Category Archives: plastic

The ultimate 1/72 Luchs showdown: thoughts on the Armory, ModellTrans, Maco and Flyhawk kits

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So now I have finished building all four offerings: Armory, Flyhawk, Maco and Modelltrans; it’s time to take a stock of what I’ve learned. I would not really go into accuracy, as I could not find any books on the Luchs; all kits differ slightly from each other with respect to location of the exhaust, tools, tool boxes, Jerry cans, and so on. As I could not find the time and resources to get to the bottom of these differences I merely comment on the models themselves.

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The Modelltrans kit is an old resin model of the Luchs; it’s a bit undersized, has very few parts, good detail, and has some issues with bubbles in the resin- in other words, your average garage company resin model. It’s fast to build, but it’s quite expensive for what it is; plastic models will always be better priced. It builds into a respectable depiction of the Luchs, but it’s kind of “rough on the edges”, and does not come with the aerials.

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Hands down, the Flyhawk kit is the most detailed and the most complex model of the four; it’s essentially a miniature 1/35 model. This, of course, comes with a price: it’s also the most difficult to assemble. The crow’s feet antenna is not very convincing; the PE offered by Armory is a much better representation. (But this is the only one that comes with width indicator rods.)

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Armory’s plastic Luchs is a new kid on the block; the company only recently started to make its way into the plastic scale model market. The plastic base is somewhat basic, and the engineering is not the best; however once you get through the filling and sanding, and add all the PE, you will have a very nice, detailed model in your hands. It does require experience building models and using PE- it’s not one of those “shake the box, and the built model falls out” type of kits. However, the results are worth the effort.

Maco’s offerings are the exact opposite of the Flyhawk models: they are very well engineered and very simple models to build – in other words, they are one of those “shake the box” models. The details are still pretty good, and Maco offers a good alternative if you want to build more than one tank quickly, or if you’re still new at building 1/72 models. (Or just want to have a quick weekend project.) One thing that I need to mention is that the shape of the turret seems to be somewhat off, and you’ve got my bane of small scale models: the moulded-on tools. On the other hand you get some beautiful metal gun barrels and antennae.

All in all, the plastic offerings have things going for them; choosing one really depends on your preferences and your purpose. How much challenge do you want to face? While the Flyhawk kits can be adjusted in difficulty using the alternative options (PE vs plastic vs molded-on detail), a lot of the tiny parts cannot be avoided. The Flyhawk offerings are definitely not for beginners. It also takes considerably longer to build. Another aspect to decide is: how much the lack of PE matters for you? The details on the engine deck grille are good enough in plastic on the Maco kit, and in this scale there is an argument that it does not make much difference. (Talking about PE: only the Armory kit has the wire mesh protecting the engine grilles.) You might also want to have a metal barrel; this is not an option in the Flyhawk line of Luchs’, but you get them in the Maco kits… and so on and so forth. I’ve tried to showcase the strengths and weaknesses of all four models; it really depends on the individual builder which one he or she wants to choose.

Armory 1/72 Luchs

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This is the fourth Luchs in this series… and the third plastic one.

Let’s see…

Modelltrans Luchs
Flyhawk Luchs
Maco Luchs

Introduction -Armory’s plastic kits

The instructions are clear and easy to follow; the one gripe I had with them is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues: you get a sprue layout on the cover of the instructions, and you have to find the parts on the sprues based on it. It’s not that difficult to do, but it still is a hindrance during the build.

 

The model came in an “envelope-type” box, which opens on the top (and bottom). I personally don’t like these boxes because they aren’t very resistant but it’s a personal preference. The sprues were sealed in plastic bags alongside with the PE fret, decals and instructions. The cover image shows the tank in the middle of an engagement. The back of the box shows a set of computer generated images of the model, and the different build options.

The model is a 3-in-1 type of kit: you can build three different versions of the Luchs: early, mid, and the up-armored late versions.

Inspecting the plastic parts I found a lot of flash, and the detail was somewhat soft, and in some places missing. (Most notably one of the armored protectors for the vision slots is smooth, although it was ribbed in real life.)

The PE parts are thin enough and detailed; I liked working with them. The tank is really brought to life by the PE additions; the plastic itself only gives it a basic shape, really, and the PE gives it detail.

The decals are well printed and thin; there were no issues during application.

 

The build was relatively quick. The lower hull does not come as a single “tub”: you have to glue it together from four parts (bottom, sides, back). The top of the hull comes as one large part. Unfortunately it goes onto the sides rather than fitting into the opening on the top, which means there will be a seam-line around the superstructure that needs to be filling.

Before installing the tracks I’ve first finished most of the hull with all the PE details, added the roadwheels, and painted the hull and the mudguards in the base color (primer red) following the base color (RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb 1944). I added the tracks at this stage, attached the mudguards, and added the remaining details to the hull. These I painted with a brush.

I carefully painted the pattern using Tamiya olive green lightened with deck tan (for scale effect) with a brush. I was not particularly concerned about how even the patches were, since they would not be prominent after the whitewash; only small parts of the underlying camouflage would be visible. I did use a light brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. The decals were added this point, since the whitewash was applied on the field, onto a vehicle already in service.

Once the basic painting was done, I sealed the paint with Testors Dullcote to protect it from the subsequent steps, and covered the whole model with AK Interactive Heavy Chipping Medium. This was followed by Tamiya flat white, and after about ten minutes of waiting I went on creating chips with a wet brush and a toothpick. The paint was nicked carefully at places using the toothpick, and I used the wet brush to enlarge these chips.

Once I achieved a decent amount of chipping and cleaned off the model with some running water, the contrast between the white and the underlying colors was really stark.

Sealed everything with Dullcote again, and picked up MIG Ammo’s washable white. I covered the model with it using an airbrush, and after it had some time to dry I created a transparent, uneven white layer over the whole tank using a wet brush. Moving the brush with a downward motion I blended everything together nicely; the paint left a translucent white layer on top of the model.

The weathering part is always a bit difficult, especially in 1/72; it’s really easy to overdo in this scale. One thing I’ve noticed is that the camera and the eye sees differently. It’s probably the trickiest part of the whole process to make sure the model looks good on screen as well as with the naked eye. As a general rule if by eye the model looks good, on photo the effects will appear somewhat overdone.

I used some heavily diluted winter streaking grime from AK Interactive as stains on the lower chassis. Different brown pigments mixed with white spirit and “splashed mud” from Vallejo was used to simulate the mud thrown up by the tracks onto the lower chassis and the road wheels. A silver pencil helped to create a worn, shiny metal look on the edges of the tracks, and gave a metallic sheen to the gun. (Normally I use it on all edges, but in this case the whitewash made it unnecessary.) I’ve used a guitar string -E string- for the whip and the crow’s feet antennae.

Well, pretty much this was it. The model was not very difficult to build (some experience with PE required), and the detail looks good when finished. The crow’s feet antenna looks especially good compared to most of the other offerings in this scale.

Interestingly all 1/72 Luchs kits have minor differences from each other: the location of the Jerry cans, the combination of changes, the shape of the mudguards, even the turret are all slightly differ from each other. Unfortunately I cannot really comment on the accuracy of these; there are not many photos available, and they might -or might not- be representative to all the tanks produced.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.4

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Part one

Part two

Part three

Well, the last part of the review has arrived… painting and weathering left.

I’ve glued the turret together using white glue; at this point I was not sure how I wanted to display the tank, but I did want to show the interior somehow.

The tank was primed using a grey primer, then used a mixture of sand yellow and tan (Tamiya) to cover the whole vehicle. I’ve used silly putty to mask the subsequent colors. Olive green (lightened with tan), and red-brown (again, with tan added) were applied.

At this point the tank looked very toy-like: the colors very flat and artificial. This is the point when panic is not the right emotion; filters, washes and the rest of the weathering steps will blend everything together, and create a (relatively) realistic finish.

So this is what I did.

First, several layers of dark yellow filters by AK. This was followed by True Earth’s Dark Aging product, applied by an airbrush. This is a water based filter-like product, and so far I have not been very successful using it: even on the flattest surface it forms little beads. I probably need to try to use some mild surfactant to break the surface tension up.

The unditching log was painted back, then drybrushed using tan, and finally I used some washes to make it more realistic; the result is pretty convincing I think.

This was followed by oil-dot filters using several different browns, yellows with some blue and white added.

Once done, I’ve pried the turret halves apart, and used some evergreen rods to mount the top. ( I could not decide how to cut the turret for a cutaway, so I settled with this solution.) I’ve attached the rest of the missing parts, and gave a nice coat of dust using my airbrush and some pigments.

With a couple of small issues (like the thick viewing port for the driver’s rain-protector), the model is really excellent.

(Reviewing the photos I just realized I forgot to add the windshield wipers…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.3

The first part of the review

Second part.

Exterior

The engine deck consists of several subassemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles.

I did not even bother to try to clean up the thin plastic rods (c1, c2) required for the engine deck; I simply used them as a template to fashion replacements from wire.

Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. The assembly is finicky, but pretty impressive.

The unditching log looks pretty convincing; normally I switch them for an actual wooden stick, but in this case I kept it. Primed it black, and then spent some time drybrushing Tamiya Tan on top. The whole thing was then painted with Agrax Earthsade by Citadel.

Mudguards

As mentioned the external fuel tanks are provided as two halves. They are typical WWII type ones, although they are somewhat narrower than the ones used on wartime tanks. They are held down by PE strips – when building make sure you do the fuel tanks first, and add the storage boxes after, because in several cases they obstruct the tie-down points for the straps. Another important piece of advice: do not install the fuel tank on the left back mudguard. The flap (C9) protecting the exhaust port should be fitted first. (In my case the fuel tank was placed too forward, which interfered with the correct placement of the flap… Annoying.)

The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimeter longer than the plastic part; it’s too short otherwise.

The AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy aftermarket barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case it’s perfectly suitable.

The turret interior is pretty busy; it’s actually not as tall as the T-44 turret, and have a lot of things crammed into it. The turret originally was cast as a two-part hemispherical shape with welded roof consisting of two rolled armor plates 30 mm thick. The model’s turret is designed the same way: it’s built up from two parts (top and bottom), and the roof plates are added separately. The roof plates are considerably thinner than the sides; I suspect they are all scale thickness.

The 10RT radio and the TPU-4-bis-O-26 telecom systems are placed on the commander’s side, and there is a ready rack on the back of the turret.

The gunner’s MK-4 periscopes, and the low profile commander’s cupola with three observation TPC-1 prisms are replicated very well.

The gun is a very delicate assembly, so once it’s finished care needs to be taken not to break the thin plastic parts off.The gun breech has a seam in the middle, which needs to be filled in; to be honest it will be very difficult to see in the model. The gunner’s sight and the coaxial machine guns are complex little models of their own; once they are glued on, they tend to break off easily… (An important point for further handling.)

I have primed the interior using a primer red color, sealed it with varnish, and used the hairspray chipping method on the top color (blue grey on the bottom of the hull and white everywhere else). To make the vehicle look used, and to decrease the contrast of the pure white with the chips, I mixed up a burnt umber filter, and applied it unevenly to create patches of darker and lighter discolorations, and some dark, almost black brown washes to bring out the finer details. Finally I used different shades of rust brown oil paints to create some discreet streaks. Some rust and dust colored pigments were used to add a little more depth to the weathering, and I used a silver pencil on the edges to make them look metallic.

The gun got a similar treatment, only the cover color was green, rather than white, and for obvious reasons I did not add any streaks to it.

Coming up- final instalment: finishing the tank.

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.)