Tag Archives: plastic

ACE Model 1/72 FV4005 Stage 2 – part 2.

Part 1

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Well, the painting of the beast has arrived.

I’ve chosen a tricky pattern which I already attempted with my Cromwell (not to much success). This is one of my favourite World of Tanks camo schemes from the British branch.

It took a while to figure out the best way to replicate the pattern. After priming (Vallejo German Grey) I painted everything in the pale greenish color which will be forming the large patches (a mixture of Tamiya JA Grey and dark green). Once it dried I added patches of silly putty, and painted everything in Tamiya JA grey – this will form the thin line between the green and the black.

 

After it dried, I carefully squeezed the sides of the putty patches to spread them out a bit- this covered the thin areas of the grey color. Then I sprayed the model with the priming color lightened with Tamiya JA Grey. (Using the same color to lighten all the camo colors tie them together well.)

I have to say the results turned out to be better than I expected; although I did have to touch up on some of the patches.

As usual, a couple of layers of green and ochre filters helped to blend the colors together, and I sprayed Future on the model to provide base for the decals. (There were only three decals provided; apparently there should have been a “Spud” marking, too, according to the instructions, but it was missing.)

 

Once the decals dried, I sealed them with Future, and applied a dark pin wash to the model. After about a day of drying I used a wet brush to remove the excess, forming some good-looking streaks in the process. Wherever I felt there was too much wash left on the surface of the model I used a flat dry brush to remove it. I repeated the same process with dot-filters; the browns, yellows and blues formed nice, faint streaks on the sides of the vehicle.

Using a 00 brush I painted discreet chips on the tank. The color German Black Brown by Vallejo is great for deeper chips where the metal is showing through. I tried not to go overboard; in this scale no chips would be visible in reality, but they do give some visual interest to the model. I also used sponge chipping on the barrel and larger surfaces – again, trying my best not to overdo the effect.

This is when I painted the tracks and the rubber rims of the roadwheels with a fine brush- again I used very dark greys instead of black.

I rusted up the exhaust: on a black base I deposited a bright, rust colored pigment (Humbrol Rust), which was treated with various dark colored wash unevenly to create patches. The end of the exhaust and the mud guard below it got a tiny bit of black to represent soot; I tried not to go overboard. The thin metal sheet that forms the exhaust guard got a really heavy chipping treatment. Because of the constant heat coming from the exhaust pipes this thin piece of metal would be constantly heated, which promotes heavy oxidation.

I made a very light slurry of a reddish rust colored wash, and applied it over the larger chips on the barrel and the exhaust covers; once dry I could adjust the effect using a wet brush. (When I use the term “wet brush” it means a brush dipped into the appropriate solvent dabbed onto a piece of rag.)  I added extra heavy layers on the exhaust guards. Later I adjusted the effect with different rust colored paints to make this piece look even more oxidated.

I always liked the dusty look of some of the tanks in World of Tanks: a very light colored dust layer covering the lower parts, which gets fainter and fainter as we go up the hull/turret. I dabbed “Dust Effects” by AK Interactive onto the upper part of the superstructure and the turret with a brush; this product has a very light color – too light for an European setting I think, but very close to the color from the game. I left it dry overnight (it looked horrendous, causing me no small worries), and in the morning (during my morning coffee) I adjusted it with a wet brush (using white spirit). It formed a layer similar to the effect seen in the game, but I could not make the transition completely smooth; for this I would have to airbrush the product. (I know it’s possible, but I’m reluctant to airbrush non-water based paints.)

The lower chassis got slurry of light brown pigments suspended in Mig’s neutral wash. (I have no idea what I should be using this product for, so I use it for making mud).  It creates a dark grey/brown effect used in conjunction with the brown pigments, which is very similar to actual mud in many parts of the world. The excess was wiped off once the mixture dried, and I repeated the process with a darker mixture on a smaller area to form layers of dry and fresh mud. I covered the upper parts with a sheet of paper, and created some mud splashes flicking a brush loaded with the mud-mixture. The tracks got some extra treatment of mud.

To lighten the colors a bit -and make the model look more realistic- I sprayed flat varnish onto the FV.

As a final step I rubbed a silver pen on the tracks and the edges of the model to simulate the shine of worn metal, and called the model finished.

To honest I’m quite happy with the results; despite of the issues coming up while building the model, it turned out to be a good project at the end. Let’s hope the in-game tank will also prove to be a pleasant surprise once I get there. Which should be about 200 more games…

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ACE Model 1/72 FV4005 Stage 2 -part 1.

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This has been one of those vehicles I would never have learned about had it not been for World of Tanks. It looks weird with the giant turret, which immediately makes it attractive. This and the fact that it has recently been buffed in-game made me decide to grind it out (a long commitment, and my first would-be tier X tank). In the meanwhile I’ve got the model to build.

There are not many models available of this vehicle, which is not surprising. British armor has been neglected by companies, and experimental British armor doubly so. Apart from this version, there’s a Cromwell Models resin kit out there, and that’s it as far as I know. It was really good to find a plastic version available -it’s both cheaper and easier to obtain than a limited-run resin model. Since Ace has a line of Centurions, it was not a big investment to make this weird-looking tank destroyer into a model; and good for them (and us) I would say.

The model is by no means perfect, but it’s OK. The detail is soft at places, and the fit is, well, hit-and-miss. The instructions could use some improvement, and the sprues are not always labelled correctly. The model also has rubber-band style tracks, which are less than ideal; I prefer the plastic alternative. On the other hand these issues are not deal-breakers; it is just a warning that it’s not a shake-and-bake model.

The kit does come with some PE, and it considerably improves the model. Once you’re finished it’s not a bad kit when it comes to detail; in fact I am quite happy with it. (I did take a short-cut: because the side skirts hide most of the running gear and the tracks, I was not very careful building them -which considerably improved the building time. Since it’s not visible, no-one has to know, right?) The tow-cables are not very good (the moulding is not perfect), but I’ve decided to use them for the review.

Most of the gaps were easy to fill in with putty. The one in the front, however, is a contentious issue; and this is the one issue I did not like about the kit. I tried to fill it in completely so it would blend the top of the hull and the frontal plate together, but the step between the front glacis and the top was too big. The hatch detail on the top was too close to the edge so I could not trim it to shape it to the front armor. Unfortunately there is still a visible step remaining (which kind of looks intentional, so if you don’t know the type you may think it is a design feature). The other big fit issue was the mudguard: the front parts just could not be fitted without a major surgery, so I just left them off. Battle damage.

 

Now the model is finally done and ready for the paint. The only question remains: which non-historical camo pattern I should pick from the game?

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Armory 1/72 VK 72.01 (K) “Fail Lowe”

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When I was told I had a chance to review a model that has not even been issued yet, obviously I said yes; after all it is a rare opportunity to get your grubby hands on something so fresh out of the moulds. An added point of interest is that Armory is mostly known as a producer of high quality resin and PE aftermarket company, and their foray into the plastic scale model world is quite an interesting -and daring- step (with other resin manufacturers following suit lately).

The subject of this kit is a fictional vehicle from the popular online game World of Tanks; it it a German superheavy gift tank given out at Clan Wars, and in general it is regarded as a less-than-effective tank in-game. (Well, it might be an understatement. It’s called the Fail Lowe…) It is possible that it was an actual plan during the war, but it does not really make a difference if we call it a paper panzer or a ‘46 German tank, really. Amusing Hobby issued it in 1/35 scale; now we have a more manageable sized 1/72 version.

Armory seems to be interested in fictional German tanks for their injection moulded kits; this is the second of such vehicles, and share several parts.

The hull has a complex shape, and the surface seems rough in several places; I needed to sand the round part on the back, for example. There are no attachment points of the interlocking armor plates simulated where these plates are normally located, which is a shame (where the frontal armor meets the side armor, for example.)

The PE is top-notch, which is to be expect of Armory; they have a long experience with producing PE conversions  for both armor and aircraft, and full resin/PE models.

 

Assembly

The model is not difficult to build, even without instructions (I used Armory’s Lowe’s instructions, the 3D renders, and the Tanks.gg website during the build). The hull is a conventional assembly of several flat parts; we don’t get a “bathtub” like lower hull. The fit is reasonably good.

I chose to assemble the running gear and the tracks before adding the mudguards.

The running gear’s attachment points are somewhat flimsy and weak; the wheels can detach quite easily after assembly, so be careful. (This seems to be a common issue; I had some problem with the running gear of Modelcollect’s E-100, too.) The idlers are done in an interesting fashion: the individual disks had to be glued on a shared axis. I did have to enlarge the holes on these wheels.

Since I did not have the instructions I was unsure how close the tracks needed to be mounted to the hull; it turns out I mounted them a bit closer than should have, and it meant some trimming and cutting, which is somewhat noticeable. (You won’t have this issue if you use the instructions, but I felt important to confess, since it’s the result of my circumstances and not the model’s fault.)

And this is the part where we come to the less-than-ideal part. The mud guards have small protruding sections sticking out to help with the attachment; these should fit into the corresponding holes placed on the side of the hull. The fact is that they don’t fit; the mudguards are quite thick and chunky, and the holes are not wide enough. This is a recurring issue with the model: several plastic parts are somewhat thick, which suggests a need to refine the plastic injection moulding process Armory uses (or replace the mudguards with PE parts…). Interestingly other parts, such as the tools and towing hooks are very finely moulded.

The top of the hull is a little bit wider than the bottom, which required some sanding to bring them to the same width. The top part is sitting on the top of the sides, which means there is a seam to be filled on the side.

This leads us to the next issue: the need for filling seams. The fit is not as good as to eliminate the need for filler. The seams between the mudguard and hull are quite wide and need to be filled. The triangular parts on the side under the round section also need filling (and they have a sink-mark as well). The turret also needs some trimming and filling to fit properly. The armored mantlet does have a seam on the artwork,so I decided not to touch it. Due to the nature of the moulding process, the muzzle breaks (there are three options to choose from) have also seams to fill, which is a bit more difficult due to the fine details. If you are patient, it’s worth drilling out the holes.

As I said the PE considerably improves the model; the engine deck grilles, etc. are very nice additions. I switched some tools to DML ones as I had those pre-painted; I also put on a 1/35 rolled tarp on the mudguard.

Overall, once I finished with the fitting and filling the build became quite enjoyable. The model looks unique, and once it takes shape, it’s a cool little thing to work on.

Painting

I chose a fictional painting scheme with my fictional tank, and used silly putty to mask the dunkelgelb parts. The Dunkelgelb is a mixture of Mig’s two kind of Dunkelgelb colors (mid and late war). I’m still a bit conflicted on these paints; if you use them right they do spray on nicely, but the fact that they form a cured layer makes them a bit less attractive for me. I’m used to the Tamiya paints, and I really like the fact I can just “mist” them on. I’m not sure I can do that with these paints.

The green was Tamiya dark green lightened with a lot of tan. The triangles were hand painted once the paint was dry. The model received a pin wash of dark brown to bring out the small details. (Looking over the photos I realized I forgot to paint the periscopes… this is something I’ll remedy tonight.)

As usual I applied filters (light brown, in several layers) to lessen the contrast, and added mud to the bottom of the chassis and running gear using pigments mixed with white spirit.

The decals were applied in a haphazard manner. I made up the identification numbers (birthday of my wife, if you really want to know), and put on the charging knight because I quite like the figure. I sealed everything with Testors dulcote.

Several layers of subtle streaking was added using AK’s Winter Streaking Grime. The photos bring out everything incredibly stark; they don’t look as strong by eye. It’s actually a good idea to take photos just to see the mistakes; it’s incredible how much more critical the camera is… (It also exaggerates the weathering effects, so keep that in mind. You can please the eye or you can please the camera; rarely can you do both…)

I used Tamiya’s makeup set on the whole model; it got a nice, uneven coat of dust (dark dust on the lower part, light dust on the upper part), which was followed by Mig’s washable dust on the horizontal surfaces. I did not use the product “straight”: I heavily diluted it with water, and added small patches where I thought dust would accumulate. With a clean, wet brush I could spread these patches, and remove the excess quite nicely. I did not add paint chips to the model; I thought I’d keep it relatively pristine. The edges got the usual treatment with a silver pencil to give a metallic shine to the model, and I declared the tank finished. (Prematurely, as I just realized, since I forgot to paint the periscopes, and lost the radio operator’s machine gun barrel somewhere in the weathering process… Let’s say he removed it for maintenance, and leave it at that.)

 

And that’s it, really. The model is OK; it’s not a high-tech Flyhawk kit, but it’s not bad, either. It’s something you are used to if you work with Eastern European Braille models, with one exception: the basic plastic is greatly improved by the brass barrel and extensive PE. I think it’s pretty impressive that a mostly resin/PE aftermarket company is moving to the injection moulded model market; it’s something OKB and other companies seem to be doing, too. Exciting time for the 1/72 market, that’s for sure.

 

 

Modelcollect 1/72 Rheintochter 1 movable Missile launcher with E100 body, 1946

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This model was one of the three of my very first order from Modelcollect; the other two were the E-75 with full interior and a T-80. I’ll take a look at those models later on. There is also an E-50 with interior available, and a T-64, T-72 with interior in the plans… which to be honest, are some of the most anticipated models for me in any scale.

This particular model is a somewhat feasible modification of the E-100 tank: the hull of the tank is mated with an AA missile launcher platform for the multi-stage Rheintochter 1 missile, forming a mobile anti-aircraft unit. As anti-aircraft missiles go, this one is enormous; it would probably have been pretty devastating against bomber formations. There are some issues with the concept: the operators of the weapon system seem to be placed outside by the launching platform just like if it was a regular AA gun (there WERE plans to use mounts from AA guns). The problem is unless the crew vacates the area before each launch (and go quite far away from the vehicle), they would be blasted away by the exhaust by the missile engine. The blast shield even directs the gases upwards and somewhat forwards… it’s definitely not someplace I’d like to sit when the missile lifts off. Even with the much smaller Nebelwerfer Wurfrahmen rockets the crew had to find shelter before firing. There’s also the issue of reload – it would be interesting to see an ammo carrier vehicle with a crane.

Regardless the concept looks cool, and when it comes to modification of fictional tanks, it is all that matters. (There are other modifications by the same theme: twin AA Flak guns, V-1 rocket launcher, and the same weapons on an E-75, E-50 platform.) Interestingly the missile was real enough; it even was launched a couple of times during testing.

The quality of moulding is excellent, the details are good; there is no complaint there. The PE is small, but there’s really not a lot needed; the addition of engine deck grilles is a very nice touch. The instructions are simple and easy to follow.

The assembly is fast, but not without issues, though. I ran into some surprising problems. First, the running gear is quite flimsy; the connection points where the swing arms and the road wheels attach are not sturdy enough. Some of the roadwheels kept falling off, despite of being glued on with plastic glue during handling. During installation tracks also bent somewhat under the tension as you can see on the photos. Strengthening the idlers’ and drive wheels’ attachment points would eliminate this issue.

There were some fit issues with the hull as well; nothing major, but it was a bit surprising because I did not expect any.

I’m not sure where exactly the missile should be sitting. If you place the missile towards the back of the launching platform, the frontal fins tend to interfere with the shield if the missile mount is depressed to travel position. (The back fins would probably cause some damage to the crew/vehicle, during launch as they would not have enough clearance, either.)

There is a full engine included, but it will be completely invisible once installed. I did put it in, but I think it’s better just to keep it as a spare for other projects.

The whole assembly took about a total of two hours (waiting time for the glue to set not included); the most difficult thing was the attachment of fins to the missile. I use this word in a relative sense – the model was not challenging at all.

The painting was started with a Dunkelgelb base- I used Mig Ammo’s paints for this. (I still need to learn how to use these paints; I’m used to the Tamiya range.)

I did muck up the next steps. Simply put I did not account for the scale effect for the camo colors -a rookie mistake. In my rush I was focusing on the pattern and masking and forgot about the colors themselves. Thanks to this at first the model looked quite colorful… I planned to strip the whole model and give it another go, but decided to use this mistake as an opportunity to experiment a bit instead. I corrected mistakes in the masking wherever some colors showed through using a brush first; this is something to be expected whenever you use masks. Subsequent layers of yellow/green/brown colored filters and very fine Tamiya Sand mist from the airbrush managed to tone the colors down and blend them together. I used a large flat brush to distribute the last layers of filters with a downward motion, forming streaks on the side.

I used white spirit to wet the surface before applying pin washes -I did that because I did not want to apply gloss varnish, and the wash would not flow properly on a matte surface.

I used some rust colors applied with a piece of sponge on the blast shields where the heat of the exhaust gases burned away the paint. I applied some subtle chipping/rusting using the same technique and color on the hull as well.

With the help of pigments I added dust on the top of the hull, some mud on the sides. The key here is application/removal as with a lot of weathering techniques: I mixed some pigments with water, dabbed the mixture on, and after it dried somewhat I used a clean, wet brush to remove most of it. Repeating the procedure in several thin layers and slightly different colors produces a reasonably realistic effect.

Finally a silver pencil helped to give some metallic shine to the tank.

Although the tank is pretty dusty (I kept to the artwork’s destroyed urban setting), I left the missile clean – it is supposed to be freshly loaded onto the launching platform. You can argue that the blast of the previous lift-offs would blow some of the dust away from the vehicle as well, but the blast-shield would direct most of it upwards. The missile’s paint scheme is completely fictional. There are some real-life examples you can use as reference, but since the whole vehicle is fictional, I thought I’d go with colors I like. (I have some real funky Citadel paints which I have not yet been able to use for anything really. After much consideration I decided against finally using Tentacle Pink and Warlock Purple. Their time has not yet come.)

Anyway, disregarding my mistakes the build overall is a quick one, and there is no real challenge involved. The model is reasonably well designed; there’s really nothing to complain about. The detail is good enough, there are no tiny fiddly parts. This 1/72 model is about the size of a 1/35 Panzer I, so it’s quite large. Obviously these fictional vehicles are not going to rock everyone’s world; they seem to be quite divisive within the community. If you don’t like them, this kit is not going to tempt you; but if you want to build something visually interesting as a weekend project, this model is probably a good candidate.

Armory 1/72 Luchs

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This is the fourth Luchs in this series… and the third plastic one.

Let’s see…

Modelltrans Luchs
Flyhawk Luchs
Maco Luchs

Introduction -Armory’s plastic kits

The instructions are clear and easy to follow; the one gripe I had with them is that the parts are not numbered on the sprues: you get a sprue layout on the cover of the instructions, and you have to find the parts on the sprues based on it. It’s not that difficult to do, but it still is a hindrance during the build.

 

The model came in an “envelope-type” box, which opens on the top (and bottom). I personally don’t like these boxes because they aren’t very resistant but it’s a personal preference. The sprues were sealed in plastic bags alongside with the PE fret, decals and instructions. The cover image shows the tank in the middle of an engagement. The back of the box shows a set of computer generated images of the model, and the different build options.

The model is a 3-in-1 type of kit: you can build three different versions of the Luchs: early, mid, and the up-armored late versions.

Inspecting the plastic parts I found a lot of flash, and the detail was somewhat soft, and in some places missing. (Most notably one of the armored protectors for the vision slots is smooth, although it was ribbed in real life.)

The PE parts are thin enough and detailed; I liked working with them. The tank is really brought to life by the PE additions; the plastic itself only gives it a basic shape, really, and the PE gives it detail.

The decals are well printed and thin; there were no issues during application.

 

The build was relatively quick. The lower hull does not come as a single “tub”: you have to glue it together from four parts (bottom, sides, back). The top of the hull comes as one large part. Unfortunately it goes onto the sides rather than fitting into the opening on the top, which means there will be a seam-line around the superstructure that needs to be filling.

Before installing the tracks I’ve first finished most of the hull with all the PE details, added the roadwheels, and painted the hull and the mudguards in the base color (primer red) following the base color (RAL 7028 Dunkelgelb 1944). I added the tracks at this stage, attached the mudguards, and added the remaining details to the hull. These I painted with a brush.

I carefully painted the pattern using Tamiya olive green lightened with deck tan (for scale effect) with a brush. I was not particularly concerned about how even the patches were, since they would not be prominent after the whitewash; only small parts of the underlying camouflage would be visible. I did use a light brown filter to tone down the contrast a bit. The decals were added this point, since the whitewash was applied on the field, onto a vehicle already in service.

Once the basic painting was done, I sealed the paint with Testors Dullcote to protect it from the subsequent steps, and covered the whole model with AK Interactive Heavy Chipping Medium. This was followed by Tamiya flat white, and after about ten minutes of waiting I went on creating chips with a wet brush and a toothpick. The paint was nicked carefully at places using the toothpick, and I used the wet brush to enlarge these chips.

Once I achieved a decent amount of chipping and cleaned off the model with some running water, the contrast between the white and the underlying colors was really stark.

Sealed everything with Dullcote again, and picked up MIG Ammo’s washable white. I covered the model with it using an airbrush, and after it had some time to dry I created a transparent, uneven white layer over the whole tank using a wet brush. Moving the brush with a downward motion I blended everything together nicely; the paint left a translucent white layer on top of the model.

The weathering part is always a bit difficult, especially in 1/72; it’s really easy to overdo in this scale. One thing I’ve noticed is that the camera and the eye sees differently. It’s probably the trickiest part of the whole process to make sure the model looks good on screen as well as with the naked eye. As a general rule if by eye the model looks good, on photo the effects will appear somewhat overdone.

I used some heavily diluted winter streaking grime from AK Interactive as stains on the lower chassis. Different brown pigments mixed with white spirit and “splashed mud” from Vallejo was used to simulate the mud thrown up by the tracks onto the lower chassis and the road wheels. A silver pencil helped to create a worn, shiny metal look on the edges of the tracks, and gave a metallic sheen to the gun. (Normally I use it on all edges, but in this case the whitewash made it unnecessary.) I’ve used a guitar string -E string- for the whip and the crow’s feet antennae.

Well, pretty much this was it. The model was not very difficult to build (some experience with PE required), and the detail looks good when finished. The crow’s feet antenna looks especially good compared to most of the other offerings in this scale.

Interestingly all 1/72 Luchs kits have minor differences from each other: the location of the Jerry cans, the combination of changes, the shape of the mudguards, even the turret are all slightly differ from each other. Unfortunately I cannot really comment on the accuracy of these; there are not many photos available, and they might -or might not- be representative to all the tanks produced.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.4

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Part one

Part two

Part three

Well, the last part of the review has arrived… painting and weathering left.

I’ve glued the turret together using white glue; at this point I was not sure how I wanted to display the tank, but I did want to show the interior somehow.

The tank was primed using a grey primer, then used a mixture of sand yellow and tan (Tamiya) to cover the whole vehicle. I’ve used silly putty to mask the subsequent colors. Olive green (lightened with tan), and red-brown (again, with tan added) were applied.

At this point the tank looked very toy-like: the colors very flat and artificial. This is the point when panic is not the right emotion; filters, washes and the rest of the weathering steps will blend everything together, and create a (relatively) realistic finish.

So this is what I did.

First, several layers of dark yellow filters by AK. This was followed by True Earth’s Dark Aging product, applied by an airbrush. This is a water based filter-like product, and so far I have not been very successful using it: even on the flattest surface it forms little beads. I probably need to try to use some mild surfactant to break the surface tension up.

The unditching log was painted back, then drybrushed using tan, and finally I used some washes to make it more realistic; the result is pretty convincing I think.

This was followed by oil-dot filters using several different browns, yellows with some blue and white added.

Once done, I’ve pried the turret halves apart, and used some evergreen rods to mount the top. ( I could not decide how to cut the turret for a cutaway, so I settled with this solution.) I’ve attached the rest of the missing parts, and gave a nice coat of dust using my airbrush and some pigments.

With a couple of small issues (like the thick viewing port for the driver’s rain-protector), the model by MiniArt is really excellent.

(Reviewing the photos I just realized I forgot to add the windshield wipers…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.3

The first part of the review

Second part.

Exterior

The engine deck consists of several subassemblies that form a somewhat complex set of hatches. The cooling flaps can be positioned open or closed, and they are protected by a very set of nice PE grilles.

I did not even bother to try to clean up the thin plastic rods (c1, c2) required for the engine deck; I simply used them as a template to fashion replacements from wire.

Smoke canisters are installed similarly to how the real thing was: the PE straps hold the tiny plastic rods that are fixing them to the back of the hull, along with the mechanism that allows to them to be released. The assembly is finicky, but pretty impressive.

The unditching log looks pretty convincing; normally I switch them for an actual wooden stick, but in this case I kept it. Primed it black, and then spent some time drybrushing Tamiya Tan on top. The whole thing was then painted with Agrax Earthsade by Citadel.

Mudguards

As mentioned the external fuel tanks are provided as two halves. They are typical WWII type ones, although they are somewhat narrower than the ones used on wartime tanks. They are held down by PE strips – when building make sure you do the fuel tanks first, and add the storage boxes after, because in several cases they obstruct the tie-down points for the straps. Another important piece of advice: do not install the fuel tank on the left back mudguard. The flap (C9) protecting the exhaust port should be fitted first. (In my case the fuel tank was placed too forward, which interfered with the correct placement of the flap… Annoying.)

The towing lines were provided as plastic parts; MiniArt is being very optimistic about the chances of being able to bend and fit them into their places. Better get some picture hanging wire, and use the plastic eyes of the cables only. Make sure you cut a wire half a centimeter longer than the plastic part; it’s too short otherwise.

The AA machine gun is a complex multimedia assembly of plastic and PE parts; normally I buy aftermarket barrels (or even resin guns) to replace this part, but in this case it’s perfectly suitable.

The turret interior is pretty busy; it’s actually not as tall as the T-44 turret, and have a lot of things crammed into it. The turret originally was cast as a two-part hemispherical shape with welded roof consisting of two rolled armor plates 30 mm thick. The model’s turret is designed the same way: it’s built up from two parts (top and bottom), and the roof plates are added separately. The roof plates are considerably thinner than the sides; I suspect they are all scale thickness.

The 10RT radio and the TPU-4-bis-O-26 telecom systems are placed on the commander’s side, and there is a ready rack on the back of the turret.

The gunner’s MK-4 periscopes, and the low profile commander’s cupola with three observation TPC-1 prisms are replicated very well.

The gun is a very delicate assembly, so once it’s finished care needs to be taken not to break the thin plastic parts off.The gun breech has a seam in the middle, which needs to be filled in; to be honest it will be very difficult to see in the model. The gunner’s sight and the coaxial machine guns are complex little models of their own; once they are glued on, they tend to break off easily… (An important point for further handling.)

I have primed the interior using a primer red color, sealed it with varnish, and used the hairspray chipping method on the top color (blue grey on the bottom of the hull and white everywhere else). To make the vehicle look used, and to decrease the contrast of the pure white with the chips, I mixed up a burnt umber filter, and applied it unevenly to create patches of darker and lighter discolorations, and some dark, almost black brown washes to bring out the finer details. Finally I used different shades of rust brown oil paints to create some discreet streaks. Some rust and dust colored pigments were used to add a little more depth to the weathering, and I used a silver pencil on the edges to make them look metallic.

The gun got a similar treatment, only the cover color was green, rather than white, and for obvious reasons I did not add any streaks to it.

Coming up- final instalment: finishing the tank.

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.2

The first part of the review can be found here.

So the hull interior is reasonably finished, but I had to add bits and bobs (fire extinguishers, ammunition for the main gun and for the machine guns, etc.). Once I put the driver’s periscopes in place, I could close down the hull. The top part is really thin; I suspect it’s quite close to scale thickness.

 

Fitting the mudgards was not straightforward: the locator pins did not fit into the corresponding holes on the sides, so there was a tiny gap between the mudguards and the tank’s hull. I simply shaved the pins off. The plastic mudgards are quite thin, and the long parts had a slight bend; the solution was to glue them in place in two steps, straightening them out in the process.
The drive wheels have very small attachment points to the swing arms; since it’s a static model it’s not a real problem, but I still prefer a bit more robust connection.
The tracks are -correctly- narrower than what was used on the final production version of the T-54 (as a comparison I’ve used an individual track link from a Trumpeter kit on the photo). You need 90 per side (the resources I’ve read specified 91 for the actual tank), and you have an option to use a special link for every 20th track link. These links don’t have teeth, and are specially designed to mount the cleats that allow the tank to get better traction on snow or other difficult terrain. Unfortunately it’s not specified in the instruction, but that’s what you can use them for. (The instruction manual shows the cleats in a stored position on the mudguards.) The cleats in their storage position require some really thin plastic pins to hold them in place: first, the holes on the cleats are too narrow, second it’s almost impossible to clean these pins of the sprue gate… so I just used some thin evergreen plastic to replace them.
The headlight has an option to attach a protective wire cage around it; the plastic was very thin, and snapped the second I tried to remove it from the sprue, so I chose the other option.

 

Parallel to the work on the hull, I was working on the turret as well. As I mentioned I’ve been doing a lot of painting and weathering before ataching all the necessary parts, so only time will tell if they will stand out or not after all is said and done.

I have some serious decisions to make at this point. I would like to present the interior open somehow. Either I show the turret tilted up, with the gun being installed, or I simply make a “cutaway”. (I saw a photo on the T-54, T-55 group’s facebook page.)

The first version would be the most attractive solution, but the problem is I’ve installed everything already: ammunition, equipment, etc. A tank would be stripped out before the turret is lifted, so it would not be very realistic.
The second option would be to simply leave the top of the turret off- held up by a couple of plastic pegs, showing the interior off. (This way I don’t have to cut and saw into the plastic. With the King Tiger and other large tanks there are parts you can cut away easily; with the T-54 I would be taking a lot of detail away if I cut parts of the turret away. Since the driver’s position and the engine compartment are not very well detailed regrettably I will not cut into the hull, as there’s not much to display… But MiniArt has made the turret halves join up as they did in the original tank.

 

1/35 MiniArt T-54-1 build review p.1

Well, the long awaited MiniArt T-54-1 is here finally. I’m in the middle of several builds -somehow I ended up reviewing and building a lot of kits at the same time. Nevertheless this model got priority when it arrived, since it was something I really had an interest in.
I planned to build the Tamiya kit in my stash with the CMK interior set parallel, but until I can finish up the ones already started, I do not want to begin to work on new builds. Too bad, I guess. (I did start on the Tamiya last night, since I finished two out of three OKB kits, and the all Luchs as well -some left to be published at a later date.)

I would not start an essay on the tank itself; I’ll put it into my review to be sent to Armorama. I’ve used the references available on the T-54, T-55 research group on Facebook; I would like to thank everyone there for putting together such a comprehensive resource.

Short version of the review: the model looks really, really good. (I’m not trying to be a fanboy; it’s honestly a great kit.)

A slightly longer version:

Opening the box we are faced with a bewildering number of small sprues. MiniArt, as usual, followed its philosophy of modular kit design, which does help creating multiple versions of the same vehicle easily, however it does present a problem finding the sprues you need during building. Add to this the tendency of having to use several sprues during sub-assemblies, searching for sprues was a constant activity during the build. If you have the space it’s probably best to have them out and labelled visibly.

Fortunately there are only few of the notoriously thin plastic parts that are impossible to be cut off the sprue without breaking. One of the handholds for the turret was already broken in my sample, but I normally replace them with wire anyhow. It’s much easier than trying to clean up these extremely fragile and thin plastic parts.

The placement of the gates are sometimes a bit unfortunate: instead of having to clean off one edge, they sometime overhang, and this necessitate cleaning (cutting or sanding) two or three surfaces. This is especially notable in the case of the individual track links, where you will need to clean multiple sprue attachments from three faces (bottom, top, side) on all the track links… (I really, really like magic tracks, to be honest; they come pre-cut, ready to assemble. I have to confess: the assembly of tracks and the painting for ammunition are the two least favorite parts of model building for me, so anything that makes my job easier is welcome.)

The plastic is nice quality; soft enough and easy to work with. The detail is astonishing. From the texture of the turret to the casting numbers on the suspension units, everything just looks like a miniaturized version of the real thing. The torsion bar suspension is working, but I’m not sure how useful it is since the tracks will need to be glued together to make sure they are held in place. (The different panzer III variants by MiniArt had a workable track solution; it would have been nice to have this utilized on the T-54-1 as well.)

The interior followed the usual T-44 layout – that is to say it’s still closer to the T-44 than to the T-54 final version. The driver’s compartment sadly lacks a lot of instruments and whatnot… not that it’s going to be visible, but still. At least it’s there, unlike in the T-44 kits, so you have something to work with should you wish to improve the area. I have decided to use the rain cover for the driver’s hatch, which is something I’ve never seen before.

The turret interior, on the other hand, is really well done; most everything is in place.

I’ve left the engine unassembled for now- I’ve built a couple of these from the SU-122, SU-85, T-44, so I’ve decided to leave it out for now. I might finish it later and display it in front of the tank as I’ve done with the other kits. (There are differences between the V-34, V-44, V-54 engines, but they are not apparent immediately.)

The interior was painted and weathered the same way as I did with the T-44. In short: a dark brown basecoat with hairspray applied was oversprayed with Tamiya white for the sides and a grey-blue color for the bottom of the hull. A stiff brush and some water helped to create some moderate chipping I applied a light brown filter to make it more dirty and used. I’ve only added the smaller parts after I did the basic weathering; with the turret it might have been a mistake. (There are a lot of smaller bits that are white, and they might stand out if you paint and weather them separately. Time will tell.)

I tried to keep weathering restrained; after all the amount of chipping and rusting was normally minimal while the vehicles were operational. Maintenance does take care of these things normally.

The ammunition was painted using Vallejo’s new acrylic gold paint; the results are pretty good. I did not bother painting the tips for the ones that were placed into the rack. I’ve used photos for reference found in this website for painting.

The mudguards were finished separately before attaching them to the hull. One thing to keep in mind: do the PE straps first, and then add the toolboxes. I glued the boxes in first… In some cases the boxes were in the way, and it made attaching the straps difficult.

The AA machine gun is a pretty complex assembly, but the detail is really great. Cleaning up the sprue attachment points on the barrel is not easy, but possible. (There are aftermarket barrels available, but it would be a shame to throw the plastic out; it is very well detailed.)

The engine deck features some of those notoriously thin and fragile plastic rods MiniArt loves to include with their kits. I did not even attempt to cut them off the sprue; it was easier to fabricate similar parts from wire, and use those. (Added benefit: you cannot glue them accidentally to the plastic mounts, since the plastic glue does not work on metal.

The smoke canisters, as I said, were moulded as one piece, and the PE/plastic contraption that holds them in place are kind of fiddly to assemble. (The mechanism that allows ejecting them is modelled in great detail… sometimes I feel less is more.)

The model is certainly complex, and it’s easy to burn out; especially if you work on a review. What I did was to pace myself: once the larger assemblies (turret interior, mudguards, hull interior) was done, I just kept coming back to the model to add the smaller details a few at a time. I did the machine gun one night, “dressed up” the engine deck the next- it’s easier to make progress one step at a time.

Ode to 1/72

Braille scale has a lot going for it. I used to be a “1/35 only” person, but my circumstances gently pushed me towards the 1/72 scale. Namely I started my PhD in the UK, and had to move into a small room. Gone are the generously sized walk-in closets of the USA. This obviously impacted my hobby: no space to store my tools, my stash and my finished models. The other reason was the recent development in the quality of 1/72 models. Back in the days they were mostly toy-like models; the detail and the quality did not match the detail and quality of larger scale models. Well, not any more. Now we have really high-tech plastic models in this scale (with a subsequent increase in price I might add), and I also discovered the joys of resin models.

Here are some positives of the 1/72 models:

Braille takes shorter to finish, takes up less space (imagine a 1/35 T29). There are a lot of conversions, or full resin kits you could not get in 1/35. (Paper panzers, rare vehicles, conversions.) If you check my Sd.Kfz.251 series on the blog, it would have taken me years to finish all the variants I wanted to build. (Not to mention the collection would require a lot of shelf-space to house.) Since I’m short of both time and space, Braille offers a great compromise.

One thing to keep in mind is that normally Braille kits normally don’t have smaller, more fiddly parts than the “pro” 1/35 kits; they are not scaled down 1/35 kits. (Well, mostly. Flyhawk is getting there with their tanks.) I mean I break out in cold sweat every time I see a workable tool hinge in 1/35, yet generally I’m fine with the 1/72 scale. Companies in both cases like to get as much out of the injection moulding technology as possible, but the limits of technology don’t change depending on the scale. If anything most 1/72 kits are quicker and easier to build (due to having less parts normally, although the older 1/35 kits do seem simplified compared to the new 1/72 ones).

The detail is also pretty astonishing, most of the time. The “premium” plastic makers like DML or Flyhawk have excellent 1/72 kits (I would suggest you take a look at their pnzIIJ), and some (but not all) of the resin companies produce incredibly detailed kits as well. Some of these kits have more details than a lot of 1/35 ones. (Older Tamiyas, Italeris, and some Hobby Boss models, like the Toldi I come to mind as the ugly ducklings of the 1/35 world.)

To sum up: 1/72 has become high-tech similarly to the 1/35 scale.

I lately went back to 1/35 –mostly for writing reviews and to finish my stash I collected back in the US. I have a ton of kits with resin interiors and whatnot I really want to build; but in general I’m really happy working in 1/72 for most of the “not-so-important” projects. Let me give you an example: I have an OKB Object 279 waiting to be built. It’s a very expensive resin kit in 1/72 –you could buy the 1/35 plastic ones for the same price (or even cheaper). Yet the large ones would need to find space, they would take up more time than I would like to spend on building (it’s a delightfully weird tank, but I’d rather work on my T-55 with full interior for months if I have the choice), so I went with the small scale version. Another example would be Armada Hobby. They offer some really cool engineering vehicles based on the T-55. If I wanted to build all those, it would take forever, and would cost a LOT –even if I could find conversions available. This way I can just get them off the shelf, and build them in a couple of weeks/months, and have enough money to finance my wedding. (I’m serious here; some resin conversions can cost up to £150; a couple of those and you’re at the thousand pounds regions already.)

So this is my pitch: whatever you want to sink a lot of hours and money into, you go with 1/35. If you just want to build a cool tank (or multiple versions of the same vehicle), go with 1/72. It’s definitely worth it.