Category Archives: plastic

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 6.

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This is the last part of the building of the T-55. Just in time for the MiniArt T-55A with full interior to come out, but to be honest I don’t really mind; I’ve been collecting parts for this build for a long time -it does have a sentimental value for me…

Previous entries:

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

As with all builds, I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes; and I finally know what those things sticking out of the back of the turret are. Which is nice.

 

The last time we left off the tank was mostly finished; the filters I wanted to apply were on, pin washes finished, and everything was ready for the weathering. Before I started I added some decals, though. The markings are fictional; I’ve printed out some Hungarian markings and used a number from the MiniArt T-44 set; the only thing that is not fictional about the tank is that the AM version was in service of the Hungarian armed forces. I know purists will be horrified, but I just did not have the energy to do hours of research to find one particular tank to model. (Ironically I have an amazing book on the history of the Hungarian Armoured Forces – two thousand miles from here…)

I also needed to paint a couple of details, such as the canvas cover for the gun mantlet, but mostly the tank was done.

The next step was to apply dust. Dust and mud are the two things I’m not really good with, so this part I put off as long as I could. I settled for AK’s dust products, and mixed my own mud.

AK’s dust comes as a suspension; when you apply it, it goes on thick, and the results are not very pleasing. At least this is what I thought at first. As with everything I realized the secret is not adding stuff to the model, but removing it after. I diluted some of the mixture in white spirit, dabbed it onto the tank, waited some time, and then using a wet brush I removed most of the dust, spreading it around, adjusting it. The key is to be patient: you can always repeat the procedure (in fact, you should), if there’s not enough added. Adding less is always  preferable to adding more.

One the dust was dry, I went on mudding up the lower chassis.

What I failed to realize for a long time is that it’s not enough to buy a product called “mud”, and them smear it onto the tank; just as you can’t just cover a tank with a paint labelled “rust”, and expect realistic results. Obviously the results will be sub-optimal; there are really no shortcuts in mud. (I feel this sentence carries some deeper, more profound meaning.) Even if you buy custom-made products you still have to learn how to apply them, and that’s that. And since you need to learn it anyhow, you might as well save some money and make your own mud.

The first layer was simple pigments suspended with water. I dabbed it on, then after it was mostly dry, removed some using a brush. A day later the procedure was repeated with a different color. The key here is layers; just like Shrek, mud has layers, too. Old mud tends to be dryer and lighter; newer deposits tend to be thicker, darker and placed lower. I dabbed the pigment-water mixture all over the lower chassis, the side-skirts, even on the top of the mudguards (in a much more diluted form).

I also splattered some using a loaded brush and a toothpick onto the side-skirts; any splatters that were out of place (on the side of the turret, for example) was removed with a wet brush using downward motions, leaving a very faint streak behind. I’ve also used Vallejo’s mud product on the side-skirts; it produces quite dark splatters which are quite different from how it looks like on the photo on the bottle.

A day or two later I decided to try something I’ve never done: I made thick mud. I used Mig’s Neutral Wash as a base. I got this as part of a set, and frankly I can’t really find any use for it; it’s too grey to be a “normal” wash. If you know how to use it, please let me know.

It did serve as a good medium, though. I mixed in a lot of brown pigments of different shades, some sand and some static grass, and then offering my soul to the gods of model building, I proceeded to apply the mixture to the lower chassis.

The method was the same application/removal as before; with a brush dampened with white spirit I adjusted the amount of mud on the wheels and chassis. I also added some on the mudguards (and sprinkled some on). The results are actually quite spectacular; I did not dare to hope for such a nice effect.

Once the mud dried (I gave it a week), I used my graphite pencil to give some metallic shine to the edges. I used some black pigments on the side-skirts directly next to the exhaust, and applied some oil stains. Again; I just used AK’s and Vallejo’s products slightly diluted. I made bigger, more dilute patches, and once these dried, added smaller patches on top of them with oil products slightly less diluted.

The external fuel tanks on the back were given some diesel stains. (I admit I did not scratch build the piping that would allow the tank to use these external tanks. I did make the pipes for the smaller external tanks if it’s any consolidation, though.)

That’s pretty much it. I finally have a T-55AM with full(ish) interior. It was a pretty long (and expensive) undertaking. To be honest I can’t recommend anyone doing the same- after all, there will be an all-plastic alternative available by MiniArt soon, with a much better detail than the CMK set. (A subject of a later set of posts…)

 

 

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Modelcollect 1/72 Rheintochter 1 movable Missile launcher with E100 body, 1946

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This model was one of the three of my very first order from Modelcollect; the other two were the E-75 with full interior and a T-80. I’ll take a look at those models later on. There is also an E-50 with interior available, and a T-64, T-72 with interior in the plans… which to be honest, are some of the most anticipated models for me in any scale.

This particular model is a somewhat feasible modification of the E-100 tank: the hull of the tank is mated with an AA missile launcher platform for the multi-stage Rheintochter 1 missile, forming a mobile anti-aircraft unit. As anti-aircraft missiles go, this one is enormous; it would probably have been pretty devastating against bomber formations. There are some issues with the concept: the operators of the weapon system seem to be placed outside by the launching platform just like if it was a regular AA gun (there WERE plans to use mounts from AA guns). The problem is unless the crew vacates the area before each launch (and go quite far away from the vehicle), they would be blasted away by the exhaust by the missile engine. The blast shield even directs the gases upwards and somewhat forwards… it’s definitely not someplace I’d like to sit when the missile lifts off. Even with the much smaller Nebelwerfer Wurfrahmen rockets the crew had to find shelter before firing. There’s also the issue of reload – it would be interesting to see an ammo carrier vehicle with a crane.

Regardless the concept looks cool, and when it comes to modification of fictional tanks, it is all that matters. (There are other modifications by the same theme: twin AA Flak guns, V-1 rocket launcher, and the same weapons on an E-75, E-50 platform.) Interestingly the missile was real enough; it even was launched a couple of times during testing.

The quality of moulding is excellent, the details are good; there is no complaint there. The PE is small, but there’s really not a lot needed; the addition of engine deck grilles is a very nice touch. The instructions are simple and easy to follow.

The assembly is fast, but not without issues, though. I ran into some surprising problems. First, the running gear is quite flimsy; the connection points where the swing arms and the road wheels attach are not sturdy enough. Some of the roadwheels kept falling off, despite of being glued on with plastic glue during handling. During installation tracks also bent somewhat under the tension as you can see on the photos. Strengthening the idlers’ and drive wheels’ attachment points would eliminate this issue.

There were some fit issues with the hull as well; nothing major, but it was a bit surprising because I did not expect any.

I’m not sure where exactly the missile should be sitting. If you place the missile towards the back of the launching platform, the frontal fins tend to interfere with the shield if the missile mount is depressed to travel position. (The back fins would probably cause some damage to the crew/vehicle, during launch as they would not have enough clearance, either.)

There is a full engine included, but it will be completely invisible once installed. I did put it in, but I think it’s better just to keep it as a spare for other projects.

The whole assembly took about a total of two hours (waiting time for the glue to set not included); the most difficult thing was the attachment of fins to the missile. I use this word in a relative sense – the model was not challenging at all.

The painting was started with a Dunkelgelb base- I used Mig Ammo’s paints for this. (I still need to learn how to use these paints; I’m used to the Tamiya range.)

I did muck up the next steps. Simply put I did not account for the scale effect for the camo colors -a rookie mistake. In my rush I was focusing on the pattern and masking and forgot about the colors themselves. Thanks to this at first the model looked quite colorful… I planned to strip the whole model and give it another go, but decided to use this mistake as an opportunity to experiment a bit instead. I corrected mistakes in the masking wherever some colors showed through using a brush first; this is something to be expected whenever you use masks. Subsequent layers of yellow/green/brown colored filters and very fine Tamiya Sand mist from the airbrush managed to tone the colors down and blend them together. I used a large flat brush to distribute the last layers of filters with a downward motion, forming streaks on the side.

I used white spirit to wet the surface before applying pin washes -I did that because I did not want to apply gloss varnish, and the wash would not flow properly on a matte surface.

I used some rust colors applied with a piece of sponge on the blast shields where the heat of the exhaust gases burned away the paint. I applied some subtle chipping/rusting using the same technique and color on the hull as well.

With the help of pigments I added dust on the top of the hull, some mud on the sides. The key here is application/removal as with a lot of weathering techniques: I mixed some pigments with water, dabbed the mixture on, and after it dried somewhat I used a clean, wet brush to remove most of it. Repeating the procedure in several thin layers and slightly different colors produces a reasonably realistic effect.

Finally a silver pencil helped to give some metallic shine to the tank.

Although the tank is pretty dusty (I kept to the artwork’s destroyed urban setting), I left the missile clean – it is supposed to be freshly loaded onto the launching platform. You can argue that the blast of the previous lift-offs would blow some of the dust away from the vehicle as well, but the blast-shield would direct most of it upwards. The missile’s paint scheme is completely fictional. There are some real-life examples you can use as reference, but since the whole vehicle is fictional, I thought I’d go with colors I like. (I have some real funky Citadel paints which I have not yet been able to use for anything really. After much consideration I decided against finally using Tentacle Pink and Warlock Purple. Their time has not yet come.)

Anyway, disregarding my mistakes the build overall is a quick one, and there is no real challenge involved. The model is reasonably well designed; there’s really nothing to complain about. The detail is good enough, there are no tiny fiddly parts. This 1/72 model is about the size of a 1/35 Panzer I, so it’s quite large. Obviously these fictional vehicles are not going to rock everyone’s world; they seem to be quite divisive within the community. If you don’t like them, this kit is not going to tempt you; but if you want to build something visually interesting as a weekend project, this model is probably a good candidate.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 5.

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Please find the first, second, third and fourth part here.

I used German Grey primer by Vallejo to create a good, sturdy surface for the subsequent layers of paint. I used to use spray cans as the application is quick, but it’s also somewhat risky. (You can easily flood the model with paint.) Setting up the airbrush and the fume extractor (paintbooth) is time consuming, but I think overall it’s a better alternative. This particular primer is pretty easy to use, too, as it does not require any dilution; it can be sprayed straight out of the bottle. I sprayed the lower sections of the anti-HEAT rubber sideskirts separately.

Once the primer dried, I sprayed rough patches of different rust colors, making sure the rubber side-skirts remain dark grey/black (with the scale effect I found dark grey looks better than full-on jet black).

I assembled the tracks using a very thin liquid glue. I normally glue two links together, and then join up these sections into larger and larger sets of links. The glue allows for relatively long time to work the tracks, so it’s relatively simple to push them around the drive wheels and idlers after 30-40 minutes of drying time. (I almost switched the drive wheels and idlers; I’ve built too many German tanks lately I guess.)

The tracks were painted with the same primer, rubbed using a metallic pigment to give them a nice, steel shine. I also applied some rust colored washes (relatively bright orange to dark brown) at this stage. (The dust will be added later.)

I went over the model using OD green from Tamiya on the lower chassis and road-wheels. This is a dark, an almost grey-green color; this color represents the darker areas covered by shadows. I painted the rubber rims with a dark grey color. This was layered with different dust and mud colors, pigments and other weathering techniques simulating dust and caked-on mud. I tried Tamiya’s dust and mud weathering sticks as well. I pushed the stick onto the surface, and used a wet brush to spread the paste around; it’s actually pretty easy method yielding realistic results.

I installed the tracks, and glued the rubber side-skirts into place.

I added AK’s Chipped effects in two layers, and waited again for things to dry. It took about an hour or so, and then I painted the tank with the same OD Green as I applied to the lower chassis.

I kept adding tan and yellow to the base color, and kept layering it onto the tank from the top of the tank; I wanted to lighten up mostly the surfaces that are illuminated by the sun (and which are normally more faded, anyhow). Adding yellow to the base green yielded a pretty nice Russian green, leaving the original color in the recesses.

I waited about thirty minutes for the paint to dry, and started to create the worn-off, chipped paint effect using a wet, stiff brush. I applied some water onto a small section, waited a bit, and used the stiff brush to wear off some of the top layer. (Sometime I managed to rub the paint off to the resin; these sections were retouched with primer.)
The chips on the rubber parts revealed a dark grey color, corresponding to the rubber; chipping on the rest of the tank showed different hues of dark brown representing rusted metal.

Once I was happy with the amount of paint chips, I waited for the tank to dry.

True Earth has a couple of filters in their product lines; I bought them a while ago, but had no luck with them so far. (I did work out you needed a very flat surface to apply it; the surface tension tends to pull the filter into droplets.) I sprayed some dark aging and light aging filters on some selected areas without diluting the product: around the turret, on the lower part of the turret, on the bottom of the tank; the effect is not as smooth as I wished it to be, but it does produce an interesting discoloration here and there. Not what I was going for (I was lead to believe applied it would look more like a darkened patch paint with a smooth transition), but a good one nevertheless. (It’s just one of those things: a product that promises easy and spectacular results turns out to be not so easy to use after all. The thing is if you need to have a learning curve to use something to make your job easier, it does not necessarily fulfil its promise.)

I applied traditional dark brown oil filters on the bottom part (with the side-skirts), and a light brown filter on the top. Another filter, bright yellow this time was applied on the top surfaces only. The tank was given some time to dry (a couple of days) and then I tried something I wanted to try for a long time: Tamiya transparent paint as filter. I used green on the bottom parts, which were supposed to be darker, and yellow on the top again.

After two days of letting the tank dry I sealed everything with a coat of gloss varnish, which was followed by a dark enamel pinwash.

The overall effect is quite nice; I managed to get that yellowish-brownish green I was going for.

The tank is now looking like an actual vehicle…

Grim Skull Miniatures: Chaos Rotten Plague Rhino conversion

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I quite like the Warhammer 40k universe and regularly paint the odd figure here and there. The cost of larger vehicles unfortunately is very high, especially the resin Forgeworld offerings; when it comes to decide between a small Imperial Knight or a 1/35 T-54 with full interior that is considerably cheaper, not surprisingly I go with the latter. (Let’s not even mention the $4001200 battle titans.) It’s a shame, really, because there’s an awful lot of interesting stuff out there by both Games Workshop and Forgeworld.

There are alternatives, though. Mostly Ukrainian and Russian companies started to produce “alternatives” for the miniatures; they are cheaper, and more importantly, a lot of times much better than the originals. (I’ll paint a not-quite Abaddon and not-quite Mortarion figure soon, too.)

I’ve done a review of the set on ModellGeek some time ago; since then I have been working on and off on the painting of this model.

This particular conversion is for a (not quite) Death Guard Rhino, which is corrupted by the Lord of Decay- hence the pustules and blisters and cysts (not to mention the tentacles, horns, talons and other… things that stick out of this vehicle). The price is reasonably low, and it requires a Games Workshop Rhino or Chaos Rhino as a base vehicle. (I bought a built one on ebay quite cheap, and just cut it to pieces.)

The model arrived in a very nice black box; quite professionally packed. It does not contain many parts, and the assembly is really straightforward. You essentially need to replace the side, the top and the front armor plates, and the folding door on the back. (You can buy tracks separately from the company if you feel like replacing the kit tracks as well.) The fit is relatively good, but filler will be necessary between the side and top panels; fortunately in this case you can be creative, and form additional horns, protrusions, etc. to mask off the seams. The right side- where the open hatch is with the skeleton inside- is quite deep, which necessitates some surgery on the interior side wall. You will need to cut the metal door with the frame out, so that the resin piece can fit into its place.

The victim

Some of the original kit is still visible, and the contrast between the old and the new parts is quite large. Perhaps texturing these regions with some putty would help; this is what I did on the lower front plate. There is so little of the original vehicle still visible, and the contrast is so large, I can’t help to think it would have been better just to make the whole vehicle out of resin, instead of creating a conversion.

The set does not provide a commander’s cupola; I used the plastic parts that comes with the Rhino. This is not an ideal solution; the cupola that came with my kit did not fit because of all the tentacles and whatnot on the top. It also looks quite out of place since it is not visibly corrupted like the rest of the model; you would expect every part of the Rhino to be uniformly touched by the Warp. I simply reused the hatches only, and made a couple of tentacles and cysts out of green stuff.

The folding door is also somewhat weird. In a vehicle like this you’d expect that most internal space is taken up by indescribable horrors spawned by the Warp -after all, a lot of it is sticking out from every opening. Yet the inside of the folding door s perfectly clean, not to mention the crew compartment, which is unchanged from the original vehicle. Interestingly the door has the exhaust pipes on them, which are apparently open into the crew compartment.

The assembly took about an hour. I have base-coated the whole tank with Tamiya Hull Red, and then went on creating as convincingly rusty hull as I could. Yes, I understand that it’s made out of adamantium, but when it comes to a fictional metal vs demonic corruption, I think the demonic corruption wins. The Rhino is rusted and that’s that.

The painting was a long process; mostly trial and error. As I’m mostly painting armor vehicles, I definitely need to learn the “miniature style” painting with high contrast and nice blending of colors. My WH40K models tend to be painted and weathered like a scale model of a real vehicle.

First step: the base color of the ATC. Obviously it needed to be rusted. I realized very long time ago that painting something with a color named “rust” will not give a realistic result; what you need is layers upon layers corresponding rust colors, making sure they are positioned where you would expect to see them. To begig with thick armor plats tend to have deep red/brown colors; thinner parts and the edges tend to have lighter rust colors, like orange or even yellow. So this is what I did.

And what colors did I use exactly? Well, what can be more realistic than actual rust? I ordered actual iron oxide pigments available in three colors -deep brown, red and yellow (Ochre), and using these I mixed up various shades of rust. I used a sponge to apply the mixture: dab the sponge into matte varnish, dab it into the pigment mixture, and into a cloth so that most of the pigment actually comes off, and then use this on the surface of the vehicle. It’s important you don’t add too much at a time, but build up the effect gradually. I used mostly the darker shades; yellow directly only was used on edges. As you can see it from the photos the contrast between the yellow and the rest is pretty high; this was taken care of later. This was deliberate; I wanted to have some contrast left after I finished the weathering, and subsequent steps had the effect of lessening the contrast. I used several brown and yellowish filters on the hull to blend the colors together, and then rubbed metallic pigments onto certain areas. (Focused on the edges mostly, but I rubbed pigments onto the “wounds” where the metal opened up as the horns were pushing out, and also on parts of large, flat areas.)

The tusks were pained with buff first, then ivory was blended towards the tips, making a nice, soft transition between the colors. The boils and whatnot were first painted with blood red, then using brighter and brighter red and orange colors mixed with lahmian medium I added somewhat translucent layers on top. At the very end I put a yellow dot off-center onto each, then a final layer of very translucent orange to blend the colors together. Once everything was finished I went over the boils with a clear, shiny varnish to make them look wet.

The bones were first painted by white (to make then stand out), then went over them using a yellowish white (well, bone-colored) paint. The effect was further helped using dark brown washes with diluted Citadel inks, which acted both as filters (modulating the bone color), and as washes (forming shadows on the surface).

The top of the vehicle looked like a gigantic wound, so I used bright reds and orange to make it look like raw flesh. The underlying areas were painted a deep, angry red, with brighter and brighter reds (later oranges) layered on the protruding areas. Since the organic matter seemed to sweep over the metal parts, it was painted in a more brownish red to provide some transition. I accentuated the effect using bright red inks; some of the overhanging tissue was only tinted with this mixture (applied in several coats).

I was not sure what the spikes were representing, so I kept them rusty.

There were tiny, oblong shapes all over the hull; I took them as mites or other parasites, and painted them bright green- to give some contrasting color to the model.

The tentacles were somewhat of a dilemma. After considering green and flesh colors, I decided on purple. The base was dark purple (tentacle purple by Citadel’s nomenclature; the actual inspiration for the paint scheme), which was highlighted using pink purple mixed with lahmian medium to blend it in easier, to make the color somewhat translucent. Some of the thicker tentacles had suckers on them, similar to an octopus’; these were painted carefully with bright pink. Once everything dried, I covered them with heavily diluted purple ink in several coats until they looked as if the brighter colors were underlying tissue showing through a translucent skin. The effect was surprisingly good considering I was improvising.

The triple-skull mark of Nurgle was painted first with a light, bright green, that represents heavily oxidized bronze, and I added some very dark metallic bronze colors on some areas somewhat randomly. (I tried to make sure mostly the parts that are jutting out would be painted; after all we’d expect these parts to be rubbed clear of the oxide.)

The holes on the exhaust on the top were painted with a very bright green, again, to provide some contrast. The exhausts on the back were blocked with some run-off. Since we’re talking about plague and Nurgle here I decided on a green paintscheme; I tried to emulate how other paint lava and other hot materials which seem to be emitting light on their own.

The goo was first painted with the lightest, brightest green I had, and darker and darker greens were blended onto this surface, making sure that the original bright green was still visible in the deep crevices, and that the color gradually darkens. The idea was that as the goo cooled, the colors darken; hence the large dark green surfaces. The rims and the interiors of the exhaust pipes were pained bright green to simulate the green light they reflect from the radioactive/infectious goo.

Well, pretty much that’s all. I really enjoyed the painting process although it took an awful lot of time. I’ll get a couple of Death Guard marines, I’ll paint up Mortarion, and I’ll have a little happy family of plague bearing Space Marines on my shelf in no time.

 

1/35 ESCI 7.5-cm l.I.G. 18

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Another old build finished… This is the model of a 75mm light infantry howitzer used by the German army.

The model is quite hold- it’s older than I am in fact, from 1976. I got it as a present from a friend years ago, back in the US, started to build it halfheartedly, and put it away in 2009 half-finished when I moved over to the UK. It was made of cheap-looking bring green plastic (similar color to the Army Men toys), and was not exactly inspiring me to finish it. It received a panzer grey coat, and that was it.

It’s incredible how much presentation matters with models. The “Eastern European” 1/72 kits (UM, Attak, etc) look pretty shabby and amateurish unpainted. Flash everywhere, the plastic is not the best, the attachment gates are thick… and usually the plastic has weird, uneven colors – nothing to drive you to press on with the build. Case to the point: my KV-2 build. It had a strange, toy-like feel to it unpainted, but once I applied the primer coat, it’s all gone, and suddenly you have a pretty detailed model in your hands. Whereas a professionally packaged kit with crisp details and good looking instructions can just make you want to drop everything and start building it. I might be shallow, I know, but presentation matters.

I dug it out three years ago from a box in my mother’s attic; by that time one of the wheels broke off. I brought it with me to the UK, but it was kept in a box forgotten and unloved. About two months ago I got fed up with stalled projects; so the SiG got a new lease in life. Since it was the quickest to finish, I thought I’d start with it. I drilled a hole where the wheel axis was, re-attached the wheel with an evergreen plastic rod, and started weathering the gun. It’s not a very detailed model (the breach assembly, the optics are very much simplified), but it’s detailed enough.

First step was a couple of light coat of blue filter; which was followed by some dark brown pin washes.

Once everything dried I added some lightened base-coat to the raised details and edges as highlights.

I tried a couple of AK products on this build; after all this seemed like an ideal opportunity to practice – if I improve the looks, fine; if I mess up the build, then that’s fine, too.

I did some streaking using different streaking products. Add a dot using a small brush, and used a moist (almost dry) wide brush with downward motion to form the steaks. I also added rust-streaks with the same method. I also added earth effects to the bottom of the gun shield and the carriage. I was reluctant before to use this particular product, as the contrast seemed high when I applied it. Once it’s semi-dry, you can (and should) remove, adjust the pigments with a moist brush. After drying the contrast will be much smaller, and the effect more realistic.

I also tried some of the dust effect products around the rivets and whatnot; they work reasonably well. To be honest using oil paints and pigments diluted with alcohol/white spirit/water is still a better option, but I might just be too old school for this.

As finishing touches I used Tamiya’s make-up set to add more dust and some metallic shine to the gun.

Is it a good model? Not particularly. It was nice, however, to finally finish the build. I built up a small stash when in the US, and it feels good to finally start building these models. (Even though a lot of them are somewhat outdated; we finally have a King Tiger with full interior in plastic, and MiniArt’s T-55 is coming also with full interior, I still feel good about finishing them.)

 

 

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 4.

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Please find the first, second  and third part here.

To be honest this approach of aftermarket bonanza is going to the way of the dinosaurs. MiniArt has just announced a T-55A with full interior.

Finally finished with most of the build. Getting closer to the end… Smaller jobs are finished. I did the back of the turret as best as I could. I zoomed into the box art photos of the Miniarm set, and tried to figure out what goes where. Somewhat unsuccessfully, since the instructions are frankly quite bad, too. (The PE parts are not numbered correctly for one. As mentioned the reference photos are bad, too…) The extra magazines for the machine gun mounted on the back had some hiccups. First of all I only had five in my set, not six. Second the PE straps that should have been going around them were short. What I did was simply cutting the straps in the middle, and attaching them to the front first. I added the handgrabs, and the wires to the smoke candles – soldering wire is incredibly useful for these tasks.

Well, I did the best I could -and had patience for; this will have to suffice.

I also attached the mounting points for the anti-HEAT sideskirts. Many tanks were not equipped with it, but since they are there, I might as well use them. I started with the middle section on the left side, as it has a special shape (due to the exhaust port), and used it as a reference point for the rest. The back unit is shorter than it should be, and the front overhangs a bit; somewhat annoying but easy to solve with a blade. (I simply fitted the cut off piece from the front to the back.) I’ll leave the side-skirts off for the time being; they will be attached once the main color is applied.

Tamiya wants you to make your own towing cables; it certainly makes more sense than MiniArt’s optimistic approach of prividing them as straight plastic parts. I normally use picture hanging wires for this role; it’s very life-like, and behaves like cable.

I snapped a couple of photos using my phone (hence the quality), and called it finished.

 

 

So this is where I am right now. The tank needs a base coat, and then painting can commence.

Keep tuned in…

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 3.

Please find the first and second part here.

And the build goes on…

Interior

After some finishing touches to the interior, I closed the turret down. It really bothers me that I could not find a good reference for the AM version; I suspect there are a lot of screens and other digital equipment added to the standards layout.  Regardless now it looks like I’m making progress: the tank looks like a tank now. (With no gun barrel in this case.) One real complaint I have about the CMK set is that it provides no ammunition.

I’ve removed the external fuel tanks and reattached them with green stuff, as they did not sit level before. Now they look good. I will do the fuel lines a bit later on; I will use Legend’s photos as reference. (It feels somewhat like cheating, but there you go.)

Exterior

I’ve added the Eduart engine deck grilles; they really do make the model stand out. It is kind of a shame to cover all that nice, shiny brass with paint.

The road wheels were also installed. Over the years, and through the long way this model travelled with me, the poly caps somehow went missing; this made installing the wheels somewhat of a challenge. I overstepped the problems simply by sticking a small amount of green stuff into the cavity where the poly caps should have gone, and glued the wheels in place; once the green stuff set, the wheels were absolutely solidly fixed in place. As I mentioned in part 2 I’m using a Trumpeter individual track set; since the AM version had at least three different types of tracks mounted over the year I’m not too fussed about the exact type. (And now I can look forward to a tornado of incoming angry comments.)

Problems with the Miniarm set

Building the Miniarm conversion I found it out to my great annoyance that the photo of the set on the box (and the advertisement) may contain a resin machine gun, but the set itself does not contain it. After reading the fine print I now understand that this photo shows of several sets on one model, but I find the inclusion of them on the cover quite misleading. (Kind of like the Armory T-72 conversion’s case where the armored shield was not included with the set.)

I guess I’ll stick to the original Tamiya gun (which is not half bad, actually); there is no way in hell I’ll buy another set for this build. It’s getting a bit expensive, even without Fruil tracks. (I’m using someone’s unused Trumpeter individual tracklinks.)

As a side-note: comparing the Tamiya MG to the MiniArt and Trumpeter versions of similar AA heavy machine guns, the MiniArt gun wins when it comes to detail, but the Tamiya is much simpler to assemble. The Trumpeter offering is somewhere in between, but pretty impressive when it comes to detail. (And it’s a different heavy machine gun, to be fair. We’re talking about detail and ease of assembly here.) Different philosophies I guess; I think on the long run the MiniArt version is better as it does look better, but when you’re getting short on patience during a complex and difficult build (which is entirely self-imposed in this case), the Tamiya gun is a bliss. I’ll have to get an ammunition belt though, as Tamiya does not supply it.

There are other inaccuracies as well: some of the smoke candles are already discharged on the cover photo, but you only get the full ones; and the gun barrel is different. Apart from the thermal jacket issue (mentioned below in great detail), the stock photos for the set show the resin piece at the end of the gun barrel to have interior rifling -which mine does not have. To be fair the gun is capable firing an anti-tank missile (which, amusingly, costs about half of what the tank itself costs), and if I’m not mistaken the gun is actually smooth-bore. Two storage boxes only have two sides each; not sure what Miniarm was thinking when they designed them. They literally miss two sides; if you really look close, you can see under them. At this point I just ignored the issue; it would be relatively simple to fabricate the missing sides, but I only had a single damn to give, and damn is gone now. (You can see the missing sides on the photos below.)

Another contentious issue with the Miniarm set is that the instructions are horrible. There are two parts to this. The first is that in many cases the small, photocopied photographs show nothing of how the parts should be placed. You kind of see where they go, but nothing else. I found myself using google to see if I can find reference photos of the set itself to help me with it.

The second problem is that the instructions are incomplete. The back of the turret is quite busy, but you don’t really get an explanation how to use the set to build it up. It’s not very clear how to assemble the holding braces for the AA machine gun for example. I also have a bunch of unused resin parts which don’t seem to be doing anything; I do not know where they are supposed to be going. This does annoy me because I paid for them; I’d like to know how to use them. Even when something is in the instructions, sometimes it does not tell you where to put the finished artifact. In step 2-4 you are instructed to produce a part from multiple small PE pieces, but then it does not tell you what to do with it. I realized long time into the build that it’s actually supposed to be on the right side of the back of the turret. (Walkaround photos…) Also the PE frame of the gunner’s sight is simply missing. It’s there on the photos, but the instructions are quite confusing, and instruct you to cut p23 to size and glue it to the side; p23 looks nothing like the picture, and in any case, it’s shorter than required. It’s also bent, so you can’t really fit it to the straight surface.

The saga of the gun barrel

I started to work on the gun barrel. Interestingly the gun barrel on the cover photo looks absolutely different from what you get in the kit; I find this quite odd, to be honest. There must have been different versions of the T-55AM with and without thermal jacket, but I still find it curious that you get something different than that is advertised on the box cover. (I don’t even mention the fact that the photo had a brass/copper barrel, while you get an ugly aluminum one.)

I was quite wary of this stage of the build; the thermal jacket on the barrel is made out of very tiny resin parts. Especially the tie-downs are horrid: you have wrap each end of the PE tie-downs around a thin, 1.5mm long wire, and connect the two ends with a similarly short piece of wire.

I made a huge mistake and did not anneal the PE with heat before starting to work with it; it was quite difficult to wrap them around the barrel.

I started with a relatively long piece of plastic rod (and in retrospect, a thick one), glued across multiple tie-downs; once the PE set, I wrapped them around the plastic one by one. It’s not a simple process, and unfortunately the CA glue did pile up around the tiny details.

Looking at the reference photos, though, you can’t fail to notice that no matter how thick the wire you use, it will look out-of scale on the model. (Too bad I found these photos after doing most of the work already.)

These pieces of wire are meant to be the bolts holding the tie-downs in place; and they are quite small in real life. Just look at this reference photo from an AM gun barrel’s advertisement:

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Looking at these photos I had one option: I cut the plastic off, and simply used the PE straps by themselves. To be honest the straps on the real gun blend in so much I could probably get away with not using them at all. (My preferred option, but I like pain, so I went with trying to glue the straps on.) This is something that’s not the set’s fault: it’s a technically quite challenging part of the build. (To make the straps themselves more to scale, it would be best to simply use strips cut from aluminium foil; even the PE is too thick for it.)

The PE ridges along the top of the gun barrel are oversized compared to the real thing. Hopefully it will not be very noticeable; the gun barrel has re-formed slits where these need to be inserted, which might hide most of their width.

Trying the gun in the resin mantlet I could not help but notice that the fit is far from snug – there will be considerable amount of filler needed to hide the gaps. It also means I’ll need something more sturdy than CA to fix it in place. (I used the good ole’ green stuff; it fixes the gun into place, and acts as a filler at the same time.)

Miniarm does offer PE lightguards, but to be honest they are difficult to assemble (and require extra wire to add), and look quite unconvincing. These guards were made of about 1.5cm thick metal rods; PE looks quite flat compared to them. (Not to mention it looks weird to mix wire with PE when all components should really look the same.) I just used the Tamiya plastic parts; they are surprisingly good.

All these complaints about the Miniarm conversion by no means are deal-breakers, but they do temper my enthusiasm about it. The detail is impressive, the resin and PE are well designed, and good quality, but I think it’s better just to get the damned Takom kit and be done with it.

Finishing touches

I’ve added all the other bits and bobs to the hull and the turret: the searchlights, various ammo boxes, handholds, wires, etc. Presently I’m looking at walkaround photos and the Takom instructions to figure out how to finish the back of the turret.

I should have finished the tracks before adding the top of the hull; this is the next big step now. The AM version had side-skirts protecting the tracks and the sides of the hull; before I add them I’ll need to install the tracks and paint the lower hull. (Which means I’ll have to learn how to use my Aztek airbrush first.) Once that is done, I can finish the sideskirts (a very daunting prospect since I can’t really make sense of the instructions at this time), and then I can at last paint this beast and be done with it.

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 2.

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Please find the first part here.

So the saga continues. This is, by far, the most complex build I’ve attempted: several aftermarket sets are used parallel so mistakes are a possibility. Well, mistakes have been already made.

I’ve finished up the interior finally; the CMK set is done. There are considerable differences between the interior of the T-55A and the T-55AM I’m building with the Miniarm set; however I will ignore these for the sake of my sanity. To be honest it’s difficult to find good quality references for the interior of the AM, and this is the point where I give up; it’s a hobby after all.

The hull interior was relatively simple to finish; as I said in the previous post, there are a lot of shortcuts in the CMK kit, but then again, you can argue that most of it will not be visible, anyway. The driver’s station is especially devoid of extra instruments and whatnot you can see on photos. These videos by Wargaming are really useful: one is Chieftain’s “normal” inside the tank one, the other is a pretty cool virtual video. There is also a really good one here.

I also finished the turret interior. The bottom of the turret comes as a resin replacement; I did not realize it in time but the turret ring of the Tamiya kit is actually narrower than the CMK turret’s ring. This means cutting; not the best thing to do with all the fragile PE around, so make sure you do it first – unless you like challenges as much as I do.

The gun, the turret turning mechanism, radio, different electrical boxes, the handle, etc. went in fine. I took some liberties and used some parts from the Verlinden T-62 interior set -periscopes and whatnot. I also did some cabling using soldering wire painted black. They were placed mostly using a creative licence – the actual tank has way more cables all over the place. Once all was in place, I used some diluted filters on the white -mostly light browns, and added streaking to the sides with very subtle rust colors. Did not want to make it look like it was standing abandoned for decades, but I did want to add visually interesting details. Real tanks are remarkably free of rust and rust streaks; it’s a balancing act.

Once the bottom of the turret was safely in place over the top of the hull, I started to attach the Tamiya parts for the exterior. I have to say it was a joy compared to the aftermarket set- finally everything is clear-cut and simple! Until you realize you need the next conversion set, and now you have to figure out what’s needed from the Tamiya kit, and what needs to be replaced and altered. I also noticed I was a bit hasty closing in the hull- I should have fitted the road wheels and the tracks first; it will be a bit more difficult with the mud guards in place. Well, that’s a headache for later.

The Miniarm instructions are not very good, and sometimes they just don’t warn you about minor things, like the need for filling in certain holes on the Tamiya hull. The problem is in the front: the added frontal covers most of the front, but you need to fill in two small holes. It would have been simpler if I realized it before I glued the fragile plastic parts 1 mm from the holes in question. Oh well.

The mantlet cover also comes from the Miniarm set, which interferes with the CMK gun breach making it impossible to put the top of the turret in its place. The simple solution was to cut off the front of the gun breach. Of course trying to fit the turret, and figuring out the problem meant that the delicate PE parts of the ammo holder on the back of the turret got damaged. Frankly at this point I’m not sure I’ll fix them; very little will be visible anyhow. Another issue for the next day will be the CMK coaxial machine gun; it just does not line up with the Tamiya turret.

I also realized I made a mistake at this point with the loader’s hatch: I used the CMK replacement instead of the Miniarm one. They are slightly different, but what’s done is done. The fuel tanks are provided by Miniarm, too, but the casting blocs are very thin; it’s not easy to saw them off. I’m also not sure why some tool boxes are replaced, and why others are kept from the Tamiya set… Oh well.

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So here we are now: the model now resembles an actual tank. (My wife says it looks like a sad, dopey-eyed vehicle.) Some detail painting is left in the turret interior, and then I can finally close it off.

I finally gave up, and bought Eduart’s engine deck grill set for the build; I hope it’s the last expense I have this with this model. It really annoys me Miniarm did not provide a set; after all, if you offer a conversion, you might as well throw in some improvements, too, saving costs for your customers. As I said the set is not cheap at all.

The next few steps will be the most painful ones: itsy-bitsy PE everywhere… That’s a story for the next post. I’m really looking forward to the painting phase.

 

 

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

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Since then I got the MiniArm set as well…

 

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

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

 

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

 

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

 

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.