It’s not the Willow Run Ford line (but I’m trying)

Willow Run

The B-24 assembly line at Willow Run during WWII.

In 1943 the Ford production line in Willow Run, MI wasn’t making cars, it was producing B-24 bombers for the USAAF.  They went from producing autos with a couple of thousand parts to producing planes with about 1.5 million parts each. Workers could produce about 1.5 planes per hour. Not one Liberator completed from beginning to end in less than an hour, but once and a half planes rolling off the assembly line every hour.  Pretty amazing.

At this moment I am also producing 1/300 B-24D’s for my Enfilade game. I don’t have nearly as many parts per plane, but I’m a lot slower. These are for the Ploesti game Dave Schueler and I hope to be running May 23rd.  The game calls for 18 planes for six players, but I hope to have 24, so we can take a couple more just in case more players are interested.


One of Phil Bardsley’s most excellent B-24’s for the earlier iteration of Ploesti with Paul Hannah. No, mine won’t be nearly as nice.

Before I proceed on my how-to, I need to make it clear that Ploesti has been done before by two dear friends.  At least a fifteen years ago, Phil Bardsley and Paul Hannah worked with Dave to run Ploesti using the Mustangs rules.  They were both superb painters and their B-24’s are excellent. Their planes were painted in USAAF “Desert Pink.”  Not an official color, this was actually USAAF Desert Sand that oxidized in the North African condition to a lighter, pinkish color.  They mixed their own colors for their planes and did a fabulous job.  Phil passed away a few years ago and I bought his bombers.  They are little pieces of art.  My planes won’t be Desert Pink, they’ll be USAAF olive drab, and while they’ll be well-painted, I’m simply not as good as Phil.  There were plenty of both on the mission.

The Ploesti bombers flew B-24D’s with the big plexiglass greenhouse in the nose.  Later Liberators had the big nose turret.  Not many B-24’s available in 1/300 and Scotia makes the only B-24D. Thankfully, it’s a really nice miniature.  The dozen I ordered were are very nicely scribed, well-cast, and didn’t come with their very long wings tied into a pretzel. They were reasonably inexpensive at only four pounds (4.61 a whack at today’s ridiculously low exchange rate.)

What you notice looking at them is, again, the long thin wings, the chunkiness off the fuselage, and the size of those twin tails connected by the large horizontal stabilizer.  It will become a big deal for the modeler because they feel unbalanced, and holding them or maneuvering them around a paint brush is challenging.

When I started working on my planes the first thing I had to do was prep them for paint.  Wings had to be straightened.  It wasn’t severe but took some time and second looks. The twin tail and stabilizer likewise needed some time.  Just apply counter-pressure and there isn’t a problem with breakage.  There are some mold marks to deal with, especially down the fuselage. I scraped those off with a sharp X-Acto knife, but you could also use a needle file or sand paper.  The latter might give you the best result, but I’m impatient.  Paul always used to sand his planes, which eliminated pits in the castings.  Again, I probably should have done that, but I’m kind of a loser.

Before moving on and priming, I decided to drill out locations for the flexible machine guns that festooned the early Liberators.  I not-so-carefully identified the sites for these and drilled them out with a Dremel tool and a wee, tiny bit.  You could use a pin vise, but the pewter is kind of resistant to slow turning drills. After I was done and cleaned out the holes I glued in toothbrush bristles, cutting them to size with a pair of floss scissors. Used CA glue for the adhesive

Moving on to primer, I used the Army Painter white spray primer.  It’s a little spendy but it really covers well and a can lasts a long time. However, after the first four planes are completed I’ll be topping the white primer with Vallejo’s USA Olive Drab Primer.  It will make working with my preferred paint so much easier.  If it isn’t available at your local bricks and mortar store, you can order it from Amazon in a 200ml bottle for less than twenty bucks.

The paint scheme is pretty simple: olive drab over gray.  There are lots of different colors you can work around.  My preference is to use the Vallejo Air Colors series whenever possible, because they are matched most clearly with the historic colors. USAF Olive Drab is included with the American CBI Theater set.  You get six bottles in each of the many sets available for about twenty bucks. It also includes an USAF Light Grey, which is also a great color for the undersides of wings and fuselage.

B-24's 5

The first four B-24’s in base Olive Drab, awaiting dry brushing. The journey begins.

But I don’t you to go grab these and not know the risks in using them.  These colors are designed for use with an air brush.  The pigments are ground very fine and they simply don’t cover very well.  I believe there are four coats of USAF Olive Drab on each of the first four bombers.  I’m super happy with what I have, but it wasn’t easy, and I ordered two more bottle at almost eight dollars a whack to make sure I had enough to finish my project. I ended up not sticking with the USAF Light Grey and switched to Vallejo Sky Grey just because of the coverage issues.

I spent lots of time getting the base colors down, lots of coverage, lots of drying, then a the first of many shots of Dullcote.  Painting planes this large means handling planes, and I didn’t want to rub anything off. I decided early on the big planes needed some weathering, so I mixed 50-50 olive drab and Vallejo Light Grey to get a nice lightened, but not too bright color. Then I carefully dry-brushed the wings, engines, tails, stabilizer and fuselage. More Dullcote.

Next up the lining.  I used a charcoal rather than black over the olive.  I used Vallejo light gray on the underside.  Yes, it’s tricky but not impossible.  You can always paint over egregious mistakes.  Paint the motors and then it’s on to the black leading edges.  This was actually a bit trickier, and I had to paint over some mistakes.  The tail fin edges were particularly difficult because there is no scribing to give me a clue.  In the end, I think my lines are too thick, but I’m gonna live with it. Dullcote again.

How much more detail do you want to include?  From here it’s probably safe to paint the metal spinners on the propellers and proceed directly to decals. Because Phil’s planes include nose art, I decided to try my hand.  His planes have such legible, clear hand-lettering and there is no possibility I can pull that off, hard as I might. I did some research on B-24 nose art, and tried my hand at Flak Alley, Doc, Hard Hearted Hannah, and The Goon.  Are they great, no, but they’re good enough.  These are all painted on the left side of the nose in front of the cockpit.  On the right I painted the symbol for the Flying Eight-Balls, which are really hard to make out.  I left room for a two digit number on the right.

On to the decals.  Phil used the red-bordered star roundel with bars, which was a Pacific insignia.  Pictures show just a roundel, often in pretty mangled condition with the yellow “Torch” band. I bought the latter from Flight Deck Decals.  They are fast, reasonable and do some great work. Oddly, these American planes use an RAF tricolor tail flash.  I had zillions of these from I-94 Enterprises. I stopped there.

That left just  the numerals to paint and the tail letter for each plane.  I painted the numerals white and the letter in Vallejo Golden Yellow, per the photos I’ve seen.  That wrapped up the first four of twelve planes.

It was a terrific learning experience.  I started the four before I left for San Diego, and it’s really taken most of the rest of the week to finish them.  Hopefully I’ve learned some lessons along the way and I might be finished with the remaining eight by the end of the week.


The Story of Loafing Friday

Americans have it all wrong. The day after Thanksgiving now has this commercial connotation of Black Friday. Piffle. I wouldn’t go near a commercial venture today unless they were giving away free packs of Perry AWI figures, and maybe not even then. Since that isn’t happening today, or any other day (sigh), I’m staying home. Like most Americans, I am off until Monday. Saturday and Sunday I have plenty to accomplish on my calendar, but today I’m determined to do almost nothing that isn’t restful, relaxing and fun.

This means painting. I’m gonna work on the last company of the Louisiana Regiment, and take some pics as I go.

It’s also going to be a movie day. I picked four movies to watch between now (about 10 AM) and the time I go to bed (about 10 PM.) My goal is to have an awesome day, doing little that isn’t fun, and a little lazy, and try to finish my 11 figure unit of Spaniards.


My first movie was 1964’s Zulu. I love this movie; it’s absolutely one of my favorites. Based on the 1879 defense of Rorke’s Drift by about 100 British soldiers against 4,000 Zulu warriors, the movie is 2 hrs. 16 min. of intense action. The performances by Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Nigel Greene, and others give the movie considerable life. It’s almost the perfect movie about battle because it’s scope is limited to such a small space with a handful of defenders. We get to know the characters well. The movie is aided by a strong score by John Barry, and stirring narration by Richard Burton.

The movie has flaws. The first is the treatment of the Zulus. Though the movie does begin with a look glimpse inside Zulu culture and a tone of respect, the native defenders of Zululand rapidly become little more than faceless, menacing, bullet catchers. I know, very 21st century PC perspective. The other flaw is that the movie is not filmed on location. That is a bit of a problem because the actual mission station sat on a rock ledge that gave a tremendous height advantage to the defenders, and terrifically complicated the attackers’ challenge. To be sure, the British were under intense pressure, but the Zulus lost as many as a 1,000 soldiers, while Chard’s command suffered 15 dead and 10 seriously wounded.

Even so, Zulu is a fine movie, one of my top five of all time. I chose it first because it fit into my time slot well. The movie would be finished just as the Apple Cup came on.


Unfortunately we can’t control what we can’t control. About half an hour into the movie, as Jack Hawkins is being locked up for interfering with defense preparations, I got a phone call from an old friend. It was great to catch up and make plans. Unfortunately it also took 22 minutes and messed up my carefully constructed schedule. It also distracted me and led astray enough so that by the time I was done dorking around on the computer, I had enough time to finish the first half of Zulu before the big game came on. The attacks had begun, but the hospital was still intact.

At 12:30 my figures had progressed to this:


Things are coming along. I’ve finished all the shoes and completed the buff belts and haversack (you can’t see) and a brown strap that runs along the belting. In the background you also notice I’ve popped the grenadiers off their Popsicle sticks and glued them to their individual bases.

12:30, time for the Apple Cup. I cop to being a Husky fan. I loved the Don James era, and respected Jim Lambright. I attended school there-not as an undergrad, but I did some post baccalaureate work there and my MA is from UWT. It’s been tough to love them since Neuheisel became coach. But I like Sarkisian and a lot of the Husky players. They’ve had a tough year and their losses were against good teams. I figured that if they could run the football and keep Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday off the field, they’d win. If not, things would at best be interesting, and at worst quite ugly. WSU is improving, offensively and defensively. These ain’t Paul Wulf’s Cougars.

I started the game painting in my den. But by the middle of the second quarter, and things going decidedly awry, I moved my stressed out self to the living room, plopped myself in my recliner and watched the rest of the game there. During commercials, I took care of the last of the Thanksgiving clean up. I ordered 24 AWI British guards from Fife and Drum Miniatures, and I made an order for Litko bases.

By half time I was pretty discouraged. WSU was handling the UW running game, and Keith Price turned the ball over twice. There were times when Halliday looked very sharp, and the Cougs had a halftime lead. In frustration, during the break I moved stuff from the garage out to our new storage shed.

After the halftime break the world seemed to right itself a bit. Bishop Sankey started to get some telling run yardage, and Keith Price connected on some key throws. But it wasn’t until Halliday tossed his second interception late in the fourth quarter that I felt confident enough to head back into the den to wrap up Zulu-Hook’s ferocious defense, burn the hospital, slaughter the Zulus in front of the redoubt, Bromhead is ashamed-and plan for the next movie.

By the time the movie was over, the Spaniards moved along a good deal.


I’ve finished all the belting, the cartridge boxes, bayonet scabbards and sword cases.

Time to take a break for dinner. Thanksgiving leftovers, of course, one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Quick too.

Time for episode two of Loafing Friday Movie Madness, and I’ve chosen Khartoum as my next flick.

I have a special fondness for Khartoum. My parents took me to see this in the theater in 1966, and I’ve always loved it. It’s the story of General Charles “Chinese” Gordon sent to evacuate Egyptians from that Sudanese city in the face of a massive Islamic uprising. Led by the charismatic Mahdi, the tribesmen promise death to those who oppose them. Gordon was sent, without the promise of aid, to get all foreign nationals out of Khartoum, and the movie is the story of his ultimate failure to do so and his death.

They don’t make movies like Khartoum anymore. Shot in a variety of locations, with plenty of action, from the slaughter of William Hicks’ column in the beginning of the movie, the attack on the Camel Corps desert column at Abu Klea, to the final assault on Khartoum itself, the movie is an example of 60’s epics at their finest.

Yet the real strength of the movie, and what sets it apart from most of Khartoum‘s ilk, is the performances. With Charlton Heston as Gordon and Lawrence Olivier as the Mahdi, there is a natural struggle between two outsized egos. Add Ralph Richardson’s role as the perpetually flummoxed Prime Minister William Gladstone, and there is more than just scenery and shoot ’em up to draw you into this film. Add to that Frank Cordell’s magnificent, if occasionally bombastic score, and the 2 hr. 11 minute movie flies by.


As I explained, things don’t always go according to plan. My friend Tim called to check in on my recent run of bad luck. As usual, we discussed a wide range of topics, including the Apple Cup, WSU (he’s an alum), Christmas, and books we’d like to read. Our phone conversations are never brief. But this was really important because I got a superb idea for what to get him for the holiday. Unfortunately, it also meant dashing out of the house to Target to take advantage of a Black Friday special.

Alas I broke my own Loafing Friday rules. Thankfully I found what I needed right away, and was able to get in and out in about 20 minutes.

I dashed back home, watched the Nile fall, Khartoum assaulted and Gordon killed by about 9:30. Unfortunately that was about all I had energy for.


I didn’t get done with my unit, but I did finish a lot. Tomorrow I’ll try to wrap up the shading, faces and other goodies I need to complete, as well as starting all the basing for the two Spanish units and the French knights. After that I’ll begin working on the first of two American dragoon units. I also didn’t finish my movie list.  I hoped to watch Breaker Morant and Gallipoli too.  So it goes.  Sometimes we just have to live with our choices.

Despite some plan changes that kept Loafing Friday from meeting the full lazy experience I envisioned, it was a pleasure.  I enjoyed the football game, saw some movies I love and made pretty good progress on the movies I wanted to see.  Beats Black Friday any day. This post was entirely done on my iPad and I apologize for the small pictures and any other goofiness that may have occurred as a result.