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Summer break

Well, I’m going to have to take a break for a while. Not because I’m going off to some sandy beach to spend my time with snorkeling, but be cause I’m moving to a different country, so all my stuff is packed up. I got a job offer I could not refuse… Hopefully I’ll have some time and opportunity to do some model building soon; I gave in and bought Takom’s Pather with interior, too. Now I have two of these 1500+ part monsters: the Rye Field Model and Takom kits.

Can’t wait to see how they build up.

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W-model: Pantsir-S1 Tracked part 1.

 

 

The Pantsir (SA-22 Greyhound) air defense system is a very impressive combination of anti-aircraft missile and cannon systems, assisted by both radar and optical targeting. Technically the Pantsyr S1 is classified as a SPAAG-M (Self Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun – Missile). It entered service in 2007, and have been exported to several countries in several different setups. This compact system can be mounted on wheeled and tracked vehicles as well as on ships, and can engage a wide range of air targets from helicopters to ballistic missiles and guided bombs (!). There are several wheeled platforms offered: the Ural5323, KamAz-6350, MZKT-7930, BAZ-6909, and MAN SX. The tracked version is essentially the development of the Tunguska AAA platform, and it is the subject of this review.

The first part of the air defence system is a dual 30mm cannon with a 4km range, and 5000 rounds per minute rate of fire. They cannot be fired when the vehicle is in travel mode, unlike the missiles. The guns can be used against ground targets, and there is armor piercing ammunition available for them for this purpose.

The target acquisition and tracking system combines several ways of detecting and tracking targets. The radar array consists a Passive Electronically Scanning Array (PESA) S-band target acquisition radar with a 360º coverage, and an X-band fire control radar (FCR). They can search and track aerial targets over 50 km away and engage them at a distance of 20 km.  Apart from the radar, it has optical and thermal trackers as well.

The missile system provides a high altitude, long range defence capability complementing the guns. It consists of 12 57E6 SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) in protective tubes. They are two-stage solid rocket-propelled missiles with a range of 20 km. The missile travels over Mach 2 and can engage targets up to an altitude of 15 km. The fire control radar needs to continuously illuminate the target, but alternatively the passive IR and optical sensors can be used to guide the missile.

The wheeled Pantsir system from Armory was recently reviewed on Armorama; it is a quite nice coincidence that I was building the tracked version for review.

The model

W-model has several really interesting and unconventional vehicles in their catalogue: mobile radars, engineering vehicles, ICBM missiles on mobile launchers, to gigantic SPGs.

The model arrived in a sturdy cardboard box, well protected in bubble wrap. It consists about a hundred resin parts, and comes with a PE fret which is essentially remains untouched during the build. (There are two parts for the missile launcher that you will use. The rest goes to the spares box.) The PE is somewhat thick; it is not easy to cut smaller parts out. You also get a small wire mesh which will be necessary for the hull. (Advice: first measure and cut out the largest bit you will need.)

The detail is pretty good, and it was very nice to work with the resin. There is almost no flash, and absolutely no bubbles or imperfections; the quality is first-class. The attachment points are well-made: the parts are very easy to remove from the casting block. I had no need for the fine saw, which, to me, is one of the worst part of working with resin. The tracks are supplied in rubber-like soft sections. I’m not sure if they are some sort of a flexible resin or if they are actually made of rubber, but they are certainly easier to work with than the “traditional” resin ones. (You don’t have to heat them before wrapping them around the running gear.)

The instructions are clear, and by large they are OK. There are some issues that they don’t mention which makes assembly a bit more difficult than it should be; more on that later. (That said it was not a difficult model to build.)

The construction went fine. The chassis had some fit issues, though. It is assembled from several flat parts (as usual with resin models), and the back panel did not actually fit on flawlessly; a little filing, cutting and fiddling was necessary to make everything click. Again, it’s expected from resin models. I did have to use some filler here and there -most prominently where the lower and the upper hull sections meet in the nose. I also used green stuff from the inside of the hull to strengthen the attachment points. (I have this recurring nightmare where the CA glue suddenly gives off the ghost, and the model falls apart; I like to use either two-part epoxy or green stuff as an additional way of gluing the model together.)

There are three air intakes on the hull which need to be covered with a metal mesh. The longest one is on the top left side of the hull, and as I said it’s best to cut it out first from the supplied wire mesh to make sure you don’t run out of it. (I did; it’s slightly shorter than the intake, which necessitated the turret being turned slightly off-center to cover it up.)

The hull’s turret ring is slightly smaller than necessary; the turret will not fit. It’s quite a simple matter to enlarge it with an X-acto knife, though.

The swing arms for the running gear have little square pegs which should fit into the corresponding square holes on the suspension. Unfortunately the holes are too small; I had to enlarge them a bit. This is a shame because the square shape of the peg would have ensured the correct angle of the arms. As they are now I suspect they sit a bit too low on my model. I had a little problem determining how to glue the double road wheels together; the holes were too small for the swing arms, and I was not sure which faces of the wheels should face each other. (See photo.) I think I managed to assemble them in the correct way; the holes for the swing arms had to be enlarged and deepened a bit, though. Once assembled, the wheels stood a bit criss-cross; it was difficult to align all the swing arms perfectly. I simply put the model in hot water (about 60C; hot but not too hot) for two minutes, then placed it between two blocks to cool down, forcing the roadwheels to line up in the correct position. You may use a hairdryer as well, but it’s riskier as you can actually melt the resin with excessive heat.

The tracks were easy to fit, but I found the sections to be a bit too short; it is not easy to depict the correct sag between return rollers when the ends of the individual sections meet up between them.

The business end of the vehicle, the radar/missile/cannon assembly was a simple build. It is important to first attach the guns to the mount, before it is glued to the rotating turret base. The instructions unfortunately do not advise on the correct sequence. If you glue the the turret base in place first, there is no room left to install the guns. There is also a lack of information on how to build the model in different configurations: you have an option to build the model in either travel mode or deployed. This is where online photos come handy; there are quite a few depicting the vehicle in both configuration. The gun can obviously be positioned at different angles, but the large tracking radar can be folded up and down, too. The missiles can also be positioned at different angles, however I don’t think it’s possible to position the inside and outside missiles differently. (You can see on reference photos that the two columns -inside and outside- can be positioned independently from each other on the actual vehicle.) The instructions are quite vague at his part: it was not clear at first where all 12 missiles should go. The instructions only show the placement of the middle ones.

The missile racks are the only assemblies that use any PE- two small parts from the extensive PE sheet. The metal is quite thick, so it is not easy to cut the parts away. The thickness comes handy once installed, as they form an important structural element of the missile launchers.

The only difficulty building the turret was the positioning of the missile tubes. They should be parallel to each other but it is not a simple matter gluing the top and bottom ones onto the rack in a way that they line up perfectly. In retrospect tiny blobs of green stuff could have been used to position them. Otherwise the build was quick and simple; and as I mentioned before you don’t use most of the PE you get with the model, which simplifies matters.

 

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.

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.

 

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 2. -finishing up

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Part 1

I painted and weathered the interior, closed in the hull, and moved onto the turret. As I mentioned I made a bit of an embarrassing mistake with the guns… Otherwise the interior went together fine. What I found, however, is that the assembly of the main gun is somewhat unwieldy. It’s made up of two parts (barrel and the interior part) which are glued to the holding part under the gunshield. Since they are not directly connected it’s very important to make sure they form a straight line. The gun barrel is bored out, which is quite impressive, really. The turret has a pistol port; the metal plug, however has no PE chain that would hold it. It’s somewhat disappointing, but easily remedied if needed.

 

The track assembly is relatively simple; fortunately the links are not very small. The assembly goes as usual with individual tracks: glue them together with liquid glue, wait 20-30 minutes and gently shape them onto the running gear. (Best work in sections as the links do not hold onto each other very well.) It would be really nice if MiniArt provided a jig to form a realistic sag between the return rollers.

 

Painting was easy. I glued the turret in place; I did not want to risk damaging the seat.

The first layer was the Vallejo primer base; I cannot recommend enough this primer. While it’s possible to get away not using any primer, it still provides a better surface for the paint to hold on; and in case of Vallejo, you don’t have to dilute the paint before spraying, so it’s easy to use.

I’ve used a really lightened version of OD green by Tamiya as the base color; this went on in several thin layers. The mud on the sides was applied in a very unorthodox manner. Way before painting I was applying mud to my T-55; I simply applied the leftover mixture of pigments, Mig Ammo neutral wash, plaster and static grass on the sides/bottom of the hull. It was an impulsive decision; I did not want to throw out the leftovers. It was not an unprecedented one, however; I’ve seen mud being pre-applied before painting before (or rather, mud texture, which was then painted in earth colors later on).

I avoided these areas with the primer, and only fogged the green slightly onto it; this actually resulted in a pretty neat muddy effect.

 

 

 

Reviewing the photos I just relized I forgot to add the handle for the commander’s hatch on the turret.

Anyhow, once the green color was on, it did look a bit light and bright; nothing a couple of dark filters did not remedy. I was hoping I would get the right color by the end; I’m actually pleased with the results.

The circular access hatches on the engine deck and other protruding details were painted with light green oil paint straight from the tube; it creates a nice contrast, and once the paint dries (a week…) it can be toned down a bit with filters.

The exhaust port was first painted in the primer color (German grey), then additional layers of different rust colored pigments were added using white spirit. The contrast between lighter and darker colors was toned down with a dark brown wash at the end. The exhaust fumes were simulated using “soot” from Tamiya’s makeup-set.

When I was happy with the final color, I added the decals onto a gloss varnish base, then sealed them with flat varnish.

The next steps were adding tonal variation. I’ve used the dot-method first (brown, yellow, white and green oil paints), then different streaking products from the AK Interactive range.

Finally some dust and rust colors were used from the Tamiya makeup range to blend everything together.

I’ve mixed some light, dust colored pigments with white spirit, and applied little patches onto the horizontal surfaces. Using a clean, wet brush I spread these out and removed the excess to create a little, uneven layer of dust.

I’ve used AK’s oil stains diluted with white spirit on the fuel cap. First I made a more diluted mixture, and applied a couple of larger spills, then using a less diluted mixture I added smaller ones; this gives the impression of several instances of spilled fuel around the cap. (The larger ones obviously being older, and more spread out.)

Finally the tracks and the edges of the tank were treated with a silver pencil to give a little metallic shine to the model.

 

 

I’ve mounted the T-60 next to her bigger cousin the SU-76. I think the next (and final step) in the painting phase will be the application of subtle paint chips to both tanks later on. To be honest the one reason I bought the Su-76 was the cover art: I liked how the original Russian color showed through the German camo around the driver’s hatch…

 

 

 

MiniArt’s T-60 light tank part 1. – The Interior

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The T-60 was born as the replacement of the outdated T-38 series of light tanks. It was designed to be easy and cheap to produce in large numbers, and to be simple to use. The idea was to build up a large number of light tanks armed with a 20mm autocannon which would support the infantry on the battlefield as a sort of cavalry. They were definitely not designed to fight other tanks or serious fortifications; they were supposed to scout, and fight infantry (and perhaps lightly armored vehicles) with their main armament. The production started in 1941 and went into 1942 with about 7000 tanks built; they served until the end of the war. (It was the third most produced armored vehicle in the Soviet Union after the T-34 and Su-76

The tank featured sloped armor, and a two-man crew. The driver was sitting in the hull, and a commander/loader/gunner was in the one-man turret behind the driver. There was no radio provided for the crew. The tank was powered by a GAZ-202 6-cylinder engine which had 76 hp, and allowed the tank to achieve a whopping 27mph top speed. The range was about 270 miles. The main armament was a 20mm TNSh cannon, which was later in the war was upgraded to a 37mm ZIS-19 gun. This upgrade was not pursued since the ammunition for the gun was in a short supply. A later upgrade to the 45mm ZIS-19 tank gun necessitated the complete redesign of the turret; this project was abandoned when the T-70 project was approved as the replacement of the T-60. As an additional claim of fame, this tank was used in the famous flying tank project- attaching glider wings to the vehicle to make it airborne.

The Germans captured and quite a lot of these tanks, but I could not find any information on what they thought of the vehicle. (They mostly used it as a towing tractor/ammo carrier, so this might indicate something.) Tanks captured by the Romanian armed forces were rebuilt into the TACAM T-60 tank destroyer. 

The operational history of the T-60 was not very illustrious but it was crucial in the early days of Barbarossa when the Soviets needed tanks to hold back the German advancement while their industry was relocated further East. It was certainly reliable and could handle difficult terrain well; it was also available in large numbers -something that really counted when other, more superior weapon systems were not yet ready in large numbers. As a stop-gap solution it worked, but it was certainly not a good tank.

One of the reasons I like models with interiors is that you get an idea of what was it like for the crew to work and fight in these vehicles, and in this respect MiniArt’s offering is a very eye-opening one. I have to say based on what I’ve seen of the T-60 during the build of this model, it must have been a singularly unpleasant vehicle to be in. It was tight, cramped, and the engine was in the same compartment as the crew. The driver had a large, hot engine with rotating shafts, fuel and oil pipes all over right next to him, and the position of controls were also pretty un-ergonomical, placed as they were literally behind him. If the turret was facing forward his hatch was obstructed by the gun so leaving quickly was not much of an option, either… All this in a tank that had an armor that could be penetrated with a relatively stern look.

This tank must have been extremely dangerous to operate even in peacetime, but having people shooting at you as well will transform the picture from grim to hellish. All in all, I do not envy the people who had to fight in tanks -any tank, really- during the war, but these little vehicles must have been especially horrid. The Panzer II, it’s most comparable German counterpart, was positively luxurious compared to the T-60 -and it also had a radio.

 

The model is your typical Full Interior MiniArt kit. It has relatively few parts.

Normally MiniArt instructions are very easy to follow; this case I had some issues with them. For one, sometimes you have no idea how the finished article should look like (case to the point: the horn (?) assembly on the frontal glacis. For that particular part you will need to check the painting guide or historical photos.) The other, bigger is that the order of assembly does not always make sense. The most outstanding example would be the mudguards. First you add some of the tools and other details to the mudguards (e.g. holding brackets for the towing cable, but not the cable itself) but then you stop and move on to other parts of the model, leaving assemblies half-finished; later on you return and finish the build.

The other big problem was that sometimes the instructions show an assembly turned over, and then later steps showing it in the right orientation; this, combined with my inattention meant that I made a seriously silly mistake and put the main gun in the wrong position. I guess it’s fitting; as a left handed person now I can claim I have a left handed T-60. The mistake is mine, but the instructions don’t make it easy to avoid. (Interestingly enough my version now gives more clearance for the driver’s hatch to open… I think I might have improved on the design.)

Another mistake I made due to this issue was the installation of the PE bracket for the hand-crank shaft; fortunately this was easy to remedy when I realized the mistake.

 

The build is quite straightforward and -with some issues aside- easy. The suspension is a torsion bar suspension, but unlike in the case of the T-44, T-54, T-55 kits, it’s not functional. It is faster to assemble, but the problem is that the swing arms need to be manually positioned -something this kit shares with the older SU-76 kit. Not a big issue, but it’s not a welcome one.

The interior goes together easily. The engine has really nice detail (I could not find reference on the cables and wires, so I did not add them), and the transmission is really nice, too. I replaced the plastic rod representing the shaft of the hand-crank because it was too delicate, and broke when I removed it from the sprue. I installed the different pipes (fuel, air, etc) after I weathered the interior as they are all over the place, which would make access to certain places more difficult during the painting/weathering process.

 

 

 

I had some difficulties installing the gills into the back of the tank; you are supposed to place them parallel to each other and the back of the tank. The guiding ribs are not very pronounced and don’t hold them very well, so actually inserting the gills into the right ones can be a bit frustrating. (As soon as the glue “melts” the plastic a bit, the gills will freely move out of their ridge.)

The engine service hatch can be posed open, which is very much welcome, since it allows showing off the interior. (Why else build it, right?) The instructions show this as a “movable” option with a hinge; however I find this to be a very optimistic assessment: the hinge is very small, and the fit of the hatch is quite tight.

Well, this was part 1. Part to is coming next. (Duh.)

 

Armory 1/72 VK 72.01 (K) “Fail Lowe”

13mgydl

When I was told I had a chance to review a model that has not even been issued yet, obviously I said yes; after all it is a rare opportunity to get your grubby hands on something so fresh out of the moulds. An added point of interest is that Armory is mostly known as a producer of high quality resin and PE aftermarket company, and their foray into the plastic scale model world is quite an interesting -and daring- step (with other resin manufacturers following suit lately).

The subject of this kit is a fictional vehicle from the popular online game World of Tanks; it it a German superheavy gift tank given out at Clan Wars, and in general it is regarded as a less-than-effective tank in-game. (Well, it might be an understatement. It’s called the Fail Lowe…) It is possible that it was an actual plan during the war, but it does not really make a difference if we call it a paper panzer or a ‘46 German tank, really. Amusing Hobby issued it in 1/35 scale; now we have a more manageable sized 1/72 version.

Armory seems to be interested in fictional German tanks for their injection moulded kits; this is the second of such vehicles, and share several parts.

The hull has a complex shape, and the surface seems rough in several places; I needed to sand the round part on the back, for example. There are no attachment points of the interlocking armor plates simulated where these plates are normally located, which is a shame (where the frontal armor meets the side armor, for example.)

The PE is top-notch, which is to be expect of Armory; they have a long experience with producing PE conversions  for both armor and aircraft, and full resin/PE models.

 

Assembly

The model is not difficult to build, even without instructions (I used Armory’s Lowe’s instructions, the 3D renders, and the Tanks.gg website during the build). The hull is a conventional assembly of several flat parts; we don’t get a “bathtub” like lower hull. The fit is reasonably good.

I chose to assemble the running gear and the tracks before adding the mudguards.

The running gear’s attachment points are somewhat flimsy and weak; the wheels can detach quite easily after assembly, so be careful. (This seems to be a common issue; I had some problem with the running gear of Modelcollect’s E-100, too.) The idlers are done in an interesting fashion: the individual disks had to be glued on a shared axis. I did have to enlarge the holes on these wheels.

Since I did not have the instructions I was unsure how close the tracks needed to be mounted to the hull; it turns out I mounted them a bit closer than should have, and it meant some trimming and cutting, which is somewhat noticeable. (You won’t have this issue if you use the instructions, but I felt important to confess, since it’s the result of my circumstances and not the model’s fault.)

And this is the part where we come to the less-than-ideal part. The mud guards have small protruding sections sticking out to help with the attachment; these should fit into the corresponding holes placed on the side of the hull. The fact is that they don’t fit; the mudguards are quite thick and chunky, and the holes are not wide enough. This is a recurring issue with the model: several plastic parts are somewhat thick, which suggests a need to refine the plastic injection moulding process Armory uses (or replace the mudguards with PE parts…). Interestingly other parts, such as the tools and towing hooks are very finely moulded.

The top of the hull is a little bit wider than the bottom, which required some sanding to bring them to the same width. The top part is sitting on the top of the sides, which means there is a seam to be filled on the side.

This leads us to the next issue: the need for filling seams. The fit is not as good as to eliminate the need for filler. The seams between the mudguard and hull are quite wide and need to be filled. The triangular parts on the side under the round section also need filling (and they have a sink-mark as well). The turret also needs some trimming and filling to fit properly. The armored mantlet does have a seam on the artwork,so I decided not to touch it. Due to the nature of the moulding process, the muzzle breaks (there are three options to choose from) have also seams to fill, which is a bit more difficult due to the fine details. If you are patient, it’s worth drilling out the holes.

As I said the PE considerably improves the model; the engine deck grilles, etc. are very nice additions. I switched some tools to DML ones as I had those pre-painted; I also put on a 1/35 rolled tarp on the mudguard.

Overall, once I finished with the fitting and filling the build became quite enjoyable. The model looks unique, and once it takes shape, it’s a cool little thing to work on.

Painting

I chose a fictional painting scheme with my fictional tank, and used silly putty to mask the dunkelgelb parts. The Dunkelgelb is a mixture of Mig’s two kind of Dunkelgelb colors (mid and late war). I’m still a bit conflicted on these paints; if you use them right they do spray on nicely, but the fact that they form a cured layer makes them a bit less attractive for me. I’m used to the Tamiya paints, and I really like the fact I can just “mist” them on. I’m not sure I can do that with these paints.

The green was Tamiya dark green lightened with a lot of tan. The triangles were hand painted once the paint was dry. The model received a pin wash of dark brown to bring out the small details. (Looking over the photos I realized I forgot to paint the periscopes… this is something I’ll remedy tonight.)

As usual I applied filters (light brown, in several layers) to lessen the contrast, and added mud to the bottom of the chassis and running gear using pigments mixed with white spirit.

The decals were applied in a haphazard manner. I made up the identification numbers (birthday of my wife, if you really want to know), and put on the charging knight because I quite like the figure. I sealed everything with Testors dulcote.

Several layers of subtle streaking was added using AK’s Winter Streaking Grime. The photos bring out everything incredibly stark; they don’t look as strong by eye. It’s actually a good idea to take photos just to see the mistakes; it’s incredible how much more critical the camera is… (It also exaggerates the weathering effects, so keep that in mind. You can please the eye or you can please the camera; rarely can you do both…)

I used Tamiya’s makeup set on the whole model; it got a nice, uneven coat of dust (dark dust on the lower part, light dust on the upper part), which was followed by Mig’s washable dust on the horizontal surfaces. I did not use the product “straight”: I heavily diluted it with water, and added small patches where I thought dust would accumulate. With a clean, wet brush I could spread these patches, and remove the excess quite nicely. I did not add paint chips to the model; I thought I’d keep it relatively pristine. The edges got the usual treatment with a silver pencil to give a metallic shine to the model, and I declared the tank finished. (Prematurely, as I just realized, since I forgot to paint the periscopes, and lost the radio operator’s machine gun barrel somewhere in the weathering process… Let’s say he removed it for maintenance, and leave it at that.)

 

And that’s it, really. The model is OK; it’s not a high-tech Flyhawk kit, but it’s not bad, either. It’s something you are used to if you work with Eastern European Braille models, with one exception: the basic plastic is greatly improved by the brass barrel and extensive PE. I think it’s pretty impressive that a mostly resin/PE aftermarket company is moving to the injection moulded model market; it’s something OKB and other companies seem to be doing, too. Exciting time for the 1/72 market, that’s for sure.

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 3.

2blchok

Please find part one and two here.

Well, the tank is finally done. It took me a long time to build, it was one of those builds which just did not want to get done; even though the model itself is just amazing.

Last steps: mud and dust… again. I have to admit I did the different stages of muddying the tank parallel to the T-55AM; everything written in part 6 applies here, too.

Quote:

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. The exhaust was treated with different rust colored pigments and brown washes.

The last stage was to take care of the remaining small details. I painted and installed the tools; the PE straps were a pain to add. The painting was relatively easy: the metallic parts were treated with the Vallejo primer and then rubbed some steel pigments to make it look like metal. The edges were dry-brushed with AK’s true metal steel paint. The handles were painted with buff, and then using a stiff brush I gently painted some brown oil paints; this made the surface uneven and gave an impression of wood grains. If you take a look at the instructions you’ll see that the hammer should have been installed under a plastic part during the construction. I left it off deliberately to make painting it easier. Installation was simple: I cut the handle in half…

I painted the straps of the tool box, and the construction was essentially finished.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 2.

Please find part one here.

So yes, the engine was finished mostly in black with all the piping, etc. done in glorious copper and bronze. AK’s steel pigments were used to give a metallic shine to the transmission and the metal body of the engine.

 

Looking at the interior it must have been singularly unpleasant to actually fight in this tank. Yes, it was a revolutionary design, but it still had a couple of leather slings for the commander to sit on, he had almost zero visibility, and the driver probably better had his feet removed because there was not much space for him to fit them.

 

I chose one of the kit’s paint scheme; unfortunately this is where the instructions fall flat a bit- only a side-drawing is provided. The box art gives a slightly different perspective but I still don’t know what the right side is supposed to look like.

Regardless the model was first painted with Vallejo’s German Grey primer, followed dark green in several layers. Each consecutive layer was lightened a bit with the yellow (actually Dunkelgelb by Mig Ammo). I focused the lighter colors on the top and the middle of the panels; even the full-green pain scheme looked pretty good in my opinion.

Once the green cured, I masked it with silly putty, and proceeded with the yellow, then the brown. The brown was Tamiya’s NATO brown with some yellow added.

Once the main steps were done I had to retouch some parts with a brush; these masking jobs never turn out perfectly.

 

The contrast at this stage was pretty stark between the colors; light brown and yellow filters helped to blend them a bit. Once everything dried I applied varnish on top, added the decals and sealed them with another layer of varnish.

 

I applied dark brown wash to the rivets and other small details, and used a wet brush to remove the excess after 30 or so minutes; this created some nice, pleasing streaks. I also used some streaking products by AK to add further streaks.

 

 

1/35 Meng Renault FT-17 part 1.

I’m finishing up long outstanding builds… so I have several of these builds running parallel. I’m finishing up the T-55 (and quite a few others) alongside of this build.

bv8ppon

This is probably the most iconic tank -ever. (Or it should be.) Meng has come out with a really excellent model of it a couple of years ago, and this February I just gave in and purchased one at my local hobby shop.

I was not disappointed. The manual is excellent (and gives a pretty good history of the model), the instructions are clear, the quality is top-notch. AND it comes with an interior. I have to say I fell in love with Meng.

 

 

The assembly is quite straightforward, with a couple of issues, though. (What model is without them, right?)

The suspension actually works; you get little metal springs with the model, which is nice; putting it together, however is a bit fiddly.

 

 

The engine is very well detailed; most of it will be hidden, though if you choose to install it. For this reason I decided I’ll display it in front of the model, as I did with a couple of other kits before (T-34, T-44…)

 

The interior got the usual heavy treatment. I used a black primer (acrylic spray… since then I switched to Vallejo’s German Grey primer), which was followed by an enamel-based varnish, and Tamiya’s flat white. If you use high pressure, it can be sprayed with very little dilution, which will result in a solid cover (always an issue with white and yellow).

I used the windex chipping method to create worn surfaces, with the black showing through. The contrast is quite high; in retrospect I should have used some brown instead.

Once the model was try I used oil paints to create discoloration and streaks on the side-panels. The interior details are quite nice; the painting of the ammunition in the ammo rack is a pain in the neck, though. (There’s a choice of main guns; the machine gun option would leave you without this chore.)

The bottom of the engine compartment was treated with different AK and Vallejo products (engine grime, oil, fuel stains).

I took some artistic licence painting the engine; I tried how it would look like if I installed it, but eventually decided that it will be displayed outside of the tank.

Once the interior was finished I assembled the hull; the tank was ready for painting.