Like many of you, I'm sure, the modelling bug bit me at an early age. Seeing as I was funded wholly by my parents' generosity back then (in the form of pocket money - thanks Dad!), my range was pretty much limited to 1/72 scale kits. My heart was set upon the Matchbox Flower Class Corvette when it was released in that scale, but sadly it was way beyond my means. Many years passed, and adult life saw model making relegated to an even lower priority than the proverbial back burner.
I made the very occasional kit still, usually one of Tamiya's offerings, but probably only one every half dozen years or so. Then a chance conversation at work revealed that Revell Germany had re-released the old Matchbox Corvette; I could now afford to buy one, and with no thought to the fact that it might be a rather ambitious re-introduction to the hobby, I proceeded to order one off the internet. Which brings me in a roundabout way to the point of this review? 'Why on earth does it say Bf 109 in the title?' you might understandably be wondering. Well, whilst doing some research into my model of HMS Campanula (which you can follow the painfully slow progress of here http://photos.kitmaker.net/showgallery.php/cat/14709 by the way), I discovered photo-etch. Yes, I could now super-detail to my heart's content, and happily proceeded to spend a small fortune on add-on kits for Campanula.
Sure enough every kit I bought from then on was rapidly followed up by photo-etch sets to compliment it, to say nothing of resin, but that's another story. A few months ago I snapped up a fairly cheap 1/24 scale Airfix Bf 109, and set about searching for detail sets for it. Disaster! It appeared that I had picked about the only scale known to man where no such kits were available. Salvation eventually came from the rec.models.scale newsgroup, where someone was good enough to point me towards Fred Hultberg's excellent operation, Fotocut. A few emails shot back and forward between us, and before you could say 'zealous attention to detail' Fred, aka the ol' etcher from Fotocut, was kind enough to agree to scale up some of his existing detail sets to 1/24 scale, and very nice they are too.
The etched kit
The kit focuses on the aircraft cockpit, but also provides many external details. All told you get; underwing, chin and cowling radiator/inlet grilles; backing plates to the prop spinner; wing tie-down points; bomb fins for if you choose the Jabo version; wheel hubs and well doors. There is also an instrument panel (complete with acetate insert); Revi gunsight details; numerous cockpit wall/floor mounted controls; oxygen system parts; seat buckles; cockpit armour plates and rudder pedals. There's more too, a lot of kit for the money! Fotocut also supply a clear and easy to follow set of instructions, with exploded diagrams, references, painting details, and a numbered chart of all the parts, useful this last, as there's a lot of them.
As I mentioned I've used a lot of photo-etch parts whilst making Campanula, and so am now quite comfortable using them. I've also had sufficient practice to know what I like and dislike about working with photo-etch. One of the biggest bugbears I find is that of cleaning up parts after they have been cut away from their brass frame. With larger items this is just time-consuming, but with finer detail it can be extremely difficult to file away excess metal without damaging the part itself. You could of course just leave the trace of the tab in place, and in most cases nobody would be able to see it unless it was pointed out to them. But we'd know it was there, and that's bad enough! With the production method employed by Fotocut this is no longer a problem though, since all parts are separately etched and then fixed to a stiff cardboard backing with clear lacquer. Simply peel the backing away and the part is ready to use, with no further preparation required. If you're hamfisted enough to damage anything beyond repair, Fred offers a superb guarantee, return the spoiled parts and he will replace them for you, free of charge. Now that's what I call customer service, a shame more UK companies don't act that way.
Now I am nowhere near to being a Bf 109 expert, but I seem to remember hearing that it's one of the most, if not the most popular, subjects for aircraft kits in any scale. Aftermarket detail kits for it are common, but there are as yet hardly any in 1/24 scale, and Fotocut's offering amply fills that gap in the market. It isn't designed to fit a particular kit, but is produced from scale drawings of the actual aircraft, so should be equally suitable for the Trumpeter Gustav, although of course you may need to do a little adjustment of parts here and there. But after all, that's all part of the fun isn't it?
I can't vouch for the scale accuracy of the parts, but they certainly look superb. Raised and textured etching is in evidence, and fine detail all looks very clean and precise. Dry fitting to the Airfix kit reveals that the instrument panel and cockpit parts fit just fine, thank you. Most of the other smaller details look as though they should be similarly trouble-free. The only area where I can foresee some potential difficulties is with some of the radiator and inlet grilles their locations on the Airfix kit seem to be too small. I'd guess that's probably a mistake on Airfix's part rather than Fotocut's, this is quite an old moulding after all. Fortunately it should be a relatively simple matter to trim and/or file the grilles to fit properly.
Once I start the build in earnest I intend to do a full write-up of how it goes, so watch this space. All told the detail set from Fotocut is an excellent addition to an already well respected range. Careful use of this kit will turn an already impressive 109 into a showstopper. It only remains for me to say thank you to Fred Hultberg of Fotocut for being good enough to specially produce this in 1/24 scale. Highly recommended!
Ed note: I have added a couple of Grahams in build photos as a bit of an appetiser for the full build to come.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on ARMORAMA
Although relatively expensive this etch set has been produced at the request of a modeller, you don't get that very often, if ever. With Fotocuts unique method of producing etched parts, which require no clean up this set is well worth considering, if you are planning on building a 1/24 scale Bf 109.