Forgeworld: Khran the Betrayer

Since the Horus Heresy book series started Forgeworld also started issuing miniatures of the most prominent characters. I don’t like all of them, but most are actually pretty awesome (and expensive). Like this guy: Khran.

His character in itself -along his friend, Argel Tal- is one of my favourites. Khran knowingly slides into corruption because of his loyalties. He is a noble warrior (as far as any Astrates can be noble; let’s face it, all of those guys are kind of dicks), who somehow retains fragments of his nobility even when he turns traitor. You can understand why he betrays the Imperium, and to be honest, he kind of has a point, too.
He is aware of the corruption as it happens to him, and this makes him cynical and disillusioned, as he knows he has no choice in the matter. All of his choices were taken away from him by the Emperor of Mankind (who is either incompetent or just plain stupid), and his damaged Primarch (who should have been put down as soon as he was discovered for the good of everyone, himself included).

Anyhow, since I liked the character I bought the figure. The pose is pretty dynamic (unfortunately Angron’s –another available figure from this series- pose is the mirror image of his), the quality is excellent, and you get a couple of options, too. (Helmet on/helmet off, and different weapons.) I’ve left out the second figure that came in this set. He had his helm caved in, his arm cut off, blood squirting; I felt this was an unnecessary addition. The leaping, axe-wielding Astrates would be perfectly enough to convey the berserker savagery of the World Eater; blood splatters and dead bodies flying around was not needed. (This is why I opted for the helmeted head –it’s scarier to see the contrast of an impassive mask, and the brutal, mad frenzy of Khran.)

This is the first time I painted anything in white, which was not very easy, truth be told. The figure was first painted with grey primer, and then several light layers of white Citadel paint was added. I used very thin filters of dirt and grey colors to make the armor look used and dirty. Whenever the effects were overdone (several instances) I went back to correct them with white. This actually created a nice, layered look. I also tried to avoid “clean” colors –everything should look dirty, oily and damaged, as our friend probably does not spend as much time with patient armor maintenance as he should be. It’s probably not the “official” GW paint style, but to be honest I was quite satisfied with the results. (Except for the plasma gun. That gun will need some more work looking at the photos…)

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30th Post: a Teaser – Flyhawk Panzer II.J., Panzer I. F., Armory MS-1 (T-18) and the Tankom 1/144 Landkreuzer Ratte

This is the 30th post of this blog, and since I’d like to have regular readers, feedback, comments, and all that jazz, it is also an unashamed attempt for getting people to visit… There are several new and old builds waiting to be published in the draft section, but here are four amazing models I am reviewing for Armorama this month… and these three will also be featured in this blog. So… subscribe and keep coming back here already!

(If this does not work, I’ll be posting the third page from The Sun from now on.)

Hobby Boss 1/35 Pz.Kpfw. I. Ausf. F (VK 18.01) Early (filters on a gray base color)

This was an impulse buy from Ebay. I always liked this tank: it looks like a clumsy little cousin of the “big boys”… A small tank that desperately wants to be taken seriously, so it has as much armor as a Tiger, but somehow forgotten to upgrade the armament. I guess this makes it look more like a joke, than an actual threat: you can run away from it, and the pea-shooters it has for guns are not looking very menacing, either. I always think of “Hans the Tank Engine” when I see this guy. Everything seems oversized: the roadwheels, the tracks, the armor except for the tiny-winy little guns and the turret.

There are a couple of reasons I regretted buying this model. One is the scale; 1/35 became a bit too large for me lately. (I’ve gotten used to faster builds in Braille scale.) For this reason I would rather have preferred to get the Armory model in 1/72 scale (or the new Flyhawk one). The other is that I realized Bronco issued the same kit (what is it with these companies suddenly coming out with obscure tanks at the same time, anyway?), with full interior, no less… This actually made me weep.

Anyhow.

This tank has a designation of Pz.KPfw. I. but it has almost nothing in common with the Ausf A, B or C versions. It has an incredibly thick armor for its size (80mm max), and it’s armed with two MG-34s. It did reach 25kmph on roads, though. Thirty of these little guys were made during the early years of the war.

Incredibly, a couple of these tanks did see combat at Kursk… the rest were used as training tanks.

The building was simple, straightforward and easy. The kit is a very well-engineered one, and not difficult to build at all. The prominent hatch on the side is modelled closed- even though it IS open in the box art. The other annoying thing is the lack of clear parts for the headlights. They give you a plastic lens. A pair of grey plastic lens. (As soon as I find my two-part clear epoxy, I’ll fill the headlights in.)

I decided to go with the panzer grey theme; it does look a bit boring at first look, but it gave me an opportunity to experiment with filters and pre-shading. The aim was to depict a tank after a couple of days of training: dusty, somewhat battered learner’s tank.

As a first step after applying the black primer and the grey paint was to add lighter version of the base paint to the outstanding areas: periscope covers, hatch, edges, headlights, etc.

It does look unrealistic, but it still looks pleasing to the eye. The question was: how much of this will blend in after the filters? After all you’d only want a slight hint of the contrast remain; something your eye sees but your brain does not.

Next step: washes. With burned umber and black oil paints. (I left the paints on some cardboard to drain it from the excess linseed oil.) After adding the pinwashes, and waiting about 1 hours, I removed the excess with a damp brush.

Sorry for the poor quality photos… my new phone does have a bad camera, and I was lazy to set up the lightbox and the actual digital camera I use.

Next came the filter. After sealing the paint with a semi-matt clear coat, I thought of what sort of hues I want to achieve on the base color. I ended up using blue, black, white, yellow, raw umber and burned umber in different quantities on different panels. After the oil dried I applied some scratches using black-brown to the edges and other areas where I expect the paint to be damaged. (It should have been done earlier, but I really wanted to carry on with the filters.) I also tried making actual scratches lightly over the black primer; if you are careful, the black shows through, forming a pretty convincing scratch.)

The result can be -kind of- seen in the photos I’ve taken with the crappy smartphone camera… some hint of color on the grey surface does show.

In the meanwhile the tools were painted as well. The wooden handles were painted in a light tan color, and then I used brown oil paint to simulate the grain of the wood. Add the undiluted paint to the ends, and use a brush to pull it down towards the middle – easy and very convincing.

After this step I attached the tools to the model; I usually weather them at the same time as the models, which blends their color together a bit. (With the dot method I leave the tools off as the brush tends to remove them during the more vigorous movements…)

I also applied several pre-mixed filters (fading and aging effects) by True Earth using an airbrush. They are water soluble, and contain no pigments. I found that they don’t spread evenly; when sprayed or brushed onto the surface, they tend to break up into tiny droplets. I’ll experiment with some surfactants to see if this can be remedied. Using Citadell’s Lahmian medium might also be a solution to the problem – we’ll see.

The next step was the pigments. For this I only used water diluted pigments: I made an industrial slurry-looking thin mixture, and using a brush I applied it to the crevices and panel lines. Once dry I used my finger to wipe/smear the extra off. They were applied in heavier layers on the bottom/sides of the hull. I used several layers of all sorts of earth/dust-colored pigments to have variation.

The filters and the pigments look pretty convincing in my opinion. Some fibers from the cotton swabs can be spotted, unfortunately; they were an early (and aborted) attempt in removing the oil washes. As a finishing touch I used a lead pencil on the edges of the tank, and on the tracks to simulate the metallic sheen of actual metal. This does make the tank look more real.

Now that it’s done, it will go into it’s little display case which it will share with a Hobby Boss Toldi I, as soon as the Toldi is finished.

A simple Warhammer 40K dio brought to you by Ferrero Rocher -part 2

This is my second foray into the world of Chaos Space Marines. This little diorama was created to provide a safe base for the Dark Vengeance Astrates I have got from Ebay, using a Rocher Ferrero box as a display case. I did not really have a concept in mind aside from depicting the characters as advancing on an unseen foe. (This was due to the small size of the box; had there been more space available, I could have put in a dreadnought or an Ultramarine Terminator as an enemy to advance upon. (I did buy a couple of models off Ebay over the last couple of years, but only now have I started to actually finish them properly. A lot of the models I got needed extensive surgery or their paintjob stripped, as I got them cheap and used, which hindered the work. Mostly due to my laziness, but still. Buy new if you can help it.) The other big push to actually start taking painting WH40K seriously was the fact that my landlord was giving up the hobby, and he sold me his paintset for ten quid. And we’re not talking about the starter set… we’re talking about a HUGE box of paints, washes and inks. I started to watch videos about blending, how to paint fabric, and all the other tricks of the trade – so I found these little figures a welcome variety from the dull-colored tanks (and they look awesome in general).
Anyhow, here is the second box of Chaos.

The figures themselves are brilliant: their poses are very dynamic, and the details are just amazing. The only issue I had with them was the seam lines which were sometimes on very visible- and hard to reach places. Most of them were filled in, but I’ve left one or two untouched because I was worried about the potential damage to the surrounding detail. Since then I got a bottle of no-sand putty from True Earth; this should help next time.

I tried to give these guys some justice (since they got none from the Emperor…), but this is how far I got. The Emperor’s Children warlock (I think… that third eye must be a sure sign of psychic powers) got completely dark eyes – ever since I’ve read about Daemonhosts in the Eisenhorn trilogy I liked this idea of the absolutely black eyes without the whites around the iris. I guess it’s not far-fetched to imagine a sorcerer who is possessed by a daemon, so this works out fine. The only thing I forgot to do before taking photos was to apply some matt varnish to the cape; it is too shiny to be a convincing fabric.

The most loving care was given to the Death Guard with his axe. His armor is probably not going to be shiny and clean; but I did not want to go for the full-on “puss filled boils and rust” look, either. I made him unclean looking using some oil washes, and the “fuel stain” product from AK, and used different browns, reds and organges to make his axe rusty-looking.

The Dark Angel was the less inspired of the three, as I don’t know much about these guys yet. The whole paintwork started by priming him black, and then trying my hands on the Citadel line of inks – it worked well to produce a deep dark-green color. The orange gem on this chest does need some work yet, I admit.

I used some pigments on the boots and fabric to depict dirt -after all, they are on a muddy battlefield-, and called it a day. The diorama base was prepared the same way as the previous one -using cork as pieces of rock/concrete buildings (at this stage it’s uncertain), and weapons and armor pieces from the spares box to add some variety. I ended up using actual earth mixed with white glue as a base with different shades of pigments sprinkled on top.

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.

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

Scale model building – amateur style