Building a Spitfire, any advice?
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Thread: Building a Spitfire, any advice?

  1. #1

    Building a Spitfire, any advice?

    I'm currently having a go at an early F Mk IX Spitfire (small intake), and would like some advice and pointers. This is what I've got to show for it after a few hours:

    Any advice on where to go next? The two bits I'm not looking forward to are the canopy and wing fillet - how do you think I should go about building these?
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  2. #2
    Get really good drawings for details like the canopy and fillets, plus really clear photos. You can never have too much information with such an iconic bird.
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  3. #3
    Hello Lythronax,
    Yours looks like a pretty good start.
    Not sure if any advice from me will be helpful since the version I built was for CFS1 and is very low polygon count, but here goes anyway:

    I believe Hairyspin is correct. The Spitfire in any version has very subtle curves and even plastic model kits often miss a few details. Get a lot of pictures. I looked at at least several hundred photographs, perhaps thousands.
    The AeroDetail Number 27 book is excellent as is Spitfire - Flying Legend by John Dibbs and Warbird Tech 35 Merlin Spitfires. There are probably at least another dozen books I used that I can't remember offhand.

    The areas that I can remember that caused problems were:
    0. Pick a specific aircraft to model, note what equipment it had and beware of post-war changes.
    I was also building an early version with a round tip rudder and without the Aboukir filter.
    1. Make sure you get the overall dimensions correct. I found that references didn't all agree as to the length of the aircraft. Perhaps this had something to do with the different Rudders that could be fitted.
    2. The relative fit of the pieces on the underside of the wing is very tight. If one item is mis-located, it throws everything off. This is especially noticeable at the trailing edge of the Wing Fillet where the Flap segments split at the gull shape.
    3. Note that the Elevator Balance is larger on the Mk.IX than on earlier versions.
    4. I can see that you have already addressed the engine thrust line changes from earlier versions.

    I forget where I found a station diagram for the Mk.IX Spitfire but it or a good dimensional drawing is a way to make sure the proportions are correct.

    Good Luck!
    - Ivan.

  4. #4
    The best I've seen for your purpose is the Monforton book Spitfire Mk.IX and XVI Engineered, but it's pricey! Excellent photos and drawings in one volume and the many subtle variations within the IX and XVI versions well documented. That would help you visualise how the aircraft was built, which in turn would prompt ideas on how to go about, say, forming the wing fillets. I stared for hours at photos of the Tempest Mk.II to work out how one section or another would be formed before building it and when I finally saw the aircraft in the RAF Museum I already knew it so well that it was like visiting an old friend. I still discovered other details though!

    edit: there are some dimensions which didn't change from the Mk.I through to the Mk.24, my favourite being the distance from firewall to rudder hinge line (20ft 5in.) Makes building the large & small rudder versions just a little easier.
    Last edited by hairyspin; August 10th, 2019 at 13:51.
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan View Post
    4. I can see that you have already addressed the engine thrust line changes from earlier versions.
    I did a bit more checking because I noticed that the upper cowl line varied a bit between early and late Mk.IX and also seemed to vary again with the Mk.XVI.

    It turns out that what I interpreted to be a thrust line change was really extra space needed by the larger supercharger on the two stage Merlin and differences in Glycol tanks for either the intercooler or aftercooler on the Packard manufactured Merlins.

    Thanks Hairyspin,
    I will need to go looking for the Monforton Spitfire book. There are a bunch of things I am quite curious about.

    - Ivan.

  6. #6
    I came across this image of the Castle Bromwich final assembly area in The Spitfire Story (Alfred Price) which shows new Mk.XVI aircraft – with teardrop canopies – and the wing fillet showing clearly. I think the curved cross-section appears a constant curve needing good alignment to fit to the fuselage and wing. The trick would be the underside profile of wing and fuse to maintain the thin trailing edge!

    70 years on and it's still a beautiful aircraft on the ground or in the air. (first image)
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  7. #7
    I'm not sure whether it'll be destined for CFS3 (ideal) or FSX, but I want it to be the most detailed and accurate model that I can create which can still feasibly be used efficiently by either sim. I have a whole stash of extremely good modern cross section drawings (by Jumpei Temma) and some factory drawings which I can use. However I'm fairly new so I will inevitably run into some problems and headaches, so it's good to have a wealth of experienced modellers on the forum to help out!

    I'd also like to create the Spitfire F V, F VI (quick modification of the V in essence), F VII/VIII, F XII and the F XXI-24, but obviously these are much further down the line.

  8. #8
    Hello Hairspin, Lythronax,

    The photograph of MH434 is interesting because it is one of those that is still flying with The Old Flying Machine Company formerly of Ray and Mark Hanna. It is nice to see a more historical photograph of it.

    Here is a site that is quite informative as to the variations to be found in different manufactured series of Mk.IX and Mk.XVI:
    After looking through these reference pages, I am quite sure that I must have gotten something wrong with my model though the detail is so coarse that mistakes may not be obvious.

    - Ivan.

  9. #9
    The Monforton book includes a great deal on these fiddly details, often with both clear photos and line drawings to scale.
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivan View Post
    The photograph of MH434 is interesting because it is one of those that is still flying with The Old Flying Machine Company formerly of Ray and Mark Hanna. It is nice to see a more historical photograph of it.
    This is a photo of MH434 from 1943 during its spell of service with No. 222 Squadron:

    As it was one of the earlier LF Mk IXs (the same with all MH series Mk IXs, which were either F or LF), it has the early temperate intake. Also a distinguishing feature of most MH series IXs is the single cannon aperture per leading edge (due to the use of VB leading edge skins) as opposed to other C and E winged Spits which have two.
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  11. #11
    Also notice the original fishtail exhaust stubs: most flying Spitfires (including MH434) these days have the round section stubs, whether they're authentic or not.
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  12. #12

    A year later...

    A year late, but I've started anew on this project. This model here is a practice air-frame where I will develop the techniques that I'll use in the real deal. I have hundreds of good plans, and hope to make this the most accurate Spitfire built for CFS3 as of yet. I've figured out how to make the wing fillet (my biggest fear!) and the cockpit enclosure, though I feel there is a lot of fundamental, and CFS3-specific, modelling theory that I ought to catch up on. Any advice and help at all would be greatly appreciated !

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  13. #13
    Upper fillet built. I cannot lie I was beaming with joy at how this came out; how would I set some smoothing to blend with the wing and fuselage?

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  14. #14
    Fillet completed, though I need to figure out the proper shading to make it blend smoothly.

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  15. #15
    Smooth work, and I notice the rear fuselage top line is not straight from cockpit rear to tail - which is as it should be.

    To smooth the shading, all polys to be smoothed are selected and given the same smoothing group value. I always found it better to do this by hand than let Gmax do it automatically. Surfaces which aren’t to smooth with adjacent polys are given a different smoothing value.
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  16. #16
    Thanks for the appraisals Hairyspin! I've been working hard to ensure it's accurate to a T in both dimension and form whilst keeping a reasonable poly count.

    This is where it's at right now (the duplicate starboard wings and surfaces are test "dummies"):

    When finished, this model will be a 1942/43 Mk IX with the Merlin 61/63/66, small rudder, single cannon aperture, wide cannon blisters and the "Mk XII" temperate intake. I intend for it to be modular, with variable common sections between marks (engines/noses, long or short ailerons, wingtips, props, rudders, intakes, cannon fairings, etc.) being saved separately and able to be slotted in when needed; using this method I could possibly make every Spitfire mark.

    This is how the wings and feathers are looking. I'm not looking forward to modelling the cannon and gear pintle blisters. How do you guys model blisters? I'm pretty stumped

    General overview of how she's looking

    The earlier enclosure I had built was of a lower poly count and had been made up of several separately modelled pieces, and as such it was mismatched and looked ugly; this new one was built as one continuous piece with twice the polys. I changed my mind and decided to go with the flat-sided "bulged" hood as opposed to the Malcolm hood. The first Mk IXs tended to have the former as many were Mk Vc conversions, though it varied greatly as the Malcolm hood was in the process of production line standardisation as the first Mk IXs were being built.

    A good look at the wings and the often overlooked gull-wing section. I think it'll need some refining as the shapes might not be perfect (I'll make some cross-sectional splines to check).

    Another look at the gull-wing fillet. It's not finished as it has to be extended up to the leading edge and welded with the upper piece. How I'll get the shading to look good I don't know as of yet.
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  17. #17

    Update: Slow and steady wins the race

    The antenna and rudder have been built, along with some contour corrections. Overall it's looking more and more the part!

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  18. #18
    That's looking better all the time. Pay close attention to the engine cowling; you appear to have the flattened top, but watch the tapering – viewed from above, it only tapers towards the spinner forward of the exhaust stubs, which is another appealing characteristic of the aircraft.

    Blisters can be cut into the wing or cowling and then bulged, but it's less polys to make 'em separate and Attach to the wing or fuselage mesh once you're happy with the shape. You won't want to smooth between wing upper and wheel recess blister, f'rinstance, so it doesn't have to be a continuous piece of mesh with the wing.
    __________________________________________________ ___________________________________________
    Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Proverbs 4:7

  19. #19

    Update: Details

    @Hairyspin: Thanks for the compliments! I have since remodelled the nose (it is indeed the flat cowling) and the taper is something I've corrected. It should look a bit better now. Using your advise, I've made an initial attempt at the wing blister:

    I've also had a go at the cannon and stub, along with the carburettor intake. I don't have a drawing for the earlier style, so it's been a bit of a pain.

    Here's how she's looking overall, so far:
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  20. #20

    Cleaned up and mirrored

    Getting closer...

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  21. #21

    Update: Bumps and stubble

    I've began adding the various bumps dotted across the fuselage. The first blister modelled is one located on the lower right engine cowling and allows an enlarged air compressor, though famously in the Mk II an identical blister encases a Kaufman starter - which the Merlin 60-series never used.

    After making a boolean cut in the cowling, I began making some practice exhaust stubs. These are pretty rudimentary and not perfect in the slightest, so I'll likely make new ones with a cleaner shape.

    Things are, however, going smoothly. If you have any comments, critiques or advice please don't hesitate to reply!
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  22. #22

    Quick update: Blocky radiators...

    Quick test of the shape and placement of the radiators (I'm debating whether to model the actual scoop shape integral to the wing, or if it's too much hassle).

    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails 2020-09-08 (10).jpg   2020-09-08 (11).jpg   2020-09-08 (12).jpg  

  23. #23

    Testing something...

    That basic model of the wing and fuselage is pretty much done (excepting the wheel wells), so I've had a go at converting the IX into some other marks. These won't really be going towards anything, just as a quick exercise.

    First the easiest, which is the Mk VC in 1944 configuration:

    Pretty much involved dragging back the cowl fore of the two stage supercharger and doing some re-contouring. The result is better than I had expected.

    The next is one of mine and many others' favourite Marks - the Mk XII (though missing quite a few features)

    This was more complicated. I had modelled a spline at the firewall, so I simply removed the Merlin section and modelled a single-stage Griffon, based on a Seafire XV cross section - which had more or less identical cowlings to the Mk XII. This new section was then welded to the firewall and smoothed. The rudder was also reprofiled into the pointed type. Overall it's rougher than the V, but that's due to mistakes I made in scaling the reference drawings I used. If I ever get round to properly building a XII, I'll be sure to check my work
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  24. #24

    Update: Tailwheel, corrections, refinement

    Quick one today; been making some alterations and fixes to smoothing, shape and other issues. On top of this I've started building the tailwheel assembly.

    Here is how it's looking against the plans I've been using:
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  25. #25

    Update: Pitot tube, bumps and the Aero Vee filter

    Short update this afternoon. Minor details such as the smaller intakes around the engine cowling have been built, as has the pitot tube and the rudder trim tab. Other work done includes reshaping and resizing of the carburettor intake, further re-contouring of the wing fillet and engine cowlings, as well as changes to the shape of the tail wheel.

    Something I built as a little experiment has turned out much better than I had anticipated. So, here's a rudimentary Aero-Vee intake which was fitted to all HF IXs and most LF IXs (early ones were essentially indistinguishable from the F IX with the temperate intake):

    Things that still need to be done for the exterior:

    • Finish off fine detailing (blister on upper side of wing - outer MG access panel; blisters on underside of wings - behind the cannon and MG ejector chute openings)
    • Create actuator rods (and their housings) for the rudder and all three trim tabs
    • Create aileron, rudder and elevator hinges/rods
    • Correctly position pivots and animate all surfaces
    • Develop tail wheel strut and castoring unit models
    • Open and extrude carb' intake
    • Build and animate filter for the Aero-Vee fitted variant
    • Cut out radiator scoop, build radiator units and develop the radiator baths
    • Cut out wheel wells
    • Build and animate wheel struts and wheel units
    • Build, animate prop/hub
    • Build navigation and identification lamps
    • Cut out and animate cockpit side-door
    • UV Map and create rudimentary texture

    After this work has been done I can begin work on the internals, which will be the biggest challenge before the Virtual Cockpit is started. Thanks for reading! If you have any comments or advice please don't hesitate to let me know.

    Take care!
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    Last edited by lythronax; September 11th, 2020 at 13:45.

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