A few places needed some Milliput touch up, and a hobby blade, as well as flat and round files, were used to finish the shaping.

In the end, I was OK with it. My lack of experience working with Milliput showed, but it seemed passable enough to move on. A quick application of Mr. Surfacer went across the model to give it some of the canon texture, and all was ready for paint.

What Is That Rattling Sound?

Looking back on the years I put into building aircraft, I realized I was a bit of a rattle can snob. While I rarely said anything, I never understood why people would opt for blasting paint from a can when it could be applied in a much more civilized manner with an airbrush.

But when I began to watch Lincoln Wright work – and saw his results – my attitude towards those spray cans changed. Though they do blast out a lot of paint that requires careful control, the benefit of speed is too good to pass up. Whether it be for priming, or actual paint, a project can be moved along to the next step quickly by applying a bit of aerosol delivered color.

I decided to go very canon with this fighting suit, using Tamiya’s TS-7 Racing White. The lid on the can makes it appear a bit more yellow than it actually is. The color is more of a white with a little buff thrown in. More to the point, it’s been used quite often in the franchise.

Application is simple enough. Spray, pan, release. Keep the distance at about 8-10 inches. Repeat. The sweep of the arm should be fairly quick, but not as though swatting flies. The goal is to avoid paint build up. Make a few passes from a variety of angles, then walk away. Let it dry, and do it again on another side. This keeps the coats nice and thin. I did this fairly nicely, with only a few places showing my impatience.

It Will NEVER Cure

The next day, I picked up my B-25. Giving it a quick touch to assure it was dry, I was horrified to see the wings were still quite sticky. Allowing them a few more days to dry – which they never did, I finally gave up. The process was started to paint the model, holding it anywhere I could that did not require the silver paint – which was not much. Eventually, it was quite thoroughly fingerprinted.

Perplexed, I showed it to my dad. He explained the difference between drying and curing. While I didn’t quite get it, the takeaway was that my B-25 would remain sticky. And remain sticky it did. It finally cured to the point that if I limited touching to just a few seconds, using a bare minimum of fingertip, I could move the model without leaving prints.

A friend later offered a simple, brilliant solution – silver spray paint. It was one of those ideas that though quite apparent after the fact, just after the moment of “enlightenment” it seemed quite a breakthrough.  He showed me a model he’d built, using rattle cans. The paint was very smooth, very metallic, and best of all – completely dry.

Going Old School

Having been thoroughly convicted of my atomization snobbery, I’m becoming quite comfortable with the rattle cans. They are my go-to primer of choice now, and more and more the paints are finding their way on to my models. While care must be taken to get a smooth coat, once applied, they look every bit as nice as an airbrush application. And the speed with which work gets done is a critical factor.

My later models in my early years had plenty of spray can paint. I even began to learn the art of masking, giving kits complex schemes of three and even four colors. In what I felt was a triumph of man over modeling, I even “discovered” a crude method to decant some paint (spray it into a old mason jar), allowing it to be used for brushed on paint touch ups. I felt quite advanced. 😉

Any reservations I’d been harboring about Nitto kits have been completely abolished. I found I actually like the use of the springs for the various hoses, and the Milliput joints are vastly more “paintable” than the Wave polycap material parts. And while the little Fliege is looking a bit plain right now in its rattle can Racing White livery, stay tuned. He’s going to be quite the dirty best in the end.



2 responses to “Nitto’s 1/20 Ma. K Fliege: Revival Of The Rattle Can”

  1. I never had the nerves to try out using a rattle can on a scale model. My father used to fix his car, and was seen using a rattle can on a car door, only to hehe spray on too heavily, as if he just couldn’t help himself, going with too many “layers”, and so eventually the new paint started running. 🙂

    I had a spare, small, Tamiya rattle can for USAF light gray in store, to be used witht the Fine Mold’s Falcon in 1:144 scale, but I never dared to used it. Given the amount of masking tape used (about 100 tiny bits), I am glad I didn’t try spray that model of mine with a rattle can having no past experience using a rattle can.

    Oh, joy, the day when I became aware of something called “odorless” white spirit. 🙂 I used to fiddle with Humbrol enamel paint, before upgrading to an airbrush and Vallejo acrylic paint. All my tins of Humbrol paint was given to my local garbarge sorting facility when I moved half a year ago, what a relief. I never liked the Humbrol paints when using a brush, somehow the surface finish tended to look streaked and weird. I also wasn’t good at thinning the paint.


    1. Give them a try! They’re easy to use and quite efficient.


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