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Artel W Miniatures – Eisenhorn (Inquisitor)

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I always loved the dark, hopeless world of Warhammer 40K (look up Grimdark when you have some time).

This is an universe where even the good guys are worse than any actual historical monster you can think of: a collection of xenophobic, genocidal maniacs in different shapes of forms -and that’s only the Imperium of Man. Superhuman, gene crafted soldiers who think themselves as actual Ubermensch, the Imperial Guard, an armed force that throws millions into the meatgrinder without a thought, and of course the shadowy and all powerful Inquisition that oversees the civilian aspects of life in the Imperium. Add to this all the external threats: aliens, renegades and heretics, and you have an empire that is held together by tape and strings, threatened by multiple external and internal forces each of which could spell its doom it by itself, let alone together. So what’s not to love?

There’s a huge collection of books published by Black Library set in this universe; and a large portion of them are frankly no better than some badly written fan-fiction. However there are gems which are great on their own rights, and they are absolutely worth reading and re-reading. The Eisenhorn Trilogy is one of these book series which is a really, really good story regardless of its origins. (Space fantasy tends to be looked down upon by the “purists” of the SF genre, hence the second part of the sentence.)

The series detail the journey of an Imperial Inquisitor, Gregor Eisenhorn from a young idealist on the path of corruption and ruination. Due to external circumstances and small, seemingly unimportant or small actions and choices of his own he becomes something he would have recognised (and executed without a thought) as a heretic in his youth. The story is complex, and quite an interesting one; after all, the same path is trodden by many people who acquire power. Why I like the story (apart of the quality of writing, of course) is how easily it can be transposed onto our own real world: very few people start out with the intention of becoming corrupt, or do evil. Corruption comes gradually with seemingly small and insignificant steps, yet it will twist the person beyond recognition. (Not to mention Eisenhorn remains true to his mission: fighting for humanity, which adds an extra layer of complexity to the story.)

Since I love the story, I wanted to make an Eisenhorn figure, of course, which can be an issue in WH40. Not all characters have figures available, not to mention the silly poses (it seems like everyone and their mother are shouting and pointing at stuff in the grim future). It is fair enough because they WERE made for a tabletop game, but for a modeller it’s a definite problem if you want your figures in a more dignified (and realistic) pose. In case of this specific figure the pose is actually quite nice (and he has his signature sword), the proportions are good, but the problem is that the figure is out of production and hard to get. Not to mention it depicts our favourite inquisitor towards the end of the trilogy; I prefer him in his prime.

Enter the blooming resin industry. There are several companies producing alternatives, conversions for the WH40/Warhammer games; these are miniatures that are not nearly enough similar to the originals to be considered as copyright infringements, but they are close enough to be clear what they supposed to represent. A lot of these conversions and figures are produced because there are holes in the market (if there is no available set by GW; for example conversion sets for space marines for specific legions or chapters), or straight-out improvements. In case of the Chaos Rhino, Mortarion or Abaddon figure in my opinion they are definite improvements, for example. And now we review Eisenhorn, produced by a Russian company, Artel W Miniatures. (Shortly after this figure was issued, WG announced that they were coming out with a new Eisenhorn figure, so now we have three… Choice is a good thing.)

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The name of the miniature is very close to the originals, so it is abundantly clear who it refers to, even if you don’t know the iconic painting of the inquisitor (which actually inspired the books according to the author). The figure essentially copies the artwork: we have Eisenhorn strolling forward with a gun and a tube in his hand, his runestaff mounted on his back. (This setup puts the figure to the last few chapters of the second book, or the first chapters of the third.)

The figure comes in a very impressive package: a box wrapped in brown paper with a wax seal… I have to say I felt quite reluctant to open it, as it had this exclusive feel to the whole set. It’s a feel definitely something you don’t really get when you get a blister pack. (Admittedly it’s not a priority when you buy something, but still.) The paper covers a cardboard box, which contains the few pieces of the model itself, sealed in ziplock bags.

The model consists the torso with the cape, the lower part of the body, the two arms and the runestaff. His iconic power sword is not included, but to be fair it’s not on the original artwork, either. Regardless, he should have Barbarisater on his hip. (Quite possibly the tube could be replaced with a sword.) Despite of the small size of the figure the detail is very fine and impressive; the chains, the folds of his clothes, the inquisitorial rosette, the gun are all very well defined. The expression on his face (which is anatomically well proportioned) is quite grim, but this is the only appropriate expression for him, as you will learn from the books if you have not read them already, so that’s quite on the money, too.

The assembly is very quick. There’s very little cleanup required: mostly the parts where the torso meets the lower body. There is no flash on the bits. The arms fit into their slots well.

Painting was a joy- but I am not a master by all means. Only after looking at the photos do you realise how hard it is to paint a miniature on a professional level for the box art (like the above examples of GW’s minis). When you look at this figure with your eyes it actually looks pretty good. Once you bring out the macro can you see the imperfections and mistakes. Oh well. I can always claim to be an amateur.

The leather overcoat was base colored using snakebite leather, and then layered lots of different brown oil paints on top, trying to achieve the leather effect. The cloth underneath was painted regal blue, the trousers antracite, and the boots gloss black. The stash and the parchment of the purity seal was painted white, and were given a coat of brown filter. The metallic details were painted with AK Interactive’s True Metal gold and steel.

The runestaff was painted with a mixture of these metal paints; the skull in the middle was painted deep green, and some random smears of lighter green and black, covered with nuln oil. (It was supposed to be carved from a warp-infused stone. There you go: here, on this blog only, the sole accurate Eisenhorn Miniature in existence…)

Basically, that’s it. It’s a high quality miniature of an iconic character from the WH40K universe; if you missed the original “official” figure, or don’t like the newer one, now is your chance to get one for your collection. His nemesis/ally, Cherubael is coming soon.

 

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Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior part 2.

Part 1 of the build

Since I started the RFM Panther as well, I will add some observations to help with the comparison of the two kits.

If you want to paint the interior, unfortunately you need to deviate from the suggested roder of assembly.

I skipped the steps which detailing the outside of the hull, and continued with step 42. This step details the finishing touches on the hull’s interior: the top section. The hull machine gun, radios, etc. are installed. The hull machine gun is a quite elaborate piece, but the barrel is not hollowed out; kind of annoying oversight. (In this day of injection moulding this is not an unreasonable expectation.)

The radio is also a very nicely detailed multipiece assembly, which, in turn, gets then enveloped by the walls of the radio mount, so only the front face remains visible. There is no guide for the wiring, and there are no headsets provided.

From here I skipped to steps 47 to 63: turret exterior and interior assemblies. You have some choices with regards to the gun mantlet; I just picked the one I liked the best, since I was not modelling one particular Panther.

Again; a pretty detailed set of steps, but nothing stands out as particularly difficult. Even the grab handles were good enough to be used; normally I switch them for wire. I particularly liked the flexible hose that will connect the fume extractor to the spent shell holder; it makes assembly a lot more easier. RFM has this hose as two separate parts that will meet in the middle when the turret halves are joined; we’ll see how good the fit is.

A couple of things to note:

The commander’s cupola is easier to assemble if you first glue K2 and K24 together (top of the cupola + insert), then add the periscopes, and finish off with K3. It is really difficult to fit the periscopes in if you follow the instructions. The periscopes, by the way, are not clear, so they will need to be painted. (RFM provides clear parts for the periscopes.)

Periscope guards are provided on a template, which sounds like a good solution. You glue the template in place, and then cut the guards off individually. Not sure how it is better, but it is a neat idea. None of the periscope guards are provided in PE, put they are thin enough to suffice.

There are injection pin marks in the interior of the turret; these will need to be sanded off carefully if you intend to show the inside.

Steps 51-52 go through the assembly of the back of the turret. The loader’s hatch is workable, but the assembly of the hinges is a bit flimsy, and not very user-friendly. Honestly, this was the part were I was cursing the most.

Steps 53-54 detail the assembly of the AA machine gun and its holder, and the bottom part of the turret. There is only one type of MG32 available; I’m not sure if there were alternative options for barrels and sighting devices used on the Ausf A Panthers. (RFM gives you some options for the Ausf G.) I left the ammo pouch off until I finish the painting stage to make things easier. (I’ll just paint all the pouches in one batch, and install them once the hull interior is done.)

Step 55 assemble the turret rotating mechanism. Lots of small parts, but the results are pretty good; I have to say I was impressed with how it looks. I was especially impressed with the accuracy: the rod connecting the two sides of the machinery just fell into place; not a fraction of a milimeter misalignement.

The main gun is assembled from step 56 to 57. It is -again- not a difficult undertaking, and the the instructions provide a couple of drawings of the finished parts -it certainly helps the assembly. (I would be nice to have this sort of assistance a bit more often; they would certainly improve the instructions.) Comparison to the RFM kit: well, the gun on the RFM is definitely more detailed -and have a lot more parts- , no doubt about that. The question is if it is something you actually notice. I myself am curious of the answer to that. 

The gun and the gun mantlet has a lot of details, such as rivets and hexagonal bolts, that will be hidden… they might be useful if someone knows the tank enough to assemble the model as a tank undergoing complete overhaul.

Steps 58 and 59 show the assembly of the turret basket floor and all the stuff that is attached to it (spent shell holder, seats, electrical components, etc.)

In the next two steps (60-61) the base of the turret and the turret basket are joined together.

Step 62 installs the top part of the fume extractor hose, and step 63 details the installation of the gun barrel to the main gun, and the attachment of the main gun to the turret. The muzzle break is made out of two halves, which is less than ideal, since it necessitates filling and sanding. I really would have preferred to get a single piece one.

And finally… the last step – step 64. The final touches on the turret, the mating of the turret and the hull, with an optional turret ring provided (should you want to display the model with the turret off, which is very likely if you decide to buy the 16 ton crane Takom and Amusing Hobby are coming out with. The separate ring will help you with the painting: it is much simpler to do this way, rather than trying to paint moulded-on details. For obvious reasons this step has not yet come for this tank. But it will. How soon- well, time will tell.

So here we are now. Time to paint.

Unfortunately the fact that I have an apartment to refurbish, while work full time and also settle in our little home with my wife waiting for our daughter to arrive, means I can only work on models for a short period at any time; perhaps the painting will need to be postponed for a while. Until then – let’s finish up the RFM tank as well! Stay tuned.

Grim Skull Miniatures: Mortarion

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The world of tabletop gaming has given us better and better detailed miniatures over the years, along with increasingly detailed universes through media like books, comics and computer games. One of my favorite is…

 

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Warhammer 40K. The picture above will make it clear why.

 

There are enormous gaps in the “official” miniature offerings in the available fractions, and also what is available tends to be somewhat expensive. A lot of smaller companies spotted these gaps on the market, and started to produce similar-but-not-quite-the-same miniatures that are not available from either Games Workshop or Forgeworld, usually for a friendlier price.

Mortarion did receive an official figure by GW, and another by Forgeworld, but I did not like either of those versions. The WH30K (pre-Heresy or Herey era) Forgeworld model did not really resonate with me, and the daemon prince figure looks very different from the man he used to be, twisted and bloated beyond recognition. In case of Mortarion it is an issue. True, the Primarch of the Death Guard Legion had fallen to Chaos, and has been turned into a Daemon Prince since the Horus Heresy. However the lore makes it clear that he is the one Primarch (alongside with Magnus, possibly) who remained as close to human as possible. Grimm Skull Miniatures has issued a Mortarion model that can be used both as a pre-daemon prince Primarch before or during the Heresy, or as a full-fledged daemon-prince (essentially the same figure plus two big, leathery wings). Yes, you can say it’s just lazy marketing. However since he is the most human of the daemon princes, and fans still debate if he could even return to the side of the Emperor again, as his red brother did, there IS a good argument for Grim Skull Miniatures’ choice.

The figure- as all of Grim Skull Miniatures figures I’ve seen so far- is very well sculpted and detailed. These figures are close enough to the “official” GW/Forgeworld aesthetics, but they also differ enough to look novel and unique; frankly I quite like how most of their figures look. The overall outline of power armor mixed with twisting and turning organic shapes look the way I imagine the Chaos-touched warriors. Talking about Magnus: there is also a figure that looks suspiciously like the Cyclops, only Grim Skull took him towards the Maya/Aztec aesthetics instead the ‘traditional’ Egyptian. (I’m not sure what to feel about the overemphasised feminine figures though, but if you like Tau pin-up girls and sexy female chaos space marines, here’s your chance.)

Mortarion, or Morty for his friends, looks exactly like his description in the Horus Heresy books. A gaunt man in an ornate, baroque power armor, with a cape covering his head, and censers hanging from his armor on chains. He has his power scythe Silence, however he does not have his handgun, Lantern. This is a glaring omission of the model; the gun is a prominent feature of the Primarch. Otherwise I do like it better than the pre-daemon Forgeworld figure, or the daemon prince GW model; he does radiate a sort of dark, solemn majesty with his ragged wings and elaborately decorated, corroded armor.

He comes with a pretty nice base to stand on with a broken pipe leaking who-knows-what. (It must be something corrosive because there is a skull in it.) We do get two such pipes; I used the extra with another Death Guard figure.

The assembly of these figures is usually a breeze. I did not like the original pose, because Morty looks like a particular shepherd the way he holds Silence. I turned his arm a bit to make it look more dynamic, although the attachment point is not designed to hold the arm well at this angle. (A scythe is an unbelievably impractical weapon at any rate; at least he should have straightened it, a’la revolting peasants. I think the Death Guard really puts style over effectiveness, when it comes to weaponry.)

The big issue, however, was the wings. There are simply no attachment points where they can be glued to, and the surface touching the back of the figure is so small, it was difficult to secure them even with small wires drilled into them.

The painting stage is usually where these models are made or ruined, and I have to confess I’m not a master painter. My main interests are armored vehicles, so my skills at blending and painting small details by brush leave much to be desired. I don’t particularly stick to the “Games Workshop School of Figure Painting” with the high contrasts and very fine layering/glazing, either. Since I have the daemon prince version, I did not paint him in clean, pre-Heresy colors; he got the full grime, rust and corruption treatment.

I used Vallejo’s black primer as a first coat, and used Lahman medium to create glazes in various browns and greens. I kept adding the glazes in very thin coats until I liked the greenish-brownish hue.

The bronze parts were painted using True Metal gold first (on larger surfaces I dry-brushed it on to keep the black as shadows in the recesses), and then followed it with several layers of oxidized bronze green colors as glazes. As finishing touch I reapplied the gold on rivets, thin edges, and other surfaces where the oxidised metal would be rubbed off.

The different pipings on the armor were painted with dark blue glazes to create a slightly different color without too big of a contrast.

I was uncertain of what colors the wings should have: they look like a cross between an insect’s wing and a bat’s. I did not want them to stand too much out of the general effect, so they got mostly the same treatment as the rest of the figure. The wings received a purple glaze, and the insectoid wing structure was shaded with ochre and brown oil paint blended into the base dry; it does look slightly iridescent and chitinous.

The tabard/cloak Morty is wearing got a similar layering treatment, only in this case I used a white base and added mostly brown colors. As a chaos prince of Nurgle, the god of disease, he can’t really be expected to have a spotless, white attire. (Having one at all is pretty silly since it would get caught in everything and anything.) I added further highlights, shading and discolorations using oil paints. After weeks of drying it is still somewhat shiny… This is a good lesson on getting out the linseed oil out of the oil paint before using it. (Just put a blob of paint onto a piece of cardboard and wait a few hours… Next time I will not skip on this step.) Right now I’ll go with the “can’t you see it’s leather??” defence. It turned out a bit darker than I would like, but there it is. As I said I’m not the best of figure painters.

The base was painted similarly to the figure: several layers of dark grey and brown glazes over black primer, then a little steel and gold True Metal paint drybrushed on here and there. The rubble got a bit of a rust and dust pigments, and the bronze areas got the same treatment as Morty’s armor.

Overall I really like the results -even with my admittedly limited skills managed to make it out into an impressive renderition of this

Takom Sd.Kfz. 171. Panzher Ausf A with interior Part 1.

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2018 will be the year of the Panther, probably; several companies have issued their Panther models, and two of these models have a full interior included: Rye Fields’ and Takom’s. There is also a Trumpeter 1/16 one coming out -also with full interior.

I bought both Takom and Rye Field models, and decided to build them side-by-side; this review contains my impressions of the Takom model. Since I just moved to a different country, and not everything is set up yet, the photos are somewhat questionable quality; for that I apologise. I can already see that there will be some serious holdups during the build simply because it is a shame to hide all of the amazing interior details. Since I would like to display the complexity of the interior, this necessitates a cutaway model. I do not wish to butcher this gorgeous model, so it will take a while figuring out how to cut it up cleanly to provide a good view the interior. Another option is to wait for Takom’s upcoming crane to come out, and show the tank with the turret lifted up… If you have not yet bought your Panther yet, Takom also issued a model with optional clear parts, issued the Ausf G as well, making their range quite wide, and providing similar options to Rye Field’s offering… so you have a LOT of choices even within the Takom range.

Back to the kit… The box is enormous; the model is over 1500 parts, after all. The sprues are well protected in individual plastic bags, nothing was damaged during transit.

The instructions come in a small(ish) booklet. There are color panels showing the interior painted, and the suggested color schemes for the tank itself, but most of the steps are shown in black-and-white. The steps are clear for the most part. To be honest I did run into difficulties now and then trying to figure out where to put the tiny little parts for subassemblies simply because the drawings are small. The solution is either a magnifying glass, or, in my case, I simply took photo of the complex and tiny drawing and zoomed in on my phone. This is certainly an issue but not an insummarable one. The kit looks incredibly complex, and the whole assembly looks very daunting at first. My advice is to take it one step at a time. While the model IS complex, it is not horribly so; individual steps should not be challenging by themselves. Step-by-step, just focusing on the next steps without worrying the next dozen pages of instructions still waiting, you will slowly find that you have completed most of the tank. Despite of the complexity I did find you don’t need incredibly high level of skill to build this model. There are a lot of tiny sub-assemblies, complex parts, but the designers of this model tried to make sure that the way these parts fit would make it difficult to make mistakes; carefully placed locator pins, asymmetric joints, etc all make sure that you can only fit parts together in the correct orientation. (It IS possible to mess up, though; always check the instructions carefully.)

What I really liked about the model is that Takom tried to use PE as little as possible, and managed to achieve a highly detailed, complex kit with only 7 PE screens. Obviously, if you want to replace the side-skirts, or other parts with PE, several aftermarket companies have already issued sets for the model, but for most people I think the plastic parts will be perfectly suitable. There are also no clear parts for periscopes and whatnot, but I never actually thought they were adding anything to a model, so it’s all good…

The only extra I bought -and this one is, unfortunately, quite necessary- was the Meng Zimmerit decal set. Most Panther A-s had Zimmerit applied, so there is no way out of this one unless you want to model that handful of tanks which were left bare of Zimmerit. I have never used decals for Zimmerit, so this will be an interesting experience. (I’m not sure why Takom did not issue this model with Zimmerit -perhaps they wanted to give the modellers the flexibility. The only problem is that you are then left with aftermarket or DYI Zimmerits. Fear not: there are other Takom Panthers coming out with Zimmerit, but they were not yet announced when I bought this model.)

Step 1.

The assembly starts with the bottom part of the hull. The transmission, the torsion bars, all the small bits are relatively easy to put together. The suspension is static; you will not be able to position the swing arms, but this is how it is; the model has been made user friendly as possible by Takom, and simplifying how the suspension is built up is part of this. (The other part are the link-and-length tracks.)

Step 2.

This is a multi-part assembly of the transmission. It is a very detailed little part, and I ran into the first issue here: step 2G is so tiny, it is impossible to see where M15 and M37 goes. This is where the magnifying glass comes handy. At step 2H you are supposed to glue in the piping coming out of the transmission, but I suggest you dry fit it into the hull first, and glue the pipes in with their other ends fitted into their respective holes on the hull (step 4).

Step 3- 4.

Assembly of the hull’s bottom (the ribbing) and the sides. You are shown to glue the transmission in, but it would make painting more difficult later should you decide not to paint everything primer red. (The transmission was most likely not left in primer red.)

Step 5-6.

Addition of the sides to the bottom, with the torsion bars. These parts fit remarkably well- it holds together even without glue…

The sub-assembly at step 6 details the assembly of the controls for the driver.

Step 7-9.

Running gear… The swing arms are fixed, so you cannot position the wheels; the link and length tracks would make this impractical as well. You do get a template to position the swing arms, and the very same template is used to assemble the tracks. Important: do NOT glue F2-1 and F2-2 (the drive sprockets’ housing) before using the template as they will be in the way.

Step 10-11-12-13-14.

The assembly of the hull bottom, the driver’s and radio operator’s seats, the extra three ammunition storage under the turret, and the instrument panels. It also goes through the assembly of the firewalls in the engine compartment, and the drive shaft/turret turning mechanism. You also assemble the ammunition storage boxes around the lower hull. They are both good and bad. The good part is that you don’t need to use individual projectiles; there are specially moulded parts that fit into the ammo holes from under the box, and only contain the parts of the projectiles that are actually sticking out. It certainly makes assembly a bit more simple, since instead of multiple projectiles, you only have one part per box. However it makes painting a bit more difficult, since you can only install them from under the box. Either you finish the painting of the interior, and then glue the boxes in place, or you paint the projectile heads after everything is installed and painted. I really do prefer putting as much of the model together as possible before painting, so I don’t find this option a very good one.

Step 15-16-17

Here comes the assembly of the tracks. The tracks are plastic link-and-length types, and you need to glue the guide horns onto them (two per tracklink…). These horns are hollow, and I think it was a simpler solution than to mould the tracklinks as one piece. Takom has provided a pretty unique and relatively simple solution of this making the process less monotonous and time-consuming, but it is still far from ideal. They have moulded the guide horns in rows onto plastic strips, which can be positioned over the track links, so you can glue them in rows. (I just used an extra thin glue with a brush.) Once they are dry, you can safely remove the tracklinks… the gluing part is easy; the cutting part still takes a lot of time, not to mention you need to smooth out both faces of the guide horns where the sprue gates were located. Despite of having the horns lined up on a straight plastic part, gluing them in a straight line was a bit challenging; a lot of the horns are somewhat wobbly, and required some careful adjustments.

All in all, the idea is good, but I still prefer if they moulded the tracklinks as one piece. Even if they don’t have hollow horns.

Once the track links are finished, you can use the same template you used before to glue the tracks together; or you can use the actual mode, too. (I did not find the template very useful, but that is a highly personal opinion.)


You also add a couple of personal items, like canteens to the hull.

Steps 18-22

Detail the assembly of the Maybach engine. As they usually say, the engine is a small model on its own, and while it might sound like a cliche at this point, it is actually true. In general the instructions do a good job showing you what goes where, but some reference photos will still come useful to help deciding exactly where certain pipes go, and what angle they should stand.

Steps 23-24


You add more small stuff to the sides wall. I am not sure I like this philosophy, spreading the assembly of a part into several different steps; I would prefer if all steps concerning the assembly of a given part of the tank would be grouped together, and you did not have to constantly re-visit areas you thought you have already finished. (It makes planning much easier.)

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This step details the ammo rack assemblies on the side of the hull. The instruction manual has a couple of colored panels in the middle, which will help you with painting the ammunition, and placing the decals on them; it is as good time as any to refer to them. (Obviously it makes sense to paint all the ammunition at once, even though you were already instructed to install a couple of projectiles in the bottom of the hull. I have delayed those steps until I finished the painting of the interior.) The painting guide suggests to use a mixed load of brass/lacquered steel cased ammunition; while visually it is appealing to have both, I’m not sure how accurate this would be. I think tanks were probably loaded with one or the other type, the steel case substituting the brass later in the war due to copper shortages. (On the other hand you can also make an argument for a slow process of exchanging one for the other, while having a transition period having both.)

I also left the racks off, since it is one of those rare instances when it is simpler to paint the parts on the sprue, and then assemble them. Once the ammunition is finished and the racks are painted white I will put them together -probably towards the end of the build.

Well, that’s it for now. I have a huge box full of Panther parts, and a really diminished box of yet-to-be-used sprues.

Next will be the turret interior, and then I will be forced to sit down and seriously thing about cutting up the model. I was a perfect procastinator; did everything to be busy and to avoid making these decisions at the same time, but once the interior is complete, the time is up: some hard choices have to be made how to cut and what to cut to display most of the interior of this gorgeous model. (I might be able to get away using rare earth magnets to hold everything together, but I would not hold my breath.)

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See you on the next post.

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.

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

lcz7cuz

 

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

dkthtoh

 

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.)