Thank you, Metal Earth, for finally making an A-Wing Fighter (and also for sending one to me to review!). It may not be a true classic-trilogy A-Wing, much like the Y-Wing, but at least we now have the main-three models represented in some form. And boy was it worth it. The detailing in this model is excellent, though not nearly as tiny as the Y-Wing and Treadspeeder.
Unfortunately, this model is not a perfect model. There are a few things that turned out rather rough, at least in my build. I really am not pleased with how the thin strip of metal on the bottom edge of the cutouts on the front-sides is uneven and not at all curved. And in trying to straighten that out, I kinda smushed the front a little, so it’s a little flatter than it should be. And the rear / engine section seems to sag down a bit, relative to the rest of the model. But I am pleased with how the side-guns turned out – those were a lot of work. And the cockpit is so wide open that all the details inside are easily seen, which is not always the case.
So at this point, you’re probably wondering (or have an inkling already) how the challenge level compares to the Y-Wing and Treadspeeder. I would have to say that this model comes in well under those two, but is still a rather challenging model. As I said before, there aren’t nearly as many tiny details in this one. And no part that were teeny-tiny multi-step-but-all-in-one-piece types. So most of the challenge of this model comes from curving. Lots and lots of curving. Some of that is pretty basic curving, some of it is rather unique and challenging (and guessing).
Now, if you’ve built this model already, you are probably thinking that I was a bit rough on myself over that strip that’s all wonky under the cutouts on the side. And you’re right. because that thing is a pain in the patootie. Seriously. And it wasn’t just for me – just pull up the 360 view of this model on Metal Earth’s website, and you’ll see that they had their own troubles with that section. I could be wrong though. I haven’t gone looking for builds by others to compare my experience against. I don’t really like to compare builds of other builders, cause it’s not a competition. We’re all doing this to enjoy the hobby, so there’s no need to critique others. IMHO.
And I’m going to offer some unsolicited advice that might be completely wrong (because I know I can’t do what these designers do, and make these amazing models – so I may be missing something that’s rather obvious as to why this wouldn’t work), and suggest a way that they might could deal with this if they were to revise the design in future manufacturing runs… Move that strip! Take it off the top-hull (Part 1) and slap it on the sides of the bottom hull (Part 34). And by that I mean just the straight-edge section, leave the curved ends as part of the top hull (and shift the tabs/slots as needed). I even went so far as to mock-up what I’m talking about so I don’t sound so crazy:
EDIT: Skip to the bottom of this post for an update/addendum with an alternate solution shared by another builder – one you can do without them revising the model!
So let’ put that bit aside, and get started on the detailed review… with Part 1 again! No, really. Because I done goofed right away in this model, by completely missing the blue-fold-indicator-line across the back section of the model and only focused on the yellow highlighted rounding sections. But if you look closely, there is a fold-indicator line. And not only does it indicate folding down the length of those creases on either side, there’s a teeny-tiny peak in the middle of the fold-indicator-line, and it’s for a hidden fold edge that goes down the center of the hull. Something I completely missed, period. As in, I kinda want to build this model again to do it right. The real confirmation of that addition fold comes in the Form of part 41 which is attached at the back of the top hull, and clearly has a peak (and can be used as a guide to how much to fold it along this line). I do think, though, that the fold is “greater” at the back than at the front, almost as if the fold is supposed to fade away to flat in the very front.
I love the details in the cockpit in this model, and how visible they are (I think I’ve mentioned that before), but unfortunately, there are some tabs that obscure part of the details, because I couldn’t fold them over the way I would have liked to… because Part 9 was in the way. As such, I might suggest that you consider delaying attaching Part 9 until after you insert and secure the cockpit interior to the outer hull. That way, you can fold those front tabs down nice and clean, and then insert Part 9. Though, be warned, aligning the tabs might be difficult if you take this route. I don’t know, I haven’t tried it (but will, if I do get a chance to revisit this model in the future).
Speaking of that interior… I tried following the instructions on Part 11, by folding one side down first, and then using it as a guide to bend all the folds of that middle strip. But somehow, that one side caused me to twist the center strip on some of the folds and it was rough fixing it. On part twelve, I ended up just pre-folding that center strip (they’re all 90 degree/right angles, so it’s not really that complicated) and then folding down the sides. It went a lot smoother. So… consider that an option.
The cockpit canopy (Part 13) is great, again, because it is so open. But that does make for some extra challenges. Getting the curves right on this takes some attention to detail and focus. And a heaping handful of patience. But it is possible. A couple words of advice, though. First, on the little greeblie sitting on top of the canopy – you might want to apply the curving along the length of it before folding the sides down. Round tightly at the front and ever so slightly where the sections separate at the back. Then when you fold the sides down, you can tweak the curves, but it’s a lot easier to get consistent results when you do them all at once at the beginning. As for the second bit of advice – fold the back window down before inserting Part 15. You don’t have to fold it all the way. But it’s hard to get a good fold on that thin metal after attaching Part 15. I can tell you that, because mine did not turn out well for that exact reason (thing #3 that I would do differently if I got another chance at this model).
I honestly was surprised at how challenging it was to get Parts 17 and 18 into place. I mean, thinking about it, it makes sense, in hindsight. I just wasn’t expecting it. First off, I goofed up and pre-curved the round strips of the edge-flaps the wrong way, because I forgot that the fold forward, rather than the usual fold-back. But beyond that, lining up and securing all the tabs onto the slots in the somewhat delicate frame… that was tough. First thing I figured out, though, was to over-fold that crease between the side-face and back-face, so that it was a tighter V. Then I temporarily aligned and secured the back-facing tabs and slots (light twist), and then unfolded that tight-fold while aligning the side tabs/slots. then did a proper folded tab to secure, and returned to the back and changed those tabs to a fold.
This next one is a pretty simple thing… on Part 24, they use an Engraved-Side indicator, but it’s not really the engraved side – it’s the Painted side. And I really wish they would use the P painted icon in more models. They’ve used it in a few models, and I think it’s worth using as a standard in any of the colored models. But anyways, keep in mind that sometimes, the E can really mean Painted. And check the product photos and 360 view if you are not sure.
Now it’s time for a section that confused the heck out of me: assembly of the guns. And it confused the heck out of me for one simple reason: Part 26, a little greeblie on the side of the gun, disappears from the render shortly after you attach it. Under normal circumstances, parts can sometimes be left off the instructions to simplify them and allow you to focus on what’s changing. Because usually that part is not important. However, in this case, I got really confused because that part was how I was expecting to track the orientation of the assembly. And the absence of the part made me thing that the assembly had been rotated so that the part was no longer visible. Thankfully, I read ahead, and then checked the product photos and noticed that the part was not rotated out of view. So I stopped and spent a few minutes walking through this section and determining, from other details on the assembly, whether that part would be visible, and drawing it in. So that you don’t have to do that, I’ve mocked together a rough render of how the instructions should look with that part rendered in.
Of course, there’s another detail, in this section that I feel like I need to call out. Part 29, a little ring on the back end of the gun, is marked with an Engraved-Side indicator. Which I think was supposed to mean Painted (again) except that the part isn’t actually colored. And so that just leaves the engravings, which should actually be on the inside of the ring, if you check the product photo / 360-view.
On of the more challenging form techniques in the model are the rings / cylinders attached to the vertical fins. The top fins (parts 32 and 33) have a small ring attached to them (I’ll speak to the bottom fins later). Now, the instructions suggest that you form the fins completely, with the ring halves just sticking down, and then form those strips into the rings. I would suggest an intermediate step in there, in which you fold the strips out at roughly 90 degrees before folding up the fins. Then you can forms those strips around a cylinder to pre-shape the ring. And pay attention! Because you are only pre-shaping the ring, you do not close the ring at this point, in face, that’s the last thing you do on this model. Seriously.
And now, we come to a revisit of a previous issue, albeit with another part. Unlike the top-hull, the side flaps being bent is clearly indicated with the usual red highlighting, as well as the blue fold-indicator-line (I think they left the red-highlighting off the top hull out of concern that it would be confusing when combined with the yellow section highlighting used to identify which sections of the part are rounded). However, it is easy, once again, to miss that center-line fold. There is the barest of peaks at the center of the blue fold-indicator-line, and you can see, again, that Part 41 requires a fold to be present to attach the parts together in a flush manner.
When it comes to putting together the numerous cylinders that make up part of the engine, I found that I disagreed with several of the NE markers in this section. More specifically, I found that the indicated surfaces should be the Painted side, so as to have the painted side facing “out,” rather than hidden inside the model. In addition, there is one cylinder strip, Part 46, with an asymmetric etched pattern on it. This only really matters if you want that part to be mirrored properly between the two engines. If you do care about that, make sure that the two engine builds have this part oriented opposite of each other, which will enable that engraving to match in the end (due to the different orientations of the engine cylinder assemblies when attached to the completed model).
We have now returned to the fins, this time with the bottom pair (parts 51 and 53). Instead of the small ring at the end of the fins, this time it’s a long cylinder that makes up what I think of as the body of the engines. This time I would suggest folding out (at a right angle, again) the section that make up the cylinders, and forming the cylinder (complete with securing the tabs) before you fold the fins closed. The reason I suggest completing forming the cylinder is because it’s a lot easier to secure the tabs without the fin folded over. Unfortunately, that won’t prevent the cylinder from being super frustrating and annoying, because that little tab at the back of the fin will keep getting in your way. At least if you are using something to help your form the cylinder over that is at all longer than the cylinder. And no, I don’t really have any good advice for how to deal with this. I mangled the crap out of the back section / tab thingy while trying to form the engine body cylinder. On both of them. Despite trying to be gentle. But it’s not impossible to straighten back out. Of course, you’ll probably have to do some final forming on the cylinder after folding up the fin, so don’t straighten it out until after that. Also, pay attention when attaching parts 52/54 in this section: the E indicator means the Painted side. It was not intuitive to me which direction it went. By that, I mean that I attached it the wrong way and had to correct it through disassembly. It’s how we learn, right?
Oh boy. This model saved the best stuff for (almost) last, kinda like the 1989 Batmobile model. Putting two fairly complicated halves together. And they don’t want to cooperate. But before I get into more detail on this, I’m going to suggest that you do one thing out of order. Attach parts 59 to the backs of the engine body cylinder before you join the two halves together. It’ll be a lot easier to do it at that point, instead of having to work around / through the ring sections that hang down from the top fins. Anyways, for lining up the slots of the two halves together, I originally started at the back, and tried to work my way forward, figuring that would go best. But it didn’t. It actually worked much better starting at the front, and working my way backwards. This did mean that I had to used something thin (a hobby knife, for me) to push some stuff slightly out of alignment to get the masses of engine cylinders to slip inside the single cylinders attached to the back of the top section, but it went alright. Oh, and it was at this point that I realized I had not done the super-hidden folds along the center-line of the top and bottom hulls. Whoops.
The final step in the assembly of the model was quite confusing to me. Maybe I’m just getting older than I thought I was, but it was really, really hard for me to make out what I was supposed to do here. And somehow, I also got confused and thought the two call-out diagrams were sequential steps that happened to each engine, not a call-out for each individual engine. But, for your benefit, I’ve scanned in that section and zoomed in real close to those call-outs. And I’ll also explain the step as best I understand it. First, lift the ring strip that has the tab-end, and find the slot in the strip that seems out of place. Align that slot with the tab that is coming up from the bottom fin, and seat it. Then secure that tab. Once you have done that, you can complete the ring as normal by folding the tab at the end of that strip up, and then slipping the slot at the end of the other strip over it (and secure the tab). The process / parts are mirrored between the two engine rings, thus two call-outs.
And that’s it! Don’t let the length of this review scare you, this is not as challenging a build as it makes it seem. I just made a few more mistakes than I usually do, and there were a few areas of the instructions that I thought could use a bit more clarification. I built this beautiful model over a few nights, putting in just over 6 hours in the process, which you can see all of in the YouTube playlist embedded below, for reference, or if you are really, really bored.
This community! You builders are all awesome, and all amazingly creative in your own ways. I’m glad to be able to update this post with a great idea provided to me by MetalModelAddict, another builder over on Reddit (you can check out his original comment sharing this with me here). It’s really simple, and yet rather ingenious. To help prevent awkward bowing and warping of those two thin strips on either side of the front, you can simply reinforce them with some thin strips of scrap metal from the parts frame! Just find a couple of nice, thin, and long strip and glue them to the rear of those two troublesome strips (and by thin, I suggest thinner than the strips themselves, of course). A wonderful use of the scrap materials, in my humble opinion. I wish I had seen his original comment thread about this before I built my model, then I wouldn’t have any unsightly warping. My hat is off to you, MetalModelAddict! Thank you for sharing, and for giving me permission to share your solution as an update to this post!