Saturday 18 December 2010

New Hosting Package Agreement for SEAWINGS....!

As you are probably well aware, I have been seriously concerned for some time now about the on-going funding of this website and in particular the costs associated with the current web hosting package. These costs have been significant, rising over the years as the site becomes more popular and most of it, until recent times, has come out of my own pocket. 

Just recently, I have again had to seek donations to augment my own expenditure and those people that responded have been magnificent in their graciousness. However, during this time I have been trying to find a more permanent answer to this perennial problem as I fully realise this cannot go on. I want a stable platform for this reference resource to ensure that it is there for you everyday for a long, long time to come and sorting out the funding has become a priority. 

I am therefore very pleased to inform you that after some serious negotiations an entirely new hosting package agreement has been offered, and accepted, which answers most of the issues that was slowly killing the site.

The first - and major issue - was the ever increasing bandwidth charges; these have now been totally eliminated. Further, the yearly funded hosting package charges have been reduced. I was also extremely concerned that as the site reaches 4Gb in size - ie: very big - that I was going to run out of hosted space. 4Gb was my total limit of affordability. Not now though; now I have a massive 10Gb to play with! That's enough for the site to continue to grow over the next ten years!

So, in short my hosting partners have really played their part and have provided a package that I can work with for some time to come.

Mind you, there still remains an on-going financial commitment for me to achieve each year; the new hosting package is still renewable each year on the same date and still has to be afforded and paid for. And that commitment still falls on my shoulders. However, what it does mean is that for the first time since I started this site some 10 years ago the costs are now fixed - and targetable - as opposed to never knowing what the bill will be, except huge. The overall running costs have been drastically reduced and I for one am very grateful.
Will the site need donations(?); the answer will still have to be a massive 'Yes'. 

It will always remain very helpful when any donation is made as each one received reduces my personal financial outlay towards the costs of running this site and there are more costs and fee's other than just the hosting package, although that is the largest one by far. Also, they go a long way to funding the costs of modernising the site as programmes used to construct it become inoperable due to pc and server up-dates.

But what all the above has done is to make the reaching of those committed financial totals much easier for me to achieve and that is a great relief.

However, whilst I have made every effort to see that this site remains active and alive, the simple statement below will always be true:-
"If you want it - support it"

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Modifications at the RAF Museum, Hendon, London - the good & bad.....

Just recently a friend of mine took me to the Royal Air Force Museum situated at Hendon, in North London and as we were walking around outside I thought to myself I hadn't been for a while, probably around a year, yet something was different; but I couldn't quite put my finger on what is was.

After a look around inside the main halls, it wasn't until we were back outside in the main carpark that it suddenly came to me! Looking across at the Battle of Britain Memorial Hall, I saw that what was once always a 'solid walled end ' to the building was now totally glazed - the complete end wall had been replaced with a sheer glass panelled wall and you could see the rear tailplane of the Short Sunderland inside!

View of the nose showing the new glazed rear wall

As if that wasn't enough, I could also make out the unmistakable shape of the Supermarine Walrus in the corner, so off we headed at full trot to see what this was all about. I had glanced across in that direction to look at a carpark sign when we arrived and I guess my brain took in the view but didn't register it, as it were. Incidentally, you may already know that the whole place is free to get in, there being no entrance fee whatsoever, but also in the time I've been away the outside carpark is now 'Pay and Display', the charge being £3.50 for 3 to 6 hours stay, not too bad I suppose.

How dark it used to be before the structural modifications

Anyway, in we went and followed the route to the Sunderland, up the stairs to the viewing platform which also doubles as the entry point to the gangway that leads you down to the front entrance door of the craft; this being one of the world's only flying boats that you can walk right through (That's if you can get the hordes of rabid kids out of it first at the weekends..!).

Straightaway we noticed a difference up there. In past days one could take some serious detail shots of the nose, cockpit and engine cowlings, together with the various smaller details such as the wing leading edge inlets and with the solid rear wall causing a darker background the camera's flash would hit the target each time and produce excellent shots. This time however, it was immediately apparent that any camera would be shooting against the incoming light from the glass end wall directly behind the tail, and there was an enormous amount to contend with as the sun was shining bright outside at the time.

Even standing there with my Mk.1 'eyeball' I found myself straining somewhat to focus on the details and even looking at the engines in the cowlings was a bit difficult as the light came in over the wing straight into your eyes. It was a bit like looking at your car's radiator grill with the headlights on dipped beam, if you see what I mean.

Moving on down into the craft, there was no discernable difference inside - it's still the greatest feeling in the world for a flying boat 'nut' to walk through there; it does it to me every time I go through her and frankly if that was the last ever act I did whilst on this planet, you would still have to use a steel lever to get the smile off of my face!

Exiting at the starboard rear door, and walking down the steps back onto the floor to ground level, it was immediately apparent that things were different in this hall at this point; forever. Gone was the dark gloom that pervades areas of this museum like a daunting, creeping miserable 'half-life' existence, replaced now with the one thing that that place needs in abundance; daylight.

The rear of the Sunderland positively shone in the sunlight streaming in through the glazing and I got my first decent detailed look at the rear turret, ever. Boy, what a difference! You could see the whole of the rear, sides of the hull, rear and tops of the wings in perfect detail; at last.

We walked around here, both ways, like two of those toddlers we had avoided like the plague that morning (they come in here, we go to the next hall - that sort of thing, always trying to keep one hall away from them - and mostly succeeded) and we were mesmerised. Never had either of us seen her that close in daylight before.

Mind you, trying to take shots straight onto the nose and across the wings from head-on was still as bad even at ground level. Every shot I took showed the light coming in from behind the object I was photographing and the resultant picture was fighting the incoming 'in-your-face' daylight , that sort of shot. Very disappointing and we were using state-of-the-art digital cameras as well. It was at that point that we looked around and decided that the very best thing the museum could do was to knock out all the side walls and do the same as the back wall, glaze them. Let daylight in around the whole craft; it surely must be possible, or even glaze the roof but whichever way get some more daylight in there to counteract the effects of the rear wall.

I was thankful that I had a mountain of shots from the front taken in the past when the wall was solid as I certainly won't ever get them again, leastways not until they do as I suggest with the roof or the sidewall.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining; far from it, I love what they have done here! For all the museums life that I have known since the late '70's it has been the darkest museum I have ever seen in my travels. Indeed, when we left that area on the BoBM Hall and walked to the other end where the Stuka, Spitfires and Hurricanes are it was so dark, incredibly dark that I could not get a single picture with full flash! It was so dark that we couldn't see the tiny stanchions that hold the 'do not cross' wire 'ropes' and we walked into them more than once. They were a hazard and we remarked that if we tripped and injured ourselves the museum authorities wouldn't have a leg to stand on and could be sued under current Health and Safety standards. I don't know if that is the case exactly but I bet someone would have a go. The whole museum is so damn dark that I found myself squinting just to see where to walk in certain areas.

Anyway, back to the rear of the Sunderland; after finishing with her my attention was drawn to the Walrus residing in the corner. Oh, fantastic! At long last, moved from her original location in one of the main halls she is now right next to the glazing and in full view, bathed in light and the difference was fantastic! Also, someone had laid out the walkways around here in such a fashion that one can virtually walk all the way around her. (Thanks from me to that man!!)

There she is in all her glory

At long last I was able to re-shoot one of the earlier walk-rounds I had done a few years ago over in the previous location and this time drink in all the details as I did so of the engine, wings, rigging and guns - what a treat as the Walrus has many such details to view being a biplane from another era. 

                                                  Perfect detail shot in daylight; what a treat!

The shots were perfect and once again we found ourselves discussing the merits of standing these aircraft in natural daylight. It was such a joy to behold and one could walk around and around without once having to squint.

Never got a shot this clear before now

Meanwhile, back in the main halls area we walked through the 'Milestones of Flight' hall this being the later of the halls, built as an extension not that long ago, and this was always my favourite as it has intelligent use of glazing and is flooded with natural light making viewing and therefore photography easy.

I do hope that the removal of the end wall of the BoBM hall is the start of a concerted effort to 'let there be light' to one of the most important collections of aircraft anywhere in the world.


Monday 25 October 2010

SEAWINGS 'Hosting' Donations - A big "Thank You" so far...!

I would just like to take this moment to say a big "Thank You" to the 14 individuals who have provided a donation to the SEAWINGS 'fighting fund', the story of which you can read further down this page, following my recent announcements. It is very much appreciated.

Each and every donation, however large or small, goes a long way towards keeping the main site and it's other attachments - such as The Flying Boat Forum - going, and more importantly continuing to grow.

The deadline for the next set of bills into me is almost exactly two months away now and I keep my fingers crossed that all will be well.

The phrase that I have coined "If you want it, support it" has never been truer than it is right now and will continue to be the key phrase for the foreseeable future; and that applies to most long-standing websites 'out there'.

You know the ones; they are the ones that YOU visit every day to get your modeling or aviation 'fix'. Trouble is that no-one ever expected them to get as big as they have become and on-going funding has become a serious problem.

To those that have not as yet donated, you may not want to, you may not be able to and for a whole host of very creditable and understandable reasons that may well be the case, for which I certainly do not criticise nor condem.

However, if you ARE thinking of doing so, NOW is the time to do it!

Therefore, my grateful thanks goes to the 14 so far:

Antony Richardson, Chris Eldridge, Alex Norton, Richard Gibbons, Olivier Piccin, Eugene Obert, Rob Dunnett, Simon Denney, Edward Musson, Steve Rogers, George Harvey, Roy Tassell, Anders Gilderstam and D. Chouinard.


Wednesday 13 October 2010

Saro Princess 1/72 scale Vac-Form Kit - Part 7 And Finally...Done.!!

Well, here is the last installment of Jim Lunds superb build of the new Mike Herrill 1/72 vac-form kit and what a job he has done. Read on........

"The next task along the way was to manufacture all the spinners and props from scratch".
"The picture above shows my spinner making material; white .030 thou plastic card sheet with ink drawn outlines of each spinner shape. The quickest way for me to make these is utilise a cruciform style with the verticle outline glued onto a base that forms the rear of each spinner".
"After each former is cut out and glued together the pattern is then filled with epoxy resin based filler, sanded to shape, polished and drilled ready to take the propellor blades".

"And now the fun begins; the thought of scratchbuilding 40 propellor blades got my imagination going! I recalled reading that Michelangelo went to a marble quarry and pictured David in his mind's eye, lurking within a slab of marble".
"So, I went to a department store and looked at combs until I found Bristol Proteus turboprops lurking within a nylon comb. I had to buy two combs to get 40 teeth the right size. The picture above shows me wresting each tooth to obtain the blade raw material to work with".
"And, here are the finished articles; Four counter-rotating Bristol turboprops and two single ones, complete and ready to be mounted. Purists may have an issue with the exact shape, but the size is right on".

"Next up to be fitted were the turbine exhaust thrusters which were constructed using 1/4 inch styrene tubing with straps made from 1/64 chart tape".
"This is a shot of how I installed each exhaust having mounted it on a long stick and literally poking it into the pre-cut orifices in the rear of the upper wing and glueing in place. Quite easy really, and by using the stick I could easly keep each one straight and true as the stick acted as an extended guide to 'up', 'down', 'left' or 'right' corrections"

"And with that the model was virtually complete and ready for painting. It might help to mention a few words on the research I did to establish the colour scheme I finished my Princess in".

"Aeroplane magazine published a "Data Base" on the Saunders - Roe SR-45 Princess that carried the information, colour photographs, plans and details from which I was able to ascertain all that was necessary to make the model. Get hold of a copy of Aeroplane - April, 2009 - and follow my observations. Page 65 has an excellent photo of the propellers. Although it's a black and white picture, notice that the spinners and hubs are polished natural metal and the nacelles and wing are of a different appearance. On page 70, a rare colour photograph shows the wing and hull in light gray. The hull top and rudder are white with BOAC dark blue 
cheat lines outlined with yellow trim. The radome is a reddish brown. Just above this photo on the same page is a great shot of the top of the Princess. Again it's in black and white but it is obvious that the wing is painted, with a strip of the same shade on the hull extending all the way to the VHF mast. I have seen artwork and models showing natural metal in the areas where, in this the "Mock" BOAC colour scheme, are painted light gray".  

"So, I painted my Princess in thst colour scheme, made the decals for the stripes, trim, lettering and other details, added the final parts such as the prop blades and the job was done!"

"Here are the pictures of the finished model"..........................
"I have seen photos of the Princess up on her beaching gear. She looked rather crippled, hobbled, and on crutches, and this was not the way I liked to see her. She belongs over water. So I discarded the beaching gear, and built a pedestal for her photo session". 

"Mike Herrill sent me an extremely well engineered vacform kit of the bare essentials needed to create a magnificent model. We can thank Mike and Aeroplane Magazine for enabling me, and anyone else interested, to build a 1/72 model of this, the epitome of a Trans-Ocean flying boat". 
"Finally, now you have seen it - a 1/72 scale model of a Saro Princess for the cheap price of $75 US. If this kit had decals, resin spinners and props, it would cost over $350 US and if it were injection molded, make that $500 US. Want a cheap the work like your grandfather did!  It is fun and rewarding". 

Well, there you have it. Just look at those pictures of the finished model - quite magnificent. I must say that this kit is within the reach of any competent scale modeler with  a few vac-forms under their belt. There isn't anything particularly difficult about it except for the sheer size of it which makes for a lot more to do in the construction than a 'normal' sized kit. But, with patience and care a superb result will follow.

I must admit that the trick with the combs to source the prop blades is one that I had never heard of before, yet when you know of it you think, 'Oh, yeah that would work'..! Obvious really..!

My thanks to Jim Lund for allowing us into his modeling workshop to look over his shoulder as this build has taken place and to submit the excellent pictures and build notes each week for the past couple of months and to Mike Herrill for providing such a great base kit that allows any flying boat modeler to now add the most fantastic and iconic British civilian flying boat never to go into series production. Oh, what might have been........................

I wonder what Jim is going to build next to top this....? 


Thursday 30 September 2010

Website Funding - The Creeping Site Killer.....?

One of the biggest personal responsibilities that goes with owning and operating any website is paying for the hosting fees as and when they occur; monthly, quarterly or yearly.

So anyone asking me, and probably any of the many 'WebMasters' that have owned and run a site for over 10 years continuously, for the first piece of advice before they set up their own site will no doubt be told that - certainly by me, anyway. There, that was simple, wasn't it? You buy, you pay.

Well, actually, No, it isn't quite that simple.

Every website on the World-Wide-Web can be set up and run from any personal pc from their back-bedroom, den or laptop and to do this their are a number of free download, cheap or expensive website building programmes available; you take your pick according to the type of site you wish to build and operate. Either way, it's all there for you to use and there are very few costs or other problems associated with those. Indeed, the programme that I purchased for SEAWINGS eleven years ago I still use today. Good value, I'd say. However, that isn't the big issue. It's what you then have to do with your burgeoning site that has become the biggest single problem facing Webmasters today; the hosting of it on the web. Every website built has to be up-loaded onto the net, that place we all know as the World-Wide-Web. To up-load is relatively easy and cheap; it just involves another programme to use or indeed some website building packages have an upload system built in. But where do you up-load it to?

And thereby hangs the snag...........Hosting.

There are companies that own and run servers that your website is uploaded on to, where it is held as a copy of the one you see on your local pc or laptop, and thus it is then available to anyone and everyone anywhere on this planet that has access to a pc and the Internet and can log onto it. They are called Wesite Hosts.There is no other way to do this, least not that I've ever heard of. This hosting company provides the method by which your website is held 'up-there' so that everyone can see it. They come in many, many diferent forms, big, small, private, global, commercial - indeed there seems to be as many different varieties as there are websites; all offering different packages and deals and all in competition with one another. Some of them have become 'house-hold names' in this field, some of them are good, some are bad; most actually fulfil the hosting part satisfactorily, it's usually the service that's offered where you can tell the men from the boys. 'Support' is what they call it and it is here that the costs start for to provide that support you need staff sitting available at the other end of a pc or phone ready to answer your urgent call for assistance when something goes wrong. Can you see where this is all heading yet? Costs. Their costs become our hosting bills with a profit margin - usually very healthy - added on.

After hours of reading customer or user reviews covering literally hundreds of individual companies you then choose a hosting package that suits you and you sign up and get on with site building. However, what thought has been given to how popular your site is likely to get, how big it is likely to grow and how often it requires to be up-dated to feed the masses that are eager to read the next article. The answer to that in our non-commercial world is simple; none.

When I started SEAWINGS eleven years ago from a new pc in my den, I had absolutely no idea how big it would get. I didn't give it a second thought. How could I possibly know? All I had to hand was the material that I had at that time to form the basis for the site. I never, ever dreamt that like-minded flying boat enthusiasts from all over the Globe would latch onto the site and become correspondents, sending in mountains of reference information that was looking for a home to go to. You could argue that that was why it was started in the first place, and you'd be correct; it has been the sheer amount that has totally surprised me. That brand new pc was 2Gb in hard-drive size. Today, SEAWINGS's capacity on the web is 8Gb alone! There is another 300Gb sitting on my HD to work with.

So, you build your site, pay your initial hosting fees and off you go. And it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Each quarter or half-year you have to purchase a bit more server or 'hosting' space to hold it all and the bills rise; slowly at first , but as you really 'kick-in' with the building -  and especially when the site is photograph image 'heavy' as SEAWINGS undoubtably is - then the space required rises at a far faster rate. And, so do the costs. All of a sudden, a bill comes in that wakes you up; it's the size of a commercial companies website bill. How can that be? After all, your site is a 'home hobby' site isn't it? Not anymore it isn't.

Take a look at the top 6 model websites today; we all know which ones they are so I won't go into names. (Incidentally, I have picked this genre as I have the information from some of them to hand - I think they are all great sites and resources and I don't have a 'bone' to pick with any of them, so please don't take it that I'm having a 'dig' at them - I'm not) Take a close look and see what they have now, that they never used to. Answer? Adverts. Why? To pay the ever increasing hosting bills. Other types of sites, such as model review websites, carry something else; a Donation request. Why? Because these are the ones that are not 'commercially viable'. If you are a pure model making website you are able to attract potential customers and the kit manufacturers or the book publishers have realised that and will pay a fee to have an advert running. Or, they will sponsor a section of the site; sponsorship is purely a posh term for donations. Either way, money - funds - will come into the site to off-set the hosting fees (mainly, but there are other 'hidden' costs such as Domain Registration fees, as well). The sites that are not as commercially viable have to inevitably and eventually proffer the 'begging bowl' and ask for donations to keep it running. This is exactly the situation I found myself in two years ago when I got to within nine days of shutting the whole thing down. The day was saved by the very people that enjoy the site sending in enough donations to cover the costs. Phew! That was close.............

But, things do not change. Without regular secure funding sites such as SEAWINGS will always have a strugle to survive, I fear. SEAWINGS is about flying boats, great! But there are hardly any flying boat operators that exist today so no flying company is going to pay for an advert to attract passengers; it acts as a repositery for information but no fee is charged to use it; it does not make anything it sells so no decent profits will ever arise from sales in the SEAWINGS Flying Boat Shop; it hosts The Flying Boat Forum which currently has nearly 200 registered 'official' members/users who pay no fee to be so and thus it does not contribute (and, incidentally would be lost for good if SEAWINGS ever went down) and believe it or not, and here is the bit that really rankles with me personally, I get asked every week for a link, or an advert or similar to be placed on the front page by some organisation or other, a commercial organisation such as a model plane manufacturer, museum or charity organisation, an individual with an on-line webshop or a personal book to sell - whatever. Either way the common denominator is that thay are in some sort of business making a profit (we assume) and they want to promote themselves or their wares, on my site. Great chances for me! So, after the prolog, I inform them that due to the excessive hosting fee's and that the site is funded mostly by me, I levy a (very) small fee for what they ask - only to be expected in the commercial world - and then I get every excuse under the Sun as to why they cannot possibly afford to pay such a fee (and we are talking sums of £5.00GBP per month, or $10.00USD or €12.00EUR dependent on what is required) but, No, they cannot possibly do that. "Sorry, my budget for this year is all allocated" said one company just last week - this from a company that lists 100's and 100's of individual products and all of them are priced in the $100's dollars each - and all they were asked for was $10.00 per month. After PayPal fees etc thats commutes down to around a fiver - a lousy £5.00 per month. Not enough to replace a single printer cartridge from a Pound Store.

Charities are another source of annoyance, they want everything yet give nothing back. I have had every Chairman under the Sun on at me to promote their website and charity organisation and yet not ONE of them has ever accepted that they should pay a small fee for the service, especially when I have to usually make up the advert for them and spend my valuable time working on their behalf. Rude?  Boy you had better believe it -  when the conversation eventually swings away from the hour spent on the phone with them telling me how good they are and what a service they provide and how they enjoy priviliged funding through the charity status and how difficult it was to obtain, but how they can benefit now with all sorts of things bought and paid for, BUT as soon as I mention any form of payment, no matter how small it is I get an earfull of how I should be supporting THEM and they cannot possibly provide the fee that I was seeking. The Commitee would never sanction that as every penny has to be spent on the charity course. OMG..! What about supporting ME..?? Museums are somewhat similar, even the other places that harbour some form of interest in flying boats, just will not part with a sensible fee. Yet, they all contact me and expect me to simply roll over and fill my pages with un-paid for adverts promoting them! Christ, I don't even get the offer of a free ticket to go to the damn museum for my trouble.

The strange thing is there is a link between all of the aforementioned; everyone of them has a connection with flying boats; they make models of them, they act as a historical resource for them, they display bits of them - or in some cases the real thing - they are all connected with flying boats and see SEAWINGS as a number one target for promotion. It is after all the largest flying boat reference website on the Internet. Yet, still they will not pay for that promotion and to keep SEAWINGS there for them to use in the future. But they value it highly enough to contact me regularly, indeed some consistently, yet always with the same cop-out when it comes to paying for it. What am I missing here? What have I done wrong? Why is this happening?

They say in a reccession that the first thing to go is the advertising. But, I'm still being asked even today (which sparked this posting) and I know that if I contact the aforementioned 6 model websites and enquire about advertising (I know this because over the years I have done exactly that) , firstly I will be 'checked out' to see that I'm not 'fishing' for information so that once I know 'what their rates are' I can under-cut them, or something silly like that. When I do convince them I am serious about promoting my site I eventually get sent the list of advertising fees charged, usually in a series of "if you have a box type advert so-and so- big, it will cost you this per month" and then the sizes are presented on a rising scale thereafter. Good God Almighty! Is THAT what YOU charge.....for this...? is usually my thoughts having read their fee listings. I have certain lists in front of me now and you would be staggered to know what the charges are. They run into multiple $100's if you take out a 6 month or a 12 month 'booking' - but of course you get a discount for booking that amount of space........

Then there is the sponsorship - donations by any other name - for the promotion of a companies wares and their business, on your site. Nothing wrong with that if you can get it and don't mind that a certain amount of editorial 'control' - for want of a better term - is lost. After all, what the Paymaster wants, the Paymaster must get within reason. Usually it's nothing too sinister, an advert placed on every page or a dedicated place for them to promote their wares but far larger area than a normal advert. That's ok too as far as I'm concerned. But, try getting sponsorship for a site that has no real commercial value - and there hangs the 'rub'.

SEAWINGS has no real commercial value in todays world. Right..? WRONG..!! Very wrong. The value of SEAWINGS is, and always will be, to offer flying boat reference material, photo's, plans, documents, forums, exclusive flying boat goods to sell, information, details - indeed anything connected with the flying boat era. There is nothing like it on the Internet; sure there are sites that feature flying boats and there are sites that feature old flying boat squadrons, but there is nothing like SEAWINGS where it all comes together and has room to continue growing and expanding. The Flying Boat Forum contains some of the most knowledgeable flying boat people on this planet, there ready and willing 24/7 to answer any question, research anything connected with the history of the men, companies and machines of the genre, it acts as a repository for scale modelers who could not possibly afford to travel the world viewing all the remaining restored and preserved flying boats in museums and private collections, yet with one click they can have available to them a multi-photo close-up detailed walk-round of the 'boat in question, right in their living room, just as if they were looking at their own pictures taken during a visit, they can have acess to historical documents that they would have had to have spent some serious money on - like flight maunals and the like - right there in-front of them, lists of books, types, models, so much stuff....and all for free.

And here is another thought for you; in the whole time that SEAWINGS has been up on the net, now in its 10th year, for all of that time NOT ONE PERSON has ever asked for a fee from me for the provision of their material. No one has ever asked for a fee, or levied a charge, for photographs sent in (and the walk-rounds can climb to well over 100 individual images each) or for anything else ever sent in. Not even a hint of an 'ask'. Nope, it has all been donated completely free of charge. Amazing..! And very unique I feel. I am so grateful to all those correspondents that make this site possible. I'll say it again, not one person has ever wanted anything in return. Wow...!

That makes those charities, museums and other commercial concerns mentioned earlier look a little 'red-faced', doesn't it? Mind you, I'm sure there are plenty of charities, museums and commercial concerns 'out there' that would feel it quite a good deal to spend a small amount on an advert on SEAWINGS to reach so many interested parties; it's just that they havn't contacted me as yet.

I live in hope that they will....................and soon.

In the meantime, SEAWINGS has to live on donations I'm afraid together with whatever I can afford to keep it running, all a bit 'shakey' especially in this world where costs always seem to rise, never go down. So, I have once again proffered the begging bowl and the call is being answered; in the past five days 9 individuals have very kindly sent in a donation. I am extremely grateful to them, and they know that because I make a point of thanking everyone personally at the time. But, here's a thought for you; how many individuals view SEAWINGS in the course of a year. I can tell you that because I have a programme that records the numbers: over 29,569 unique viewers in th epast 12 months!!. I receive 20+ emails per week telling me how good someone has found the site to be for them. Yet, each time the donation comes in it's nearly always from the same very small set of 'hard-core' usual suspects, that very unique band of supporter, friend, fellow enthusiast, the sort of chaps that, if you turned up on their doorstep cold, wet and tired you would be fed, watered and given a place to sleep - all without question. To these guys, all the viewers owe a great deal so far; but, they can't keep doing it.

So far in this present 'campaign'  to now I have received 9 individual donations.................

Now, if everybody donated just a £1.00 each..............that would be a different story.


Monday 27 September 2010

Saro Princess 1/72 scale Vac-Form Kit - Part 6 Nearly there.......!

Jim has sent in his latest instalment of his 'Build Log' for the Saro Princess. Jim say's:

"The picture below shows me creating the forward wing fillet with epoxy putty - in the UK that would be simialr to Milliputt. Here, I'm taping the wing to the hull, and placing plastic wrap (clingfilm) around the hull to keep the epoxy from bonding onto the hull, then blended the epoxy to the wing with a wet finger (water). Then, I let it cure in-place overnight and in the morning remove the wing with the fillet attached".

"The large fillet seen on the rear of the wing - under the blue tape in the picture - was cut earlier from the original hull vacform, to allow the wing to be dropped in place. The wing will not now be attached to the hull until both the wing and hull are completely finished, painted and decaled".

"At last..! Painting in the spray booth - always a sign that we are nearing the end, or ar at least at the beginning of the end! Because of the size of the model, my Paasch airbrush was not up to the job. This is a job for a spray can. The top of the hull has already been painted white".

"Now it is masked off and in this picture above the lower hull is getting a covering of Light Aircraft Gray colour. The hull is being held by adjustable pliers which are clamped onto a balsa bulkhead, glued within the hull. This, of course, won't be seen once the wing is on. Coming in episode 7......making and placing the decals". 

It is always satisfying to get some paint on a model project as it signifies so much. You might simply be putting on an undercoat so that it will reveal all the little miniscule places where extra attention - usually filler - have to be  re-worked to smooth out a joint or two. Or, simply in the case of Jim's  build, it's the beginning of the end - the end is in sight. But, what it does do more than anything, is bring the model to life. There is going to be a major difference the next time we see the Princess now that the paint is going on. I for one can't wait..!

Regards, SEAWINGS. 

Tuesday 21 September 2010

SARO Princess 1/72 scale Vac-Form Kit - Part 5 The coming together......!

Well, this is the one we have all been waiting for..! 
Jim Lund has continued apace with his skilled build of Mike Herrill's recently released kit of the Princess and I have just received this past week's build photo log from Jim showing the latest stages of construction. 
Jim say's:
"This week I am working on the tail assembly as you can see in the first picture. This shows the horizontal pieces scribed, rubbed down and ready for gluing together. You can also see the vertical fin and rudder taped together with the cruciform shaped spar installed within it. The aligns the unit and provides the proper dihedral".

"At this point, I would like to show a couple of tools that are handy for vac-form builders to use as they save a lot of time, are easy to use, do a great job yet are relatively cheap to purchase. I have used both of these on the build as you will see, shortly. First up is the Flex-I-File, an indespensable tool for filing areas where access may be a problem or a continuous smooth surface is required eg: on a wing leading edge, or in our case the fin fillet".

"Here is the Flex-I-File in action, sanding the fillet around the fin mounted air intake".
"This image is showing the other excellent tool, namely the 'Profiler' - (Note, this goes under several different trade names but your local D.I.Y. store or hobby store is bound to have one). Basically, it is a series of parallel metal rods held in-line closely together by a retaining (adjustable) bar and the idea is that it will serve to check if both sides of a sanded object, in this case the tail fin, match in profile (hence the name!). It is pushed into the fin as you can see and the fin shape pushes out the metal bars forming an outline of the shape at their ends. This can then be removed,  'flipped over' and placed against the opposite side to check if the outline matches. A simple idea and very effective in use".
"Above, are the tail components, ready for assembly. The cruciform spar template is shown here also".
"So, once sanded and the profiles checked for match each side - port and starboard - the tail unit was bonded (glued) and faired onto the hull. Bear in mind that the size of the tail fin alone is as large as a 1/72 scale jet fighter wing..!"
"Here is another view of the tail fin assembly showing a small amount of Green Stuff filler used to blend the joint in".

"This final image shows a trial fit of the main wing assembly. The next step will be to prime and fine tune the entire wing assembly, before committing to final glueing in place. The wing will not be bonded to the hull until the entire hull and tail have been primed, fine tuned, painted and decaled. In the coming week, I will be scratch building the spinners and building the wing fillets, all of which will be shown in the next instalment".  

Wow..! Does'nt she look great..! There is always a certain satisfaction when at last you can see what all the hard effort has been about. Just look at the sheer size of that...!

I saw one once, a scratchbuilt example at a model show, and was blown away at the sheer bulk of it. It brings to mind all the questions about how to support it for the rest of the build, how to handle it without turning it and hitting the adjacent wall and especially how to paint it. You're gonna need a bigger airbrush, Jim!



Monday 13 September 2010

SARO Princess 1/72 scale Vac-Form Kit - Part 4 Wing details & mods.....

While we have all been enjoying our week and week-end, Jim Lund has been continuing his labour of love, the 1/72 scale Saro Princess vac-form kit manufactured and released by Mike Herrill in the States - and NOW AVAILABLE through me here at SEAWINGS! (Just e-mail me for all the details). Jim is well into the build now having joined the hull and cut-out the massive wing parts as detailed in an earlier blog below; With that wing in hand, Jim takes up the story:

"Mike included this sheet of air ducts and other smaller parts in that kit, as he is particularly fond of details like this. He once scratch built a 1/72 Northrop XB-35 and included all the interior ducting and engine cooling fans, as after all he is an aeronautical engineer. I'm more of an artist though, and never bother with anything that needs a flashlight and magnifying glass to see it, so this item was trashed. However, for those that want to, they are perfectly usable"

"Now it's epoxy putty time. The floats needed filling and contouring and the radome had to be created, so two-part putty was used for this and in these cases I always use MAGIC-SCULPT resin. This brand allows plenty of working time, you can dip your finger into water to smooth and finish, and it turns rock hard overnight. (SEAWINGS Note: I'm not sure if this brand is available outside of the States, however the equivalent in the UK would be Milliput two-part putty).

"In this next photo, the lower wing with the balsa center section and wooden main spar and directional fins have all been installed. Above it, the top wing is ready to be scribed and exhaust pipe openings need to be cut out".

"At this point, I couldn't decide whether to have the floats fixed up or down? In the end, after much thinking, I decided to make them movable. Having carefully cut and separated the parts into individual items, I used plastic coated wire inserted into a plastic tube as a hinge"

"Having completed this 'mini-conversion' here you can see the wing tip float retracted, viewed from underneath the wing".

"And here is the same float, retracted, as viewed from above the wing. Neat, huh?"

"This photo shows the almost completed wing with the wing tip float in the down position. Now you can get an idea of the sheer size of this wing by looking along it in this shot - it is huge. Note, before the wing halves can be bonded, all panel and control details must be scribed in together with the wing tip float legs and hinges, exhaust pipe openings (1/4 inch styrene tubing will be used for the pipes) and leading edge intake slats. Finally, after much work the giant wing was finished as you can see here, below. And, Yes, that is a piece of A4 sized paper just above it....!"

"In the image above the Radome is now in place made from the MAGIC-SCULPT two-part resin putty mentioned earlier. Also here, you can see I've got the cockpit window frames roughed in".

"Some model building tips: Model railroad shops carry a complete line of styrene stuff that makes vacform building easier, such as tubing in a variety of sizes, styrene sheets from .005 to .080. and also rods of assorted diameters. Note: Before wing halves can be bonded, All panel and control details must be scribed - the wing tip float legs and hinges, exhaust pipe openings (1/4 inch styrene tubing will be used for the pipes)and leading edge intake slats. Next week, the tail assembly".

Well, what a difference a week makes! From a selection of huge parts and a lot of work on that wing the whole project is now reaching the point where all the major assemblies are complete ready for the final detailing, with just the tail to go. Given the sheer size of the beast, constructing that tail will probably be as big a job as a normal 1/72 single engine fighter vac-form kit! We'll see next week, as Jim say's.

Thanks, Jim.


Wednesday 8 September 2010

The Artistry of Tom Kalina - specialising in Airliner Art.......

Now here's a chap who is a firm believer in the saying 'you can never have too much of a good thing'..!

Tom Kalina, one of the most talented people I have known; not only was he the pilot of one of my most favourite flying boats - the gorgeous Sikorsky S-38 'Carnauba' replica (see SEAWINGS for a complete walk-round of her, also from Tom) - but he is also a very skilled scale modeler. And how many of us get to place their model on the bow of the actual flying boat type to take a picture..?

Tom's model is the 1/72 scale Czech Master Resin kit finished as NC-4V “Molokai” of Inter-Island Airways of Hawaii. 
But if that was not enough, just take a look at these paintings. Tom just happens to be a very skilled and talented aviation artist, something I was not aware of until I had a discussion with him and his aviation-minded brother - and long-time contributor to SEAWINGS - Tim Kalina.

Tom has a view of the sky that most artists don't have. He's been 'up there' for many, many hours flying around and where that stands out (for me) is in the cloud and sky aspects of his paintings. They are so realistic, and coupled with his attention to detail on the subject aircraft itself, make for an overall painting that stands out from the crowd.

For me, I find that a lot of people 'think' they can paint aircraft in flight, however I can number on the fingers of my hands those that actually accomplish the task to a point where there is nothing at all to criticise; the painting becomes at one with the subject and the synergy between the sky, the subject and my eyesight is more or less perfect.

I personally think that there are no more than a dozen or so aviation artists in the world that can achieve that perfection in oils and I would place Tom as one of that very talented circle. He has quite rightly, won several awards for his work and whilst the main theme is airliner based there exist within his prints some really nice ones featuring flying boats, and no doubt in the future there may be more (hint, hint!) And here is his latest work: just take a look at this - incredible...!

For a closer look, pay a visit to his website and take a look at the whole range. You may not be an airliner fan but you cannot fail to be impressed as I was, at the super high-quality on display there. The prints are priced very reasonably given their size and quality and would certainly look good framed on any aviation enthusiasts wall. Click here to go to Toms website.

Keep up the great work, Tom....!