Tag Archives: miniart

MiniArt 1/35 SU-122 build review p1.

 

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And here it is: another multi-part review of a 1/35 kit… and one with a complete interior, no less. This is a model by MiniArt I’ve been waiting for since it was announced last year. I’ve written review on Armorama – now let’s see how it builds up.

Interior

I have deviated from the instructions – I would much prefer to first do the basic shape, and fill it up with the details after. The instructions go the opposite way: you first build all the sub-assemblies (engine, transmission assembly, the complete interior, etc.), then put them together. This makes painting and weathering a bit awkward (the two firewalls, for example, are installed separately: one goes in the middle of the build, and at the very end), and it also makes correcting small fit issues more difficult.

The build starts with the bottom of the hull, which is also the floor of the interior; it’s a pretty big change from the usual “tub” scale models come with.

As a first step I did all the interior parts that are painted in the blue-gray base color. This meant that I attached most of the supports for the engine and the transmission, the last four sets of suspension units (mistakenly I glued in an extra one), the swing arms’ holders, and the driver’s controls, and control rods. The model is very well made – everything lines up remarkably well. The swing arms that hold the road wheels fit exactly where they should, and the control rods attach to the central rod accurately. (We’re talking about tolerances of less than a milimeter here.) The instructions, for example, would have you attach the parts supporting the engine glue to the engine block -which means they would have to be painted and weathered separately. Easier to glue them in place and add the engine later.

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The controls and the connecting rods are very delicate and the cleanup is difficult. Astonishingly everything lines up perfectly (part C38 is the central, connecting rod, and all the others attach where they supposed to).

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Same story at the back: tiny parts which can disappear easily. 2016_07_02_004

 

First mistake: I glued a suspension unit in place that is supposed to be white… (background). This meant some serious masking later.2016_07_02_005

Sides

The basic hull is made out of the bottom and the two sides; the engine compartment is painted in the blue-grey color, the fighting compartment is white. I glued everything together that was to be painted in these base colors. The seat holders are -not surprisingly- very delicate.

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Front glacis- lots of stuff can be finished before gluing it in place.

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The gigantic spring are actual springs -they are hollow, and would work exactly like springs do if they were made out of metal. I’m pretty impressed by this feat in injection moulding. The cleanup, however, is brutal. (And yes. I did glue the instrument panel the other way around…) I’ll have to look up the wiring- although I suspect it’ll be semi-fictional.

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The armored flap in front of the driver is made out of several delicate pieces; pretty impressive affair.kquofqq

Top of the fighting compartment.

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The outside cupola  and the flaps have some impressive casting texture.6thkvet

 

Painting begins – base blue-grey mixed from Tamiya XF-25 and XF-18.

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Masking and the dreaded white white color… Due to the impatience I had to do some real elaborate masking so I could paint the suspension unit on the front… it worked, though.

Advice: do not glue these in place before painting. Another relevation spraying Tamiya’s flat white: do not dilute it. I sprayed it undiluted, and it was incredibly nice. (Additional insanity: I did not undercoat it…)

As you can see there were some elaborate masking steps necessary about the suspension unit using masking tape and tissue paper… such is the fate of the impatient.

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Assembly of the hull…

The hull’s sides are essentially held in place by the swing arms of the roadwheels. Make sure you cut the sprue at the right spot – and not cut off the small peg that holds the arm in place. The suspension is not workable (since the springs are plastic), but they, in theory, can be positioned however you like – but you’ll need to adjusted the springs holding them, too. It looks a bit overengineered to assemble the swing arms from three different parts, but it allows for some customization: depicting them in various states of disrepair.

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Putting in the firewalls – first things first. (The back of the second sets of suspension units should be painted blue-grey… this is why I prefer to do the build this way. It would be pretty inconvenient to repaint everything once the weathering is done.)

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Part Ca33 is pretty warped as you can see- however, when glued in place, most of it gets straightened out.

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You can see that part Ca33 is still somewhat bent.

 

So far this is it. There is work being done on the engine, and the gun as well – keep tuned in. (I’ll be going on a leave, so the next part will be in two weeks.)

MiniArt T-44 part.6 Finished at last

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Well, this has been a journey.

As a last step (well, series of steps) I added mud and dust to the tank. I did not want to make it look extremely muddy -probably not very realistic, and certainly not very appealing to the eyes. (Well, it’s a personal opinion.)

The other reason is that I’m not good with mud. I know. It’s horrible, but there you go: as far as mud goes I’m a noobie.

I’ll detail the process of mud-making, but unfortunately I have not made photos of the stages.

As a first step I mixed up earth colored pigments (from a railway model supply company), static grass and plaster in equal amounts. I added some water, and used this mixture  on the wheels, the mudguards, and the lower part of the chassis.

(Instead of water you can use white spirit, enamel thinner or even earth colored enamel/acrylic paints, or other products. I think. I’ll experiment with these.) I also used the thinner part of this mixture to create splashes on top and on the side of the chassis.

All looked well until it dried… due to the plaster the color shifted to a much lighter complexion. (You can see it on the photos that show the splashes near the driver’s hatch.)

Well, I did not get a heart attack despite of this; the review for Armorama was finished, so I was free to experiment.

I took a stiff brush, and started rubbing some of the mud mixture off on the sloping front and on the back; it made it look like it was washed off over time. So far so good.

The color issue I solved with burned umber washes (this color is the best friend of every model builder…). I dabbed a loaded brush on the lower parts, and let the capillary action draw the paint upwards. Repeated a couple of times, and the results are not half bad: the top is still faded, light color, representing very dry mud; while it gets darker to the bottom, representing the still wet, fresher mud. The fact that the wash and the original mud application left some “tide marks” actually works in my favor now -it looks pretty damn authentic. Real mud leaves these marks as it dries, too. I successfully turned a lemon into lemonade I think. (The application was more of an experimental one -let’s see if it works- rather than a conscientious application of skills…)

I did the same with the wheels. The static grass gives a nice volume, and some hint for vegetation caught up in the mud; I have to say I’m pleased how it turned out, and feel pretty silly for not using this before. (I bought the static grass back in the US in 2008… It spent some time in my mother’s attic since then, but still. It is a very useful addition for any modeller’s toolset.)

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The exhaust was treated with rust colored pigments mixed in enamel thinner. Once it tried different dark washes were added: simply loaded the brush and dabbed it onto the surface at random. The capillary action did the rest, creatinga nice-looking rusted look.

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The strap for the fuel tank was re-glued after the photo session

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I’ve used light brown pigments on top of the turret and the chassis both dry (just dabbed on with a brush), and mixed with enamel thinner. In this case I used a clean brush to carefully blend in the spots. Some remained a tad darker -as if it was still wet a bit. The reasons I’m not sure about yet, but it does kind of look good, so I’ll take it. Again: the result of a happy accident. (Perhaps I should have said it was pure skill… next time.)

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Parts of the tank were rubbed with dark steel pigment giving them a metallic shine. zyr6yyreszhgqr

For oil and fuel stains I used AK Interactive’s engine oil and fuel stain products. (I try to mix most of my stuff, but some are really useful.) First I created a very diluted solution, and made larger spots. Once dry I used a less diluted solution in the middle.This, with the dust layer underneath makes it look pretty good I think. (Second try on these products; and the first try I diluted them… The first try was not as convincing.)

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Oh, the engine. Let’s not forget about the engine. I’m planning to display it just as I did with the T-34/85 – in front of the tank.

The engine block received the same bluish base color as the interior (I’m fairly certain the engine was bare metal, but I liked the color). The top was painted anthracite, and was rubbed with dark steel pigment -it gave it a nice, metallic sheen. (The same effect can be achieved with ground up graphite.)

The exhaust pipes were first painted with anthracite, same as the engineblock’s top. I mixed rust colored pigments with enamel thinner, and used this mixture to add a basic rust color and some texture to them. I’ve used soldering wire for the wiring. I’ve seen some amazing works which shows the ignition wires yellow, but watching this video of an ISU-152 I think it’s safe to go with silver.wwpg9nr

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Well, here it is. The deed is done. I need to attach the antenna, and mount it in a display box. Just in time for the MiniArt SU-122 with complete interior and the T-44M I’m reviewing… Keep tuned in; I have several interesting models from MiniArt and OKB to review.

MiniArt T-44 Build review p5.

Well, further work is ongoing on the MiniArt T-44: weathering.

The tank was first treated with AK Interactive’s filter for green vehicles. (I’ve made a purchase of a couple of these products, and wanted to try them out.) Interestingly the paint simply flaked off at the mudguards in reaction to the filter. I think the acrylic primer coat did not react well to the solvent; it’s not a promising sign. I think I’ll keep to the home-made stuff in the future – it’s not difficult to make, and it’s gentler on the paint. The damage was not actually bad; I could use white glue to simply fix the large flake, and it actually looks pretty real -if you look at vehicles, the paint sometimes does flake off on thinner metal plates.

Regardless it’s not something I want to experience again.

Strictly speaking you don’t need filters; I like to use them because they are great for modulating the base color. I used several types of green (olive green by Citadel, dark green, Russian green by Tamiya mixed with tan), but I needed some orange-yellowish hue to this green. Filters are great way to achieve this. (A blue filter is also great for a German grey vehicle, for example.)

Chipping

I wanted to try the Windex method, however the Windex did not arrive in time, so I went back to plan B: painting the chips. I’ve used Citadell’s Goblin Green to paint scratches and chips onto the surface of the tank. I’ve used both a thin brush and a sponge dabbed into the paint. (Make sure you dab the sponge onto some paper first, to get rid of most of the paint. Remember: you can always add more later. It’s harder to remove the unwanted paint.) I eyeballed the model, and tried to put the chips where the surface is most exposed to wear and tear: corners, edges, protruding parts, etc. It’s worth doing it in several steps: do a session, put it away until next day, take a fresh look at the model, add some more chips.

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In the second step I used a dark brown paint to paint in the middle of the green chips, simulating the exposed metal. Here the same principles apply: the less is more. Use a brush, a sponge, and do it in sessions. The results are pretty convincing.gjge7xdji9rpmz

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The flaking paint is obvious on the lower left corner; it kind of looks realistic, though.

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Decals

Once the filter was dry, I used a semi-gloss vanish to form a base for the decals. I’ve chosen the most colorful option with all the crests and huge text on the front. After they dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and on came the washes. tienpmn4xg0qly

I used the Mig Productions dark wash as a pin wash, and also used it as a general wash on the turret to bring out the casting details. After about 15-20 minutes I used a damp brush (loaded with white spirit) to remove most of the wash from the turret, and to “tidy up” the pin washes. This step is necessary, as the wash often forms a “tide mark” on the surface. By applying a damp brush with downwards strokes you can actually use it to your advantage, and form the first very faint streak lines.
I have to admit I’m not a fan of general washes, so I was pretty worried that I just messed up the turret; especially that I was not sure when the paint will start being rubbed off -the wash did cling to the surface quite tenaciously. At the end it worked out fine, but it was still a harrowing experience.
Two days after the wash was applied, I used Testor’s Dullcote to form a flat surface for the next steps.

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The next step was to use oil paints straight out of the tube. On the flat, sloping surfaces I used them to create faint streaks, but on most other places I used them to give some tonal variation to the green color. I used a greenish/yellowish color on corners, which was followed with burnt umber later on.

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You can see how the edges, corners were shaded with oil paints on the photo above. I mostly used burned umber. Just a tiny dot of paint is enough, which is blended into the base color with a dry brush gently. Oil colors are quite transparent, so they’ll be perfect for this purpose. On the flat horizontal surface I used yellows and greens to give some tonal variation for the paint.j9enhhruijux41

The next step was to use yellow, rust brown, burned umber to create streaks on the vertical surfaces. Again: a tiny dot of paint is blended with downwards motion, but this time with a slightly wet brush. The streaks are gently shaped from the sides as well with a clean, wet brush, if they become too wide or too prominent.

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After this my least practiced part of model building: dust and dirt.

MiniArt T-44 Build review p4. Coming together

 

Well, this is when the tank is starting to take shape, and resemble an AFV. The top of the turret was glued in place finally, hiding a lot of the details in the interior. (I was tempted to do a “cutaway” version, but I could not find a part I was comfortable cutting away; the whole of the interior is crammed with things.) The turret roof is a very thin piece of plastic; I think MiniArt made it pretty close to scale thickness. (I don’t have the instruments to measure it accurately, though.)

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The interior of the turret is quite busy, and frankly brilliant. The fume extractor, the small lights, the radio, the turret cranking mechanism, all the other details are just great. You do get the fan for the fume extractor, but it will be hidden by the PE cover. The periscopes are made out of transparent plastic. The commander’s cupola has the very fine teeth where the cupola’s turning mechanism is meshed to; small details like this make the model really shine. I was worried about installing the PE holders for the pistol gun port plug, but they snap on surprisingly easy (considering how small the pieces are). I think there might be a chain holding the plug itself in the real tank, but it was not included; if you want to depict them open, you’ll need to add the chains.

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Pistol port…dqoxvvsk8v5wcc2ucbmsrw6kvldlo5wmqtg

Once all was done inside the hull, I started to add the armor plates protecting the front and the top. The frontal, angular plate fitted perfectly. (I would suggest leaving the splash guard off until the front plate is in place.) The top plate is probably scaled so that it’s scale thickness (it’s noticeably thinner than the side or frontal plates), however, there were some fit issues with it. Nothing that some patience could not solve: I went ahead and did what I did with the hull and the mudguards, and glued it on section by section, while holding the hull in place with clamps. Once the model was reasonably ready, I added the extra bits which I left off. I usually attach the tools, headlights, etc. last, so that I don’t damage them in subsequent steps of the build.

 

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I chose to attach the mudguards before I installed the running gear; I think it would be better to do the other way around. The detail is pretty good, and the assembly is straightforward to build. The problem is that the attachment to the hull is somewhat problematic. First of all, there are no locating holes on the sides for the little pegs on the mudguards; you either drill these out, or cut the pegs off. Once everything is on, the PE straps “holding” the external fuel tanks need to be installed. These are two-part assemblies each: one metal strap and one tiny U shaped part that is originally welded to the hull, and used to fasten the strap to.

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Before installing the road wheels and tracks I’ve painted the side of the hull green, and muddied it up with several layers of pigments dissolved in white spirit. I used light brown colors first on the side, and then went darker and darker, making sure I cover smaller areas with the subsequent layers. I also used a clean brush moistened with white spirit to adjust the layers once they dried.

 

The road wheels are simple to assemble, however, the peg that supposed to hold each wheel is tiny (about 3 mm long…) In theory you can assemble the wheels so that these pegs can rotate, but I did not bother with this; they were glued in. I also used epoxy glue, as I said, to make sure the wheels stay in place once attached to the swing arms –and since I will display the model on a flat surface, I also glued the torsion bars in place… Leave the return rollers and the drive wheels off; the tracks will be simpler to attach if you attach them together. The tracks are really nice; the detail is very good on them, but as I mentioned, they are not “workable”. You will need to glue them on. I could not put the whole 70+ link assembly together without it coming to pieces, so I just assembled sections, applied thin model glue to the joints, waited an hour, and then put them in place. Once the tracks were dry, I removed them (I left them in two large pieces on each side), painted and weathered them, and glued them in place for good.

The tracks were painted dark grey first, and then I used similar dark brown pigments diluted in white spirit to add rust and dirt. I keep seeing incredibly muddy tracks on models, where the pattern is essentially hidden by the caked-on pigments, which is not very realistic. (Well, there ARE instances; the spring/autumn mud in Russia would put a lie to this statement.) Nevertheless, I opted for a relatively clean set of tracks, as any movement would wipe and shake most of the dirt off. In fact, five-ten minutes of movement would polish the tracks shiny, and free of rust.

For green I started with Tamiya’s Dark Green. I fogged it onto the black primer, and then added subsequent layers lightened with yellow. The color will be further modulated with yellowish filters, and then with the dot filter method.

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Now it looks like a tank…tvtezwf

There is one major problem with the turret ring: the turret does not fit well. As usual with tank models, the turret is attached by sliding two little pegs into two corresponding openings, and then rotating it. This should lock the turret in place. The problem, as far as I can see, is that these pegs are very tiny, and simply do not hold the turret (or cannot click into place to begin with). Gluing a bigger piece to the turret to hold it better might solve this issue. The problem is for me is that the tank was ready when I ran into this, and it’s difficult to play around with it without breaking parts off. To be honest I was thinking about displaying the turret on a stand to show off the interior better, so I might side-step this issue; it would be a shame to glue it in place, as it would hide all the interior details.

 

Final small parts added… I try to leave these off until the very end- not to risk breaking them.dh7mu0f

The upgraded tow cables; I used the hooks of the plastic part, and replaced the plastic part of the wire with metal.kjjhisbblug4mwwrmqp4r

The cable is held by folding PE holders; it does not need to be glued in place.chvpggmf8oc8stgvsm4yj

The extra track links are also held by PE parts; the installation went on without a problem.gilkuzi1

And here is the tank -all done with the building. Still prone to lose it’s head easily -something I’ll have to figure out how to fix-, but ready for weathering. Next step: Windex chipping3xmpnhx

MiniArt T-44 build review p3. The lower hull

 

Once I did the gray primer base, and assembled everything to the level I thought was necessary to start the painting process, I used several light coats of white enamel paint on the interior parts. (The tank was painted white in the inside, as most AFVs are.) The key is to use several light coats, as white is a notoriously difficult color to work with. Once the paint was cured, the bottom of the hull was painted in a grey-blue color, which I mixed up using Tamiya paints, and sprayed onto the white base coat. (I used a youtube video of the interior as a reference, as the instructions would have you paint the sides completely grey. It is possible that both versions are correct, but I went with the video.)

 

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I should have left the engine stand out, as it would have been perfect to put the engine on for display…

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The finishing of the rest of the interior is a very straightforward process. All the pieces can be built, painted and weathered separately, yet I would suggest assembling the lower hull as soon as possible, and once it’s finished, only then proceed with the rest of the details. I decided not to add too much rust and streaks to the interior, as most tanks I’ve seen on photos and in real life were relatively clean in the inside. I did add some dirt, and some rust, but I tried not to go overboard. (I worked on the floor plates a lot more though. I did apply some serious wear-and-tear to them, as to the horizontal surfaces of the bottom of the turret.) I got Lifecolor’s liquid pigments on Ebay to try them out; so far they have not been a complete success… If you apply them onto completely matte surface, they’re fine. Anyhow, some of the rust spots have been made using these liquid pigments.

 

 

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Well, there were some fit issues here. Most of it is easy to deal with if you are patient, and go section by section. I started from the back, and went forward, clamping and gluing the hull in sections. There were some minor gaps remaining (see photos). These were easily filled, and would not really be visible anyhow once the running gear was in place. Nevertheless it was not a “shake the box and done” affair; this is why I suggested to start with this step before you assemble and paint the interior.

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Driver’s hatch. The transparent part looks like an angry Tiki God from this angle.

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I built a somewhat accurate (but not very accurate) driver’s station using an AM set for the T-55 by CKM (some parts I adopted, some –like the pre-painted instrument panel- I left alone). It’s not accurate, but at least there is something there. (The basic outline of the T-44 and T-55 driver’s station are similar enough, though.)75bgp2eh7wwmfw

The instrument panel has a completely different shape; I decided to put it in nevertheless. (This is the first ever pre-painted instrument panel I’ve used, and I did not feel like trying to fabricate one myself.)2xvtzjpn1wlbysc9riabv

The grousers for the tracks are mounted on the back on a special rack. The straight poles that are holding the grousers however are very difficult to clean. The parts are tiny and thin, and the sprue attachment points make it really difficult to make them smooth enough so that they fit into the holes cut into the grousers. First of all, it’s worth slightly enlarging these holes. (photos 60-61) Second, it’s very easy to snap these thin parts when you try to clean them up, so it’s better just to cut them off completely, and use styrene rods. (see photo 64) I apologize for the quality of the photos; it took those with my phone instead of my camera, and the white balance was somewhat off; you can see it on some other photos as well. Lesson learned: DSLR only from now on.

 

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There’s also a slight mistake on the last set: only three pairs of grousers need to be put into one holder; I went overboard and did four… (I guess I was happy that I found a simpler way than to try to clean up some fragile piece of styrene, and just kept going.) It would have been very nice if MiniArt had shown how to apply the grousers to the tracks; I’ve very rarely seen these in use on models.

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MiniArt T-44 build review p2. The Turret

 

The gun is a really nice, multiple part assembly, and the plastic gun barrel is perfect (it’s easy to find a metal replacement should you want to, but it’s not necessary). One word of caution: once you install the gunner’s seat, you will be in constant danger of snapping it off… You will find the same problem with the top of the turret: once you add the little PE peg on the commander’s cupola that indicates the front of the tank, you cannot put the turret down upside-down, either… (Talking about the commander’s cupola: make a note where the notch for the PE peg is; it’s easy to glue the cupola on in a different orientation.) All the hatches are workable if you are careful with the glue.

 

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I used steel from the same paint range for the breech of the gun, and it did adhere better than to the ammunition (coming up in a minute); the difference was the base coat  I think– the gun was painted with Tamiya matte acrylics first. amfr2iayhhekc99vtmicr

Since there is an interior provided, there is the task of painting the ammunition… MiniArt provides a lot of extra pieces, so make sure you don’t do extra work, unless you really enjoy painting ammo casings and shells. The instructions give an extensive guide to paint them; there are several colors needed to be used on the shells themselves. I was a bit lazy and only painted the pieces of ammunition which would be visible completely; the rest of the shells received only the green overcoat, and the copper color for the casings. (They would be covered by the fully painted ones once installed into the racks.)

I’ve tried AK Interactive’s metallic wax colors to paint the shell casing, but it took ages to dry. When I tried to polish it, the paint simply rubbed off even a week after application. Perhaps a completely matte base paint would help the paint stick to the surface better next time; the finish is not as smooth as I hoped it would be.(I will need to figure out how to use these paints properly. Normally I use Citadell’s gold/shining gold/copper colors to paint shell casings.)

It’s safe to say that the preparation and painting of the ammunition took almost as long as the assembly of the rest of the interior; having a good podcast to listen to is very useful in this situation.

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The turret is a very nice piece of affair. Good fit, great detail both interior and exterior. The casting texture is great, and the parts are made in a way that the fit will be hidden (in most cases) by the welding joints. The only exception is where the two sides of the turret meet on the back; with some careful filling of the gap resulting, you can avoid damaging the casting detail. I simply used white spirit to wipe off the excess, hence did not have to sand it down. Only two ejector pin marks needed to be filled in the interior; the rest were hidden by the gun. The turret grab handles are very delicate, and unfortunately they broke on sprues as I tried to remove them. It was easier just to replace them with wire. It’s worth waiting with this step to the very last stage, so that I don’t break them off while working on other parts.

The turret roof is scale thickness- and the hatches are movable if you are careful with the glue.dmkjr2q

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The co-axial machine gunopyglovq7kqrcy

 

Well, that’s it. Soon: part three of the review

Miniart’s SU-76(r)

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This model has been a shelf-queen for a long time. When I moved to the UK I was living in a ~very~ temporary student housing, so I became severely limited in what tools I could use; among other things I was forced to give up on my airbrush. (It took me five years before my living conditions changed so I was able to get another one.)
This, and the lack of space meant I had to switch to 1/72 scale… a decision which I did not regret ever since. I quite like this scale, and I think I’ll stay focused on it in the future. However, there are models which make me stray from this scale into the world of 1/35. This one, particularly, sold itself with the box art. I liked the re-painted flaking dunkelgelb camo, and the relaxing German crew -even though I ended up not using the figures for the build. (I don’t like figures on models to be honest.) Originally it was a much more ambitious project; I wanted to make a partial interior, since the driver had nothing to sit on.
I bought the kit in 2011 in Norwich, and started work on it immediately; I thought I’d progress as far as I can without an airbrush, and then just put it away until I can finish it.

Well, I stopped a bit earlier than that.

The kit is not bad, let me say this. It is, however, not a very good one, either. There are some peculiar issues with it. For one, the parts are only numbered on the instruction sheet; the numbers are not on the sprues. This forces you to constantly check for parts on the instructions showing the sprue layout, which is really, really annoying.
The other problem was the wheels. The swing arms do not “lock” in place, where they are supposed to be when the tank is on a level surface. It’s nice if you want to position the tank on uneven ground on a diorama, however it makes positioning them on a level surface difficult. The vehicle cannot sit too low or too high; knowing what the proper height is is not easy. I’ve ended up building a rig to position the wheels using an armorama topic dedicated to this issue.
And there were the fit issues. Some parts were oversized -these had to be sanded thinner. The sides of the fighting compartment had fit issues, too, so they are slightly bent- a necessity when I needed to make sure it is glued on properly.

Nevertheless, the detail is excellent; if you accept the shortcomings mentioned, the kit builds up into quite a nice representation of the vehicle.

So… without further ado, the build.

When I got the model out of its box after sitting there for years, the first thing I did was to cut the swing arms with the wheels off, and built a little rig to help me reattach them appropriately. (As you can see I painted parts in a very funky shade of green back in the days… the reason was simple: I used up a batch of paint that was mixed for a Braille scale model. Fear not: it was not intended as the actual color of the vehicle.)

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The gun was almost finished when I got the kit out of the box, so there was very little work left to finish it. I did a silly thing, and added the muzzle break before putting the gun into its sleeve. This meant I had to cut the gun in half, attach it to the sleeve, and then glue it together again. No biggie, but a beginner mistake.

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The lifting hooks had a good amount of flash around them; it was simpler just to use a piece of wire instead. (I did clean one or two, before giving up.)

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The build was quite straightforward after I took care of the wheels. Once they were on, I painted the sides of the hull with green, and did the whole mud and dust routine. After that I added the tracks, and then proceeded with the rest of the build. (Once the mudguards are on, the tracks are near impossible to add.) This section had to be masked, of course, for the rest of the build, although a little overspray of Dunkelgelb and brown actually adds to the weathering effect.

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I’ve left the sides green, figuring that the Germans would not bother cleaning and painting the areas under the mudguards. You’d have to take the tracks and wheels off, and scrub it clean before doing any sort of painting -and the results would not be visible, anyhow. This meant that the mud and dust was going on over Russian green color. The tracks were assembled without any problems; the individual links were excellent. I painted the rims black (to represent rubber), but did not worry particularly about neat lines; the wheels were about to receive quite a heavy layer of washes, mud and dust. (Yes, I was lazy.) The surface of the return rollers that rubs against the tracks was painted steel.

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The finished gun, and the sides of the fighting compartment.

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I’ve decided to leave the fighting compartment in the original green color. (I reasoned that the vehicle was adopted to German use in a field shop, so they did not strip everything to be repainted. They would probably be content on leaving the interior of the fighting compartment untouched.) This made the painting a bit more tedious (had to finish and mask the fighting compartment before proceeding). The fighting compartment itself was painted along with the rest of the model in green, and the dust/accumulated dirt added using pigments.

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The painting of the ammunition was a bit boring to be honest. First, you have to remove the mould seams, and then paint them one by one… not very entertaining if you ask me. I’ve used Citadel’s bronze and gold colors on the casings. I cut a couple of the projectiles off to create “used” casings, which went onto the floor of the fighting compartment, under the gun.

 

Attaching everything to the hull… the parts of the model are in various stages of painting.

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The gun installed… I’ve used the kit’s tow cable, which was a straight plastic part; you are supposed to bend it around the holding pins. Well, I decided to be bold, and try it, instead of using a metal tow cable. (You also get the ends of the cable as two extra separate pieces should you decide to go this route.) As expected, the plastic broke; hence the somewhat angular look.

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Once the sub-assemblies were reasonably done, I’ve used Russian green as primer.

I wanted to depict flacking paint as I mentioned already. Since the vehicle was captured, I decided I would not only show the underlying original colors, but the rust/scratches that the vehicle has accumulated before its capture. Once the SU-76 was painted green, I’ve used dark, rust colors on edges, and other areas where heavy wear and tear was expected. The idea was that removing the Dunkelgelb from these areas would expose the base metal, while on other areas only green would show through.

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As soon as the green dried, I applied hairspray, waited an hour, and added the Dunkelgelb coat. (Tamiya paint, lightened with tan to account for the scale effect.)

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Yes, you can see the numbers still…

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Since Tamiya paints dry really fast, I could add the red-brown pattern right after the yellow base. It was necessary to add heavy layers at regions where the permanent marker showed through… I thought I was smart when I wrote the part numbers onto the plastic with a permanent marker, until the point where I realized that it showed through on everything… Some of these numbers only disappeared after the brown color was added in heavy layers. There you go: an important lesson. Don’t use permanent marker on exposed areas.

By the way, this was the first ever free-hand camo I’ve done with an airbrush.

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The chipping was done with a brush, and with a toothpick- depending on what effect I wanted to achieve. I added water to the surface with a brush, waited a bit, and then used a stiff brush/toothpick to carefully. It’s difficult not to overdo it, so it’s worth stopping now and then for a while, and put away the model for a day or so. With a fresh eye it’s easier to gauge the effect.

Once I was satisfied with how the model looked like, I sealed everything with an acrylic varnish, and applied the decals. I took some of the decals from the MiniArt T-44 set; after all, they looked good, and I liked the name on the gun.

As soon as the decals dried, I applied another layer of varnish, and started on filters. I used yellow and dark yellow colors. While the surface was still wet with the diluent, I used some dark pin washes (the wet surface ensures that the capillary action can work unimpeded even on a semi-matte surface). The same filters and washes were used in the fighting compartment as well.

Everything was sealed with varnish once again, and I started on the dust and mud. The dust was simple light colored pigments (chalk ground up) added mixed in water. Once it dried, I just brushed away the excess, and sealed it with pigment fixer.

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The rolled up canvas cover was a very underwhelming affair; it did not look like cloth at all. (I was not even sure what it was until I checked in the instructions; it was very symmetrical and smooth.) The cloth effect was added using oil paints. I painted the plastic with desert tan first, and then used burned umber directly from the tube to add the folded cloth look using a brush, and rubbing some off after letting it dry for a day. I’ve even painted the sides with oils to give an impression of it being rolled up. I have to say the canvas given for the T-44 is a much better affair.

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All in all, it was a pretty good result considering how this model looked like when I got around to finally finish it. The model itself is not bad, but I think the new Tamiya offering probably supersedes it in quality. Nevertheless, fear not; it was not an unpleasant journey.

Miniart T-44 Medium Tank 1/35 build review p1.

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I was really excited when MiniArt offered me a review sample of this tank. It’s been hyped quite a lot -a never previously available tank with interior details, working suspension… What’s not to love?

When arrived, the box did contain a LOT of plastic; however, compared to the D7 dozer, the assembly is simpler. One thing I did not notice at first is that it does not have a full interior – the driver’s compartment is missing, and only the engine is included. The rest of the engine compartment and the transmission are not included. I’m not sure what the reason behind this decision by MiniArt, but it certainly left some gaps in the model. Including them would have elevated the model into mind-blowingly amazing from simply “really damned good”. (Here’s an in-box review; the photos of the instruction manual will come handy later on if you want to check the issues in Appendix. I think I have the first ever blog with an Appendix, by the way.)

I switched to 1/72 due to space issues – they simply take up less space, and I’ve been on the move for the last two decades. The other reason is a personal one: a tank model in 1/35 feels “empty” for me. You essentially are building a large model with a lot of air inside. Having interior added actually makes these models come to life – you build a small replica of the vehicle; something that looks like the real thing inside AND out. You get to peek under the hood in a quite literal sense. You get to see the crew stations, get to have a feel how it must have been for them to work in there, you get to see how the vehicle operated. Hm, the transmission is in the front, but the engine is in the back? I wonder why; let’s read about it! Wow, I did not know the Hetzer was so cramped; and how could the commander of a T-34 stand on all those ammo crates, anyhow? I find these sorts of things incredibly interesting, and for me they increase the value of the model tremendously. Hobby Boss came out with their jaw-dropping 1/48 T-34s with complete interiors (and these were cheaper than the Tamiya offerings) AFV Club has issued an interior set for their Sturmtiger (after I’ve finished mine, of course), and had come out with a T-34 with full interior; Trumpeter has their 1/16 monsters; you can buy resin sets for a lot of models to equip them; so I’m not alone with this interest. (Fortunately.) I have a full set of German armor lined up from the Pnz I to the Tiger II with interiors; and building a Churchill is also on the menu. Not to mention I cannot wait for the SU-122 from MiniArt, either.

Anyhow, back to be model at hand. MiniArt has issued both the T-44 and T-44M in plastic; they are quite similar to each other. Despite of the similarities, they are intriguing steps in the evolution of WWII armor into the well known T-54/55, and later post-war Soviet tanks. The turret of the tank is unmistakably from the war; it looks very much like the turret of the T-34/85. The hull, however, already resembles the T-54 -in fact, the T-44 was used as a basis to develop the most successful tank design we know as the T-54/55. The T-44 still is equipped with the war-era external fuel tanks; these are switched to the more familiar flat external tanks on the T-44M; the familiar T-34 tracks were changed to the more modern-looking T-54 style pattern. (A full breakdown of differences are highlighted in MiniArt’s excellent poster.) Even though the T-44 was not exactly a successful design, it was an incredibly important step in the development of Soviet armor.

The build

I’ve started to build all the interior details first; it makes sense to paint everything at the same time, and proceed with the exterior after. (The instructions would have you first finish the hull, then the turret.)
As I said the torsion bars are actually functional; the instructions are not clear if they needed to be glued to the support or not (or if you need to glue them, do you need to glue the end or the whole section), so I did not glue them. The torsion bar units were dry-fitted, and the glue was applied from the outside to the seams; this way I avoided accidentally applying glue to the torsion bars as well.

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The engine is quite an intricate assembly, but nothing challenging; it looks nice, but not much of it will be visible, even if you leave the hatches open. Since there is no transmission, and no details in the engine bay, you would have to add those, if you wanted to open all the hatches as if it was undergoing maintenance.

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The roadwheels are OK… there’s not much to discuss. They are round, and they look like the original. 🙂

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The back of the hull is made up by several panels; one of them carries an abundance of grousers. They can be attached to the tracks for additional grip when the tank is negotiating an icy, snowy environment. They were present on the T-34 as well, and they are replaced by the characteristic log in the T-44M. The thin rods are supposed to go through the grousers to keep them in place. They are extremely thin, and the attachment point are going to be hell to clean up. I think I’ll simply substitute them for evergreen rods.

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The hull is assembled in an old-school manner: the “tub” is made out of the sides and the bottom separately. In this case it’s actually quite a good thing, as this allows for proper painting and weathering of the interior before assembly.

 

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The interior is taking shape. The empty space in place of the driver’s compartment will be filled out with a CMK T-55 driver’s compartment set modified accordingly.

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The turret -similarly to the hull- is a multi-part assembly as well. There are some injection mould marks, where the parts were pushed out of the mould, but they should not be hard to fill -and most of them are in places where they would not be visible, anyway. The outside of the turret has some nicely-done rough casting texture. (A little criticism: the armor used for the hull of the tank was homogeneous rolled armor; it too had some rough texture. These could have been moulded into the model; if you want to replicate them, you’ll have to use a rotary tool.)

I will take a look at the accuracy of the fighting compartment later; the only scale drawings I found were of  the T-44M, hence they might not be accurate for this model. Nevertheless, some detail seem to be missing -electric wires, wall-mounted electronics, protruding rivet heads, etc. These can be scratchbuilt to enhance the interior.

The interior of the turret, however, seems fairly comprehensive; it looks like there are more details included -sans the wires, of course. (I’m not sure how I feel about moulded-on wires, anyway; they are difficult to paint well. If you want them, they  can be added easily enough.)

The top of the turret is significantly thinner than the sides; it’s scaled to the real thickness. The hatches can be made workable if you use the glue sparingly. However, the attachment holes need to be enlarged with a thin blade for the teeth of the hatch to fit into them.

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Bottom part of the turret with the seats of the loader and the commander.

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The sides of the turret, waiting for all the details added. You can pose the pistol ports open, but then you’d need some real thin PE chain to hold the plug.

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I also started to assemble the gun… there is no metal barrel included, but if you really want one, there are several available online. Since it’s a review of a model I’ll limit the aftermarket parts only for the missing details, like the driver’s station.

 

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Tidbits… there are a LOT of them.

This is some part with a crank affixed to the side of the turret; not sure what it is (perhaps the turret turning motor?), to be honest. Once I figure it out, I’ll let you know.

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The fan of the fume extractor.2pb7bfp

 

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The PE work has begun: PE screens, ammo racks for the MG. Although the PE is thin, it’s really difficult to cut with the scalpel.

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I started the work on the mudguards as well, adding tool boxes and the attachment points for the fuel tanks.

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Well, this is where I’m at now. The interior is being painted slowly. This is the only problem with my fetish with interior details: white is difficult to paint. I’ve used a grey spray paint to set a good base, and I’m going over with several light coats of white.

The other tedious part to do will be the ammunition… removing seam-lines and attachment points, painting the casing to metallic brass, and the projectile to the appropriate colors -many, many times over. I’ll be lazy, and do only the ones that will be in full view; the projectiles covered in the ammo racks will simply be painted without all the tedious preparation. I’ve purchased AK Interactive’s True Metal gold to pain the casings; I’ll be curious of how they turn out.

Well, that’s it. Keep tuned, more will come next week.

 

Appendix: issues with instructions #1

The instructions are great, however, they are not perfect. So far I’ve run into the following issues:

Step 17, assembly of hull: a part holding the engine is labelled as c8. The color number is superimposed onto the part number; the actual number should be Hc8

Step 41: part G15 is shown to have a small locating peg in the middle to which part De7 is attached. This is not present in my kit.

Step 43: Part C17 is in fact C3

Step 58: Part C32 is in fact C38

 

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 4. Final touches

So we have left off at the stage where the MiniArt dozer was almost ready. Some parts were still unpainted, but we are at the last leg of our journey.

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After receiving another olive drab coat, it was time for preparing it for rust.

The engine has received several washes with dark brown and black again; and the underside of the chassis, alongside with the suspension and the dozer blade got painted with different rust colors randomly after the olive drab base. (From dark –almost black- brown to bright orange.)

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The model was covered with hairspray, and then a second (somewhat lighter) olive drab was applied to it. (Before the final paint coat I’ve attached the suspension units to the chassis.) With a damp brush I could selectively remove the upper paint to expose some rust; I tried not to go overboard, except on the dozer blade itself. The effects were quite convincing. Due to the olive drab base, the contrast is not as big as I would prefer, but the overall effect is actually very nice.

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As I said: build the tracks one tracklink at a time

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The finished paintjob… it looks too good to weather

Chipping commencing… the rust colors are pretty neat, and the contrast is low enough not to look unrealistic.

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Some areas received more heavy chipping than others.

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The dozer blade was seriously worked on; most of the covering paint was rubbed away

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I think the results are quite convincing

 

 

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The oil tank and the lower part of the chassis was worked on heavily, too. (The walls of the oil tank being thinner and more exposed would mean they rust easier.)

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Some careful chipping on the armored radiator cover t as well

Chipping done -dirtying up.

First, the model received a protective semi-matte varnish to protect our previous work.

 

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Then came the decals. As I mentioned in part 1, the decals are brilliant. They don’t have transparent borders, even the stars. The carrying film is tailored to the paint, so you won’t see silvering between the arms of the stars. This does complicate the application a bit, since the decal can tear easily. (Because the large star decals are not just one discs, the individual parts move very easily in relation to each other -and this means stress on the film.)

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After the decals were dry, another layer of varnish was applied to protect them.

 

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I applied pin washes of dark browns and black. After it was dry, I used Mig’s washable dust in a diluted form as pin wash as well -to model the dust collecting in crevices and around rivets. The excess was removed with a damp cotton swab. (These special products are fine, but honestly, you can achieve the same effect with pigments suspended in water.) I also lightly airbrushed this mixture on the flat surfaces on the top of the vehicle: the bonnet and the top of the cab. (For airbrush application these washable products are actually great; the pigment is so fine in them, it won’t block your airbrush.) I’ve used a wet cotton swab to remove some of this dust. It made it look more uneven, more realistic. I’ve repeated it several times to build up some layers.

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The sides were streaked using oil paint and turpentine; further dusting/fading was done using light colored pigments. The oil stains were added using AK’s Oil Stain product; same with the fuel stains. (I got lazy, I admit. Recently I purchased a lot of weathering products out of curiosity; most of the time they are time-savers, but not offer significantly better quality than the good ole’ modeller’s tricks.)

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The top is dirty; I don’t think it’s regularly cleaned as not many people can see it.

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Different rust colored pigments helped with the exhaust pipe

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Some dust has accumulated around all rivets

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The worn look on the dozer blade was achieved using some metallic pigments (both gun metal and silver). This created a very convincing sheen.

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Conclusion

Although it seems to be a returning theme to complain about the seemingly unnecessary complexity of sub-assemblies, these are not really complaints. I have enjoyed the building of this model immensely, as it did prove to be a tremendous challenge. It felt like an accomplishment when it finally took shape at the very end of the build. It is definitely not for the beginner; it is difficult to build even for a more experienced modeller with somewhat limited skills like myself. It was a great experience to work on a model whose designers obviously pulled no punches when it came to accuracy and detail; you have the feeling that the people who produced it were working on it with passion. It was also the enjoyment of the challenge; rarely have a model challenged my skills this much. Having built it, I have to say it feels just like when you just have finished a Marathon. Was the pain worth it? Absolutely.

And the best advice for this model? Pace yourself. Do not rush it, and you will enjoy the build. It is very intimidating when you are at step 1, and realize you have seventy nine other steps (one of them requiring you to build two sets of tracks…) waiting for you. If you take one step at a time, you will have an incredible little model on your table. This is not a weekend project; you will burn yourself out if you treat it as such; as it is, it took me two month to finish it working almost exclusively on this model.

MiniArt seems to have decided to establish itself as a producer of very high quality and complex kits; I think they are going into the right direction.

Miniart D7 Armored Dozer -review 3. Painting

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This is the third part of the review of the Miniart D7 Dozer.

Even though the cab will almost completely hide the operator’s station, I decided to weather it properly…

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As you can see I’ve already removed the offending toolbox from the fender

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This is the last time you have access to the whole engine, so weather away… washes, oil stains, metallic pigments -anything goes. Only the sides will be visible, but we know it’s there

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The metallic shine came from Tamiya’s weathering master -silver and gun metal

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…aaaand… it’s all gone.

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…a lot of the engine is hidden now as well…
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On the other hand it resembles a vehicle now
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Final parts attached, and yes, that is a handcrank

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The tracks received a black primer coat first, and then were painted in a dark grey color. The metallic sheen came from dark metallic pigments rubbed on them; the parts that are normally subjected to higher wear and tear, therefore are usually highly polished, received some silver pigments. Once they were mounted onto the suspension I added a heavy brown wash, and once it was dry I added some dust, using brown pigments suspended in water, and some more silver pigments.

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IT LOOKS LIKE A D7 NOW!!

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This was an incredible feeling -after month of work on the model without any visible improvement, suddenly I had a D7 Dozer on my desk

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