Revell M60 -a ghost from the past

OK, this one is a personal thing. My then-girlfriend bought it, so she could try her hand in modelbuilding. She was very sweet; she wanted to see what my hobby is like.

Then she got her degree, and went back to China; the model was left unfinished. We decided to finish it together. She said if I can’t find a job there, she would come back to make her life here with me. I visited once, we were talking about weddings and such, but about six months after my visit she disappeared, and have not heard from her since.

So yeah. This model was in my spares box, waiting to be finished; a constant reminder of unfinished things in life. I thought it might be therapeutic to finally complete this model.

Nothing special: just desert camo, because I liked the way the Egyptian M60s looked (although no markings), with some rust and dust on the dozer blade, and some scratches and dust on the tank itself. The commander’s machine gun, and the decal sheet has been lost.


Panzer IV Schmalturm conversion (Revell-CMK)


This is one weird-looking tank. As usual, the Germans were thinking the looniest ideas, trying to make a difference in the war, instead of doing, you know, the rational thing. (Well, rational people don’t start world wars, and most certainly do not engage in ethnic cleansing, or if they themselves do not take part in the above mentioned activities, do not work for people who do, so there’s that.)

Well, back to the tank. The PnzIV was already approaching the limits they could squeeze out of the chassis; the ausf J was an attempt to remedy this issue. The ausf H was already overstressed in several areas: it was, for example, so nose-heavy, the front suspensions were constantly under pressure. They simplified a lot of things (the turret traverse was manual only, they used all-steel return-rollers, changed the side-skirts into wire mesh, etc). The next “logical” step was to put the Schmalturm designed for the Panther onto this overstressed chassis to give it some extra firepower (kind of like a poor man’s Panther). Perhaps the turret-ring issue was not that big of a deal (the Schmalturm’s diameter is somewhat larger than the pnzIV turret’s), but the additional weight would have certainly made this tank immobile.

Anyway, it’s a cool looking tank; it looks like someone stuck a Darth Vader helmet on it. (It’s not my analogy. A popular WoT one.)

CMK makes a pretty cool little conversion set, which should be used with an ausf J model, but unfortunately, the only available ones are ausf Hs. You shall have to live with this, if you want to have a model of this tank.

The conversion is simple, the casting is nice (I like the turret armor’s texture), and you get some extras (like metal mudguards -only for the back side, though).

The side-skirt is made of wire mesh. Its role was to explode shaped-charge shells before they get to the side armor of the tank; this would decrease the efficiency of the molten copper jet that is supposed to melt its way through the armor, incinerating everyone inside. (Pleasant thoughts.)

The conversion uses some parts of the model’s side-skirts; I would have preferred to have the mounting brackets made of metal.

The build is a pleasant one; you build the chassis, and stick the turret on top.


First red-brown layer -it looks more red on the photo. It simulates the red-oxide primer for the metal. It will give some nice modulation to the subsequent layers.

Dunkelgelb. The photo is way too pale, but it IS yellow, I promise. I mixed quite a lot of  tan to simulate the scale effect (colors look darker on smaller objects, so they need to be lightened to be realistic).

I used masking tape to mask the different colors; I chose the camo pattern from my premium tank in WoT.

I only wanted to do some light weathering; after all, this is a never built, hypothetical tank. Some filters, a little bit of scratching, a light pinwash, and some dust (pigments). I used a pencil on the edges of the model; this gives a metallic look for the tank.


Armada Hobby: MAZ 537G late

Yeah… this one is a BIG truck. Eight wheels and all. Designed to work in mud, frost, quite possibly under the sea as well… One of the coolest looking truck I’ve ever seen -although this is highly subjective, of course. Others might like the angular shapes of the Western-made trucks. They are wrong, of course, but who am I to judge? To me it looks like it has character – like something out of a hauler version of Thomas the Tank Engine. Ivan the Eight Wheeler, perhaps? (Apologies for the bad joke.)

The model is made by Armada, and I have to say, it’s one of the best 1/72 resin model (possibly one of the best 1/72 in any medium) I’ve ever seen. The instructions are clear (which is something of a novelty when it comes to resin models from any model maker), the parts are well-cast, delicate and well-detailed.

Assembly is straightforward. The wheel hubs fit into the suspension parts like a glove – very well designed parts. I had my worries when I saw how they are supposed to be put together, as I have some experience with resin kits, but I was pleasantly surprised.

The cab is dressed up by the PE quite nicely. The mudguards are well-done, but are made of two segments, which make the assembly a bit awkward. This is only the first part attached. The second one is an overhang, which has to be attached to the front parts, and to the chassis using PE brackets at the same time. This makes alignment really difficult.

I really am sorry that the engine compartment is closed… An engine would have been an amazing addition to this kit.

Dryfitting. The cab and the superstructure behind it are only placed onto the chassis to check the fit. They were only glued on after the painting process was complete.

The cockpit is painted (it’s not very detailed, but not much can be seen through the windows), the cab is closed, all is glued on. The second part of the mudguards finally fixed onto the model… it was probably the most difficult part of the built. First layer of paint. Not very convincing.

I tried to mix that brownish color the Hungarian vehicles were painted in, instead of the typical T-34 Russian green color, which was the first attempt.

I have to say, after some trial and error, the mixture looks good. You can also see the brackets holding the second parts of the mudguards.

Another view.

All glued on, wheels added. The back ones are not completely aligned. I think the wheel hubs should be glued on with the wheels already on; this would make the alignment easier.

The windscreen was cut out from the provided transparent sheet, and all the tiny PE added. I printed out some decals using an ink-jet printer. I wanted to depict a Hungarian vehicle, with relatively little wear and tear. (Not many muddy roads to go around.) I mounted the model onto the base of an old car-display case; I will have to work on the surface a bit more.

As an ex-soldier friend immediately pointed out the license plate is wrong; the military uses their own numbering systems. Oh well.

I really was worried about this build, and kept putting it off; the number of parts, the complexity, and the worries about accuracy made me anxious to start it. But the thing is, this was the best braille model I’ve ever built. I think. I certainly enjoyed building it the most.

Revell Panzer IV ausf H with Hungarian markings

The first of the pnzIV’s I’ve built in the last couple of months… Only got a turned metal barrel, as you really don’t need anything else for this kit. (OK, the side-skirts could have been switched to PE, but they look pretty good out of plastic, too.) I did notice the barrel makes an incredible difference. When you use the plastic barrels provided with models you can’t really see the tiny irregularities, the seams, the marks left by sanding, unless you look for them, but your brain notices. Swapping the plastic barrel for a metal one is the easiest thing to do to improve your model’s looks. It also saves you from the pain of trying to remove a longitudinal seam.

Guest performer: a Flak88 conversion I’ve been working on since October.

I had this kit since two years ago when I finally found it in a ModelZone in Manchester. The decision to build it was not really made consciously. There were several factors: the currently ongoing Flak campaign on Armorama where I planned to build a pnzIV with a flak88 conversion. I had two boxes of the same kit (the second one came from ebay for about $5). And last but not least I also had the 1/72 Bison decal set for Hungarian tanks. So instead of one tank I built two in parallel.

The tracks are given as link-and-length plastic tracks, which would make assembly awkward should you decide to glue the two halves of the hull together. This necessitates building an painting the model in two halves.

The tracks are on, the lower hull is weathered (it’s easier to apply pigments before you glue the roadwheels on).

The tracks are OK. They are easy to work with, and do look convincing; the plastic is elastic and soft enough so you can bend it to shape on the top; after all, there should be a slight sag between the return rollers. NOW you can glue the two halves together. Next step: painting the tools, and adding some paint chips with a darker version of the yellow onto surfaces/edges. I tried to choose parts which are subjected to wear and tear by the crew and by the environment (hatches, mudguards, side-skirts, etc).

Weathering: pinwashes and filters using oils. I also applied a very light layer of pigments dissolved in water onto the vertical surfaces to simulate dust.

Pigments dissolved in white spirit are applied to the lower part of the side-skirts and the chassis to add some wet-mud effect.  The whole “Hungarian markings” come from two small insignia placed onto the side-skirts… not a very difficult job. After drying the paintwork and decals were sealed with a very light matte varnish spray.

Last step: the good old pencil along the edges to add some metallic shine. Glue the tank onto the base of the display case, and done.


DML 1/144 Jagdpanzer IV diorama

I really like the 1/144 DML armor offerings; the true regret I have is that I did not buy up the lot when they were available. Fortunately I managed to scavenge one or two from Ebay for a much higher price than they used to go for… (Lesson learned: even if you have 100 kits, you MUST buy that one you like, in case it goes out of production.) These models are tiny little gems: the detail is sharp, and very nice, the build is easy, and they just simply look good. The technology of injection molding has progressed incredibly: even the delicate gun tubes are completely in-scale, and they are also hollowed at the end. (I guess asking for rifling would have been a bit too much.) All in all I have not seen anything like these tanks in plastic. This post concerns the  Jagdpanzer IV I’ve built from the 1/144 range. The build was easy, and the camo was applied using an airbrush. (Talk about overkill; I thought it would be interesting to see how it works with a model that is the size of a quarter. ) I did not weather it a lot -after all, in this scale it would be mostly invisible. I did use a pencil to apply some metallic shine to the edges of the vehicle. Since this really is a tiny gem of a model, I thought I’d build my first ever diorama. It was back in Miami, where I bought a nice little display case made for hockey plucks from a gigantic store that only sold boxes and display cases. (God I miss that store…) The first step was to cover the sides with masking tape to protect them. Next I chose a couple of coral rocks I found around the house (they were literally lying around the grass), and using Miliput I formed a base for the groundwork, and embedded the rocks inside. I did not think about the transition between the Miliput and the plastic -that was some oversight I should have corrected. I tried the model to see if the composition was good, and used its tracks to make trackmarks. Next I sprayed the whole thing with different shades of brown; I was careful that the white coral rocks only got a little bit of overspray, so there’s only a hint of the colors on them. This blended them nicely into the surroundings. From a company that sold diorama stuff for model railways I got some foliage. In this scale the differently colored little flakes were perfect as grass and flowers.  Put some white glue where you want the foliage to stick, sprinkle them on, then carefully shake the diorama upside down to remove the extra -and you are done. So there you have it: our tiny tank destroyer proceeding in a scenic path towards its destiny. (Let’s pretend for a minute that these things were not used to kill people, and we’ll feel much better. I know I do.)      

DML Tiger I- Hairspray technique

I always liked the look of this camo pattern, so I decided to finally build one of these tanks. The problem was I only had the Ausf E version in 1/72, and did not wish to buy yet another Tiger model. ( have two more in 1/35 waiting for me in storage at home.)

It was kind of fortunate that I did have this particular kit, though, because it has a lot of parts to build an early version (the largest exceptions were the road wheels, which were all-steel). I got the toolbox leftover from a panzer IV conversion, swapped the road wheels from another DML Tiger (as I said I did have more of these kits than it’s healthy), and made some efforts to backdate the kit to an earlier version. Purists will find it lacking, but I am not a purist, so we’re in luck. I just wanted to do the camo.


Once the build was done, I painted it panzer gray. Since I would be heavily weathered, and most of the gray would be covered with the remnants of the whitewash, I went for a deliberately streaked finish (less work now, less work later). YES, I KNOW THE SHOVEL SHOULD NOT BE THERE. I like the way it looks, ok?

The next (less fortuitous) occasion was the leaving of my (then) girlfriend. She was moving back to her country after finishing her degree, so she was leaving most of her stuff behind. Hairspray included. (If you want to try this technique, don’t let your girlfriend leave. Easier just to buy the damned can.)

I was a bit apprehensive how it would work out, but I covered the whole thing with hairspray. It became somewhat sticky, and very shiny. After waiting a week or so, the stickiness disappeared, but the shine was still luxurious, just as the advertisement said it would be.

Next step was the whitewash. I used Vajello’s white primer, and applied with a brush. This is why I was worried, because most of the time the layer after the hairspray is airbrushed -I was worried the water in the paint would already dissolve the hairspray below. I chose the primer because it was really thick with a good coverage. I left the approximate areas clear of white.

On top of the white I used some brownish colors to lightly drybrush the larger areas: mud and dirt staining (and being washed off) the vehicle.

Next step: bring out the cotton swabs. I wet them (not too much), and started to rub them against the surface (very carefully). Sure enough, the paint started to flake of, like a charm.

At this stage the contrast by the  wear and tear looks a bit too stark: the gray is too clean. After drying I sprayed a matt varnish over the tank to seal the hairspray.

Next step of the weathering process: oil filters. First-  white. I put drops of the oil paints onto a piece of cardboard, and left them there for about 20 minutes to draw the linseed oil out. Using a toothpick I put dots of white all over the model, and then a flat, broad brush wetted with mineral spirit was used to remove most of the paint with downward motions. This deposited a very fine layer of white onto the surface.

After drying the same was repeated on the lower chassis using browns (burned umber, brown). A soft pencil was used along the edges to give it some metallic shine, some pigments (white, and different mud colored ones) on the running gear and the tracks, rust colored pigments on the exhaust pipes, and I called it a day. All in all, it looks pretty good for its scale.


Hasegawa Karl-Gerät

The Germans had an obsession with enormous guns. Sturmtiger, Karl-Gerat, rail guns of all sorts – Dora especially, it seems like whomever was in charge for projects, he was overcompensating for something. They look awesome, they make for nice scale models, but that’s mostly it. Somehow the designers of these enormous weapons forgot one important thing the 20th century already taught by the time they were conceived: if you really need to kill a lot of people, it’s cheaper to do it using the air force. The sheer logistics required to set up and operate these weapons severely limited their usefulness in a fluid, dynamic battlefield. They were designed for a static siege warfare, and that was mostly a thing of the past. The Karl mortars saw service at Sevastopol, at Warsaw, and at the Battle of the Bulge, but in general, their impact was not exactly strategic.

The Karl line of self-propelled mortars were designed as siege weapons for the Maginot line. They were supposed to lob enormous projectiles onto the walls until they cracked, from a relatively safe distance. Because of the enormous recoil generated, these monsters actually had to be lowered to the ground, otherwise their torsion bars would have broken the first time they fired. They were also very, very, very slow. Slow to move, slow to fire. This is not really surprising, considering the projectile weighted as much as a small car. This meant they could not store their ammunition (or the separate propellants) on board. There were dedicated ammunition carriers converted from panzer IV’s, which were ferrying ammo from the supply dumps to these guns. There were seven of these guns built, and six of them had their own names. (Adam, Eva, Thor, Odin, Loki, Ziu: because nothing’s better than naming a tool of destruction after Adam and Eve; Thor and the other Norse gods at least are fitting.)

Hasegawa came out with two kits long, long time ago, depicting these weapons: one showing the mortar on a rail carriage (actually, hung up between the two dedicated carriages), and one in deployment with a carrier provided. Since the vehicle would be enormous in 1/35, I’ve chosen to do the 1/72 version. (Hobby Boss came out with its own Karls; they probably are really nice kits, but I have not had a chance to take a look at them.)

The Hasegawa offering is surprisingly good considering its age. You can choose between the original 60cm or the later long-barreled 54cm variants. As you can see, I’ve chosen the late-war 54cm mortar, since I’ve already built the DML 1/144 version of the same vehicle with the 60cm gun. You essentially get two models -the mortar and the ammo carrier-, and they both are very nice kits on their own right. It really was a joy to build them.

This was the first ever time I tried my airbrush. I used a dark brown primer (simple spray can), and as the first color of the 3 colored camouflage I layered sand on top.

The brown-green camo was done using silly putty as masking.

Once all the colors were on, I used brown filters to turn the sand color more like the German Dunkelgelb, and to blend the different colors together. Once all the camo colors were done, I installed the ammunition into the carrier. I used thread to simulate the metal cables for the winch, but I ran into some difficulties: the projectile carried in the arm of the winch was simply too light, so the thread was not stretched. It looked like it was holding a projectile-shaped balloon, and not a 2000kg projectile. I cut away the bottom of the projectile, and stuffed as much fishing lead into the cavity as I could. I also pulled the thread tight, and applied glue to it to make it still. These two solutions together made a realistic-looking winch.

I used some heavily diluted burnt sienna as a pin-wash to bring out the small details, and some rust-colored scratches here and there. I did not want to take the weathering too far, as these guns were always very much maintained by their crew. The models were sprayed with some semi-matt varnish to protect the pain, and to give it a metallic shine. (After all we kind of expect painted metallic surfaces not to be completely dull, even though -in reality they mostly are.)

And there they are: a mixture of gray and brown pain oversprayed lightly onto the running gear and the lower chassis of the two vehicles to simulate dust, some use of a soft lead pencil to simulate worn metal, and I declared the models finished. (I don’t always use dry-brushing; sometimes you don’t need a stark contrast on the surface of a model.)



Beating up Trumpeter’s T-55

Phase two of the early experiments on scratches.

I used Trumpeter’s excellent T-55, and got on with the work. This time I had not used an airbrush simply because I did not have one yet in Europe. (The one I did have had been put in storage in the US.)

So: dark green base color first (painted the external fuel tanks in a slightly different green), then a very light green drybrush to mark the areas where wear and tear would scratch the paint off. At the deeper scratches I used an even lighter green, and in the middle of these scratches I went in with Vajello’s German Cam. Black Brown to simulate the exposed metal.

The whole tank then got a couple of layers of filters. I dabbed small amount of green, blue, yellow, and burnt umber oil paints onto the surface, and using a wet brush with downwards strokes I removed as much as I could, only leaving hints of the color on the tank. Then waited a couple of days for the paint to dry, and repeated it. The thing about tanks is that unlike airplane models, they actually look better if their surface is not uniform. (To my eyes, at least.)


The mud was done using ground up pastels, fixed with Mig’s Pigment Fixer solution.

On the lower chassis I wet the surface with the fixer, and then carefully sprinkled the pigments on from a brush. O the top of the chassis I mixed the two together, and used a brush to apply it. Before it dried I used a cotton swab to remove some of it with downward, streaking motion, to simulate the effect of weather on the splattered mud.





ModellTrans Luchs

The PzKpfw II Ausf. L “Luchs” was -as the name suggests- a variant of the Panzer II. (It was called Pnz II, yet it shared almost nothing with any of the Pnz II variants. Different engine, different suspension, different chassis, different tracks… and the list is long. It was essentially a separate design of its own.) They’ve built 104 of this tank, and used it extensively in the early war years. This tank was used as a reconnaissance tank, and it was not particularly successful -or useful. It was not a failure, either; but the concept of a light tank was probably outdated by 1942.

I don’t do particularly well in it, but I love the Luchs in World of Tanks. So I got the ModellTrans version.

I’m not sure if the turned barrel comes with the kit or not (I’ve ordered quite a lot of models back then with 2cm guns). What I do know is that I dropped the turret once, and the originally installed resin gun barrel just disintegrated. The moral of the story? Don’t glue in thin, sensitive parts that are prone to break until the last minute of the build.

The model is very simple, easy to build. About 6-7 pieces total.

I was experimenting with scratches in braille scale. The first layer of the scratch was a lighter shade of the base color, and a brownish color was used in a much smaller area inside the scratch, representing the exposed metal.






Murderous clown

So a very good friend of mine sent me a link to a webshop where you could buy resin figures for model building. The item he linked to was a laughing clown. (Unfortunately I cannot find the link itself.) He made a mention about an evil, murderous laugh, and I have to admit the figure IS somewhat sinister, even without the gun I added later. So sure enough I ordered one (later another one) of these figures, and started to work. We both have a sick mind, OK?


I did want to show a clown in the middle of a killing spree, but I wanted to keep it as “tasteful” as possible; dead bodies lying around was a no-no.

This left us with the clown standing in a park, laughing, with the gun under his arm; all around him the scattered items people threw away while running away from our entertainer. I built a small bench to populate this little piece of park, and called it a day.

Needless to say, it took a while to order and prepare everything; so when my friend got it in the mail, it was NOT a success. He admitted that he could not phantom why he got this; by the time he got it, he has forgotten about the clown completely.  Bummer.



Later I did a second version with a bit less sinister undertones: the clown got a paintball gun. (You can see the paint splashes on the bench next to him.) This was another present for another friend of mine; I guess I like to recycle old ideas. Sue me.

Scale model building – amateur style