As a moderately advanced model builder, I sometimes like to do something a bit simpler, something I don’t have to think as hard about. I have found that Hobby Boss’s 1/72 Easy Assembly Kits are well detailed, great fitting, and a most of the time, a one-night build (your time may vary). I stumbled on the Yak-3 while shopping for my nephew and decided it would be an interesting build. There are a total of 23 pieces in 3 steps of construction.
The kit only lists 3 colors on the basic instructions sheet, but for the purpose of this review I’ll list the colors I used to finish the project. Flat Black, White, Flat Red, Russian Blue, Light Ghost Gray, Silver, a custom mixed Gray Green, Pale Green Blue, and Gunmetal. I use Vallejo Acrylics for all my projects except where bare metal is the final finish. Since there is a vagueness of the actual colors, do some research into what the finished model that others have done looks like.
This shows the construction of the cockpit area, the mating of the cockpit to the lower wings, and the mating of the upper fuselage to the wing section. The glass is installed in this step, but let’s wait until the last step to do the glass.
I painted the complete cockpit section Light Ghost Gray, then painted the end of the control stick and seat Flat Black. Not much of the cockpit interior will be seen so remember any extra detail you put here is going to be hard to see. The interior of the upper fuselage as well as the surrounding wing area around the cockpit was painted black. This will help some of the cockpit details to be seen.
This shows the landing gear assembly. Most World War 2 aircraft have their landing gear a natural metal color, so I painted mine silver. You can use varying metallic colors as you wish, some Soviet aircraft were not well maintained and may not have had bright metal gear.
The inside of the landing gear doors I painted Light Ghost Gray, and the entire wheel and tire I painted Flat Black. In looking at Soviet planes of the war a lot of them had completely black-painted wheels, so I went that way here. I didn’t paint the exterior part of the gear doors just yet as they will be painted at the same time the rest of the plane will be painted.
This step has some of the smaller parts being installed. The tailplanes go on, make sure they are aligned and level, at a 90-degree angle to the vertical tail. The tailwheel was simply painted black, the strut was painted silver to match the landing gear struts.
The bottom of the cowling goes on, the radiator scoop goes on the bottom, as does the propeller. My propeller blades were painted flat black and the spinner was left unpainted for now. I also left the propeller off the model until a later step to prevent it from being broken. The main landing gear show they are installed at this step, as are the two small tire cover doors on the fuselage. Take care when installing those doors, a good pair of tweezers will be useful. Paint the interior wells and the tire covering doors for the landing gear Light Ghost Gray.
At this point, the plane shows that it is done and ready for paint. You should have the main part of the nearly finished airplane with the propeller and glass yet to be installed. It’s here that I usually do my painting. Since I use acrylics there are practices I can do that are difficult with enamels. Like brush painting. Brush painting is a skill that is developed over time, and a brush-painted model can look just as good as one that is spray painted. The key is good brushes. Soft bristles with no loose hairs or that stuck out at odd angles. Your brushes should have a point at the end.
I use a wider brush to do large areas first. Brushing all in one direction, keeping my brushstrokes smooth and even. Be careful that your paint is not too thick or thin, about like melted ice cream is the consistency you really need. Flat paint dries much faster than gloss, you can check if it is dried by the surface being “flat” instead of shiny like a gloss. If you need a second coat, start in the same place as the first, retracing your brush strokes and letting each section dry before continuing.
Once you have the main aircraft color on and dry, look at the pattern for the camo and paint that carefully. Always start with the lighter color first, a darker color would be harder to cover with a lighter one. Once the main part is painted set it aside and let it all dry completely.
Waterslide decals add not only authenticity to the project but a splash of color as well. But decals need a smooth surface to stick to, if you apply decals over matte paint you run the risk of something called “silvering”, where air under the decals makes it appear silverish in the finish. So before we apply decals let’s brush on a coat of two of clear acrylic wax, I use Pledge Revive It Floor Gloss. This provides the smooth finish I need and does not react with the acrylic paint. Sometimes you may brush on too much wax, if it begins pooling anywhere in the model you can either brush off the excess or just blow it off the model. Shaking it gently will also remove excess liquid wax. If you need 2 coats to get a nice shiny finish you can do so, just make sure the first coat is completely dry. If you get a milky white look to the wax don’t worry, it will all eventually dry clear.
Apply your decals as you normally would. There is a product called MicroSet that helps decals stick to your model’s surface, you can carefully brush on the chemical just as your decals dry for a great look. MicroSet allows decals to sink into panel lines and over raised rivet details. Once the model is completely dry you need to seal the decals again with one coat of gloss wax.
Your final finish should be a dull coat. In my building of this project, I used my airbrush to spray the acrylic matte finish over the entire aircraft. You can purchase spray cans of dull coat, I would recommend the Tamiya Lacquer Flat Finish, TS-80. Remember to spray very thin, fogging coats, don’t get it on too thick, there is no way to remove the lacquer if you get too much. Allow each coat to dry at least 30 minutes before applying the next coat.
Painting glass parts take a steady hand and are one of the most important parts of successful modeling. In 50+ years of modeling, I have had a few models where I have messed up painting the framework on a canopy This is another great reason for using acrylics, as if you mess up you can wash your wet paint off, dry the part and try again. For this reason, I’m going to mask the parts I don’t want to get paint on. The key here is to use good masking tape and if you have to use your X-Acto knife to cut thin strips of tape to fit the canopy. Mark sure to burnish (press hard) the edges of the tape to the glass, but not too hard as to break the plastic. Paint evenly, slowly. Glass may take several coats to cover the framework. Once dry remove the tape, any bleed through can be cleaned up with rubbing alcohol and a Q-Tip swab.
Once all of the decals and final finishing were done and completely dry I installed the canopy. There are two small tabs on the sides of the canopy that fit into the fuselage. If those tabs prevent you from getting the canopy on cleanly they can be removed, they are there to guide the canopy into a proper location only.
This aircraft is but one of many Easy Assembly Kits out there, and Hobby Boss has a wide variety of American, German, Japanese, and even Russian aircraft to choose from. They are relatively inexpensive and also look great when done. Even an experienced modeler needs a break from technically difficult kits or wants something for a short building time. My total build time for this project, factoring in drying time for the paint, was about 90 minutes spread over two days (a weekend). It will share space with my other Easy Assembly kits, like the P-40 Kittyhawk, F4F Wildcat, F6F Hellcat, P-47D Razorback, Spitfire, Hurricane, and others. All were built and finished with the methods described here.
EDITORS NOTE: When I began this project I had intended to build the East Russia, 1944 marked aircraft. When applying the decals it became immediately obvious that the decals were old and crumbled in the water. There was no saving that version of the aircraft. Since I cut my decals out individually the other version’s markings were intact. I sealed them with a spray decal sealer and used them instead. The camo pattern does not fit the decal markings per the instructions, as it would have been labor-intensive to repaint the entire aircraft I decided just to use the East Russia camo with the 157 Sqdn. markings.