Well, the tank is finally done. It took me a long time to build, it was one of those builds which just did not want to get done; even though the model itself is just amazing.
Last steps: mud and dust… again. I have to admit I did the different stages of muddying the tank parallel to the T-55AM; everything written in part 6 applies here, too.
The next step was to apply dust. Dust and mud are the two things I’m not really good with, so this part I put off as long as I could. I settled for AK’s dust products, and mixed my own mud.
AK’s dust comes as a suspension; when you apply it, it goes on thick, and the results are not very pleasing. At least this is what I thought at first. As with everything I realized the secret is not adding stuff to the model, but removing it after. I diluted some of the mixture in white spirit, dabbed it onto the tank, waited some time, and then using a wet brush I removed most of the dust, spreading it around, adjusting it. The key is to be patient: you can always repeat the procedure (in fact, you should), if there’s not enough added. Adding less is always preferable to adding more.
One the dust was dry, I went on mudding up the lower chassis.
What I failed to realize for a long time is that it’s not enough to buy a product called “mud”, and them smear it onto the tank; just as you can’t just cover a tank with a paint labelled “rust”, and expect realistic results. Obviously the results will be sub-optimal; there are really no shortcuts in mud. (I feel this sentence carries some deeper, more profound meaning.) Even if you buy custom-made products you still have to learn how to apply them, and that’s that. And since you need to learn it anyhow, you might as well save some money and make your own mud.
The first layer was simple pigments suspended with water. I dabbed it on, then after it was mostly dry, removed some using a brush. A day later the procedure was repeated with a different color. The key here is layers; just like Shrek, mud has layers, too. Old mud tends to be dryer and lighter; newer deposits tend to be thicker, darker and placed lower. I dabbed the pigment-water mixture all over the lower chassis, the side-skirts, even on the top of the mudguards (in a much more diluted form).
I also splattered some using a loaded brush and a toothpick onto the side-skirts; any splatters that were out of place (on the side of the turret, for example) was removed with a wet brush using downward motions, leaving a very faint streak behind. I’ve also used Vallejo’s mud product on the side-skirts; it produces quite dark splatters which are quite different from how it looks like on the photo on the bottle.
A day or two later I decided to try something I’ve never done: I made thick mud. I used Mig’s Neutral Wash as a base. I got this as part of a set, and frankly I can’t really find any use for it; it’s too grey to be a “normal” wash. If you know how to use it, please let me know.
It did serve as a good medium, though. I mixed in a lot of brown pigments of different shades, some sand and some static grass, and then offering my soul to the gods of model building, I proceeded to apply the mixture to the lower chassis.
The method was the same application/removal as before; with a brush dampened with white spirit I adjusted the amount of mud on the wheels and chassis. I also added some on the mudguards (and sprinkled some on). The results are actually quite spectacular; I did not dare to hope for such a nice effect.
Once the mud dried (I gave it a week), I used my graphite pencil to give some metallic shine to the edges. The exhaust was treated with different rust colored pigments and brown washes.
The last stage was to take care of the remaining small details. I painted and installed the tools; the PE straps were a pain to add. The painting was relatively easy: the metallic parts were treated with the Vallejo primer and then rubbed some steel pigments to make it look like metal. The edges were dry-brushed with AK’s true metal steel paint. The handles were painted with buff, and then using a stiff brush I gently painted some brown oil paints; this made the surface uneven and gave an impression of wood grains. If you take a look at the instructions you’ll see that the hammer should have been installed under a plastic part during the construction. I left it off deliberately to make painting it easier. Installation was simple: I cut the handle in half…
I painted the straps of the tool box, and the construction was essentially finished.