Captain Harlock

 

Spacewolf

Model by Vaughn M.

 

Scratchbuilt

Sheet styrene

 Model Specifications:
Scale = 1/24
Length = 45.7 cm
Width = 48.3 cm
Height = 25.4 cm

 

I was introduced to the Spacewolf from Captain Harlock by the article by Alex Dumas,  who has produced a small kit of the fighter. I was immediately taken by it's shape and look. The artist had obviously taken his inspiration from the WWII FW-190-D9 German fighter and had given it a 'Japanimation' makeover that just rocks! I got most of my reference material from Alex, and using his tiny kit as a guide, immediately started planning my much larger 1/24th scale model.

Alex and I had several E-mail discussions as to scale, as did I with
Alfred Wong...I spent many hours comparing drawings to known FW-190 models, but ultimately it was simple comparing a pilot figure to the cockpit that gave me what I needed to determine the size. It worked out to a length of 18" and a wing span of 19". So, dimensions decided, I started cutting plastic.

Color profile of Spacewolf.                   

 

 
      The top fin/rudder was made by cutting and laminating three layers of 1/16" styrene, then filing and sanding to shape. Details were scribed in. I figured the nose and tail assemblies would be the most difficult so I worked on these first.

 

I made the exhaust cone by first building up a master and vacu-forming over it. I then cut out 5 circles of 1/16" and laminated them, cutting out the centers and sanding the part to shape to form the outer ring. A centering disc was inserted with the lines for the 14 fins running from the center cone to the outer ring drawn in as guides. The fins were cut from .030", the edges rounded, then glued in.

The cones in the comic/ story were drawn with 'rifling" grooves on the inside so to reproduce them, thin strips of .010" were cut on a curve. Points marked on the front and rear of the cone gave guidance and spacing as they were glued in place
.

 

Next I tackled the nose assembly. Again I vacu-formed the center cone. The cowl ring however was made by laminating three strips of .030" around a old pill container, then sanding the outer edges to the correct profile. The section behind the cowl had to be made as it is part of the whole assembly so I turned to this before finishing the cowl assembly. The rear section has what looks like raised cowl flaps, but are actually some kind of scoops, open at both ends. First I cut two discs of .060", then put in spacers between them. I wrapped a strip of .060" around them to form the skin. Another disc was cut slightly smaller to act as an alignment for the rear of the cowl and the lines for aligning the nose cone fins drawn on.

For the scoops, I vacu-formed 1/16" sheet over some 1/8" square stock I had, trimmed them to shape, glued a small bit of plastic in to act as a block so you can't look right though then glued them on the ring and sanded the top sides to a flatter profile. Trial fitting the cowl really made it look right.

 

Once satisfied with the cowl fit, I glued the 'rifling' into the nose cone and fitted it to the assembly. With the cowl glued on, I carefully cut and installed the fins between the cone and cowl. I was pleased with the way the nose came out as it is a huge part of the overall 'look' of the ship.

 

With the nose and tail assemblies done, I started on the fuselage. A 'male' master was built of the top half of the fuselage for vacu-forming. I used balsa throughout, using 1/4" as the base to give it strength and to lift it off the vacu-former bed. Formers were cut from 1/16th, glued in place and then I 'planked' the skin, using thin strips of 1/16" balsa wood and superglue. Once everything was dry and sanded, I used my home-made heat box and vacu-former to 'pull' the plastic for the top half of the fighter.

 

After trimming the part, I cut and glued sheet plastic across the bottom of the open body to strengthen the part, then trimmed out the opening for the cockpit. I cut the alignment slot for the vertical fin and dry fitted it for the photo.

 

The next step was to make one of the most distinctive features of the fighter, the two massive gun blisters on the fuselage. I found a drop tank from a kit in my parts box that, with some work would be a good master. I modified it by building up the shape with plastic and putty, then vacu-formed over it. I scribed in detail, then cut and filed the opening for the gun muzzle. These were then glued in place.

The louvered plate between the blisters was cut from .060", the louvers carefully cut out by drilling holes at each end and then cutting out the plastic between them with a knife and straight edge. All filling is done with plastic scraps dissolved in liquid glue.

The raised panel on the forward deck was made from .010", curved slightly and glued on. The reverse vents under the blisters were made by cutting tapered shapes from bass wood and vacu-forning .020" over them. Once trimmed and sanded they were fitted into each other, positioned on the model, and glued on.

 

Although the drawings and some reference showed the windscreen with straight framing like the early marks of the FW-190, the comic shows a structure much like the ones found on the Spitfire or the early jets like the F-86 Saber. I first cut a base shape to fit the fuselage and hollowed it out, then drew out the shape of the vertical frame by copying the curve of a windscreen from a spitfire kit I had. This was cut out of .060" as were the slightly curved front frame pieces. I glued the parts together taking care to keep everything aligned.

Trial fitting the nose assembly shows the distinctive look of the 'Wolf !

 

I started the wing by cutting out the top and bottom skins. The rounded wing tip was built up like the tail fin from 5 laminated layers of .060" carved and sanded to shape. I placed a vertical spar on the bottom skin and bent the top skin to a curved shape before gluing the parts together. The tension bent the lower skin upwards and gives a symmetrical airfoil shape.

The next step was to make the 'bent' spar, glue it in place and repeat the sequence with the top and bottom skins. Once everything was dry I glued in a rib to close the end of the wing.

 

The cannon muzzles are made from some 1/32 scale missiles with the tips cut off and carefully trimmed and filed till they fit the leading edge of the wing. The cannon bulges on the top of the wing are made from shortened bomb bodies, trimmed and curved to conform to the top of the wing. 

The details on the bottom are various 'bits' from the parts box. Control surfaces are in the process of being scribed. The landing gear opening was cut and framed in with .060".

 

The next steps had several things being done at the same time. The inner wing structure was started. First 1/4" spacers were glued to the bottom of the fuselage assembly and a sheet of .060" cut to size was glued in place to form the base of the wing. Angled ribs formed the front and back walls of the structure, while a third rib, cut slightly higher was placed in the middle of the wing to give the skin surface a slight curve. The top skin or wing surface was cut from .060" and glued in place.

While this was being done, plans and construction of the cockpit was started. As the cockpit was deeper than the upper fuselage a large square area was cut out of the bottom sheet. This was framed with .060" to form the lower cockpit walls, and to form a platform for the floor. The rear wall and sides were cut from scrap plastic and glued in.

 

The cockpit was started by cutting plastic for the floor. Various boxes and some tank parts from my spares box formed the start of the center and side consoles. For the larger screens I used radiator grills from 1/24th scale trucks and 1/32 scale oil cooler screens cut to size and fitted into the instrument panels. The throttle and control stick were modified from a 1/24th scale racing car. All other details were scratch built from different thicknesses of plastic or were parts from the spares box.

For colors, I went with late WWII German colors of RLM 66 for the overall cockpit, tan for the seat padding, and various reds, whites and yellows for details. The computer screens were picked out in medium green and Testors chrome was used for scuffing and wear, with black washes to deepen detail.

As I plan to put lights in the ship, holes were drilled for fiber optics and the fibers glued into the back of the consoles and gathered under the cockpit floor to fit in the light box that will be built.

 

The seat and seat back were two box assemblies while the padding were strips of .060" cut to size, the edges rounded and glued on in the pattern shown in the comic. The head rest was another box assembly with parts cut from .020 and carefully aligned on the seat. The fitting on either side of the headrest was made from a bit of plastic tube with angled parts cut from .020 glued around it. I wanted to be able to remove the seat and give the cockpit an authentic 'feel', so I used evergreen angle stock to form seat ejection rails on the cockpit rear wall and on the back of the seat.

 

With the cockpit built and installed, the next challenge was putting together the lighting system. Two friends were instrumental in helping here. One showed me a small personal light he'd found in a dollar store, the other explained how to hook up the system. I bought three of the tiny flashlights which were 3 volt LED's. I used insulated wire from a telephone extension and soldered wires to the LED's. I checked the system with a 9 volt battery to make sure it worked, then set about building the light holders, one each for the nose and tail, and one for the cockpit.

 

For the nose and tail, I cut a 1/24th scale tractor saddle tank in half. A hole was drilled in the end of each for the leads to go through. A disc was cut from sheet plastic to fit over the LED's to hold them in place. The assemblies were then carefully positioned on the model so that they were a precise fit with the nose and tail cones. A tube was used for the cockpit light unit, with the end drilled so that the fiber optics could be pushed in to the LED. This was then held to the rear of the cockpit with rubber bands.

 

For the nose and tail units I cut discs of clear plastic from old audio cassette boxes, sanded them on both sides to 'frost' the plastic and painted them with several coats of Tamiya clear blue. These were fixed to the openings on the nose and tail cones. The edges of the assemblies and the fiber optics to the rear of the cockpit consoles were painted with several coats of black to prevent the lights 'bleeding' out into the model. Once everything was in place , I tested the system again. The 'glow' from the cones was perfect... this is going to look awesome once it's completed!

 

With the electrical parts and the cockpit installed, the next step was the lower fuselage and canard wing.

As with the upper fuselage I built a master from balsa and vacu-formed the lower half of the ship. This was trimmed to fit, then set aside. The canard wing was cut from two pieces of 1/16th styrene which were then laminated together. 

 

The part was filed and sanded to an airfoil shape. As the wing sits below the center line of the ship, I built a spacer box to mount it on, then glued the box and wing in place. Once this had dried I glued the lower fuselage shell on.

 

After sanding the seam smooth, the next thing was to finish the inner wing box. Parts were cut and assembled as I did to form the upper half. Once this was completed, I cut parts for the intakes and exhaust areas. The intake upper and lower edges were made from two 1/16th parts. Both the parts have a bend in the end closest to the fuselage and this was done by carefully bending the parts before they were laminated.

The exhaust area has vertical panels and the inner edges had to be bent and blended into the rear of the fuselage. The 'horns' on the outer rear of the inner wings were made by laminating 7 pieces of 1/16th together, than carefully carved and sanded to shape.

The bulges on the upper wing surface were again carved from balsa, vacu-formed and glued on.

 

The auxiliary engine 'belly pack' was next as this would house the battery. I first cut out a horizontal keel and the two vertical ribs.

The ventral fin on this fighter retracts, rotating forward and up into the belly of the ship for landing, so the slot had to be built into the structure.

 

After gluing the vertical ribs onto the keel, angled ribs were cut and glued at 90 degrees to the centerline. Parts were cut for the left and right hand 'skin' and these were glued on and sanded smooth. The cut out for the battery was framed and then the top half of the pack was built in the same way as the bottom, then they were glued together, filled and sanded.

I built the 'intake' assembly by cutting a shape to the outline of the front of the belly pack, then framing the edge with sheet 1/16th. Once the intake was shaped properly, the vertical dividers were glued in. To allow the intake to be removed for access to the 9 volt battery I made rails the same as I did for the ejection seat, glued one set to the back of the intake part and inset the others on the forward face of the main pack assembly
.

 

I wanted to make the on/off switch as invisible as possible and came up with the idea of hiding the actual switch inside the model. I cut out and framed in the nose landing gear bay, then drilled a 1/32"  hole in its back wall. A switch was installed in a support structure built into the belly of the model and a short piece of piano wire was run forward into the landing gear bay. This was supported by a bit of angle plastic and a part from my spares box was drilled and slid over the end of the wire.

I installed the wires into the belly pack and closed the access holes in it and the belly of the model, then glued the pack to the model. Once the glue was dry I installed the battery and did a final light check to ensure everything was working.

 

I started on the canopy next. I had carved a master from balsa and vacu-formed .060 over it. This was trimmed for the clear part and a stiffener plate glued to the bottom. The distinctive headrest support was made and glued in.
I vacu-formed Lexan over the master and trimmed it to fit the frame. From what I've read from others' work, getting a clear pull is difficult and the part was not clear; it full of waves and pits.

 

Using decreasing grades of sandpaper and polishing paste (www.novuspolish.com) and a lot of elbow grease, the part became clear; far better than I'd hoped.

The clear part was glued into the frame and the canopy was test-fitted to the ship. I cut a slot in the rear deck behind the cockpit and glued a tab to the bottom of the canopy frame so it can be slid open.

 

The bulge under the nose of the ship was carved from balsa, vacu-formed, and glued in place. The large intake on the left side of the nose was made from a 1/32 scale part from a desert intake off of a Spitfire kit. The part was modified and glued in place, finishing the distinctive look of the nose of the 'Wolf.

 

The intake and exhaust areas of the inner wing in the comic are just dark shadows and the lithograph Alex sent didn't have complete detail, so I used some artistic license in these areas.

The curves for the intakes were made from cut down vacuform copies of the canopy. The small D-shaped openings were cut out and backed with nose cone halves from a rocket kit. The inner area was lined with .010 and fins were cut from the same size sheet. I wasn't sure if the fins would work, but they do fit in with the "Japanimation" feel of the ship.

 

The detail for the exhausts came from the litho. Square cones were built up from .020", the edges sanded and a thin strip of .050" bent and glued into the cone to give the curved look. The 'horns' on the rear wings were finish-sanded and are almost ready for paint.

 

Turning to the landing gear, I was faced with something I'd never attempted— creating tires. There were no kit parts in any scale that I could modify that would even come close to what was needed. I found a truck tire in my parts box and glued two strips of .060" around it. This was then carved and sanded to shape and used as a master to vacuform over. Once both halves were made they were cut out and glued together to form the tire. The center was carefully cut out and a 1/24th car wheel inserted temporarily.

For the tire tread I cut thin strips of .040", wrapping the them around the tire, taking care to keep them straight and spaced properly. I wasn't satisfied with the car wheels as they didn't match the drawings, so I used a set of 1/35th tank road wheels that look much better. The tires were pressed onto a hot iron to give them a 'weighted' look.

 

The gear strut was started by heating a strip of .060" and bending the top of the strip around a hobby knife handle. This was then trimmed to shape, then a second part made, filed to a taper and glued to it as a doubler. A rib was cut to fit over it as a stiffener. A hole was drilled into the top of the curve and a piece of plastic tube glued in. A smaller tube was glued in and then larger tube slid over it, leaving a space to form the shock strut. A one inch finish nail was glued into the inside of the tube for strength. Once everything was dry, I cut the parts to make the 'scissors' assembly from scrap plastic. Bits of 1/16th rod were glued above and below the oleo gap, then two tapering strips were glued on forming the scissors, then edged with thin strips. Holes were drilled with a pin vise. Trunnions for mounting the gear were made with various sizes of tube.

 

Landing gear need places to be stored in flight, so the next step was the landing gear bays. The door patterns were carefully located on the underside of the inner wings and the skin cut out using repeated passes with a sharp #11 blade.

Once the openings were made, parts were cut from scrap pieces of plastic and glued in to form the walls of the bay. Structure details were made using angle stock and thin strips of plastic indented on the back with a dull needle to simulate rivets. Parts were salvaged from the spares box, tank bits and parts from several scales of aircraft were used.

The bulge over the gear was carved out of balsa and vacuformed, cut out and trimmed. Thin sheet was then glued to the edges and when dry, trimmed to form the flange that edges the part. The part was then glued in place and when dry, cut along the edge of the bay. The trunnion for mounting the gear was installed and boxed in. Plastic rod used for tubing and piping.

 

With the bays almost finished I couldn't resist fitting everything together and seeing the 'Wolf on her gear. With a 1/24th scale figure beside it, the size of the fighter becomes apparent.

 

With the landing gear done and installed, gear doors were the next step. While these will be some of the last parts installed, they had to be made now as the next step will be the drop tanks and everything has to be test fitted to make sure things fit.

I heated and bent some plastic over a knife handle to get the shape of the lower edge of the wing and after trimming, glued on the cut out section of the bulge. Once this was dry I started detailing the door with strip. The edges of the door were thinned to give a more scale look. The upper door was cut from thin sheet and detailed. The gap in the ribbing is where it will glue to the strut.

 

While I was waiting for things to dry I carved masters for the drop tank hard points. These somewhat looked like items used on the real FW 190; a nice touch. Two parts were vacu-formed and glued on the bottom of each wing at the bend.

Next was the drop tanks, which again are based on the ones used on German WW II fighters. I thought this would be easy, but, again the artist has made things difficult! The tanks turned out to be 'handed'... the one for the right will work on the right, the left will only fit on the left.. so instead of two masters, there had to be four !

I cut out the vertical outline and marked it off in 1/4 in. lines, then drew, cut and glued in ribs for each line.  (See inset.) Once these were in place, I cut more rough ribs to fill in the spaces. This was sanded to shape, filled and sanded again to get a smooth master. I then vacu-formed the parts, trimmed and glued the tank halves together. Sway braces were from the parts box, the plumbing tube is rod taken from sprue, which also acts as the main mounting point.

 

Slots and a hole were cut in the mounting point and everything test fitted. It's amazing how the tanks suit this ship...she looks wrong without them.

 

While making the tank masters I started planning the vents on the top of the inner wing. What purpose they are supposed to serve is beyond me, but they are there so...

Masters were carved from bass wood and .020 sheet vacu- formed over them.

Trimmed and fitted, they look pretty good.

 

After burning out and setting modeling aside for a while the Wolf is back under construction. The fuselage guns were made by modifying a part from another kit.

 

The windscreen panes were cut from a clear plastic food container and glued in place.

Seat belts were made from masking tape, fine wire and furnace tape. They were painted with Testors dark tan and weathered with the same paint mixed with white or black for shading.

 

The main wheels were painted with Testors rubber then with a mix of German gray 66 and flat black. The white creep mark was Testors white.

 

Photos by Vaughn M.