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Completed Airframe

I first bought the model 2nd hand back in March 2018, it had been repaired following a heavy landing and although had been structurally repaired well, the paint was far from perfect and some small cracks had been covered with stickers. In addition I wasn’t that keen on the pink colour scheme (I have always been adamant it was purple, but now it has been repainted I’m prepared to admit it was pink!) so I had always had it in the back of my mind to repaint it one day.

Later on in October of the same year, I managed to damage it myself over running the landing into our then brand new earth bank! Although I repainted it and was very happy with it, over time it became apparent that the aerosol lacquer coat I had used had not hardened properly, so it gradually started to deteriorate. 

So when our first lockdown came along being unable to fly, it seemed the ideal time to bite the bullet and start stripping the paint. In hindsight had I known then how much effort and how many hours it would take me to do it, I might not have bothered, but once I had started there was no going back! It took me approximately 2 months on and off to get it done, I tried several methods of doing it, solvents had only limited effect but still made a huge mess, in the end I did it by roughing it up with coarse sandpaper then scraping off with a sharp blade and finally wet and dry to finish.

The fuselage wasn’t too bad as it is just solid grp, but the wing and tail are a foam/grp sandwich with thin glass cloth on both sites, so it was really easy to go through the top layer so took much more care.

Finally, I had it done ready for prep and paint by early June. No sooner was it done along came the chance to buy my T33, so having got it I had to choose between finishing the Flash or getting the T33 ready to fly, although I had to do the complete engine and radio install to the T33, I decided it would be quicker than the Flash repaint, so it went to the front of the queue. The T33 was read to go by the end of August, so I was back on the Flash.

I wanted to add lights to the model as being very fast it can be difficult to see at a distance, especially on a dull day. I purchased a basic set of Braincube lights, with 2 wingtip and one landing light, so had to modify the wing tips to include recessed lights with covers. I made the internal mount and reflector from thin glass sheet, painted with a chrome paint. I then moulded some covers with some carbon cloth using the leading edge of the wing as a mould and then a clear lens cover using the plastic from a liquid soap bottle, heated and formed over a mould . The landing light was just mounted on the nose wheel door and is set in the transmitter to turn on when the wheels are down.

I eventually purchased the paint in early November from Rainbow Paints in Ferndown, I used 2k primer and clearcoat (paint and hardener) and 1k colour (no hardener). I can highly recommend them as they are extremely helpful and can provide colour matching including in small quantities for repairs. They have a spectrometer for very accurate colour matching, although when I had to repair my T33 after a bird strike, they did it just by comparing colour swatches and the results were excellent.

First job was to fill and rub down any flaws in the surface using 2 part plastic filler, then apply a full coat of primer and rub down again, this process reveals any unevenness, pinholes etc.

Now apply a full coat of base white to the whole airframe, this should be done even in the areas of other colours as it gives a consistent base colour. Some colours, normally lighter ones, have poor coverage, so without a consistent base you end up needing lots of colour coats to stop seeing what’s underneath.

Once the base white is done the fun really starts, masking is very time consuming especially when doing multiple colours and complex schemes, adding curved instead of straight lines adds to this even more! But this is where you really see things start to come together.

I had decided to do just 2 colours and white, both metallic, orange and grey. Normally if there are overlapping colours I would do the light colour first, but on the Flash they were mostly separated by white, where they weren’t I would be butting the colours up rather then overlapping, so I ended up doing the grey metallic first.

I had done a scheme design on Microsoft Paint, which I then printed on A4 paper and marked up the dimensions of each paint line, then scaled them up to full size to produce a duplicate on brown paper. For getting nice even curves, I use a long length of 2mm carbon rod, taped together at both ends to create a bow effect, adjusted to give the required curve, then use this as a guide to draw the lines on the paper mask.  Once done they are carefully cut out with scissors and a sharp blade to produce separate individual patterns.

Positioning each one on the surface in turn and taping in place, I then use flexible 3M fine line masking tape to follow the pattern to create the edge of each masked area. I used 3mm and 6mm wide tapes depending on the radius of the curve. Sometimes when doing this you can easily create steps in the curve, so when the tape is in position, check that it is to an even radius, if not happy, then pull off and reposition. This tape looks a bit like vinyl rather than paper like a normal masking tape and produces really clean edges. Once the paint edges are taped, infill areas not to be painted with brown paper and masking tape.

An additional thing I like to do where tapes overlap and at sharp points, you can often get paint creep into any little gaps or areas where the tape is not fully stuck down. So before I paint the colour, I airbrush a light coat of the base colour, in this case white, onto those specific areas so any paint creep will be invisible when the masking is removed.

The metallic grey was then applied. Unfortunately in another lockdown project this year we converted our garage into an extra room, so I don’t now have anywhere to paint inside. I created a covered area outside of my shed with a timber frame to support a line to hang the parts on, with a plastic sheet cover over the top. This meant that the painting was very weather dependant, I needed temps not too cold and light winds so as not to create any dust or even remove the plastic sheet cover! (Bear in mind I did most of it during November and December!). I had the shed heater on full and moved each part into the shed immediately after painting to dry, this actually worked very well, but I had to be very careful not to mark the paint when moving it. Leave the part for enough time for the paint to harden sufficiently before removing the masking, then carefully remove ensuring no paint is pulled off the surface by the tape.

Next job, again using the paper mask templates as a guide, mask for the second colour, in this case metallic orange and then paint.

The orange paint was something new to me which actually ended up giving a result I wasn’t completely happy with (my fault and something I will know about next time!). As orange apparently doesn’t cover particularly well this paint was a 2 stage one, with a base flat orange then a 2nd stage of a semi transparent orange with the metal flake in it. What I hadn’t allowed for is that the more 2nd stage paint you apply, the darker the colour becomes. Where it caught me out is that when painting separate parts which are adjacent once reassembled, if you don’t apply the same amount of 2nd stage paint, they don’t match! This happened on the main gear doors and wasn’t apparent until after everything had been clear coated and the model was reassembled. Still, as it’s on the underside I can live with it I suppose!

So with the colours all applied I go over anything and clean up any areas that are untidy, paint bleeds or small bits that had been missed with the masking, this nearly always happens somewhere! These areas can normally be sorted fairly easily with a sharp blade to scrape off the offending paint and a touch up with a small brush or airbrush.

Next job is the 2k clear, which is a clear lacquer with a hardener which will give a gloss top coat which is pretty chemical resistant and easy to clean. It is not the best to spray this in cold weather, so I waited for a day with temps around 8-10 deg, ideally you want 20 deg + but that wasn’t going to happen in December. I actually did it on Christmas Eve, lucky for me with Christmas virtually being cancelled this year!  

The problem with cold weather is that it is much more difficult to get the clearcoat to flow out nicely, not enough applied and you will get an uneven finish which is usually called orange peel, a pretty good description of its appearance. If you apply too much then you get runs which is even worse. Luckily with clear it is quite easy to rub down until its smooth and then polish, time consuming but the results are great. So when I applied it I made sure I didn’t apply too much at a time. I applied 2 separate even coats with enough time between each for the first coat to become tacky. The result was pretty good, but there were a few areas of orange peel so as I had time, I decided to flat and polish the whole model.  See peel image.

The process is to flat with fine wet and dry paper 2000 grade or finer, I cut it back with 2000 and then went over with 2500, which were both available from Halfords. It is a bit time consuming as with such fine grade paper, it takes some effort to flat back the orange peel areas until they are completely smooth, but once done it is quite quick to polish to a shine which a rotary polishing sponge in a battery drill. The pics show orange peel, wet and dry until smooth, then the final result after polishing

The original canopy had warped in the sun as the clear plastic had been painted black, so I had to buy a replacement part. I decided to do a proper clear canopy so painted and installed a new cockpit kit and replaced the clear plastic, looks much better than a painted canopy I think.

So it was a lot of work but also extremely satisfying, just need to be let out again so I can get her back in the air, but at least while it’s in storage, I won’t be able to damage it! 

** Article and images owned by Jon Tappin

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