Category Archives: USSR

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

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Please find the first, second  and third part here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Keep tuned in…

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

Please find the first and second part here.

And the build goes on…

Interior

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

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

Exterior

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

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

Problems with the Miniarm set

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

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

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

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

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

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

The saga of the gun barrel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finishing touches

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

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

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

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Please find the first part here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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Since then I got the MiniArm set as well…

 

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

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

 

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

Oh well.

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

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

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

 

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

 

Object 279 (1/72 OKB Grigorov)

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I have written a review of this kit for Armorama; most of the introduction is reused for this post.

There are three 1/35 kits available for this tank, all of which were issued in recent years -so officially there are more models than actual vehicles in existence. (Something only the Tiger I has achieved to this day.*) Before the styrene versions came out almost at the same time (which makes me wonder how companies decide on what to work on next and why they always seem to decide on the same vehicle**), there was a 1/72 resin version by OKB of this extraordinary-looking tank. Frankly, it looks like the tracks were only an afterthought; you’d expect to find anti-gravity propulsion installed. (Perhaps the subcontractors were late with that project.)

*~ducks~

**these days we can all anticipate the incoming new King Tiger kits with full interiors… it’s an interesting choice to flood the market with something that someone already is producing instead of coming out with something new. This enigma, along with the tendency of Hollywood to do the same thing with movies, will always perplex me.

The tank was designed in the Kirov Plant in 1957 to resist HEAT ammunition and have good off-road capabilities (the ground pressure was less than 0.6 kg/cm2). The weird shape would also ensure that the maintenance would be a nightmare for the crew -especially if the tank threw a track. Surprisingly it was able to reach 55km/h, and had a range of 300km, which is pretty good for a heavy tank-  even more so for one with four sets of tracks. (Decreased air resistance due to the shape of the hull might have something to do with this…)

The shape of this tank was due to a second layer of shielding which covered the hull. It served multiple purposes. First of all it was supposed to make it harder to flip the tank over (nuclear blasts do tend to have some strong shockwaves). It also worked as a protection against HEAT and APDS projectiles, and against shaped charges. (I really would like to crawl into the prototype displayed in Kubnika to see what the interior looks like.) The tank was obviously equipped with CBRN protection. The main armament was a rifled, 130mm gun (M-65) with 24 rounds of ammunition, the secondary armament was a KPVT coaxial machine gun; they were stabilized in two planes.

The history of the tank was not very illustrious. Once the prototype completed all its trials (which showed a couple of problems with the track system), the program was axed by Khrushchev himself, as it was way too heavy for the requirements set for new tanks. (In short, the Soviet leadership viewed heavy tanks as outdated, and were obviously blind to the propaganda value of a weapon created apparently using alien technology.)

It took me some serious deliberation to purchase the Braille scale version of this model by OKB as it costs about the same (or more in some cases) as the 1/35 versions. In the end I’ve decided to go with it as I prefer this scale in case for large vehicles. I have a constant space shortage at home, which is the main reason my 1/144 Dora stays in her box for now.

Interestingly as I was progressing with the build, Wargaming just came out with a video on the tank itself.

The model comes in a small, sturdy cardboard box. The box art is a photo of the vehicle displayed at Kubnika; however it was seriously faded in my kit. In it we find several small Ziploc bags, and some pieces of bubble wrap which make sure that the kit arrives unharmed and undamaged.
The instructions –which are a rare thing indeed in resin model circles- are clear and computer generated. The only problem is that it’s difficult to see the images as they were pretty faded. (OKB will email you a set of instructions if you ask them ASAP, so this is not an issue.) Since the model is relatively simple, even using the faded instructions does not impact on the assembly process.

The model is made up by about 70 resin pieces and 30 PE parts. The parts are very well detailed, the flash is minimal, and the fit is excellent. One of the swing arms of the suspension was miscast, but generally the quality of resin is excellent.

The tracks are given as sets of straight resin pieces, which need to be warmed up before being shaped to fit the running gear. (I prefer hot –not too hot- water to a hair dryer for this job. Hairdryers can be surprisingly hot, and damage the resin.) The hull comes in one piece; most of the small parts make up the running gear. The muzzle break on the gun is something to be seen: it’s quite a complex shape with several openings and it’s moulded in one piece; A pretty impressive affair. The photoetched fret is very thin and very delicate; it’s very easy to bend (even crumple) the parts, which makes working with them a bit difficult.

Putting the running gear together was not very difficult; the swing arms fit into their slots remarkably well. (The small wobbling unfortunately will show when you attach the wheels, as they will be somewhat misaligned. When the suspension units are done, it’s best to use some hot water to warm the whole thing up, align everything between two rulers, and wait for the resin to cool down.

I would have preferred to put the tracks on while the assembly was off the hull but the drive wheels are separate units. This means you’ll need to glue both the running gear and the drive wheels onto the bottom of the hull first, then add the tracks. To make your life easier you can add the front section of the tracks on the suspension while they are off the hull.

Now, there was a little issue at this point: one of the sections holding the running gear did not fit into the groove on the lower hull. After a little fiddling I found the reason: it was a couple of millimeters longer than the other. Some trimming had to be done to make it fit. Another issue I’ve already mentioned: one of the suspension arms had a casting error, so it was too short to add a wheel. I made sure this section was turned inwards so it would not be seen.

The face of the drive wheels is made out of PE. As I said the PE bends very easily, so assembly was not exactly easy. (They bend readily even to the small pressure needed to push them in place.) Since the resin axles were a bit thicker than the holes in the PE parts I needed to trim them a bit using a knife. I used epoxy glue for most of these parts, since I wanted to make sure they will hold strong; this is important especially when you install the tracks.

Once the drive wheels and the whole running gear was on the tank, I added the tracks. (Warm them up, wrap them around the running gear, wait.) There are some tight fits between the running gear and the bottom of the hull, but all four sections went on eventually.

The hull is not a difficult affair to assemble: you need to add the towing hooks, the PE tiedowns for the external fuel tanks on the back, and the PE handholds. These handholds were a bit problematic: you need to fold the legs down, but there is no marking where to fold; these markings usually make it easier to fold the part in a neat right angle. Use a plyer or a hold-and-fold. The metal is very thin, so it is extremely easy to distort its shape while working with it.

The travel lock is made out of PE (not sure if you can make it functional; the gun barrel is made out of several pieces, so technically it should be possible.) The headlights and the guards for the headlights are pretty easy to install. I noticed that the metal strips for the guards are somewhat longer than necessary, so I trimmed them, and made a little fold at the ends so they stick better to the hull. The exhaust has a rectangular metallic guard around it.

The gun barrel made out of several sections, and it’s kind of hard to make all the pieces align perfectly straight. The muzzle break, as I said, looks really great.

The turret is also a simple affair There are two PE squares on the top (I think this is where they are supposed to be- it was hard to see on the instructions and the photos were not very good for that angle). The IR headlight is fixed next to the gun, I’ve prepared a couple of handholds using wire, and attached the gun barrel; that’s it. (Obviously I only primed the tank so far; it will be finished after the Christmas holiday.)

Once I had the rust-brown base coat on, I’ve sprayed some Tamiya Nato green lightened with tan, and mixed with some AK Washable agent as a test. The test was a partial success – some vigorous brushing did manage to remove some of the paint. Clearly more experiments are needed with different paint/agent ratio. Once the paint was dry I fixed everything with some varnish and added some decals from the leftovers. The decals were fixed with some Dullcote.

 

 

 

I proceeded to add oil washes, and some light ochre filters, and went on to see how I can make the tank look dirtied up without overdoing the effect.

I picked up some Tamiya weathering sticks in HobbyCraft at their latest sale, so that was the first stop. It’s a strange, almost lipstick like product (pen shaped), and direct application only deposits some non-realistic smears. Using a stiff brush to add the paste and adjusting the pattern after application with a wet brush seemed to work well, though. I used the mud version to add mud on the lower chassis and the running gear, along with the edges of the top of the tank; and I used dust to add deposited dust/dry mud onto the top. With downwards stokes I tried create a perpendicular pattern to the edges as if they were marks made by the water pouring/tickling down from the hull. I repeated the process on the turret as well although much more subtly.

Since it did not look enough (only two colors do not look very convincing) I’ve mixed up some darkish (almost black) brown mixture of pigments and matte varnish, and flicked it onto the hull with a brush and toothpick to simulate fresh mud splashes.

I’ve used some weathering effects (oil stains and diesel stains) on the running gear and the external fuel tanks, respectively), and called the tank finished.
The build was not a challenging one; in fact it was easier to build than most resin models I’ve built so far. This is the third OKB model I’ve built, and I have to say they are very well engineered models: clear instructions, good detail, and no major issues to remedy. The only real drawback is the price- for most people this would make the 1/35 offerings more attractive.

 

Mirage Hobby (72627) 76,2mm “Leningrad” SPG

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Ever since I started to play World of Tanks I have been partial to the SU-26. It is tiny little Russian SPG in the game with considerable fame (until they nerfed it). It had a fully rotating tower, it looked funky, and it had an amazing rate of fire- what’s not to like? Since I liked the in-game vehicle, I was trying to find it in scale model form. The SPG itself is quite unknown (only 14 were built on the basis of the T-26 light tank), but I was delighted to find something similar in polystyrene…

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Enter Mirage Hobby.

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The SPG looks somewhat similar to the beloved SU-26, although the gun shield is most definitely not the same. I debated if I should build it out of the box, or modify the kit to resemble the SU-26, but the forces of caution won- I did not modify the kit.

The model went together without any problems; no major fit issues. The detail is reasonably good -better what I expected, in fact. The tracks are rubber band style, and the suspension is surprisingly good for this scale.

The painting was done with brush only. I used Citadel paints, since back then I was living in a tiny room surrounded by all my possessions in boxes. The mud and dust was applied using the good old drybrushing technique and the different earth shades offered by Citadel. (I was writing up my thesis, and rented a very small room to save on money. This meant most of my modelling equipment, paints and pigments were packed away.)

This is the finished product in a display case:

I’m seriously thinking about ordering another kit to do the necessary changes for an SU-26.

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p5. (final instalment)

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You can find the previous parts of this review under the following links:

part 1.
part 2.
part 3.

and

part 4.

You can find the review I wrote of this model on armorama, and another review of a simplified version of the same kit here. In this last post we’ll finish up the vehicle.

Painting

 

Once the tracks were ready, I painted the sides of the lower hull olive green (Tamiya), then heavily dabbed on a dark brown/black/greenish mix of oil colors to simulate the color of dirty snowmelt; the reference I used was how buses look during the winter after a heavy snow… The same color went onto the road wheels as well, and once everything was dry, I installed the tracks. (I suggest leaving the return roller in a movable state so that you can do small adjustments if the tracks are a bit loose/tight.)

I masked everything with tape (the back of the engine compartment, the top of the fighting compartment, the tracks), and sprayed olive green onto the vehicle. The exact color does not really matter as it will be covered by white-wash (and the wartime “Russian green” was far from a standardized color in any way).

I gave the paint a couple of hours to dry, and covered the model with a semi-gloss varnish to have a surface for the decals to stick to. Since I wanted to go with the unique festive Christmas camo, I decided to use the large red dot decal that goes on top of the superstructure. (In retrospect it would have been better if I added the decal after I applied the whitewash.)

Since the red dot decal needs to conform a somewhat difficult topology (it goes over the fume extractor’s cover, the hatch and the armored observation hatches), it is given in three parts. Normally I would have elected to simply mask the area and spray the color, but since it’s a review I went with the decal option. There are some issues with this option. For one, it’s not going to be easy to pose the hatches open, unless you cut the decal up. (Difficult to do accurately.) The largest part went on relatively well, although the hinges of the crew hatch did present some problems. A generous application of decal setting solution immensely helped, but it was still not easy. I did manage to damage the decal with the brush trying to smooth it out and make it conform the raised details.

The part going over the extractor cover went on fine; the decal part going over the observation hatch, however was not that easy to apply. I could not put it on without forming a small fold at the corner. I trimmed it once the decal dried, and touched it up with some paint. Weathering also will help making these mistakes disappear. The decal is thin and of good quality otherwise; the casting texture is clearly visible underneath. All things considered it’s probably simpler just to mask the circle and paint it on using an airbrush.

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Once the decals were dry I applied another layer of varnish in preparation for the whitewash.

I have applied AK Interactive’s chipping fluid slightly diluted with an airbrush for the “hairspray technique”, and once it was dry, I went over with Tamiya’s flat white (also very slightly diluted). It was dry to the touch in about twenty or so minute, so I started on chipping. Wet the surface and with a toothpick I made small nicks on the paint. These were gently extended using a wet brush. As a second round of chipping I waited about a day- enough time for the AK Interactive product to become “less active”. (As you wait, it becomes more and more difficult to create chips.) I’ve prepared an approx 1% ammonia solution using an ammonia containing cleaning product (Windex is fine), and used this over the surface of the model. (Ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints.) With a bit more vigorous brushwork I was able to create smaller, finer chips and scratches. This method (Windex chipping) is very suitable for making subtly worn surfaces, and complements the larger chips created by the “hairspray” technique.

This is the step where I installed the back of the engine compartment. I noticed that the bolt holes are not drilled in, which was odd, since MiniArt was very careful to add other details which would not be visible once the model is completed, so I quickly drilled the holes myself.

Once everything dried, I applied yet another layer of varnish to protect the work so far, and sprayed over a very light “washable white” from Mig. (I’ve tried a lot of off-the-shelf weathering products in this build.) Most of this layer was removed using a wet brush; the purpose applying it was to create a light white, transparent layer over the green paint showing through the whitewash.

After THIS dried, you guessed correctly, yet another layer of varnish was added, and I went on painting the branches, and adding the decals. Which were -for the last time- sealed with varnish.

Once this was all done I dirtied up the chassis a bit using oil paints (some light filters of burned sienna, and blending in small quantities of different shades of brown), adding oil washes, and applying a thick layer of dirty snow slush made from dark browns, black and a tiny bit of green to the lower chassis and the running gear. I added some oil stains to the engine deck and the folded-down armor plate on the back (AK Interactive’s product diluted in white spirit applied in several steps), and some diesel stains to the external tanks (Vallejo’s product- as I said, I stocked up on weathering products lately…)

As a last step I glued the top of the fighting compartment on in an “opened” position, so that the interior is actually visible.

That’s pretty much it.

Overall the building was enjoyable, although I did run into some problems of the kit (and of my own making). Nothing is really deal-breaking; most of the problems can be either fixed or circumvent if you have a little experience in model building. If you like to be challenged -and not because you’re building a dog of a kit- this model will be perfect for you; however I don’t think it’s suitable for beginners. It’s also a considerable investment of time and effort; it is certainly possible to burn out, and just shelve it for a time. If you don’t feel like including much of the interior, go for the “light” version which has less parts and is considerably cheaper, too. My fiancee said I was nuts for building and painting this much detail (and enjoying it), so take my words with a grain of salt. One thing is for sure: I’m proud of this kit, treasure it for the achievement I feel it was building it, and I’m ready to move on to a simpler model (or two) -until the next one. (Which, I suspect, is going to be a T-54 version with over a thousand parts…)

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p4.

You can find the previous parts of this review under the following links:

part 1.
part 2.
part 3.

You can find the review I wrote of this MiniArt model on armorama, and another review of a simplified version of the same kit here.

 

In this post we’re taking a look at the interior- and hopefully finishing it. (Well, most of it.)

 

Most of the components are installed; the basics are done. I’ve put in the engine for the photos sake, but will display it outside of the vehicle. The gun is installed, and only a couple of small bits and the fuel tanks were missing at this point. The assembly went together without any issues; even the bits on the steering mechanism fit into the transmission without any problems. (In other words: they fit like a glove with is pretty good considering we’re talking about a multiple part assembly.)

 

I’ve also put in the finishing touches for the interior. By and large it went together fine; the fit is remarkable. Two issues I ran into: the back of the fighting compartment is one of them. The issue is simply the following: it is made out of three sections. Once is the large firewall between the engine compartment and the fighting compartment. The second is the edge of the top of the engine compartment (which, unfortunately, is not covered by either of the back sections), and the third is the back of the superstructure. I did not anticipate that the armor plating on the engine compartment will be visible, so I had to paint the edge white after I installed it. The best would be to fill in the visible seam, but unfortunately I could not figure out how to do it. (I’ve already painted and weathered the to larger parts.)

 

 

 

At this point the fuel tanks, the oil tanks, the compressed air bottles, the handle of the fuel priming pump (which was blue in the T-34 I saw, so I painted it blue instead of red), the ammunition, and all the other bits and pieces are installed. The one issue: the ammo on the racks. They would need to fit into corresponding holes on the top of the fighting compartment, so make sure you align them perfectly. (Not like I did.) What I suggest you do is to leave them out until you’re ready to attach the top of the fighting compartment. This way you can gently adjust them while the glue sets into their proper position. Since I’m not planning to glue the top on, it’s not really much of an issue.

I finished the final touches of weathering on the transmission and other interior parts. I blended in some gun metal darkened with black paint onto the transmission, and highlighted the edges with steel color. It received several dark washes; I have used a damp brush to adjust where the washes flowed. I used some oil stain AK products with some dark grey pigments to make it looked used and dirty. The metal bands on the two sides, which help with the steering got a light Citadel zinc overcoat to simulate oxidation and heat damage (as these parts overheat a lot, which encourages oxidation).

The fighting compartment only received a moderate amount of weathering as I wrote in the previous post, since these vehicles were not in use for the years to develop heavy rusting, and the crew kept them relatively clean.

The sides of the superstructure were fitted with all the details. For some reason the propellant cases are marked to be painted green instead of the brass color every other case has. The crew light was painted using a Citadel technical paint. I first painted the bottom of the part silver, and then used the Citadel paint to stain the face of the light fixture. Since the paint flows more like a wash, it left the protecting wire frame relatively free of paint. (The extra was scraped off with a blade.) The effect is pretty good in my opinion. (I just noticed that there are no photos of the walls; will rectify the situation in the next post.)

 

The first step was to add the frontal armor plate. It’s a bit fiddly, and it’s easy to break off the suspension’s springs while you’re trying to navigate it into its place. (To be honest these springs will not be visible even from under the vehicle, so if they break off, they break off. Only you will know they’re not there. Once the front is on, you can attach the top of the engine compartment. It’s a large piece of plastic which has most of the fenders as well, and you will need them in order to attach the side plates.

I would have liked to do a cutaway version of the engine compartment, but could not really figure out how to, so I just closed it in. The flaps over the cooling vents can be positioned; however they would be invisible in the finished vehicle, as the armored vents completely cover them. The two pieces that go over them (Ca13, Ca14) have apparently three alternative placement (about 2 mm from each other), but the instructions do not give any indication what these options are, and why you would want to position these parts differently to begin with. Strange.

I’ve finished detailing the sides and the back of the fighting compartment, and glued them to the model. I’ve added some wires to the light and the electrical switch box on the right hand side to make them look a bit busier. Interestingly the pistol ports are not operable, unlike in the T-44. They are simply molded on the plastic, but it would have been nice to have this option.

The fit of the sidewalls and the back armor plate is tight but good; I did not have to use putty, or trim anything.

At this point the model finally looks like a proper tank destroyer, with the interior mostly finished. The hatches allow only a limited view of the interior, so I think I’ll display the model with the top of the fighting compartment lifted up. I’ll use either stiff wires or plastic rods to hold it off-center above the model, as a “cop-out cutaway”. (I was a bit reluctant to start cutting and sawing. With the next model I’ll do a real one, I promise, with the sides and top cut out.)

 

And finally, work has started on the tracks. The tracks are not workable (regardless of what the instructions claim), but they are fine nevertheless. The pins are too small to hold them together with glue, so they actually do fall apart once you assembled four-five pieces on their own. Hence: gluing. Normally I’m using Tamiya’s lemon based Lemonene cement; the only problem I have with this product is that it looks just like the retarder they sell… and the first couple of pieces I tried to glue with the paint retarder. (Yes I was curious where the brush from the jar disappeared, but not really focused on the issue. No, I’m not a very smart man.)

Anyhow, the best method to glue individual links together is to work in sections: do doubles first, and then assemble those into larger and larger sections. You have at least a couple of hours to adjust the sag before the glue sets completely, so it gives you time enough to assemble half section, wait a bit, and fit it over the running gear. (Every side is usually made up by two halves- at least this is how I prefer to do it. It’s easy to mix up the different sections for the two sides if you work with smaller ones.)

Now, onto the colors. I’ve chosen black as a base color simply because most of the Russian tanks I saw had trans that were black. No doubt it is a museum-related thing and not historical. First of all, why would anyone paint the tracks? Any paint and rust would rub off very, very, very quickly indeed once the tank starts moving. I’ve made this choice, however, because I wanted to have a “distinctive” look for my Russian tanks, and not use the same track painting and weathering methods that I use with the German tanks. (In reality most tank tracks have a very dull, steel color -they are a steel-manganese alloy-, which is covered with dust and rust in the recesses. Most of the rust, mud and any other contamination simply rubs off as the tracks rub against each other, the running gear and the ground.) I go with these “artistic licences” as if I really, really wanted to be accurate, I’d be working with only 50 shades of brown mostly. A little color here and there (even if it’s black) livens things up a bit.

Once the tracks were assembled, I used an acrylic spray paint to paint it black. (Grammatically incorrect, however it had to be done for the reference’s sake.)

After drying the first thing to do was to add a neutral wash by Mig. (I’ve got it in a discounted set for painting primer red, and have no idea what to use it for. It looks nice as dust/mud deposit.) The next steps will be adding a good thick slurry of pigments/oil paints to simulate the slush of snow and mud, and I’ll rub a silver pencil along the surface to simulate the parts that were worn to the bare metal. The guide teeth will be treated in a similar manner, since the drive wheels rub them shiny as they turn the tracks. (Silver pencils are great for simulating worn-down metal.)

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p3.

I’m continuing the MiniArt SU-122 build and review- you can find the previous parts below:

Part 1

Part 2

You can find the photos of the parts and the instruction manual on armorama in my review, and you can find a comparison with the non-interior version of the same kit here.

If the gods will it, I should be ready in two more posts -and about two more weeks. (I hope.)

I had some constructive feedback which mentioned photo sizes. In further posts I’ll be experimenting the different options WordPress offers- thumbnails, galleries, etc. Please let me know if you have any suggestions -length, number of photos, quality of photos, style, anything. (I also would love to read comments on the models… after all, this is one of the reason for the blog.)

So, without further ado, onto the build:

Gun

The gun is not really difficult to build -except for the broken recoil guard, which I had to fix with glue. It was whole when the model came, but it snapped into three parts sometime during the build. I suggest you put this part aside before you touch the model, because it’ll break as you move the sprues around during the build. The hydraulic tubes elevating the gun are working (the two parts can move), however the way they are attached to the gun (glued to a PE holding bracket) makes this feature more like an option to fix the gun in any position you desire, than to make it adjustable after the gun is in place. In other words decide what position you’d like the gun in, put the it in place, and then glue the hydraulic tubes into place. Alternatively you can just forget about them, as they would not be visible, anyhow, and this would leave the gun movable. (In the non-interior version of this kit they are not included.)

A side-note: the wheel controlling the elevation of the gun is on the right side, between the gun and the wall of the fighting compartment… ergonomics was not a main concern when the vehicle was built.

I painted the gun in the “Russian” green color I’ll paint the whole vehicle with, and weathered it with oil washes, filters to make it look used and less uniform. Some wear-and-tear was simulated with painted chips (both black-brown and some metallic). The gun shield (not sure what it is- the fat protective shield around the base of the gun) is a three part assembly, with a prominent seam going along its length. Because the lifting hook is molded with one of the parts together, the filling and sanding requires a little care.


As you may notice the gun barrel is missing still- it is added once the gun is in its place. The plastic barrel has rifling on the inside; a pretty cool feature. One thing to mention: attach the gun barrel before you add the gun shield protecting it…

 

Engine and transmission

The building of the engine is pretty straightforward affair. The detail is pretty good, although no wiring/cabling guide is provided (which is a shame, really, but there is available reference material online). The transmission looks exceptionally well detailed; it is quite easy to see how the real thing worked once you assemble the model. The fit is really good; things snap together once in place. I painted the engine in a dark aluminium color, dry brushed it with brighter metallic shades, and weathered it using oil washes and Vajello’s engine grime product (I could not resist to try it). Some of the cabling was done using thin solder wire or Champagne bottle wire painted black (I used it to simulate cabling in the fighting compartment as well).

 

And the finished engine with the radiators attached.

 

Since I “dirtied up” the engine compartment, I added the transmission at this point because I wanted to display the model with the back folded down. I left the engine out so that it’s not going to be hidden once the model is done. (It’s a shame only the very top of it would be visible once the engine compartment is finished. Because I could not figure out how to create a realistic-looking cutaway of the engine compartment, I’m going to display it in front of the model like I did with my Hobby Boss T-34/85, and the MiniArt T-44.)

 

Some other parts: a really bent cover of the transmission… (Only my sample, apparently. I’m reviewing another SU-122 kit and the SU-85 by MiniArt, and they seem fine.)

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The cooling flaps on the engine deck are positionable; it’s a pity only the back ones will be visible; the rest will be covered up by plastic parts covering the engine deck.

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Well, that’s it for now. Next steps: putting the interior together.

 

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p2.

Well, the vacation is over, and the work resumes. (I also had to start going to the office which tend to hinder the work that matters…)

One issue is that I’m working on several sub-assemblies parallel, so it’s difficult to show how one particular one was worked on from start to finish in one go. This is how a build normally goes, but it does not lend itself very well to a thematic review.

To start with: I’ve done some work on the ammo… I counted how many I’d need and only used that many -I don’t want to work extra when it comes to cleaning and painting identical pieces of ammunition. Aside from cleaning track links this is my least favourite part of building a model. Tiny details, multiple copies make a repetitive and very delicate task. MiniArt supplies extras of both, so it’s worth making sure you don’t do extra.

 

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Sorted… there are two kinds of ammunition provided: one type goes onto the floor of the back of the fighting compartment, the other goes on the rack by the commander. They are supposed to be painted differently (faint green and olive green), and the ones on the floor receive a small plastic disc on which they will stand. I’m not sure what the different colors signify. Perhaps high explosive and armor piercing rounds were painted and stored differently, but the instructions do not shed light on this topic.

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Disclaimer: I have deviated from the instruction manual’s sequence of building, as I think it makes more sense to first build the overall structure of the vehicle and then fill it in with details. Should there were some minor fit issues, they’ll be easier to deal with as well.

The Tamiya white on the interior looked really artificial. To make it less uniform, and, well, less white, I used a very, very diluted filter (just burnt umber oil paint in turpentine). The effect was pretty good -the interior suddenly looked much more realistic.otbugyq

The engine compartment is looking better and better. Almost time to fill it up.

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Adding smaller parts to the fighting compartment: instruments, ammo holders, compressed air bottles, etc. I also used different dark-rust colors, and different types of paints (acrylic, oil) to simulate wear and tear. This is one contentious issue: most real tanks are pretty clean from the inside. Paint chips, rust streaks take an awful lot of time to develop; more time than these vehicles were in service -or indeed survived in a war. So while I do make it look a bit worn and rusted, I do it with the understanding that it is not how the real vehicles looked like. (Maybe the SU-100s still in service all over the would do look like this after 70 years. But not a tank that has been in service for only a couple of years.)

I’ve used my favorite Vajello German Camo Black-Brown for paint chips. This color is great for simulating old, rusted metal. I applied the paint chips using both a very fine brush and with a sponge. Where the effect was too stark, I went over with some white using a sponge. (Key thing about using a sponge is to make sure you dab most of the paint out of it onto a piece of paper.)
I also used various rust colors (from reddish brown to yellow) to simulate the different colored rust, and made some light washes using these colors to stain the lower part of the hull’s interior (to simulate dirt smears). It’s important to keep in mind that the smears are not applied in one step: you add the wash (usually oil paint and turpentine), then using a clean, moistened brush you blend the stains, and carefully adjust the amount of paint on the surface. Oils are great because of they are translucent, and have a long drying time.

I made the bottom especially worn where the driver’s feet are resting.

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I think I went overboard with the dirt and rust on the front of the hull, but I rectified it since then using the base color.

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I’m not sure how I will display the engine- it’s simply too hidden in the engine compartment. I might go the same way as I did with the T-34 and T-44: display it outside of the vehicle. The transmission, however can be built in; I’ll simply open up the back as if the tank was undergoing maintenance.

I have ordered a couple of new products: Vajello’s engine grime, petrol stain and diesel stain. I’ve tried the petrol in the middle of the engine compartment, and the diesel next to it… I have to say they look pretty convincing.

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Well, that’s it for now. The next post will be about the assembly of the gun and the engine. Please don’t hesitate to leave comments below; I always appreciate some constructive criticism. (Layout of the blog, the length of the posts, the size of the photos, the writing style, the amount of information, the techniques used… anything is free game. Just be gentle.)