When tasked with the job of developing a new fighter, North American Aviation combined current technologies and also came up with some new enhancements that would make the P-51 arguably one of the best fighters of all time. One of these enhancements was laminar flow airfoils, for the smooth, uninterrupted flow of air over the contour of the wings. In order to achieve this “uninterrupted flow of air”, the wings surface must be smooth to prohibit turbulent air as it passes over the wings. North American Aviation achieved this by applying putty in panel lines and recessed rivets over certain section of the wings.
Going into this build I wasn’t planning to worry about details like this, especially at this scale, but of course I couldn’t resist! I read many articles about how to fill the panel lines and settled on a method used by one of my favorite modelers, Chuck Sawyer.
His method is to dilute Tamiya’s Basic Putty using Tamiya Lacquer Thinner, the thinner with the yellow top. Don’t use regular lacquer thinner because it will melt the plastic. The goal is to dilute the putty enough that it is thinner than the putty out of the tube but thicker than Mr. Surfacer. I then applied it with a Micro Brush.
A little tip, Micro Brushes are a fantastic little tool for doing everything from cleaning and applying glue to small part holders for painting. They can be readily found on eBay or hobby sites such as Spruce Brothers. I like the eBay variants, not only because they are cheaper but their “hairs” are much finer and denser.
The key to this method is to remove the excess putty after 5-10 minutes with a q-tip soaked in the Tamiya yellow cap lacquer thinner. If the putty sits much longer than that it will almost be impossible to remove.
Now, the issue with this method is that it is hard to fill the top section of the panel line, the putty does a great job of giving a base within the panel line but making the putty level with the wing surface is near impossible. My goal was to give a war beaten look, where after months of ground crew and flight abuse some of the putty has been worn away or dislodged. However, I realized at this scale that may be too unrealistic. At this scale, you really shouldn’t see any puttied panel lines. To completely make any recessed areas flush with the wing panels I used Mr. Surfacer 500. Once I let the Mr Surfacer dry overnight I used progressively finer sandpaper until I ended with a 2000 grit to polish off the laminar wings. I will be spraying Duraluminum Alclad so the surface must be “baby bottom” smooth.
For my next P-51 at the 1/48 scale, I probably won’t bother filling the panel lines. Even though this is the correct look, I think some faint panel lines will make for a more interesting look. Also, when I attempt this on my 1/32 P-51 I will skip the Tamiya putty and probably just use Mr Surfacer. I feel the Mr Surfacer will give a better illusion of wear and accuracy.