Category Archives: plastic

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.2

The first part of the review can be found here.

So the hull interior is reasonably finished, but I had to add bits and bobs (fire extinguishers, ammunition for the main gun and for the machine guns, etc.). Once I put the driver’s periscopes in place, I could close down the hull. The top part is really thin; I suspect it’s quite close to scale thickness.

Fitting the mudgards was not straightforward: the locator pins did not fit into the corresponding holes on the sides, so there was a tiny gap between the mudguards and the tank’s hull. I simply shaved the pins off. The plastic mudgards are quite thin, and the long parts had a slight bend; the solution was to glue them in place in two steps, straightening them out in the process.
The drive wheels have very small attachment points to the swing arms; since it’s a static model it’s not a real problem, but I still prefer a bit more robust connection.
The tracks are -correctly- narrower than what was used on the final production version of the T-54 (as a comparison I’ve used an individual track link from a Trumpeter kit on the photo). You need 90 per side (the resources I’ve read specified 91 for the actual tank), and you have an option to use a special link for every 20th track link. These links don’t have teeth, and are specially designed to mount the cleats that allow the tank to get better traction on snow or other difficult terrain. Unfortunately it’s not specified in the instruction, but that’s what you can use them for. (The instruction manual shows the cleats in a stored position on the mudguards.) The cleats in their storage position require some really thin plastic pins to hold them in place: first, the holes on the cleats are too narrow, second it’s almost impossible to clean these pins of the sprue gate… so I just used some thin evergreen plastic to replace them.
The headlight has an option to attach a protective wire cage around it; the plastic was very thin, and snapped the second I tried to remove it from the sprue, so I chose the other option.

Parallel to the work on the hull, I was working on the turret as well. As I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of painting and weathering before ataching all the necessary parts, so only time will tell if they will stand out or not after all is said and done.

I have some serious decisions to make at this point. I would like to present the interior open somehow. Either I show the turret tilted up, with the gun being installed, or I simply make a “cutaway”. (I saw a photo on the T-54, T-55 group’s facebook page.)

The first version would be the most attractive solution, but the problem is I’ve installed everything already: ammunition, equipment, etc. A tank would be stripped out before the turret is lifted, so it would not be very realistic.
The second option would be to simply leave the top of the turret off- held up by a couple of plastic pegs, showing the interior off. (This way I don’t have to cut and saw into the plastic. With the King Tiger and other large tanks there are parts you can cut away easily; with the T-54 I would be taking a lot of detail away if I cut parts of the turret away. Since the driver’s position and the engine compartment are not very well detailed regrettably I will not cut into the hull, as there’s not much to display…

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.

Ode to 1/72

Braille scale has a lot going for it. I used to be a “1/35 only” person, but my circumstances gently pushed me towards the 1/72 scale. Namely I started my PhD in the UK, and had to move into a small room. Gone are the generously sized walk-in closets of the USA. This obviously impacted my hobby: no space to store my tools, my stash and my finished models. The other reason was the recent development in the quality of 1/72 models. Back in the days they were mostly toy-like models; the detail and the quality did not match the detail and quality of larger scale models. Well, not any more. Now we have really high-tech plastic models in this scale (with a subsequent increase in price I might add), and I also discovered the joys of resin models.

Here are some positives of the 1/72 models:

Braille takes shorter to finish, takes up less space (imagine a 1/35 T29). There are a lot of conversions, or full resin kits you could not get in 1/35. (Paper panzers, rare vehicles, conversions.) If you check my Sd.Kfz.251 series on the blog, it would have taken me years to finish all the variants I wanted to build. (Not to mention the collection would require a lot of shelf-space to house.) Since I’m short of both time and space, Braille offers a great compromise.

One thing to keep in mind is that normally Braille kits normally don’t have smaller, more fiddly parts than the “pro” 1/35 kits; they are not scaled down 1/35 kits. (Well, mostly. Flyhawk is getting there with their tanks.) I mean I break out in cold sweat every time I see a workable tool hinge in 1/35, yet generally I’m fine with the 1/72 scale. Companies in both cases like to get as much out of the injection moulding technology as possible, but the limits of technology don’t change depending on the scale. If anything most 1/72 kits are quicker and easier to build (due to having less parts normally, although the older 1/35 kits do seem simplified compared to the new 1/72 ones).

The detail is also pretty astonishing, most of the time. The “premium” plastic makers like DML or Flyhawk have excellent 1/72 kits (I would suggest you take a look at their pnzIIJ), and some (but not all) of the resin companies produce incredibly detailed kits as well. Some of these kits have more details than a lot of 1/35 ones. (Older Tamiyas, Italeris, and some Hobby Boss models, like the Toldi I come to mind as the ugly ducklings of the 1/35 world.)

To sum up: 1/72 has become high-tech similarly to the 1/35 scale.

I lately went back to 1/35 –mostly for writing reviews and to finish my stash I collected back in the US. I have a ton of kits with resin interiors and whatnot I really want to build; but in general I’m really happy working in 1/72 for most of the “not-so-important” projects. Let me give you an example: I have an OKB Object 279 waiting to be built. It’s a very expensive resin kit in 1/72 –you could buy the 1/35 plastic ones for the same price (or even cheaper). Yet the large ones would need to find space, they would take up more time than I would like to spend on building (it’s a delightfully weird tank, but I’d rather work on my T-55 with full interior for months if I have the choice), so I went with the small scale version. Another example would be Armada Hobby. They offer some really cool engineering vehicles based on the T-55. If I wanted to build all those, it would take forever, and would cost a LOT –even if I could find conversions available. This way I can just get them off the shelf, and build them in a couple of weeks/months, and have enough money to finance my wedding. (I’m serious here; some resin conversions can cost up to £150; a couple of those and you’re at the thousand pounds regions already.)

So this is my pitch: whatever you want to sink a lot of hours and money into, you go with 1/35. If you just want to build a cool tank (or multiple versions of the same vehicle), go with 1/72. It’s definitely worth it.

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p4.

You can find the previous parts of this review under the following links:

part 1.
part 2.
part 3.

You can find the review I wrote of this model on armorama, and another review of a simplified version of the same kit here.

 

In this post we’re taking a look at the interior- and hopefully finishing it. (Well, most of it.)

 

Most of the components are installed; the basics are done. I’ve put in the engine for the photos sake, but will display it outside of the vehicle. The gun is installed, and only a couple of small bits and the fuel tanks were missing at this point. The assembly went together without any issues; even the bits on the steering mechanism fit into the transmission without any problems. (In other words: they fit like a glove with is pretty good considering we’re talking about a multiple part assembly.)

 

I’ve also put in the finishing touches for the interior. By and large it went together fine; the fit is remarkable. Two issues I ran into: the back of the fighting compartment is one of them. The issue is simply the following: it is made out of three sections. Once is the large firewall between the engine compartment and the fighting compartment. The second is the edge of the top of the engine compartment (which, unfortunately, is not covered by either of the back sections), and the third is the back of the superstructure. I did not anticipate that the armor plating on the engine compartment will be visible, so I had to paint the edge white after I installed it. The best would be to fill in the visible seam, but unfortunately I could not figure out how to do it. (I’ve already painted and weathered the to larger parts.)

 

 

 

At this point the fuel tanks, the oil tanks, the compressed air bottles, the handle of the fuel priming pump (which was blue in the T-34 I saw, so I painted it blue instead of red), the ammunition, and all the other bits and pieces are installed. The one issue: the ammo on the racks. They would need to fit into corresponding holes on the top of the fighting compartment, so make sure you align them perfectly. (Not like I did.) What I suggest you do is to leave them out until you’re ready to attach the top of the fighting compartment. This way you can gently adjust them while the glue sets into their proper position. Since I’m not planning to glue the top on, it’s not really much of an issue.

I finished the final touches of weathering on the transmission and other interior parts. I blended in some gun metal darkened with black paint onto the transmission, and highlighted the edges with steel color. It received several dark washes; I have used a damp brush to adjust where the washes flowed. I used some oil stain AK products with some dark grey pigments to make it looked used and dirty. The metal bands on the two sides, which help with the steering got a light Citadel zinc overcoat to simulate oxidation and heat damage (as these parts overheat a lot, which encourages oxidation).

The fighting compartment only received a moderate amount of weathering as I wrote in the previous post, since these vehicles were not in use for the years to develop heavy rusting, and the crew kept them relatively clean.

The sides of the superstructure were fitted with all the details. For some reason the propellant cases are marked to be painted green instead of the brass color every other case has. The crew light was painted using a Citadel technical paint. I first painted the bottom of the part silver, and then used the Citadel paint to stain the face of the light fixture. Since the paint flows more like a wash, it left the protecting wire frame relatively free of paint. (The extra was scraped off with a blade.) The effect is pretty good in my opinion. (I just noticed that there are no photos of the walls; will rectify the situation in the next post.)

 

The first step was to add the frontal armor plate. It’s a bit fiddly, and it’s easy to break off the suspension’s springs while you’re trying to navigate it into its place. (To be honest these springs will not be visible even from under the vehicle, so if they break off, they break off. Only you will know they’re not there. Once the front is on, you can attach the top of the engine compartment. It’s a large piece of plastic which has most of the fenders as well, and you will need them in order to attach the side plates.

I would have liked to do a cutaway version of the engine compartment, but could not really figure out how to, so I just closed it in. The flaps over the cooling vents can be positioned; however they would be invisible in the finished vehicle, as the armored vents completely cover them. The two pieces that go over them (Ca13, Ca14) have apparently three alternative placement (about 2 mm from each other), but the instructions do not give any indication what these options are, and why you would want to position these parts differently to begin with. Strange.

I’ve finished detailing the sides and the back of the fighting compartment, and glued them to the model. I’ve added some wires to the light and the electrical switch box on the right hand side to make them look a bit busier. Interestingly the pistol ports are not operable, unlike in the T-44. They are simply molded on the plastic, but it would have been nice to have this option.

The fit of the sidewalls and the back armor plate is tight but good; I did not have to use putty, or trim anything.

At this point the model finally looks like a proper tank destroyer, with the interior mostly finished. The hatches allow only a limited view of the interior, so I think I’ll display the model with the top of the fighting compartment lifted up. I’ll use either stiff wires or plastic rods to hold it off-center above the model, as a “cop-out cutaway”. (I was a bit reluctant to start cutting and sawing. With the next model I’ll do a real one, I promise, with the sides and top cut out.)

 

And finally, work has started on the tracks. The tracks are not workable (regardless of what the instructions claim), but they are fine nevertheless. The pins are too small to hold them together with glue, so they actually do fall apart once you assembled four-five pieces on their own. Hence: gluing. Normally I’m using Tamiya’s lemon based Lemonene cement; the only problem I have with this product is that it looks just like the retarder they sell… and the first couple of pieces I tried to glue with the paint retarder. (Yes I was curious where the brush from the jar disappeared, but not really focused on the issue. No, I’m not a very smart man.)

Anyhow, the best method to glue individual links together is to work in sections: do doubles first, and then assemble those into larger and larger sections. You have at least a couple of hours to adjust the sag before the glue sets completely, so it gives you time enough to assemble half section, wait a bit, and fit it over the running gear. (Every side is usually made up by two halves- at least this is how I prefer to do it. It’s easy to mix up the different sections for the two sides if you work with smaller ones.)

Now, onto the colors. I’ve chosen black as a base color simply because most of the Russian tanks I saw had trans that were black. No doubt it is a museum-related thing and not historical. First of all, why would anyone paint the tracks? Any paint and rust would rub off very, very, very quickly indeed once the tank starts moving. I’ve made this choice, however, because I wanted to have a “distinctive” look for my Russian tanks, and not use the same track painting and weathering methods that I use with the German tanks. (In reality most tank tracks have a very dull, steel color -they are a steel-manganese alloy-, which is covered with dust and rust in the recesses. Most of the rust, mud and any other contamination simply rubs off as the tracks rub against each other, the running gear and the ground.) I go with these “artistic licences” as if I really, really wanted to be accurate, I’d be working with only 50 shades of brown mostly. A little color here and there (even if it’s black) livens things up a bit.

Once the tracks were assembled, I used an acrylic spray paint to paint it black. (Grammatically incorrect, however it had to be done for the reference’s sake.)

After drying the first thing to do was to add a neutral wash by Mig. (I’ve got it in a discounted set for painting primer red, and have no idea what to use it for. It looks nice as dust/mud deposit.) The next steps will be adding a good thick slurry of pigments/oil paints to simulate the slush of snow and mud, and I’ll rub a silver pencil along the surface to simulate the parts that were worn to the bare metal. The guide teeth will be treated in a similar manner, since the drive wheels rub them shiny as they turn the tracks. (Silver pencils are great for simulating worn-down metal.)

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p3.

I’m continuing the SU-122 build and review- you can find the previous parts below:

Part 1

Part 2

You can find the photos of the parts and the instruction manual on armorama in my review, and you can find a comparison with the non-interior version of the same kit here.

If the gods will it, I should be ready in two more posts -and about two more weeks. (I hope.)

I had some constructive feedback which mentioned photo sizes. In further posts I’ll be experimenting the different options WordPress offers- thumbnails, galleries, etc. Please let me know if you have any suggestions -length, number of photos, quality of photos, style, anything. (I also would love to read comments on the models… after all, this is one of the reason for the blog.)

So, without further ado, onto the build:

Gun

The gun is not really difficult to build -except for the broken recoil guard, which I had to fix with glue. It was whole when the model came, but it snapped into three parts sometime during the build. I suggest you put this part aside before you touch the model, because it’ll break as you move the sprues around during the build. The hydraulic tubes elevating the gun are working (the two parts can move), however the way they are attached to the gun (glued to a PE holding bracket) makes this feature more like an option to fix the gun in any position you desire, than to make it adjustable after the gun is in place. In other words decide what position you’d like the gun in, put the it in place, and then glue the hydraulic tubes into place. Alternatively you can just forget about them, as they would not be visible, anyhow, and this would leave the gun movable. (In the non-interior version of this kit they are not included.)

A side-note: the wheel controlling the elevation of the gun is on the right side, between the gun and the wall of the fighting compartment… ergonomics was not a main concern when the vehicle was built.

I painted the gun in the “Russian” green color I’ll paint the whole vehicle with, and weathered it with oil washes, filters to make it look used and less uniform. Some wear-and-tear was simulated with painted chips (both black-brown and some metallic). The gun shield (not sure what it is- the fat protective shield around the base of the gun) is a three part assembly, with a prominent seam going along its length. Because the lifting hook is molded with one of the parts together, the filling and sanding requires a little care.


As you may notice the gun barrel is missing still- it is added once the gun is in its place. The plastic barrel has rifling on the inside; a pretty cool feature. One thing to mention: attach the gun barrel before you add the gun shield protecting it…

 

Engine and transmission

The building of the engine is pretty straightforward affair. The detail is pretty good, although no wiring/cabling guide is provided (which is a shame, really, but there is available reference material online). The transmission looks exceptionally well detailed; it is quite easy to see how the real thing worked once you assemble the model. The fit is really good; things snap together once in place. I painted the engine in a dark aluminium color, dry brushed it with brighter metallic shades, and weathered it using oil washes and Vajello’s engine grime product (I could not resist to try it). Some of the cabling was done using thin solder wire or Champagne bottle wire painted black (I used it to simulate cabling in the fighting compartment as well).

 

And the finished engine with the radiators attached.

 

Since I “dirtied up” the engine compartment, I added the transmission at this point because I wanted to display the model with the back folded down. I left the engine out so that it’s not going to be hidden once the model is done. (It’s a shame only the very top of it would be visible once the engine compartment is finished. Because I could not figure out how to create a realistic-looking cutaway of the engine compartment, I’m going to display it in front of the model like I did with my Hobby Boss T-34/85, and the MiniArt T-44.)

 

Some other parts: a really bent cover of the transmission… (Only my sample, apparently. I’m reviewing another SU-122 kit and the SU-85 by MiniArt, and they seem fine.)

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The cooling flaps on the engine deck are positionable; it’s a pity only the back ones will be visible; the rest will be covered up by plastic parts covering the engine deck.

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Well, that’s it for now. Next steps: putting the interior together.

 

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p2.

Well, the vacation is over, and the work resumes. (I also had to start going to the office which tend to hinder the work that matters…)

One issue is that I’m working on several sub-assemblies parallel, so it’s difficult to show how one particular one was worked on from start to finish in one go. This is how a build normally goes, but it does not lend itself very well to a thematic review.

To start with: I’ve done some work on the ammo… I counted how many I’d need and only used that many -I don’t want to work extra when it comes to cleaning and painting identical pieces of ammunition. Aside from cleaning track links this is my least favourite part of building a model. Tiny details, multiple copies make a repetitive and very delicate task.

 

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Sorted… there are two kinds of ammunition provided: one type goes onto the floor of the back of the fighting compartment, the other goes on the rack by the commander. They are supposed to be painted differently (faint green and olive green), and the ones on the floor receive a small plastic disc on which they will stand. I’m not sure what the different colors signify. Perhaps high explosive and armor piercing rounds were painted and stored differently, but the instructions do not shed light on this topic.

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Disclaimer: I have deviated from the instruction manual’s sequence of building, as I think it makes more sense to first build the overall structure of the vehicle and then fill it in with details. Should there were some minor fit issues, they’ll be easier to deal with as well.

The Tamiya white on the interior looked really artificial. To make it less uniform, and, well, less white, I used a very, very diluted filter (just burnt umber oil paint in turpentine). The effect was pretty good -the interior suddenly looked much more realistic.otbugyq

The engine compartment is looking better and better. Almost time to fill it up.

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Adding smaller parts to the fighting compartment: instruments, ammo holders, compressed air bottles, etc. I also used different dark-rust colors, and different types of paints (acrylic, oil) to simulate wear and tear. This is one contentious issue: most real tanks are pretty clean from the inside. Paint chips, rust streaks take an awful lot of time to develop; more time than these vehicles were in service -or indeed survived in a war. So while I do make it look a bit worn and rusted, I do it with the understanding that it is not how the real vehicles looked like. (Maybe the SU-100s still in service all over the would do look like this after 70 years. But not a tank that has been in service for only a couple of years.)

I’ve used my favorite Vajello German Camo Black-Brown for paint chips. This color is great for simulating old, rusted metal. I applied the paint chips using both a very fine brush and with a sponge. Where the effect was too stark, I went over with some white using a sponge. (Key thing about using a sponge is to make sure you dab most of the paint out of it onto a piece of paper.)
I also used various rust colors (from reddish brown to yellow) to simulate the different colored rust, and made some light washes using these colors to stain the lower part of the hull’s interior (to simulate dirt smears). It’s important to keep in mind that the smears are not applied in one step: you add the wash (usually oil paint and turpentine), then using a clean, moistened brush you blend the stains, and carefully adjust the amount of paint on the surface. Oils are great because of they are translucent, and have a long drying time.

I made the bottom especially worn where the driver’s feet are resting.

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I think I went overboard with the dirt and rust on the front of the hull, but I rectified it since then using the base color.

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I’m not sure how I will display the engine- it’s simply too hidden in the engine compartment. I might go the same way as I did with the T-34 and T-44: display it outside of the vehicle. The transmission, however can be built in; I’ll simply open up the back as if the tank was undergoing maintenance.

I have ordered a couple of new products: Vajello’s engine grime, petrol stain and diesel stain. I’ve tried the petrol in the middle of the engine compartment, and the diesel next to it… I have to say they look pretty convincing.

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Well, that’s it for now. The next post will be about the assembly of the gun and the engine. Please don’t hesitate to leave comments below; I always appreciate some constructive criticism. (Layout of the blog, the length of the posts, the size of the photos, the writing style, the amount of information, the techniques used… anything is free game. Just be gentle.)

 

 

 

Revell/Armory T-72B 1/72

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The T-72B (Object 184) was a much improved version of the T-72A model. It was accepted into service in 1985, and mass produced from 1988. The tank has received an improved 1A40-1 fire control system, improved composite armor (Super Dolly Parton) on the turret, and extra armor on the front hull. The new main gun (2A46M) was capable of firing 9M119 antitank missiles. The gun was also supplied with a new, improved sight (1K13-49), and a better gun stabilization system. The tank was powered by a new 840hp V-83-1 engine. The smoke dischargers were placed onto the left side of the turret to make room for the reactive armor (ERA) bricks.

These changes have significantly improved the tank: in many ways it is comparable to the T-80U model (although with poorer engine power). It is the last modification of the T-72 line; the next model has received the designation of T-90 (for obvious marketing reasons after the First Gulf War). Earlier models were later brought up to the T-72B levels, and this makes this model one of the most widely used tanks in the world.

 

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Armory has released the earlier T-72B model without the ERA bricks (there are countless variants of the ERA equipped tank, if you want them). It uses the excellent Revell T-72 kit as a base. All of the conversion steps are straightforward, and do not include extensive surgery: the new parts simply replace the plastic ones.

The model comes in a small paper box. It has the photo of a finished T-72B on the cover (with an added commander’s shield, which needs to be ordered separately, as I discovered). The parts are placed in small ziplock bags, and there was no damage during transport. (As opposed to the Revell kit, where the AA machine gun was broken after the mail delivered it…)

The instructions are simple, but not very clear; however there are plenty of reference photos online to help with the assembly.

 

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The parts are cast in dark, somewhat brittle resin. The detail is very fine; Armory has captured the changed shape and texture of the turret, and the composite armor sections very well. The hatches provided have interior detail, but since the turret does not have any (it’s solid resin), I chose to close them.

Some of the flash is actually quite thick, but nothing that you can’t solve with a fine saw. (Please remember that fine resin dust is toxic; use wet cutting and wet sanding techniques.) You do have to be careful though, not to damage the parts themselves while sawing.

 

 

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The construction is easy as was mentioned previously: after cleanup you simply have to switch the resin parts for the plastic ones. The fit is excellent, and I have not run into any difficulties during construction. As mentioned the commander’s shield is depicted on the boxart photo with the small print that it has to be ordered separately; I think this should have been included with the kit (or the print made larger…) As it was I felt a bit disappointed when I realized that I’d have to pay (and wait) some more to have the complete package.

 

Painting

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As I usually do I used black primer to create a good surface for the paint. I applied some hair-spray to most of the model, as I decided to try doing the chipping this way, instead of painting them on using a fine brush and a sponge.

I’ve used the modern, Russian two color scheme for this build. I used Tamiya Tan for the yellow (as it’ll be darkened, and modulated by subsequent filters), and Tamiya Dark Green mixed with Tan to get the green color. Due to the scale effect, most colors should be lightened anyway, but I noticed it makes less of a contrast between two colors if I mix the lighter into the darker color. The base color was yellow, and added the green using my airbrush free-handed.

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The chipping is very discreet; due to the long time it took to get the final paint layers on (about a week, as life and work unfortunately interrupts the modelling sessions), the hairspray did not dissolve very easily. In this case it’s fortunate, since in 1/72 only the largest paint chips would be visible, and I try not to overdo the weathering effects. It’s something worth keeping in mind however. If you want large chips, you have to work fast, and do the chipping phase soon after you applied the chipping fluid/hairspray. The process itself is simple: you dampen the surface with water, wait a bit, and use a toothpick/brush to remove some of the paint.

I wanted to depict a serious flaking of paint on the rubber side-skirts, as they are normally very much battered and abused, so the black rubber readily shows through, but unfortunately, in this case the long waiting time worked against me. It was pretty difficult to remove the paint using water; in fact for the larger scratches I used black paint and a fine brush.

Since we’re talking about the side-skirts: they are amazingly detailed. What irked me about Trumpeter’s 1K17 is that the side-skirts looked like they were made out of armored plates. Many older models have this fault, and for the longest time I did think they were made out of metal. Only in the last couple of years when I had a chance to look at a T-72 in person, watched some videos and reference photos realized that they are, in fact, rubber.

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In the next step I added umber and yellowish colored filters; once they were dry, I added a semi-gloss varnish layer, and did some pin washes with the usual black/burned umber mixture.

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I tried AK Interactive’s fuel stains product (without diluting). It’s not bad, but it definitely needs thinner, otherwise it looks way too thick.

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I’ve used different light earth colored pigments for depicting dust and dried mud on the lower part of the hull. The mud was applied wet (pigments mixed with white spirit), which was rubbed off using a stiff brush (with downwards motions, focusing on the top sections mostly, leaving the pigments undisturbed on the bottom). The “dust” was applied dry, and I did not use anything to fix them in place. (The model will live in a closed box, well protected from probing fingers and dust.) Black pigment was rubbed on the side-skirt close to the exhaust port.

As a finishing touch the edges were treated with the usual graphite pencil to give them some metallic shine, and the tank was mounted on the base of a display box.

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Revisiting an old model: Hobby Boss’ 1/48 T-34/76

 

There is always a good case for going back to finished models: no model is ever finished… There’s always something more, something else you can do, you can add – and in this case I definitely did not finish the tank. I was so happy with the experiment of painting the chipped paint on the armor, I somehow neglected the dust and other weathering effects. I also put the engine aside thinking that I’ll display it once “I build an appropriate jig to hold it”, but never got around to actually do it. So here was the time – I wanted to experiment with dust and streaks.

First, I used evergreen strips to make a simple holder for the engine, painted it tan, and then covered it with burned umber oil paint. After a day or two I used a stiff (very stiff) brush to remove a lot of this oil paint; this gave a nice wood-like grain. (I failed to repeat the procedure on the inside, though… kind of embarrassing.)

The engine itself received some washes with black and burned umber mixed together. I also used “engine grime” from AK Interactive diluted in Zest It (a turpentine alternative) in several layers. One thing I did not know about AK products -because I don’t really use them- is that you have to dilute them… lesson learned.

So that’s the engine taken care of.

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Next the tank itself. I’ve used oils (black, burned umber, burned sienna, even yellow) to make faint stains that are running down on the side of the turret. Essentially just added some paint to a piece of cardboard and left it there for about an hour – this was enough for the linseed oil to sweep out of the paint. (It’s important because this way the oils dry matte.) After that I applied small dots on the top of the turret, and used a flat, moistened brush to pull it down, creating a streak. This was then tidied up with further downwards/sideways strokes using a clean brush. The secret is to leave just enough paint on to be visible… Takes a little time to get the hang of it, but once you get it, it’s not difficult. Patience is the key: big, ugly streaks don’t look very real. I also did it in several layers; obviously this meant at least four-five days of waiting between coats.

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This same procedure was repeated on the flat surfaces as well. I used greens, yellows and some white to blend into the base coat, using a similar process. A dot of paint was added, and then blended using a moist brush. The results bring the surface to life; I was pretty happy with it.

I always see the auxiliary tanks on the T-34 depicted with serious fuel stains; using AK Interactive’s fuel stains product diluted with Zest It I gave it a try myself. (It’s probably not very realistic; this much spilled fuel would not be very safe, even taking the low flammability of diesel fuel into consideration.)

First I prepared a very diluted mixture, which was applied in a wide streak. Once it was try, I prepared a less diluted mixture, and added on top on a narrower streak, and repeated it a couple of times more. The same logic was applied to the oil stains on the engine deck: large spots were prepared using very diluted oil stains (black/brown mixture of oil paint), and progressively smaller stains were added using progressively thicker paint/Zest It mixture.

The last step was to add dust to the model. I used different mixtures of brown pigments wet (using Zest It). Once the pigments dried on the surface, I used a moist brush to remove most of them, leaving dusty spots and areas. Again, layers are the key: different shades, different subtle layers will give a more realistic result, than one heavy layer.

I have to say the results really were worth the time. I can honestly say I’ve finished the tank, mere seven years after starting it… (I remember buying it in the hobby store at Military Road in Frt Lauderdale after taking my flatmate to the dentist…)

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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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