Sunday, 30 May 2010

Dust Magnet Display System (AKA Shelves!)

Here is a couple of pictures of my military models collection on their shelves in our bedroom.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Apocalypse Now Redux?

Continuing my current series of model updates, here are some more pictures of my Patrol Boat Riverine 'Pibber';

On a few occasions, I've been tempted to try and paint the figures in this model to resemble the characters from the film Apocalypse Now. But each time, I've decided not to, for a couple of reasons. First, I like my models to be based on actual real-life individual vehicles, and second, I would need to find some way of making a brand new figure resembling Martin Sheen's character. So, for now at least, my 'Pibber' is based on a real life boat, as used in the Vietnam War.

More Churchill MkVII Pictures

Here are some more pictures of my favourite WW2 model, my Churchill MkVII Infantry Tank;

The two extra figures in the rear of each picture, are from the old Churchill Crocodile model that Tamiya no longer produce. The two extra figures come with the new version of the Churchill MK VII because they are still moulded as part of one of the sprues in the new kit.

The armoured fuel trailer of the old Churchill Crocodile kit has been replaced by the new figures, including the French farmer with his little hand cart.

In the top picture, you might just be able to make out that there is no unit insignia behind the bed roll on the side of the turret. This is yet another of the little jobs I need to do to some of my models!

When it came to choosing which paint scheme to use for this model, I chose to depict the Scots Guards of the Guards Armoured Division. This is because I now live in Scotland, and wanted at least one of my models to reflect this new situation in my life.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Challenger 2 Redux

One of my earlier posts was about my Tamiya Challenger 2 model. I've already edited that post to include the new camouflage net that I added recently. But because the original post was written quite a while ago, it's gotten hidden amongst all my other posts! I've also recently taken some better quality pictures of the model.

Therefore, this is my new, updated challenger 2 model post!

The model itself was a joy to build, Tamiya included some nice litle touches such as clear goggles for the crewmen and clear plastic mineral water bottles that even have tiny decals for the labels on the bottles! To paint it, I mixed Tamiya Acrylics XF59 Desert Yellow and XF57 Buff. To get the right mix of paints, I did a thorough search online for pictures of Op Telic Challenger 2s, the resulting mix of paints, I feel, is as close as I could get to all the pictures that I managed to find.

Challenger 2 of the Queen's Royal Lancers, Op Telic, Iraq 2003

Compare the above picture of the real Challenger 2, with the following picture of my model, I think I have got the paint scheme just about right.

My model of the Op Telic Challenger 2 as operated by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards

Next are the better quality pictures I took after I added the camouflage net. To make the camouflage net, I used some left over mesh material that my wife let me have. I painted the mesh material with XF 59 Desert Yellow. I then sprinkled some mixed herbs onto the painted material that had been soaked with diluted PVA glue. Next I twisted the net and, again using diluted PVA glue to fix the twist, I temporarily stapled the length of net onto a sheet of cardboard until the glue had set. When the glue had set, I carefully layed the net around the front of the tank's hull, trying to make it look like it's lying naturally.

Front three quarter view, showing the new camouflage net I added

Close up of the turret showing the clear plastic goggles and the bottles of water

The only thing I'm not too sure about is the thickness of the aerials that I made. For some reason, I sometimes have difficulty getting a consistant thickness, when I use the heat stretched sprue method of making aerials. The other small detail that I added, was the gun positon indicator at the rear of the hull, which lets the driver know when the gun barrel is pointing directly aft, or rearwards. I did however, add a detail that shouldn't really be on a tank which is supposed to be on operations, and that is the amber warning light on the rear of the turret. The reason I added it was purely because I liked the way Tamiya had made it from a hollowed out clear plastic part. I painted the inside of it with Tamiya X26 clear orange, with a tiny spot of Humbrol 11 silver enamel in the middle of the base part, to represent the light inside it. I didn't glue the warning light in its socket on the turret, so that if I want to I can leave it off the model.

Recently someone pointed out to me that I had put the black N.A.T.O. arrow decals on the wrong way round. However, after again searching online for pictures of Op Telic Challenger 2s, I have come to the conclusion that I have got them right and the pictures I found back me up in this.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

What No Diorama?

You may have noticed that none of my models are part any kind of diorama. The closest things to a diorama that I have made are the cardboard display bases that some of my models are mounted on. The main reason I don't make dioramas for my models is that, in my opinion, a diorama can take away some of the visual impact of the model itself. The viewer's eye gets drawn away from the model and onto the diorama instead. Another reason is that I don't really have the confidence to make a realistic looking scenic base. I'm perfectly happy with my ability at building and painting models, I just don't think that I have the ability to make a diorama. Then again, I have never tried! I've often toyed with the idea of making a diorama for my FLAK 37, with all the figures and accessories that came with it, but I've always chickened out! Besides, I like the way it looks being towed by the SdKfz 7. Another idea I once had was to paint my 'Pibber' to resemble the one in the film Apocolypse Now. Yet another one was to make a scene, incorporating my Warrior I.F.V., that was inspired by a news article I saw on the TV. This was a Warrior, painted in U.N. white, that had rolled down an embankment, trapping its crew.

Maybe one day I will make a diorama based on one of the many ideas I have had, but in the meantime, I will settle for a cardboard base with the vehicle and its accompanying figures mounted on it!

Another view of my 75mm PAK 40/L46 Anti-Tank Gun,
on its cardboard base.

Worn Out Bradley

The second modern U.S. Armour model I built was the M2 Bradley I.F.V. with full interior. I really like building models with full interiors, not only does it provide a prolonged model making experience, it also opens up all sorts of display/diorama opportunities. This one is quite an old model and is starting to show signs of wear and tear from being handled by so many people wanting to peer inside! So, my next project is to repaint it and, using some spares that I still have, re-apply the decals. I will be starting this process after I finish this post and when I have complete the repaint, I will upload some pictures of it.

My M2 Bradley I.F.V. showing signs of wear and tear.

The interior of my M2 Bradley

Friday, 14 May 2010

German Artillery (yes, I know, yet more German models!)

I like building models of artillery. I especially like it when these models can be displayed with a full crew. I have four different pieces of artillery, one British (My 25 Pounder mentioned in a previous post) and 3 German. One of the German guns I have already posted about (My FLAK 37 88mm Anti-Tank Gun). Of the other two, unforunately only one has a full crew. The one that has a crew is myPAK 40/L46 75mm Anti-Tank Gun and is displayed with its crew on a cardboard base. The one that doesn't have a crew is a 20mm FLAK 38 Anti-Aircraft Gun. This is on my shelves shown being towed by a Krupp Protze 6x4 Truck.
My 75mm PAK40/L46 Anti-Tank Gun displayed with its crew

My FLAK 38 Anti-Aircraft Gun being towed
by my Krupp Protze 6x4 truck.

I was going to do a seperate post about the Krupp Protze, but now that I have posted a picture of it here, I've decided not to. This is another good Support Vehicle model that I built. Again, it's got some nice detailing underneath, showing its powertrain and suspension. The next Support/Transport Vehicle that I would like to build is Tamiya's U.S. 'Deuce and a Half' 2 1/2 tonne truck. I will post about it if and when I am able to get hold of one.

German Armoured Cars

I used to have 3 different German Armoured Cars; the two in this post and an SdKfz 232 Heavy Armoured Car. I got rid of the SdKfz 232 a number of years ago and I would like to build Tamiya's re-tooled version that they released recently. The two that I still have are the SdKfz 222 Light Armoured Car, and the SdKfz 259 Half-Tracked Armoured Car. The latter is my favourite of these two as it has a fully detailed interior, including the engine bay. I really enjoyed building and painting the interior of this one and decided not to glue the top of the hull and engine access in place, so that the interior could be seen. Both of these models have mesh anti grenade screens on top of their turrets and cutting out the mesh for these was quite fiddly. The end results were worth the hard work though!

My SdKfz 222 Light Armoured Car.
You can just about see the mesh on the
anti grenade covers on the turret

My SdKfz 259 Half Tracked Armoured Car

My SdKfz 259 showing its interior details

Thursday, 13 May 2010

'Queen of the Desert'

The very first British Tank that I built, was the Matilda MkII WW2 Infantry Tank. This one was quite difficult to build thanks to its complicated suspension arrangement. It's still a nice model, considering it was only the third Tamiya model I ever built! You can tell it's one of my early Tamiya models because I didn't smooth down the mould part lines on the commander figure! Fortunately, it doesn't detract too much from the overall finish of the model. Another mistake I made was to accidently melt the right hand track when I was trying to join the two ends! This was the only time I ever made a mistake with these vinyl tracks and it was entirely down to my own clumsiness! I chose the easy dark yellow paint scheme, because at that time, I didn't have the confidence to try painting the more complicated desert yellow, grey and blue scheme that was the other option. Tamiya have recently released a re-tooled version of this model, so it's on my list of 'Must Haves'! Next time, I will try the more complicated paint scheme!

My Matilda MkII Infantry Tank

Another Early Model

Here is another of my early Tamiya Models. It's my 25 Pounder Field Gun and Quad Gun Tractor. This is one of my favourite early models as it's got plenty of detail, especially the Quad's chassis and powertrain. It's also another model that demonstrates that it's possible to get a quality paint finish with a brush. When I was a lot younger, I used to collect the old 'War' and 'Battle' comics. My favourite issue of these had a great story involving a Royal Artillery unit that used the Quad and 25 pounder. I think that's another reason why I like this model so much, it reminds of that collection of comics that I used to own!
In a previous post I mentioned that I don't really like having 'Toy Features' on models. The 25 Pounder Gun of this model is probably the exeption to this. Absolutely everything works on the gun! The Gun itself elevates, the breech block moves, the gun barrel slides backwards as though it's recoiling after being fired and you even have the option of mounting on its firing platform so that the whole gun swivels through 360°! The bodywork of the Quad can be removed so that you can see the chassis clearly, the winch even works! The only thing missing is a full crew for the Quad/Gun, but you can buy a 25 Pounder seperately that features a full 6 man crew. I might ask my wife if she'll look on Ebay for one for me!

Quad Gun Tractor with 25 Pounder Gun

There is just one tiny problem with this model; years ago, I accidentaly snapped the wing mirrors off the Quad! I keep meaning to try and scratch build a new pair, but never seem to get round to it! Just one of many little jobs that I need to do!

German Workhorse

This next model is my friend Mike's favourite in my collection! This is because the Panzer MkIV is his favourite tank of WW2. I must admit, it is my favourite of my German WW2 Tank models as well. I like the add on armour skirts on the hull and add on armour on the turret. I also like the fact that Tamiya included some nice accessory parts to decorate the Tank with. I love it when Tamiya does this, those extra details really help to bring a model to life! Glueing the add on armour onto its brackets was quite a fiddly job, and I think I got the turret armour on slightly crooked. Fortunately, it doesn't really show up that much.

My Panzer MkIV

Germany's Answers to the T34

The next two German WW2 models that I built are the Panther Medium Tank and the Tiger 1 Heavy Tank. These two kits were some of Tamiya's earlier models and so don't quite have the same level of detail as their later models. However, when compared to some other models of the same period, they are still quite well detailed for their time.
I enjoyed building both of these tanks, I built them when I was going through my German WW2 phase, when that was almost all I built to the exclusion of all other subjects. I think most Armour Modellers go through this stage at some point or other, some never come out of it!
These two had exactly the same 'Track Sagging' issue as my T62. However, for some reason, I found it almost impossible to superglue the tracks in place. So what I did instead was use a tip I had read somewhere else (Military Modeller Magazine I think). This was to wedge tissue paper on top of the tracks, as far under the sponson plates as it would go, then paint it the same colour as the main body of the tank to disguise it. This seemed to work quite well and I am pleased with the results.
Once again I enjoyed painting the crewmen of these two models, it's almost a hobby in its own right, painting the figures that come with these Armour Models.

My Tiger 1 Heavy Tank showing its 'Sagging Tracks'
to good effect

My Panther Medium Tank

More Russian Mediocrity

The 1st of three Russian Tank models that I have built, was a T62. This was also one of the earliest 1:35 scale Armour Models that I built. This was also the first of Tamiya's tanks on which I had to intentionally make the tracks non-functioning. The reason for this was that the track has to sag in the middle and rest on the tank's road wheels. Unfortunately the vinyl material of the tracks doesn't lend itself to sagging by itself. So what I had to do was superglue the tracks to the tops of the road wheels. Because of this, the wheels don't rotate and the tracks don't move. This doesn't really matter all that much, because, after all, they are supposed to be static models. Which leads me onto another point. I don't like so called 'Toy Features' on models e.g. opening hatches, moving turrets and guns etc. The only reason I made everything operable on my Challenger 1 model was, I wanted to see just what was possible, what level of ultra-realism I could actually achieve. It was a one off. The only extra details I add to my models now are so called static details e.g. wires for headlights, straps for stowage bins etc.

My Russian T62 with its 'sagging' tracks

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Faulty Warrior

Ok, lets forget about all this 'Die Cast' nonsense and get back to what this Blog is really all about; Armour Models!
A few posts back, I briefly mentioned my British Warrior I.F.V. and how I didn't like the front add-on armour. It's the only fault I have with it, even though it's not a Tamiya model. It's an Academy model (the first and probably only one I'll ever buy!).
To be honest though, it's not really that bad a model, it went together easily enough, I think I did an ok job with the painting. I just can't get past that inaccurate add-on armour! It's a real pity that Tamiya don't do a model of the Warrior, I'd snap one up straight away if they did!
Originally I had planned to paint it in the United Nations white paint scheme, depicting a vehicle based in Bosnia. But in the end I decided to depict one used during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm and painted it using Humbrol's 'Desert Pink' Enamel paint.

My Academy Models British Warrior I.F.V.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

My Die Cast Cars

When I say "Die Cast Cars" I don't mean Corgi, Dinky or Matchbox! I mean large scale collector's edition Die Cast cars that come in kit form! I have 6 in total so far and they sit on the desk next to my P.C. monitor!
I have 4 Maisto (althought one of these was a ready made display model) and 2 Burago. The 3 Maisto Die Cast kits are; a 1:27 scale Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, a 1:27 scale Hummer H2 and a 1:24 scale 1967 Ford Mustang GT. The ready built Maisto is a 1:18 scale Jaguar X Type. The 2 Burago kits are a 1:18 scale Jaguar E Type and a 1:18 scale Dodge Viper GTS Coupe.

My 3 Maisto Die Cast Kits

My big Maisto Jaguar X Type

My Dodge Viper and Jaguar E Type

I've included these models in my 'Armour Models' blog just to show that I don't just build models of Armoured Vehicles. Over the years I have built a wide range of different types of model. I've even built a model of the American Space Shuttle! I'm also in the process of building a large 'Plank on Frame' wooden H.M.S. Victory model. I'll post pictures of that when it's finally finished, it's taken me a few years so far!

Good Old Days!

Just a quick post! The other day I was browsing through Ebay's website, and I came across a page full of all the old Matchbox models! That brought back a lot of memories! I cut my model making teeth on these models and I recognised nearly all of them, I'm sure the neighbours must of heard my sudden cries of "I had that model and that one, that one as well"!! The nostalgia of the moment almost brought a tear to my eye! I sometimes regret getting rid of all my old Matchbox models, but I had to make room for my Tamiya models, so unfortunately they had to go!

One of the same models that I built years ago
and is now for sale on Ebay!

I am so tempted to ask my wife if she'll buy me that 1:32 scale Messerschmitt model, but I must resist the temptation, I really don't have the room for it on my shelves. It was a big model if I remember correctly!

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to stick with the happy memories of those early years of my model making!

The Big Chief

One of my favourite British Tank models, is without a doubt, my Chieftan Mk5 M.B.T. In its time, this was the most powerfull tank in the world, with its L5 120mm Rifled Gun and thick armour. This was the first model I 'weathered' by dry brushing mud splashes along the sides and on its wheels. I love the look of this model, it looks big and heavy just like the real thing was! I also think this was the first model I used electronic wire to make the aerials with. It is also the most difficult to clean thanks to all the details on the turret and stowage bins on the hull! Other than that, there's not really much else I can say about this model. Oh yes, apart from this; never use toilet tissue to clean the dust off a model, bits of tissue paper can get caught in engine grills and are a bitch to remove afterwards!!

British Chieftan Mk5 M.B.T.

The Honey and The Howitzer

I don't just build the larger Tanks, I also like to build smaller, Light Tanks as well. A few years ago, I found Tamiya's M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage (which although, technically isn't a tank, it is based on a Light Tank chassis). This model is unusual in that it actually has its interior depicted. It was a nice, quick and easy model to build and paint. I don't recall having any problems with it. I like the fact that you can look down into the open topped turret and see the gun breach in the turret and the stowed ammunition in the hull!

The M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage

The last of my Light Tanks, was one that my wife bought for me. It's the U.S. M3 Stuart Light Tank, known as the 'Honey' to the British and using the same chassis as the M8 Howitzer Motor Carriage, and M5 Light Tank. This was another quick and easy model to build, the only challenge was holding the angled aerial in place whilst the glue set! I actually used the right colour paint for this model! Tamiya's XF62 Olive Drab.

U.S. M3 Stuart Light Tank

The 'Meat Chopper'

This is another model that I had wanted for a long time, but took ages to find in the shops. It's an M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage. The real vehicle is based on the chassis of the White M3 Half-Tracked Personnel Carrier. As usual, this was really nice to build, not too easy, but with plenty of details to paint.
The M16 was primarily used in the Anti-Aircraft role, but was sometimes used against enemy infantry, hence its nickname, the 'Meat Chopper'. I love this model, it's got lots of small details, especially its powertrain, which includes its engine, gearbox, driveshaft, differential and exhaust. I also like the fact that Tamiya included extra details like the crewmen's personal weapons, backpacks, water bottles and blankets! Nice one Tamiya!

My M16 Multiple Gun Motor Carriage

I did, however, make a major mistake with this model. I used Humbrol's Olive Drab, (I forget the paint number, as I have since thrown it out) which is too light. I should have used Tamiya's Olive Drab XF62, it's almost exactly the right shade of Olive Drab for U.S. Army WW2 vehicles.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Mass Produced Masterpiece

As I mentioned before, the very first model I bought from Tamiya's 1:35 scale Military Miniatures Series, was the U.S. M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank. I remember after I had finished building and painting it, it was my pride and joy and it took center stage amongst all my Matchbox Models (at this stage I was still quite young and living with my Parents). I was really chuffed with the way I had painted the ration boxes on the engine deck to look like wood! On the down side I glued the wheels on the right hand side the wrong way round! However, I still like this model even now, as it's probably the best built and painted of all my earlier models. When I first bought this model, I was so impressed with the quality of Tamiya's moulding. They depicted the rough cast metal texture on the turret and all the weld seams on the hull to perfection. You can even see the coils of the springs on the loader's hatch, and the wood grain on the ration boxes I mentioned earlier!

My model of the U.S. M4A3 Sherman Medium Tank

One thing on these tank models that I do find easy to do, is fitting the vinyl, one piece tracks. I've heard that some people struggle with these and find it hard to use a heated screwdriver to melt the ends of the track together. In my opinion, it couldn't be any easier! One end of each track has two holes, the other end has two posts, you put the track in place around the wheels, locate the posts in the holes, then, with the heated, flat bladed screwdriver head, you gently soften the protruding ends of the posts, so that they 'mushroom' and lock the ends of the track together. Simple and easy!

Badly drawn diagram of how to join two ends of a Tank's tracks!

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Korean Light

I've built two of Tamiya's M41 Walker Bulldog Light Tanks. The first one I got rid of years ago because I wasn't happy with the build/paint quality. I recently decided that I wanted to have another go at building it, so my wife bought me one. The difficulty I had with the first one was with the canvas gun mantlet cover. You're supposed to use one of the cellophane bags that the model's parts come in. There lay the problem, the cellophane used in the bags isn't flexible enough to be able to get it to sit right. So instead of one of the cellophane bags, I tried cling film instead and it worked a treat! There's still a little bit of work to be done on the mantlet cover, I just haven't got round to it yet. Apart from the fiddly mantlet cover, this was one of the easiest models I've ever built. It goes together so well, and there isn't a lot of small, fiddly parts to put on it.

My M41 Walker Bulldog, with its 'canvas' gun mantlet cover

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Free Range Kiwis!

Following on from my S.A.S. Jeep model, is my Model of the L.R.D.G.'s 30 CWT Chevrolet Truck. The L.R.D.G. or Long Range Desert Group were set up to patrol deep behind enemy lines in the North African Desert. A lot of the units were manned by soldiers from New Zealand, including those depicted in this model.

When the S.A.S. first started their covert operations in North Africa, they worked closely with the L.R.D.G. who would drop them off before a mission, and pick them up at a rendevous after the mission.

I've had this model for quite a while, and unfortunately there are splits in all of the tyres. I read somewhere that this is caused by some sort of chemical reaction between the plastic of the model itself, and the vinyl used for the tyres.

Inspite of the splits in the tyres, this is still one of my favourite models as it's from my favourite period of WW2, i.e. The Western Desert Campaign.

My L.R.D.G. Chevrolet Truck

Two Flavours of Jeep!

Of course no collection of Military Models can ever be complete without at least one version of the ubiquitous Willys MB Jeep. I have two! The first is the usual U.S. Army version, the second is the S.A.S. version used in their famous airfield raids of the Western Desert Campaign. These were two nice little models to build and paint. However I keep putting off adding the extra details that will just perfectly finish off the S.A.S. Jeep. The details I need to add are straps for the various bags and water bottles, and the retaining straps for the fuel cans in the back of the Jeep. Oh well, one day I guess!!

This is my U.S. Army Jeep, with an M.P.
figure posed next to it

My S.A.S. Jeep, still awaiting its extra details

Half Tracked Motorbike?!

I just love this little model of the German SdKfz 2 Kleines Kettenkraftrad, or Kettenkrad for short. I remember seeing one of the real things in Jersey's WW2 Museum years ago, so when I found this model I just had to have it! It was quite quick and easy to build and paint and I really enjoyed painting the three figures.

My Kettenkraftrad With its Three Figures

The Conscript's Best Friend

I bought Tamiya's T72 model out of curiosity. I'm not really a fan of modern Russian Armour, but I bought this because I had read reviews slating Dragon Models' version. I wanted to see how Tamiya's compared. I wasn't too disappointed (there was one fault with it that I mention later in this post). The details are nice and crisp and sharp and it was easy to build. It had a choice of versions to build and paint, so I chose the Russian Army version, inspite of my dislike for modern Russian Armour. The alternative was to build and paint one that was in the Syrian Army and I didn't really fancy that because I didn't like the sand/green paint scheme.

My T72M Model

A couple of details I especially liked were the etched metal engine grills that Tamiya provided, also the tiny Night Vision Goggles on the commander's helmet were a nice touch. The only thing I don't like is the ugly seam between the top and bottom halves of the turret. This was one of the rare occasions where Tamiya's quality wasn't up to its usual standards. However, I didn't use any filler in the small gaps either, or use an emery board to smooth the joints down. Unfortunately I can't remember what paints I mixed to get the tank's colour, otherwise I would fill the seams, sand them down, and repaint that part of the turret.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


I don't just enjoy building combat vehicles, I quite enjoy building some of the more unusual support vehicles as well. My favourite of these is my German 'GulaschKanone' or field kitchen. These models are now quite rare and difficult to get hold of, as Tamiya no longer manufacture them (edit; they make a version called 'Field Kitchen Scenery' but it doesn't have the horses of the original version), but fortunately, my wife managed to find one on Ebay for me. This one I enjoyed building as I had never painted any horses before! The harnesses were a bit tricky to make as Tamiya only provided a sheet of thin plastic to cut them out of. I also changed some of them. Instead of the thin plastic, I used a couple of lengths of fine chain at the front of the horses and some string to attach them to the field kitchen itself. (I'm sure there are proper names for the different parts of a horse's harness, but I don't know them!)

My German Field Kitchen

This picture shows the fine chain I used for the harness
at the front of the horses.

The only things I don't really like about this model are the horse's faces. At some point I need to paint the eyes properly!

By the way, in case you're wondering about the title of this post R.E.M.F. simply means 'Rear Echelon Mother F****r'!! Its a derogitory name given to an army's support troops!

Tips and Tricks. Part 3; Painting

Part 3, Painting

Before you begin painting, the first thing you need to do is clean the model. Inevitably, during the build, the model will have accumulated fingerprints. I'm not necessarily talking about glue fingerprints, but wether we like it or not, our fingers have a small amount of grease on them, and this gets transferred to the model we are building. The best and indeed only way I recommend to clean your model, is to gently wash it in warm soapy water. Now it goes without saying that you need to wait until all the glue has thoroughly dried first! After washing the model, carefully dab it dry with some soft tissue paper.

Now that the model is clean and dry, we can begin painting! Some modellers tend to paint an undercoat to start with, but I honestly don't think this is necessary; as long as you have thoroughly cleaned your model, the paint should coat the model evenly. First of all you need to follow the model's instructions, there is usually some sort of list with all the paints you will need for the model, and throughout the instructions colour codes are used to indentify which paint is needed for which part. Most manufacturers also include diagrams which show the completed model's overall colour/camouflage scheme. Once again Tamiya are particularly good at showing which paints are needed, and their colour scheme diagrams are always nice and clear.

When using a paint brush, don't overload the brush with paint as this can cause runs which show up when the paint has dried. Use nice, even brush strokes on smooth, flat areas whilst using a gentle dabbing/stippling motion when painting surface textures/details. For example if a model tank has engine grills or some other similar surface detail, using brush strokes can cause a build up of paint in the corners of the slots or mesh and that's why I use a gentle dabbing motion for these areas. Also as a general rule of thumb, the smaller the area or part to be painted, the smaller the brush you need to use. On the flip side, the bigger the area or part to be painted, the bigger the brush you use! Again I know this sounds obvious, but it took me a while to learn this!

(Addendum, 21/02/2011) After speaking with some fellow model makers on YouTube, I really must emphasise the use of a large brush on a large area. Many years ago, I built a 1:72 scale F86 Sabre jet fighter. It needed to be painted with Humbrol 11 Silver. This particular silver, is, in my opinion, the best silver enamel paint available. However, it does need some care in order to get a good, even finish. At that time, I used a smaller brush, and the model was spoilt by an uneven paint finish. So, although the model was a fairly small model, with that particular colour of paint, it really did need a larger paint brush!

When painting very small parts, a technique I have learnt is to hold the wrist of the hand doing the painting, with my free hand to keep it steady. I also use the magnifying glass attachment on my 'Helping Hands' gadget so that I can see the part I'm painting better.

(Addendum, 21/02/2011) Another usefull tip for painting really fine details, is to use the tip of a cocktail stick! On my Dragon Wagon model, for instance, I used a cocktail stick to pick out the white numerals on the dashboard dials!

A selection of paints, brushes and accessories that I use to paint
my models with.

A quick word about some of the accessories I use when painting my models. I use a small pot and an old jam jar lid to mix paints in. As good as Tamiya's Acrylic paints are, they don't yet manufacture every single colour I'm ever going to need. So on those few occasions when Tamiya don't make the colour I want or need, I mix my own, using photographs of the real thing as reference.

The following are a few little tips I've learnt about weathering my models. First of all, I use a mixture of reds, browns and bronze to make a rust colour for vehicle exhausts. Sometimes to depict the rust that you get between panels on a model, I thin down the rust mixture and let it run down the line between the panels. I use different shades of brown  for wet or dry mud. For liquid mud, I use gloss brown. I also mix in a small amount of plaster powder for thick mud! I use either silver paint or a graphite pencil to depict areas where the paint has worn down to bare metal (this technique is known as 'chipping'). If you do choose to weather your model, another important technique to learn is dry brushing. To dry brush, you load the paint on the brush as normal, letting the surplus paint drip back into the jar/pot, then you wipe off most of the remaining paint with a tissue. You then use light brush strokes to apply the minimum amount of paint to the surface being weathered.

(Addendum, 15/04/2011) I've recently been reading about the use of Pigments to depict weathering on AFVs. I've never used these myself, as my model making budget won't stretch that far! However, I use very thinned down 'washes' of paint to get a similar result.

Just remember, it's very rare to see an A.F.V. still in its factory new condition. No two vehicles will look exactly alike in real life, so don't just use the tips I've shared. The most important thing is to study photographs, or even better, the real thing 'in the flesh'. There are plenty of museums where you can see the real vehicles, some also let you take photographs as well. Experiment with different mixes and finishes. Try to imagine what a real vehicle looks like. What surfaces will have mud splashes on them? Which parts will show rust? Where will the paint wear down with use?

I also really enjoy painting the figures that you get with many model A.F.V.s. I like painting all the tiny details like uniform buttons, belt buckles etc. One thing I don't tend to do however, is to shade and highlight them. I've seen so many models where the model maker has done a really nice job on the vehicle, only to spoil the overall look by going overboard with the shading on the figures. Maybe its just my own personal preference, but I really can't stand seeing thick black lines of shading on a 1:35 scale figure's facial features. In my opinion the only facial features that need to be picked out are the pupils in the eyes, the eyebrows and the lips, the rest can just be painted with a standard flesh colour (I use Tamiya's Acrylic XF15 Flesh for this). One last thing about figures, always use a fine scalpel blade to gently scrape away any mould part lines that might be on the figure's arm, legs or head/helmet, before you start with the painting. I used to be quite bad for this, until I realised that the unsightly mould part lines really spoilt the look of the figures, no matter how good a paint job I had done.

If you take your time to get a nice paint finish on your model, it will go a long way towards achieving a high quality finish. Taking your time with the painting to get a good finish, is in my opinion the highlight of any model build. The difference between a good and bad paint finish, is the difference between a good and bad model. In fact I would even go as far as to say that a good paint finish can often hide small mistakes made during the build e.g. it can hide small glue blemishes. Having said that, I certainly don't recommend putting on a thick layer of paint to try and cover up every single mistake. It's often better to use a sharp scalpel blade to gently scrape away any larger glue blemishes, being carefull not to scrape away any surface texture or detail in the process.

A quick word about applying decals to models. What I tend to do to get a decal to adhere to a complex surface shape, is to put the decal in hot water to loosen its backing paper, then using an old paint brush, apply diluted to PVA glue to the surface the decal is being affixed to. Place the decal in position, then brush some more of the diluted PVA glue on top of the decal so that it seeps underneath the edges, then dab it dry with either some tissue paper, or a cotton bud. If your budget will stretch that far, there are a number of products on the markets that will 'fix' your decals for you.

I'd like to sum up by saying that I have had many hours of pleasure from building and painting my model collection. I hope that by sharing some of the tips and tricks that I have learnt over the years, that I have helped you enjoy model building as well!

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Tips and Tricks. Part 2; Building

Part 2, Building.

Before I go any further, I need to say something about safety. This won't apply so much to adults, but younger modellers do please take note of the following; take very great care when using a craft knife. ALWAYS cut away from your fingers, and if necessary have an adult with you. Always use a SHARP blade, as it is less likely to slip and also, should the worst happen, it will result in a clean cut that heals quicker. A blunt blade will result in a jagged cut that takes longer to heal. I know this from very painfull personal experience!

Now we come to actually building your model;

Rule number one; follow the instructions carefully, checking the number and orientation of each part. Pay particular attention to the orientation of tank wheels and tracks, these are quite easy to get wrong, so be carefull!

An example of Tamiya's well laid out, easy to follow instructions.

Rule number two, this follows on from rule number one. Take your time, don't rush into it. This goes back to being properly organised, if you take the time to properly organise yourself, the chances are you'll be more inclined to take your time actually building the model as well.

Rule number three, use glue SPARINGLY, this helps to avoid those dreaded 'glue fingerprints' I mentioned in a previous post. Don't be afraid to try using different types of glue as well. Poystyrene Cement is the most commonly used glue for plastic models and is perfectly fine for this, but it is rather slow setting. This has implications for holding small parts in place while the glue sets. Think about using quick setting superglue for small parts, and Polystyrene Cement for the rest. It's a method that has worked well for me over the years, however, do make sure you use a good quality superglue. Also the USE SPARINGLY rule really does come into play when using superglue. For one, using a lot of superglue can cause 'fogging', a white film that is caused by the superglue's fumes (we've all seen CSI on the TV where they use superglue fumes to bring up fingerprints! The same principle applies here.). This brings me nicely to my next point, ALWAYS build your model in a well ventilated room, glue fumes can be nasty in an enclosed space.

Rule number four, handle small parts with care. I know this sounds obvious, but I've lost count of the amount of times I've accidentaly snapped a small part before I've been able to glue it in place!

These are the four most important things to remember when building a model kit. There are however a number of other usefull tips and tricks that I'd like to share with you.

When glueing a long seam e.g. two halves of an aircraft fuselage, don't use glue straight from a tube or other container, apply it with an old brush instead. This saves you from having dribbles of glue running over the parts you're attaching together. An alternative is to use a bottle of Liquid Polystyrene which comes with an applicator brush. If you do apply too much glue by mistake, wipe off the excess with a damp cloth straight away. Polystyrene Cement works by partly dissolving the two parts where the glue has been applied, so if you don't wipe off the excess glue straight away, you are left with a small 'pit' where the plastic has been dissolved. If this happens you need to fill this pit with a small amount of filler. I recommend using a two part epoxy type filler, such as Milliput.

Another tip I have learnt is this; when glueing small parts, instead of applying glue straight from the tube, pour a small amount into a dish. Then, whilst holding the part with tweezers, dip the part into the glue in the dish then fix the part to the model. This helps to prevent using too much glue.

Go through a 'Dry Run' with parts before glueing them, this way you know exactly how the parts fit together before permanently attaching them, and mistakes are less likely to occur.

When glueing headlight lenses, don't use Polystyrene Cement, as it can fog up the lens. What I do is use PVA glue, this dries clear and more importantly, doesn't fog up the lens.

To make a small M.G. look more realistic, dab a tiny dot of matt black paint on the end of the gun barrell to make it look like it's been bored out. For larger Tank gun barrells etc, I carefully drill them out with my Collett Chuck! In fact my 25 Pounder Gun's barrell has been bored out its full length, from breech to muzzle, using this method! However, if you are going to do this, you must put glue along the full length of one of the barrell halves' edges. This is because when you drill the barrell out, you are drilling through the locating pegs and holes that you have glued inside the barrell, this obviously takes out that joint, so the barrell needs the glue along the edges to hold it together!

To create the track sagging effect on German WW2 tanks and Russian post war tanks, wedge pieces of tissue paper between the top of the track and the sponson plate, then paint the tissue the same colour as the tank hull to disguise it.

To bend a solid plastic tow cable to fit around a tank's turret or hull rear, heat it gently with a hair dryer to soften it, form it to shape in place on the tank, let it cool, then glue it in place.

This next tip is for the more advanced modellers. If you want more realism in your model, look for photographs of the real thing. Have a look and see if anything has been missed out, e.g. wires for headlights, padlocks or straps for stowage bins etc. Adding those extra small details really add to the overall look of the model and there are plenty of aftermarket add-on suppliers out there that make things like etched metal detail sets.

Tips and Tricks. Part 1; Preparation

As I said in my last post, I will be sharing some tips and tricks that I've learnt over the years. Some of them might seem a bit obvious, but it still took me a while to learn them!

I've split this post into 4 parts;

Part 1 is about preparation.
Part 2 is about building.
Part 3 is about painting.
Part 4 is about aftercare and displaying your models.

Part 1, Preparation.

First of all, when you open the box that contains the brand spanking new model that you've just spent your hard earned cash on, always, always make sure all the parts are there. It's no use starting to build a model, only to find out later on that such and such a piece is missing, or as has happened to me on a couple of occasions, a whole parts sprue is missing! Although this has never happened with any of my Tamiya models so far, I still always check; lesson number 1 learnt!

Second, always thoroughly read the instruction sheet before you begin, familiarise yourself with the order that the model is built in. If you're an experienced modeller like myself, sometimes you can slightly change the order that the model gets built in to make life a little bit easier, but I wouldn't recommend this to a beginner. Sometimes as well, the different stages of the build can be broken down into sub-assemblies to make life easier when you paint the model. This way, you don't have to try and thread a brush into tight gaps to reach a part that needs painting.

The next most important thing is, to organise your work space. Make sure you've got enough room to spread the parts out, so that you can easily swap between sprues as the build progresses, this also helps prevent accidents, like knocking over a pot of paint because you haven't left yourself enough elbow room! What I tend to do, is to have all the parts sprues spread out on my right hand side, the current sub-assembly that I'm working on in front of me, with the instruction sheet just behind it; and finally, I have the glue, paints and paint brushes to my left. This routine has gradually evolved over the years, and it is the one I am now most comfortable with. However, you might want to develope your own routine, i.e. whatever makes you most comfortable.

Next, what tools do you need? The two most obvious are glue and a SHARP craft knife (believe it or not, blunt knives cause worse injuries!). You will also need a pair of fine tweezers to pick up small parts with and maybe a fine razor saw. The next most important thing is the paint brushes you use. I would always recommend investing in the best quality sable brushes that you can afford. The higher quality brushes won't shed bristles when you're painting your model, cheap ones will.

A good, basic model making tool set.

Another usefull tool to have is a Collett Chuck, used for drilling small holes. This is a small tool that looks a bit like a jeweller's screw driver and has attachments that take different sized drill bits.

A Collett Chuck set

Next are things that can be found in most people's homes, e.g. rubber bands and clothes pegs to hold parts together whilst the glue is drying and masking tape to either hold parts together, or to mask parts of the model when painting. Emery boards that are found in ladies' manicure sets are ideal for sanding down mould part lines (the fine raised lines you get where two halves of a mould meet) on larger parts, they are also usefull for filing down the place where you have cut the part from its sprue. Speaking of manicure sets, another usefull little tool to have is a set of nail clippers, these can be used to cut smaller parts from their sprue!

Next are tools that aren't essential, but are nice to have; first up is a gadget called 'Helping Hands', this is a weighted base onto which an arm is attached. On this arm you can mount a magnifying glass, and extension arms that hold crocodile clips. I have one of these neat little gadgets and it has made life so much easier. You use the clips to hold parts, and the magnifying glass to better see what you're doing.

My 'Helping Hands' gadget.

Another nice tool to have is a 'Dremel' type mini rotary tool. This can be used to cut, grind, sharpen, polish, drill and a whole lot of other usefull tasks.

Finally, a lot of modellers use airbrushes, but I honestly think these are an unnecessary luxury, as I've found that you can get just as nice a finish with a paint brush, and it's a whole lot cheaper as well!