And now the good ole’ sponge method. I’ve used it on the T-62 wreck I have just finished.
The method is simple: get a piece of sponge/the green stuff on the top of the sponge, dab it into the paint, dab most of it off on a piece of paper, and then apply the sponge in a dabbing motion onto the surface of the model.
This can be used in several ways. Either, as I did here, you depict a badly rusted object with some paint still clinging on the surface. In this case the base coat is a mixture of rust colors (which, incidentally, were also applied using the sponge).
There are a couple of things to keep in mind: use a lighter shade of the color the item was supposed to be painted with; the sun fades everything over time (after all the vehicle in question had to be sitting there for a long time to rust like this), and the final color will darken anyway, since you will be using filters and washes on the vehicle. It’s also a good idea to use several tones of the base color -green in this case. Start with larger patches of the lightest, and use consequently darker shades with smaller and smaller patches.
You can do it the other way around as well: depict some rust spots/chips on a painted surface. In this case you use rust colors (and make sure you use different tones, along with the lightened version of the base color) over the base color of the model. In this case make sure you have hardly any paint left in the sponge, and also be sure not to use it in the same position (so that the created spots are not uniform). I’ve used this method with the SU-122 and SU-76.
If you want to make it a step even further, use a lighter color of the base to create somewhat larger chips, and use a brush (or keep using the sponge) to fill them in with much less rust color -this way you can depict a moderately chipped surface easily. (The method used on the mudguards of the T-44 -a combination of sponge-on-sponge -for the mudgards- and brush-on-sponge -for the smaller chips.)
Of course, you can just let go of the sponge, and do everything with a fine brush; you get more control, but you have to be careful about being random, just like in the case of this T-55.
All of these techniques should be done sparingly, and in several sessions. (It’s useful to come back and take a look at what you’ve achieved with a fresh eye.)
Obviously, these techniques are better used combined; with the T-62 I used the hairspray technique, the sponge, filters and brush. I’ve also used rust washes (with an airbrush), pigments mixed with Tamiya’s flat coat (coming up later), and oils blended with brushes. And yes, I did use some dedicated AK Interactive products, too, like different dark washes, and the light rust wash. (I’m turning to the dark side here.)
These years seem to be the golden years of scale models. Vehicles that have not been available or only available in the form of limited resin kits suddenly get a lot of attention. The Pz.Kpfw. II. Luchs was one of these vehicles. I’ve built the ModellTrans version five years ago, inspired by the online game World of Tanks, and now, in a very short span of time we get not one but three Braille scale plastic versions of the tank.
I have reviewed Flyhawk’s 1/72 Luchs offerings before, and I was really curious what the other Luchs kits are like. This review will be about the up-armored Maco offering; I’ll comment on the differences between this kit and the Flyhawk kit here and there during the review. (The up-armored Luchs is essentially the same as the basic Maco Luchs with a small fret added; anything I say here is relevant to all Maco kits.)
The breakdown of the model is quite old-school: we have a “traditional” lower hull assembly from four parts (two sides, a bottom and the back). The suspension units and the swing arms holding the roadwheels are already moulded onto the sides. There is an interesting solution for the last pair of braces on the mudguards: they are moulded onto the back panel. The mudguards will need to be slid under the brackets. Be careful not to cut them off; first I thought they were some sort of plastic overflow during the moulding process. As most of the finer details, the back light is moulded onto the left brace.
The added parts are on a separate sprue: the tool box from the back of the mudguards, the jerry cans for the turret sides (these were moved to the back of the tank in the Flyhawk up-armored Luchs kit), smoke grenade launchers, some extra boxes on the back of the turret, a metal armor plate for the lower hull on the front, the perforated vision block protector, and additional track sections protecting the frontal hull. Without this sprue you can build the early version of the model easily.
The interweaving road wheels are done the same way as DML handled them with their kits: the two inner rows of wheels form one part each, onto which you’ll have to attach the outermost row as individual wheels. This solution makes assembly much simpler, and it’s a great solution to avoid any misalignment. The pattern on the road wheels is very well replicated, and the wheels are very thin, which is probably quite true to scale. (Although it’s a conjecture on my part since I have no access to a real vehicle, and neither have I found any information on the thickness of the wheels anywhere.)
The drive wheel is nicely detailed, and the plastic is a tad thicker than the Flyhawk kit’s- this is actually a good thing, because it can easily bend when you are trying to install the tracks on the Flyhawk model. The tracks come as link-and-length, and they are very easy to assemble. (They are probably the easiest I’ve had so far in 1/72.)
The upper hull and the mudguards come as one piece. The model is really “traditional” in this sense as well: the sides of the hull will need to be fitted as separate parts due to the details (viewing ports) that need to be there; no slide-moulds for this kit. The fit is remarkably good, though, so no problems there.
The model does not come with many PE parts: we get the top of the German “crow’s foot” antenna, and that’s it. We also get a couple of brass items: the rod part of this antenna, another whip aerial, and a turned barrel. (The thin metal aerial with the “crow’s foot” looks much more convincing than Flyhawk’s version of plastic rod combined with the metal top.)
The tools -with the exception of the jack, the fire extinguisher, and the shovel- are moulded onto the mudguard; this is something I’m not very keen on. (I prefer painting them separately before attaching them onto the model.) The shovel is a pretty simple affair; it’s probably better to replace it from the spares bin. The model does not have a width indicator; you should get a PE one (Dan Taylor modelworks does a set), or fashion one from stretched sprue. They were too fragile in the Flyhawk kit that I just used PE aftermarket ones instead of trying to clean them up. The tool boxes are slightly different than in the Flyhawk kit, and their locations are not exactly the same, either- again, these could be simply because the models were based on different production versions.
The turret is made out of five parts; the plastic barrel is molded on the top section. Interesting solution (both the assembly of the turret and the gun barrel), and it works. You have an option for a metal barrel, which is nicely detailed. The only imperfection I found with the kit was the grab handle on the back: it was broken and bent during transit. (I ended up not changing it.) The other issue I have with the turret is the almost perfectly rectangular shape of the top of the turret; I think it’s a bit larger than it should be- it’s certainly larger than the Flyhawk’s turret. (Which is also smaller than the ModellTrans turret). The shape is not the same, either. The Flyhawk kit’s turret is more hexagonal: the back and the front are a bit narrower than the middle. In the Maco kit it’s more rectangular. It also looks like the top is a bit larger than on the drawings I found online. The big question is which one is correct. I don’t have access to an actual tank to check, and the photos I found were taken mainly from eye level -for obvious reasons. (If there’s one in Bovingdon I’ll keep an eye out next time I get there.)
The top turret hatch (the commander’s) can be opened. The hatch has interior details, but the rest of the turret does not; it’s probably best to put a figure in it if you leave it open. The back large, rectangular hatch cannot be opened.
The assembly was about two hours -tops; it’s a very well engineered, easy to assemble kit. I tried something new (for me) in this build, and made the whole running gear/track assembly as a single sub-assembly; the whole shebang can be removed for painting and weathering. (I think I’ll use this approach in the future more often.)
The painting was a bit more difficult, as I am not really good with spraying 1/72 freehand camo. I’ve base-coated the model with primer red, and used Mig Ammo’s Dunkelgelb. Obviously neither my airbrush nor my skills were up to the challenge of making thin sprayed on lines, but here I had an idea of pure genius. (If I can be as bold as to call it that.) The Ammo acrylic paints form a cured surface; they are very different from the Tamiya paints. And, as we know from experimenting with the Windex chipping method, Tamiya paints are dissolved by ammonia… I simply made up a 2-3% ammonia solution, and used a brush to carefully clean up the overspray.
This is something definitely worth remembering; as long as the base layer is different (either enamel, or, in this case, Mig’s Acrylic paint), you can clean the Tamiya top layer up easily. (I did not take a photo after applying the green, but imagine the yellow areas having a greenish oversrpay all over.)
The weathering steps further helped with the camo issues. Some dust (pigments mixed with water and some surfactant sprayed onto the model), washes all made the base color a bit darker, and helped to fade the green patches a bit. The silver pencil really helped making the model look like a chunk of metal.
I’ve used different colors of mud (in this case I used Vallejo’s and AK’s sets, not pigments). The key is to first use the lighter colors on a larger area (both flicking it on, and by applying with a brush directly), representing the dried under-layer, and then add the darker shades, representing the still wet mud. With a brush moistened with the appropriate solvent (water in case of Vallejo, white spirit with AK) you can -and should- adjust the effect before the layer dries.
The Flyhawk kit is an incredibly detailed, albeit complex model, which will challenge the model builder. The Maco kit is a very well detailed, well engineered, easy to assemble model. Sure, it does not pack as many PE parts and tiny plastic bits, but it does make the build less of a challenge, and the results are still nice. The moulded on detail is convincing, and it is nice to have a model that is a breeze to build. In my subjective opinion it is on the same level as the Revell 1/72 Famo in the quality of plastic, ease of assembly and level of detail. (In other words: pretty darn good.)
It comes with a metal gun barrel, and two metal aerials -things the Flyhawk kit lacks. On the other hand it does not have a PE engine deck grille unfortunately.
In short: if you want to go all-out, and have a challenging build, go for the Flyhawk one. If you want a good, easy to build model, which builds fast, choose the Maco model; in this fortunate case we have an abundance of choice when it comes to this vehicle.
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.)
**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.
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.
I was curious how some chipping methods compare, so I did some experiments. Since the old hairspray I used ran out, and I could not get a similar product, I switched to the AK chipping fluid. (Not all hairsprays are the same when it comes to chipping; if you find something that works, stick to it.)
I also wanted to see how the Windex chipping technique works, and what the Mig Ammo washable white paint does. It’s not a comprehensive tutorial by any means, but I hope others find it useful.
There’s a nice summary of the hairspray technique on another blog, so I won’t be taking up much space with it. It essentially works by forming a water soluble layer between two paint layers, which makes a chipping effect once water is applied and slightly macerated with a stiff brush or toothpick. It can be applied to simulate paint chips or worn white wash; I used white in this case. With the AK Interactive product there’s a time factor: the earlier you do the chipping after the paint is dried, the larger the chips are; the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to remove the top layer. This can be used for your advantage, as it also allows you to use it in conjunction with the Windex chipping technique.
This is something relatively new. I’ve read about it in the Single Model series (02) by Rinaldi Studio Press. This technique depends on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya (and supposedly similar acrylic) paints. You essentially dissolve the top layer with a 1-3% ammonia solution. (Windex and similar cleaning products contain ammonia; you can even buy ammonia by itself, and it would work just as fine.) The higher the ammonia concentration, the easier you remove the top paint layer, so it’s worth being patient and using less concentrated solutions. I used to use Windex as a solvent and airbrush cleaner; it seems like it’s great for chips as well. The effect is much more subtle than the hairspray technique’s: it produces smaller chips, and the effect is more like rubbed-off paint.
Mig Ammo washable white
It’s essentially a white paint that can be spray painted and then washed off after drying. It does not form chips as it is; it’s more like a whitish translucent overcoat. The paint should not be diluted much (one or two drops of water, tops), as it would spray very dilute. (It took a while to figure out why it behaves like a wash when I sprayed it… The Lowe I did was the test piece, and I had to try three times before I realized I needed to keep the dilution low. It’s quite thick, so some dilution is necessary, but not much.) I’m not sure it stays washable after a prolonged period of time; it probably does.
Onto the test…
So I prepared my trusty Pnz IV mudguards with a green layer of paint, and sealed it with Dullcote. (So that it protects the paint from the ammonia.) The next layer was Tamiya’s flat white.
I divided up the segments, and got working. (I forgot to take a photo before I started to work on the AK Interactive chipping fluid. Imagine it white.)
AK Interactive Chipping fluid
I used a wet brush on the surface, and then gently a toothpick to nick the surface. The nicks were enlarged with a large, relatively stiff wet brush.
The resulting chips are giving a stark contrast between the white and the underlying green.
Mig Ammo Washable White
The paint is very thick and kind of shiny once on the surface (you can see this on the photo). After a little drying period, I used a wet brush with a downward motion to remove the paint. It got dissolved, and smeared over the surface. The residual paint formed an uneven layer over the green paint, making the surface look worn. No chips, but realistic worn effect.
The Windex Chipping method
I prepared a ~2% Ammonia solution using a kitchen cleaning product, and used a brush to wet the surface with it. I waited a minute or two and then gently rubbed the brush against the surface. For a long time nothing seemed to happen, but after a while I got a very nice, realistic chipping effect. It’s an important thing to point out: the effect is very gradual; for a while it really does look like nothing is happening. Some foam appears, but that’s it. Don’t push the brush down (now I’m rapping about modelling), as it might lift up the base layer as well.
You can see the same technique used to recreate rust on the electric mule I built not long ago. The square parts are about 0.5cm long. Unfortunately the photo is not the best (the most interesting part is out of focus), but the effect can still be judged: tiny, minuscule chips and general look of wear-and-tear. Pretty good, I’d say.
AK Interactive Chipping fluid and Windex combined
The fourth section was first treated with the AK Interactive chipping fluid, did the chips, then waited a couple of days. (It was probably close to a week, if I recall correctly.) The next step was to use the Windex method on the same section, forming smaller chips. The effects are subtle next to the large chips, but you can see how the paint rubbed off the edges and other areas sticking out. It also formed very tiny little chips between the larger ones, making the effect a bit more realistic. The Windex effects complements the larger chips of the previous method quite nicely. Due to dissolving the white color, it also deposited some on the green undercoat, making the contrast less pronounced in some areas. (Not all and not evenly.)
So there is it.
I think the washable paint looks good as a very worn winter whitewash on its own. If you use hairspray chipping for whitewash it would also be very useful to tone down the stark contrast between the underlying paint and the white on top.
The Windex method is great for subtle chips, but it also complements the larger hairspray chipping.
This, of course, is not limited to whitewashes; excellent chips can be done using a rust undercolor, or even a variation of the main color. (Green on green chips, camo pattern chips, etc.) Your imagination is the limit.
There are more than one ways to skin a cat, so these are not the definitive methods; there are other ones as well. AK Interactive just came out with a solution that makes any acrylic paint washable; the this opens up a large potential of uses from dust to worn paint. I have ordered it, so when I have some time I’ll see what it can do, and post the results.
(Here’s an imgur album for the photos- they are hopefully larger than the wordpress versions.)
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.
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.
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…)
AM companies are great at finding the gaps in the modelling world; and this vehicle was definitely something that has not been covered by anyone yet (to my knowledge). The C4-32 mule (which was designated as C-432 in reality) is a hardy little veteran of the US Army, but it has avoided the limelight so far. Even though the vehicle flew under the radar so to speak, and there are no webpages dedicated to it (it did not even get a nickname like “Yellow Tiger” or “Electric Lightning”), it was widely used by the US Armed Forces, and this makes it to be a very eye-catching little detail in any diorama that depict hangars, warehouses in military or in civilian use. (In this respect I would consider this model a diorama accessory rather than a scale model.)
So here is the Mule in all its glory:
(Yeah, it looks kind of silly.)
What’s in the box?
The kit comes in a small box, usual to plus model, with a photo of the assembled model on the front. The model is placed in a Ziploc bag; some parts were already detached from the pouring block, and the handle for the driver was broken. There is a small PE fret, a decal sheet, and instructions included.
The resin is good quality and easy to work with. The detail is excellent in general. There is not much flash to clean up, but some care will be needed when detaching parts from the block. The parts are numbered on the pouring blocks, which is very helpful during the building process.
There are a couple of PE parts included; mostly for the drivetrain of the cart, and the logo for the company that produced it. Since I did not find much in the way of reference, so I have to assume the dimensions are correct.
The instructions are overall not bad, but there are a couple of minor issues. On step two the part number of the fork that holds the wheel is not written (12), as on step three the number for the logo for the front of the vehicle (part 3 on the PE fret).
The building took about two hours and it really did not pose much of a challenge. Some parts of the assembly are a bit fiddly, but not impossibly hard. The little pins holding the front wheels and the main suspension comes to mind, mostly. The rest of the build is straightforward. You can build two versions of the vehicle, both in US Army service; one version has extra protective bumpers in the front and around the back.
I’ve left off the seat and other parts which were black before starting on the yellow paint. I’ve painted the whole model rust brown as a base which was sealed with Dullcote, and used the hairspray technique to create a battered, well used look. (I think I might have gone overboard with the scratches…) The next layer was the hairspray, and then came a mixture of Tamiya’s yellow and orange paint (about 3:1 ratio). Once the paint was dry to the touch I used a toothpick to “nick” the paint for the scratches, and then a wet brush to “expand” these areas. On some places on the model I had to retouch with the brown paint as the paint came off completely. Once I was happy with the results, I sealed the model with Dullcote again, and attached the seat, the pedals and other small bits. Since I did not expect the vehicle to operate in a dusty, muddy environment, I did not add dirt. The headlights were first painted silver, then I used Citadel’s red technical paint on the back headlight – these paints allow for an easy way to simulate lenses and gems. (They are not as good as the painted gemstones in miniatures, but they’re perfect for headlights.) The orange caution light that sits on a pole received similar treatment, only the base color was yellow. The result is pretty nice, I have to say: the paint does give a sense of depth.
So that’s pretty much it. The build was enjoyable -and short-, and the model is smaller than most 1/72nd scale tanks I’ve built.
Well, this has been a long, arduous trip. It was one of those models where you lose inspiration, you make mistakes, and it feels more and more frustrating to spend time on, rather than on a more rewarding project -and not because of any fault of the model itself. It was just one of those builds I guess. I had no clear conception where I want to end up, I made some mistakes, and it felt like a choir trying to push forward. The end result however, was surprisingly nice. So this is the story of the poor, neglected Lowe.
The Löwe was a 90 ton super heavy tank, which was planned -but never built- by Nazi Germany. It was superseded by the even heavier Maus- which actually did get built. Along with the super heavy members of the Entwicklung series, these gigantic tank design programs demonstrate some of the lunacy of the direction WWII tank design took to in Germany during the second half of the war: embarking on even more and more ambitious tank projects in search for a war-winning superweapon, consuming valuable resources and manpower, while the fronts were collapsing all around them. It did give us some nice-looking tank models, though, so there is some silver lining.
Disclaimer: I’ve used my review in Armorama for some of the text.
The plastic parts are well done, apart from some minor problems. Overall I found the quality of parts, the detail, etc. on par with the Eastern Express/UM/Roden offerings: not very good, but not bad, either. The detail, in general, is good; certainly not soft, but don’t expect DML quality. There is very little flash. The model could use some extra detailing; one of the things I would have liked to do was to replace the periscope covers with photo etched ones. (They are simple molded-on blocks. Armory produces excellent quality periscope covers for the King Tiger, which would probably serve well as substitute.) The one thing I really missed is the depiction of the interlocking armor plates on the upper hull. The hull was (to be) originally constructed by welding slabs of armor together, and the points where these armor plates meet should be visible (you can see this on the hull of the Tiger, and Tiger II, for example). It would have been nice to have these details molded onto the hull. It’s possible to carve them out, but I decided not to bother with them. Some parts you will have to create yourself; you will need some wire for the towing cables, for example. (You can get some wire used to hang pictures from art stores.)
The only real problem I found was the engine deck. The grills have several casting imperfections (see photo above), where plastic got into the perforated parts; if you want to open them up, you will have to work very carefully with a very thin scalpel. I attempted, but quickly decided to leave them as they were- did not want to risk the delicate plastic detail. I assume the vehicle would have had screens over the engine deck, just as the Tiger I and Tiger II did; these would have been great additions to the model. (I tried to find aftermarket 1/72 scale Tiger II grille screens, but the only one set I managed to find was sold out everywhere.)
The tracks are flexible, and made out of several segments. The detail is somewhat soft on the inner side; again not a big problem. This solution of segmented flexible tracks is an interesting combination of the link-and-length plastic tracks and the “rubber band” style tracks. It makes it easier to install them, but alignment is a problem – in fact it is kind of a nightmare. A set of PE tracks would have been really nice (although this is a bit too much to ask for this price I admit), or at least some plastic alternatives. All in all, the kit could use some more brass. As for tracks and engine deck grilles I’m happy to report that Armory has came out not long ago with an updated version of this kit, which alleviates all these issues.
Finally, the modeller gets an option of building a “historical” model (whatever it means in this context), or the World of Tanks version of the vehicle (you get the very characteristic muzzle break from the game, and a different engine hatch on the back panel).
Instructions are well done, and easy to follow, but the first part of the build is a bit challenging if you follow them. The hull has to be assembled from multiple parts (as usual in these kits). The issue is that if you follow the instructions, the hull parts will not fit. Once you assembled the “tub” that makes up the lower part of the hull, you are supposed to glue the fenders onto the sides, and finally place the upper part of the hull on top of this. The plastic parts are on the thick side, and the guiding ridges are not perfectly placed onto the fenders. Despite of how small these differences are, they do add up. When you put the lower and the upper part of the hull together, there will be a gap on the front where these two halves should meet.
The best –and quite easy- way to get around this problem is to do some surgery first, and to deviate from the instructions. First, thin the sides of the top part of the hull from the inside a bit (for an easier fit into the grooves molded onto the mudguards). Glue the back panel, the top and the bottom parts together first (parts 1, 24, 35), creating the overall shape of the tank (see photos) without the sides.
This way the top and bottom will touch in the front. This is the time to use some filler to make sure the attachment points on the back and the front are smooth, and there are no seams anywhere.
Sand off the guiding ridges from the side parts (parts 34, 36) of the hull, and glue them in place. Cut away the guiding ridges from the sides of the fenders (parts 23, 25). It is necessary, as they are supposed to go on top of the side panels, locking together with the ridges on those parts, fitting between the two hull halves. Unfortunately there is not enough space. The fenders themselves are not thin enough to fit, but this will not be an issue if you remove these ridges. (It would have been more fortunate if the fenders were made of PE.) Glue the fenders in place, and you are almost finished with the build.
The other issue I had with the kit was that the attachment of the back panel is a bit unfortunate. Usually the top of the hull goes over the back panel, covering it. This follows the original way of construction, and does not break the upper surface with an extra seam. In this kit, however, the back panel is placed behind the top part, creating an extra seam on the top of the hull. This, unfortunately, needs to be eliminated with filler.
The turret has a strange, round shape, which is very uncharacteristic of the usual angular German designs. It is made out of three parts: the main part of the turret (part 2), the frontal bit under the gun mantlet (part 6), and the bottom part, which will not be seen (part 17). This bottom part has two invaginations which should fit with the two little pegs molded onto the smaller, frontal part of the turret, but they are too small for the actual parts. You will have to enlarge them with a scalpel. It’s not a major surgery, and as it will be hidden under the turret, it will not impact on how the model will look. The rest of the kit falls together without any problems whatsoever.
I have finished the model to the point of weathering for this review. A couple of details are missing (the towing lines, for example, as I will need to fashion one later). Photos of the finished model will be posted in the World of Tanks campaign forum.
I’ve given the tank an uniform German grey color, before attaching all the equipment, tools, etc to the hull.
At this point I kind of lost my motivation to go ahead. I had other projects, and I felt a bit stalled; I was not sure what direction I would like to take the model.
After spending a year in a box (I’ve moved to London, I’ve had other worries) I dusted the Lowe off, and gave a hard thought of what sort of a paintjob I wanted to give it. I settled with the octopus-pattern, which I’ve seen on some fictional 1946 designs. The build stalled even further as I had no idea how to achieve this finish…
The next breakthrough was when I spotted a punch set in a charity shop; I managed to make little rings out of masking tape. They were not exactly good, but I went ahead, nevertheless as I wanted to get the painting over with.
The results were disappointing to say the least. The masking tape rings were not good enough, and I’ve used Mig’s paints for the first time without reading about them. I assumed they are to be used the same manner as Tamiya paints; well, I was wrong. Nevertheless at this point all I saw was that the paint behaved weirdly, and I really, really hated it. (Since then I actually learned to use it properly.)
The other thing I’ve failed to consider in my rush to finish the build was the scale effect: the model had a really bad, very strong contrast. (The colors should have been “toned down” in this scale.) Needless to say I went on working on more successful projects; nobody likes to be reminded of mucking things up.
The next step -after standing like this in my “half-finished” box, I’ve decided to give it a winter whitewash; to use the model for practising -and to finish it finally; and this I did. I’ve covered the Lowe with dullcoat, and used Tamiya white in several light, irregular layers. About 30 minutes later I’ve brought out my ammonia-containing cleaning product, and proceeded to do some practice on the Windex chipping method. This relies on the fact that ammonia dissolves Tamiya paints, and by preparing a 2-3% solution you can carefully remove some of it with a brush. (It’s a process that can be controlled surprisingly well.) It creates much subtler chips than chipping solutions/hairspray technique.
Once the whitewash was on and made look worn, I was in the finish. The model finally looked like a proper model, all past mistakes corrected or hidden away, and even the octopus camo pattern looked good under the whitewash. The emotional roller-coaster was high again. Some white pigments (chalk ground up) in water was used on the fenders and the back of the engine compartment to simulate accumulated snow.
Since it was a winter vehicle I wanted to make it looked dirtied up. Winter slush is dark, almost black. I’ve used oil paints as a slurry, and to make it look even dirtier and disgusting I’ve put some green in the mixture as well. I’ve used MiniArt’s painting guide to the SU-122 as an inspiration: the winter camo (“Rudolph, the red topped SPG”) option is quite dirty and covered in this dark, blackish much.
I dabbed the oils on using a large brush, and used a clean, wet brush to “wash back”, and remove the excess from the top part of the hull, and other regions where I judged the dirt to be too much. The brush then -since it had some pigments trapped in it already- was dabbed onto the turret and other “lightly” soiled areas.
Essentially this was it. The moral of this story is essentially this: despite of all my efforts to mess it up, I managed to make something resembling a presentable tank out of this model.