Building A First Resin Kit
By JW Dirkse
Like most modelers with a basement full of un-built kits, I never thought I would have the opportunity or desire to build a resin aircraft model. Don’t get me wrong, I love the detailed cockpit sets with resin and PE parts, but why buy a totally resin kit? I found the simple answer this year, no one makes a plastic Westland Lynx AH-7 helicopter in 1/35 or 1/48 scale.
Through the internet I discovered the kit I needed in 1/48 scale manufactured by Belcher Bits and in quick order Santa’s summer help (UPS) had the box at my door. The kit contained 9 pages of detailed instructions, resin parts packed in ziplock bags, 2 vacu-formed clear canopy sections, vinyl masks, and decals. The kit included parts to build the aircraft as an AH-1, AH-5 or AH-7 variant. Decals included enough individual letters and number to replicate any serial number in the production sequence.
Belcher’s instructions are well written and I read them through completely before starting. They provided some great tips on construction methods as well as detailed figures for specific assemblies. I began by painting the aircraft interior, seats and instrument panels. The primary instrument panel contained recessed circles for the instruments, so I cut out instruments from another decal sheet, white glued them in place and covered them with clear lacquer to replicate the glass face. The seats were very detailed and included the safety harness and survival pack. I did not install the crew seats in the rear of the aircraft as a former Lynx pilot said they were often removed to reduce aircraft weight.
Once the interior was painted and assembled, I pieced and glued the major components together minus the clear canopy. The instructions were very specific to test fit and then tape the parts in place before finally gluing them. Parts 2 and 3 required a plastic shim to make the rear fuselage the desired thickness, but the remaining parts went together with minor cutting and sanding. Liberal quantities of putty were required to fill the seams. I used Squadron White putty, but in retrospect a cyanoacrylate filler like Zap a Gap would have provided additional strength and adhered to the resin better than traditional gap fillers.
The kit luckily included two clear vacu-formed canopies (more later). The upper right window is tinted and I replicated this using a thin wash of gloss black sprayed to the inside of the canopy. After trimming and fitting, the canopy was glued into place. I used cyanoacrylate glue very sparingly to avoid frosting the clear parts, but a good epoxy would probably avoid that risk altogether. After the canopy was in place, more putty was required to fill the gaps. Extreme care was needed to prevent scratching the clear canopy and a piece of masking tape over the high risk areas helped avoid trouble.
Once the sanding was completed it was time to spray a coat of primer on the model to check for unfilled seams and gaps. I used an enamel based flat grey which went on smooth, refused to dry on some parts of the aircraft and eventually turned to a gooey mess. I sanded down the affected area and tried again, same result. I washed the area with lacquer thinner (which removes both putty and paint) and tried again, same result. I took my wife’s hair dryer to the project and watched drops of oily liquid ooze out of the resin, unfortunately I also put the heat too close to the vacu-formed canopy with predictable results. Thankfully the kit had the second canopy. Convinced I fixed the problem I replaced the canopy then puttied, sanded and painted again, same result. Frustrated, I finally emailed Belcher Bits and the owner recommended trying an acrylic floor polish as a sealer before painting. That didn’t work either so after puttying and sanding one more time I finally ordered water based acrylic paints and that did the trick.
Once the primer paint issue was solved it was time to start putting the rest of the kit together. A helicopter is a rather fragile piece of equipment even in 1/1 scale and a resin model is no different. The instructions recommended drilling and inserting wire into almost every additional subassembly to provide additional strength at the glue joints, especially the landing skids and rotor assemblies. I used soft wire from paper clips which permitted me to bend the landing skids slightly for final adjustment. I used stiffer piano wire to mount the rail rotor and main rotor mast. The kit came with the straight main rotor blades and shaped BERP blade tips for the AH-7. Conversion included sawing 1” off the end of each blade and gluing the tips in place with wire to strengthen the joint. The crew side doors were not installed until the helicopter was painted. The doors required substantial thinning to make them look to scale and did not possess the same curve as the fuselage side. Heat from a hair dryer while pressed against a bottle softened the resin doors enough to change and retain its new shape.
Final painting was straightforward after the initial paint difficulties. I installed the vinyl masks over the canopy after dipping them in water with a drop of dish detergent added. The instructions said this would permit repositioning of the masks and it was effective. I sprayed the clear canopy framing flat black so the color would be visible from the inside of the canopy. The exterior was finished using acrylic British Dark Green and Medium Sea Grey with a coat of acrylic floor wax as a sealer. Once the decals were installed I sealed them with a second coat of floor wax. Final detailing included adding the antennas, formation lights, tail skid, and steps to the aircraft.
With the exception of painting issues, the kit went together without major difficulty and was probably a realistic project for anyone who had worked with fillers, vacu-formed parts and cyanoacrylate glue. I was also pleased with the vinyl canopy masks and intend to see what masks are available for other projects in the future.
Westland Lynx AH-7
669 Squadron, 4th Regiment
Detmold, Germany 1994