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First serious model build in 60 years...

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  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
First serious model build in 60 years...
Posted by Bobstamp on Saturday, July 20, 2019 9:32 PM

I am about 80% finished with my 1/48-scale Minicraft Beech T-34A Mentor. I haven't done any "serious" model building since I was about 16 — 60 years ago! My T-34 project is intended to get me up to speed with current plastic scale-model materials and techniques. Mistakes I've made, things I've learned:

 • Some of those parts are small! I broke one of the joysticks with no effort at all. Fortunately, I was able to glue it back together. I also broke one of the tiny cockpit "loop" handles. I may be able to repair it, but I'm not very hopeful.

•  I'm really impressed with the plastic cement I'm using — Tamiya Limnene. Nice aroma, and it doesn't dry "instantly" like the Revell cement I used to use.

 • A friend told me that he doesn't bother with putty, so I followed his lead...and was very unhappy with the seams that showed after the fuselage and wings and tail planes were glued on. An employee at Vancouver's Magic Hobbies in Kerrisdale recommended a putty — Vallejo acrylic resin. It seems to be working well, although I had to do a lot of repainting of both primer and the Tamiya chrome yellow paint I'm using. 

• For the nose weight, I used Liquid Gravity, which seems to be tiny steel birdshot. A friend gave me a tip about using it: I cut the corner off a plastic shopping bag, filled it with Liquid Gravity, tied it with a twist tie, and stuffed it into the nose cavity. The instructions don't indicate how much weight is needed, but the amount I used was obviously more than enough. 

• I failed to see that I should have attached the wing lights before gluing the top wing panels on, so I had to trim the lights drastically before they would fit.

• I lost one of the clear-plastic wing light covers. The tweezers I was using obviously are very powerful — they launched the wing-light cover at light speed away from my table and I haven't seen it since despite an hour's search. I contacted the Minicraft company, and they are sending me a replacement sprue with the same part in it

• I am building the model as a U.S. Forest Service T-34B birddog plane which had been leased from the Navy. In June, 1962 I got a ride in the plane I am trying to replicate. I'm going to try  to create the plane's registration number and the Forest Service lettering with a which apparently was only on the fuselage and fin. In 1960, new FAA regulations dropped the requirement to have identification numbers and symbols onthe wings of civil aircraft. I learned from Minicraft that they will soon release a Navy version of the T-34B. Well, at least I got a lot of practice using yellow spray paint!

 • For the canopy, I'm using Tamiya masking tape that's designed for use on curves. I painted the aluminum frames of two of the four canopy parts yesterday evening, and pulled the masking tape off this morning. Wow! I've certainly never achieved that level of detail when I was a teenager. This afternoon I masked and painted the remaining two parts of the the canopy.

• I bought a "chrome pen" to use for the propeller spinner. It will be interesting to see how it works. 

Final note: I have a very personal connection to the T-34B I'm building. The ride I got in the Forest Service T-34 lasted just 20 minutes or so. Moments after our second pass over a small fire in the Gila National Forest in New Mexico, the plane apparently stalled and fell into the forest. Amazingly, both the pilot and I survived. The crash occurred no more than a couple of hours before sunset, at 8,000 feet altitude. We were rescued by two smokejumpers who volunteered to jump to the crash site. The next morning we were flown to hospital in Silver City by helicopter. For additional detail, see my web page at


On the bench: A diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor), and a Pegasus model of the submarine Nautilus of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas fame. 

  • Member since
    September 2012
Posted by GMorrison on Saturday, July 20, 2019 11:02 PM

Well, the stars are aligned for you. Your understanding of what motivates us to build models is kind of remarkable.

Welcome back to the hobby.

You've set yourself a handful of tough bars to clear. Be easier on yourself. That Mentor model might be the first of a couple you try.


 Modeling is an excuse to buy books.


  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Sunday, July 21, 2019 12:09 PM

Thank you for your hopeful comments! I can't think of anything else I've ever done that requires me to be so constantly "situationally aware" of what I'm doing and what the current "modelling environment" is. I just sprayed what I hoped would be a final coat of yellow paint on upper part of the fuselage, wings, and tail, and then noticed a tiny piece of grit on the left wing. Patience is not one of my virtues, and I doubt there has ever been an impatient master scale modeler!

After the T-34 crash I was in, and after I was released from hospital, my girlfriend and I went to the Grant County (NM) airport to photograph the T-34's sister ship. Here's the photograph that my girlfriend took; on the day of the crash, the stormy sky was pretty much like the sky in this photo:

Photo of Bob Ingraham a few weeks after the crash of this T-34's sister ship. On the day of the crash, the stormy sky in the north was very much like the sky shown in this photo. 


On the bench: A diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor), and a Pegasus model of the submarine Nautilus of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas fame. 

  • Member since
    July 2010
Posted by roony on Sunday, July 21, 2019 1:16 PM

Welcome to the hobby. 

Glad you survived the crash.  I haven't tried that yet, must have been exciting.

Instead of trying to learn patience at your age, buy a second kit to work on as the first is drying. 

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Sunday, July 21, 2019 2:45 PM

My advice? Instead of "trying out" an airplane crash to see if you like it, watch Mayday! on PBS. Propeller I have seriousy thought about buying a second T-34 kit, but I think I'll wait until Minicraft releases its Navy version.

On the bench: A diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor), and a Pegasus model of the submarine Nautilus of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas fame. 

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Monday, September 16, 2019 7:20 PM

@roony: I took your advice about having a second model to work on while waiting for paint/glue/decals to dry. I started work on a model with which I was gifted several years ago, an Airfix Handley Page HP.52 Hampden. Not a great model for an amateur, but instructive for all that. I'll give the model a 4/10 for ease of construction, but it's given me a lot of practice with putty, sprue cutters, X-Acto knives, files, sandpaper, sweat, profanity, masking tape, and tears! Well, not really any tears...

 • The figure of the pilot was so badly designed that I had to amputate his legs at the knee to get him into his seat, and then reattach his seriously shortened lower legs.

 • There is no way the bombs would fit in the bomb bay. Well, they fit in, but once they were there they had to stay because they would have damaged the fuselage when it was time for "Bombs gone." I decided to forget the bombs and built it with the option (it wasn't really an option) of having closed bomb bay. That which makes sense, doesn't it? I doubt that many Hampdens sat on the tarmac, fully loaded with bombs, with all four crew in their seats and the bomb bay open so someone could inspect the bombs.

 • As the model came in the box, the nose canopy was too wide for the fuselage by at least a quarter millimetre on each side. I added a thin strip of flat sprue to the dorsal section of the nose and that brought the canopy into alignment.

 • The instructions that came with the model are vague, poorly drawn, and incomplete. Fortunately, I found two newer, clearer instruction sheets on line. It seems that personal history has a lot to do with the models I am choosing to build. That certainly true of the Hampden. In the late 1990s I bought a postcard at an antique store in Quesnel, BC. It had been posted in 1940 by Joseph M. Hicks, a Canadian airman in basic flight training in Regina, Saskatchewan.

On-line research and vital help from a Danish researcher uncovered Joe's story. Joe eventually became an observer in an RCAF 420 Squadron Hampden bomber. On the night of 24/25 April, 1942, his bomber participated in a night raid on Rostock in northern German; on the return flight over the Baltic Sea, the Hampden lost power to both engines and crash landed on the Danish island of Funen. The only survivor of the four-man crew was an air gunner who spent the rest of the war as a POW.

I submitted an article about Joe's life and death to Papers & Records, the journal of the Thunder Bay [Ontario] Museum Society; Joe was born in Fort William, which later became a suburb of Thunder Bay. The article includes a lot of information about the Hampden bomber; you can read it on-line at

I will attempt to paint the model as if it were Joe's Hampden, using DIY decals, although it's difficult, maybe impossible, to be accurate as I have no photos of the Hampden before it crashed.

Bob Ingraham


On the bench: A diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor), and a Pegasus model of the submarine Nautilus of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas fame. 

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • From: Vancouver, British Columbia
Posted by Bobstamp on Monday, February 24, 2020 10:25 PM

Early in the summer of 2019 I started building a 1/48 scale Minicraft Beech T-34B Mentor like the one I crashed in on June 2, 1966, when I was 19. After the crash, which occurred high in the Black Range mountains of southwestern New Mexico, and after I spent a week in hospital, my girlfriend took this picture of me sitting on the wing of the Mentor’s sister ship:

T-34 Mentor

I’ve now finished my model, and while it’s very far from what I hoped I would accomplish, I’m pleased with it:

T-34 Mentor model

 Among the accidents and screw-ups during the build:

 • I dropped the canopy on our tile floor, then stepped on it, scratching it.

 • I lost a wing-light lens when it was “launched” from a pair of tweezers. I asked Minicraft for a replacement (which they nicely accommodated). 

• I broke the right main landing gear three times, the joystick twice, the nose wheel once, the right horizontal stabilizer once, and both of the minuscule canopy handles. I repaired the the broken parts, but gave up on the canopy handles and made my own out of pieces of sprue. At some point during these debacles, I built a jig out of cardboard to keep the model off the table and secure.

• I warmed a rattle can of glossy yellow Tamiya paint too much before spraying and ended up with a wing that looked like orange peel. I learned that full recovery from a goof like that is nearly impossible. At the same time, it proved to be really easy to remove panel lines and rivet heads! In the end I think I sprayed about six coats of yellow paint on the model, and didn’t wait long enough between coats with the result that some drips occurred and couldn’t be removed satisfactorily. 

• I didn’t wait long enough for the last coat of yellow paint to dry before using black acrylic paint for the wing walks. Black and yellow paint mixed together don’t just look bad! They look awful! And I must be more patient with my next model!

• Once I completed the basic airframe (minus the formats part of the cowling) and added the wheels, I realized that I hadn’t put enoughI failed to add enough Liquid Gravity in the cavity behind the propeller to keep the plane from sitting on its tail. Only by adding more Liquid Gravity to the nose-wheel well was I able to get the Mentor to sit properly on its wheels, but that meant that the interior of the wheel well looked like Liquid Gravity held in place with white glue. Toward the end I just covered the Liquid Gravity with a thin strip of styrene and painted it gunmetal gray.

I never knew there were so many ways to mess up a model! However, I charged ahead and added some details that weren’t called for in the kit:

• Using brass wire, I added a radio mast on top of the cockpit, two aerials just ahead of the windscreen, and a “device” (I have no idea what it is) to the windscreen itself, and yet another aerial on top of the tail fin.* Most of these additions, I’m afraid, aren’t to scale. 

• Using sheet styrene, I built a direction finder to mount behind the cockpit. I used sewing thread to create static wicks on the wingtips and rudder, and made my own decals to represent the actual Forest Service plane I crashed in, registered as N145Z.** The tiny tail lights proved to be impossible to handle, so I “built” them using Liquid Window; I also used Liquid Window to create the nose light because the part that came with the kit is impossible large and out of scale.

I am now considering my T-34 model to have been a “test bed” on which I could practice procedures and use materials which I had encountered; models and modelling supplies in the 1950s were primitive by today’s standards. At the same time, I’m not at all sure that building models today is a more enjoyable pastime than it was in the 1950s.

About the same time I started the T-34, I also began working on a 1/72 scale Airfix HP.52 Hampden bomber. That’s almost finished (finally!) — I’ll report on that at a later date. And in the meantime, I’m also beginning two other models, an Academy F-86F Sabre in 1/72 scale, and an Italeri Sikorsky UH-34D Seahorse helicopter, also in 1/72 scale; the Seahorse is like the ones that took me into combat in Vietnam on March 4, 1966, and evacuated me the next day after I’d been seriously wounded in Operation Utah.

In my stash, there is another Minicraft T-34B. I have fond hopes that my next attempt will produce a far more "professional" looking model. I might even risk some weathering!

Bob Ingraham


 * I have no idea why the T-34, which was an ex-Navy trainer, needed all of those antennas!

 ** Registration N145Z is now assigned to another Forest Service plane, a Short SD3-60 (twin-turboprop).


Tags: minicraft , 1/48 , T-34B

On the bench: A diorama to illustrate the crash of a Beech T-34B Mentor which I survived in 1962 (I'm using Minicraft's 1/48 model of the Mentor), and a Pegasus model of the submarine Nautilus of 20,000 Leagues Under the Seas fame. 

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: USA
Posted by keavdog on Monday, February 24, 2020 10:52 PM

That turned our great.  That kit is on my list of trainers to buil .  Look forward to more of your work.



  • Member since
    May 2009
  • From: Poland
Posted by Pawel on Thursday, February 27, 2020 4:47 PM

Hello Bob!

That Mentor turned out quite nice! Yellow paint is a real pain to apply in case of many manufacturers' paint - It's usually best to put on a layer of light gray and try to cover it in yellow after it dries - this gives you a chance of getting a yellow in just two coats. The story of your crash is a very interesting piece of history - thanks for sharing and have a nice day


PS. Do you have a WIP (Work in progress) thread on your Hampden? I'd suggest you post one - if you run into trouble with that build then we're there to help! And I'd love to see how you are doing, too.

All comments and critique welcomed. Thanks for your honest opinions!

  • Member since
    October 2019
  • From: New Braunfels, Texas
Posted by Tanker-Builder on Saturday, February 29, 2020 9:44 AM


       That is a nice little bird. I have built three right out of the box and gave them away as gifts.

  • Member since
    January 2010
Posted by CrashTestDummy on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 4:10 PM

Very nice build!  Many years ago, a local company offered 'dogfight' flights using the T34 and my wife got me in one.  It was great fun.  Those are fun aircraft to fly. 

I'm intimately familiar with the Silver City area.  In school, we had a summer session for Geology there.  I spent the better part of 6 weeks in the boondocks around Silver City.  When the course started, we had frost on the vehicles in the morning.  By the end, we were enjoying 100-deg F temps on the mountain tops and 105-110-deg F in the canyons!  I probably mapped where you crashed! 

Thanks for the memories.

G. Beaird,

Pearland, Texas

  • Member since
    May 2013
  • From: Indiana, USA
Posted by Greg on Thursday, March 19, 2020 9:56 AM

Real nice work on your first build back, Bob. Yes Thanks for sharing.

And a belated welcome.


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