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Twin Ion Engine
Space Superiority Fighters

Fine Molds Model Kit #SW-2

Copyright
© 2002 & 2008, Jim Lewis/GunTruck Studios
All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Page One

TIE/Ln Fighter
(2002)
Gallery

Awards & Honors

Bane of the Rebel Alliance, the bowtie-shaped TIE Fighter screamed across the silver screens over 25 years ago. For anxious modelers, the wait has been indeed this long for a quality model kit replicating this interesting Sci-Fi subject. A version did come from AMT/ERTL, that isn't too bad in its own right, but wasn't in scale with companion Star Wars model subjects. It is larger, closer to 1:48th scale, and not even compatible with this new model release. No doubt that after the excellent release of Fine Molds X-Wing Space Superiority Fighter (#SW-1) this new Fine Molds release had a high bar to be measured against. After tackling this one - I'd say Fine Molds did more than an admirable job. This model kit is downright a joy to construct and complete, even better than their earlier X-Wing Fighter miniature.

An excellent internet resource for those who want to know more about these ships can be found at the Star Wars Technical Commentaries - which many supporting images and information can be found. I'll refer to finer points of detail during this article, using this as a reference point. I agree with much of the information and points made at this site - and it's fun fan reading too - with a serious flair to it.


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The model kit assembles quickly. Above is part of the first assembly step. The TIE/Ln is 1:72nd scale - small is an understatement. The detail, however, isn't small. It is exquisitely rendered, without ejector pin marks neither marring delicate details nor flash on any parts. Simple cleanup is called for in constructing the model. All instructions are in Japanese, but the pictograms and painting instructions are simple enough to follow.

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The rear and side walls of the cockpit round out the second assembly step. I left these separate for easier painting and finishing. The cockpit is pretty cramped. Also, Fine Molds provides these fine decals for finishing the interiors of the sidewalls - much easier to apply with them separate from the cockpit subassembly.

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In the third step, you'll clean up the forward portion of the spacecraft, and attach a small console to the interior ceiling. The detail cast here is remarkable for such a little model. Aligning the console is easy - just take your time.

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Test-fitting the center section of the spacecraft, there appears to be no seams, warpage, or gaps to contend with later on. I noticed that careful and intelligent removal of parts from the sprue is called for in constructing this model kit. It will save you from filling gaps later on as result of removing too much plastic in cleanup.

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Entrance into the TIE/Ln Fighter is via a large hatch on the rear of the Pod. It appears to be an engine fairing, but is not. Drawings of the TIE/Ln from SW-IV: ANH indicate this as the primary ingress/egress point. The hinge detail is even finely done in this model kit - note the tiny M4 Sherman Bogie Truck in the photo below. This kind of detail is commensurate with the same methods the original model makers used in building the studio models. It is great to see it replicated by Fine Molds in this release too.

The engine exhausts are situated to either side of the rear hatch - represented by Parts #A14 - and not shown here. Leave them off to paint separately if you're building a TIE/In variant. Parts #A13 represent the Sensors c and I left them out in the photo below. It goes for these two parts if you're going to build the TIE/In.

In drawings of the TIE Fighter, this hatch is identified as part of the SFS (Sienar Fleet Systems) I-a2b Solar Ionization Reactor. However, studio drawings from SW-IV: ANH identify this as the primary ingress/egress of the spacecraft. As for reasons pointed out in the Star Wars Technical Commentaries, I too subscribe to the hatch description being more commensurate with the spacecraft shown at this time period.

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Fine Models #SW-2 represents the early model TIE Fighter commonplace in the end days of the Old Republic, up through the events described in SW-IV: ANH. It is a good representative of the Imperial Attackers in the Battle of Yavin.

This model is equipped with laser cannons also used in the TIE X1 (Lord Darth Vader's ship) variant. The TIE Fighters that defended the first Death Star (SW-IV: ANH) were all equipped with this type of armament - dating the Fine Molds model kit.

TIE Fighters appearing in SW-V: ESB and SW-VI: RTJ displayed plain, colorless, laser emitters and were much faster. The TIE/Ln Fighter variant also appeared whiter in color than the later TIE/In Fighters that appeared in Episodes V and VI. The TIE/In Fighters have darker, multi-hues due to different alloys used in their manufacture. Painting instructions in the Fine Molds model kit allow the modeler to represent these features. An easy way to visually represent the TIE/In completing this model kit would be to either not paint the tips of the emitters orange, or replace the laser cannons altogether.

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Some fans subscribe that the secondary hatch (top) is the primary ingress/egress point for the TIE Fighter - either the entire hatch flipping up and back, or the hatch split down the centerline and opening to either side like in the Kenner toy. In comic continuation stories, this hatch is actually displayed as the point from which the TIE Pilot can escape via an ejection seat. There is no interior or exterior hinge detail provided in the Fine Molds model kit to suggest this as a primary hatch for the Pilot, I believe correctly so.

Fine Molds includes painting masks to aid the modeler in finishing their kit. These have to be cut out yourself - it took me longer to do this than it did to cut out - and cleanup all the parts and complete basic assembly before painting. The masks are low-tack, and adhere best if the part is clean and has no finger oils present. I cleaned up the parts with a Q-Tip before putting the masks on. I've read other modelers complaints about using these masks, but I had no problem with airbrushing them. I don't use enamels, so bleed-under the edges weren't a problem for me. Tamiya acrylics were just fine.

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Cleaning up the Wing Panels completed the basic assembly steps. Labeled Solar Collector Arrays in most drawings, I don't quite agree with this description. I think of them more as heat dumps or exchangers for the power reactor. The idea of solar power arrays in the deep space environ where this fighter operates doesn't make much sense - even for Sci-Fi.

(Note: the term -solar ionization reactor - probably does not mean the same as what we understand "solar" to mean. Consulting the 1994 Star Wars Vehicle Blueprint Portfolio, which was authorized by LucasFilm, both the TIE Fighter and the Imperial Star Destroyer carry central power units under this designation. The massive dome underneath the Star Destroyer is labeled the same as the tiny powerplant in the TIE Fighter. There are no "solar collection arrays" on the Star Destroyer, though. Han Solo's infamous reference to "parsec" as a unit of speed - when it is a unit of distance - is another example of this in his description of making the Kessel Run (SW-IV: ANH). I like to imagine these little bumps are places where C3PO while telling the story translates the word used in our language - but it doesn't carry the same meaning.)

The ejector pin marks appearing on one side of the Wing Panels are completely hidden by attaching the Wing Braces above - another thoughtful engineering plus from Fine Molds. The casting of detail on the Wing Braces and Panels is just breathtaking.

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I proceeded to painting my model spacecraft the next day - painting in subassemblies and like colors. Desiring to replicate the TIE/Ln, I selected to finish it in a lighter color overall to mimic the early ships. I would use Tamiya acrylics throughout finishing. The overall exterior color would be XF-19 Sky Grey with the Solar Collector Arrays done in XF-69 NATO Black. The interior of the Command Pod would be XF-53 Neutral Grey with XF-1 Flat Black Control Yoke & TIE Pilot. I'd detail the TIE Pilot in varying shades of Black later on while the rest of the subassemblies dried.

During painting, I had to be careful and inspect the Fine Molds masks on the clear parts - they tended to pull up at the edges. I burnished them back down with a toothpick and quickly moved on to the next color. I recommend the fast-drying acrylics over enamels in this area - as they'd most likely bleed-under the masking as they dried. It is also possible to use the Fine Molds masks as templates to cut your own - just more time consuming that's all. Below are the Top Hatch, Bottom Hatch/Power Cell Cap, and Viewport.

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Painting this model called for everything to be painted before final assembly, then spot touch-ups along the way. No problem here, other than it's a whole lot smaller than a 1:35th scale tank. Small-scale AFV modelers will like building and finishing this model kit. I built and completed the TIE/Ln in a single weekend - haven't done that in years! Below right are the two Ps-4 Ion Engine System Thrusters, center parts are not identified in drawings of the TIE/Ln or TIE/In but look cool, and the pair on the left are the Fabritech Sensor Array Panels. All are painted to contrast with the overall color of my TIE/Ln - but I did not paint the newer alloy panels, which would indicate a TIE/In model.

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For the final assembly, I opened up the Instruction Sheet again, and started from the beginning. For such a small model - and mostly because it does not exist in reality - I found opportunity to highlight small items inside the Command Pod to help make them stand out in the dark interior when the model is buttoned up. I selected a silver PrismaColor oil pencil because the color would best catch the meager amount of light that entered the Command Pod. The Imperial TIE Fighter, though numerous and considered expendable by Rebel Alliance Pilots, was very well maintained. They were refurbished after every mission - a TIE Pilot could reasonably expect to get into a near-new TIE Fighter on each mission. I wanted to add a little in way of maintenance scuff marks and such to give the Spartan interior a little more interest. I even picked out the headrest in XF-7 Flat Red to make my TIE/Ln a bit more unusual.

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Without the sidewalls in place, the Cockpit sub-assembly kind of looks like the original Time Machine. The addition of decals for the instrument status lights on the sidewalls in the Cockpit is a welcome addition by Fine Molds. Painting raised detail would have been a bit sloppy. Of special note here: the decals do not need any extra coaxing to lie down on the model parts. In the photo below, I used Micro Set on the left-hand sidewall, and to the right I applied Micro Sol. Notice the edges of the decal curling up with the more aggressive Micro Sol. Id have to dilute this with water carefully applied with a fine brush and wait for it to dry to smooth those edges back out - nervously. Eventually, they did straighten out acceptably. Note: this decal detail for the Control Tiles is not entirely accurate - they don't cover the entire surface of the Cockpit Walls. But, since this is a kit review - I put them all on. It makes for a busy, if not bewildering, display inside the cramped Cockpit.








In painting my Wing Braces, I decided to weather them (fade) a bit more than the Command Pod - for further visual interest. I wanted a compromise between the stated solar collection purpose and my suspected heat dump/exchanger function. Also, when I looked at the TIE Fighters on the movie screen, my eyes are always drawn to the Command Pod. I wanted a little contrast between the Wings and the Pod to also draw the viewers eyes in the same way.

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The Wing Braces snap-lock tightly into the center hexagon of the Solar Collection Array Panels. I applied tiny drops of super glue inside the area that would be hidden from view. There is no need to apply glue to the outer edges of the Wings - unless you were sloppy in removing the parts from the sprues, or warped them during cleanup. There is no doubt that having the Wing Braces separate parts from the Solar Collection Array Panels make the most striking feature of the TIE Fighter easy to render for even a novice modeler. No masking is necessary if you paint the parts separately and are careful to mate them in the end.

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The front bulkhead of the Cockpit (immediately behind the viewport) was hand-painted XF-53 Neutral Grey.What I did here was actually "wash" the area with the Neutral Grey 80% thinned with Lacquer Thinner. This served to remove the airbrushed XF-19 Sky Grey down to the XF-1 Flat Black primer more than to "paint" the bulkhead Neutral Grey. I liked the effect. With the sidewalls in place, the Cockpit really looks cramped. Reminds me of Lord Darth Vader's Meditation Chamber aboard his Command Star Destroyer.

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When all of this dried, I proceeded to continue the assembly per the Instruction Sheet. Putting the halves of the Command Pod called for some minor cleanup along the horizontal seams, but the Fine Molds model kit goes together so well, this was a simple task to seal and touchup.

The Cockpit slides into a recess and key cut into the rear half of the Command Pod. There is a little slack in the fit, so make sure you align it properly before mating the front half of the Pod. Make sure it is seated all the way back into the rear half - you'll know it isn't when you have difficulty attaching the front half of the Pod. When its aligned properly, and seated all the way back into the rear half, the front half of the Pod easily slips on.

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To accentuate the fine panels lines engraved on the surface of the Command Pod, I used a diluted wash of Payne's Grey oil paint (why not, I thought - this spacecraft never existed anyway). This is a complementary color to all the grey tones that I used to paint my model. I kept the wash really light - as though solid dark lines might look striking - I think them toy-like in the end result. TIE Fighters also made planetfall - not spending all of their time in deep space - so this affords a modeler a little more option in finishing their model kit, and the wash looks suitably - "dirty". My model would represent such an Imperial Craft, one that routinely made planetfall in addition to deep space patrol duties. The above photo is a favorite; the decals Fine Molds give you really dresses up the interior of the Cockpit from certain angles. In the photo below, the Command Pod is inverted during the oil wash; a ready-made handle is found in the cap from my bottle of Zap-A-Gap.

(Note: The bluish wash with Payne's Grey oils, though thin, darkened the overall tone of the XF-19 Sky Grey to a familiar tone I'm accustomed to watching on the screen. Anytime you wash with oils, remember that you're going to darken the tone of your paint finish - select a slightly lighter shade.)

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Both Command Pod and Solar Collector Arrays (Wings) were treated to the same wash with Payne's Grey colored oils. Though I opted to lighten up the overall color on the Command Pod, the wash helps to tie everything together (pun intended).

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Attaching the wings is simple; Fine Molds engineered a positive lock and a deep enough cavity at the attachment point to make alignment child's play. I left the top hatch off in the following photos to let the paint, super glue, and oils out-gas completely overnight. No need to rush at this point.

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A favorite view - head-on. The Fine Molds model really captures the look of this Imperial aggressor.

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The model is nearly done at this point. Gotta park my TIE Pilot into his Command Chair. The Pilot is simply airbrushed with XF-1 Flat Black, and then brush-painted with X-1 Black to pick-out the polished portions of his flight gear/helmet. Fine Molds even provides decals for adding Imperial Fleet insignia to the Pilots helmet and shoulders, but I painted mine with XF-2 Flat White. The figure has simple, but soft, details. A little drybrushing will help "animate" this figure when you put it into the Command Chair.

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Then comes the Viewport - left off to allow the paint and glue to breath. It was easy enough to fit into place. After I attach the top hatch, I added an identification marking to my model made from a scrap of white dry-transfers and called it complete.

My TIE/Ln represents one of a squadron of defenders based in-system near an important Imperial Trade Route. Not considered a frontline squadron, but not a backwater assignment either, I envisioned this unit would keep their TIE/Ln's a little longer than the rest of the Fleet - which would be converting to the TIE/In at this time. The Imperial Garrison would be based planetside, which meant my TIE/Ln would see atmospheric flight and landings as well as space-based assignments. The small markings and IDs would be for both ground-based and space-based support personnel in maintaining the small fighter craft. TIE Fighters are not commonly seen with a great deal of markings, so I kept mine to a reasonable minimum.

I hope you can tell how highly I think of this release from Fine Molds. It is simply an outstanding model and a pleasure to build and finish. They are worthy of carrying on the Star Wars legacy in model miniature form with work as fine as presented here.



All content Copyright © 1998 - 2017 Jim Lewis, guntruck.com, guntruck.us, guntruck.org, guntruck.net and GunTruck Studios.
All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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