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.

Rescuing a botched paintjob and paint stripping…

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Just a quick post about a disaster.
I did kind of mess up the paint job on a space marine back in the days when I was painting these dudes. I tried to strip the paint using isopropyl alcohol, but it came off in flakes, leaving the surface uneven and blotchy. I was seriously thinking about just throwing the poor guy into the recycling bin- and then came the inspiration.

 

Who else has blotchy, corroded armor? That’s right… the Death Guard. Since I was planning to paint up Morty and some of his pals, I thought I’d give glazes a try on this fella before I move onto the big guys… And what do you know? It actually came out looking good. Remember people: there are no mistakes, only happy accidents!

 

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Dnepromodel 1/35 Straussler V-4 part 1.

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This is a very odd-looking tank from the interwar period, and it was the first (and only) original Hungarian tank design, the rest being either licence produced (or based on licences bought from other countries) or simply purchased.

History

The Straussler V-4 came as the further development of -surprise- the Straussler V-3 light tank. The V-3 reached to the prototype phase in 1936 when the decision was made to further improve it due to several shortcomings. V stood for “vontató”, that is “tractor” in English. (A specialised vehicle for towing, not for agricultural work.) The designer was Nicholas Straussler, a Hungarian entrepreneur, engineer and inventor living in Great Britain, who also developed the flotation system on the DD tanks, the Alvis Straussler bomb trolley, and the AC2, AC3 and M39 Csaba armored cars among many other things before, during and after World War 2.

The V-4 arrived at a very tormented period of Hungarian history, and a period of fast changes in tank design philosophy which explains its eventual failure.

After the First World War, Hungary was forbidden from most modern military technology, so any research and development had to be conducted in secrecy. The treaties also severely limited the options of the Armed Forces in acquiring military hardware or know-how. Nicholas Straussler was a Hungarian ex-pat living and working in the UK, who still had strong ties to his old country. He was an enterprising and prolific engineer who not only had his own firm producing his designs, he also sold them for several large UK companies. He designed and offered the V-3 light tank (which was a medium tank in Hungarian nomenclature) for the struggling Hungarian Armed Forces. The tank was to be produced by Weiss Manfred Steel and Metal Works, a Hungarian company. He envisioned the tank being built and exported to the UK and other interested countries which would have bought economic benefits to Hungary as well. This arrangement was mutually beneficial: it helped him cut the costs of producing the first tanks considerably compared to the costs of production in Great Britain. The development and production of V3 went under the name of “towing tractor” to circumvent the treaties’ limitation, and were produced without armor, armament and turret. They were to be equipped in the destination countries, which would have satisfied the letter of the peace treaties (somewhat).

The V-3, and its development the V-4, were planned to be small, amphibious light tanks utilising dual-drive, meaning they could be driven with and without the tracks on. This concept was all the rage back in the ‘30s, so we should not judge Straussler for jumping on the hype train. The V-3 utilised an unique suspension system developed by Straussler himself. This was further improved on the V-4 by adding return rollers which were used to adjust the track tension, as the original design was very prone to either break or throw a track.

The running gear had two powered large wheels on the front and back, and two smaller roller wheels per side These were connected by a three piece horizontal rocking arm (apologies; not sure if this is the technical term). The suspension was provided by two torsion springs per side, which did provide a very stable platform for the weapons at slow to medium speeds, but at high speeds they were stiff, resulting in an exhausting ride for the crew. The V-3 had no track tensioning. The tank had a detachable screw and two pontoons for amphibious operations. (Both the V-3 and V-4 have shown excellent aquatic capabilities: they could steer well, and were very stable and safe on water. The only problem it had was exiting the water if the terrain was not perfect for it, which is, let’s face it, not ideal for a tank.)

The V-3 was not a successful design; the multiple and conflicting specifications (ability to use wheel-only locomotion on roads, amphibious capabilities, 45km/h top speed on tracks, etc. etc.) ensured that the tank was suffering from reliability issues, and was not able to fulfill each and every specification. In road mode the tracks could not be mounted onto the vehicle, so they had to be transported by a different vehicle. The tracks themselves were too narrow, which decreased the ability to cross difficult terrain, and stressed the rubber rimmed roadwheels. At this point the tracks were simply moved by the friction between the rubber and the tracks, and no drive sprockets were present. The improvements on the V-4 transformed the tank into a much more reliable (and heavier) vehicle armed with two 34/37M 8mm twin machine guns and a 40mm 37M main gun. Since the Armed Forces had no other viable alternatives, initially they were very much interested in the tank, and were willing to look over its deficiencies. (Beggars can’t be choosers I guess.)

The Swedish Landswerk L-60 was also tried alongside the V-4, and the military imagined these two being used alongside each other. However the V-4 was still plagued by mechanical issues, it did not have a very good off-terrain capability, despite of the radical redesign of the hull, and the international situation changed sufficiently for the Hungarian Army to declare its intentions of rearmament openly, so they could pick and choose from a much wider range of options. These factors doomed the V-4’s chances of being accepted into service. The Hungarian Army considered several alternatives with the second production version of the V-4, and decided on purchasing the licence for the production of the L-60, which became the Toldi I after some further development. Straussler and Weiss Manfred did not give up; both the English and the Russians were interested in the type for a while. (The tank was also trialled in Italy in 1937.) There was an export version produced with a large radio aerial around the turret, and later Straussler designed several smaller tracked vehicles aimed for the Russian and British market with the suspension developed for the V-4’s.

Further reading:
An article about Straussler and a paper-panzer that has never been built:
The Straussler MBT – Hungarian tier 10 candidate

Plans for the drive train:
https://patents.google.com/patent/US2089042

 

The Model

The model arrived very well packaged; there was no damage at all after its two thousand kilometer journey to me.

I have to say the presentation of the model is exceptional. All the parts are bagged -sometimes individually, sometimes with a few others- , and the bags are labelled with the part numbers. This definitely makes assembly easier and more organised, compared to other resin kits I’ve built. Even the tracklinks from each side are bagged separately, which is necessary, given they are not identical. The V-4 had left and right handed tracks, so keep this is in mind when assembling. Having resin individual tracks is a bit bold since gluing them together is not as straightforward as with the plastic individual tracks. (With plastic you have at least half an hour, hour to adjust the tracks after gluing them together; you lose this option with CA glue.)

Some larger parts (boogies of the suspension, etc.) are still on their casting blocks, and the attachment points are very thick. Cutting them off will require some finesse and care. (Also, constant awareness of the health implications of working with resin. Resin dust is toxic, so work somewhere where others are not exposed to it, and wear a respirator. Alternatively use wet sawing, wet sanding techniques; the water makes sure the forming dust will not get airborne.)

The instructions are somewhat basic, and can be confusing when it comes to the running gear. Most of the assembly should go without a hitch, but the running gear is complex, and would need several drawings explaining exactly how it is supposed to come together. (The confusion comes mostly from the fact that the four powered wheels were powered by a shaft system that transferred the power from the middle of the suspension where it was attached to the hull. There is an excellent article of the history of the tank -unfortunately in Hungarian (http://www.hadmernok.hu/182_05_nemeth.pdf)-, but the drawings should help positioning the drive shafts.

The casting is very high quality, and flash is minimal; there is no complaint there. The hull, however, was warped a bit (see below). The fine, subtle details are really nice. The kit comes with some PE, which is also quite delicate and well detailed.

Assembly

Hull

I started the building with assembling the hull first, and this is where I ran into the biggest issue with the kit: the lower hull (which is provided as a “tub”) is somewhat warped – it was not symmetrical. (See photo.) Perhaps it would have been a better choice to provide it as several flat pieces, as most models go about it. I used the engine deck to force the back of the hull into the right shape -with generous application of superglue and patience I managed to make the lower hull conform to the rectangular shape of the engine deck. It is not perfect, but at least now it is almost symmetrical. The top of the hull has four parts: the smaller, rectangular engine deck piece, the large part covering most of the top, the sloping frontal plate with the driver’s hatch, and a small, rectangular part covering the nose.

Starting from the back I simply glued one piece after another, making sure they are fitted to the lower hull perfectly, hence slowly ironing out the asymmetry. This obviously does put some stress on the resin, so be careful. Since the hull is relatively thin, very small amount of force is required to hold the pieces together until the glue set; nevertheless make sure you do not break the tub if you run into the same problem and use the same method of correcting it. (Other option would be to warm the tub up with hot water or a hairdryer, and shape it while it’s hot, but I went about the safer way.) I hasten to add that it might have been only my sample, and other models are perfectly fine. Since this is the only sample I have I can’t extrapolate from this.

Apart from the issue of asymmetry, the lower hull and the sloping frontal part had some gaps as well; the fit was not perfect. I decided to use Green Stuff to fill the gaps, filling and reinforcing the attachment points in one go. Another fit issue was that the two top panels did not meet completely head-on: there was a slight step between the two, instead of a smooth transition. Since the large panel had hatch details moulded on I could not sand it to profile; I simply used putty and liquid green stuff to build up a slope on the back panel instead. Again; not something I prefer doing, but this was the best I could come up with.

I find it important to mention that these issues are not unheard of with resin kits; this is the price you pay for unique and rare models.

I glued in the armored protection for the vision port on the front, and the round bases for the return rollers. The armored hatch on the front houses the hull machine gun, too, and can be displayed folded-up. The problem is that only the barrels of the machine guns are provided, and there are no interior details. If someone is able, scratch building would solve this issue. As for me I glued it shut.

The great thing about the hull and turret is that the places were the vision slits, and other larger pieces would go are actually marked with a slightly different texture. This is seemingly a small thing, but it makes placing these parts so much simpler. I really did appreciate this effort on behalf of the designers of the model.

While the green stuff was curing in the seams of the hull, I finished the turret.

Turret

The next step was the assembly of the turret top. The commander’s hatch, unfortunately, does not fit in perfectly; it’s slightly larger than the hole it covers. You may leave it open (but the turret lacks internal details), or you can start carefully shaving off the extra, while continuously fitting it into its place to make sure you do not overdo the surgery. As I said, this is your standard protocol with resin models; they do make you work. (There is a sitting Hungarian tanker figure from Bodi, which might be used to cover up the empty space should you decide to leave the hatch open.)

The guns are supposed to be installed into the turret using a system that would make them movable. The main gun is held by two rectangular pieces with a plastic rod between them. The gun sight has a similar system, while the twin machine gun is installed using an even flimsier system of a half-sphere representing the ball-mount, and an L shaped part holding the half-sphere against the opening of the turret. The L shaped part can only hold the half-sphere in place if it is actually pushing it against the opening, which is not something you can actually achieve with simply gluing it in place. (The machine gun in the hull is not movable.)

The problem is that neither of these systems really work well. First, it’s quite difficult holding several parts in place while gluing; and you do have to hold everything in place in order to position the guns correctly. Second, the holding parts are a bit undersized. If you care about movable guns, you can just replace them using larger plastic squares; as far as I was concerned, I just glued the guns into place. The third issue is that before you do any of this, you really should check if there is clearance enough for the guns on the bottom of the turret. I managed to glue everything in place the first time around only to find out that the main gun was in the way of the bottom of the turret, so I had to adjust it again.

The assembly of the machine guns is a bit tricky. You have a central PE T-shaped part which supposed to provide the “backbone” for the twinned guns; the barrels are supposed to be running on both sides parallel, and the short hand of the T is supposed to be folded up to act as a holder. The problem is the distance of the gun barrels from each other… you can’t really set it correctly. Unless you glue them into place first, making sure they are parallel, and then add the PE part, you run the real risk of making them a bit wobbly. I used a thick, gel-like CA glue which gave me plenty of time to adjust things before setting, and did just that. This saved me from measuring and trying to position the barrels parallel to a precise distance from each other. The downside is that from now on extremely fragile things are hanging over the turret and the tank’s body making handling a bit more difficult. The detail on the barrels of the machineguns is somewhat soft.

I installed the main gun at this stage. The barrel is nice and straight. The muzzle break is a separate piece, and you have to be very careful gluing it into place, since it should be placed to the longitudinal axis of the barrel. It will show if it is off center even a tiny bit.

I finished the turret by adding the two armored vision slits on the sides.

Back to the hull…

The seams went through a series of sanding/filling until I was happy that no seam was left. I checked them after I applied the primer as well, and corrected the little imperfections.

Suspension

The model overall is very simple- except for one part. The suspension and the running gear are quite complex, and take up most of the model. The wheels and larger parts are on huge pouring blocks, which need to be sawed off carefully.

The suspension is workable, so you can put the tank into any sort of terrain. It also means you will have to carefully position the large and small road wheels before gluing to make sure they line up correctly should you want to display the model on a flat terrain.

The main bogie of the suspension unit is made out of three flat pieces; gluing them together was not very simple, and you also are advised to check if the top parts are right in the middle; otherwise the overhang will interfere with the smaller arms holding the large road wheels.

As mentioned the instructions are not very clear on how to install the drive system into the suspension, but the drawings in the linked article should help you. On of the problem is that while the suspension is movable, the drive train is not- so you will have to glue everything in place, making sure that the wheels will touch the ground once the whole unit is installed on the hull. I did the best I could, but honestly I am not sure this is the way to do it. In any case most will be invisible, so you might as well skip it. With all the complexity, it is a very impressive (although quite unnecessary) design feature of the model.

To mount the suspension units in place, I drilled a hole where the units meet the hull, and inserted a thick wire in it. A corresponding hole was drilled in the central unit, and glued in place using two-part epoxy. I reinforced the attachment point with wire because did not want to risk the joint giving up over time. To make sure everything is fixed in place until the glue set, I also used CA glue.

 

Once the suspension was in place, I started adding the tracks. As the tracks are not workable, you will have to glue the suspension in place. If you wish to display the model on a flat surface this can be done at the earlier step; if you wish to display it in a diorama setting, now is the time to decide how the suspension should be positioned. (The tank’s suspension can be set into pretty funky positions, so it might be worth considering a diorama.)

The tracks come already detached, which is nice. However… Every tracklink had to be trimmed of 4 connecting stubs that used to attach them to the pouring blocks. This was time consuming. (Even though I mostly build tanks I have a confession to make: I hate building tracks.) The tracklinks, in theory, may be workable as they click together -but you do need to force them, risking breakage. Since the traction is not strong enough for them to hold, some glue will have to be applied once you built a section. It is impressive nevertheless; but I did find that longer sections tend to fall apart from their own weight without glue.

The problem with individual tracks made of resin is that you don’t have as much working time after you applied the glue as you have with plastic tracks. I built up several smaller straight sections, and tried to get the overall shape from these. Once I was happy with their position, I applied the extra thin CA glue, and hoped they would hold. At the return rollers, where the tracks were bent at a steeper angle it was difficult to make them conform to the shape of the roller without coming apart. The problem with the moving suspension was that it was difficult to hold everything stable, so I ended up gluing the suspension arms in place before adding the tracks.
One last advice: plan the installation of the tracks so that they meet on the bottom of the drive wheels, and not in the air before or after the return rollers. Don’t ask me how I came at this conclusion. Once I am done with the painting I will glue the tank onto a base, and it will flatten out the tracks; right now the suspension is pulling them up a bit.

 

The mudguards and the rest of the missing pieces were only added once I finished the tracks, and the tank was firmly sitting on them. The mudguards should be fit over an angular part of the hull, but the folding line on the PE will not conform to the hull-shape exactly… I ended up gluing tiny evergreen rods where the mudguards were supposed to go, and used them as support. Where the mudguard did not meet the hull (in the angular part, where two hull plates meet) I simply unfolded a little of the flap that I had to fold into the photoetch previously.

With this the tank was finished. It will take me a while to get it painted, but the painting stage should not be very difficult. If you have some leftover decals from other Hungarian tanks, you can built a what-if vehicle, which was accepted into service, but since it only reached prototype phase it carried no marks in real life. It can also be built very clean or very dirty, since it did go through trials; in other words the opportunities for weathering are endless.

 

Artel W Miniatures – Assassin

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The recent advances in 3D printing have created a boom in the cottage industry of resin figures. You can now find better and better quality figures produced for wargaming, and characters from popular culture (books, movies, comics or video games). We do live in a golden age right now, as often times we get alternatives for wargaming miniatures; and sometimes -as in this case- it means we get a figure we want at all. (I would love to have a miniature version of a T-54 power armor from the Fallout series holding a mini nuke launcher, for example, but nobody is making one.)

This miniature by Artel W Miniaturesdepicts such a video game character: the master assassin. He is the ex-bodyguard Corvo Attano, from the game Dishonoured by Bethesda, wearing his signature mask and carrying his signature weapons – without explicitly stating so. Since I tremendously enjoyed the game for both of its gameplay, and for its excellent story and setting, I was happy to order one of these figures when I saw it on Artel W Miniatures’ website.

Basically this guy:

 

The figure comes in a very impressive package: the box is covered with brown wrapping paper, and sealed with a wax seal giving quite an exclusive feeling to the miniature. The parts are moulded in a very high quality resin with no flash at all. The resin is smooth, almost waxy to the touch, and it’s very nice to work with. There were no bubbles or deformed parts at all.

The pose of the miniature is quite dramatic and very well done; Corvo is caught mid-leap from a building, holding his blade in his hand (presumably in preparation of using it as soon as he lands). The building forms the base for the figure, which makes it look quite stand out, and gives an extra point of interest to the model.

The figure is really easy and quick to assemble. Due to the weapon choices the assembly is greatly helped by looking at in-game screenshots, and photos of the miniature on Artel W’s website. You get some of Corvo’s favorite toys: he has two bone charms tied to his chest, his folding knife (sword?), and a set of optional equipment: a whalebone rune, his miniature crossbow, a holstered handgun, and a holstered rifle. I decided to use the handgun only as I am not sure where the rune should be attached, and the gun should be attached to his back. (I left Corvo’s other hand empty since I assume jumping AND stabbing someone at the same time requires dexterity and balance, which would be upset if he had both his hands full.) The crossbow I decided to use with the Witcher figure- also from Artel W. I did not want to add all the equipment at any rate since the character is supposed to be light and sneaky, and this impression would not be supported if he was carrying half an armoury around his person.

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Corvo’s coat looks very natural, as its tail floats after the jumping figure. The base itself is a small section of a ornate rooftop from which the assassin leaps from, and which can be detailed with soot, rain marks, pigeon droppings, moss and dust. The style fits very well into the game’s steam-punk, late 19th century feel.

The painting was relatively easy, since there was no face to paint (which is always difficult no matter the scale). I used different shades of oils on top of Vermin Brown to paint the leather, highlighted with Bestial brown (Citadel range), AK’s True Metal steel for the mask and for the sword (drybrushed over the Vallejo dark grey primer). The buckles were painted with True Metal gold, and the figure was highlighted with a black pin wash I prepared from oil paints. The base was painted using multiple layer of brownish/greyish glazes, with the bricks highlighted with reddish glazes, and the same black wash applied once dry. (I will weather the building some more in the future, though.) The coat looks too shiny on the photos, but in normal, ambient light it only has a somewhat dull shine. (The age-old question of painting for the eye or the camera…)

The only issue coming up during the assembly was that the small peg protruding from Corvo’s foot did not fit into the base’s corresponding hole; I had to trim it. That’s it – the only problem with the model…

 

 

Artel W Miniatures – Eisenhorn (Inquisitor)

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I always loved the dark, hopeless world of Warhammer 40K (look up Grimdark when you have some time).

This is an universe where even the good guys are worse than any actual historical monster you can think of: a collection of xenophobic, genocidal maniacs in different shapes of forms -and that’s only the Imperium of Man. Superhuman, gene crafted soldiers who think themselves as actual Ubermensch, the Imperial Guard, an armed force that throws millions into the meatgrinder without a thought, and of course the shadowy and all powerful Inquisition that oversees the civilian aspects of life in the Imperium. Add to this all the external threats: aliens, renegades and heretics, and you have an empire that is held together by tape and strings, threatened by multiple external and internal forces each of which could spell its doom it by itself, let alone together. So what’s not to love?

There’s a huge collection of books published by Black Library set in this universe; and a large portion of them are frankly no better than some badly written fan-fiction. However there are gems which are great on their own rights, and they are absolutely worth reading and re-reading. The Eisenhorn Trilogy is one of these book series which is a really, really good story regardless of its origins. (Space fantasy tends to be looked down upon by the “purists” of the SF genre, hence the second part of the sentence.)

The series detail the journey of an Imperial Inquisitor, Gregor Eisenhorn from a young idealist on the path of corruption and ruination. Due to external circumstances and small, seemingly unimportant or small actions and choices of his own he becomes something he would have recognised (and executed without a thought) as a heretic in his youth. The story is complex, and quite an interesting one; after all, the same path is trodden by many people who acquire power. Why I like the story (apart of the quality of writing, of course) is how easily it can be transposed onto our own real world: very few people start out with the intention of becoming corrupt, or do evil. Corruption comes gradually with seemingly small and insignificant steps, yet it will twist the person beyond recognition. (Not to mention Eisenhorn remains true to his mission: fighting for humanity, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the story.)

Since I love the story, I wanted to make an Eisenhorn figure, of course, which can be an issue in WH40. Not all characters have figures available, not to mention the silly poses (it seems like everyone and their mother are shouting and pointing at stuff in the grim future). It is fair enough because they WERE made for a tabletop game, but for a modeller it’s a definite problem if you want your figures in a more dignified (and realistic) pose. In case of this specific figure the pose is actually quite nice (and he has his signature sword), the proportions are good, but the problem is that the figure is out of production and hard to get. Not to mention it depicts our favourite inquisitor towards the end of the trilogy; I prefer him in his prime.

Enter the blooming resin industry. There are several companies producing alternatives, conversions for the WH40/Warhammer games; these are miniatures that are not nearly enough similar to the originals to be considered as copyright infringements, but they are close enough to be clear what they supposed to represent. A lot of these conversions and figures are produced because there are holes in the market (if there is no available set by GW; for example conversion sets for space marines for specific legions or chapters), or straight-out improvements. In case of the Chaos Rhino, Mortarion or Abaddon figure in my opinion they are definite improvements, for example. And now we review Eisenhorn, produced by a Russian company, Artel W Miniatures. (Shortly after this figure was issued, WG announced that they were coming out with a new Eisenhorn figure, so now we have three… Choice is a good thing.)

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The name of the miniature is very close to the originals, so it is abundantly clear who it refers to, even if you don’t know the iconic painting of the inquisitor (which actually inspired the books according to the author). The figure essentially copies the artwork: we have Eisenhorn strolling forward with a gun and a tube in his hand, his runestaff mounted on his back. (This setup puts the figure to the last few chapters of the second book, or the first chapters of the third.)

The figure comes in a very impressive package: a box wrapped in brown paper with a wax seal… I have to say I felt quite reluctant to open it, as it had this exclusive feel to the whole set. It’s a feel definitely something you don’t really get when you get a blister pack. (Admittedly it’s not a priority when you buy something, but still.) The paper covers a cardboard box, which contains the few pieces of the model itself, sealed in ziplock bags.

The model consists the torso with the cape, the lower part of the body, the two arms and the runestaff. His iconic power sword is not included, but to be fair it’s not on the original artwork, either. Regardless, he should have Barbarisater on his hip. (Quite possibly the tube could be replaced with a sword.) Despite of the small size of the figure the detail is very fine and impressive; the chains, the folds of his clothes, the inquisitorial rosette, the gun are all very well defined. The expression on his face (which is anatomically well proportioned) is quite grim, but this is the only appropriate expression for him, as you will learn from the books if you have not read them already, so that’s quite on the money, too.

The assembly is very quick. There’s very little cleanup required: mostly the parts where the torso meets the lower body. There is no flash on the bits. The arms fit into their slots well.

Painting was a joy- but I am not a master by all means. Only after looking at the photos do you realise how hard it is to paint a miniature on a professional level for the box art (like the above examples of GW’s minis). When you look at this figure with your eyes it actually looks pretty good. Once you bring out the macro can you see the imperfections and mistakes. Oh well. I can always claim to be an amateur.

The leather overcoat was base colored using snakebite leather, and then layered lots of different brown oil paints on top, trying to achieve the leather effect. The cloth underneath was painted regal blue, the trousers antracite, and the boots gloss black. The stash and the parchment of the purity seal was painted white, and were given a coat of brown filter. The metallic details were painted with AK Interactive’s True Metal gold and steel.

The runestaff was painted with a mixture of these metal paints; the skull in the middle was painted deep green, and some random smears of lighter green and black, covered with nuln oil. (It was supposed to be carved from a warp-infused stone. There you go: here, on this blog only, the sole accurate Eisenhorn Miniature in existence…)

Basically, that’s it. It’s a high quality miniature of an iconic character from the WH40K universe; if you missed the original “official” figure, or don’t like the newer one, now is your chance to get one for your collection. His nemesis/ally, Cherubael is coming soon.

 

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior part 2.

Part 1 of the build

Since I started the RFM Panther as well, I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.

If you want to paint the interior, unfortunately you need to deviate from the suggested roder of assembly.

I skipped the steps which detailing the outside of the hull, and continued with step 42. This step details the finishing touches on the hull’s interior: the top section. The hull machine gun, radios, etc. are installed. The hull machine gun is a quite elaborate piece, but the barrel is not hollowed out; kind of annoying oversight. (In this day of injection moulding this is not an unreasonable expectation.)

The radio is also a very nicely detailed multipiece assembly, which, in turn, gets then enveloped by the walls of the radio mount, so only the front face remains visible. There is no guide for the wiring, and there are no headsets provided.

From here I skipped to steps 47 to 63: turret exterior and interior assemblies. You have some choices with regards to the gun mantlet; I just picked the one I liked the best, since I was not modelling one particular Panther.

Again; a pretty detailed set of steps, but nothing stands out as particularly difficult. Even the grab handles were good enough to be used; normally I switch them for wire. I particularly liked the flexible hose that will connect the fume extractor to the spent shell holder; it makes assembly a lot more easier. RFM has this hose as two separate parts that will meet in the middle when the turret halves are joined; we’ll see how good the fit is.

A couple of things to note:

The commander’s cupola is easier to assemble if you first glue K2 and K24 together (top of the cupola + insert), then add the periscopes, and finish off with K3. It is really difficult to fit the periscopes in if you follow the instructions. The periscopes, by the way, are not clear, so they will need to be painted. (RFM provides clear parts for the periscopes.)

Periscope guards are provided on a template, which sounds like a good solution. You glue the template in place, and then cut the guards off individually. Not sure how it is better, but it is a neat idea. None of the periscope guards are provided in PE, put they are thin enough to suffice.

There are injection pin marks in the interior of the turret; these will need to be sanded off carefully if you intend to show the inside.

Steps 51-52 go through the assembly of the back of the turret. The loader’s hatch is workable, but the assembly of the hinges is a bit flimsy, and not very user-friendly. Honestly, this was the part were I was cursing the most.

Steps 53-54 detail the assembly of the AA machine gun and its holder, and the bottom part of the turret. There is only one type of MG32 available; I’m not sure if there were alternative options for barrels and sighting devices used on the Ausf A Panthers. (RFM gives you some options for the Ausf G.) I left the ammo pouch off until I finish the painting stage to make things easier. (I’ll just paint all the pouches in one batch, and install them once the hull interior is done.)

Step 55 assemble the turret rotating mechanism. Lots of small parts, but the results are pretty good; I have to say I was impressed with how it looks. I was especially impressed with the accuracy: the rod connecting the two sides of the machinery just fell into place; not a fraction of a milimeter misalignement.

The main gun is assembled from step 56 to 57. It is -again- not a difficult undertaking, and the the instructions provide a couple of drawings of the finished parts -it certainly helps the assembly. (I would be nice to have this sort of assistance a bit more often; they would certainly improve the instructions.) Comparison to the RFM kit: well, the gun on the RFM is definitely more detailed -and have a lot more parts- , no doubt about that. The question is if it is something you actually notice. I myself am curious of the answer to that. 

The gun and the gun mantlet has a lot of details, such as rivets and hexagonal bolts, that will be hidden… they might be useful if someone knows the tank enough to assemble the model as a tank undergoing complete overhaul.

Steps 58 and 59 show the assembly of the turret basket floor and all the stuff that is attached to it (spent shell holder, seats, electrical components, etc.)

In the next two steps (60-61) the base of the turret and the turret basket are joined together.

Step 62 installs the top part of the fume extractor hose, and step 63 details the installation of the gun barrel to the main gun, and the attachment of the main gun to the turret. The muzzle break is made out of two halves, which is less than ideal, since it necessitates filling and sanding. I really would have preferred to get a single piece one.

And finally… the last step – step 64. The final touches on the turret, the mating of the turret and the hull, with an optional turret ring provided (should you want to display the model with the turret off, which is very likely if you decide to buy the 16 ton crane Takom and Amusing Hobby are coming out with. The separate ring will help you with the painting: it is much simpler to do this way, rather than trying to paint moulded-on details. For obvious reasons this step has not yet come for this tank. But it will. How soon- well, time will tell.

So here we are now. Time to paint.

Unfortunately the fact that I have an apartment to refurbish, while work full time and also settle in our little home with my wife waiting for our daughter to arrive, means I can only work on models for a short period at any time; perhaps the painting will need to be postponed for a while. Until then – let’s finish up the RFM tank as well! Stay tuned.

Grim Skull Miniatures: Mortarion

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The world of tabletop gaming has given us better and better detailed miniatures over the years, along with increasingly detailed universes through media like books, comics and computer games. One of my favorite is…

 

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Warhammer 40K. The picture above will make it clear why.

 

There are enormous gaps in the “official” miniature offerings in the available fractions, and also what is available tends to be somewhat expensive. A lot of smaller companies spotted these gaps on the market, and started to produce similar-but-not-quite-the-same miniatures that are not available from either Games Workshop or Forgeworld, usually for a friendlier price.

Mortarion did receive an official figure by GW, and another by Forgeworld, but I did not like either of those versions. The WH30K (pre-Heresy or Herey era) Forgeworld model did not really resonate with me, and the daemon prince figure looks very different from the man he used to be, twisted and bloated beyond recognition. In case of Mortarion it is an issue. True, the Primarch of the Death Guard Legion had fallen to Chaos, and has been turned into a Daemon Prince since the Horus Heresy. However the lore makes it clear that he is the one Primarch (alongside with Magnus, possibly) who remained as close to human as possible. Grimm Skull Miniatures has issued a Mortarion model that can be used both as a pre-daemon prince Primarch before or during the Heresy, or as a full-fledged daemon-prince (essentially the same figure plus two big, leathery wings). Yes, you can say it’s just lazy marketing. However since he is the most human of the daemon princes, and fans still debate if he could even return to the side of the Emperor again, as his red brother did, there IS a good argument for Grim Skull Miniatures’ choice.

The figure- as all of Grim Skull Miniatures figures I’ve seen so far- is very well sculpted and detailed. These figures are close enough to the “official” GW/Forgeworld aesthetics, but they also differ enough to look novel and unique; frankly I quite like how most of their figures look. The overall outline of power armor mixed with twisting and turning organic shapes look the way I imagine the Chaos-touched warriors. Talking about Magnus: there is also a figure that looks suspiciously like the Cyclops, only Grim Skull took him towards the Maya/Aztec aesthetics instead the ‘traditional’ Egyptian. (I’m not sure what to feel about the overemphasised feminine figures though, but if you like Tau pin-up girls and sexy female chaos space marines, here’s your chance.)

Mortarion, or Morty for his friends, looks exactly like his description in the Horus Heresy books. A gaunt man in an ornate, baroque power armor, with a cape covering his head, and censers hanging from his armor on chains. He has his power scythe Silence, however he does not have his handgun, Lantern. This is a glaring omission of the model; the gun is a prominent feature of the Primarch. Otherwise I do like it better than the pre-daemon Forgeworld figure, or the daemon prince GW model; he does radiate a sort of dark, solemn majesty with his ragged wings and elaborately decorated, corroded armor.

He comes with a pretty nice base to stand on with a broken pipe leaking who-knows-what. (It must be something corrosive because there is a skull in it.) We do get two such pipes; I used the extra with another Death Guard figure.

The assembly of these figures is usually a breeze. I did not like the original pose, because Morty looks like a particular shepherd the way he holds Silence. I turned his arm a bit to make it look more dynamic, although the attachment point is not designed to hold the arm well at this angle. (A scythe is an unbelievably impractical weapon at any rate; at least he should have straightened it, a’la revolting peasants. I think the Death Guard really puts style over effectiveness, when it comes to weaponry.)

The big issue, however, was the wings. There are simply no attachment points where they can be glued to, and the surface touching the back of the figure is so small, it was difficult to secure them even with small wires drilled into them.

The painting stage is usually where these models are made or ruined, and I have to confess I’m not a master painter. My main interests are armored vehicles, so my skills at blending and painting small details by brush leave much to be desired. I don’t particularly stick to the “Games Workshop School of Figure Painting” with the high contrasts and very fine layering/glazing, either. Since I have the daemon prince version, I did not paint him in clean, pre-Heresy colors; he got the full grime, rust and corruption treatment.

I used Vallejo’s black primer as a first coat, and used Lahman medium to create glazes in various browns and greens. I kept adding the glazes in very thin coats until I liked the greenish-brownish hue.

The bronze parts were painted using True Metal gold first (on larger surfaces I dry-brushed it on to keep the black as shadows in the recesses), and then followed it with several layers of oxidized bronze green colors as glazes. As finishing touch I reapplied the gold on rivets, thin edges, and other surfaces where the oxidised metal would be rubbed off.

The different pipings on the armor were painted with dark blue glazes to create a slightly different color without too big of a contrast.

I was uncertain of what colors the wings should have: they look like a cross between an insect’s wing and a bat’s. I did not want them to stand too much out of the general effect, so they got mostly the same treatment as the rest of the figure. The wings received a purple glaze, and the insectoid wing structure was shaded with ochre and brown oil paint blended into the base dry; it does look slightly iridescent and chitinous.

The tabard/cloak Morty is wearing got a similar layering treatment, only in this case I used a white base and added mostly brown colors. As a chaos prince of Nurgle, the god of disease, he can’t really be expected to have a spotless, white attire. (Having one at all is pretty silly since it would get caught in everything and anything.) I added further highlights, shading and discolorations using oil paints. After weeks of drying it is still somewhat shiny… This is a good lesson on getting out the linseed oil out of the oil paint before using it. (Just put a blob of paint onto a piece of cardboard and wait a few hours… Next time I will not skip on this step.) Right now I’ll go with the “can’t you see it’s leather??” defence. It turned out a bit darker than I would like, but there it is. As I said I’m not the best of figure painters.

The base was painted similarly to the figure: several layers of dark grey and brown glazes over black primer, then a little steel and gold True Metal paint drybrushed on here and there. The rubble got a bit of a rust and dust pigments, and the bronze areas got the same treatment as Morty’s armor.

Overall I really like the results -even with my admittedly limited skills managed to make it out into an impressive renderition of this

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior Part 1.

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2018 will be the year of the Panther, probably; several companies have issued their Panther models, and two of these models have a full interior included: Rye Fields’ and Takom’s. There is also a Trumpeter 1/16 one coming out -also with full interior.

I bought both Takom and Rye Field models, and decided to build them side-by-side; this review contains my impressions of the Takom model. Since I just moved to a different country, and not everything is set up yet, the photos are somewhat questionable quality; for that I apologise. I can already see that there will be some serious holdups during the build simply because it is a shame to hide all of the amazing interior details. Since I would like to display the complexity of the interior, this necessitates a cutaway model. I do not wish to butcher this gorgeous model, so it will take a while figuring out how to cut it up cleanly to provide a good view the interior. Another option is to wait for Takom’s upcoming crane to come out, and show the tank with the turret lifted up… If you have not yet bought your Panther yet, Takom also issued a model with optional clear parts, issued the Ausf G as well, making their range quite wide, and providing similar options to Rye Field’s offering… so you have a LOT of choices even within the Takom range.

Back to the kit… The box is enormous; the model is over 1500 parts, after all. The sprues are well protected in individual plastic bags, nothing was damaged during transit.

The instructions come in a small(ish) booklet. There are color panels showing the interior painted, and the suggested color schemes for the tank itself, but most of the steps are shown in black-and-white. The steps are clear for the most part. To be honest I did run into difficulties now and then trying to figure out where to put the tiny little parts for subassemblies simply because the drawings are small. The solution is either a magnifying glass, or, in my case, I simply took photo of the complex and tiny drawing and zoomed in on my phone. This is certainly an issue but not an insummarable one. The kit looks incredibly complex, and the whole assembly looks very daunting at first. My advice is to take it one step at a time. While the model IS complex, it is not horribly so; individual steps should not be challenging by themselves. Step-by-step, just focusing on the next steps without worrying the next dozen pages of instructions still waiting, you will slowly find that you have completed most of the tank. Despite of the complexity I did find you don’t need incredibly high level of skill to build this model. There are a lot of tiny sub-assemblies, complex parts, but the designers of this model tried to make sure that the way these parts fit would make it difficult to make mistakes; carefully placed locator pins, asymmetric joints, etc all make sure that you can only fit parts together in the correct orientation. (It IS possible to mess up, though; always check the instructions carefully.)

What I really liked about the model is that Takom tried to use PE as little as possible, and managed to achieve a highly detailed, complex kit with only 7 PE screens. Obviously, if you want to replace the side-skirts, or other parts with PE, several aftermarket companies have already issued sets for the model, but for most people I think the plastic parts will be perfectly suitable. There are also no clear parts for periscopes and whatnot, but I never actually thought they were adding anything to a model, so it’s all good…

The only extra I bought -and this one is, unfortunately, quite necessary- was the Meng Zimmerit decal set. Most Panther A-s had Zimmerit applied, so there is no way out of this one unless you want to model that handful of tanks which were left bare of Zimmerit. I have never used decals for Zimmerit, so this will be an interesting experience. (I’m not sure why Takom did not issue this model with Zimmerit -perhaps they wanted to give the modellers the flexibility. The only problem is that you are then left with aftermarket or DYI Zimmerits. Fear not: there are other Takom Panthers coming out with Zimmerit, but they were not yet announced when I bought this model.)

Step 1.

The assembly starts with the bottom part of the hull. The transmission, the torsion bars, all the small bits are relatively easy to put together. The suspension is static; you will not be able to position the swing arms, but this is how it is; the model has been made user friendly as possible by Takom, and simplifying how the suspension is built up is part of this. (The other part are the link-and-length tracks.)

Step 2.

This is a multi-part assembly of the transmission. It is a very detailed little part, and I ran into the first issue here: step 2G is so tiny, it is impossible to see where M15 and M37 goes. This is where the magnifying glass comes handy. At step 2H you are supposed to glue in the piping coming out of the transmission, but I suggest you dry fit it into the hull first, and glue the pipes in with their other ends fitted into their respective holes on the hull (step 4).

Step 3- 4.

Assembly of the hull’s bottom (the ribbing) and the sides. You are shown to glue the transmission in, but it would make painting more difficult later should you decide not to paint everything primer red. (The transmission was most likely not left in primer red.)

Step 5-6.

Addition of the sides to the bottom, with the torsion bars. These parts fit remarkably well- it holds together even without glue…

The sub-assembly at step 6 details the assembly of the controls for the driver.

Step 7-9.

Running gear… The swing arms are fixed, so you cannot position the wheels; the link and length tracks would make this impractical as well. You do get a template to position the swing arms, and the very same template is used to assemble the tracks. Important: do NOT glue F2-1 and F2-2 (the drive sprockets’ housing) before using the template as they will be in the way.

Step 10-11-12-13-14.

The assembly of the hull bottom, the driver’s and radio operator’s seats, the extra three ammunition storage under the turret, and the instrument panels. It also goes through the assembly of the firewalls in the engine compartment, and the drive shaft/turret turning mechanism. You also assemble the ammunition storage boxes around the lower hull. They are both good and bad. The good part is that you don’t need to use individual projectiles; there are specially moulded parts that fit into the ammo holes from under the box, and only contain the parts of the projectiles that are actually sticking out. It certainly makes assembly a bit more simple, since instead of multiple projectiles, you only have one part per box. However it makes painting a bit more difficult, since you can only install them from under the box. Either you finish the painting of the interior, and then glue the boxes in place, or you paint the projectile heads after everything is installed and painted. I really do prefer putting as much of the model together as possible before painting, so I don’t find this option a very good one.

Step 15-16-17

Here comes the assembly of the tracks. The tracks are plastic link-and-length types, and you need to glue the guide horns onto them (two per tracklink…). These horns are hollow, and I think it was a simpler solution than to mould the tracklinks as one piece. Takom has provided a pretty unique and relatively simple solution of this making the process less monotonous and time-consuming, but it is still far from ideal. They have moulded the guide horns in rows onto plastic strips, which can be positioned over the track links, so you can glue them in rows. (I just used an extra thin glue with a brush.) Once they are dry, you can safely remove the tracklinks… the gluing part is easy; the cutting part still takes a lot of time, not to mention you need to smooth out both faces of the guide horns where the sprue gates were located. Despite of having the horns lined up on a straight plastic part, gluing them in a straight line was a bit challenging; a lot of the horns are somewhat wobbly, and required some careful adjustments.

All in all, the idea is good, but I still prefer if they moulded the tracklinks as one piece. Even if they don’t have hollow horns.

Once the track links are finished, you can use the same template you used before to glue the tracks together; or you can use the actual mode, too. (I did not find the template very useful, but that is a highly personal opinion.)


You also add a couple of personal items, like canteens to the hull.

Steps 18-22

Detail the assembly of the Maybach engine. As they usually say, the engine is a small model on its own, and while it might sound like a cliche at this point, it is actually true. In general the instructions do a good job showing you what goes where, but some reference photos will still come useful to help deciding exactly where certain pipes go, and what angle they should stand.

Steps 23-24


You add more small stuff to the sides wall. I am not sure I like this philosophy, spreading the assembly of a part into several different steps; I would prefer if all steps concerning the assembly of a given part of the tank would be grouped together, and you did not have to constantly re-visit areas you thought you have already finished. (It makes planning much easier.)

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This step details the ammo rack assemblies on the side of the hull. The instruction manual has a couple of colored panels in the middle, which will help you with painting the ammunition, and placing the decals on them; it is as good time as any to refer to them. (Obviously it makes sense to paint all the ammunition at once, even though you were already instructed to install a couple of projectiles in the bottom of the hull. I have delayed those steps until I finished the painting of the interior.) The painting guide suggests to use a mixed load of brass/lacquered steel cased ammunition; while visually it is appealing to have both, I’m not sure how accurate this would be. I think tanks were probably loaded with one or the other type, the steel case substituting the brass later in the war due to copper shortages. (On the other hand you can also make an argument for a slow process of exchanging one for the other, while having a transition period having both.)

I also left the racks off, since it is one of those rare instances when it is simpler to paint the parts on the sprue, and then assemble them. Once the ammunition is finished and the racks are painted white I will put them together -probably towards the end of the build.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a huge box full of Panther parts, and a really diminished box of yet-to-be-used sprues.

Next will be the turret interior, and then I will be forced to sit down and seriously thing about cutting up the model. I was a perfect procastinator; did everything to be busy and to avoid making these decisions at the same time, but once the interior is complete, the time is up: some hard choices have to be made how to cut and what to cut to display most of the interior of this gorgeous model. (I might be able to get away using rare earth magnets to hold everything together, but I would not hold my breath.)

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See you on the next post.

Games Workshop – Lord of Contagion

 

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It’s really hard to depict what “Chaos” and “corruption” is; figures, artwork and even novels resort to the usual tentacles, horns, crab-pincers, boobs, and in case of the Death Guard, decomposition and disease. (There’s an awesome video explaining what Chaos really is.) In this latter case I actually think they were right on target; these new figures -except for the silly blob-daemons all over- are pretty cool. They truly look corrupted and frightening. After doing the Chaos Rhino I was looking for another Death Guard figure to paint.

I have to admit I do not know anything about this particular figure, its stats and how it’s supposed to be played; I bought it on Ebay because I liked the pose. (I think it’s better than the Typhus models.)

The painting went reasonably simple; I decided to try using glazes. I created the glaze using ordinary Citadel paints and lahmian medium. I primed the model with Vallejo German grey primer, and then started adding layers upon layers of green mediums (and some brown) in different hues to depict the filthy, corroded, corrupted armor. The cape got a similar treatment using mostly browns with some green; once I got a nice base color I added streaks of oil paints directly from the tube. Once I was happy with the overall effect of the armor, I added dark brown pin-washes to add depth to the model. I painted the brass parts with Citadel Tin and dark bronze; the edges got some Vallejo True metal gold, and then a very thin varnish of turquoise to depict oxidated bronze. After the turquoise varnish I highlighted some edges with gold again.

The fumes of the figure were painted with different brightness of green: starting with a very bright, very light green, and building up darker and darker colors, with the light colors showing only in the deep recesses. As the last touch I rubbed some black pigments on the most protruding parts signifying smoke.

The pipe was an addition from Grim Skull Miniature’s Mortarion model (it came with two pipes). The base will need some work, but for now I declare this figure done.

I think it turned out pretty nice for an armor modeller. Milage may vary.