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~1/8 Aurora The Blue Knight of Milan
by Lee Rouse

 

I built a lot of models when I was growing up in the 60s. There are a few that stand out in my mind - there was Eddie Rickenbacker’s Spad, a Convair B-58, the USS North Carolina and a couple of plastic bird models (yes there actually were plastic bird models). One of my favorites was the Black Knight, one in a series of medieval knight manufactured by Aurora in the late 1950s/early 60’s. At some point this model, along with the rest of my childhood collection went the way of the trashcan, either broken by accident or subject to firecrackers, or the powerful ballistics of my Daisy BB gun.

Fast forward to July 2002. I was at the IPMS Nationals in Virginia Beach perusing the vendor room when suddenly my eyes locked on a yellowed boxtop with a picture of the Blue Knight of Milan. Although this wasn’t the same Aurora kit that I built as a kid, I bought it anyway, with the intention of building it “some day”.

Over the next 2 years, I took this kit off the shelf a couple of times and mused about how I could possibly paint the intricate engraved detail to represent the gold inlay which is so prominent in the finished armor. The answer came in response to a posting I placed on rec.models.scale - more on that later.

About 2 months ago, about ¾ of the way through a ProModeler Bf110 project, I decided it was time for a change and pulled the Blue Knight box off the shelf.

Kit quality is not bad considering it’s based on 45-year-old molding technology. Parts are molded in a medium blue color. There are approximately 36 parts in this kit, which includes the base, and weapons - halberd and a sword. The parts are covered with recessed engraving that represent the gold inlay, which is so prominent in the box art. Sprues and attachment points are quite large by today’s standards and there is considerable flash. The plastic is hard and breaks rather than bends easily (I found this out the hard way while trying to gently bending out a warp in the halberd’s staff). The plastic shows little reaction to the standard modeling glues such as Tenax7, so early on I decided to use two-part clear epoxy when joining major appendages. The smaller parts did respond to repeated applications of Tenax.

Major subassemblies (i.e., torso, arms, legs) were completed and painted prior to joining them to the torso. Many of the parts did not fit well. For example, to get the shoulder guards to fit properly, I had to apply two-part epoxy, and then clamped each shoulder guard to the torso in its correct position. The arms also did not fit well, and required clamping to the torso along with a healthy application of 2-part epoxy.

Tamiya Blue (X4) was used as the base color for armor. This was airbrushed on using my Iwata HPc. After the armor was painted, Rub ‘N Buff Gold leaf was scrubbed into the engravings with a stiff brush, and then scrubbed/wiped off with a paper towel. If wiped off immediately, the Rub N Buff will remain in the engraved areas, but comes easily off the surrounding plastic.  If this process is not completed immediately, however, the Rub N Buff will dry and becomes very hard to wipe away, even with a Qtip soaked in paint thinner.

The head is a two-piece affair, consisting of the face and back of head. The kit is engineered in such a way that the head must first be completely finished and then sandwiched between the helmet pieces that are glued together, trapping the head. Fortunately the helmet will hide the head seam.

I have only painted a couple of small scale (1/35 and 1/48 scale) figures, so painting a face this large presented with challenges as well as opportunities. Facial features are well molded and the result will look good if you take your time. I pretty much used the technique described in detail in Shep Paine’s book, How to Build Dioramas (I highly recommend this book, now in its second edition, to anyone interested in figure or diorama modeling). The face was first airbrushed with Tamiya flesh. After this was dry, various of artist’s oils (primarily Burnt Sienna, Yellow Ochre, and white) were combined to yield shadows and highlights. The darkest areas (around the eyes) were give a light application of raw umber which was blended into the surrounding flesh tones. Face highlights (cheekbones and lips) were painted with a combination of yellow ochre, white, and a touch of red. The neat thing about oils is that they dry slowly and really give you time to blend colors once they are on the face.

After I glued the halberd back together, I masked the blade with Parafilm and airbrushed the staff with Tamiya Buff. This was followed by a slightly diluted application of various artist oils (e.g, Mars brown, raw umber, raw sienna), until I got a good wood grain look. This was set carefully in my food dehydrator, which was turned out to about half power and allowed to run overnight. The Parafilm was removed from the blade, revealing its bare plastic. The staff, now dry, was masked with Parafilm. The blade was airbrushed with Mr. Color black acrylic lacquer paint. After drying for a couple of hours, the blade received several light coats of Alclad II steel, which was then buffed with a cotton ball.

The sword/scabbard was given a base coat of gloss blue. The scabbard was masked off and gold colored artist ink was airbrushed in multiple light coats over the sword handle. The grip was given a hand brushing of Vallejo gloss black.

The base was first painted with a flat black and then airbrushed lightly with heavily thinned German gray laid in on a rather random manner to break the monotony of the black. The base was then masked and the raised “block” containing the identification plate (“Milan 1520”) was painted a light gray. This was masked again and the ID plate itself was given an airbrushing of gloss black. After this was dry, a silver gel pen was used to go over the raised letters and date.

The blue knight was topped off with a black feather (part of the kit), representing the helmet plume.

My boys, 11 and 14, love the model and think that the Blue Knight is way cooler than my usual WWII aircraft.

This kit, along with some of the other Aurora knights, can usually be found on Ebay, ranging in price from under $10 for a re-release version (around 1970, I think), to well over $100 for the original release. Of course, if you are going to actually build this model, the re-release is the way to go.