Airfix 1/7nd scale Red Arrow Gnat April & May 2014

When I was about my daughter’s age I learnt how to make model aircraft by watching my Dad do it. So when my little girl took an interest in having a go at Daddy’s hobby Santa brought her an Airfix Starter kit. She seemed interested but never quite got enthusiastic enough to start the project. Remembering how my Dad showed me how to build a kit I decided I would show her. Santa had selected a 1/72nd scale Airfix Red Arrows Gnat. It was small and brightly coloured. Perfect. I thought I had built the same model when I was about ten years of age but it turned out that Airfix have released a new moulding and this was that newer version.

So I told my little girl we would have a go at it. The ground rules were that we would do it together at the kitchen table. It would be built straight form the box. We would try and use the paint, glue and brush that came with the kit as much as possible. No extras would be added and we wouldn’t waste time airbrushing every little detail. I would go a bit further than my Dad did on that very first Gloster Gladiator – I would at least paint the model inside and out – but just the basics. I recall the Gnat I built was moulded in red plastic which was why I thought it could be built without painting. However the new moulding is in grey plastic and I am sure my daughter would feel a but let-down by that. It would have to be red.

So we set up a pattern of operating. Assembly did indeed take place at the kitchen table. I would bring a few essential tools down from my workbench such as a hobby knife and sanding stick. I would show her all the basics: cutting plastic from the sprue, how to use glue, how to paint, how to assemble, follow instructions, and so on. Our rule was “little and often” so she wouldn’t get bored. In between sessions I would take the little kit up to my workbench and do a bit of seam filling and detail painting – the sort of details that would make it look nice but that would be too boring and fiddley for a seven year old to worry about. She needed to be happy with the result and understand the steps to get there.

She is afraid of sharp knives so I handled that for her. I showed her how to download pictures form the internet as references. I showed her what colour things would be. The colours in the box were read, white, black and silver. The silver acrylic was rubbish so we used enamel for that. On the cockpit and pilot I let my daughter do the basic painting whilst I added details, wash and dry brushing so it all looked good. My daughter is looking forward to having the result in her room and already knows that it must be put somewhere where children cannot break it. That doesn’t seem to include her.

I have no idea whether she wishes to pursue this as a hobby. That isn’t the point. At this stage it is just a craft for her to have some experience of. It is good that she has some basic working knowledge of what it takes to build a model.

Here is what we did:

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Starting in the cockpit we assembled the parts together and my daughter painted pilot and base-grey in the cockpit. I added a few small paint details later for her.

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I added the decals for the instrument panels and then we glued in the pilot. At this point we glued the cockpit to the fuselage. The assembly of the fuselage itself was tricky as it is all bent out of shape and the part don’t fit well. I think most 7 yr olds would have given up by now. Thankfully we worked Blue-Peter-style and I was able to whisk the project away to sort out all the fit problems!

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OK – so this is my on my workbench! It just won’t fit together without lots of clothes-pegs. The Airfix moulding is crisp and pretty but the assemblies are poorly designed and the fit is very poor. This is NOT a good starter project for a seven year old. Thankfully I can sort most of this out for her.

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…and here we are at time of writing. I will need to clean up all this filler for my daughter before we proceed on to final assembly. All the bits are ready and I have painted up small fiddley bits like the wheels for her. She really wants to be involved when interesting bits happen. What seven year old would not?

We will post another update here when the project is finished. It should not take long. If the thing fitted together better it would have been a lot quicker to execute. I will airbrush on the final coat of red paint for my Daughter’s Red Arrow, but that will be as about as complicated as it should get. Then it is all hers.

Hopefully it will inspire her to have a go by herself – which is the next step I took at her age. If not then – nothing ventured, nothing gained – at least it was more Daddy/Daughter quality time.


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