A simple Warhammer 40K dio brought to you by Ferrero Rocher -part 1

The Warhammer universe is a very fascinating one indeed. From a (somewhat over the top) space-opera-based table-top game it became a very interesting universe with an incredibly fascinating lore. This is a world, where the Imperium of Man is even worse than the Nazi regime, yet they are the good guys, simply because the others are even worse than them… (Worth reading just to get a sense what the dark AD 40 000 means for Humanity.)

True, most of the books read like fan fiction, but there are true gems in the Black Library. Aaron Dembski-Bowden and Abnet two of the best writers ever worked with Games Workshop, and created some truly remarkable books about Chaos, and what corruption is for people (normal or space marine) who fall into corruption -from their own choice (Eisenhorn), or because someone else made this choice for them (Thousand Sons). Since reading The Legion and the First Heretic from the Horus Heresy series, the Night Lords series, and the Talon of Horus, I became immensely fascinated by Astrates who turned to Chaos. Most other writers simply depict them as quite undimensional characters -as in “hur-hur, we worship Chaos and froth in the mouth”. Dembinsky made a pretty good case that these traitors actually have a point, and they are more than just a bunch of brainless maniacs… So I got myself a couple of WH40K figures (both Forgeworld and GW ones) on Ebay and got on painting.

The question is though- how you display them? The answer, of course, is the eight-sided plastic boxes Ferrero Rocher comes in… (Eight, as we know, is a special number signifying Chaos Undivided.)

Well, for this project everything was new- so I made everything up as I went along…

Base: turn the box upside down; the top will serve as a base. Glue pieces of cork onto it, as it can be used as an excellent way to depict rubble, stones, broken concrete.

Added some Tamiya texture paint (concrete color and earth color). Did some oil washes on the cork slabs.

I glued some pieces of weapons and different debris from my spares box (also from Ebay) on to the base, but it did not look very convincing. From then on, I just said screw that, and used actual dirt mixed with white glue… Once it settled, I sprinkled all sort of earth and dust colored pigments on top, and called the earthwork done. Most everything (weapons, vehicle parts, etc) are covered completely, but hey, it’s a battlefield, right?

The painting of the figures took about six months of work on and off. I kept watching tutorials on youtube (especially about how to paint fabric), and kept doing and redoing the paintwork. Also experimented a lot using inks and washes. I have to say I did learn a lot about figure painting, but I’m still not doing the GW school of painting very well. (Jewels are still not working out well…)

I chose three of the seven Dark Vengeance chaos Astrates, and glued them onto the base. Job done.

I tried to choose figures that complement each other- a sorcerer, a World Eater berserker, and an Emperor’s Children space marine. The paintwork is trying to convey the differences between these characters: the sorcerer is well-kept, the World Eater is wearing a very, very worn, damaged and mutated power armor, and the Emperor’s Children has also seen better days when it comes to paintjob and general armor maintenance. I really like the menacing pose the World Eater stroke: the power claws held slightly apart convey an incredible level of threat. The half-helmet is nice, too; it exposes the pallid flesh on his skull. (At least I chose to see it this way. My minis, my rules.)

Three other chaos chaps got onto another similar base for part 2.

The only thing left now is to clean off the sides of the base- but that’ll have to wait some time. I think we’ve had our fun together with these guys, and it’s time to move on.

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AT-ST in the snow

This one is an old build, too… built in Florida, on a sunny Winter week. (This gave the idea for the snow…)

The kit is from a TJ Maxx at the Sawgrass expressway. For some reason they had an AT-ST for 2 dollars -which I had to buy, of course. This is my first Star Wars model. The build took about an hour, approximately.

The base is neutral gray. I decided to do a funky camo, and chose a nice gray-blue – it looks perfect for a winter setting. Took a big roll of masking tape, and started to cut shapes. The results are surprisingly good. (The secret, I think, is to keep it random. It’s very easy to start repeating the same patterns.)

I did not go for heavy weathering; just some light filters, some light pin washes, and scratches. I did, however, apply a couple of high-caliber laser hits.

Once the walker was ready, I used the usual white-glue and sodium bicarbonate mix for snow, and glued the whole setup into a display case for protection.

SD.Kfz 251 Bonanza part 3 – the weirdos

This is the final installment of the posts dedicated to the 1/72 Sd.Kfz.251 versions, and I collected the weirder, stranger looking ones here.

Sd.Kfz.251/23 Mitteler Schützenpanzerwagen mit 2cm KwK

This was a reconnaissance version; they transformed the crew compartment into an enclosed one, and stuck a Haengelafette 38 turret on top of it. This was the same turret as used on the Sd.Kfz.250/9, which this model was supposed to replace.  To be fair, the vehicle did not progress further than prototype phase, and we don’t actually have evidence about most of its features -the outline of the interior, or the enclosed roof, among other things. (This bothers me a bit, as it makes no sense at all. The side-armor might be able to withstand small-arms fire, but nothing more, and by closing over the crew compartment you essentially took away most of the escape routes of the crew. Even outside battle, it must have been pretty awkward for the driver and the radio operator to stop and get out to take a leak, too. The halftrack is also larger than the 250/9, which makes it even less suitable for reconnaissance. It does look nice, though.

As usual, Modelltrans offers a conversion, which fits the DML kits quite nicely. (It’s made for the Hasegawa kit, but as I said before: there is no reason to choose any other 251 models than the DML offering. The only frustrating thing about the DML model is the license plate: you have to put the numbers and letters individually on. Not sure why this was important, but it does make things a bit slow. I usually chose birthdays of family members by the way.)

The PE is very delicate. It is so delicate, in fact, that you’ll snap it, if you bend it more than once. Be very careful.

The parts are nicely cast; even the resin 2cm gun barrel is perfect. (Not sure why Modelltrans does not provide a metal one). If you want to know more about the conversion, here’s the review.

Everything is in place.

The roof fits like a dream; only a little surgery was needed.

The final product. I have to say the assembly of the PE screens was very, very difficult. After detaching them by handling the kit, I attached them after I glued the model in place.

The model was relocated later into a different display case.

Sd.Kfz 251D/R-35

Now, this one is a weird contraption. It’s really difficult what went on in the minds of its creators, but it probably involved a lot of alcohol, and perhaps quite a bit of hallucinogenic substrates as well. There is only one photo available which depicts this strange conversion, and there’s no information who or why it was created. It might have been a couple of mechanics pulling pranks using derelict equipment. Why didn’t they just took the gun, and put it on a mount escapes me. I doubt the heavy turret on top of this vehicle helped with balance issues, and it was most likely not possible to turn it, either.

Again, ModellTrans comes to the rescue with a conversion. (Review here.)

The original

The conversion is simple; if it is the first time you try your hands on one of these sets, this should be the one you choose. (It was my first choice, in fact.)

I weathered the vehicle a lot, making sure the original camo is really, really worn, faded and battered. The back story is that the French mechanics, who made this conversion (the photo shows French soldiers, no Germans), used a really worn-out 251 as a base, and put a relatively undamaged turret from a captured-then-recaptured Hotskiss tank. The base is a somewhat corroded armor plate. The faded, damaged camo was done with drybrushing – several layers of the base and the camo colors on top of each other made the paint look like it was worn off. The corroded plate was painted red-brown (tamiya), and I used oil paints (umber, burned umber, red, black) to make the rust more realistic.

Sd.Kfz.251/16

These guys know how to make an entry

Flamethrowers are horrible weapons. (Not that other weapons are not horrible, but these are especially horrifying.)

Over the war different versions were used: a guy with a napalm tank on his back, converted tanks, and converted half-tracks as well. I’ve bought a white metal kit on Ebay because I wanted to see how good (or bad) they are, instead of getting the CMK conversion. Bad idea. Very bad idea. The model was horrible, heavy, and bent.

I took the flame-thrower part, and placed it into a DML model. Tried to add some details here and there (tubes, valves, etc.), but overall, I did not feel confident enough to completely rebuild the thing. I should have. Or I should have just thrown the whole thing out, and get the CMK conversion.

Well, here’s the result. Once painted, it does not look half bad; but it IS heavy. I managed to do the fading with several application of yellow and sand colored filters.

Sd. Kfz. 251/20

The last one is one of my favorite conversions: the UHU. The Germans were experimenting with night-fighting, and this one was one of the first ever night-vision equipment. (Well, one half. The other half was the detectors.) It was supposed to illuminate the battlefield with IR light, which was detected by the IR detectors attached to other vehicles. It did not work very well, of course, but it was a first step. (The first, practical night vision equipment was developed in the late 70s,.. so it did take some time.) Both Kora models and CMK produces conversion for this version, and I went with the CMK one -seeing that it was cheaper. The Kora is probably a bit more detailed, however, both conversion suffer from a very acute problem: they do not include the generator for the searchlight.

The CMK conversion is typical CMK: easy to build, clean, well made, but lacking some details. A full review is here.

I wanted to build the base vehicle as a reasonably clean, but used vehicle, and the searchlight received minimal weathering, as this system was not used extensively (and only for a short time). They were essentially fresh out of the factory when they were taken out of service, and the 251s converted back into troop carriers. (To this day I could not find out if the fire extinguishers were red in the inside of the vehicle. The ones mounted outside were usually painted in the camo colors; but I can’t find any information about the ones kept in the inside. I painted them red to give some contrast to the vehicle.)

Sd.Kfz.251 bonanza part 2. The AAA section

Just to recap from part one – I developed an immense (or unhealthy, depending on your point of view) fascination with the different versions and variations of the sd.kfz. 251 halftrack series at one point in my life. (Others do coke; I think I was still better off, although the costs were probably the same.)

I realized a lot of these models were available as conversions in 1/72, and the scale also offered one thing the 1/35 scale can never do: a reasonable time-frame of building. Imagine completing 10-13 models of the same type, putting together the same modules, gluing the same individual tracks, and you’ll have a decent image of a scale modeller’s hell. (At least my hell.) A disclaimer (again): unfortunately I had no airbrush at the time; and my skills with brushes are not as good as the airbrushing skills (which are, in turn, not very high either). So view the results with this in mind, please. (I also need to mention -again- that I used DML’s 1/72 251 model – I can only recommend this kit to anyone. It’s accurate, easy to build, the details are perfect, and it’s ideal for conversions.)

So to today’s topic: AAA vehicles. Funnily enough the Germans did not manage to stick an 8.8 onto this platform; the chassis was simply not strong enough. (I did build a lot of 8.8 based vehicles; most of them are on this blog, and some will be featured as soon as they are finished.)

That leaves us with the smaller caliber guns. Since Allied air superiority was an issue at later stages of the war, many different vehicles were converted into anti-aircraft gun platform. Some of these vehicles were purpose built, based on a chassis of an usually outdated vehicle, and a lot of them were converted ad hoc. There were even kits delivered to divisions which helped the workshops to do the conversion in the field. The success rate of these vehicles are dubious – for obvious reasons they quickly became the targets of ground attack aircraft, and they were not as heavily armored as the tanks they were protecting.

Sd.Kfz. 251/17

This version was equipped with a pretty cool looking gun with a small, triangular gunshield, which can be used against low flying airplanes or infantry for that matter. ModellTrans offers a neat little conversion set with turned barrel, and I have to admit it’s pretty nice. The attachment of the shield is a bit difficult, and you’ll have to add some styrene rods to the build yourself, but that’s just part of the world of resin conversions. (The moulding is pretty impressive; they managed to mould the handgrabs onto the shield.) More important issue, though, is that only one ammo storage rack is provided. I wrote a review about this conversion on armorama, so if you want to know more about the kit itself, you can read more about it.

There are instructions provided, which was a welcome change.

You literally just drop the gun into the hull, and you’re done with the conversion. No surgery, no major modification required.

Painted and weathered… (It was a learning curve how to weather 1/72 kits. Funnily enough it looks pretty good by eye; the camera has this tendency to expose the problems in a very brutally honest manner.)

Next stop: the Sd.Kfz.251/21 Drilling


To introduce this version I’d like to quote the review of this conversion.

As war progressed, aircraft needed a bigger punch. The Luftwaffe adopted heavier 3 cm cannons instead of the various 1.5-2 cm guns they have been using before, so there was a large surplus of the excellent Mauser MG151/15 and 20 cannons (15 and 20 mm respectively). Not to let the guns go to waste, the Kriegsmarine constructed a simple triple gun mount called Flak Drilling Sockellafette. This gun mount was adapted for the Sd.Kfz.251 to provide an anti-aircraft platform. They were available as kits for the troops to make this conversion possible on the field as I mentioned in the introduction. All benches were removed from the vehicle, and additional armor plates were installed around the sides. The mount itself was simply bolted onto the floor of the passenger compartment. Two ammo chests were placed in the back with a total capacity of 3000 rounds/vehicle.

The gun mount was a full rotating pedestal with a cradle assembly which housed three MG151s. They were mounted slightly offset to the right side to allow clearance for the ammunition belts and feed chutes. The shells and belt links were collected inside the pedestal. The guns were fed from three ammunition boxes attached to the pedestal itself. The center box was larger than the two others, containing 400 rounds in mixed HE, AP and tracer rounds. The two side boxes contained 250 rounds each. This arrangement was necessary as the middle gun was considerably more difficult to reload.

The gunner was sitting on a metal seat suspended at the rear of the gun, and operated the whole mount manually. The triggers were placed on the two handgrips. Early versions had reflector type gun sights, while the late ones used speed ring sights. (The armor shield and cradle assembly was different as well in these versions.)

The CMK conversion set is typical of the company: it’s professional, well designed, easy to assemble, but somewhat sparse on the details, and contains inaccuracies. (The review lists the issues I could find with the set.) The most important issue concerns the gun barrels. They are made of resin, and quite chunky. I’ve seen amazingly accurate resin barrels for the Modelltrans Luchs, so convincing 2cm guns can be produced using resin, but these ones really look like a couple of broom handles. This is when you buy an aftermarket set for your aftermarket set -a couple of metal barrels. The other problem is that the gun sits too low on its pedestal; the whole assembly should be much more higher to clear the sides of the vehicle. I’ve lifted it up considerably once I realized that it would sink under the sides. (The shields are way too wide as well, but this is not as noticeable.)

Sd.Kfz.251/17 mit 2 cm Flak 38 Luftwaffe Ausführung


This was a purpose-built anti-aircraft platform for the Luftwaffe’s armored forces. (I know. Why they needed tanks is everyone’s guess. Goering wanted some cool stuff, too, and that was the end of the story. I think the world can thank a lot to the ineptitude and stupidity of the leaders of the Third Reich… looking at the success of the Mongols it’s a scary thought what would have happened if the German war machine was lead by competent leaders.) Anyway, back to the model. The whole crew compartment was radically altered to accomodate the 2cm Flak gun and the fold-down sides. All in all, it looks quite wicked I think.
ModellTrans offers a full kit of this vehicle. There are some issues with the kit: some moulding imperfection (which are to be expected), some accuracy issues (please read the review for more information), but the main problem is with the chassis itself: it’s different from the basic model. The bottom of the chassis is much more narrow than the original 251’s. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a problem with the model, and not a design feature in the original half-track, however it is an issue which you will not notice once the model is complete. The shields are very thin, and quite delicate -a very impressive feat in resin-making. As usual, instructions are somewhat sparse- they only cover the gun’s assembly. Using photos, however, it should not be a problem to build the rest of the model. (Of all the missing details I really think they should have included the rifle-rack on the mudguards, though. I’m planning to add it at a later time.)

So here they go. The three AAA vehicles in the display case. Since I’m moving about a lot, and don’t have a stable base of operation, I’m fixing my models in display cases -easy to store, easy to transport. It also protects them from accidental damage and dust.

Sd.Kfz.251 bonanza part 1. The Beginings

Well, here we go. When in 2009 I took up a PhD position in the UK, I was forced to mothball all my fancy model building equipment, my airbrush, and live my first year off in undergrad housing.

That meant little space and brushes, so 1/72 here I came. I wanted to keep building models, especially that the local toy store had an amazing array of models, paints, aftermarket, and tools… the first proper model shop I’ve seen in a long time. (I’ve discovered ModelZone later, but it since did go out of business; regardless, Langley’s is still the best there is.)

After the first couple of random models I’ve built I realized that the sd.kfz.251 has an incredible number of conversion sets for 1/72. I started to collect the DML 3 in 1 kits previously, but let’s face it: it takes an awful lot of time to build a 1/35 kit. If you want to build several versions of the same vehicle, it means a lot of repetitive steps and assembly of identical parts. I started to order the conversion sets one after another, and kept buying the 1/72 DML 251s from Ebay. Interestingly they cost just as much as the ESCI/Hasegawa/Revell offerings, but they are infinitely better, not to mention easier to convert, as the floor does not have any holes or ridges to help position the seats molded on. It also has the proper no-slip surface.

So a pro advice for you: if you want to convert 251s in 1/72 scale, use the DML kits. I managed to buy a ton of identical 251s from China on Ebay for quite a low price. (Does anyone know what I could do with 5 sets of Wurfrahmen rockets?)

I’ve also realized that the Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf. A and B versions are actually different from the more known C and D versions, and the only available, accurate model is in 1/72 scale – by ModellTrans.

So- to the builds!

(This is how my room looked like at one point in the first year I’ve spent in the UK.)

This little exercise taught me to appreciate the airbrush. I did develop some skills in basic brushwork, but I have to admit, it’s not my strength. It was also a great practice in weathering small scale models. (The camera is brutal; the models do look better in real life. Somehow the brain is more forgiving than the lens of the Cannon I use.)

Sd.Kfz.251 Ausf A

I’ve decided to build the Ausf A version, since the B was not very prominent, and did not differ considerably from the A. I’ll quote myself from the armorama review I’ve written about the model.

The development started on the basis of the sd.kfz.11 halftrack. A ballistically shaped armored superstructure was built on the chassis of the vehicle, creating an armored personnel carrier capable of transporting ten troops, a driver and a commander. The ausf. A, and the interim ausf. B, were considerably different from the much more widely known ausf C and D models. The nose was made of two armor plates with a ventilating flap in the middle; two other flaps were located on the sides of the engine compartment. Later cowls were added over the cooling flaps on the ausf. B. The air intake for the radiator was located under a grille on the engine deck in front of the large double hatch. This version was equipped with a bumper, which was not present on the ausf C/D vehicles. The turning indicators were placed right in front of the front vision blocks; later, in the ausf C., they were moved lower, just above the front mudguards. The armor was mostly welded with a few places where rivets were used (the hinges on the back doors, for example).There were three vision blocks on each side of the half-track: one for the driver or commander, and two for the passengers (these last two were removed in the ausf B).

There were two MG34s mounted on the vehicle’s front and back in unprotected mounts. They were later retrofitted with armored shields, and fixed pivot mounts which increased protection and accuracy; it’s not uncommon to see photos of early 251 ausf A’s with sandbags around the front MG mount. The toolboxes were located on the middle of the fenders; most of the larger tools were fixed to the sides of the passenger compartment.

The interior of the vehicle was also very different from the ausf C/D versions. The seats for the driver and commander were much more simple constructions, with padded cushions and separate backrest with simple support frames. The 251 was equipped with the standard Funksprechgerat F radio. It was placed on the side-wall, just behind the commander in the ausf A version, making its operation a bit difficult, as he had to turn back and sideways to access it. In the ausf B version it was moved to its final position, in front of the commander. (There was a medical kit in the ausf A version in this position.) The aerial of the radio was originally on the right front mudguard, and this also was moved on the ausf. B to the right side of the passenger compartment. The benches in the passenger compartment were also much simpler, and the backrests were placed directly against the armored superstructure; there were no stowage bins installed (the presence of the side vision ports would have made them impossible to install). These were added in the ausf. C version. There were brackets on the walls of the passenger compartment for attaching the two MG34s, spare barrels, Kar98 rifles and other equipment.

As you can see there’s a lot in the box; some of the parts are quite astonishing, in fact. (The main hull is an especially impressive feat of engineering.) You do get a lot of things, but one thing you don’t get is instructions. Since this was my first full resin model, I was quite worried that I got a defective kit. Regardless, with some planning and research, it’s pretty easy to figure out what goes where. There were some bubbles and casting imperfections, though. Some of them were not easy to fix, so I left them like that, rather than risking damage to the details.

The tracks are given as an already assembled unit, which made assembly easier.

The finished product. (I borrowed a machine gun from one of the DML kits, and used an aftermarket set for personal belongings that were hang onto the sides.) I really wish I had an airbrush; that’s all I can say…

Other versions:

DML Sd.Kfz. 251/7 Ausf D. w 2.8cm sPzB 41 gunThe sPzB 41 was a squeeze bore AT gun– relatively small with a big punch. Comes with an Sd.Kfz 251 halftrack and a pair of pioneer bridges for a limited time only. The kit is excellent quality, and the gun itself is brilliant.

But if we’re talking about AT guns, then we cannot go wrong with a PaK 40, can we?

Well, more to come soon 🙂

Silly Putty masking

To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what silly putty is actually for. I know it’s a toy, but I’m in the dark about what kids are using it for. It was not sold when I was a kid where I grew up, and I only know what I use it for… A couple of years ago I was told how great masking agent it really makes on an online forum, so I headed to the kids’ isle at the local Walmart, and invested about $3 for a plastic egg full of silly putty. I thought I’d share this little gem, in case some people have not heard of it yet. You can buy dedicated products, which behave the same way, but I strongly suspect these companies are selling dirt-cheap silly putty repackaged as dedicated modelling product. (The very same thing happens with laboratory supplies… companies sell blenders, microwaves and other kitchen appliances as labware on a highly inflated price.) Anyhow, back to our post’s focus. Silly putty is a strange silicon polymer: it is essentially an incredibly viscous fluid, but it can also behave like an elastic solid material. (It’s a non-Newtonian fluid, if you really want to know.) So essentially what it means is that it can be shaped really easily, like clay, it “flows” into crevices, yet if you smash a handful against a wall, it will bounce off, like a rubber ball. We are not going to smash it against anything, though. This elastic, viscous nature makes silly putty an ideal masking agent. Using small pieces, you can easily form camo patterns on models. Obviously, for straight lines masking tapes are still your best bet, but to recreate irregular camo, it’s just perfect. Just place it on the model’s surface in the desired pattern, and use a toothpick to shape it further once it settled. Spray, and repeat if you have more than one colors to paint. It’s that easy. I used blue-tac for similar purposes, but it’s quite rigid, and difficult to make stick to the surface; silly putty is an all-around better option. Additionally, the material is very easy to work with. If you flatten it against a hard surface (a piece of glass, for example), you will have easy-to-use “pancakes” to work with; these can even be pre-cut it to shape with a sharp blade. Just carefully peel them off the glass, and lay them onto the model. Silly putty will not stick to anything (well, any model) permanently, and comes off clean, so you don’t have to worry about residues. If there are some residual material that got stuck in some real deep, real intricate pattern (like moulded-on grilles), rubbing a small piece of silly putty against any residual pieces will remove them easily. It will not dissolve in acrylic paint so they are absolutely safe to work with –can’t vouch for enamels, though, as I’ve never tried them. One thing you still have to keep in mind is the matter of small parts. If you are not careful, silly putty will remove any small parts from the surface, when you peel it off, so you’ll have to dig in for those PE clamps or headlights. (Same is true for any masking agents, though. On a positive note, silly putty will not break them when you apply it to the surface, unlike blue-tac, which does need some force to make it settle.) The best thing you can do is to leave those parts off until you finish the camo. Another general advice (which I sometimes ignore due to impatience) is to use several light layers, instead of a few heavy ones… this will make sure paint does not build up at the masking agent. After you are finished, you can just peel off the putty carefully (or use some more to rub it off with), and reuse. It seems to absorb the dried paint flakes without any issues, and it does not affect its behaviour. If you find after a couple of (dozen? hundred?) uses that the putty does not work as intended any more, it’s really cheap to replace. As a demonstration, I’d like to share some images of a DML 1/72 Sd.Kfz.251 halftrack painted using an airbrush, masked with silly putty. The putty was placed onto the vehicle in strips, according to the pattern shown in the instructions. After the first layer of color (green), it was further covered to add the second color (brown). Because it’s so easy to manipulate, and because it can be shaped very well, its “resolution” (the smallest detail you can make out) is quite high; you can create really intricate patterns even in small scale with very little effort. As you can see the putty was wrapped around the width indicator rods without any problems. Gently removing it shows the pattern achieved. And here is the result of the painting session

Mobelwagen -abandoned and frozen

This is going to be an old build, and the second 1/35 model in this blog; I built this tank about ten years ago under the sunny skies of Florida. This does account for the execution. (Not that I’ve became a master since then.) It’s probably the first model I’ve done some serious weathering on, and the second “diorama” I’ve made. (If you can call a desolate winter setting a diorama.) Looking back at photos of my previous builts I have to say there will be some serious weathering done once they get out of their boxes in my mother’s attic.

Mobelwagen- a furniture transporter indeed. In travel position this vehicle does look like someone stuck a cabinet on top of a tank.

This vehicle grow out of the desperate need of the German armored forces for some protection from fighter-bombers, since the Allied airforces (Western and Soviet) had quite a lot of air superiority at the later stages of the war, and nobody likes rockets and cannons raining fire on top of their tanks, where the armor is thinnest, anyway. So they kept sticking AA guns on top of everything that moved. One of the first attempt was using a PnzIV chassis. It looked quite ungainly, especially with the sides up, and it took a couple of minutes to prepare for deployment. This might not sound like a lot of time, but when an IL-2 formation is making a low level attack run on you 300kph, it does make a difference. This issue was remedied in later versions (like the Whiberwind) of AAA tanks.

I have gotten this kit as a present from a friend in the US. He was a generous soul, and sent a couple of kits over the years as he knew I was struggling financially. It’s an old Alan kit (I think) and the result of an unholy matrimony between a Tamiya base kit, and an injection-moulded conversion with some PE thrown in. (Back then the Tamiya Mobelwagen has not been issued yet.) The difference in quality of the plastic between the two parts was very much visible. The construction was not a very easy process; as expected, the Tamiya parts went together like a dream, but the conversion was not the easiest thing to finish with my –then even more- limited skills. This also explains the setting. I could claim I was planning it as a deserted, abandoned tank, but I’d be lying. (It’s a nice counterpoint to the previous post- a burned out Jeep on a forgotten Pacific beach.) The truth is I just gave up on trying aligning the sides perfectly, not to mention the gun itself needed a lot of extra work. The flash was horrible, some parts were warped, and in general the detail was just not good enough. It should have been swapped to another model of the Flak gun, but I was on a budget, as I said. (And at that point I was pretty much frustrated with the whole built, so I would have been reluctant to throw money –and effort- at it.) The PE mudguards were nice, though, as they made it easy to make the tank look a bit “used”. (This was the first ever time I actually dared to damage and bend PE parts… someone suggested using my teeth, but I resorted to use a small plyer and a pen.)

Once ready, the model was treated as usual: small pin washes with oils, scratches painted on, and faded paint applied with an airbrush. The weathering was done using the hairspray method. Once the whitewash was on, it took some time to make the hairspray dissolve with a brush first- and then using a blunt piece of wood for the scratches. The effect was remarkably nice; I wish I could say it was intentional. Nevertheless, I’m pretty proud if it. (A lot of these weathering techniques have quite random effects; this actually leads to a convincing finish, but makes them hard to replicate accurately.) Once I was happy with the worn effect, I sealed the paintwork with some matt varnish.

This tank was also my first dabbing into the world of pigments –ground up chalk. White, in this case. I dissolved some in water (well, not dissolved, technically, but mixed into), and layered it onto the surface of the winter camouflage. This softened the contrast between the original camo and the whitewash.

The snow is just baking soda and white glue mixed together, heaped onto the base, and into the crevices of the model. I wanted to show the tank as abandoned and frozen up in the Russian winter. The crew obviously made it out alive, escaped the hell of war, and lead productive, peaceful lives, trying to forget the horrors they were part of.

All in all, this model turned out to be much better than I was hoping for, and was a very good testbed for several techniques. The moral of this story, I think, is to be brave enough to experiment. I did notice before (and since) that I’m very reluctant to “damage” good builds. You spend a lot of money and time to build a very nice model, and you don’t want to risk it by bending some PE, or cutting some holes. Since I wrote this model off during the construction phase, I was bolder than usual to try my hands out in different techniques.

A burned-out Jeep

A long time ago in a childhood far away I purchased an old Tamiya 1/35 Jeep with the intention of building it. Back then I was mostly focused on airplanes, and this was the very definition of impulse-buy… So this model got half-built, then forgotten. Parts got chewed up by the carpet monster, and the hull made it from Sopron to all the way to Florida. (From 1994 to 2006… talk about long gestation.)

There it was used as a test-piece: I used it as a testbed before each airbrush session, so it was painted in all different (and funky) colors. It also got more and more damaged. And then I saw a photo of a model of a burned-out tank, where the burned off rubber rims were replicated using white pigments. I really, really wanted to build something where I can show off some burned rubber. (Talk about buying a coat for a button.)

Then came the idea. While building an M40 SPG I thought I might as well finish the Jeep. There were no real plans; I just wanted to make it look like it was completely burned out. I replaced some parts of the chassis with aluminum foil, which was torn and bent; I took away most of the seat cushions with a rotary tool, and covered the remains with more foil, and essentially, that was it. The Jeep was covered with olive green, and then I just went for it with different rust colors. Black, orange, brown, and red in different shades were added to stimulate the effects of burned and oxidized/rusted metal. I took off the rubber tires of one of the wheels using the rotary tool, and sanded them more-or-less circular. (They did not need to be perfect; things bend.) The other wheels were used to test an interesting product called Rust-it: a colloidal iron mixture which is used as a paint, and then treated with acid to create rust.

Unfortunately I have not taken photos of the original, or any of the steps… it was a spur-of-the-moment thing.

I used a cheap picture frame as a base, and plaster mixed with corral sand (the only sand around Florida) to set the model into. Some more airbrushing made it look like some hard-shelled battlefield somewhere in the Pacific, The story was simple: the Jeep broke the front axle in a shell-hole, and was subsequently damaged by further shelling; one of the explosions set it on fire, and it burned out. There were no causalities; no skeletons or human remains were placed into the diorama. (I’m a pacifist, to be honest; I cannot really explain my fascination with these machines of war.)

Once it was in place, I used some oil filters, some oil paint directly, and a lot of pigments to make soot and dirt. I also used white pigments to finally get my burned rubber down. (Unfortunately this is the one thing you cannot see really.)

My then girlfriend was so taken away with the result, she made me an offer I could not refuse (as in: you will have to give this to me, because it’s awesome), so I’m proud to say, this was the very first model I’ve ever given away.

The tale of the four Famos

Yes, I know it’s not the name of the vehicle. But since Sd.Kfz.9 does not roll off the tongue as smoothly, and since everyone calls this half-track Famo , I’ll call it Famo , and you’ll just have to deal with it.

I always had a fascination with halftracks, especially the 251 series (more on that later). The angular shapes make it look like a futuristic vehicle, rather than something from WWII. Compared to this, the Famo looks very traditional, albeit oversized. (Ridiculously so, in fact. It dwarfs the people who are driving it.) It’s a truck with tracks.

No, those are average-sized humans, not Gimli’s relatives.

The Famo was HUGE, in other words. It could tow the heavies guns, and three of them were theoretically able to tow even a Tiger.

Anyhow, as all half-tracks, the Famo was modified over and over again, with several interesting-looking conversions. The Germans –as usual– stuck an 88 on top, but they also used several different cranes on top of it.

Revell has come out long time ago with an excellent 1/72 kit, and a couple of years ago Trumpeter has started to churn out their own versions. (Well, I hoped they would. They stopped at two.) There has been a lot of aftermarket conversion available since the Revell version came out, but fortunately for the stingy, Trumpeter did issue a vehicle with a 6-ton crane installed.

This left me with no choice. I had to try both the Revell and the Trumpeter flavored Famos, and I had to have the Flak88 conversion, along with the 6-ton crane one. That meant four kits total.

The two companies produced two excellent, although quite different models. Both of them have more parts than your average 1/35 kit.

The Revell kit is easier to build; it has a lot of details, link and length tracks, and the plastic is nice to the touch.

The Trumpeter kits are a bit more difficult to build; there are more parts (and a lot of details), individual track links, and a more brittle, less friendly plastic. The moulding quality is not as good as the Revell kit’s. It feels a bit less sophisticated, to be honest, but the end result is excellent. I thought the tracks were insane, but to be honest, I have not built the Hobby Boss Toldi I yet. Why did I not like the tracks? You get individual track links, as I said, but the tracks are made up by two parts: the metal tracks, and the rubber shoes that come on top. The problem is the fit is not perfect, so it’s more difficult to make the tracks look good, AND it takes forever to clean everything. But then again: the Toldi tracks are way-way-way worse. The absolute highlight of this kit? The engine, no doubt. It’s a small model on its own right. Trumpeter also has the trailer issued. I was tempted to put a Famo on top of the trailer, but sanity prevailed- I saved a 20 dollars by not purchasing the trailer itself.

One thing is common in both kits: the bloody with indicator rods keep breaking like nobody’s business. I pray for an aftermarket replacement made out of metal.

Parts, parts, parts – the Revell offering.

Revell-Trumpeter-Trumpeter with crane

Revell Famo finished in German gray.

Trumpeter Famo finished in late-war camo pattern. Hand painting was the name of the game back then – I was living in a student accommodation. (Good times… Mature student in the midst of undergrad hell. There were late nights I wished I had a paintball gun.)

I’ve enhanced it with a Famo detail kit: comes with cargo and tarp. If anyone’s interested I can find the company’s name in my ebay history, but I cannot be asked to look it up right now… I replaced the rods with wire as cleaning the plastic parts meant breakage in a massive scale. (Delicate, long parts with attachment points, and mould-lines.)

Flak 88…

As I said I have a deep-seated fascination with this gun. This was the reason I switched to ground stuff from airplanes: I was completely won over by the excellent DML offering.

The conversion set comes from CMK. The fit of the armored cab is excellent, and -despite of my misgivings about building the armored cab due to my limited skills with PE- the conversion builds like a dream. Except for the grab handles. Those are just insane.

And last, the 6-ton crane.

This version was used as a useful addition for field shops; it could lift tank engines (although not turrets), and other relatively heavy stuff. Strangely it’s a bit different from the “base” Trumpeter version the with indicators are more chunky, for example. It looks like Trumpeter simplified a lot of details for this model. It builds up into a nice representation of the original, though. The horrible (but not as horrible as the Toldi’s) tracks remained, though. The only real challenge was to make sure the cables are tight; in this scale thread (I used my own synthetic thread not the one provided by Trumpeter) has a tendency to be very “rigid”; it does not have the same sag as a real metal cable does. A lot of superglue, and reasonably tight fit helped to solve this issue somewhat. I wanted to depict the crane in the process of lifting an engine (conveniently from a Famo), but the engine looked weightless regardless of what I did. In the end I just put the crane into a travel position.

Overall, I’m really happy with both company’s kits; if I had to choose to build another one it’d be the Revell offering, though. Due to the limitation of my skills with paintbrushes, I’m not very satisfied with the late-war camos, but I’ll have to live with them; there’s no way I’m building yet another Famo version to bring out the airbrush. Unless it has an 88 on top, while towing another one.

DML 1/144 Leopold Railway Gun

This one is a very old build. I bought it at least ten years ago; it seemed like a saner option than buying the 1/35 version made by Dragon. (Not to mention a cheaper one.) The subject is one of those atavistic, yet mind-blowing things of the Second World War: a gigantic gun that is mounted onto a railway carriage. Tactical and operational mobility is almost zero; and good luck if you want to turn the gun 20 degrees. It’s useful if you want to lob shell after shell on a faraway target, if your target is large enough, and stationary enough. (They had to build the railroad tracks usually before the deployment of the gun, and it does take time. The rate of fire was also somewhat low; a couple of shells every day. Additionally, you have to factor in the wear and tear on the gun; the lining had to be changed quite frequently, which also lowered the strategic value of these weapons.) But to be fair if you want to cause damage and kill, you just use bombers. It’s cheaper and more flexible. (If you really must cause damage and kill, of course. For one, I prefer these things in 1/144 scale.) The non-plus ultra of this insanity was the Dora railway gun; a the largest gun ever built, with an average rate of fire of two shells per day. I do have it somewhere in 1/144, waiting to be built. It’s a huge model even in this scale, by the way. The 1/35 scale model of this thing is over two meters long by the way…

Back to the 1/144 Panzer Korps. As I said before, these kits are amazing; small gems in fact. I should have bought all I could when they were still in production, and were readily available. This is the gun in all its glory. The detail is astonishingly sharp and very, very good; some 1/72 models could hang their heads in shame looking at this level of detail. And you get photoetched parts, of course. And a metal barrel. Everything nicely pre-packaged, waiting for you to start. The build was amazing. (As a personal note: I still remember watching the Wedding crashers with my girlfriend while I was building it. It’s strange how things like this associate themselves with the model…) The build was a joy. The only challenging part was to glue together the railway sections, and fill in the seams so that they don’t stand out. (The surface is really rough, so I had to try to make the surface of the filler look similarly rough. In other words: it was not a difficult build.) The PE really does enhance this little gun. There is a crew provided, but I decided very early on not to include the little dudes. I usually don’t add figures to my models, because no matter how well they are done (and I cannot paint them well enough) they look artificial, and ruin the illusion of the model for me. We are getting into philosophy here, but let me explain it quickly. I think we all accept that a scale model is a representative 3D image of the real thing, and only that. It does not try to be the tank in a smaller scale. This is why we accept heavier weathering on models than on the real tanks; we accept that it is not a direct, smaller copy, but only the representation of the real vehicle. Kind of like a technical drawing, or a painting, and as such it overemphasizes certain things. By adding a lot of scratches, dust and dirt we show that this tank had a story, it was used. Adding a crew changes the model; it makes it a bit toy-like for me. (We’re not discussing dioramas, of course. Dioramas tell a story, which is a different matter altogether.) So, back to the model at hand. In the background you can see a 1/72 DML T-34/76, and a 1/72 DML Mi-28 Havoc… The first layer of paint was black, of course, and then successive layers of lighter and lighter German gray. Because the scale is so small, the final color should be really light. The Leopold only looks dark on these photos because of the gloss coat applied.   A flat coat makes it look much lighter. It also seals the decals. Filters applied using oil paints. Mostly white, burnt umber and blue, applied using the dot method. I did not want to overdo the weathering (after all, you would not be seeing any scratches and rust from a distance that corresponds this scale), but a little fading, some discoloration due to rain does make the model feel more “real”.     A little size comparison: 1/35 Stug IV, 1/144 Leopold, Thor, JgdPanther and some Hetzer-based howitzer whose name I forgot. (Apologies for that.)  

Scale model building – amateur style