Category Archives: softskin

DML 1/35 Sd.Kfz. 250 Neu with Royal Models set part 2

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Part 1.

Finally, painting.

 

This was a relatively straightforward affair, considering. OK, some parts were sticking out of the crew compartment, so I left them out – technically, the building is not finished. But it was straighforward compared to the previous decade of on-and-off efforts of finishing this model.

Anyhow. As usual, Vallejo’s German Grey primer was applied to provide a good basis for the paint on the resin, metal and plastic surfaces.

A day later this was followed by Mig’s Dunkelgelb. I’m still warming up to these paints; they are somewhat finicky, but give great results -and can be sprayed without diluting them. The only problem is the application: if you spray too much the paint will not spread out evenly. How much is too much you ask? Well, precisely my problem. So you need to be careful, and just layer it on once the paint dried (which is quite fast to be honest). An advantage is that you don’t actually need to dilute them, making them simpler to use. But overall they are not as forgiving as Tamiya’s paints; I’m still in two minds about them.

The paint dried in an hour, so I added some free-hand olivegrun stripes by Testors. The vehicle looked OKish, but pale; even though I planned to have it only in yellow/green, I added some Tamiya red-brown as well (lightened with tan). The dunkelgelb sections were “reinforced” with a second layer once the brown dried.

This was my very first freehand camouflage I may add; I’m happy with the results.

 

The next steps were routine as well. I removed the masks, and finished off the interior, adding the binos and whatnot.

Since I wanted to try different techniques I decided to use this model as a test-bed; my problem is that towards the end of a build I become very conservative of what techniques I’m willing to experiment with, not wanting to spoil the work done so far. Not any more, I won’t! I decided to be bold, and add dust and mud using several techniques; to make this halftrack totally and utterly covered with mud.

Neither dust nor mud is easy for me; I’ve been looking for “the” product that will make them super simple and very convincing; no such luck so far. Unfortunately there are no short-cuts; dedicated products will be just as useless as hard-core, old-school modelling tricks using nothing but pigments if you don’t put in the time and learn to use them; and if you already have to learn something, why not save your money and use the old-school techniques? Case to the point: I bought Vallejo’s industrial mud in a large set; it’s a grey product which will need to be mixed with other colors, applied carefully and in specific ways to make it look good. I also got a Dead Sea mud masque product from my wife who does not like to use it as it’s too harsh on her skin. The color is a nice, well, mud color. The cost is about a fourth of the Vallejo’s mud color. And how does it hold up? Well, I’ve used it as a base color for this vehicle so you’ll be the judge of that…
 

I used Vallejo’s German black brown to add chipping: both a 00 brush and sponge were used in the process. Obviously a four inch armor plate will have different chips and will oxidise differently from thin sheet of metal; I tried to show this difference from my usual tank subjects. 

I applied very faint green and yellow filters to blend the colors together somewhat on the exterior.

The next step was to use some oil dot filters. I put a few blobs of different shades of brown, yellow, blue and green oil paints onto a small piece of cardboard. In about an hour or so the linseed oil seeped out into the paper; this is important if you want flat finish. I added random dots on the surface, and then blended, removed them using a wet brush with downward motion. This produced very faint streaks, and modulated the base color somewhat. Yellows, greens, etc will give a slightly different tint to the underlying color. I focused the darker browns towards the bottom of the chassis. Truth be told very little can be seen of all this work, but the keyword is patience and layers.

I used a light rust color to form streaks: I prepared a dilute wash using a rust colored oil paint, and applied it with a thin brush. The excess was removed with a flat brush as usual forming faint streaks. I added this mixture around larger chips as well, and let it dry. If the effect was too strong, I adjusted it with a wet brush.

I left the model dry for a couple of days, and then proceeded with adding dust to the superstructure using pigments. I dabbed some earth shaded pigments onto the model from a brush, and then “soaked” the surface with white spirit (or rather, with the alternative -ZestIt- I use). With a flat brush I “adjusted” the distribution of pigments: concentrated them in folds and crevices, created streaks, and created uneven patches on the flat, horizontal areas. Not a lot is visible, again; as soon as the white spirit dries, the intense brown color disappears. (Water has a very different effect on pigments, though. It’s worth experimenting with different carriers.) I repeated the procedure, trying not to disturb the previous layers; obviously the white spirit will re-suspend the already dried-on pigments.

Once I convinced myself the engine deck was dusty enough, I added some wet spots using the white spirit, and touched a brush loaded with some “engine oil” from AK Interactive. I wanted to create large, barely visible oil spots around the engine hatch. After they dried, I added more concentrated, more visible spots over them; the key again is layering. Pigments obviously got re-suspended in the white spirit, but in this case it’s not an issue: after all, old oil spills do have a lot of dust in them.
 
The next steps were more pronounced streaks using AK’s streaking products, and after that dried I sealed the whole model with a flat varnish.

The wheels and the lower part of the chassis/superstructure got a faint  Tamiya”Flat Earth” shading with an airbrush as a base for the mud.

I have a neutral wash by Mig which I can’t really find a real use for as a wash; I use it for creating mud. Its grey color helps to tone down the brown pigments I add. I mixed up a slurry of different brown pigments, plaster, static grass, and added this mixture to the underside and lower portion of the model. I left it there for about an hour and then used a wet, clean brush to adjust it. I tried to keep this layer relatively light, representing older, dry mud. Once it dried, I repeated the process using a darker, thicker, water-based mixture prepared from the Dead Sea masque, on a much smaller area. I also created speckles and kicked-up mud patches using an old brush: loaded it with the mixture, and using my finger I flicked mud over the lower superstructure. I made sure I covered the upper parts with a sheet of paper to limit the area where the mud gets to. I also have a bottle of Vallejo’s splashed mud effects paint; unfortunately it’s really dark, although the photo on the bottle shows a relatively light mud color. I used some of it representing very fresh mud splatters.

And with this I finished muddying up the half-track. I would be very interested reading constructive comments on the results; I have the Trumpeter trench digger in my stash, and that thing will be so muddy you won’t be able to see the metal underneath.

I have to say it feels great to have it finished finally. It is by no means a flawless model, but it turned out to be better than I expected, and most importantly: it’s off my conscience. I have put it next to its big brother, and there it will stay until I find a permanent place to live. Now I can start thinking about new projects without the knowledge of this thing sitting in a box – especially now that I have a Rye Field Model Panther to review and build. (I was considering a side-by-side build with the Takom kit, but it’s way too much investment in time and money. I got Trumpeter’s high speed trench digger instead, so I can expand on my experiments with mud even further.) I have a couple of more builds to finish off (an ICM Speedster, an Airfix Bentley, the Zvezda Panzer IV, and some Warhammer figures), and then I can honestly say I do not have any ongoing builds to bother my conscience. I will be free.

For a time.

1/35 Takom Turtle

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This weird looking vehicle got into my collection because I took my wife to the local hobby shop, and this was the only vehicle she liked. It has a relatively low part count, but it’s surprisingly large: it’s bigger than a panzer IV… (I expected it to be only slightly bigger than a car. Nevertheless I’d love to do my commute in this thing; London drivers are horrendous.)

This is my second Takom model (the first being the Ratte). The detail is OK, but not very subtle (I found the panel lines a bit too deep), and the model lacks any interior details. The hatches cannot be opened, either, so scratch-building (or using aftermarket sets if there ever will be one later) is going to be even more difficult. The quality of plastic, the presentation, the instructions are very, very professional. There are rubber tires provided, but they are quite unnecessary; plastic would be perfectly fine (with the appropriate sag moulded on, of course.) The fit is, again, OK but not perfect; the joint between the bottom and top of the hull needs some filling. (The bump on the top is assembled using four quadrant, and it’s a bit of a shaky exercise.) The model is very easy to build: it took about 2 hours to have it ready to paint.

I wanted to go all-out with the painting and weathering. First, I always wanted to try the complex camo with the black dividing line; and I wanted to do some experimenting with scratches, chips and dust. (Since it’s a city-car, only a little mud is used.) If you want to, you can go with the whole “captured vehicle in German service” cliche, but that version looks rather bland and grey.

 

The model was primed, and then the acrylic primer sealed with Testors Dulcote (as I wanted to experiment with some windex-chipping) later. The multiple colors were sprayed on in light patches. Although it’s an unconventional way to paint I painted individual patches, applied silly putty, added another set of patches with a different color, another application of silly putty, and so on and so forth. I did not want to paint the entire model with all the colors- it would have added too many paint layers. When doing scratches with windex I did not want to work through six individual layers of paint to the primer.

The results are actually pretty good; I was pleasantly surprised when I removed the silly putty.

 

The dividing lines were painted on using a black sharpie.

A few layers of light brown and ochre filters were added, and after a couple of days of drying I covered the model with Future in preparation for the washes. This is when I applied the decals, and sealed them with a further layer of Future.

I used Mig’s dark wash- applying it with a thin brush. It looked bad (as it always does), but I managed to wait an hour or so before attacking the wash. The excess was wiped away with a wet, flat brush in several steps (I kept adjusting it days after the application of the wash). I moved the brush in downwards motions; the wash created faint streaks which I kept adjusting. It also served as a sort of filter as well.

This is the point where I realized that the layers of Future will interfere with the windex-chipping technique… so I added paint chips using a brush and a sponge.

The next step was to use some oil dot filters. I put a few blobs of different shades of brown, yellow, blue and green oil paints onto a small piece of cardboard. In about an hour or so the linseed oil seeped out into the paper; this is important if you want flat finish. I added random dots on the surface, and then blended, removed them using a wet brush with downward motion. This produced very faint streaks, and modulated the base color somewhat. Yellows, greens, etc will give a slightly different tint to the underlying color. I focused the darker browns towards the bottom of the chassis. Since I was there I used a light rust color to form streaks: I prepared a dilute wash using a rust colored oil paint, and applied it with a faint brush. The excess was removed with a flat brush as usual forming faint streaks. I added this mixture around larger chips as well, and let it dry. If the effect was too strong, I adjusted it with a wet brush.

 

I left the model dry for a week, and used a similar technique to further add mud and dust onto the vehicle: I added small dust/mud colored paint on certain areas, and blended them in using a dry brush. It’s important that you have to use very small amount of paint.

I layered everything: on top of the thin, translucent dust/mud I added thicker pigments (mixture of flat varnish and pigment) of different colors; concentrating on the lower parts, of course. The very last couple of layers were splashes of different earth colors using a very stiff brush and a toothpick.

 

The next steps were more pronounced streaks using AK’s streaking products, and after that dried I sealed the whole model with a flat varnish. The inside of the headlights were painted using  liquid chrome by Molotov (great pens).

At this point my wife expressed her displeasure that the previously colorful, clean car became dirty and muddied up, so I decided to stop here.

 

 

 

DML 1/35 Sd.Kfz. 250 Neu with Royal Models set part 1

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This is a very, very old build that has been sitting in a box for a long, long time. I feature this model because it represents my limits; not necessarily limits of ability (although those, too), but the limits of what I’m willing to do for a build. The base kit may not be a difficult one, but this is an all-out aftermarket bonanza. Over the years I reflected on this build a lot, and it helped me understand better of what the hobby means to me. I realized I like challenges, but only within a certain limit; as soon as a build becomes work I do not enjoy it any more. This model with all the aftermarket essentially became a job; you are spending an hour or so just to put together the convoy light from individual PE pieces -and the fruit of your effort does not actually look better than the plastic original (if there’s a visible difference at all). Or worse yet, due to the high level of skill needed for assembly, it actually looks worse. So yeah. From now on only builds that are not evolving (or devolving) into a full-time job. (Unless someone is paying for it of course.) So the work has been ongoing for at least a decade now: I continued my predecessor’s efforts, then gave up; I shipped the model to Hungary when I moved to the UK, and there it sat in my mother’s attic until I dug it out to finally finish it two years ago. Here in the UK I’ve finished several 1000+ part models while it was waiting patiently for me to work on it which I did on and off. But mostly off. And now it’s finally close to finishing.

So without further ado, the model.

I bought it on Ebay already started; someone went all-out with the DML 250, and bought all the Royal Models aftermarket sets he could get his hands on- and then sold it for peanuts. It was an ambitious project; a project with appealed to my naive younger self. Trying to build several sets does feel like biting a bit too much: you not only have to coordinate the kits instructions with one aftermarket set, but coordinate it with several sets, with a lot of overlap and variation. Some sets fit a different version of the vehicle, and all three have parts which are duplicated/triplicated; making sense of four sets of instructions is not an easy feat. The fact that Royal Models are not always clear on their instructions do not help matters either.

 

My main issue -aside from the conundrum presented by the several sets of instructions- was the tiny PE parts plaguing the whole build. I started the interior in 2007 back in the US, then shelved the model because I got a bit overwhelmed by the sheer amount of PE. I still do not know how possibly I could hold a 1mm PE part, and apply it to wherever it should be going without gluing my tweezers together and onto the model.

The finishing touches did not go well; not at all. I finished the interior a year ago, and the model went back to the box as I found it difficult to add the PE tool boxes on the sides. A year ago I weathered the interior a bit: added streaks, chips and dirt, finished with the small details, and closed the hull. I realized really quickly that the kit parts are not always inferior to the aftermarket alternative: the radio rack (but not the radios), some of the smaller equipment was kept from the DML set. In retrospect I wish I kept the tool boxes and the fenders, too…

The kit tracks were surprisingly good -they are workable plastic tracks. I have to say this may be an older DML model, but it’s still pretty good when it comes to detail.

Once the hull was closed off, I turned to the toolboxes on the side. I managed to attach them after a brief struggle, but there are some issues with the angles. I suspect some of it is my own incompetence, but some is due to the fact that the Royal models set was designed for the Tamiya model, and it’s the DML version I’m using. Regardless I went through several iterations of filling, sanding and painting; I used both Green Stuff and ordinary putty to do the job, and used the primer to check for irregularities.

Despite of having done the most annoying/disheartening part – filling and sanding- I ran out of steam again. I was only recently spurred on by my feelings of guilt. I have decided not to start new models until I finish off these shelf-queens; so far I’m making good progress. (There’s an Airfix Bentley and a DML 251 to be finished; not to mention several WWII and Warhammer figures.) And here I ran into one of the problems with the instructions: the doors for the tool boxes were to be installed from the inside. Which were not exactly indicated by the instructions: it shows the doors going on from the outside. The problem is I’ve already attached the frame to the hull, so outside the doors went.

I did try to install most of the minuscule little padlocks and all but at the end of the day I did what I could without driving myself crazy. For me a victory will be achieved if I finally can mount this model in its case. Ironically the plastic original has very nice padlocks moulded on them.

The Royal Model set is extremely comprehensive and detailed; the problem is it’s not very user friendly. I especially disliked the fact that the front mudguards are to be built from three different parts instead of folding one into shape; I’m not even lamenting on the fact that you’re supposed to glue the edges together without a small PE flap provided that could have been used for more secure attachment. (OK, I am. I AM lamenting.)

Another few months of rest; and then a new effort to finish this build. I’m quite motivated to finish off everything as I may be moving to a different country; I want to take these models with me mounted in their cases, instead of languishing in a box, half-assembled.

I sorted through the kit parts that I wanted to keep, and installed every single little detail I’ve left out so far. I also decided to stick to the kit’s plastic option whenever I can; particularly when it comes to the antenna mount for the large radio. I did not feel like folding and gluing the elaborate little assembly made out of several tiny PE parts, so I just slapped the three-part plastic one on. It does not look as nice, but at this point I was just happy to call the building phase finished. I also decided to use the kit’s width indicator rod instead of trying to fashion one out of wire as the instructions suggest; I also used the kit lamps and tools. The truism -just because it’s there you don’t need to use it- never rang truer to me than in this kit. I still am left with a ton of PE I have absolutely no idea where they should be going.

Anyhow. I’m done with the building, and this is what matters. Next step: painting the blasted thing.

 

Plus Models C4-32 (C-432) Electric Mule 1/35

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 AM companies are great at finding the gaps in the modelling world; and this vehicle was definitely something that has not been covered by anyone yet (to my knowledge). The C4-32 mule (which was designated as C-432 in reality) is a hardy little veteran of the US Army, but it has avoided the limelight so far. Even though the vehicle flew under the radar so to speak, and there are no webpages dedicated to it (it did not even get a nickname like “Yellow Tiger” or “Electric Lightning”), it was widely used by the US Armed Forces, and this makes it to be a very eye-catching little detail in any diorama that depict hangars, warehouses in military or in civilian use. (In this respect I would consider this model a diorama accessory rather than a scale model.)

So here is the Mule in all its glory:

(Yeah, it looks kind of silly.)
 

What’s in the box?

 The kit comes in a small box, usual to plus model, with a photo of the assembled model on the front. The model is placed in a Ziploc bag; some parts were already detached from the pouring block, and the handle for the driver was broken. There is a small PE fret, a decal sheet, and instructions included.

The resin is good quality and easy to work with. The detail is excellent in general. There is not much flash to clean up, but some care will be needed when detaching parts from the block. The parts are numbered on the pouring blocks, which is very helpful during the building process.

There are a couple of PE parts included; mostly for the drivetrain of the cart, and the logo for the company that produced it. Since I did not find much in the way of reference, so I have to assume the dimensions are correct.

The instructions are overall not bad, but there are a couple of minor issues. On step two the part number of the fork that holds the wheel is not written (12), as on step three the number for the logo for the front of the vehicle (part 3 on the PE fret).

The building

 The building took about two hours and it really did not pose much of a challenge. Some parts of the assembly are a bit fiddly, but not impossibly hard. The little pins holding the front wheels and the main suspension comes to mind, mostly. The rest of the build is straightforward. You can build two versions of the vehicle, both in US Army service; one version has extra protective bumpers in the front and around the back.

Painting

I’ve left off the seat and other parts which were black before starting on the yellow paint. I’ve painted the whole model rust brown as a base which was sealed with Dullcote, and used the hairspray technique to create a battered, well used look. (I think I might have gone overboard with the scratches…) The next layer was the hairspray, and then came a mixture of Tamiya’s yellow and orange paint (about 3:1 ratio). Once the paint was dry to the touch I used a toothpick to “nick” the paint for the scratches, and then a wet brush to “expand” these areas. On some places on the model I had to retouch with the brown paint as the paint came off completely. Once I was happy with the results, I sealed the model with Dullcote again, and attached the seat, the pedals and other small bits. Since I did not expect the vehicle to operate in a dusty, muddy environment, I did not add dirt. The headlights were first painted silver, then I used Citadel’s red technical paint on the back headlight – these paints allow for an easy way to simulate lenses and gems. (They are not as good as the painted gemstones in miniatures, but they’re perfect for headlights.) The orange caution light that sits on a pole received similar treatment, only the base color was yellow. The result is pretty nice, I have to say: the paint does give a sense of depth.

So that’s pretty much it. The build was enjoyable -and short-, and the model is smaller than most 1/72nd scale tanks I’ve built.

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 4. Final touches

So we have left off at the stage where the MiniArt dozer was almost ready. Some parts were still unpainted, but we are at the last leg of our journey.

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After receiving another olive drab coat, it was time for preparing it for rust.

The engine has received several washes with dark brown and black again; and the underside of the chassis, alongside with the suspension and the dozer blade got painted with different rust colors randomly after the olive drab base. (From dark –almost black- brown to bright orange.)

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The model was covered with hairspray, and then a second (somewhat lighter) olive drab was applied to it. (Before the final paint coat I’ve attached the suspension units to the chassis.) With a damp brush I could selectively remove the upper paint to expose some rust; I tried not to go overboard, except on the dozer blade itself. The effects were quite convincing. Due to the olive drab base, the contrast is not as big as I would prefer, but the overall effect is actually very nice.

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As I said: build the tracks one tracklink at a time

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The finished paintjob… it looks too good to weather

Chipping commencing… the rust colors are pretty neat, and the contrast is low enough not to look unrealistic.

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Some areas received more heavy chipping than others.

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The dozer blade was seriously worked on; most of the covering paint was rubbed away

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I think the results are quite convincing

 

 

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The oil tank and the lower part of the chassis was worked on heavily, too. (The walls of the oil tank being thinner and more exposed would mean they rust easier.)

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Some careful chipping on the armored radiator cover t as well

Chipping done -dirtying up.

First, the model received a protective semi-matte varnish to protect our previous work.

 

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Then came the decals. As I mentioned in part 1, the decals are brilliant. They don’t have transparent borders, even the stars. The carrying film is tailored to the paint, so you won’t see silvering between the arms of the stars. This does complicate the application a bit, since the decal can tear easily. (Because the large star decals are not just one discs, the individual parts move very easily in relation to each other -and this means stress on the film.)

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After the decals were dry, another layer of varnish was applied to protect them.

 

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I applied pin washes of dark browns and black. After it was dry, I used Mig’s washable dust in a diluted form as pin wash as well -to model the dust collecting in crevices and around rivets. The excess was removed with a damp cotton swab. (These special products are fine, but honestly, you can achieve the same effect with pigments suspended in water.) I also lightly airbrushed this mixture on the flat surfaces on the top of the vehicle: the bonnet and the top of the cab. (For airbrush application these washable products are actually great; the pigment is so fine in them, it won’t block your airbrush.) I’ve used a wet cotton swab to remove some of this dust. It made it look more uneven, more realistic. I’ve repeated it several times to build up some layers.

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The sides were streaked using oil paint and turpentine; further dusting/fading was done using light colored pigments. The oil stains were added using AK’s Oil Stain product; same with the fuel stains. (I got lazy, I admit. Recently I purchased a lot of weathering products out of curiosity; most of the time they are time-savers, but not offer significantly better quality than the good ole’ modeller’s tricks.)

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The top is dirty; I don’t think it’s regularly cleaned as not many people can see it.

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Different rust colored pigments helped with the exhaust pipe

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Some dust has accumulated around all rivets

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The worn look on the dozer blade was achieved using some metallic pigments (both gun metal and silver). This created a very convincing sheen.

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Conclusion

Although it seems to be a returning theme to complain about the seemingly unnecessary complexity of sub-assemblies, these are not really complaints. I have enjoyed the building of this model immensely, as it did prove to be a tremendous challenge. It felt like an accomplishment when it finally took shape at the very end of the build. It is definitely not for the beginner; it is difficult to build even for a more experienced modeller with somewhat limited skills like myself. It was a great experience to work on a model whose designers obviously pulled no punches when it came to accuracy and detail; you have the feeling that the people who produced it were working on it with passion. It was also the enjoyment of the challenge; rarely have a model challenged my skills this much. Having built it, I have to say it feels just like when you just have finished a Marathon. Was the pain worth it? Absolutely.

And the best advice for this model? Pace yourself. Do not rush it, and you will enjoy the build. It is very intimidating when you are at step 1, and realize you have seventy nine other steps (one of them requiring you to build two sets of tracks…) waiting for you. If you take one step at a time, you will have an incredible little model on your table. This is not a weekend project; you will burn yourself out if you treat it as such; as it is, it took me two month to finish it working almost exclusively on this model.

MiniArt seems to have decided to establish itself as a producer of very high quality and complex kits; I think they are going into the right direction.

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 3. Painting

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This is the third part of the review of the Miniart D7 Dozer.

Even though the cab will almost completely hide the operator’s station, I decided to weather it properly…

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As you can see I’ve already removed the offending toolbox from the fender

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This is the last time you have access to the whole engine, so weather away… washes, oil stains, metallic pigments -anything goes. Only the sides will be visible, but we know it’s there

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The metallic shine came from Tamiya’s weathering master -silver and gun metal

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…aaaand… it’s all gone.

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…a lot of the engine is hidden now as well…
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On the other hand it resembles a vehicle now
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Final parts attached, and yes, that is a handcrank

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The tracks received a black primer coat first, and then were painted in a dark grey color. The metallic sheen came from dark metallic pigments rubbed on them; the parts that are normally subjected to higher wear and tear, therefore are usually highly polished, received some silver pigments. Once they were mounted onto the suspension I added a heavy brown wash, and once it was dry I added some dust, using brown pigments suspended in water, and some more silver pigments.

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IT LOOKS LIKE A D7 NOW!!

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This was an incredible feeling -after month of work on the model without any visible improvement, suddenly I had a D7 Dozer on my desk

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Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 2.

This is part two of the MiniArt D7 review.

The suspension is a very complicated, very detailed assembly. Miniart has managed to even mould a set of springs… an actual plastic representation of springs, which look exactly like the real thing. They are very delicate, and easy to break (while you are trying to remove moulding seams), and also will be covered by the metal plates protecting the suspension, unfortunately. Nevertheless I have to say, it is an impressive feat of plastic moulding technology.

 

 

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One ready, one unassembled

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That plastic spring still makes me wonder how they did it.

The assembly here -considering none of it will remain visible- seems overly detailed. The wheels and return rollers are composed of mulitple parts (step 51, 57 for example); I’m sure these could have been designed to consist of no more than two parts each. Most of the suspension elements could have been simplified as well, as they will be hidden once assembled. The only reason they are designed to resemble the real thing is that you might wish to depict the suspension during maintenance (I’ve seen a photo with the covers removed) or with damage. I was tempted to do a “cutaway” view on one side, but did not dare to endanger the review sample.

Once the suspension and the tracks installed, the final hydraulics pipes will need to be glued on. The over-engineering can be seen here as well: the pipes (H8, 9, 10, 11) could have been moulded together with parts H12, 13, Db16 to simplify things.

 

 

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Those little pegs on top of the suspension could have been simply moulded together with the hydraulics

The dozer blade and its attachment unit is the very last step of the build. The blade itself and the frame looks gorgeous; you can see the subtle welding lines; the instructions, however, don’t show the alternative positioning optinos. It goes together reasonably well, however you will need to do some filling on the blade itself. Part Db4 will snap if you put it on  peg on Db9 in step 79, due to the smaller diameter of the hole on it; enlarge the hole slightly with a scalpel first.

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The model is slowly taking shape… time to paint.

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How many parts do a dozer make?

Painting

Fortunately most of the model is olive drab, engine included. This simplifies the painting process, as the model needs to be painted while being built. I’ve chosen to display it with moderate amount of weathering and rusting; while I really find the rusty-worn-torn look appealing, tanks and tractors did not really rust that bad on the field. (It’s a combination of short lifetime, maintenance, and protective paint.) Dozers and tractors are somewhat exception to the rule, as they were generally not in the line of fire, but I still did not want to overdo the effect. (After spending a month building it day and night I was afraid I mess it up with overzealous weathering. I’m a coward.) The other reason I’ve gone for the relatively clean look, despite of photos available of the dozer being absolutely caked with mud and dust was that this would have hidden most of the model.

 

 

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Black spray paint was used as primer; any good quality spray can will do

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The plastic has some interesting moulding imperfections. Don’t worry; these will be invisible under the final paint.

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I’ve done most of the painting and weathering on the larger subassemblies: armored cab, engine and chassis, the suspension, tracks, and the dozer blade; this, of course means I only saw how the vehicle looks like at the very end of the building process. It was an incredible feeling -suddenly I had something to show for after all the work.

I’ve used Citadell’s Steel Legion Drab and Castellan Green to mix an olive drab color for the dozer. I always wanted to try the airbrush ready Citadell paints, and this looks as good time as any. Changing the ratio also allowed me to prepare lighter and darker colors. They are very thick, they did seem to be very good for airbrushing. I tried diluting them at first, because I could not see how this thick paint could get through the airbrush, they were perfect unthinned.

 

 

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Well, the first paint layer was done. It’s getting near to the finish.

 

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 1.

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This is a multi-part review of the MiniArt Dozer; due to the sheer amount of text and photos I have decided to go with this format.

Background

Caterpillar Tractor Co was founded with the merger of Holt Caterpillar (the makers of the original Holt tractor, the first tracked vehicle ever made), and its competitor, the C.L.Best Gas Tractor company, in 1925. The new company was focusing on primarily of the production of road construction machinery. As soon as the US entered the war in 1941, the War Department started to purchase all equipment deemed essential for the war effort- Caterpillar’s “track-type crawlers” included. The US Army has used several types of the Caterpillar D7 tractors and bulldozers in the Second World War. The tractors were meant to pull artillery pieces and other cargo, and only at the later stages of the war had the purpose-built high-speed tractors started to replace them. These vehicles were not equipped with dozer blades.

Caterpillar bulldozers were on every theatre of war; they have been instrumental in the Allied war effort. (A number of them were shipped to the Soviet Union as part of the Lend-Lease program.) They were used to repair roads, and to build new ones, to keep the supply lines open. They have been used to construct artillery positions, to build (and to destroy) tank traps, to clear beaches, to clean up rubble and build airstrips anywhere they were required (in the Russian taiga, on a corral atoll or in the jungle). Not all of the bulldozers were armored (since most of them were civilian models, or modified civilian designs), although they were operating in the front lines quite often. The book The D7 Tractor: A Visual History of the D7 Tractor in US Army Service 1941 – 1953 would be a very useful reference for builders.

Miniart has issued recently the Caterpillar D7 with an armored cab M2, and a hydraulically operated R71 dozer blade in plastic, along with other versions of the trusty D7 tractor. This is a welcome trend indeed, as many of these vehicles are only available in limited run resin kits (if they are available at all). These bulldozers can often be seen in archive photos, and offer a great opportunity for diorama builders. Since they have been in use for a considerable amount of time after the war, they offer almost endless opportunities for modifications and settings.

The box and general impressions

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The kit consists of 759 plastic parts, and 8 PE parts. Miniart has utilized the side moulding technology to its limits (more on that later). The detail is very fine, and very delicate, but the plastic does not feel as good as some other manufacturer’s. (I’m not an expert of styrene, so I cannot really form an educated opinion; it’s just an impression.) Some flash is present, so cleanup will be necessary. There are a lot of very fine parts (pipes, control rods, etc) which are attached to the sprues by multiple thick attachment points. This makes their removal a dangerous endeavour, as you can easily break them (if they were not already broken during transport to begin with). Some of the thinner, finer parts have broken during transit, so fixing broken plastic will be a constant activity during the build. Substituting these plastic parts from stretched sprue or wire is also an attractive alternative.

To remove thin and delicate parts I was experimenting with some success using a scalpel blade heated up in a flame; this enables you to detach the part without stressing it, but one thing I have to stress (no pun intended) is that you cut well away from the part (at least a centimetre away), unless you want it to melt, too.

Cleanup is also going to be risky, as even the gentle force of removing the seams can easily break the plastic; use a new blade, and be very careful. (This is a very prominent problem with sprue C, where most of the engine parts are located, but also with the control linkages under the floor of the cab, and the steering levers.) Sometimes I just left the thin seam lines in place rather than risk breaking the part.

The amount of parts for a small kit like this is astonishing (or horrifying, depending on your point of view); as is the size of some of them. This is a very dense kit: while the inside of most models are mostly made up of empty space, this small kit feels surprising heavy due to all of its 700+ parts being concentrated in such a small volume. (I know it’s not a usual metric in the world of scale models, but it might be a good way to demonstrate my point. This kit weights 97g when assembled, while a similar size Toldi I by Hobby Boss weights 46g.) If you wish to, you can certainly simplify the build somewhat. Studying the instructions it’s possible to determine which parts can be left out altogether. (If you close all the hatches and doors for the armoured cab, you can leave out several dozen parts, for example. Not that I would suggest to do so, because it would not give justice to this kit to cut corners in this manner.)

Some parts are so small you are forgiven to think that they’ve broken off the sprue already… until you take another look. This model is not for the faint-hearted; considerable amount of experience will be needed to assemble it. The detail is incredible, but at the cost of overengineered, multiple-part assemblies. Sometimes you have the feeling the complexity is unnecessarily high; that the same results could have been achieved by using fewer parts.

In certain cases the intricate details are hidden by other parts, and hence they could have been left out, or simplified (I’ll be mentioning this issue a lot); one example is suspension units where all the springs and rollers are exquisitely detailed, then hidden under a cover forever. I think the designers of this kit have decided to create a museum-quality model, and did not make any compromises; the model resembles its real life counterpart as best as possible. It’s also possible that all this was done so that the model can be displayed while undergoing service, or showing damage.

One recurring annoyance was that a lot of subassemblies required parts from several sprues; this meant constant hunts for sprues during the build. I appreciate the fact that you might not be able to place all required parts in one sprue, but it still felt arduous to constantly trying to find a specific sprue among dozens.

Instructions are provided in a very nicely done booklet. They are incredibly well done, easy to understand (for the most part), and easy to follow (again, for the most part… sometimes it’s difficult to tell where exactly a part should fit). Miniart has not holding back on design here, either; the booklet is very pleasant to read.

There is one mixup I should mention: probably because Miniart has issued several versions of the same vehicle, one mistake has slipped in. There’s a toolbox (A35-36 on step38) which is indicated to be glued to the mudguard; this part a couple of pages later then is shown to be glued to the back of the cab. I got a slight panic attack when I realized I don’t have parts I needed; I thought they were lost. Upon more careful study of the instructions you can see that the box from the fender has disappeared. Miniart probably reused the instructions from another version without the armored cab, and forgot to change this step. The box, by the way, would obstruct the door of the cab; this is how I realized something was amiss. (If you look at the photos, you’ll see the box is on the fender for quite a long time into the build.) Since the other door is already blocked by the oil tank, it’d be really difficult to get into the cab if that box staid on the fender.

It would also be nice if the instructions showed the different options the dozer blade can be positioned; only through accident I realized they can be positioned at an angle.

The decals are brilliant. The US Army stars are not just white stars printed on a transparent disk; the carrier film is actually shaped to the pattern, so that you don’t have large surfaces of transparent film on the model with the danger of silvering or bubbles stuck under. One of the stars go onto the hood, which have two protruding parts of the engine going through it- the holes are pre-cut onto the star. I have to stress: they are actual holes in the decal, and not just printed ones on the carrier film. There are some tiny decals (instructions on the engine and gauges on parts C87, C47) which will be covered or not be seen at all; these I did not bother with to be honest.

The painting guide only gives you one option, a dozer used by the 237th Engineer Battalion of the 1st US army, Germany, 1945.

The assembly

The assembly is broken up into 80 steps; I don’t really want to cover them one-by-one, simply give you impressions, opinions and highlight issues I found during the build. Steps 1-38 detail the assembly of the engine, the controls, and parts of the chassis (by the end of which you’ll have most of the engine and the operator’s station ready, steps 38-44 will have you finished the winch and the armored cab, and by step 48 you’ll have the core of the dozer ready. The next steps will deal with the suspension, the undercarriage, and the tracks (49-70). After this you will be able to add the whole track assembly to the dozer, which will immediately transform into something that resemble a vehicle, and steps 75 to 80 will have you finish the dozer blade, and attach it to the D7.

Before doing anything, though, I suggest you start on the tracks right away.

For this reason, I’ll start with step 67 – the tracks. The assembly process is tedious to say the least, and I would suggest that you only added one section at a time between other building steps; this will help making the task less monotonous. (It also makes sure that the glue has time enough to dry.) Another word of caution: you don’t get extra track links at all; be careful not to break any. It’s quite easy to do as they are very delicate, and many need to have the flash cleared out from the attachment holes. One set of tracks will require 36 of the three part assemblies, and Miniart has not given any extra links. (Which is unfortunate; normally model makers supply the builders with some extras.)

I had some issues with how the tracks are assembled. They are assembled just as the real tracks were, but in practice you probably need one or two hands more than you possess. (Unless you are a Hindu deity, because then you’re covered.) One important thing I found was not to follow the instructions. The real tracks are made up by a metal chain, which is driven by the drive wheels, and plates (trackpads? Not sure of the nomenclature) that are bolted to these links, and form the surface of the tracks. The kit’s tracks follow the same pattern. The instructions would have you to put the chain together first (each link consists of two parts, and held together by a pin), and glue the trackpads on after. (I found this series of videos quite interesting about modern Caterpillars.)

The assembly of the chain is fiddly (but doable), and it’s very, very difficult to make it even. Once the chain is ready, then you are to glue the trackpads onto them. The problem is the slightest mismatch in the chain links will cause the tracks look wobbly. My suggestion is to first glue the parts of the chain to each trackpad individually, and assemble the tracks after. This would make the assembly easier, and make them look more even.

Back to step 1…

The engine is the central part of the build. It’s really fascinating to start with the building of the engine blocks, and slowly build up the whole model around it; only at the very last steps will you see the actual vehicle take shape, which was a pretty incredible feeling for me… two months of work suddenly looked like a dozer.

Although Miniart has made every effort to create a model as close to the real thing as possible, it has failed to replicate the four sets of pipes from the governor and fuel injector pump (part C11 -I suspect these are fuel pipes). These pipes are quite prominent on photos of the dozer, and you’ll need to build them using thin plastic or perhaps metal wire.

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Once the engine is reasonably finished (you’ll be adding parts to it now and then), you’ll slowly build the lower chassis and the operator’s cabin around it. It is perhaps the best to paint as you build, as many parts will be inaccessible once you finish them; this is why it’s quite handy that the whole vehicle, engine included, is of one color. For the purposes of this review I tried to build the model as much as possible without painting. On step 33 you are supposed to add the long oil pipe (H1); this was already broken in my sample. This is one of those pipes you’d better off making out of wire, as it is very easy to damage it during the rest of the construction. (In general it’s hard to handle the model without breaking something.)

 

 

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Step 34 shows the finishing of the bottom of the lower chassis; most of the detail will be hidden forever by the armored plates protecting it, unfortunately.

As you build the tractor around the engine, more and more detail that you’ve build with considerable effort will be hidden forever. I have replaced the control rods with plastic strips (as the originals snapped), only to be covering them up with the floor panels. The bottom of the engine will be covered by the armored plates protecting the chassis, and the exquisite detail on the chassis will be covered by the armored couch in the cabin. (These dozers actually had couches instead of seats; I think this makes their drivers the only people who could honestly claim they did their duty sitting on a couch.) The handrests are hanging over too much (step 36); if you intend to install the armored cab, you would have to glue them with less of an overhang. (The couch was designed for the “original”, non-armored D7.) Since most of the interior will be invisible once you glue the cab in place, it’s not much of an issue, really. (I’ve detailed, painted and weathered the cab, though.)

 

 

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Military lazyboy

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The evil little toolbox on the fender -and not where it is supposed to be

The cab is a simple matter, however, there are some challenges here, as well. (Not surprisingly.) First, I could not pose the armored slits open, because the plastic part representing the mechanism opening and closing them simply broke when I tried to remove it from the sprues. It’s just too delicate. It should not be too difficult to re-create them using thin plastic rods.

. At step 45 you install a lever to the oil reservoir (I think it’s the oil reservoir) that is supposed to reach into the cabin through a narrow slit; the slit is too narrow for the lever to go through. You’ll have to carefully sand some of the lever away

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You can see the slit here

Step 34 shows the assembly of the lower part of the chassis; this is when the towing hook is constructed. I was unsure where parts H18, and H17 go, until I checked the instruction at step 38 –I think it’s better to do these together

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Taking shape

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All of this is going to be invisible

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Well, that’s for part one. Stay tuned for part two.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roden 1/72 Vomag Flak 88

As we have been discussing this before, the Germans had this tendency of sticking 8.8cm guns onto anything and everything they got their hands on. If they could have, they would have put an 88 onto the top of another 88. Since this is a legendary gun (deservedly or undeservedly; it is, after all, something that’s designed to kill people), and it looks wicked, I’ve been building a lot of models which were either 88 Flak guns, or vehicles with 88 Flak conversions. (I’m proudest of the pnzIV conversion.)
The Vomag is essentially a bus, built by Vomag (so it’s not the actual designation of the vehicle, just like in the case of the Famo). They shortened a the chassis bit, and used it as a mobile platform for an 8.8 Flak gun. As far as crew comfort or even armour goes, it has none; but it does look cool.
This particular vehicle I wanted to build for a long time; ever since I’ve seen Wespe’s 1/35 resin model of it. But it’s expensive and it’s huge… so I kept putting off the purchase.
Enter Roden: they recently came out with a really nice little kit. It’s the usual Roden quality: some flash, some inaccuracy, but overall a nice kit. It does benefit greatly from aftermarket PE; at least the screens on the sides need to be changed to something more convincing than the nylon screen they provide.
During the build I’ve also realized that the engine, which is a multi-part construction, and a small kit in itself, will be completely invisible once I put the engine compartment together. I’ve solved this issue by simply leaving the sides off -as they were sometimes left off on the Famo half-tracks. (I have no historical evidence it has ever been done to this vehicle, but it’s my model, and I’m going to watch it on my shelf, so I call the shots.) One thing I did not like was that doors of the ammo storage racks cannot be opened; it would have been nice to have them open. If you decide to depict the model in a “foul weather” setup -meaning the canvas cover up- you’ll also need to do some scratchbuilding, and bend the canvas holders using wire.

The finish was done in the regular panzer grey. I was experimenting True Earth’s products to age and fade the model, but so far the results are somewhat mixed; the product (it’s not really a paint) breaks up into small droplets when it gets onto the surface, instead of spreading evenly. I think the surface has to be completely flat (matte) for they to work.

After much filtering, washing, dusting, and breaking off -gluing back the tiny parts – I present the finished truck. (If I can get my hands on some cheap cargo, I’ll add some later.)