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Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 6.

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This is the last part of the building of the T-55. Just in time for the MiniArt T-55A with full interior to come out, but to be honest I don’t really mind; I’ve been collecting parts for this build for a long time -it does have a sentimental value for me…

Previous entries:

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2.

3.

4.

5.

As with all builds, I’ve learned a lot from my mistakes; and I finally know what those things sticking out of the back of the turret are. Which is nice.

 

The last time we left off the tank was mostly finished; the filters I wanted to apply were on, pin washes finished, and everything was ready for the weathering. Before I started I added some decals, though. The markings are fictional; I’ve printed out some Hungarian markings and used a number from the MiniArt T-44 set; the only thing that is not fictional about the tank is that the AM version was in service of the Hungarian armed forces. I know purists will be horrified, but I just did not have the energy to do hours of research to find one particular tank to model. (Ironically I have an amazing book on the history of the Hungarian Armoured Forces – two thousand miles from here…)

I also needed to paint a couple of details, such as the canvas cover for the gun mantlet, but mostly the tank was done.

The next step was to apply dust. Dust and mud are the two things I’m not really good with, so this part I put off as long as I could. I settled for AK’s dust products, and mixed my own mud.

AK’s dust comes as a suspension; when you apply it, it goes on thick, and the results are not very pleasing. At least this is what I thought at first. As with everything I realized the secret is not adding stuff to the model, but removing it after. I diluted some of the mixture in white spirit, dabbed it onto the tank, waited some time, and then using a wet brush I removed most of the dust, spreading it around, adjusting it. The key is to be patient: you can always repeat the procedure (in fact, you should), if there’s not enough added. Adding less is always  preferable to adding more.

One the dust was dry, I went on mudding up the lower chassis.

What I failed to realize for a long time is that it’s not enough to buy a product called “mud”, and them smear it onto the tank; just as you can’t just cover a tank with a paint labelled “rust”, and expect realistic results. Obviously the results will be sub-optimal; there are really no shortcuts in mud. (I feel this sentence carries some deeper, more profound meaning.) Even if you buy custom-made products you still have to learn how to apply them, and that’s that. And since you need to learn it anyhow, you might as well save some money and make your own mud.

The first layer was simple pigments suspended with water. I dabbed it on, then after it was mostly dry, removed some using a brush. A day later the procedure was repeated with a different color. The key here is layers; just like Shrek, mud has layers, too. Old mud tends to be dryer and lighter; newer deposits tend to be thicker, darker and placed lower. I dabbed the pigment-water mixture all over the lower chassis, the side-skirts, even on the top of the mudguards (in a much more diluted form).

I also splattered some using a loaded brush and a toothpick onto the side-skirts; any splatters that were out of place (on the side of the turret, for example) was removed with a wet brush using downward motions, leaving a very faint streak behind. I’ve also used Vallejo’s mud product on the side-skirts; it produces quite dark splatters which are quite different from how it looks like on the photo on the bottle.

A day or two later I decided to try something I’ve never done: I made thick mud. I used Mig’s Neutral Wash as a base. I got this as part of a set, and frankly I can’t really find any use for it; it’s too grey to be a “normal” wash. If you know how to use it, please let me know.

It did serve as a good medium, though. I mixed in a lot of brown pigments of different shades, some sand and some static grass, and then offering my soul to the gods of model building, I proceeded to apply the mixture to the lower chassis.

The method was the same application/removal as before; with a brush dampened with white spirit I adjusted the amount of mud on the wheels and chassis. I also added some on the mudguards (and sprinkled some on). The results are actually quite spectacular; I did not dare to hope for such a nice effect.

Once the mud dried (I gave it a week), I used my graphite pencil to give some metallic shine to the edges. I used some black pigments on the side-skirts directly next to the exhaust, and applied some oil stains. Again; I just used AK’s and Vallejo’s products slightly diluted. I made bigger, more dilute patches, and once these dried, added smaller patches on top of them with oil products slightly less diluted.

The external fuel tanks on the back were given some diesel stains. (I admit I did not scratch build the piping that would allow the tank to use these external tanks. I did make the pipes for the smaller external tanks if it’s any consolidation, though.)

That’s pretty much it. I finally have a T-55AM with full(ish) interior. It was a pretty long (and expensive) undertaking. To be honest I can’t recommend anyone doing the same- after all, there will be an all-plastic alternative available by MiniArt soon, with a much better detail than the CMK set. (A subject of a later set of posts…)

 

 

Tamiya T-55A and the whole nine yards part 5.

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Please find the first, second, third and fourth part here.

I used German Grey primer by Vallejo to create a good, sturdy surface for the subsequent layers of paint. I used to use spray cans as the application is quick, but it’s also somewhat risky. (You can easily flood the model with paint.) Setting up the airbrush and the fume extractor (paintbooth) is time consuming, but I think overall it’s a better alternative. This particular primer is pretty easy to use, too, as it does not require any dilution; it can be sprayed straight out of the bottle. I sprayed the lower sections of the anti-HEAT rubber sideskirts separately.

Once the primer dried, I sprayed rough patches of different rust colors, making sure the rubber side-skirts remain dark grey/black (with the scale effect I found dark grey looks better than full-on jet black).

I assembled the tracks using a very thin liquid glue. I normally glue two links together, and then join up these sections into larger and larger sets of links. The glue allows for relatively long time to work the tracks, so it’s relatively simple to push them around the drive wheels and idlers after 30-40 minutes of drying time. (I almost switched the drive wheels and idlers; I’ve built too many German tanks lately I guess.)

The tracks were painted with the same primer, rubbed using a metallic pigment to give them a nice, steel shine. I also applied some rust colored washes (relatively bright orange to dark brown) at this stage. (The dust will be added later.)

I went over the model using OD green from Tamiya on the lower chassis and road-wheels. This is a dark, an almost grey-green color; this color represents the darker areas covered by shadows. I painted the rubber rims with a dark grey color. This was layered with different dust and mud colors, pigments and other weathering techniques simulating dust and caked-on mud. I tried Tamiya’s dust and mud weathering sticks as well. I pushed the stick onto the surface, and used a wet brush to spread the paste around; it’s actually pretty easy method yielding realistic results.

I installed the tracks, and glued the rubber side-skirts into place.

I added AK’s Chipped effects in two layers, and waited again for things to dry. It took about an hour or so, and then I painted the tank with the same OD Green as I applied to the lower chassis.

I kept adding tan and yellow to the base color, and kept layering it onto the tank from the top of the tank; I wanted to lighten up mostly the surfaces that are illuminated by the sun (and which are normally more faded, anyhow). Adding yellow to the base green yielded a pretty nice Russian green, leaving the original color in the recesses.

I waited about thirty minutes for the paint to dry, and started to create the worn-off, chipped paint effect using a wet, stiff brush. I applied some water onto a small section, waited a bit, and used the stiff brush to wear off some of the top layer. (Sometime I managed to rub the paint off to the resin; these sections were retouched with primer.)
The chips on the rubber parts revealed a dark grey color, corresponding to the rubber; chipping on the rest of the tank showed different hues of dark brown representing rusted metal.

Once I was happy with the amount of paint chips, I waited for the tank to dry.

True Earth has a couple of filters in their product lines; I bought them a while ago, but had no luck with them so far. (I did work out you needed a very flat surface to apply it; the surface tension tends to pull the filter into droplets.) I sprayed some dark aging and light aging filters on some selected areas without diluting the product: around the turret, on the lower part of the turret, on the bottom of the tank; the effect is not as smooth as I wished it to be, but it does produce an interesting discoloration here and there. Not what I was going for (I was lead to believe applied it would look more like a darkened patch paint with a smooth transition), but a good one nevertheless. (It’s just one of those things: a product that promises easy and spectacular results turns out to be not so easy to use after all. The thing is if you need to have a learning curve to use something to make your job easier, it does not necessarily fulfil its promise.)

I applied traditional dark brown oil filters on the bottom part (with the side-skirts), and a light brown filter on the top. Another filter, bright yellow this time was applied on the top surfaces only. The tank was given some time to dry (a couple of days) and then I tried something I wanted to try for a long time: Tamiya transparent paint as filter. I used green on the bottom parts, which were supposed to be darker, and yellow on the top again.

After two days of letting the tank dry I sealed everything with a coat of gloss varnish, which was followed by a dark enamel pinwash.

The overall effect is quite nice; I managed to get that yellowish-brownish green I was going for.

The tank is now looking like an actual vehicle…

Cromwell Models T29 Heavy Tank 1/72

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I have a confession to make: in the past I did not know much about post-war US armor. (I hope my sins can be forgiven.) I thought it was all Pattons, and they did not look particularly interesting, and the designations were confusing. Little did I know. The number of experimental, light, medium and heavy tanks produced before, during and after the war by the US is a largely untapped source of amazing-looking models. World of Tanks has helped to popularize these vehicles, which, I suspect, is the reason for recent plastic releases of the M6 and T54E1 (I know they are not perfect, but they are steps in the right direction). Most of these tanks are still only available by small resin manufacturers working in Braille scale, if available at all. Once I’ve realized that the T29 actually exists, and thatCromwell Models is producing a model of it, I had to get one… Considering the size of the tank I’d probably not buy a 1/35th scale offering even if there was one available apart from a really expensive resin version.

The T29 project was started in response to the appearance of the German heavy tank, the Tiger II. US planners wanted something that could be used against these gigantic, heavily armored and armed tanks, as nobody knew back then exactly how big of a threat they’d pose once the US engaged the German armed forces in the Continent. As it turned out not much, since they were never produced in sufficient numbers.

The T29 was based on the T26E3: the hull was lengthened; it was given a thicker armor (279mm at the thickest points), an upgraded engine, and a new turret with a 105mm main gun. The turret featured a very prominent coincidence rangefinder, which protrudes from both sides, giving the tank a very unique look. The weight of the new tank was 60 tons.

After the war ended, the T29 (and its brother the T30) development and production was put on hold, and it never entered regular service. Even though the tank was not really a successful design, it wins in my opinion just based on looks alone: it is one of the best looking tanks ever made.

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The T29 came in a simple Ziploc bag; despite of this, nothing was broken. The moulding quality is fine, even though the details are incredibly delicate. (I’m really impressed with how the suspension, road wheels and tracks are molded as one unit with the hull.) There is some flash to trim, but this is to be expected in every resin model, and easy to deal with. The moulding quality is good; no bubbles or imperfections were apparent on my model. (Only on the bottom of the hull. These can be easily removed, but since they won’t be seen I did not bother.)

The model does not come with instructions, which makes the identification of most of the smaller bits quite difficult. (I admit since I don’t have proper references -books-, I have given up after a while. I looked up walk around photos and as a last resort I used World of Tanks, but I still have a lot of parts left over I could not place.

As mentioned the hull comes as one piece, with the suspension and the tracks already mounted. The tracks are very delicate, and really detailed; be sure not to break the extremely thin cleats handling the model. There is some clean-up necessary under the tracks, between the road wheels, as the complex mould means there will be imperfections in the hidden areas. I’m not even sure how you can prepare so complex assemblies in one piece.

You also get a lot of spare track sections; should you break one or two of those cleats, you can always replace them using the extras. I’ve managed to break some as I handled the model. I did leave them like that when I took the photos of the finished kit but I’ll fix them up later before the model is placed into a display box.

The model looks accurate, and measures up against the dimensions I have found online (this is where proper references would be indispensable). It also measured it up to a 1/72 scaled picture printed out from Blueprints.com very well. In short the basic size and proportions seem to be fine.

The building

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The building is simple; after gluing the main parts together, you add the small bits (that you can identify), and you’re done. The fit is perfect, so I did not have to perform major surgeries. I decided to glue the turret in place almost in the beginning, as it is a heavy piece of resin, and managed to drop it a couple of times. (The blue tac I used to fix it onto a paint jar kept giving way…) This is when the commander’s periscope broke in half; this was the point when I gave up and just glued the damned thing into place.

All the hatches can be positioned open, but since there is nothing underneath, I elected to close them. (It would be too much to ask for an interior in this scale. But it would be awesome nevertheless.) I’ve suffered another minor accident during the build, and one of the covers of the rangefinder optics has disappeared; this is somewhat embarrassing in a review… the carpet monster has gotten its due in sacrifice.

When you look at the reference photos available online from the Patton Museum, the tank looks brown and faded from standing in the open for decades; however I wanted to show a newer tank that has been in heavy use in the field.

Painting

I used a pale yellow color (dunkelgelb, but the color is really not important) over the initial grey primer coat, and then misted several coats of lightened Tamiya olive drab over it to give a faded, used look. This has given it a more greenish color. (“Olive drab” is really a generic term, as there were a lot of variations depending on the manufacturer, the conditions of the vehicle was operating in, the age of the paint, etc. There’s a great article about this issue)

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Filters, chipping and weathering

So now we have a green tank with nice tonal variation on its different parts. To make it more brownish, the color was modulated using a brown filter- and now the tank looks a faded olive drab color.

The kit does not come with decals (as usual with resin kits), and lacking US decals/dry transfers I left the tank unmarked. I added chips using a sponge and dark brown paint, and pin washes using burned umber oil paint. I applied a black wash to the engine deck grilles to give them depth. The mufflers were painted using different rust colors and a sponge over a black base.

The lower part of the chassis was treated with different shades of earth colored pigments using white spirit. Once they dried, I used a brush dampened with white spirit to remove some of the pigments. As a final I added some dust on the top part of the turret as well using Tamiya’s “make-up” set, and I used a graphite pencil to rub around the edges and the tracks to give the model a metallic shine.

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