The Kawanishi N1K1 Kyofu (Allied reporting name Rex) was an Imperial Japanese Navy floatplane fighter of WWII. It’s better known brother the Kawanishi N1K-J Shiden (Allied name George) with conventional landing gear was one of the finest Japanese fighters of the war and an even match for the venerable Grumman F6F Hellcat. The Rex was intended to support forward offensive operations where no airstrips were available, but by 1943 when the aircraft entered service, Japan was firmly on the defensive, and there was no need for a fighter to fulfill this role. Moreover, the bulky float adversely affected the maneuverability of the Rex degrading its performance so as to be inferior to the Allied aircraft it would be facing. Like many late war Japanese fighters, it was too little and too late to affect the outcome of the air war in the Pacific.
Due to the poor quality of the paints used, the hot humid conditions they were exposed to, and a lack of good cosmetic maintenance, most Japanese aircraft exhibited a worn appearance characterized by faded markings and chipped paint. To simulate this appearance on Tamiya’s beautiful 1/48 scale N1K1 Rex, I used a technique that incorporates Gunze enamel Silver #8 as a metallic base upon which the overlying green was applied and then “chipped” to produce a finish that mimics the worn and chipped paint so common to Japanese aircraft of WWII. The use of Gunze enamel Silver #8 is essential when performing this technique, as it does not serve as an adherent base coat for additional top layers.
As can be expected with most Tamiya models, the Kyofu kit had no fit issues and was a pleasure to build. However, when comparing the shape of the kits rudder to pictures of the Kyofu in the both the Famous Airplanes of the World publication by Bunrindo and Aerodetails volume 26 on the Shiden I noticed that it was a little misshapen. The rudder was cut off by multiple swipes with an X-acto blade, reshaped with a sanding stick, and repositioned. In addition, the pilot’s seat was thinned and slightly re-worked to correct a slight shape issue. The seat lightening holes were drilled out and belts made of masking tape were added. These were the only corrections made to the kit. Assembly was performed using Tamiya extra-thin cement and no filler was needed on the aircraft itself. The float required a little filler and for this I used CA glue.
Once completed, the model was given a light coat Mr. Surfacer 1200 shot straight from the can. The entire model was then sprayed with Gunze Mr. Color Silver #8 diluted 1:1 with Gunze enamel thinner. Care was taken to build the silver up slowly so as not to have any runs. After allowing this to dry for a few days, the undersurfaces were sprayed with Mr. Color IJN grey #35 diluted 1:1 with Gunze enamel thinner. The next day, the soft demarcation between the lower grey and the upper green was masked off using Blue Tack putty and Tamiya tape. Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) Green was then prepared by mixing Mr. Color Dark green #124 and Mr. Color Blue #65 at a ratio of 7:3 respectively. This was then diluted 1:1 with Gunze enamel thinner and spayed over the upper surfaces of the model. Post shading of some of the upper wing panels was done with the IJN green to which a few drops of yellow and white were added.
With the model painted I next set about simulating paint chipping. It’s a good idea to study photographs of your subject to discern the wear and paint chipping patterns characteristic to that aircraft. In addition to the leading edges of the wings, rudder, and horizontal stabilizer, additional chipping can often be seen on and around the edges of various panels and any areas where the crew and/or mechanics came into regular contact with the airframe such as the sides of the fuselage adjacent to the cockpit and wing roots. To remove small areas of the green paint and expose the underlying silver, I carefully used the tip of a new scalpel blade and gently chipped at the finish being careful not to dig into the underlying silver layer or plastic. To make slightly larger chips, I used the corner of a plastic razor blade commonly found in automotive supply stores. Go slow. It’s best, depending on the wear patterns of your subject, to start with smaller chips and assess how the pattern looks and then enlarge them if need be. Once chipping of the silver areas was complete, the green paint was also worked over with a scalpel blade to make chips showing the underlying grey paint. When I was satisfied with the chipping, I sealed the model with a coat of Future and allowed that to dry over night.
The kit decals were not ideal (a common criticism of Tamiya kits) but adhered well to the Future topcoat using the Micro-Set and -Sol system. The red stripe on the float is the Tamiya decal that was first applied then carefully scraped with a blade to mimic chipping of the red paint. Panel lines were highlighted using watercolor paints applied wet and wiped down with a slightly damp tissue after drying. Additional weathering and oil stains were simulated using watercolor paints. Gunze clear flat enamel was then diluted with Gunze enamel thinner to a milk-like consistency and lightly sprayed over the entire model. When spraying the Gunze clear flat I held the airbrush tip sufficiently far away from the model to ensure that the clear would not be wet but somewhat dry when it contacted the models surface.
Well there you have it. Once you get a little experience with the chipping step, this isn’t a difficult technique to perform. It does take some practice to develop the right touch so you may want to try it on some scrap plastic or a “hangar queen” that you’ve given up hope of ever finishing. Once mastered, it does allow you to reproduce a scaled chipped and worn appearance that really makes a model stand out. Good luck and happy chipping!