Building the Azur I-16 (Part 1)

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For some reason I really got the itch to build all things Soviet. I saw a 1/32nd scale I-16 at the 2005 Nationals and knew I had to build one. Its an Azur Kit. It comes in one of those one piece side opening boxes, by the 20th time sliding the parts back in I was ready to throw it away. As you can see, box is history (I got a bunch of empty Marshall Fields gift boxes at a yard sale for 10 cents each). The parts are already in those shallow black Lean Cuisine trays.

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I intended to trick out this model with all the bling I could get. To get all that bling, you need to do research first. Since I’ve been through this process a few times, I have a “system”. The problem is as I do all my research it becomes a blur, everything starts to look the same. I can’t remember whats what. Then I get sidetracked and pick up on some other unfinished project. When I come back I’ve forgotten where I was, what details went with what version, etcetera. So, now when I am doing research I keep notes.

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I have a format for the notes, its really just an afectation that makes the process more fun. I find a side, top and front view drawing of the particular version I’m going to model and photocopy each on a sheet of paper. Then as I’m going through my references I note the specific detail on the sheet, make an arrow on the drawing and write a breif description. Its also very important to jot down which book its from and the page number. I also end up with lists of reference pictures (such as landing gear covers) from diferent books. I’ll also underline those from the list that will be the most useful during the building process (because there might be 10 on the list). Sounds crazy, but really for me its essential. I’m reading it anyway. This shows a close up of my notes. I have a three hole punch, so I can put them in a binder, very professional.

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This shows other important drawings. For the I-16 hard blueprint type data is very sparse. When I do find this stuff I photocopy it to 1:1 scale (1/32nd) and make a bunch to use while figuring out things during the build. These can get cut up to make templates and such for alignment. This way I dont have to wear my book out opening it over and over. For the landing gear and cockpit these interior views are essential. You still have to guess a little, but at least you can make an informed guess.

Here is my “Bling” punch list:

1) Add venturi tube to exterior starboard side of fuselage.

2) Add little flappy hinge covers on tail surfaces.

3) Note two exhaust stacks in upper port exhaust opening.

4) Add two round portholes to inside fuselage top above instrument panel.

5) Alter exhaust openings to correct shape and thinness.

6) Add seperate windscreen framing (vacuforming?).

7) Alter all control surfaces to create proper seperation and droop.

8) Add stainless steel ring to hold cowl on.

9) Add new port entry door, detail with hinge, locking mechanism, ecetera.

10) Add celluloid windows in gear wells.

11) Add cable cutter to cockpit.

12) Add scratch built landing gear. This will include all componants.

13) Add scratch built cockpit. This will include all componants.

14) Add louvres to inside front of engine cowl.

15) Add improved prop and spinner.

16) Add improved gun muzzles and pilot tube.

17) Add scratch built tail skid and any other visible support structures.

18) Hollow out exhaust stubs.

All componants will be modified in such a manner so that they can be cast in rubber. The goal is to build up 3 complete aircraft (a green Barbarosa one, a whitewashed one and one on skiis).

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Ok, first thing: molded sidewall cockpit “details” have to go. Basically it will get cut, filed and dremeled off.

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This shows one half thinned down. You can see how thick the Azur kit is (pretty darn thick).

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Here is both sides thinned down. Thinness is important for a scale look.

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Using the interior side view I figure out where the stringers will go. I’ll set the width with a strip of masking tape, then use the same piece of tape to mark the other side. This way both sides will be the same. I use a sharpie to make lines, its somewhat permanent, extremely visible and can be easily removed when the time comes.

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The I-16 has only a partial floor of plywood running down the center (for example, the pilot could verify that the landing gear were up in the wheel wells, because there where celluloid openings in the pressed metal well tops). The kit has a slab that goes all the way across, so that has to go. But I can use it as a guide to fabricate the new parts. So I put it in and its crooked! This illustrates that you you should never assume that things are square. I started to really look at the rest of the model and its a little off here and there. It even crossed my mind to fix all these things, but that would indeed be crazy. You’ll notice also that the floorboard is too wide and keeps the fuselage from closing properly. Its limited run, right?

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OK, I got a new floor board, trimmed to fit and all square. I have something to work off of. This will be a reference to place all the other bling in the cockpit. The final one will not look like this at all, it will be more of a plank attached to the top of the aircrafts main support structures. I’ve also got the bulkhead that the seat attaches to cut out. I used the kit bulkhead as a guide.

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Here are the basic parts in place. the Rear bulkhead has been trimmed down. I use my references as a guide as to how big this opening actually is. The fuselage of this aircraft is almost all completely made of wood. The bulk heads and stringers are wood (plywood?) covered with strips of popular and birch. The fuselage should be very smooth.

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For this build I wanted to redo the landing gear. The kit gear is crude, at best. Its virtually impossible to mold anything with a round cross section that looks good. The struts need to be strong enough to support the model. This meant that creating styrene masters (to scale) and casting them is out. Its not that I can’t cast them, but they would be very fragile and would sag over time. In some places the resin would be about .060 thousands (which is about the thickness of a toothpick) and thats too thin as a supporting structure. I’ve made lots of stuff out of brass, its very easy to shape and solder, but Its the wrong color. I know, I know. This would be a good time to see if I could work aluminum. If it worked it would be strong enough to support the model and be the right color. So this is a test piece. I wanted to see how small I could turn it, how easy it was to drill and shape. Turns out aluminum is easy to shape. The only disadvantage is that it cant be soldered like brass, so it has to be mechanically fixed together. That is the tricky part. Its so much easier to make a bunch of components and glue them together somehow. if you can’t do this, then everything has to made from one peice, which is much harder.

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Here is a drawing of the main hurtle with the landing gear. Figure 1 shows the basic structure. The main concept being illustrated here is the stuts connection to the bottom of the airframe. All the other details of the strut are basically “eyewash” and will be added later. The I-16’s strut has is hinged, because it has to move in two directions as shown in figure 3. It swings up and back. It is pulled up via a cable connected to a hand crank in the cockpit. (There were many problems with this arrangement which led to many accidents). This hinge area is the smallest and weakest part of this exercise and if its going to fail, it will be at this point. The whole structure at this point is about the diameter of a toothpick, that is why I decided it needed to made out of metal. The “eyewash” can be added on top of the metal strut and made from resin because it will not be supporting the model. Figure 2 shows the the hinge in detail.

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Here is a series of images of my first go at making the strut connection. The idea was to turn an axle for the strut to connect to. This axel would be oversized in the center section so that the hinge part could be coaxed out by filing away all the unwanted material. An .035 rod would then be used to connect the two parts together…the axle would be fixed to the wing bottom…you get the idea. The last photo shows the kit part. This method proved to be sound, but I was not happy with how it looked. I changed the actual connection in way that didn’t look right. But having gone through this, I knew what to do.

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Whoa! Look at the time! See you in Part two….