All posts by fossiljellyfish

I'm a biologist who enjoys building scale models... I write popular science articles in my spare time, play World of Tanks, and publish scale model reviews in Armorama. I have decided to start a blog to show the work I've been doing; any comments are welcome. Please subscribe to the blog, and give regular feedback; this would greatly help me to improve both my skills and my blog.

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.

 

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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.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 1.

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Since then I got the MiniArm set as well…

 

Well, this is one old project. This is what actually happens if you start collecting and postpone the building – your precious collection becomes outdated because newer models are issued… (Or, if you decide NOT to collect, your most desired models become out of production, and you won’t ever be able to get them again – you simply cannot win this.)

I started to collect the parts way back in 2007, when I was still in the US. Since then of course, there are models of different T-54 variants with full (well, almost full) interior, we can expect the T-55 as well (it does make sense), and of course, there’s a perfectly good (and cheap) T-55AM available by Takom. Overall, I was considering just selling the whole thing -except for the CMK interior- and buying the Takom kit instead. After much deliberation I decided to keep the original; mostly for sentimental reasons. (This is what is going to happen with the upcoming King Tiger build… I already have everything to finish up the build, so I might as well proceed, pretending the full interior 1/35 plastic kit never happened.) Since I’ve been building T-44s and T-54s left and right, I wanted to make this model look distinct -so I did the rational (airquotes) thing, and bought the MiniArm conversion set for the same amount of money the whole Takom T-55AM costs. :/ It still has no PE engine deck grilles, so that will be an interesting task; I am not prepared to spend more money on this build…

 

I was curious how the CMK set goes together. I have used the driver’s compartment part of the CMK kit for the T-44 I was building before; that part was quite familiar. Overall the set is quite good, but the instructions frankly are horrible when it comes to the ammo stowage. (It’s a shame no ammo was given with the set, by the way.) I also put the little box by the driver the wrong place; it should be a bit further back, but the instructions were not exactly clear on that part. I only noticed it when I got further down the line, and saw a drawing of the finished part.

Oh well.

The turret is quite busy- unfortunately CMK does not help with the cabling. The ammo boxes on the seat of the gunner are quite poor in detail; just a slab of rectangular resin. They should be individual ammo boxes for the coaxial MG sitting next to each other. (Similarly to the setup on step 69 on the T-54-1 instructions.)

The pre-heater for the engine cooler is also lacking detail- compared to MiniArt’s plastic interiors again. Normally it’s the other way around, but in this case the plastic model is actually more detailed than the resin one. If you’re prepared to spend money like crazy it might not be a bad idea to get a MiniArt T-54B and use the interior parts to “beef up” the CMK set. (It also provides the fuel lines for the external tanks, individual track links, and other details which are better than in the Tamiya kit.)

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Since I wanted all this detail to be seen, I cut the side off the turret. It took me some time to decide what part, but at the end I settled for the left side; this will allow the interior show, without cutting away too many interesting things. (These tanks were cramped… similar cutaway will be much easier to do on the Tiger and Tiger II that are in the pipeline…)

 

Anyhow; Tamiya’s white, and the first layers of paint for the gun- that’s all for now. I’m moving to a new apartment, plus will be spending some time away, so the next update on this build will be in September most likely. I would like to make a dent on my collection of unbuilt kits, so there’s a Zvezda Pnz IV, a MiniArt Pnz III, and a DML Tiger I-II waiting to be built with full resin interiors. Not to mention the models I get for reviews, and the 1/72 stuff I still want to finish… (Modelcollect T-80, E-100 mobile rocket launcher, E-75 with interior, Hunor Nimrod, Airfix 1/12 Bentley and MiniArt T-60 with interior… And these are only the ones I can remember. My mother’s attic has a couple of really interesting models I also would like to build in the oncoming years- so subscribe, and keep your eyes on this page 🙂 )

 

1/72 M56 Scorpion – OKB Grigorov

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I’ve written an in-box review of this model for Armorama; I think it’s time to show how it looks when finished.

The M56 Scorpion was an attempt to supply a gun platform for the US airborne forces that can be easily transported by airplanes, and can be deployed using an air-drop. This requirement pretty much made it impossible for the vehicle to be armored, so it is essentially a gigantic 90mm M54 gun on a dodgem chassis. Crew comfort (and safety) also took second place to the size requirements that came with the airborne deployment option.

The M56 was developed and manufactured by the Cadillac Motor Car Division of GM from 1953 to 1959. It was a small, fully tracked vehicle, powered by a 200 hp engine with a maximum road speed of 45 km/h. It had a crew of four: commander, driver, loader, gunner. The ergonomics of the vehicle were, let’s put it lightly, not very good. The loader had to disembark before the gun fired, and jump back holding the ammunition. The gun recoil also endangered the commander. The only part that can be considered armor on the vehicle is the gun shield, which has a large windscreen cut into for the driver negating its effectiveness somewhat; the rest of the self-propelled gun is about as armored as my Nissan Micra. (Another thing that it has in common with my Micra is that it has pneumatic tires…)

The M56 was in service in the USA, Spain, Morocco, and the Republic of Korea. It was used in Vietnam by the 173rd Airborne Brigade.

There are not many models available of this little AFV; I’ve found a very expensive resin one in 1/35th scale by Hobby Fan, and there’s an old OOP (and quite inaccurate) Revell kit; other than that there’s the 1/72nd scale OKB kit reviewed here. As usual, World of Tanks introduced me to this vehicle, where it is a premium American tank destroyer; and since I liked the way it looked (and have it in my garage) I was really anxious to get a model of it.

 

Considering the size of this vehicle the number of parts (especially the amount of PE) is quite high. The model is made up by approximately 70 resin pieces and about 70 PE parts… all this is in a model that can almost fit into a matchbox.

The resin is smooth, and of different color. The detail is crisp, and the fit is quite good generally. The PE frets are the thinnest I’ve ever seen. (It’s quite easy to crumple them, so be careful; it feels like a thick aluminium foil rather than photo-etched brass.) The tracks come as resin sections which need to be warmed up before shaped to the running gear. The detail is excellent, and there is very little flash anywhere.

 

The instructions are computer generated, and frankly, not very helpful. They show different views of the assembled model, but unfortunately do not instruct on actually how to put the model together. Before gluing make sure you understand how the parts should be fitting; I did make a couple of mistakes during assembly.

The exhausts for the engine seem to be shorter; there should be a section that is turning down at a right angle from the end of the exhaust pipes.

First mistake I made was to wait with the mud guard until I finished with the running gear.

If you decide to give this kit a go, make sure you glue the mudguard onto the hull first. The simple reason is that the PE covers the whole side with cutouts for the suspension units. These holes are way too tight to slide it over the suspension if it’s already in place. I had to widen these holes considerably in order to be able to fit the mudguards into place.

The other big issue for me was the suspension arms. They look very similar, but the front and rear suspension are not identical. I accidentally mixed up on one side, and hence the wheels are a bit wonky.

Other than that, most of the model went together OK. I had to make the headlight protectors out of thin wire (I normally use soldering wire as it’s quite soft). The tracks were somewhat thick and rigid, but with a lot of patience (and hot water) they did go on eventually. The hole on the gun shield has a plexi protector for the driver; I left it completely empty, since any transparent acetate sheet would look foggy and thick in this scale. (I would need something that’s about 0.2-0.3mm thick.)

I’m not sure that the back platform is depicted as open or closed up; probably closed up due to the 2 PE rails sticking out of them. (If it’s folded down, it should be longer; if it’s folded up, it should have some extra bits for the mechanism that keeps it straight in a folded -off state.) I also noticed a bit late that the loader’s seat was left off… my mistake.

The model went through multiple rounds of priming, as usual. These coats were applied more for checking for mistakes and seams rather than to provide a base coat for the paint, and was applied using a spray-can. The model was ready (I left the gun detached for easier painting), I added a final coat, and then applied Tamiya Olive Drab lightened with some Tan. (The first two photos of the painted model show the color to be a bit too greenish, flat and dull.)
A bit of yellow and ochre filter later the green became quite nice with some brownish hues. I could not find any decals that were small enough to fit onto the model, so it remained un-marked. I used Tamiya’s weathering kit (the makeup set) to apply dust and mud to the vehicle, a silver pen around the edges, to give it a metallic shine, and called it a day.

 

Altogether, the model was a pretty pleasant build -except for the little issues I mentioned. It is certainly quite pricey, as all OKB kits are, but, just like in the case of the Batchat, you really have no other options. Overall I’m pretty satisfied with the results; it is a well recommended model of a very rare subject.

OKB Grigorov Batignolles-Chatillion Char 25T (Batchat) 1/72

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One of the positive things of the game World of Tanks is that it introduced a lot of obscure vehicles to the wider audience. I’m not sure how many of us have heard of the Batignolles-Chatillion Char 25T aside from for French armor enthusiasts… and now at least 45 million people know of this vehicle. The fame did not come with scale models flooding the market (yet), so I was really happy to see that OKB issued this model in 1/72.

The Char 25T was developed by the Batignolles-Chatillon company (hence the name). Interestingly the company produced trains and locomotives; tanks were a new frontier for them. It was to be a main battle tank, designed around similar principles as the AMX-13: oscillating turret, a 90mm F-3 gun with a magazine/drum type autoloader, low silhouette, and sloped armor (80mm on the front). It featured a hydraulic suspension with six road wheels on each side. The tank was very small (5.67 meters long, 3.16 meters wide and, 2.37 tall), very light (25 tons), and not surprisingly it was highly mobile (65km/h top speed); also somewhat unsurprisingly armor was not exactly strong. It had a crew of four: a commander, a driver, a gunner and a radio operator. The design lost to the more conservative AMX-30, and hence never entered into production. Reliability issues, the oscillating turret, the autoloader (the tank needed to stop and the crew had to exit to reload the gun), and the lack of NBC (nuclear, biological, chemical) protection all played a part in the failure of the prototypes in the trials.

The only reason I know about this tank is World of Tanks; it is one of the best end-tier medium tanks in the game. (Well, was. It’s been nerfed not long ago.) It also looks quite unique, so obviously it was one of my first ever purchases from OKB. (Their models tend to be expensive, so it’s not something I do every day. Every purchase is being considered and mulled over for several weeks.)

The model is made up by over a hundred resin pieces and ten PE parts. The parts are very well detailed, the flash is minimal, and the fit is good (when I attached the side to the main hull I needed to use some filler in the front though, so it’s not perfect). The headlights come as transparent pieces, which is something I’ve never seen before in a resin model.

The tracks are given as sets of straight resin pieces, which need to be warmed up before shaped to the running gear. (I prefer to use hot –not too hot- water.) The hull and the turret come as one piece (each); most of the small parts make up the running gear. The photoetched fret is very thin and very delicate; it’s very easy to bend (even crumple) the parts; this is something to look out for. (It would be better if they were a bit sturdier) There is very little information available on this vehicle, so I cannot really comment on the accuracy of the kit; it measures up to the published measurements I could find quite well.

Normally with resin models the suspension is moulded as one part; in this case the elaborate suspension is made up by several small parts (most of the parts of the model are parts of the suspension). The assembly is not very difficult but a fine pair of tweezers is a must have. The fit is surprisingly good, but I ran into a small problem with the road wheels. Due to small misalignments in the suspension arms, the road wheels did not align perfectly; they were a bit wonky. I put the model in some warm (~50C) water and set them straight between two rulers; once the resin cooled the alignment was much better.

The tracks were also warmed up using warm water, and wrapped around the road wheels, drive wheel, return rollers and idler. Since one section will only cover about 2/3rd of the required length, two will need to be used per side.

Once the tracks were installed I glued the sides of the hull on. There was a small gap on one side which needed to be filled; nothing major there. The front part of the mudguards are PE parts which need to be gently bent. It would be nice to have a larger flap that goes under the hull to help gluing them in place.

The lights on the back and their PE covers were a bit difficult to install as the PE kept bending to the slightest touch. (The lights need to be pushed into the holes in the PE covers.) A couple of small PE parts (towing hooks, etc) were attached to the back of the hull and the resin gun lock to the front. (I managed to lose the top part of the gun lock, and somehow the headlights… We’re in the middle of moving right now, and parts do get misplaced, unfortunately.) The thinness of the PE is an issue, as it is very easy to bend or distort the pieces during handling.

The turret was pretty easy to finish: top of the fume extractor, the smoke grenade launchers, a rectangular piece of unknown function and the gun barrel had to be attached, and the tank was essentially done. The gun barrel is slightly crooked; I tried to straighten it using hot water, but gave up eventually; I did not want to make the issue worse.

 

The painting and weathering did not take long- after all, it was an experimental tank. I chose a hypothetical camo using World of Tanks as an inspiration, and used an airbrush to apply it free-hand. I did a couple of light-brown filters to blend the colors together.

I covered the model with varnish, applied the leftover decals from Trumpeter’s B1 (the subject of the very first post of this blog). I’ve used these decals for other French tanks (ARL-44) before; my French markings are now officially depleted. Another varnish layer sealed the decals (this time I used Matte). Washes, some dust applied using pigments, and some mud (again with pigments); that’s pretty much it.

The model, overall, is quite easy to build, even for beginners. The running gear/suspension is a bit difficult to align, but there are ways to correct smaller problems. The price is a bit high, but there is no other alternative of you want to build a Batignolles-Chatillion Char 25T in any scale, so there you go.