Hotchkiss 39(H) with Wurfrahmen (Trumpeter 1/35)

 

Again: time to revisit an old build, since the previous posts covered a new Trumpeter kit.

I’ve already mentioned the tendency of the Germans to stick an 88 on anything that could carry it; they had a similar affectation towards Wurfrahmen rockets as well -they went on anything that moved: captured tanks, personnel carriers, half-tracks, anything. (I think the only combination they have not considered was sticking the Wurfrahmen rockets onto an 88…)

The H39 was an excellent platform for modifications, since they captured a lot in France. They were small, and quite inadequate in both armament and armor for the modern (a.k.a 1940) battlefield, however, they could be modified to no end, as they were well-made, and easy to maintain. I’m not aware of any report on the effectiveness of this weapon platform; in theory, it should have worked relatively well. After all, the tank is fast, well armored to be protected against small-arms fire and shrapnel, and had a small caliber tank gun, which could be used to defend itself if need came be. These tanks could -in theory- get close to the enemy, let loose a volley or rockets, and hastily depart with relative impunity. Then again; I might be wrong.

Well, this kit brings up some memories… An old-school Trumpeter model, when they were still kind of mediocre, but very cheap, but after their “not-so-good” (Type 59, anyone?) phase. Since then a lot of water has passed under the bridge, and Trumpeter became a serious competitor to Tamiya, Dragon and all the other “big ones”… (This can also be seen in the price of their kits.)

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The model had no real issues, and went together like a charm. After assembly I used Surfacer 500 to roughen up the hull; this gave an impression of the cast metal surface of the armor.

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After the usual primer coat, the tank was painted with Tamiya Panzer Grey, the seams and some casting imperfections filled, and painted again.

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I think the track is slack a bit… we get enough vinyl tracks for two tanks.

 

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This is where I wanted to experiment a bit. I just got my airbrush recently back then (well, the compressor, to be honest; I’ve had an airbrush since I was 14, but I never had any means to use it). Ten years later, I got the chance, when some old lady in Boca Raton sold her unused compressor for peanuts. What I did was to dabble on different colors, which -I hoped- would show slightly through the next layer of panzer grey -kind of like a proto-pre-modulation technique. Had it worked, it would have looked awesome. As it was I went in with way too much paint for the next session, so everything got (almost) covered up. When you look at the tank in a good light, you kinda see the differently modulated grey. One thing is for sure: I’ll have to do some more experiments with this.

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It does look impressive, though.

 

The final coat and subsequent filters prepared from oil paints, made the model look very dark; back then I was not aware how much filters and washes darken the model…

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The rockets are held in disposable wooden frames, which are held in place by a light metallic frame. Again: there were no issues with construction; the results are actually quite good.

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1/35 Trumpeter 1K17 part 2. Painting and Weathering

 

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I’ve elected not to paint the vehicle into the three-tone camo scheme that the surviving 1K17 has; I simply don’t like it much. However, I did like the Soviet crest that came with the decals. Since I found a very hazy black-and-white photo of the prototype which displayed it sporting only one color, I jumped to the (not unreasonable) conclusion that it was painted in good ole’ Russian green. My model, therefore, depicts one of the 1K17s in its original green camo, during the last years of the Soviet Union. (I just had to use the crest to be honest.)

The running gear had to be assembled, painted and weathered before finishing the hull.

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All the lenses and periscopes were masked, the tracks covered with tape, and on with the green paint.

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The hatches, grab handles, and other protruding parts were highlighted with a lighter version of the same green color. (The contrast has been decreased by the subsequent filters later.) At this stage I added the decals, as I wanted them to “blend in” with the weathering steps. Dullcote was used to fix the decals, and after a day of waiting (to make sure the lacquer coat sets properly), I carried on with filters.

Two layers of yellowish filters, and some streaking later the model looked quite close to finishing… I thought.

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I’ve always found it ironic to work on an even, smooth paintjob, and then spend the rest of the weathering to make it uneven… but this is what we do I guess.

After the filters I’ve used a burnt umber and black oil mixture to create very light streaks; I’ve repeated this process about three times, making sure the different hatches, etc are streaked differently than the background. I’ve used the same color for some light pin washes. And then came the dirt.

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As with everything, the key here is patience. You have to build up layers and layers of very subtle dust, rust and mud; even if you think you cannot see the bottom layer, it will add to the complexity of the weathering -hence it will look more real. (It’s a different question, of course, if it really is real -after all, most armored vehicle look quite dull and boring compared to their scale models. No dramatic rust streaks, no artistic paint chipping… but it’s a discussion for another time.)

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The top of the turret got sprayed very lightly with Mig’s washable dust; I thought I’d give it a try. (It’s actually quite nice, but to be honest, does not give much more than your average pigments/chalk dust suspended in water.) I used the same method to carefully “dust” the side-skirts as well. (I held the tank at angle, and made sure only the lower part of the sideskirts got the paint; I’ve did the same with the lower part of the turret as well.)

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The next couple of layers on the side skirts were some darker brown pigments, and some black at the exhaust. I’ve carefully added them using a brush; what sticks, sticks – this way you can build up the effect in a controlled manner.

 

At the very last step I’ve flickered some AK Interactive Earth Effects (again: an impulse buy which I wanted to try) using a stiff brush and a toothpick. The results were somewhat transparent mud splashes, which blended in with the rest of the layers underneath. (I’ve tried to use this product as “mud”, but it just painted everything a suspicious brown color. The best mud effects I’ve done are still the ones where I used different colors of brown mixed with water and talcum powder. Alternatively I’ve used actual mud as well. I suspect I’ll need to find out how the AK product is supposed to be used.)

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I’ve used lighter brown pigments on the upper part of the chassis, and on the sides of the turret to depict dust deposits and streaks. I’ve used some Mig Washable dust to make sure the crevices and nooks have some dust as well. Metallic surfaces were depicted using metallic pigments; Tamiya has those little make-up kits, which are brilliant to apply these. (The gun especially needed some treatment, but all the edges, the hatches, and in some areas, even the sides got some pigment. Essentially, you rub some filter on where you expect the surface to be worn.)

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The last step was to add a couple of leaves to the splashguard in front; these come from some tree in the backyard (shamefully as a biologist I have no clue about plants). The dried seed-pod falls apart into seeds and these little leaf-like structures, which look like maple leaves.

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And that’s it -here’s a real-life laser tank, courtesy of the Soviet Union.

1/35 Trumpeter 1K17 Szhatie Part 1.

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The term "laser tank" evoke images of alien skies, gigantic space ships, Astrates, and the rest of the delightful Warhammer 40k universe.
In other words: this guy.
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source: http:/warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Shadowsword

The 1K17 tank will not melt metal and evaporate hordes of heretics and Titans; however it does have a gigantic set of solid-state lasers mounted on a tank chassis. These were intended to blind the optics of missiles, airplanes, and other enemy weapon systems. I have not been able to find analyses of this laser-weapon’s efficiency, as the production of these vehicles was hindered by some serious practical issues. One of them is right in front of you: the optical elements of these lasers were made out of 30kg artificial rubies – each. This obviously increased the production costs somewhat, which essentially made sure that these vehicles were not built in sufficient numbers.
 The project was based on the MSTA self-propelled artillery. They kept the hull, and changed the turret so it could accommodate the solid-state lasers. The hull itself is based on the T-80, but the engine installed is a 840hp diesel engine from the T-72.

As it was already mentioned, the costs themselves were enough to doom this project; the two vehicles built were mothballed. They still can be useful, however; after all, they are perfect if you need a gigantic laser pointer to distract some invading mutant tiger army.


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The plastic is good quality, and easy to work with. The detail is crisp, and very fine. Some of the parts will need to be handled with care, as they are really thin. The wire guards for the headlights look especially fine. The PE fret included has the mesh covering the engine cooling hatches, and some extra small parts that could not be produced using plastic, like the clamps for the storage boxes. The transparent sprue contains the vision blocks, and a part for the remote controlled AA machine gun. The way some of the periscopes are attached to the clear sprue is also a bit problematic: one side has almost no space for the cutter between the part and the sprue’s frame. 

The decal sheet includes a LOT of numbers so you can customize your tank (not that you have many options if you want to be historically accurate), and a set of Soviet-era crest.

Since this kit is built on the Trumpeter MSTA kit, you get a lot of extra parts –the gigantic gun included.

The build was really straightforward and relatively quick; I have not run into any difficulties. The assembly starts with the hull, as usual. Right in the beginning, there are some issues with the instructions. In the first page it is indicated that you should not glue the towing hooks; I believe the symbol should be next to one end of the unditching log’s holding straps. (This realization was a bit late for my build.)

 

 

 

 

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The headlights are somewhat difficult to glue, and mostly because of the engineering of the kit. On the real tank they are attached directly to the metal guards (which are essentially metal frames) using one little peg. Unfortunately the model headlights are constructed the same way. You’ll have to attach the headlights with this peg, and position them perfectly while doing so. This is a tricky proposition, and some other solution that would have helped with the positioning while drying would have been nice. (I used silly putty to position the lights, and superglue to fix them onto the frame –see photos. This method worked surprisingly well.)

 

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The fenders, the storage boxes and the side-skirts are assembled as separate units. All the clips for the storage boxes are provided as PE parts; it takes a while to attach each and every one. (I can imagine how practical this setup is in real life… “hurry, get the tools!” “Yes, comrade, give me half an hour to undo these straps!”.) While I was taking the photos, I realized one clip was left out on a box– which was attached after the photo session. (This demonstrates why it’s worth taking photos of your models while building them.) The greatest issue with how the kit is designed are the side-skirts. The side-skirts of Russian tanks are usually thick rubber painted over with the camouflage colors. If you look at photos of T-70s, T-80s, etc, you’ll see that the side-skirts are readily deforming, they separate from each other, and they are obviously not rigid. Unfortunately Trumpeter did not give any impression of the flexible nature of the rubber: they are rod-straight. They could be made out of thick metal for all we know. (I say “unfortunately”, because it’s not an impossible task: Revell has managed to capture these rubber side-skirts amazingly well in 1/72 scale.) There’s also no obvious method of leaving them off. If you choose to display the tank without the side-skirts (as the 1K17 is displayed in the reference photos available online), you’ll have to saw them off. (And thus display the incorrect suspension…) It’s such a simple thing to do, which, nevertheless, would dramatically improve the look of the tank. The rest of the vehicle has been so meticulously reproduced; I have no idea why Trumpeter got lazy on this issue.

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Before the fenders are attached you will have to assemble, paint and weather the running gear, tracks and most of the hull. Once the side-skirts are in place, you will not be able to get to those areas. The turret is well done; some of the panels do not fit perfectly, so filler will need to be used. (The welding lines are very nice touch on the edges of the armor plates.) There is some crucial missing detail here, however. Looking at photos you can see that the lenses are protected by lens protector flaps (which are provided), but there is also a rubber band around each lens assembly that enables these flaps to close weathertight.

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source: Gizmodo

These rubber bands are missing, which is a shame. The instructions also fail to give you options for leaving the middle lens covers in an open or closed position. Again; photos are available, and can be used as reference, but the instructions should highlight the options available nevertheless.

 

 

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The lasers are housed in a separate box, which is attached to the turret. Before closing it in, I’ve painted the back of the transparent lenses red (Ruby red from the Citadel paint range), and the inside of the box was painted black. There’s an awful lot of free space inside the turret, so someone with a little patience and a small LED light can actually make a pretty cool modification lighting up the lenses -although it would not be a set of coherent light beams, of course. (I might just do that, actually.)

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The fit of the assembly containing the laser with the turret is not perfect; it forces the sides of the turret apart visibly at the attachment points. (This can be remedied if you cut the holding pegs, and glue the part into place.) You’ll find the opposite is the problem with the long, protecting strip on top of the laser-weapon: it is supposed to be movable, but it just does not click into place easily. The attachment between the parts is flimsy, and it falls off quite easily; you would be better off gluing them fixed.

 

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One serious technical gripe I have with the kit is the tracks. The guide teeth will need to be glued onto each and every track link. To compound this issue, the teeth are attached to the sprue right where the track link and the guide teeth are joined; this means you will have to clean up each and every one of the 174 or so guide teeth with a scalpel before you can assemble the tracks. This is when you wonder why they could not mould these parts together, or even better yet, use a link-and-length solution.

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Dryfitting… the model is taking shape nicely.

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The turret, interestingly, “sits” on the hull; the usual pins, that are making sure the turret stays in place, are missing. I’m not sure why this is the case. Most of the time it should not be a problem, as the fit is quite snug, but this could be an issue during the transport of the model. (Alternatively you can just glue it in place.)

 

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More dryfitting…

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The AA heavy machine gun turret is a subassembly on its own right; it is a very nice representation of the real thing. After this we’ll just have to glue the millions of grab handles in place, and the model is essentially done.v

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Well, that’s it for building. Next part -painting

 

 

 

How to store and transport models

 

A lot of the older builds featured on this blog were made in Florida; this is where I started seriously making models. (Well, not exactly, but close enough.) When I moved back to Europe, this left me with a singularly wexing problem: how on earth am I going to move my precious models back?

I would like to show you the solution I’ve came to. Since the models survived a Transatlantic trip in a shipping container, and have been kept for seven years like this, I think it’s safe to say that the method is sound.

I’ve recently decided to finish up all my started models that had been waiting for me for all these years in my mother’s attic, so I finally started to unpack everything. For the purposes of this post I’ve chose the Pnz I-Pnz II models I wanted to deal with first. (Both are Dragon offerings with full interiors, by the way.) As the final leg of their journey, they survived their trip to the UK like this. It’s also a cheap way to store the models if you don’t have a display cabinet, or don’t want to buy an expensive display case (which CAN be expensive in 1/35 size.)

After opening up the box, I “reverse-engineered” the steps; the photos were not taken during the packing, so they don’t depict step 3 very accurately. (Disclaimer.)

First step: get a plastic shoe box, and pre-cut foam, white glue. You’ll also need packing peanuts, or preferably, shredded paper designed for packing. (More on that later.) Shoe boxes are not an absolute requirement. I’ve chosen them because they were cheap and sturdy. If you want to send something by mail, for example, you can use a sturdy cardboard box just as easily. (As I have done sending a half-finished T-35 to the US. The poor guy had a long journey: it was produced in Ukraine, sold in the US, half-assembled by yours truly, sent back to Europe, I realized it was too big, and had no space for it, took it to the UK with me, sold it on Armorama, and sent it back to the US… It has not been China yet, but I’m hopeful.)

Second step: you cut and shape a “cradle” for your model. You cut a layer of foam as the bottom, and several others in similar size, so that they fit into the shoebox on top of each other. You should glue these into the box with white glue, but it’s not an absolute necessity. Place the first layer on the bottom of the box, and then build up the sides with the approximate sized hole cut in the middle, where your model will fit. It does not have to be perfectly snug; you can always put pieces of foam in to fix the model in place.

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Third step: place the model in, pin it in place using small pieces of foam between the sides and the model. Use strips of foam across the top (fix the foam with glue -not to the model, but to the sides). This will hold the model in place securely. (Choose an area where you don’t have many small, breakable parts.)

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Fourth step: fill the box up with peanuts/paper strips. For long term I would suggest using paper for one reason: it seems like the Styrofoam peanuts have a tendency to stick to the surface of the model after a while (we’re talking about years here). So best be safe -and environmentally conscious. Tape the sides down securely.

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And that’s it. The model is relatively safe to transport. It can be dropped like this, it can be turned upside down, and it should suffer no damage.

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Disclaimer: it needs more peanuts… you want the box full.

 

On thin ice (DML 1/144 15 cm s.I.G 33/2 (Sf) auf Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer)

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I’ve seen a brilliant little diorama somewhere about a sinking tank; this was my first attempt of creating something similar. (Mind you, I was not ready to immerse myself- or the tank- into cold water yet. I just wanted to show a tank riding over cracking ice. The water is quite shallow apparently, as the tank is not sinking into it. Let’s call this a “study in ice”, shall we?)

Anyhow. All I needed was a small model (the 1/144 DML was perfect for this), and a small base. The display case is made for displaying golf balls; I’m not really sure why you would want to do that, but I’m not playing golf, so who am I to judge? It was the perfect size for the tank, though.

The creation of base was easy. I got a diorama-making set that allowed me to model water. I simply had to underpaint the surface with the desired color (deep blue), and layer the transparent resin over it. I used some blue tac to make sure it does stay in place.

On top of it came a sheet of plastic cut up into small parts -modelling the breaking ice. That was it.

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Placement of the modelWhile it was setting I lightly pushed the tank into it, so that it would not sit completely flat on the surface.pb3yyjtnfhdjj3

 

The tank was given a quick white-wash using the hairspray technique, and glued into place… and there you go: a quick and dirty diorama of a brave tank driver.

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Sturmtiger (Tamiya 1/35, Eduard PE+ resin)

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The Sturmtiger always fascinated me; an over-the-top tank equipped with an even more over-the-top artillery piece that shoots over-the-top rockets. (A full grown man can fit into the stubby gun tube.)

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What else can you ask for? Since the boxy superstructure has hidden the whole intriguing interior, I wanted to build my model with the interior somehow exposed. The best I could come up with was to simply cut the side open, as you can see it in the Imperial War Museum with their JagdPanther. The Tamiya kit only comes with a rudimentary interior; it’s sufficient if you only leave the hatches open, but it will be very poorly looking indeed if you open up the side as well. Solution: an aftermarket transmission (the very first resin AM part I’ve used, I think), and an Eduart PE set, aftermarket, turned metal rockets, and some resin Zimmerit. (I honestly cannot say where everything came from; I got them from Ebay a long, long time ago… this tank was built when I was still in Boca Raton, about 8 years ago.)

It took quite a lot of time to collect enough reference photos on the interior; and I’ve found out some interesting things about this monster. For example the whole superstructure is fixed to the hull only with those gigantic rivets on the side of the vehicle. If you ondo them, you can just lift the top off.

First I glued the resin Zimmerit to the hull; it went on much easier than expected. I only had to cut out the appropriate shapes, and use two-part epoxy to affix them to the model. It was simple as that; just make sure you don’t leave any bubbles when you place them onto the plastic surface. Any mistakes can be corrected using putty.

Anyhow; the interior was quite a big challenge for me at that stage of my model building life, but it started me down on a ruinous path: tanks with full interiors.

The transmission was a resin aftermarket item; since the Eudard PE set offered a really nice, PE replacement for it, the end part had to be removed.
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The interior was dressed up using the Eudard set: the floor was improved considerably using the no-slip surfaces, the railings on the superstructure were added (as they were completely missing from the Tamiya kit), straps, radios, etc were added. All in all, they really improve the look of the interior.

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The painting was done using airbrush: the lower hull was given a primer red color, while the rest of the interior the typical German cream interior color.

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Once everything was finished, I’ve added the rockets. I am not certain about it, but I think Tamiya has not provided a complete set of plastic rockets; I’ve bought some aftermarket ones made of turned aluminium, with PE rings on the bottom. (I think they were Tamiya made, by the way… the details are quite hazy after so many years.)
I’ve put the plastic ones where they were least visible, and the metal ones into the foreground.
I made sure that the rocket placed onto the loading rack has the fuse fitted.

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The superstructure was also a very interesting, very busy affair. There were a lot of extra parts added to make it look realistic.

 

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(I still don’t know what those tubes are on the front wall…)

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Once everything was finished (and very slightly weathered) I masked the openings with tape, and glued everything in place. I’ve decided on light weathering after looking at the photos taken by the US Army: the captured Sturmtigers were also spotlessly clean. They simply had no time to get worn down before being taken by the Americans.

 

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The roadwheels were steel rimmed; it was easier to paint them than the rubber rimmed varieties. Simply fix the wheels to a toothpick using blue tac, and touch them to a paintbrush loaded with metallic paint, roll, and you’re done.

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Masking was done with blue tac. I simply traced the outlines onto the hull using a pencil, and then filled them in with blue tac. It worked surprisingly well…

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The camo is almost finished. The mistakes were touched up using a paintbrush.

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The last step was to add the dots onto the tank… not very entertaining, but it’s done pretty quick.

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I sprayed a layer of Future Floorwax onto the model before applying any washes.

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The tank in it’s full glory after weathering… some washes, some drybrushing, and some pastel powder.

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Since back then (~2005…) not many people (meaning: myself) heard of filters yet, the weathering feels a bit incomplete: as I wrote washes, drybrushing and pigments (chalk dust) were used primarily. As soon as the SturmTiger comes out of storage, I intend to remedy this issue. (And probably take another couple of shots, as the crane for the rockets is not finished yet on these photos… this is what you get when you use archive material.)

 

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I have no idea what that small thing next to the tank is

DML Panther Ausf. G. and interior

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I have gotten the new “Smart” DML Panther Ausf. G. a long while back; it was, in fact, a 2007 Christmas project. Because it looked very sad and empty inside, I’ve gotten my hands on something I’ve hardly dared to try: a Tank Workshop complete interior… (As I mentioned before, I have a fetish for interiors… they do make the model much, much more interesting by letting you peek under the “hood”.) It made me understand how torsion bars work, how the torque was transferred to the front gearbox, where the ammo was stored… it made me understand a bit better how a steel monster, like the Panther, was assembled. Having finished a couple of other German tanks with interior detail, it also made me appreciate the similarities and differences between the different German tanks from the light Panzer I to the enormous King Tiger. (Interestingly the basic layout did not really change from the Panzer III.)

So… the first steps were the bottom parts and the torsion bars. The torsion bars were created from evergreen plastic. Two things were incredibly frustrating: removing the bottom from the casting block (it was one huge flat block), and removing the plastic pegs from the inside of the lower hull…

For most of the time I’ve either used Gorilla Glue, or two part epoxy. I wanted to make sure the joints will hold. Forever.

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At least the bottom of the interior fit into the hull.

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Fitting everything together… with some paint already applied.

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The turret

The turret basket is -obviously- a multiple part affair…  not an easy one at that. The detail is quite nice; you get all the motors that are rotating the turret, the gun cradle, equipment stored on the base of the turret. There’s even an ammunition pouch on the side.

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The gun’s breech is entirely resin; the kit did not have one.u8xflpn

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The turret basket is finished; with the seats installed it is quite apparent that even the relatively large Panther had a very tight turret.

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Painting

The assembled hull was sprayed with Surfacer 1000.

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Once the mistakes were corrected, I’ve used a light cream color for the typical German interior color.

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Once it was dry, the interior surfaces were masked with tape, because I needed to do the lower hull. I’ve decided against the typical primer red; every modeller uses it, but the Germans did not necessarily leave everything red. A lot of the tanks had a light blue-ish basecoat on the bottom of the inside.

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Kind of like this. I might sound a bit strange to do the blue second, but I was conscious of the fact that light colors are very difficult to paint well. I was not sure how hard it would be to achieve an even coat with the light cream over the darker blue. The neutral grey primer was a much more forgiving surface for painting it.

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Adding details… the tank’s interior looks more and more busy.

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I’ve collected some reference photos online; I tried to replicate the larger cables and wires, but overall I was not concerned with absolute authenticity. To be honest, as this was my very first resin interior, I was happy it was coming together nicely, and that I managed not to mess it up.

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Painting the turret was a similar affair: it was spray painted to the interior color, and I’ve used a brush to paint the rest.iwnv8rk

Weathering was done very lightly. Some metallic wear-and-tear only. Unfortunately I have not taken photos of the turret’s interior; Tank Workshop has provided everything to dress up the frankly quite plain kit turret interior.

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Even more details were added and painted.ygazy5msuf6fre

 

Finishing the interior by adding the ammo racks, radios, seats, and other small details.4rfoxxbjjbqgfa

 

Painting the exterior was done after some extensive masking. I’ve chosen the two-tone color scheme from the box art.

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Camouflage was done with silly putty.

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Practically ready.3yn6104d6q2zwzgtkehl3

 

The tank is unfinished as of yet. Mostly because it’s in storage still (I’ve built it in Florida), and because I have no idea how I should display it… I do not want to close up the hull. Perhaps I’ll cut a couple of holes on it, or display it somehow with the upper hull “levitating” over the lower. Some weathering will be also in order; the interior needs some scratches, some dirt; as does the exterior. Anyhow; the main parts are done. On to the next German tank with interior.

T18 75mm Howitzer Motor Carriage (1/72 Modelltrans conversion)

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There is not much information floating around about this vehicle. It was a self-propelled gun that was designed for close infantry support in 1941 using a 75mm howitzer. The gun was built in using a gun mount adapted from the M3 Grant. Two mild steel prototypes were built on the M3 chassis, but they were not successful during their trial on the Aberdeen Proving Ground. They had a high profile, and they were nose-heavy, which meant their performance suffered considerably. These issues lead to the cancellation of the T18 project. The successor of the vehicle was the M8 where the howitzer was placed into a rotating turret.

While the SPG did fail its field tests, I think we all can agree it would have passed based on looks – it is probably one of the cutest armored vehicle I’ve seen (if you can use this word about a weapon of war). It used to be an extremely overpowered tank destroyer in World of Tanks, which was used extensively for seal-clubbing. Now they turned it into an artillery piece, with is historically more accurate.

The conversion

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The conversion set is marked as designed for the Stuart models by Mirage Hobby –but it does not specify which type of the many Stuarts from the line. I made a mistake -the first of several in the duration of this build-, and ordered the wrong one. This meant scratchbuilding the two mufflers and the boxes behind the mufflers which sit on the mudguards… not very successfully, I might add.

The kit comes in the usual Modelltrans blister pack. It consists of exactly two parts, so the conversion itself is not very difficult. We get the superstructure and the gun itself. The details are very nice on the parts, but the attachment point to the casting block on the main superstructure is at a very delicate place. The problem is that it’s very thick, and it’s right at the very delicate and fragile mudguards; extreme care needs to be taken when sawing it off. (And as usual: be very careful when working with resin. It’s best using a wet-sawing, wet-sanding technique to minimalize dust production, as the fine resin dust is quite bad for health.) There were some casting issues on the superstructure: at places the resin was flaking off, or were downright cracked. You can also see how the superstructure was cast: as if Modeltrans had used a strip of plastic to make the armor thicker, but did not bother enough to hide the outlines of this plastic strip. This can be easily dealt with some filling and sanding, though, unless you forget about it until you put on the camo already, at which point you decide to just ignore the issue. (As I did. As I said: long line of mistakes during the build of this small tank.)

 

 

 

 

building

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The assembly is dead easy: the superstructure needs to be mated with the plastic lower hull, the gun needs to be attached, and various kit parts glued to the superstructure.

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The superstructure’s fit onto the hull of a Mirage Hobby Stuart is not perfect; I needed to doctor the base kit a bit with a scalpel.

I could not find good scale drawings about the vehicle, so I used World of Tanks as a reference. It helped me to decide where to place the fuel tank caps onto the model, and it was useful for determining where to put the tools and other plastic parts coming from the Mirage Hobby kit. The machine guns barrels for the side-mounts can be adapted from the kit machine guns.
As I said I have chosen the “wrong” Stuart version: the M5A1 has the whole back of the chassis covered with armor plates, while the T18 was based on an earlier M3 chassis. The main difference for us is the mufflers were exposed, and there were two storage boxes mounted on the mudguards behind them. I’ve cobbled together some sort of replacement for these, but they are far from satisfactory.

The painting was quick. I wanted to replicate a camo scheme from World of Tanks: a very light green/grey base with darker green areas. I applied black primer, then covered it with neutral grey. I figured the green hue will be added by the subsequent filters. The green patches were added using an airbrush: with the paint flowing, I simply moved the parts of the model I wanted to paint into the way of the pait spray…

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The details were painted with a thin brush and using Citadel’s paintsl; I’ve also glued the tracks on. As you can see they’re not the best fit; I find these rubber band tracks hard to install, unless I can hide the ends under a mudguard, where they cannot be seen.

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I always liked the rubbed-off paint on metal effect on models (and real vehicles). Since I was less and less inspired to finish the model, I was ready to experiment. I simply -and carefully- rubbed the edges of the superstructure against a piece of cloth, until the black primer was exposed. This really made the tank look like it’s been through some tough times.

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The next steps were the filters: green filters did make the grey look greenish… (No big surprise, but still: big relief here.)
Some light brown and blue filters further modified the colors, and I had to use some yellow as well, as the blue made everything look very cold.
Pin washes were used on the recessed details.

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The last steps were to use Tamiya’s weathering set to add yellowish hues to the superstructure (I used the light sand colors, but only in a very light layers, as in this case I wanted to show discoloration, and not dust). I have to say, this last touch bought the model alive; suddenly it became realistic-looking.

I used mud to simulate dirt on the chassis and the suspension. The obligatory soft lead pencil was used to make the edges look metallic -which looks really convincing on the worn areas, where the black shows through.

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I’ve tried AK Interactive’s fuel stains as well on the fuel caps; I’m sure you don’t get as much spilled fuel on any tank, but at least it makes it look more interesting.

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All in all, apart from the mistakes I’ve made through this project, the result looks nice. I just have to make sure it’s not displayed showing its “bad” side.

Churchill GC (1/72 Modelltrans conversion)

 

 

I’ve learned about this tank the first time when it was introduced into the online game World of Tanks, where it acquired somewhat of a hipster tank reputation. (It was so underperforming that certain people felt compelled to play it…) The looks sold this vehicle for me: it definitely looks unique. (Too bad about the in-game stats…)

It’s really difficult to find much information about this tank destroyer online. About fifty Churchill tanks were converted into tank destroyer roles (the numbers vary between 24 and 50) between 1941-’42. The increase of firepower in case of the Churchill was always problematic as the turret was too small to significantly upgrade the gun it can house. The largest guns they could fit was the widely used 6 pounder, and the 75mm gun derived from it. By going the usual tank destroyer way, the tank has lost its turret, but received a larger, more effective gun in return. The 3 inch anti-aircraft gun was housed in a thick boxy superstructure (frontal thickness 3.5inch) using a ball mount. Not one of these conversions saw combat, and were used later on for target practice… as you can see it on the example remaining in Bovingdon.(A shame, really. It would be nice to see this tank restored.)

 

 

 

 

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The Conversion

The conversion comes in a ModellTrans blister pack as usual, which is quite an effective way to protect the parts from damage. Quality of resin is good, so the cleanup is relatively straightforward. The detail is also very nice for this scale. We get a new upper chassis for the Churchill, the boxy superstructure, the gun, and two tool boxes.

One issue with the kit is the track covers. Modelltrans has included the blast covers at each ends; they were only fitted to turreted tanks to protect the covers when the main gun was fired. The reason is probably simple: Modelltrans simply used a mould of an existing upper hull section without any alterations.

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(Just ignore the T18. That’s the topic of the next post.)

The conversion is really easy. It is designed for the DML kits, so I’m not sure if it fits the Airfix, Hasegawa or Italeri offerings, but knowing their quality in comparison to the DML one, it’s probably better to use the DML kit anyway. The resin upper chassis fits very well onto the Churchill model; it can actually be snapped into place. The superstructure’s fit is also quite good, although there were some gaps where putty had to be used. Overall there are no real issues with assembly at all. The conversion essentially builds itself if you shake the box hard enough… One detail is missing: the vertical tubes next to the boxes mounted onto the superstructure. These should not be very difficult to scratchbuild, but I still would have preferred to get them.

 

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The painting went the usual way: black primer spray was followed by a dark green colour. I tried to get it as close as possible to the dark green #24 used by the British forces, but I also needed to lighten it to take the scale effect in account, and to pre-plan for the subsequent weathering steps.

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Highlights were added using the usual Citadel snot green colour… 🙂 (I love their names; bestial brown and vomit brown especially.) I’m always worried these will stand out, but by the end of weathering they usually blend in quite well.

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Weathering went relatively fast. I started with the usual filters -both pre-diluted, and the oil paint-dot methods-, but then wanted to try something quick and fast. I have bought a couple of those Tamiya make-up kits (weathering products that look like a compact make-up kit for women), and tried the sand, light sand and mud colours as filters. If you use light sand and sand in a very thin, irregular layer, it looks like armour discolouration and dust accumulation; a pretty convincing effect when you think about how you achieve it. (By petting your model with a small sponge, essentially.)

These colours went on thicker on the lower chassis to simulate dirt; gunmetal was added to the edges, and the tracks with the same method. I have to say, the results were quite satisfactory, and more importantly: easy.

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Since finally I have bought a new camera (a Nikon D3300), I was playing a little with the aperture settings, and how they affect the field of depth. The difference between large and small aperture is pretty apparent. (Not strictly relevant to our, but an interesting comparison.)

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MS-1 (Armory, 1/72)

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History

This little tank was the first mass produced Soviet tank (almost a thousand was made), and the humble forefather of the later successful Soviet tank designs. Due to its historical significance it is a welcomed addition to the Armory offerings.

The T-16 (prototype T-18) was heavily based on foreign designs, primarily the FT-17, the first archetypical tank. (The Soviets have made several copies of captured FT-17s.) It was a rear-engine, fully riveted design with a crew of two (commander and driver). The engine was a license-build 35 hp Fiat truck engine, the gun was a modified French 37mm SA 18 gun with a semi-automatic breech (this gun was used in many contemporary light tanks), and the suspension was a modified Renault design. A curious design feature was that the 7.62mm Hotchkiss machine gun and the main gun were placed at a 45 degree angle in the turret. The prototype was not successful, as it had mobility problems (transmission failures), and had issues crossing wider trenches. The improved version, named as T-18 or MS-1 was, however, accepted for production after several rounds of redesign. (MS stands for Maliy Soprovozhdeniya-Perviy: light support vehicle.)

The production T-18/MS-1 had an extra support roller, a redesigned independent vertical spring suspension, and an improved 40 hp Russian-designed engine, which increased the maximum speed to a whopping 17kmph. (Nobody said early tanks were fast.) Its weigh was increased to 5 tons. The riveted armor was overall 8mm on the turret, and 16 mm on the hull. Instead of an optical sight, the vehicle was equipped with an obsolete dioptre sight (similar to what you’d normally find on rifles).

The tank was only a minor improvement over the FT-17. It was slightly faster, more maneuverable, and a bit better armored. Overall, due to the high rate of fire it was quite effective against infantry, but not very useful against other armored vehicles.

The tank was already obsolete when it got into production in 1931, so it saw limited service (mostly on the Far East), and it was mainly used as a training vehicle. It also served as a useful testbed for Russian designers. In 1941 the still operational tanks were upgraded with a 45mm gun in a new turret with the designation T-18M after the German invasion of the Soviet Union.

Fortunately there are several surviving examples of this vehicle; useful photos can be found at http://the.shadock.free.fr/Surviving_MS1_T27.pdf

The arergard.com webpage has some really interesting photos of an MS-1 restoration process, which can be used as a great source of reference for the build.

The box

Armory supplies the model in a thin paper box with the built model’s photo on the front. It was packaged very safely, so none of the parts were damaged. The parts are very finely cast, and they have thin films of resin to be cleaned up – this is not surprising or unexpected in resin kits. The hull and the cupola are supplied as one piece, and most of the resin is used to make the running gear and tracks. The tail is a multi-part PE assembly which can be quite challenging. (Before bending large PE sheets it’s worth gently heating it up over an open flame; it makes it easier to shape. Be careful as you can easily burn the metal, though.)

The main dimensions of the kit measure up accurately to the real vehicle as far as I was able to ascertain (I found a scale drawing for both the MS-1 (http://www.tanks-encyclopedia.com/ww2/soviet/photos/drawing_T18.jpg) and the T-18 SPG version, a lot of photos and used the dimensions found in encyclopaedias).

Some of the parts (both resin and PE) are extremely tiny and thin; experience working with resin and PE will be needed for this kit. The suspension units are modelled as one part (fortunately), but they are very delicate: the thickness of the suspension arms is actually smaller than the attachment point itself. This means extreme care needs to be taken while removing them from the casting block as they can be broken very easily. A fine drill will be needed to prepare holes for the swing arms of the return roller on the front of the tank. Strangely the inside face of the drive wheels have ribbing moulded on, but this cannot be seen after assembly. There are some missing parts: namely a headlight and the horn, which are not included in the set.

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The build

The instruction sheet (which is a welcome thing in itself –very few resin models come with one) is computer generated, and clear for the most part; it’s always a good idea to check against photos, though.

The assembly is very straightforward as the model is well engineered. The only challenge was the handling of small parts; there were no fit issues. The leaf springs are to be assembled from individual PE parts; I would have preferred to have them made out of resin. (Assembly can be a bit tedious and it’s quite difficult to line them up correctly.) Drilling a hole in part 8 was quite a tense activity. One thing I noticed, and I’m not sure how it happened is that the roadwheels don’t line up perfectly; the first suspension unit is slightly out of plane. I attached them before gluing the roadwheels on -perhaps doing it the other way around (attaching the roadwheels first) would help to remedy this issue. (The suspension units fit pretty neatly into their attachment points.)

 

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Finicky PE

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Taking shape

 

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First green layer

Well, the green chosen looks a bit too light; I decided to go deliberately lighter than I normally would, as the subsequent weathering steps will darken the base color.

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Light green highlights

I’ve used one of the Citadel greens to highlight certain parts of the model. (Probably snot green or some other delightful color.)

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Filters and washes

I’ve used a lot of pre-diluted colors (oil paints in solvent: mostly burnt umber, burnt sienna, green, blue, yellow), and some dark brown pin washes. I’ve tried Tamiya’s weathering products (the ones that look like make-up kits) to add dust and some dirt on the lower part of the chassis.

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The finished tank

Finally the usual lead pen highlighting of the ridges and rivets – this makes the tank look like it was made of metal, not a piece of resin. I’m quite happy with the results; I’ve always wanted to have one of these in my collection. (As an avid World of Tanks player, this was one of my favorite tanks in tier 1.)

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Scale model building – amateur style