W Model, 1/72 1S91 SURN “Straight Flush” Radar for SA-6 Gainful

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To be honest I did not know much about this vehicle; I picked it up because it looked cool and I wanted to see how W models’ kits look like. This Lithuanian company specialises in Soviet era missile launchers, radars and other unique-looking vehicles in 1/72. I’ve known about these models for a long time; even when I was still living in the US I had my eyes on them. Back then I had very little disposable income, and the pricing took these models out of my reach; things have improved (somewhat) since then, so I took the plunge, and got one to see how they measure up as models.

The 1S91 vehicle is a part of the 2K12/SA-6 Soviet mobile surface-to-air missile system to provide medium to low level defence for ground forces. The system itself typically consists of four missile launchers carrying three missiles each, four missile transports, and the 1S91 SURN vehicle. Interestingly there are several 1/35 and 1/72 options available for the missile launcher platform, but the mobile radar has not received much love from model makers, even though if I may say so, it does look wicked.

The 1S91 (SURN, NATO designation “Straight Flush”) mobile radar is based on the GM-568 tracked chassis developed by MMZ (Mytishchinskiy Mashinostroitelniy Zavod). It is a 25 kW G/H band radar with a range of 75 km, equipped with a continuous wave illuminator, in addition to an optical sight. The vehicle has two radar stations – a target acquisition and distribution radar (1S11; the lower radar station) and a continuous wave illuminator radar (1S31; the upper radar system), in addition to an IFF interrogator and an optical channel. The two radars can turn independently.

The model comes in a typical cardboard box with the boxart printed on top. The parts are placed into zip-lock bags, and cushioned with newspaper. The system seems to work; even though the model has several large and delicate parts, nothing was broken. Some parts were detached from their pouring blocks, though.

The quality of resin is excellent, no bubbles, flash or imperfections. The radar dishes are thin, and very nicely done. On the back of some larger, flat parts you can see the ribbing left over from the 3D printing process, but none of it is present on the visible surfaces. The PE sheet is really well done; it’s just the right thickness. This is an important point, since the PE has structural functions in this model. I built kits that had PE so thick it was really difficult to cut even with pliers, and other sets had PE that was so thin it crumpled when you touched it. All in all, the detail is really good; W Models seems to have a very high standard of production.

Unfortunately the parts are not numbered on the casting block, but despite the relatively large number of parts, finding the right one was not much of an issue during the building stage. The instructions are (mostly) clear and computer generated. Overall they do help a lot during the building process, but there were some issues which were difficult to sort out, and I could only do so with the help of reference photos found online. Henk’s webpage has photos of the model and CAD drawings; they certainly helped a lot as well. It would be useful to show the different sub-assemblies once finished from several angles; the attachment of the optical sight to the side of the 1S31 radar was especially problematic. (The instruction has an arrow pointing to the middle section of the structure that holds the radar dish; the part should go to the bottom, however, where there is a small notch already.)

The assembly is relatively straightforward. The first steps detail the assembly of the hull. The lower hull needs to be assembled from flat parts. The fit is overall OK, but there were gaps between certain panels; this is why I prefer the “tub” style resin hulls. In this case I needed to use filler to fill these gaps. To make sure the attachment points of the hull sections are as sturdy as possible once the CA glue set I used some green stuff on the joints from within. It also served as filler for the larger gap on the back of the hull.

The holes for the swing arms for the road wheels need to be enlarged so that the locating pins fit; it’s also a bit unfortunate that there’s nothing to help setting the arms at the correct angle.

The tracks are the typical straight resin pieces. You need to put them in warm (~50C) water to soften them, and then gently wrap them around the drive wheels/idlers, and form the appropriate sag where necessary.

The drive wheels have very well defined teeth, but the fit to the tracks is a bit problematic; the drive wheels were a tiny bit wider than the distance between the corresponding parallel holes on the track. It’s possible with a very careful application of force to push the teeth into the holes in the track, but one has to be cautious not to break them off.

The second big assembly is the radar itself. As mentioned the two radars can rotate independently from each other, so it does not really matter how you orient them. Regardless, it is a good idea to actually decide before starting. The orientation of the radar dish will be determined by the first steps (step 7), so make sure you understand what part goes where, and how it will look once finished (mine is quite random, since I did not realize this in time). Another thing to mention: the service plank next to the top radar dish has a collapsible handrail. The instructions show the vehicle with the dishes in forward position, handrail erected. If the top dish is in use, the handrail would be in its way and is folded down. The instructions do not mention this possibility, and if you- like me- you build the model with the dish off-center, it will be an issue. (Some illustrations bellow of what I’m talking about: on the photos you can see the handrails folded; on the model and CAD drawing you can see how it gets in the way. Obviously further down you will see my model as well.)

http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-1s91-surn-vehicle-nato-designation-straight-flush-with-the-radar-for-71629833.html

The travel configuration of the vehicle is pretty interesting, too; it’s a shame it’s not an option with the kit.

2K12 Kub air defense system - 1S91 SURN

(It shows how the complex metal guard system on the front of the hull functions to protect the radars during transit.)

Once the radar assembly is complete, some further details are added to the hull, such as the already mentioned guards, and we’re done. (The guard system seems to be consisting of two independent curved rails; one fixed, and one movable. They should be touching in the folded position (when the radars are erected and are in use); yet part 34 is shorter, and does not reach the others. Since it’s literally just a curved piece of resin rod, it should be easy to fashion a longer replacement piece. I kept this parts for the purpose of this review.

The model is actually quite complex, but not immeasurably so. It can be built with a reasonable amount of experience; even the PE handles well.

Painting

Vehicles like this do not get banged around as much as tanks and other armored fighting vehicles, and if they do get to the wrong end of the enemy’s guns, they usually end up a mangled, smoking wreck, so excessive chipping and other weathering was not really an option. They also tend to avoid heavy mud, and are kept in pristine condition by their crew. Since I wanted to depict a non-derelict vehicle, I kept the model reasonably clean.

I decided to put everything together before painting; that meant the tracks as well. I kept the radar installation detached for ease of handling but everything else was fixed.

I washed the model in warm, soapy water, and let it dry for a couple of days.

The model received a German Grey primer coat (Vallejo) to provide a good, stable base for the subsequent paint coats, and also to pre-shade the model. There is an argument for not using primer: modern paints adhere to almost any surface. With resin I found that it’s still a good idea to prime first.

Once the paint cured (about 24 hours) I misted a couple of coats of Tamiya OD dark green onto the model, following with subsequently lighter shades (lightened with tan and yellow). The lighter shades were concentrated on the areas which would be exposed to more light if the vehicle was standing outdoors – the top of the hull, the lower interior curve and the top of the radar dishes, etc. I decided to highlight a couple of protruding details: hatches, top of storage boxes, etc, with a slightly lighter green. (I used tan to lighten the base color; if you use white it makes the resulting color look faded. Sometimes it is the look you’re going for, but in this case I wanted a more natural variation.)

The lower part of the hull was treated somewhat differently. The roadwheels got a small spray of green each, and I went over the rubber rims with dark grey using a very fine brush. I also corrected the oversrpay on the tracks using the primer. The color was pretty good for the tracks; I used some rust wash to give them some variance, and a silver pencil to simulate the worn down, shiny parts.

I diluted earth colored pigments in white spirit, and after leaving the mixture on the roadwheels, and the bottom of the hull for half an hour, I wiped the excess away with a damp brush. I repeated this step with a couple of earth colors going from lighter to dark.

True Earth has a couple of filters in their product lines; I bought them a while ago, but had no luck with them so far. (I did work out you needed a very flat surface to apply it; the surface tension tends to pull the filter into droplets.) I sprayed some dark aging and light aging filters on some selected areas without diluting the product: around the turret, on the lower part of the turret, on the bottom of the tank; the effect is not as smooth as I wished it to be, but it does produce an interesting discoloration here and there.

I used some yellow, light brown and yellow filters on the model in several coats; the lighter ones were focused on the top parts, the darker on the bottom. As further filter I used Tamiya’s transparent yellow sprayed from above; it provides an interesting brighter highlight. Once the model dried, I gave it a coat of semi-gloss varnish, and applied pin washes to make the details stand out. (I usually don’t use black; dark brown is a good color for a wash.) This was a good time to add some discreet streaks using oil paints as well.

I printed out some Hungarian signs a while ago on decal paper; I’ve used these to give the vehicle some sort of identity.

A matte varnish was used to seal everything, and give the final sheen of the model, and I applied a couple of layers of dust using Tamiya’s weathering sets (the makeup-sets), and different dust colored pigments straight. I used the pigments dry, and rubbed them on using a rubber brush -something I saw on Armorama. Since I only wanted a moderately dusty vehicle whatever is left on it would be sufficient.

That’s pretty much it. I have to say the model is quite impressive, both in quality and in appearance. If you don’t mind the scale and the price, it is highly recommended.

 

I would like to hear your thoughts- please let me know what you think in the comment section.

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A quick update (and no photos)

Well, promotion came with it a new job and new responsibilities. Adulting presently is slowing down my main focus of interest- model building. Since I have not posted for a long while, here’s a quick update.

Soon to be coming: W-Model’s 1S91, Meng’s FT-17, the finishing touches on the T-55AM, OKB’s AMX-40, Revell’s Cromwell, and a couple of WH40K figures (Abaddon himself in three different versions prominently featured among them). Most of these models are on the verge of completion; should be able to finish at least two of them this week. MiniArt’s T-60 and Zvezda’s Panzer IV ausf. H are in a more nascent state.

On reading fronts: I’ve read the two volumes of D-Day Through German Eyes and can wholeheartedly recommend for anyone who is interested in what actual combat looks like (quite horrifying, in fact), and how the Germans thought about the war. I have to say it was an eye opening read; the books are well worth the couple of bucks.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 5.

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Please find the first, second, third and fourth part here.

I used German Grey primer by Vallejo to create a good, sturdy surface for the subsequent layers of paint. I used to use spray cans as the application is quick, but it’s also somewhat risky. (You can easily flood the model with paint.) Setting up the airbrush and the fume extractor (paintbooth) is time consuming, but I think overall it’s a better alternative. This particular primer is pretty easy to use, too, as it does not require any dilution; it can be sprayed straight out of the bottle. I sprayed the lower sections of the anti-HEAT rubber sideskirts separately.

Once the primer dried, I sprayed rough patches of different rust colors, making sure the rubber side-skirts remain dark grey/black (with the scale effect I found dark grey looks better than full-on jet black).

I assembled the tracks using a very thin liquid glue. I normally glue two links together, and then join up these sections into larger and larger sets of links. The glue allows for relatively long time to work the tracks, so it’s relatively simple to push them around the drive wheels and idlers after 30-40 minutes of drying time. (I almost switched the drive wheels and idlers; I’ve built too many German tanks lately I guess.)

The tracks were painted with the same primer, rubbed using a metallic pigment to give them a nice, steel shine. I also applied some rust colored washes (relatively bright orange to dark brown) at this stage. (The dust will be added later.)

I went over the model using OD green from Tamiya on the lower chassis and road-wheels. This is a dark, an almost grey-green color; this color represents the darker areas covered by shadows. I painted the rubber rims with a dark grey color. This was layered with different dust and mud colors, pigments and other weathering techniques simulating dust and caked-on mud. I tried Tamiya’s dust and mud weathering sticks as well. I pushed the stick onto the surface, and used a wet brush to spread the paste around; it’s actually pretty easy method yielding realistic results.

I installed the tracks, and glued the rubber side-skirts into place.

I added AK’s Chipped effects in two layers, and waited again for things to dry. It took about an hour or so, and then I painted the tank with the same OD Green as I applied to the lower chassis.

I kept adding tan and yellow to the base color, and kept layering it onto the tank from the top of the tank; I wanted to lighten up mostly the surfaces that are illuminated by the sun (and which are normally more faded, anyhow). Adding yellow to the base green yielded a pretty nice Russian green, leaving the original color in the recesses.

I waited about thirty minutes for the paint to dry, and started to create the worn-off, chipped paint effect using a wet, stiff brush. I applied some water onto a small section, waited a bit, and used the stiff brush to wear off some of the top layer. (Sometime I managed to rub the paint off to the resin; these sections were retouched with primer.)
The chips on the rubber parts revealed a dark grey color, corresponding to the rubber; chipping on the rest of the tank showed different hues of dark brown representing rusted metal.

Once I was happy with the amount of paint chips, I waited for the tank to dry.

True Earth has a couple of filters in their product lines; I bought them a while ago, but had no luck with them so far. (I did work out you needed a very flat surface to apply it; the surface tension tends to pull the filter into droplets.) I sprayed some dark aging and light aging filters on some selected areas without diluting the product: around the turret, on the lower part of the turret, on the bottom of the tank; the effect is not as smooth as I wished it to be, but it does produce an interesting discoloration here and there. Not what I was going for (I was lead to believe applied it would look more like a darkened patch paint with a smooth transition), but a good one nevertheless. (It’s just one of those things: a product that promises easy and spectacular results turns out to be not so easy to use after all. The thing is if you need to have a learning curve to use something to make your job easier, it does not necessarily fulfil its promise.)

I applied traditional dark brown oil filters on the bottom part (with the side-skirts), and a light brown filter on the top. Another filter, bright yellow this time was applied on the top surfaces only. The tank was given some time to dry (a couple of days) and then I tried something I wanted to try for a long time: Tamiya transparent paint as filter. I used green on the bottom parts, which were supposed to be darker, and yellow on the top again.

After two days of letting the tank dry I sealed everything with a coat of gloss varnish, which was followed by a dark enamel pinwash.

The overall effect is quite nice; I managed to get that yellowish-brownish green I was going for.

The tank is now looking like an actual vehicle…

Grim Skull Miniatures: Chaos Rotten Plague Rhino conversion

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I quite like the Warhammer 40k universe and regularly paint the odd figure here and there. The cost of larger vehicles unfortunately is very high, especially the resin Forgeworld offerings; when it comes to decide between a small Imperial Knight or a 1/35 T-54 with full interior that is considerably cheaper, not surprisingly I go with the latter. (Let’s not even mention the $4001200 battle titans.) It’s a shame, really, because there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff out there by both Games Workshop and Forgeworld.

There are alternatives, though. Mostly Ukrainian and Russian companies started to produce “alternatives” for the miniatures; they are cheaper, and more importantly, a lot of times much better than the originals. (I’ll paint a not-quite Abaddon and not-quite Mortarion figure soon, too.)

I’ve done a review of the set on ModellGeek some time ago; since then I have been working on and off on the painting of this model.

This particular conversion is for a (not quite) Death Guard Rhino, which is corrupted by the Lord of Decay- hence the pustules and blisters and cysts (not to mention the tentacles, horns, talons and other… things that stick out of this vehicle). The price is reasonably low, and it requires a Games Workshop Rhino or Chaos Rhino as a base vehicle. (I bought a built one on ebay quite cheap, and just cut it to pieces.)

The model arrived in a very nice black box; quite professionally packed. It does not contain many parts, and the assembly is really straightforward. You essentially need to replace the side, the top and the front armor plates, and the folding door on the back. (You can buy tracks separately from the company if you feel like replacing the kit tracks as well.) The fit is relatively good, but filler will be necessary between the side and top panels; fortunately in this case you can be creative, and form additional horns, protrusions, etc. to mask off the seams. The right side- where the open hatch is with the skeleton inside- is quite deep, which necessitates some surgery on the interior side wall. You will need to cut the metal door with the frame out, so that the resin piece can fit into its place.

The victim

Some of the original kit is still visible, and the contrast between the old and the new parts is quite large. Perhaps texturing these regions with some putty would help; this is what I did on the lower front plate. There is so little of the original vehicle still visible, and the contrast is so large, I can’t help to think it would have been better just to make the whole vehicle out of resin, instead of creating a conversion.

The set does not provide a commander’s cupola; I used the plastic parts that comes with the Rhino. This is not an ideal solution; the cupola that came with my kit did not fit because of all the tentacles and whatnot on the top. It also looks quite out of place since it is not visibly corrupted like the rest of the model; you would expect every part of the Rhino to be uniformly touched by the Warp. I simply reused the hatches only, and made a couple of tentacles and cysts out of green stuff.

The folding door is also somewhat weird. In a vehicle like this you’d expect that most internal space is taken up by indescribable horrors spawned by the Warp -after all, a lot of it is sticking out from every opening. Yet the inside of the folding door s perfectly clean, not to mention the crew compartment, which is unchanged from the original vehicle. Interestingly the door has the exhaust pipes on them, which are apparently open into the crew compartment.

The assembly took about an hour. I have base-coated the whole tank with Tamiya Hull Red, and then went on creating as convincingly rusty hull as I could. Yes, I understand that it’s made out of adamantium, but when it comes to a fictional metal vs demonic corruption, I think the demonic corruption wins. The Rhino is rusted and that’s that.

The painting was a long process; mostly trial and error. As I’m mostly painting armor vehicles, I definitely need to learn the “miniature style” painting with high contrast and nice blending of colors. My WH40K models tend to be painted and weathered like a scale model of a real vehicle.

First step: the base color of the ATC. Obviously it needed to be rusted. I realized very long time ago that painting something with a color named “rust” will not give a realistic result; what you need is layers upon layers corresponding rust colors, making sure they are positioned where you would expect to see them. To begig with thick armor plats tend to have deep red/brown colors; thinner parts and the edges tend to have lighter rust colors, like orange or even yellow. So this is what I did.

And what colors did I use exactly? Well, what can be more realistic than actual rust? I ordered actual iron oxide pigments available in three colors -deep brown, red and yellow (Ochre), and using these I mixed up various shades of rust. I used a sponge to apply the mixture: dab the sponge into matte varnish, dab it into the pigment mixture, and into a cloth so that most of the pigment actually comes off, and then use this on the surface of the vehicle. It’s important you don’t add too much at a time, but build up the effect gradually. I used mostly the darker shades; yellow directly only was used on edges. As you can see it from the photos the contrast between the yellow and the rest is pretty high; this was taken care of later. This was deliberate; I wanted to have some contrast left after I finished the weathering, and subsequent steps had the effect of lessening the contrast. I used several brown and yellowish filters on the hull to blend the colors together, and then rubbed metallic pigments onto certain areas. (Focused on the edges mostly, but I rubbed pigments onto the “wounds” where the metal opened up as the horns were pushing out, and also on parts of large, flat areas.)

The tusks were pained with buff first, then ivory was blended towards the tips, making a nice, soft transition between the colors. The boils and whatnot were first painted with blood red, then using brighter and brighter red and orange colors mixed with lahmian medium I added somewhat translucent layers on top. At the very end I put a yellow dot off-center onto each, then a final layer of very translucent orange to blend the colors together. Once everything was finished I went over the boils with a clear, shiny varnish to make them look wet.

The bones were first painted by white (to make then stand out), then went over them using a yellowish white (well, bone-colored) paint. The effect was further helped using dark brown washes with diluted Citadel inks, which acted both as filters (modulating the bone color), and as washes (forming shadows on the surface).

The top of the vehicle looked like a gigantic wound, so I used bright reds and orange to make it look like raw flesh. The underlying areas were painted a deep, angry red, with brighter and brighter reds (later oranges) layered on the protruding areas. Since the organic matter seemed to sweep over the metal parts, it was painted in a more brownish red to provide some transition. I accentuated the effect using bright red inks; some of the overhanging tissue was only tinted with this mixture (applied in several coats).

I was not sure what the spikes were representing, so I kept them rusty.

There were tiny, oblong shapes all over the hull; I took them as mites or other parasites, and painted them bright green- to give some contrasting color to the model.

The tentacles were somewhat of a dilemma. After considering green and flesh colors, I decided on purple. The base was dark purple (tentacle purple by Citadel’s nomenclature; the actual inspiration for the paint scheme), which was highlighted using pink purple mixed with lahmian medium to blend it in easier, to make the color somewhat translucent. Some of the thicker tentacles had suckers on them, similar to an octopus’; these were painted carefully with bright pink. Once everything dried, I covered them with heavily diluted purple ink in several coats until they looked as if the brighter colors were underlying tissue showing through a translucent skin. The effect was surprisingly good considering I was improvising.

The triple-skull mark of Nurgle was painted first with a light, bright green, that represents heavily oxidized bronze, and I added some very dark metallic bronze colors on some areas somewhat randomly. (I tried to make sure mostly the parts that are jutting out would be painted; after all we’d expect these parts to be rubbed clear of the oxide.)

The holes on the exhaust on the top were painted with a very bright green, again, to provide some contrast. The exhausts on the back were blocked with some run-off. Since we’re talking about plague and Nurgle here I decided on a green paintscheme; I tried to emulate how other paint lava and other hot materials which seem to be emitting light on their own.

The goo was first painted with the lightest, brightest green I had, and darker and darker greens were blended onto this surface, making sure that the original bright green was still visible in the deep crevices, and that the color gradually darkens. The idea was that as the goo cooled, the colors darken; hence the large dark green surfaces. The rims and the interiors of the exhaust pipes were pained bright green to simulate the green light they reflect from the radioactive/infectious goo.

Well, pretty much that’s all. I really enjoyed the painting process although it took an awful lot of time. I’ll get a couple of Death Guard marines, I’ll paint up Mortarion, and I’ll have a little happy family of plague bearing Space Marines on my shelf in no time.

 

1/35 ESCI 7.5-cm l.I.G. 18

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Another old build finished… This is the model of a 75mm light infantry howitzer used by the German army.

The model is quite hold- it’s older than I am in fact, from 1976. I got it as a present from a friend years ago, back in the US, started to build it halfheartedly, and put it away in 2009 half-finished when I moved over to the UK. It was made of cheap-looking bring green plastic (similar color to the Army Men toys), and was not exactly inspiring me to finish it. It received a panzer grey coat, and that was it.

It’s incredible how much presentation matters with models. The “Eastern European” 1/72 kits (UM, Attak, etc) look pretty shabby and amateurish unpainted. Flash everywhere, the plastic is not the best, the attachment gates are thick… and usually the plastic has weird, uneven colors – nothing to drive you to press on with the build. Case to the point: my KV-2 build. It had a strange, toy-like feel to it unpainted, but once I applied the primer coat, it’s all gone, and suddenly you have a pretty detailed model in your hands. Whereas a professionally packaged kit with crisp details and good looking instructions can just make you want to drop everything and start building it. I might be shallow, I know, but presentation matters.

I dug it out three years ago from a box in my mother’s attic; by that time one of the wheels broke off. I brought it with me to the UK, but it was kept in a box forgotten and unloved. About two months ago I got fed up with stalled projects; so the SiG got a new lease in life. Since it was the quickest to finish, I thought I’d start with it. I drilled a hole where the wheel axis was, re-attached the wheel with an evergreen plastic rod, and started weathering the gun. It’s not a very detailed model (the breach assembly, the optics are very much simplified), but it’s detailed enough.

First step was a couple of light coat of blue filter; which was followed by some dark brown pin washes.

Once everything dried I added some lightened base-coat to the raised details and edges as highlights.

I tried a couple of AK products on this build; after all this seemed like an ideal opportunity to practice – if I improve the looks, fine; if I mess up the build, then that’s fine, too.

I did some streaking using different streaking products. Add a dot using a small brush, and used a moist (almost dry) wide brush with downward motion to form the steaks. I also added rust-streaks with the same method. I also added earth effects to the bottom of the gun shield and the carriage. I was reluctant before to use this particular product, as the contrast seemed high when I applied it. Once it’s semi-dry, you can (and should) remove, adjust the pigments with a moist brush. After drying the contrast will be much smaller, and the effect more realistic.

I also tried some of the dust effect products around the rivets and whatnot; they work reasonably well. To be honest using oil paints and pigments diluted with alcohol/white spirit/water is still a better option, but I might just be too old school for this.

As finishing touches I used Tamiya’s make-up set to add more dust and some metallic shine to the gun.

Is it a good model? Not particularly. It was nice, however, to finally finish the build. I built up a small stash when in the US, and it feels good to finally start building these models. (Even though a lot of them are somewhat outdated; we finally have a King Tiger with full interior in plastic, and MiniArt’s T-55 is coming also with full interior, I still feel good about finishing them.)

 

 

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 4.

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Please find the first, second  and third part here.

To be honest this approach of aftermarket bonanza is going to the way of the dinosaurs. MiniArt has just announced a T-55A with full interior.

Finally finished with most of the build. Getting closer to the end… Smaller jobs are finished. I did the back of the turret as best as I could. I zoomed into the box art photos of the Miniarm set, and tried to figure out what goes where. Somewhat unsuccessfully, since the instructions are frankly quite bad, too. (The PE parts are not numbered correctly for one. As mentioned the reference photos are bad, too…) The extra magazines for the machine gun mounted on the back had some hiccups. First of all I only had five in my set, not six. Second the PE straps that should have been going around them were short. What I did was simply cutting the straps in the middle, and attaching them to the front first. I added the handgrabs, and the wires to the smoke candles – soldering wire is incredibly useful for these tasks.

Well, I did the best I could -and had patience for; this will have to suffice.

I also attached the mounting points for the anti-HEAT sideskirts. Many tanks were not equipped with it, but since they are there, I might as well use them. I started with the middle section on the left side, as it has a special shape (due to the exhaust port), and used it as a reference point for the rest. The back unit is shorter than it should be, and the front overhangs a bit; somewhat annoying but easy to solve with a blade. (I simply fitted the cut off piece from the front to the back.) I’ll leave the side-skirts off for the time being; they will be attached once the main color is applied.

Tamiya wants you to make your own towing cables; it certainly makes more sense than MiniArt’s optimistic approach of prividing them as straight plastic parts. I normally use picture hanging wires for this role; it’s very life-like, and behaves like cable.

I snapped a couple of photos using my phone (hence the quality), and called it finished.

 

 

So this is where I am right now. The tank needs a base coat, and then painting can commence.

Keep tuned in…

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 3.

Please find the first and second part here.

And the build goes on…

Interior

After some finishing touches to the interior, I closed the turret down. It really bothers me that I could not find a good reference for the AM version; I suspect there are a lot of screens and other digital equipment added to the standards layout.  Regardless now it looks like I’m making progress: the tank looks like a tank now. (With no gun barrel in this case.) One real complaint I have about the CMK set is that it provides no ammunition.

I’ve removed the external fuel tanks and reattached them with green stuff, as they did not sit level before. Now they look good. I will do the fuel lines a bit later on; I will use Legend’s photos as reference. (It feels somewhat like cheating, but there you go.)

Exterior

I’ve added the Eduart engine deck grilles; they really do make the model stand out. It is kind of a shame to cover all that nice, shiny brass with paint.

The road wheels were also installed. Over the years, and through the long way this model travelled with me, the poly caps somehow went missing; this made installing the wheels somewhat of a challenge. I overstepped the problems simply by sticking a small amount of green stuff into the cavity where the poly caps should have gone, and glued the wheels in place; once the green stuff set, the wheels were absolutely solidly fixed in place. As I mentioned in part 2 I’m using a Trumpeter individual track set; since the AM version had at least three different types of tracks mounted over the year I’m not too fussed about the exact type. (And now I can look forward to a tornado of incoming angry comments.)

Problems with the Miniarm set

Building the Miniarm conversion I found it out to my great annoyance that the photo of the set on the box (and the advertisement) may contain a resin machine gun, but the set itself does not contain it. After reading the fine print I now understand that this photo shows of several sets on one model, but I find the inclusion of them on the cover quite misleading. (Kind of like the Armory T-72 conversion’s case where the armored shield was not included with the set.)

I guess I’ll stick to the original Tamiya gun (which is not half bad, actually); there is no way in hell I’ll buy another set for this build. It’s getting a bit expensive, even without Fruil tracks. (I’m using someone’s unused Trumpeter individual tracklinks.)

As a side-note: comparing the Tamiya MG to the MiniArt and Trumpeter versions of similar AA heavy machine guns, the MiniArt gun wins when it comes to detail, but the Tamiya is much simpler to assemble. The Trumpeter offering is somewhere in between, but pretty impressive when it comes to detail. (And it’s a different heavy machine gun, to be fair. We’re talking about detail and ease of assembly here.) Different philosophies I guess; I think on the long run the MiniArt version is better as it does look better, but when you’re getting short on patience during a complex and difficult build (which is entirely self-imposed in this case), the Tamiya gun is a bliss. I’ll have to get an ammunition belt though, as Tamiya does not supply it.

There are other inaccuracies as well: some of the smoke candles are already discharged on the cover photo, but you only get the full ones; and the gun barrel is different. Apart from the thermal jacket issue (mentioned below in great detail), the stock photos for the set show the resin piece at the end of the gun barrel to have interior rifling -which mine does not have. To be fair the gun is capable firing an anti-tank missile (which, amusingly, costs about half of what the tank itself costs), and if I’m not mistaken the gun is actually smooth-bore. Two storage boxes only have two sides each; not sure what Miniarm was thinking when they designed them. They literally miss two sides; if you really look close, you can see under them. At this point I just ignored the issue; it would be relatively simple to fabricate the missing sides, but I only had a single damn to give, and damn is gone now. (You can see the missing sides on the photos below.)

Another contentious issue with the Miniarm set is that the instructions are horrible. There are two parts to this. The first is that in many cases the small, photocopied photographs show nothing of how the parts should be placed. You kind of see where they go, but nothing else. I found myself using google to see if I can find reference photos of the set itself to help me with it.

The second problem is that the instructions are incomplete. The back of the turret is quite busy, but you don’t really get an explanation how to use the set to build it up. It’s not very clear how to assemble the holding braces for the AA machine gun for example. I also have a bunch of unused resin parts which don’t seem to be doing anything; I do not know where they are supposed to be going. This does annoy me because I paid for them; I’d like to know how to use them. Even when something is in the instructions, sometimes it does not tell you where to put the finished artifact. In step 2-4 you are instructed to produce a part from multiple small PE pieces, but then it does not tell you what to do with it. I realized long time into the build that it’s actually supposed to be on the right side of the back of the turret. (Walkaround photos…) Also the PE frame of the gunner’s sight is simply missing. It’s there on the photos, but the instructions are quite confusing, and instruct you to cut p23 to size and glue it to the side; p23 looks nothing like the picture, and in any case, it’s shorter than required. It’s also bent, so you can’t really fit it to the straight surface.

The saga of the gun barrel

I started to work on the gun barrel. Interestingly the gun barrel on the cover photo looks absolutely different from what you get in the kit; I find this quite odd, to be honest. There must have been different versions of the T-55AM with and without thermal jacket, but I still find it curious that you get something different than that is advertised on the box cover. (I don’t even mention the fact that the photo had a brass/copper barrel, while you get an ugly aluminum one.)

I was quite wary of this stage of the build; the thermal jacket on the barrel is made out of very tiny resin parts. Especially the tie-downs are horrid: you have wrap each end of the PE tie-downs around a thin, 1.5mm long wire, and connect the two ends with a similarly short piece of wire.

I made a huge mistake and did not anneal the PE with heat before starting to work with it; it was quite difficult to wrap them around the barrel.

I started with a relatively long piece of plastic rod (and in retrospect, a thick one), glued across multiple tie-downs; once the PE set, I wrapped them around the plastic one by one. It’s not a simple process, and unfortunately the CA glue did pile up around the tiny details.

Looking at the reference photos, though, you can’t fail to notice that no matter how thick the wire you use, it will look out-of scale on the model. (Too bad I found these photos after doing most of the work already.)

These pieces of wire are meant to be the bolts holding the tie-downs in place; and they are quite small in real life. Just look at this reference photo from an AM gun barrel’s advertisement:

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Looking at these photos I had one option: I cut the plastic off, and simply used the PE straps by themselves. To be honest the straps on the real gun blend in so much I could probably get away with not using them at all. (My preferred option, but I like pain, so I went with trying to glue the straps on.) This is something that’s not the set’s fault: it’s a technically quite challenging part of the build. (To make the straps themselves more to scale, it would be best to simply use strips cut from aluminium foil; even the PE is too thick for it.)

The PE ridges along the top of the gun barrel are oversized compared to the real thing. Hopefully it will not be very noticeable; the gun barrel has re-formed slits where these need to be inserted, which might hide most of their width.

Trying the gun in the resin mantlet I could not help but notice that the fit is far from snug – there will be considerable amount of filler needed to hide the gaps. It also means I’ll need something more sturdy than CA to fix it in place. (I used the good ole’ green stuff; it fixes the gun into place, and acts as a filler at the same time.)

Miniarm does offer PE lightguards, but to be honest they are difficult to assemble (and require extra wire to add), and look quite unconvincing. These guards were made of about 1.5cm thick metal rods; PE looks quite flat compared to them. (Not to mention it looks weird to mix wire with PE when all components should really look the same.) I just used the Tamiya plastic parts; they are surprisingly good.

All these complaints about the Miniarm conversion by no means are deal-breakers, but they do temper my enthusiasm about it. The detail is impressive, the resin and PE are well designed, and good quality, but I think it’s better just to get the damned Takom kit and be done with it.

Finishing touches

I’ve added all the other bits and bobs to the hull and the turret: the searchlights, various ammo boxes, handholds, wires, etc. Presently I’m looking at walkaround photos and the Takom instructions to figure out how to finish the back of the turret.

I should have finished the tracks before adding the top of the hull; this is the next big step now. The AM version had side-skirts protecting the tracks and the sides of the hull; before I add them I’ll need to install the tracks and paint the lower hull. (Which means I’ll have to learn how to use my Aztek airbrush first.) Once that is done, I can finish the sideskirts (a very daunting prospect since I can’t really make sense of the instructions at this time), and then I can at last paint this beast and be done with it.

Going deep down- the world of 1/144 armor

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This is an interesting part of the armor model world: the 1/144 kits by DLM. They are small little gems; it’s a shame that they disappeared from the market. If you have a chance, grab as many as you can. The presentation, the level of detail, the ease of assembly are all just top-notch; these kits provide a nice break from the 1000+ part 1/35 monsters I sometimes get involved with. For this scale you still get moulded-on detail that rivals some 1/72 kits, and also PE, and slide moulded gun barrels with holes in the muzzle breaks. Thankfully you don’t get individual tracklinks.

 

I’ve built several of these kits in the past: a Leopold railroad gun, a
15 CM S.I.G 33/2 (SF) Auf Jagdpanzer 38(T) Hetzer, two Tiger Is, and a Jagdpanzer IV. I’ve also built Takom’s P1000 Ratte, and the two Maus tanks that came with it. Since the Maus was not featured here before, and it finally resurfaced from the storage box it’s been languishing until now, I thought I’ll give it some time in the spotlight.

All the display boxes were bought from Ebay; they are brilliant for small 1/72 or an average 1/144 armor model.

And since I was taking photos of older builds, I took some more of the Tiger Is; hopefully the macro lens brings out their details a bit better.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 2.

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Please find the first part here.

So the saga continues. This is, by far, the most complex build I’ve attempted: several aftermarket sets are used parallel so mistakes are a possibility. Well, mistakes have been already made.

I’ve finished up the interior finally; the CMK set is done. There are considerable differences between the interior of the T-55A and the T-55AM I’m building with the Miniarm set; however I will ignore these for the sake of my sanity. To be honest it’s difficult to find good quality references for the interior of the AM, and this is the point where I give up; it’s a hobby after all.

The hull interior was relatively simple to finish; as I said in the previous post, there are a lot of shortcuts in the CMK kit, but then again, you can argue that most of it will not be visible, anyway. The driver’s station is especially devoid of extra instruments and whatnot you can see on photos. These videos by Wargaming are really useful: one is Chieftain’s “normal” inside the tank one, the other is a pretty cool virtual video. There is also a really good one here.

I also finished the turret interior. The bottom of the turret comes as a resin replacement; I did not realize it in time but the turret ring of the Tamiya kit is actually narrower than the CMK turret’s ring. This means cutting; not the best thing to do with all the fragile PE around, so make sure you do it first – unless you like challenges as much as I do.

The gun, the turret turning mechanism, radio, different electrical boxes, the handle, etc. went in fine. I took some liberties and used some parts from the Verlinden T-62 interior set -periscopes and whatnot. I also did some cabling using soldering wire painted black. They were placed mostly using a creative licence – the actual tank has way more cables all over the place. Once all was in place, I used some diluted filters on the white -mostly light browns, and added streaking to the sides with very subtle rust colors. Did not want to make it look like it was standing abandoned for decades, but I did want to add visually interesting details. Real tanks are remarkably free of rust and rust streaks; it’s a balancing act.

Once the bottom of the turret was safely in place over the top of the hull, I started to attach the Tamiya parts for the exterior. I have to say it was a joy compared to the aftermarket set- finally everything is clear-cut and simple! Until you realize you need the next conversion set, and now you have to figure out what’s needed from the Tamiya kit, and what needs to be replaced and altered. I also noticed I was a bit hasty closing in the hull- I should have fitted the road wheels and the tracks first; it will be a bit more difficult with the mud guards in place. Well, that’s a headache for later.

The Miniarm instructions are not very good, and sometimes they just don’t warn you about minor things, like the need for filling in certain holes on the Tamiya hull. The problem is in the front: the added frontal covers most of the front, but you need to fill in two small holes. It would have been simpler if I realized it before I glued the fragile plastic parts 1 mm from the holes in question. Oh well.

The mantlet cover also comes from the Miniarm set, which interferes with the CMK gun breach making it impossible to put the top of the turret in its place. The simple solution was to cut off the front of the gun breach. Of course trying to fit the turret, and figuring out the problem meant that the delicate PE parts of the ammo holder on the back of the turret got damaged. Frankly at this point I’m not sure I’ll fix them; very little will be visible anyhow. Another issue for the next day will be the CMK coaxial machine gun; it just does not line up with the Tamiya turret.

I also realized I made a mistake at this point with the loader’s hatch: I used the CMK replacement instead of the Miniarm one. They are slightly different, but what’s done is done. The fuel tanks are provided by Miniarm, too, but the casting blocs are very thin; it’s not easy to saw them off. I’m also not sure why some tool boxes are replaced, and why others are kept from the Tamiya set… Oh well.

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So here we are now: the model now resembles an actual tank. (My wife says it looks like a sad, dopey-eyed vehicle.) Some detail painting is left in the turret interior, and then I can finally close it off.

I finally gave up, and bought Eduart’s engine deck grill set for the build; I hope it’s the last expense I have this with this model. It really annoys me Miniarm did not provide a set; after all, if you offer a conversion, you might as well throw in some improvements, too, saving costs for your customers. As I said the set is not cheap at all.

The next few steps will be the most painful ones: itsy-bitsy PE everywhere… That’s a story for the next post. I’m really looking forward to the painting phase.

 

 

Long time, no see

Well, this has been a busy summer. I got married in June, found and moved to a new apartment, did three job interviews and got one job.

Now I actually have a semi-dedicated space for model building, and also have my own shelf my patient wife (…) offered for me.

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All in all, improvement all over. Just to give a short preview of what is to come to these pages: OKB’s AMX-40, MiniArt’s T-60 with interior, a Modelcollect E75 with interior, a Chaos-cursed Rhino troop carrier, and of course the work on the T-55 and PnzIV is ongoing.

Stay tuned, in other words.

Scale model building – amateur style