Tag Archives: plastic

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…

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

Well, the long awaited 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.

MiniArt T-44 Build review p5.

Well, further work is ongoing on the 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.

Revell/Armory T-72B 1/72

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The T-72B (Object 184) was a much improved version of the T-72A model. It was accepted into service in 1985, and mass produced from 1988. The tank has received an improved 1A40-1 fire control system, improved composite armor (Super Dolly Parton) on the turret, and extra armor on the front hull. The new main gun (2A46M) was capable of firing 9M119 antitank missiles. The gun was also supplied with a new, improved sight (1K13-49), and a better gun stabilization system. The tank was powered by a new 840hp V-83-1 engine. The smoke dischargers were placed onto the left side of the turret to make room for the reactive armor (ERA) bricks.

These changes have significantly improved the tank: in many ways it is comparable to the T-80U model (although with poorer engine power). It is the last modification of the T-72 line; the next model has received the designation of T-90 (for obvious marketing reasons after the First Gulf War). Earlier models were later brought up to the T-72B levels, and this makes this model one of the most widely used tanks in the world.

 

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Armory has released the earlier T-72B model without the ERA bricks (there are countless variants of the ERA equipped tank, if you want them). It uses the excellent Revell T-72 kit as a base. All of the conversion steps are straightforward, and do not include extensive surgery: the new parts simply replace the plastic ones.

The model comes in a small paper box. It has the photo of a finished T-72B on the cover (with an added commander’s shield, which needs to be ordered separately, as I discovered). The parts are placed in small ziplock bags, and there was no damage during transport. (As opposed to the Revell kit, where the AA machine gun was broken after the mail delivered it…)

The instructions are simple, but not very clear; however there are plenty of reference photos online to help with the assembly.

 

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The parts are cast in dark, somewhat brittle resin. The detail is very fine; Armory has captured the changed shape and texture of the turret, and the composite armor sections very well. The hatches provided have interior detail, but since the turret does not have any (it’s solid resin), I chose to close them.

Some of the flash is actually quite thick, but nothing that you can’t solve with a fine saw. (Please remember that fine resin dust is toxic; use wet cutting and wet sanding techniques.) You do have to be careful though, not to damage the parts themselves while sawing.

 

 

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The construction is easy as was mentioned previously: after cleanup you simply have to switch the resin parts for the plastic ones. The fit is excellent, and I have not run into any difficulties during construction. As mentioned the commander’s shield is depicted on the boxart photo with the small print that it has to be ordered separately; I think this should have been included with the kit (or the print made larger…) As it was I felt a bit disappointed when I realized that I’d have to pay (and wait) some more to have the complete package.

 

Painting

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As I usually do I used black primer to create a good surface for the paint. I applied some hair-spray to most of the model, as I decided to try doing the chipping this way, instead of painting them on using a fine brush and a sponge.

I’ve used the modern, Russian two color scheme for this build. I used Tamiya Tan for the yellow (as it’ll be darkened, and modulated by subsequent filters), and Tamiya Dark Green mixed with Tan to get the green color. Due to the scale effect, most colors should be lightened anyway, but I noticed it makes less of a contrast between two colors if I mix the lighter into the darker color. The base color was yellow, and added the green using my airbrush free-handed.

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The chipping is very discreet; due to the long time it took to get the final paint layers on (about a week, as life and work unfortunately interrupts the modelling sessions), the hairspray did not dissolve very easily. In this case it’s fortunate, since in 1/72 only the largest paint chips would be visible, and I try not to overdo the weathering effects. It’s something worth keeping in mind however. If you want large chips, you have to work fast, and do the chipping phase soon after you applied the chipping fluid/hairspray. The process itself is simple: you dampen the surface with water, wait a bit, and use a toothpick/brush to remove some of the paint.

I wanted to depict a serious flaking of paint on the rubber side-skirts, as they are normally very much battered and abused, so the black rubber readily shows through, but unfortunately, in this case the long waiting time worked against me. It was pretty difficult to remove the paint using water; in fact for the larger scratches I used black paint and a fine brush.

Since we’re talking about the side-skirts: they are amazingly detailed. What irked me about Trumpeter’s 1K17 is that the side-skirts looked like they were made out of armored plates. Many older models have this fault, and for the longest time I did think they were made out of metal. Only in the last couple of years when I had a chance to look at a T-72 in person, watched some videos and reference photos realized that they are, in fact, rubber.

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In the next step I added umber and yellowish colored filters; once they were dry, I added a semi-gloss varnish layer, and did some pin washes with the usual black/burned umber mixture.

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I tried AK Interactive’s fuel stains product (without diluting). It’s not bad, but it definitely needs thinner, otherwise it looks way too thick.

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I’ve used different light earth colored pigments for depicting dust and dried mud on the lower part of the hull. The mud was applied wet (pigments mixed with white spirit), which was rubbed off using a stiff brush (with downwards motions, focusing on the top sections mostly, leaving the pigments undisturbed on the bottom). The “dust” was applied dry, and I did not use anything to fix them in place. (The model will live in a closed box, well protected from probing fingers and dust.) Black pigment was rubbed on the side-skirt close to the exhaust port.

As a finishing touch the edges were treated with the usual graphite pencil to give them some metallic shine, and the tank was mounted on the base of a display box.

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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 it’s 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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Flyhawk Pz. Kpfw II Ausf L Luchs initial, special anniversary edition review, part 1

 

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Introduction

The Luchs was the final version of the veritable Panzerkampwagen II series, and was designed to serve as a reconnaissance light tank. It differed so much from any of the previous versions, it could be argued that it was a completely different design. In fact, I do argue it is a completely different design; it shares practically nothing with the original Pnz II. It was equipped with wide tracks, a torsion bar suspension, and large overlapping wheels which account for its good cross-country capabilities, and relatively high top speed. The tank was produced by MAN from 1943 to 1944; a total of about a hundred vehicles were made (from the original 800 planned). A version armed with a 5cm cannon was also in the plans, but this tank was never produced. (The word “initial” on the box hints that this version is in the works, too.) The chassis was developed by MAN, and the superstructure and turret was developed by Daimler-Benz, based on the VK 901 experimental vehicle. The engine was a 180 HP Maybach HL66P engine. The total weight was 13 tons, and the vehicle had a top speed of 60km/h, with the range of 260km on road, and 155km cross country. The tank had a crew of four (commander, gunner, driver and radio operator.) Being a light tank with the role of a reconnaissance vehicle, it was armed only with a 20mm Kw.K 38 cannon, and an MG34 machine gun. The vehicle was surprisingly well-armored for a light tank. The main weapon of the Luchs were the FuG12 and FuG Spr Ger F sets.
It served on both the Eastern and the Western Front in reconnaissance detachment of both the Wehrmacht and the Waffen-SS. The vehicles serving on the Eastern Front were supplied with additional frontal armor. The experience on the field was mixed; there were issues with reliability, and the concept of the light tank was already outdated by the time it arrived to the front, so after the first batch of 100 vehicles the production stopped.

As a side-note: this is one of my favourite tanks in World of Tanks; the amount of fun you can have when low-tier is just insane. If you play the game, get this gem in-game.

The box

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Flyhawk seems to have abandoned the previous high-tech super-packages their previous models were shipped. The model arrived in a fairly large, rectangular box, with the sprues packaged in cellophane bags. (Interestingly there are two types of cellophane used in packaging…) Some parts became detached from their sprues during the transit, as the bags were free to move about in the large box, but nothing was damaged. This is a minor point; but I really liked the previous version of packaging. It gave the model a feel of having a very polished, very advanced product in your hands… kind of like the “Apple feel” you get when you pick up a brand new gadget they sell.

Nevertheless, this is the least important part of this review; after all, most of the packaging will end up in a landfill, so minimizing it makes sense on the environmental protection point of view, and not the least because it helps keeping the cost of the model down. The box art is a painting depicting the tank, with a map as a background.

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The number of parts is relatively low, and we get a nice, comprehensive PE sheet along with the plastic. There is no metal barrel provided with the tank. (Which is a shame, because I prefer to use them, especially in the case of a fragile 2cm cannon. The plastic barrel is perfectly adequate, however.) The plastic is very flexible, and quite pleasant to the touch (and great to work with); cleanup is minimal, as there is almost no flash. (There are some large plastic chunks on the underside of the mudguars where the plastic was injected into the mold, but they can be cut off without any problems whatsoever.

I only had one issue: part N10 snapped into two when I tried to remove it from the sprue (it snapped when the touched it; it was probably either too thin, or already cracked). It is not a problem to replace it with a wire bent into shape. The detail is really nice (for example the padding on the interior of the turret hatch is shown; I opted to close it, though, as there is no interior detail provided.) The roadwheels are detailed very nicely, even on the side that faces towards the tank’s hull.

We also get the tiniest plastic parts I’ve ever seen (the lifting hooks for the turret), and you literally will need a magnifying glass to figure out what position they need to be glued on. You also have an option to make these hooks out of PE… We’re talking about a two-part assembly, which is smaller than a pinhead. (I took a look at them, broke into uncontrollable laughter, and decided that although I do like challenges, this time I’ll go with the plastic parts.) If you like workable hinges in 1/35 scale, you will have no problems whatsoever with these guys.

As usual, you also have the option to use PE parts instead of several plastic parts, like grab handles and the antenna, should you prefer to. (Again –see previous point… I’ve decided not to shave off the moulded on grab handles and lifting hooks from the hull, but I’ll definitely use the PE antenna for the radio.)

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As an extra, we get a reclining resin figure of a tanker by Rabbit Club in his own little box.

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The instructions are really nice; they are well laid-out, and use color to help the modeler with understanding the assembly very effectively. I have to say Flyhawk has some of the best instructions I’ve ever seen so far. (The English is sometimes a bit clunky, but since I’m not a native speaker either, I’m not going to start throwing stones in this particular glass-house… I do say this, however. I helped with the text on Flyhawk’s Aurora cruiser, so if you did not like the grammar there, that’s on me, and me only.)

We only get one option for finishing; a late-war three tone camouflage, but the painting guide does not say from what unit the vehicle is from. (This case I’ll build a historical model, though; but as soon as the version with the 5cm comes out, it’s going to bear the proud colors of, well, me. I’ll paint it as my in-game tank.)

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Assembly

I only received the tank a day ago, but I could not resist building it. It’s pretty much finished, apart from the tools, the antenna, and the running gear and tracks. (Those will be installed after much of the painting and weathering is done on the lower hull, and I’ll leave the antenna until the very last step is finished.)
In short, the assembly was a breeze. The instructions are logical and clear; I really appreciated the fact that they contain a drawing of the finished area if it makes it easier to understand what part goes where. (This is a constant problem in many other companies’ manuals…) Clearly, a lot of thought went into designing the instructions.

The fit is perfect -I did not realize at first that the sides and the bottom of the hull are two different parts, as they were already fitted together when the model arrived, for example. Despite of my initial misgivings, I had no problems handling the small parts, either. (Good tweezers are a must, though.) The only issue I ran in was the detachment of some delicate PE parts from the sheet; the metal was difficult to cut with razor blades without warping the part. A dedicated PE cutting tool is probably the best to handle these situations.

The first two steps detail the assembly of the main parts of the hull, which is followed by the suspension, and the running gear (along with small tidbits added to the hull). Step four details the assembly of the rear parts of the mudguards, and five-six details the assembly of the turret. The colors for the painting guide are given in Mr Color and Tamiya codes.

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The running gear is made out of an overlapping wheel system, and a set of link-and-length tracks. There are individual track links for the drive wheel and the idler, while you’re supposed to carefully bend the straight part of the tracks to shape. The instructions provide a really clear (and colored) diagram of the track assembly.

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The assembly of the turret is quite straightforward as well; I was worried a bit about the PE jerry-can holders, but they went together like a charm. There are no markings on the turret side where they are supposed to be attached, but that should really not be a problem.

The assembly to this stage took about two hours; as I said it’s not a very complicated kit to build. (The next steps will be priming, painting, fixing the tools in place, weathering, adding the wheels and tracks, weathering, mounting onto a base, and adding the antenna. I’ve managed to damage one of the width indicators already, so no more delicate, easy-to-break part will be added until the model is secure…)

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I have to say, it’s been a pleasure to build this kit. I’m not sure how long it will take to finish it, as painting and weathering always takes longer than the building steps, but I shall publish the second part of this review as soon as I’m done. (The T-44 takes priority, though, so it’ll be a while.)