Category Archives: german

The tale of the four Luchs’ – the Maco Pz.Kpfw. II Luchs

Modelltrans’ Luchs

Flyhawk’s Luchs

…and still to come: Armory’s Luchs!

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These years seem to be the golden years of scale models. Vehicles that have not been available or only available in the form of limited resin kits suddenly get a lot of attention. The Pz.Kpfw. II. Luchs was one of these vehicles. I’ve built the ModellTrans version five years ago, inspired by the online game World of Tanks, and now, in a very short span of time we get not one but three Braille scale plastic versions of the tank.

I have reviewed Flyhawk’s 1/72 Luchs offerings before, and I was really curious what the other Luchs kits are like. This review will be about the up-armored Maco offering; I’ll comment on the differences between this kit and the Flyhawk kit here and there during the review. (The up-armored Luchs is essentially the same as the basic Maco Luchs with a small fret added; anything I say here is relevant to all Maco kits.)

The breakdown of the model is quite old-school: we have a “traditional” lower hull assembly from four parts (two sides, a bottom and the back). The suspension units and the swing arms holding the roadwheels are already moulded onto the sides. There is an interesting solution for the last pair of braces on the mudguards: they are moulded onto the back panel. The mudguards will need to be slid under the brackets. Be careful not to cut them off; first I thought they were some sort of plastic overflow during the moulding process. As most of the finer details, the back light is moulded onto the left brace.

The added parts are on a separate sprue: the tool box from the back of the mudguards, the jerry cans for the turret sides (these were moved to the back of the tank in the Flyhawk up-armored Luchs kit), smoke grenade launchers, some extra boxes on the back of the turret, a metal armor plate for the lower hull on the front, the perforated vision block protector, and additional track sections protecting the frontal hull. Without this sprue you can build the early version of the model easily.

The interweaving road wheels are done the same way as DML handled them with their kits: the two inner rows of wheels form one part each, onto which you’ll have to attach the outermost row as individual wheels. This solution makes assembly much simpler, and it’s a great solution to avoid any misalignment. The pattern on the road wheels is very well replicated, and the wheels are very thin, which is probably quite true to scale. (Although it’s a conjecture on my part since I have no access to a real vehicle, and neither have I found any information on the thickness of the wheels anywhere.)

The drive wheel is nicely detailed, and the plastic is a tad thicker than the Flyhawk kit’s- this is actually a good thing, because it can easily bend when you are trying to install the tracks on the Flyhawk model. The tracks come as link-and-length, and they are very easy to assemble. (They are probably the easiest I’ve had so far in 1/72.)

The upper hull and the mudguards come as one piece. The model is really “traditional” in this sense as well: the sides of the hull will need to be fitted as separate parts due to the details (viewing ports) that need to be there; no slide-moulds for this kit. The fit is remarkably good, though, so no problems there.

The model does not come with many PE parts: we get the top of the German “crow’s foot” antenna, and that’s it. We also get a couple of brass items: the rod part of this antenna, another whip aerial, and a turned barrel. (The thin metal aerial with the “crow’s foot” looks much more convincing than Flyhawk’s version of plastic rod combined with the metal top.)

The tools -with the exception of the jack, the fire extinguisher, and the shovel- are moulded onto the mudguard; this is something I’m not very keen on. (I prefer painting them separately before attaching them onto the model.) The shovel is a pretty simple affair; it’s probably better to replace it from the spares bin. The model does not have a width indicator; you should get a PE one (Dan Taylor modelworks does a set), or fashion one from stretched sprue. They were too fragile in the Flyhawk kit that I just used PE aftermarket ones instead of trying to clean them up. The tool boxes are slightly different than in the Flyhawk kit, and their locations are not exactly the same, either- again, these could be simply because the models were based on different production versions.

The turret is made out of five parts; the plastic barrel is molded on the top section. Interesting solution (both the assembly of the turret and the gun barrel), and it works. You have an option for a metal barrel, which is nicely detailed. The only imperfection I found with the kit was the grab handle on the back: it was broken and bent during transit. (I ended up not changing it.) The other issue I have with the turret is the almost perfectly rectangular shape of the top of the turret; I think it’s a bit larger than it should be- it’s certainly larger than the Flyhawk’s turret. (Which is also smaller than the ModellTrans turret). The shape is not the same, either. The Flyhawk kit’s turret is more hexagonal: the back and the front are a bit narrower than the middle. In the Maco kit it’s more rectangular. It also looks like the top is a bit larger than on the drawings I found online. The big question is which one is correct. I don’t have access to an actual tank to check, and the photos I found were taken mainly from eye level -for obvious reasons. (If there’s one in Bovingdon I’ll keep an eye out next time I get there.)

The top turret hatch (the commander’s) can be opened. The hatch has interior details, but the rest of the turret does not; it’s probably best to put a figure in it if you leave it open. The back large, rectangular hatch cannot be opened.

The assembly was about two hours -tops; it’s a very well engineered, easy to assemble kit. I tried something new (for me) in this build, and made the whole running gear/track assembly as a single sub-assembly; the whole shebang can be removed for painting and weathering. (I think I’ll use this approach in the future more often.)

The painting was a bit more difficult, as I am not really good with spraying 1/72 freehand camo. I’ve base-coated the model with primer red, and used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb. Obviously neither my airbrush nor my skills were up to the challenge of making thin sprayed on lines, but here I had an idea of pure genius. (If I can be as bold as to call it that.) The Ammo acrylic paints form a cured surface; they are very different from the Tamiya paints. And, as we know from experimenting with the Windex chipping method, Tamiya paints are dissolved by ammonia… I simply made up a 2-3% ammonia solution, and used a brush to carefully clean up the overspray.

Job done.

This is something definitely worth remembering; as long as the base layer is different (either enamel, or, in this case, Mig’s Acrylic paint), you can clean the Tamiya top layer up easily. (I did not take a photo after applying the green, but imagine the yellow areas having a greenish oversrpay all over.)

The weathering steps further helped with the camo issues. Some dust (pigments mixed with water and some surfactant sprayed onto the model), washes all made the base color a bit darker, and helped to fade the green patches a bit. The silver pencil really helped making the model look like a chunk of metal.

I’ve used different colors of mud (in this case I used Vallejo’s and AK’s sets, not pigments). The key is to first use the lighter colors on a larger area (both flicking it on, and by applying with a brush directly), representing the dried under-layer, and then add the darker shades, representing the still wet mud. With a brush moistened with the appropriate solvent (water in case of Vallejo, white spirit with AK) you can -and should- adjust the effect before the layer dries.

Conclusion

The Flyhawk kit is an incredibly detailed, albeit complex model, which will challenge the model builder. The Maco kit is a very well detailed, well engineered, easy to assemble model. Sure, it does not pack as many PE parts and tiny plastic bits, but it does make the build less of a challenge, and the results are still nice. The moulded on detail is convincing, and it is nice to have a model that is a breeze to build. In my subjective opinion it is on the same level as the Revell 1/72 Famo in the quality of plastic, ease of assembly and level of detail. (In other words: pretty darn good.)

It comes with a metal gun barrel, and two metal aerials -things the Flyhawk kit lacks. On the other hand it does not have a PE engine deck grille unfortunately.

In short: if you want to go all-out, and have a challenging build, go for the Flyhawk one. If you want a good, easy to build model, which builds fast, choose the Maco model; in this fortunate case we have an abundance of choice when it comes to this vehicle.

Coming up: Armory’s offering.

Zrinyi II part 2.

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So, my first ever 1/35 diorama; I used it as a trial for the T-62 dio I’m planning. (The first statement is not entirely true; I did do a snowed-in Mobelwagen long time back, but a small snowy vista is hardly a complex diorama.) It started without a concept; I had two figures and a bunch of equipment to use, so I made use of them… The scene -in retrospect- depicts a Zrinyi II in a prepared position somewhere on the Eastern Front in late Fall/early Spring (probably in 1943, as they are not fleeing). Two German soldiers are discussing the tactics, while one of the tankers is sitting on the tank, uninvolved, having a smoke. Not very dramatic, but there you go. I finally got to use the German figures which -as you might have guessed by now- were sitting in my collection since 2007 gathering dust. The Hungarian tanker came from Bodi.

Disclaimer: I had no idea what I was doing when I started. (I’m not sure I do now.)

One thing is for sure: I’ve learned a lot about how to “populate” a diorama.

The first steps were adding the textured base from Tamiya. It’s supposed to be mud colored, but it’s not very convincing; the color and texture looks something entirely else. Something better would be needed.

I went out to the garden, gathered up some dried-out soil, and mixed it with plaster; using this mixture I added some terrain irregularities. (The German figures came with a small base which needed to be blended in the rest of the scene.) I used a couple of boxes and fuel barrels as well to make the scene look busier. Because the plaster made the color of the earth I used, I went over the whole scene with my airbrush several times using different earth tones. The tank was in place by then, but the little overspray actually helps in this case; it blends in the mud on the lower chassis with the soil. I made some more mixture of soil (and much less plaster), which was “flicked” onto the lower part of the screens on the side. I loaded up a stiff brush, and created the splatters using a toothpick (it is not difficult, but first try which direction you need to move the toothpick to make sure the mud ends up on the tank…) As with everything: the layers are the key. Several slightly different colors were added in several light layers – it adds  to the realism of the weathering.

The other issue with the soil was that it cracked as it dried. It was a fortunate thing for me- it does look like real McCoy. In this case I can claim that it was totally intentional. Absolutely. However if I want to produce a groundwork that is not cracked, I might be in trouble. Experimentation is in order I feel; this is where shortcuts, like pre-made mixtures can help.

I have bought a bunch of different diorama products to prepare the vegetation. The self-adhesive grass patches looked much better once I used the airbrush to spray some brown color on them. The laser-cut shrub has an unfortunate, unnatural color; green and brown oil colors helped to make them resemble actual living plants.

The figures were painted over several years, really; I’m not much of a figure painter. For the face (the most problematic area) I used Citadel’s different flesh colors in layers. I had to get a replacement head for the sitting figure, as the original was lost.

As a last step I put some fallen leaves and other plant detritus into the scene. There’s a tree which has a long, caterpillar-like seed-pod. (Despite of being a biologist I have absolutely no clue what the tree is called… As soon as I figure out I’ll amend this post.) When you  crumb it up, it falls apart, and some parts do look like fallen leaves. I mixed these in with some strongly diluted white spirit, and placed it all over the base. Small details like that actually made this scene a lot more realistic.

DML 1/35 Panzerkampfwagen II Sd. Kfz. 121 Ausf F. with interior

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Another build long in the box, waiting to be finished. The same story, really: I moved over to the UK from Florida, and had to box everything up; this guy was waiting six years to be finished. (And some parts are still missing- like the wooden block for the jack-, since I can’t find the box I put them. Yet.) I was in the same box as the Pnz I, so it was fitting to put them into the same display box as well… With the Panther, that’s three tanks down with interior, and a lot more to go.

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The DML kit is amazing; I can wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. The detail is just great, the model is easy to assemble; if you want a 1/35 PnzII ausf F with interior, this is the kit you want to buy.

 

I only really had to take care of the weathering: pigments, washes, filters. I did not want to go overboard; I liked the relatively clean look of the tank.

I used the usual German Grey by Tamiya back in the days, but a little blue filter really made the color look good.

 

Now I only have the Tiger I, Tiger II, Panzer III, Panzer IV, Panzer 38(t) to finish and I’ll have all the German tanks of the war with interior…

Flyhawk Luchs 1/72 part 2.

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Well, it’s been a long time coming: I just realized I’ve forgotten to finish the Flyhawk Luchs build review I started a while ago. My bad.

So, as a reminder, here’s the kit:

 

And here’s the building process:

 

OK, now onto painting.

I managed to snap the width indicator rods, so I replaced them with a PE set by Dan Taylor Modelworks (I got them from the Milicast website if interested).

The first layer was a primer- simply used a spraycan of grey primer. While they are easy and fast to use, there is always a danger of flooding the details with paint; I think from now on I’ll use my airbrush to apply primer. (Primer is not strictly necessary: modern acrylic paints are pretty good at sticking to the surface without it, but I still prefer it as it will provide an uniform surface. If you use dark primer, it serves as a pre-shade as well.)

I used Mig Ammo’s dunkelgelb, and this time I followed the instructions. The first time I used these paints I assumed they’d work like any acrylic paint I used before, and was frustrated when they did not. After seeing their youtube tutorial, I was able to actually use it correctly. Well, read the manual is the take home message from this. I’ve found these paints to be really good, by the way. Right now I’m torn between these and the trusty Tamiya paints. (Tamiya gives some amazingly flat finish, so there are definite advantages.)

I added some pigments mixed with plaster to the lower chassis to simulate mud, installed the running gear and the tracks, and proceeded with the camouflage. (Well not strictly in this order, but for the narrative’s sake let’s pretend.)

Anyhow. This step was fine; the next, however, was a fateful one.

I hand painted the camouflage.

And I failed to lighten the camo colors to a suitable level… Disaster struck, in other words.

The issue was that I, for some reason, failed to appreciate the scale effect: namely that the same colors look much darker on a small model than on a large vehicle. I also use the base color normally with the darker colors to lessen the contrast; otherwise you’ll end up with a very strongly contrasting, very unrealistic paintjob (don’t even get me started on the obvious brushwork; the spots should be airbrushed, but in this scale it’s a tad difficult).

Which I did. (Apologies for the wildly varying photo quality -living in a small London apartment makes setting up the photobooth a choir, and sometimes I just skip it if I only have to snap a photo or two.)

As you can see the results are toy-like; on a real tank these colors would blend in with each other. Filters are an excellent way to blend them together, but if the contrast is too high, they will not be as effective. On the photos with a incorrectly set white balance (the yellowish ones) you can see the effects of several light dark brown filters; some of the contrast disappeared.

 

At this point I put the tank in a box and scrubbed its memory out of my mind. The Flyhawk kit is really a feat of model kit engineering, essentially a shrunken 1/35 model, and it was not a pleasant thought that I made a mess of the paintjob.

The next breakthrough came with an idea: use some washable dust (again by Mig Ammo). Since I had nothing to lose at this part. A very light mist of the paint actually brought the whole camo scheme together: suddenly the tank looked much better (something I dare to present in front of others).

 

ModellTrans 1/72 Pnz.Kpfw II Ausf L Luchs

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Well, here’s to a Luchs bonanza… Since I’ve been reviewing some of the latest Luchs offerings in plastic, here’s a trip to memory lane, when the Luchs was only available in resin…

(I just noticed I did not finish the Flyhawk review… it shall be done in the next post, I promise.)

 

I fell in love with the tank playing World of Tanks; it’s a ridiculously overpowered little terror of a tank in the game. It was natural to try to get it in a scale model as well. Back then, in 2011 the only available version was the ModellTrans in 1/72. (Come to think of it Armory might have had one, but I’m not sure.) Little did I know that three company will start churning out plastic versions as well -more on those later.

The assembly was pretty easy: the tank had approximately five pieces altogether. I’ve changed the resin gun barrel for a metal one, but that was my only improvement on the model. The kit sadly does not come with the crow’s foot antenna, and has no width indicators, so I’ll have to get those fixed once I find the model again. (It’s in storage right now.)

The detail is OK, a bit on the rough side. There are some bubbles; nothing unexpected in a resin kit.

 

 

I went with the German grey version, and painted it by hand. I’m not very happy with how the paintjob turned out to be, but it is what it is; I was improving. I painted relatively large paint chips with a lightened version of the base color, and used some rust to show wear-and-tear.

Some pigments were used to depict dust, and I declared the tank ready to go. I mounted it onto a cheap base (with a plastic cover to protect it from dust), and the little Luchs went into the dark depth of a cardboard box.

DML 1/35 Marder III Ausf H – finishing up old projects

 

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Well, this is an old build as well. Or rather, the finishing of an old build.

I bought this model in Florida, back in 2007, and after doing a minimum amount of work on it, I just boxed it up. It stayed in a box for a long time along with a Tamiya T-62 -soon to be featured-, and a DML Sd.Kfz.250 -similarly soon to be featured.)

Anyhow, it came with me through my years doing my PhD, but I never got to work on it. I had no airbrush, no space, so I focused on 1/72.

 

Well, no more.

 

I finished the beast.

(Another confession… I just realized that there were not two, but three Marder III variants. I was under the impression this kit was a Marder III (Sd.Kfz. 139) -it goes to show how long ago I saw the instruction manual-, and I am still planning to build a Marder III Ausf M. Well, apparently, this is the third one of the two I wanted to build…)

 

Anyhow, since it’s a DML kit, it went together well; I experienced no problems with the build, aside the poor fit of the gun shield into its place on the upper hull. The detail is great, and the kit came with PE and metal gun barrel- things that made me love DML in the first place.

I got most of the sub-assemblies ready, painted and muddied up the sides of the hull so I could install the running gear and tracks, and proceeded with the painting of the rest of the vehicle.

 

I wanted to try the new (well, for me at least) Mig Ammo paints, so I got the Dunkelgelb and Olivegrun from them. I did not look up how to use them, so I did experience some problems with the paints. Before I dismissed them as crap, I found a good tutorial which highlighted the differences between these paints, and the acrylics I’ve been using. This was the first ever free-hand camo painting I’ve done; any mistakes were covered up by a layer of the base color.

Too late for this build, but still useful to know.

 

I’ve used brown filters in several light layers to blend the camo colors together; it also made the very pale base color a bit warmer and darker. Managed to break one of those backward pointing rods on the gun shield, so I replaced it with a styrene rod (I just noticed I forgot to paint it and the antenna before taking these photos).

Paintchips were painted using the base color and a dark brown color to stimulate light and deeper scratches; the metal parts were painted with AK Interactive’s True Metal paints. I left the painted parts to dry for a day, and then carefully polished them with a cotton swab. I painted some oil marks onto the large wheels; I’ve been looking forward to paint these ever since I saw how everyone else paints these wheels on the Hetzer and other Pnz 38 based vehicles; unfortunately the next layers of mud and dust covered these lovely marks up. Next time.

After washes and filters, I’ve added a copious amount of mud. It was mixed using pigments, plasters and static grass, and used a stiff brush to create splash marks.

 

Even thought I did not exactly feel inspired to do this build, and I rushed some parts of it, I feel the results are much better than I anticipated. This is the problem with backlogs- you want to get them over with, so you can concentrate on new projects. I really envy the people who have the self-control of only buying a model at a time; I still have three-four half-built models I need to finish. This one took its place next to the MiniArt SU-76 I’ve finished not long ago (also a historical build); but the other two Marder III variants will be done in 1/72 to fasten things up.

1/72 Pz.Kpfw.VII Lowe (Armory)

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Well, this has been a long, arduous trip. It was one of those models where you lose inspiration, you make mistakes, and it feels more and more frustrating to spend time on, rather than on a more rewarding project -and not because of any fault of the model itself. It was just one of those builds I guess. I had no clear conception where I want to end up, I made some mistakes, and it felt like a choir trying to push forward. The end result however, was surprisingly nice. So this is the story of the poor, neglected Lowe.

The Löwe was a 90 ton super heavy tank, which was planned -but never built- by Nazi Germany. It was superseded by the even heavier Maus- which actually did get built. Along with the super heavy members of the Entwicklung series, these gigantic tank design programs demonstrate some of the lunacy of the direction WWII tank design took to in Germany during the second half of the war: embarking on even more and more ambitious tank projects in search for a war-winning superweapon, consuming valuable resources and manpower, while the fronts were collapsing all around them. It did give us some nice-looking tank models, though, so there is some silver lining.

Disclaimer: I’ve used my review in Armorama for some of the text.

 

 

 

The plastic parts are well done, apart from some minor problems. Overall I found the quality of parts, the detail, etc. on par with the Eastern Express/UM/Roden offerings: not very good, but not bad, either. The detail, in general, is good; certainly not soft, but don’t expect DML quality. There is very little flash. The model could use some extra detailing; one of the things I would have liked to do was to replace the periscope covers with photo etched ones. (They are simple molded-on blocks. Armory produces excellent quality periscope covers for the King Tiger, which would probably serve well as substitute.) The one thing I really missed is the depiction of the interlocking armor plates on the upper hull. The hull was (to be) originally constructed by welding slabs of armor together, and the points where these armor plates meet should be visible (you can see this on the hull of the Tiger, and Tiger II, for example). It would have been nice to have these details molded onto the hull. It’s possible to carve them out, but I decided not to bother with them. Some parts you will have to create yourself; you will need some wire for the towing cables, for example. (You can get some wire used to hang pictures from art stores.)

 

The only real problem I found was the engine deck. The grills have several casting imperfections (see photo above), where plastic got into the perforated parts; if you want to open them up, you will have to work very carefully with a very thin scalpel. I attempted, but quickly decided to leave them as they were- did not want to risk the delicate plastic detail. I assume the vehicle would have had screens over the engine deck, just as the Tiger I and Tiger II did; these would have been great additions to the model. (I tried to find aftermarket 1/72 scale Tiger II grille screens, but the only one set I managed to find was sold out everywhere.)

The tracks are flexible, and made out of several segments. The detail is somewhat soft on the inner side; again not a big problem. This solution of segmented flexible tracks is an interesting combination of the link-and-length plastic tracks and the “rubber band” style tracks. It makes it easier to install them, but alignment is a problem – in fact it is kind of a nightmare. A set of PE tracks would have been really nice (although this is a bit too much to ask for this price I admit), or at least some plastic alternatives. All in all, the kit could use some more brass. As for tracks and engine deck grilles I’m happy to report that Armory has came out not long ago with an updated version of this kit, which alleviates all these issues.

Finally, the modeller gets an option of building a “historical” model (whatever it means in this context), or the World of Tanks version of the vehicle (you get the very characteristic muzzle break from the game, and a different engine hatch on the back panel).

Assembly issues

Instructions are well done, and easy to follow, but the first part of the build is a bit challenging if you follow them. The hull has to be assembled from multiple parts (as usual in these kits). The issue is that if you follow the instructions, the hull parts will not fit. Once you assembled the “tub” that makes up the lower part of the hull, you are supposed to glue the fenders onto the sides, and finally place the upper part of the hull on top of this. The plastic parts are on the thick side, and the guiding ridges are not perfectly placed onto the fenders. Despite of how small these differences are, they do add up. When you put the lower and the upper part of the hull together, there will be a gap on the front where these two halves should meet.

The best –and quite easy- way to get around this problem is to do some surgery first, and to deviate from the instructions. First, thin the sides of the top part of the hull from the inside a bit (for an easier fit into the grooves molded onto the mudguards). Glue the back panel, the top and the bottom parts together first (parts 1, 24, 35), creating the overall shape of the tank (see photos) without the sides.

This way the top and bottom will touch in the front. This is the time to use some filler to make sure the attachment points on the back and the front are smooth, and there are no seams anywhere.

Sand off the guiding ridges from the side parts (parts 34, 36) of the hull, and glue them in place. Cut away the guiding ridges from the sides of the fenders (parts 23, 25). It is necessary, as they are supposed to go on top of the side panels, locking together with the ridges on those parts, fitting between the two hull halves. Unfortunately there is not enough space. The fenders themselves are not thin enough to fit, but this will not be an issue if you remove these ridges. (It would have been more fortunate if the fenders were made of PE.) Glue the fenders in place, and you are almost finished with the build.


The other issue I had with the kit was that the attachment of the back panel is a bit unfortunate. Usually the top of the hull goes over the back panel, covering it. This follows the original way of construction, and does not break the upper surface with an extra seam. In this kit, however, the back panel is placed behind the top part, creating an extra seam on the top of the hull. This, unfortunately, needs to be eliminated with filler.

 

The turret has a strange, round shape, which is very uncharacteristic of the usual angular German designs. It is made out of three parts: the main part of the turret (part 2), the frontal bit under the gun mantlet (part 6), and the bottom part, which will not be seen (part 17). This bottom part has two invaginations which should fit with the two little pegs molded onto the smaller, frontal part of the turret, but they are too small for the actual parts. You will have to enlarge them with a scalpel. It’s not a major surgery, and as it will be hidden under the turret, it will not impact on how the model will look. The rest of the kit falls together without any problems whatsoever.

I have finished the model to the point of weathering for this review. A couple of details are missing (the towing lines, for example, as I will need to fashion one later). Photos of the finished model will be posted in the World of Tanks campaign forum.

 

Painting

I’ve given the tank an uniform German grey color, before attaching all the equipment, tools, etc to the hull.

 

 

 

At this point I kind of lost my motivation to go ahead. I had other projects, and I felt a bit stalled; I was not sure what direction I would like to take the model.

After spending a year in a box (I’ve moved to London, I’ve had other worries) I dusted the Lowe off, and gave a hard thought of what sort of a paintjob I wanted to give it. I settled with the octopus-pattern, which I’ve seen on some fictional 1946 designs. The build stalled even further as I had no idea how to achieve this finish…

The next breakthrough was when I spotted a punch set in a charity shop; I managed to make little rings out of masking tape. They were not exactly good, but I went ahead, nevertheless as I wanted to get the painting over with.

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The results were disappointing to say the least. The masking tape rings were not good enough, and I’ve used Mig’s paints for the first time without reading about them. I assumed they are to be used the same manner as Tamiya paints; well, I was wrong. Nevertheless  at this point all I saw was that the paint behaved weirdly, and I really, really hated it. (Since then I actually learned to use it properly.)

The other thing I’ve failed to consider in my rush to finish the build was the scale effect: the model had a really bad, very strong contrast. (The colors should have been “toned down” in this scale.) Needless to say I went on working on more successful projects; nobody likes to be reminded of mucking things up.

The next step -after standing like this in my “half-finished” box, I’ve decided to give it a winter whitewash; to use the model for practising -and to finish it finally; and this I did. I’ve covered the Lowe with dullcoat, and used Tamiya white in several light, irregular layers. About 30 minutes later I’ve brought out my ammonia-containing cleaning product, and proceeded to do some practice on the Windex chipping method. This relies on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints, and by preparing a 2-3% solution you can carefully remove some of it with a brush. (It’s a process that can be controlled surprisingly well.) It creates much subtler chips than chipping solutions/hairspray technique.

Weathering

Once the whitewash was on and made look worn, I was in the finish. The model finally looked like a proper model, all past mistakes corrected or hidden away, and even the octopus camo pattern looked good under the whitewash. The emotional roller-coaster was high again. Some white pigments (chalk ground up) in water was used on the fenders and the back of the engine compartment to simulate accumulated snow.

Since it was a winter vehicle I wanted to make it looked dirtied up. Winter slush is dark, almost black. I’ve used oil paints as a slurry, and to make it look even dirtier and disgusting I’ve put some green in the mixture as well. I’ve used MiniArt’s painting guide to the SU-122 as an inspiration: the winter camo (“Rudolph, the red topped SPG”) option is quite dirty and covered in this dark, blackish much.

I dabbed the oils on using a large brush, and used a clean, wet brush to “wash back”, and remove the excess from the top part of the hull, and other regions where I judged the dirt to be too much. The brush then -since it had some pigments trapped in it already- was dabbed onto the turret and other “lightly” soiled areas.

Essentially this was it. The moral of this story is essentially this: despite of all my efforts to mess it up, I managed to make something resembling a presentable tank out of this model.

 

 

Flyhawk Pz. Kpfw II Ausf L Luchs initial, special anniversary edition review, part 1

 

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Introduction

The Luchs was the final version of the veritable Panzerkampwagen II series, and was designed to serve as a reconnaissance light tank. It differed so much from any of the previous versions, it could be argued that it was a completely different design. In fact, I do argue it is a completely different design; it shares practically nothing with the original Pnz II. It was equipped with wide tracks, a torsion bar suspension, and large overlapping wheels which account for its good cross-country capabilities, and relatively high top speed. The tank was produced by MAN from 1943 to 1944; a total of about a hundred vehicles were made (from the original 800 planned). A version armed with a 5cm cannon was also in the plans, but this tank was never produced. (The word “initial” on the box hints that this version is in the works, too.) The chassis was developed by MAN, and the superstructure and turret was developed by Daimler-Benz, based on the VK 901 experimental vehicle. The engine was a 180 HP Maybach HL66P engine. The total weight was 13 tons, and the vehicle had a top speed of 60km/h, with the range of 260km on road, and 155km cross country. The tank had a crew of four (commander, gunner, driver and radio operator.) Being a light tank with the role of a reconnaissance vehicle, it was armed only with a 20mm Kw.K 38 cannon, and an MG34 machine gun. The vehicle was surprisingly well-armored for a light tank. The main weapon of the Luchs were the FuG12 and FuG Spr Ger F sets.
It served on both the Eastern and the Western Front in reconnaissance detachment of both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. The vehicles serving on the Eastern Front were supplied with additional frontal armor. The experience on the field was mixed; there were issues with reliability, and the concept of the light tank was already outdated by the time it arrived to the front, so after the first batch of 100 vehicles the production stopped.

As a side-note: this is one of my favourite tanks in World of Tanks; the amount of fun you can have when low-tier is just insane. If you play the game, get this gem in-game.

The box

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Flyhawk seems to have abandoned the previous high-tech super-packages their previous models were shipped. The model arrived in a fairly large, rectangular box, with the sprues packaged in cellophane bags. (Interestingly there are two types of cellophane used in packaging…) Some parts became detached from their sprues during the transit, as the bags were free to move about in the large box, but nothing was damaged. This is a minor point; but I really liked the previous version of packaging. It gave the model a feel of having a very polished, very advanced product in your hands… kind of like the “Apple feel” you get when you pick up a brand new gadget they sell.

Nevertheless, this is the least important part of this review; after all, most of the packaging will end up in a landfill, so minimizing it makes sense on the environmental protection point of view, and not the least because it helps keeping the cost of the model down. The box art is a painting depicting the tank, with a map as a background.

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The number of parts is relatively low, and we get a nice, comprehensive PE sheet along with the plastic. There is no metal barrel provided with the tank. (Which is a shame, because I prefer to use them, especially in the case of a fragile 2cm cannon. The plastic barrel is perfectly adequate, however.) The plastic is very flexible, and quite pleasant to the touch (and great to work with); cleanup is minimal, as there is almost no flash. (There are some large plastic chunks on the underside of the mudguars where the plastic was injected into the mold, but they can be cut off without any problems whatsoever.

I only had one issue: part N10 snapped into two when I tried to remove it from the sprue (it snapped when the touched it; it was probably either too thin, or already cracked). It is not a problem to replace it with a wire bent into shape. The detail is really nice (for example the padding on the interior of the turret hatch is shown; I opted to close it, though, as there is no interior detail provided.) The roadwheels are detailed very nicely, even on the side that faces towards the tank’s hull.

We also get the tiniest plastic parts I’ve ever seen (the lifting hooks for the turret), and you literally will need a magnifying glass to figure out what position they need to be glued on. You also have an option to make these hooks out of PE… We’re talking about a two-part assembly, which is smaller than a pinhead. (I took a look at them, broke into uncontrollable laughter, and decided that although I do like challenges, this time I’ll go with the plastic parts.) If you like workable hinges in 1/35 scale, you will have no problems whatsoever with these guys.

As usual, you also have the option to use PE parts instead of several plastic parts, like grab handles and the antenna, should you prefer to. (Again –see previous point… I’ve decided not to shave off the moulded on grab handles and lifting hooks from the hull, but I’ll definitely use the PE antenna for the radio.)

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As an extra, we get a reclining resin figure of a tanker by Rabbit Club in his own little box.

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The instructions are really nice; they are well laid-out, and use color to help the modeler with understanding the assembly very effectively. I have to say Flyhawk has some of the best instructions I’ve ever seen so far. (The English is sometimes a bit clunky, but since I’m not a native speaker either, I’m not going to start throwing stones in this particular glass-house… I do say this, however. I helped with the text on Flyhawk’s Aurora cruiser, so if you did not like the grammar there, that’s on me, and me only.)

We only get one option for finishing; a late-war three tone camouflage, but the painting guide does not say from what unit the vehicle is from. (This case I’ll build a historical model, though; but as soon as the version with the 5cm comes out, it’s going to bear the proud colors of, well, me. I’ll paint it as my in-game tank.)

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Assembly

I only received the tank a day ago, but I could not resist building it. It’s pretty much finished, apart from the tools, the antenna, and the running gear and tracks. (Those will be installed after much of the painting and weathering is done on the lower hull, and I’ll leave the antenna until the very last step is finished.)
In short, the assembly was a breeze. The instructions are logical and clear; I really appreciated the fact that they contain a drawing of the finished area if it makes it easier to understand what part goes where. (This is a constant problem in many other companies’ manuals…) Clearly, a lot of thought went into designing the instructions.

The fit is perfect -I did not realize at first that the sides and the bottom of the hull are two different parts, as they were already fitted together when the model arrived, for example. Despite of my initial misgivings, I had no problems handling the small parts, either. (Good tweezers are a must, though.) The only issue I ran in was the detachment of some delicate PE parts from the sheet; the metal was difficult to cut with razor blades without warping the part. A dedicated PE cutting tool is probably the best to handle these situations.

The first two steps detail the assembly of the main parts of the hull, which is followed by the suspension, and the running gear (along with small tidbits added to the hull). Step four details the assembly of the rear parts of the mudguards, and five-six details the assembly of the turret. The colors for the painting guide are given in Mr Color and Tamiya codes.

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The running gear is made out of an overlapping wheel system, and a set of link-and-length tracks. There are individual track links for the drive wheel and the idler, while you’re supposed to carefully bend the straight part of the tracks to shape. The instructions provide a really clear (and colored) diagram of the track assembly.

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The assembly of the turret is quite straightforward as well; I was worried a bit about the PE jerry-can holders, but they went together like a charm. There are no markings on the turret side where they are supposed to be attached, but that should really not be a problem.

The assembly to this stage took about two hours; as I said it’s not a very complicated kit to build. (The next steps will be priming, painting, fixing the tools in place, weathering, adding the wheels and tracks, weathering, mounting onto a base, and adding the antenna. I’ve managed to damage one of the width indicators already, so no more delicate, easy-to-break part will be added until the model is secure…)

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I have to say, it’s been a pleasure to build this kit. I’m not sure how long it will take to finish it, as painting and weathering always takes longer than the building steps, but I shall publish the second part of this review as soon as I’m done. (The T-44 takes priority, though, so it’ll be a while.)

 

 

Miniart’s SU-76(r)

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This model has been a shelf-queen for a long time. When I moved to the UK I was living in a ~very~ temporary student housing, so I became severely limited in what tools I could use; among other things I was forced to give up on my airbrush. (It took me five years before my living conditions changed so I was able to get another one.)
This, and the lack of space meant I had to switch to 1/72 scale… a decision which I did not regret ever since. I quite like this scale, and I think I’ll stay focused on it in the future. However, there are models which make me stray from this scale into the world of 1/35. This one, particularly, sold itself with the box art. I liked the re-painted flaking dunkelgelb camo, and the relaxing German crew -even though I ended up not using the figures for the build. (I don’t like figures on models to be honest.) Originally it was a much more ambitious project; I wanted to make a partial interior, since the driver had nothing to sit on.
I bought the kit in 2011 in Norwich, and started work on it immediately; I thought I’d progress as far as I can without an airbrush, and then just put it away until I can finish it.

Well, I stopped a bit earlier than that.

The kit is not bad, let me say this. It is, however, not a very good one, either. There are some peculiar issues with it. For one, the parts are only numbered on the instruction sheet; the numbers are not on the sprues. This forces you to constantly check for parts on the instructions showing the sprue layout, which is really, really annoying.
The other problem was the wheels. The swing arms do not “lock” in place, where they are supposed to be when the tank is on a level surface. It’s nice if you want to position the tank on uneven ground on a diorama, however it makes positioning them on a level surface difficult. The vehicle cannot sit too low or too high; knowing what the proper height is is not easy. I’ve ended up building a rig to position the wheels using an armorama topic dedicated to this issue.
And there were the fit issues. Some parts were oversized -these had to be sanded thinner. The sides of the fighting compartment had fit issues, too, so they are slightly bent- a necessity when I needed to make sure it is glued on properly.

Nevertheless, the detail is excellent; if you accept the shortcomings mentioned, the kit builds up into quite a nice representation of the vehicle.

So… without further ado, the build.

When I got the model out of its box after sitting there for years, the first thing I did was to cut the swing arms with the wheels off, and built a little rig to help me reattach them appropriately. (As you can see I painted parts in a very funky shade of green back in the days… the reason was simple: I used up a batch of paint that was mixed for a Braille scale model. Fear not: it was not intended as the actual color of the vehicle.)

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The gun was almost finished when I got the kit out of the box, so there was very little work left to finish it. I did a silly thing, and added the muzzle break before putting the gun into its sleeve. This meant I had to cut the gun in half, attach it to the sleeve, and then glue it together again. No biggie, but a beginner mistake.

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The lifting hooks had a good amount of flash around them; it was simpler just to use a piece of wire instead. (I did clean one or two, before giving up.)

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The build was quite straightforward after I took care of the wheels. Once they were on, I painted the sides of the hull with green, and did the whole mud and dust routine. After that I added the tracks, and then proceeded with the rest of the build. (Once the mudguards are on, the tracks are near impossible to add.) This section had to be masked, of course, for the rest of the build, although a little overspray of Dunkelgelb and brown actually adds to the weathering effect.

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I’ve left the sides green, figuring that the Germans would not bother cleaning and painting the areas under the mudguards. You’d have to take the tracks and wheels off, and scrub it clean before doing any sort of painting -and the results would not be visible, anyhow. This meant that the mud and dust was going on over Russian green color. The tracks were assembled without any problems; the individual links were excellent. I painted the rims black (to represent rubber), but did not worry particularly about neat lines; the wheels were about to receive quite a heavy layer of washes, mud and dust. (Yes, I was lazy.) The surface of the return rollers that rubs against the tracks was painted steel.

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The finished gun, and the sides of the fighting compartment.

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I’ve decided to leave the fighting compartment in the original green color. (I reasoned that the vehicle was adopted to German use in a field shop, so they did not strip everything to be repainted. They would probably be content on leaving the interior of the fighting compartment untouched.) This made the painting a bit more tedious (had to finish and mask the fighting compartment before proceeding). The fighting compartment itself was painted along with the rest of the model in green, and the dust/accumulated dirt added using pigments.

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The painting of the ammunition was a bit boring to be honest. First, you have to remove the mould seams, and then paint them one by one… not very entertaining if you ask me. I’ve used Citadel’s bronze and gold colors on the casings. I cut a couple of the projectiles off to create “used” casings, which went onto the floor of the fighting compartment, under the gun.

 

Attaching everything to the hull… the parts of the model are in various stages of painting.

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The gun installed… I’ve used the kit’s tow cable, which was a straight plastic part; you are supposed to bend it around the holding pins. Well, I decided to be bold, and try it, instead of using a metal tow cable. (You also get the ends of the cable as two extra separate pieces should you decide to go this route.) As expected, the plastic broke; hence the somewhat angular look.

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Once the sub-assemblies were reasonably done, I’ve used Russian green as primer.

I wanted to depict flacking paint as I mentioned already. Since the vehicle was captured, I decided I would not only show the underlying original colors, but the rust/scratches that the vehicle has accumulated before its capture. Once the SU-76 was painted green, I’ve used dark, rust colors on edges, and other areas where heavy wear and tear was expected. The idea was that removing the Dunkelgelb from these areas would expose the base metal, while on other areas only green would show through.

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As soon as the green dried, I applied hairspray, waited an hour, and added the Dunkelgelb coat. (Tamiya paint, lightened with tan to account for the scale effect.)

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Yes, you can see the numbers still…

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Since Tamiya paints dry really fast, I could add the red-brown pattern right after the yellow base. It was necessary to add heavy layers at regions where the permanent marker showed through… I thought I was smart when I wrote the part numbers onto the plastic with a permanent marker, until the point where I realized that it showed through on everything… Some of these numbers only disappeared after the brown color was added in heavy layers. There you go: an important lesson. Don’t use permanent marker on exposed areas.

By the way, this was the first ever free-hand camo I’ve done with an airbrush.

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The chipping was done with a brush, and with a toothpick- depending on what effect I wanted to achieve. I added water to the surface with a brush, waited a bit, and then used a stiff brush/toothpick to carefully. It’s difficult not to overdo it, so it’s worth stopping now and then for a while, and put away the model for a day or so. With a fresh eye it’s easier to gauge the effect.

Once I was satisfied with how the model looked like, I sealed everything with an acrylic varnish, and applied the decals. I took some of the decals from the MiniArt T-44 set; after all, they looked good, and I liked the name on the gun.

As soon as the decals dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and started on filters. I used yellow and dark yellow colors. While the surface was still wet with the diluent, I used some dark pin washes (the wet surface ensures that the capillary action can work unimpeded even on a semi-matte surface). The same filters and washes were used in the fighting compartment as well.

Everything was sealed with varnish once again, and I started on the dust and mud. The dust was simple light colored pigments (chalk ground up) added mixed in water. Once it dried, I just brushed away the excess, and sealed it with pigment fixer.

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The rolled up canvas cover was a very underwhelming affair; it did not look like cloth at all. (I was not even sure what it was until I checked in the instructions; it was very symmetrical and smooth.) The cloth effect was added using oil paints. I painted the plastic with desert tan first, and then used burned umber directly from the tube to add the folded cloth look using a brush, and rubbing some off after letting it dry for a day. I’ve even painted the sides with oils to give an impression of it being rolled up. I have to say the canvas given for the T-44 is a much better affair.

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All in all, it was a pretty good result considering how this model looked like when I got around to finally finish it. The model itself is not bad, but I think the new Tamiya offering probably supersedes it in quality. Nevertheless, fear not; it was not an unpleasant journey.

Bergetigers

I’ve built two of DML’s Bergetigers. The first one is based on the Tiger I (P) chassis, and was a legitimate “berge” vehicle: it was modified for battlefield engineers for recovery and other tasks where you can’t work in peace and quiet without someone taking shots at you. It’s a pretty good model with PE and high level of detail; the build was quite enjoyable.

In this model I’ve used silly putty to prepare the net-like camouflage I liked from the painting guide. As a green base I used Tamiya’s German grey – with scale effect and subsequent weathering considered it gives a quite nice olivegrun base.

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Adding the silly putty… it’s quite relaxing and surprisingly fast.

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Yeah, I forgot to say. We’ve got a link-and-length track here, which is surprisingly easy to assemble. (As opposed to some models I could name.)

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Once the camo was done I could dirty up the lower chassis, and finish the running gear. This was followed by some some light weathering (mostly washes and filters; I did not go overboard).

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Bergetiger I -second vehicle.

This Tiger is somewhat of a mystery. It appears to be a field-conversion, and only two were ever produced (or perhaps only one). The crane fixed to the turret is definitely not strong enough to actually lift a vehicle out of anywhere (any vehicle; I’m not talking about Tigers -it would be difficult to get a Beetle out of a driveway with it), and it’s also hand operated. From the outside. Not a very healthy place to be if you need to modify a tank to be able to do whatever you want to do with it.

The most convincing explanation I’ve found was that this vehicle was used to drop demolition charges in front of barricades and minefields; however, it still does not explain why the crane operator had to stand outside of the vehicle.

Anyhow, it has an unique look, so I was very eager to build one. You can get several conversion kits in both 1/35 and 1/72, and there are some dedicated kits as well you can occasionally fetch up on Ebay. DML did come out with their own version years ago. The model is sub-par when it comes to other Dragon models. Looking at the sprues it’s quite obvious that the different parts were scavenged from different Tiger models, which make the quality wildly diverse (this is an issue with some other DML Tigers as well).
So it’s not a good model. Even though it’s not up to the expected DML standards, but it’s not a bad model, either; it’s just a bit disappointing to get something like this from Dragon. The bottom of the hull is metal, by the way; it must be one of the really, really early 1/72 kits by DML. (Or perhaps they wanted to have a realistic weight; who knows?)

 

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Turret with the crane… I’ve used some copper wire for the cables.

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I’ve had some fun with the mudguards, to make them a bit more varied: I’ve cut up the long piece into sections, and attached them slightly disjointed, with some sections left out -after all, this is supposed to be an already battered vehicle that was converted into a different role.

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The tank is painted in Dunkelgelb -no special camo added.

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The Tiger has pre-moulded Zimmerit added; it’s a bit too accentuated for this scale, but hey; at least I did not have to do it myself. After covering the model with Future, some light washes with burned umber (the most used oil paint color in model building) helped to bring out the details.

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And the finished tank… It does not look bad, once done. And it’s mighty heavy due to the metal parts.

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