1/35 Industria Mechanika Dragonfly
Images and text Copyright © 2014 by Matt Swan
It's a beautiful day in the marshlands bordering the lake. The sun is warming a couple frogs relaxing on a lily pad and a big stripped rock bass is worrying at the root base. This peaceful tranquility is ruptured by the sudden clatter of large insect wings as a brilliant yellow object streaks overhead just clearing the tops of the marsh grasses. The calm surface of the water is whipped to frenzy from the disturbed air coming off this rather large object and from the sudden entrance of the lily pad frogs as they dive for the safety of the deep. The rock bass is nowhere to be seen. Only as it recedes into the distance and the marsh surface calms can the aerial speed demon be clearly discerned as a large, yellow dragonfly who's body must easily exceed 12 feet in length and there, embedded in the aft end sits ... a man? What madness is this? It's not madness, it's Doktor Orpheus Odanata in his Dragonfly, the fastest ornithopter in the skies and he seems to be in a hurry!
Michael Fichtenmayer AKA Fichtenfoo, designs and produces some of the most interesting resin steampunk flavor kits I have seen in ages. These can be found through his company Industria Mechanika. This kit I am working on today is one of his newer offering and displays some excellent casting technique. It includes 40 medium gray resin pieces which have virtually no flash or casting boogers along with four sheets of photo etched wing and detail parts. Additionally we have two nicely wrapped clear eye lenses and a couple of coils of rigging material. The pilot figure is well done and consists of five individual pieces. Instructions are a single sheet styled as an antiqued document. It looks cool enough to be framed when the kit is done and displayed on the wall. Overall the instructions are pretty clear and to the point presenting a logical sequence of assembly. If the modeler does run into any questionable steps he can go on-line and look at Mike's completed build on his website. There are no decals with the kit however we do get a selection of photo etched details to dress up the body exterior in various ways.
The engine is the area of this kit to first catch my attention so there is where work begins. There are only two resin pieces for the basic engine block so once those are together painting can start. I laid down a base coat of Model Master Burnt Iron then shaded areas with different Alclad lacquers. The PE details were first painted brass then once glued in place were dusted with some Alclad engine exhaust to tone them down. The completed block was dry brushed with copper and steel paints then washed with a heavy black sludge wash.
I elected to go with a nice, rich red leather for the cockpit coaming and seat. The instrument bezels were done with brass and the faces are decals from the spares box. I dressed up the interior by adding a switch panel to the dash and a throttle (?) on the left sidewall. On the carapace I did the interior with the same scheme as the engine. Exterior I decided to go with a hot rod look. I started with some Alclad gunmetal which is such a dark metallic blue as to be nearly black. Once that was dry I laid down a diamond pattern of masks then shot the whole thing with yellow. I'll continue this idea into the main body later.
On the head I started with a base coat of gunmetal. The mouth PE grill was done with steel and the eye inserts were done with Alclad clear red. I found that the eye inserts needed to be carefully sanded round the perimeter to get a good fit into the resin socket but other than this one spot I have not had to adjust or modify a single part during construction.
Now that the head and engine sub-assemblies are complete and the carapace is ready that area can come together for a mostly complete thorax. Keeping with my gunmetal/yellow color scheme the legs are assembled in an in-flight position (based on images of actual dragonflies in flight) then airbrushed with gunmetal. Cable attachments are detailed with steel. Now the legs are attached to the thorax and extension cables are run. The kit includes some light duty tan thread for this but I elected to replace it with some heavier black model ship rigging material. I just liked the beefier look of it. Moving right along, the most difficult aspect so far with this build is now upon me - painting and masking the body. I start by masking off the cockpit area and laying down a base coat of gunmetal. Next individual masks are cut for each body segment. In placing these I ran into trouble as about 30% of the time if I lifted a mask to reposition it also lifted the gunmetal. This was a little surprising as I had most diligently washed the entire kit in warm soapy water prior to beginning and had thoroughly rinsed everything. After several touch-ups and remask applications I finally got things like I wanted. In the image below note the aluminum rod passed through the front of the body. I had cross drilled this for attachment to the thorax and am using it as a hang point during paint.
The PE frets come with a variety of spare circles, gears and doo-dads allowing the modeler to add custom details if desired. Well, I so desired and placed a series of gunmetal discs along the body and added some adjustment wheels to the engine area. I also attached the kit provided wire cables to the top of the engine as control cables. The body was brush painted with Future then attached to the thorax. Next I turned my attention to the wings. Before I start this assembly I have some painting to do. Some time ago I had come across some Life-Tone pearlescent translucent lacquer paint intended for the taxidermists when painting fish for mounting. I actually had found it when searching for paints for a Star Trek project. I never used it for that project but it seemed like a perfect fit for this project. I lightly dusted the clear plastic inserts for the wings which gave them a slightly shiny glow when the light hit them just right otherwise they would appear clear. The end result was a look very much like an insect's wing. So once that was done the assembly could progress.
I aligned one PE panel with one clear panel then held them in place with a wooden cloths pin then inserted a pair of tweezers to open a gap. Next I began to apply very thin coats of medium superglue to the inner side of the PE with a toothpick. Once the outer half of the wing area was coated with glue I removed the tweezers and carefully laid the two pieces together ensuring that the alignment stayed good. After a couple minutes the other end was glued and closed then the wing was flipped over and the process was repeated on the other side. After the glue had a few minutes to cure I slid the tip of my razor knife under the rigging points and bent them up for use. The kit includes thread for rigging and I manufactured some end point hardware to add detail. End point hardware was done by wrapping a piece of very fine red magnet wire around a needle then sliding it off and cutting it into short lengths. The thread was inserted through the hardware, into the wing attachment point then back through the hardware. It was no trouble from here to simple tug the loose end of the thread to tighten the rigging and apply a spot of glue to lock it down. This all sounds easy enough but the reality is I have about one hour tied up in each wing before it can be attached to the model.
I actually finished this build several months ago but have been waiting for some good spring/summer weather to take pictures. The final assembly was very straight forward once the wings were finished. I placed a couple decorative PE pieces which were included with the kit as an option and inserted the pilot into the cockpit. After attaching the windshield and PE frame I needed to do a little touch-up on the paint here and there and she was done. Once the outside temperature got to around 70F and the wind had settled down I suspended the model from a 1 x 4 with invisible thread and had my wife hold it over the koi pond for pictures.
This was a really fun build and I would strongly recommend any of the Industria Mechanika kits for modelers of the esoteric.