Grumman J2F-5/6 (OA-12) Duck
Kit No: 445
Type: Injection moulded plastic with resin
Manufacturer: Classic Airframes
Grumman's J2F Duck stems from 1936 and traces its roots back to a series of amphibian aircraft made by Loening in the 1920s. This would be the first biplane I'd built since I was a kid, which added to its limited run nature, meant I approached this project with trepidation. I bought the excellent Ginter reference book on the Duck and made use of the Squadron Mini In Action publication. These would turn out to be essential because as it transpires Classic Airframes were a little confused as to what variant they were actually making.
This kit is billed as a J2F-5/6 (OA-12). However, OA-12 was the USAF designation for the J2F-6, so the differences are between the -5 and -6. References state that the only change was the engine, but careful study of photographs shows that this is not the case as the cowlings were different, with the -5's being shorter than the 6's. Moreover, the nose sections were substantially different, with the - 5 cowling sitting well proud of the nose, whereas they were flush on the -6, and the lower sides of the nose on the -6 flared outwards to accommodate some kind of vents. Lastly, the -5 had a prominent intake on top of the cowling, which is not present on the -6. Classic Airframes gives you a mishmash of the two versions, and for the later model you will have to scratch build the forward fuselage vents, and there are other inaccuracies, which I will get to in due course.
The kit is typical of limited-run injection moulding from the turn of the century with substantial flash, mould misalignment, and other surface imperfections, which will require rectification. I started with the fuselage halves, for which the nose parts and vertical stabiliser are separate. Rather than follow the instructions, I created complete port and starboard halves and this was where I began to realise I needed to check everything against photographs. The nose parts were, I thought, a horrible fit. I fettled them as much as I could to get a smooth transition above the float but then realised I'd made a mistake, and there was actually meant to be a large step at the top of the float. Fortunately, enough of this step remained. It was while examining this that I noticed Classic Airframes had omitted the large vents on the lower nose and that I would need to scratch build these.
I don't like scratch building, so I spent a while working out how to approach these. In the end I settled for a base created from scraps of thick Plasticard with gaps filled using a mix of superglue and VMS CA powder. I roughed out the shape using sanding sticks and then created an outer layer using more card and superglue to produce the lip. All this was done by eye, and I do not claim any great accuracy, but it was close enough for me. Even once done, the nose is still not right - it should slope upwards at the front of the anti-glare panel to meet the cowl, whereas it's just a straight line in the kit.
The surface detail on the fuselage halves was rescribed using a 0.15mm scriber by Alec Holly, which is excellent for following the panel lines to make them deeper, and HIQ Parts tape as a guide in certain areas. I find this more convenient than Dymo tape as there's no backing film and it's transparent. Having approached this kit like a vacform, I'd set my expectations accordingly, which made for a less frustrating build experience, and to my relief the parts generally fitted well when cleaned up.
The cockpit is moderately well detailed, although the instrument panel is poor and no belts are provided, and figuring out how to install it was not obvious either. I used a generic Eduard set to add a few embellishments and added no further detail given the limited view. There is no interior for the lower deck so I fell back on black paint and dirt to hide this lack of detail.
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