Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Merkava - A little side project

I was aching for a little diversion, so I decided to start building the 1/72 Merkava (Mark I) from ESCI (#8323). I picked the kit up for just €5 from a second-hand table at the latest convention.


I can't really find any flaws in the engineering of the kit. Details conform to my expectations of a 1/72 scale kit from 1988. The tracks are link-n-length, which fit superbly if it weren't for my clumsiness in their assembly. (Mental note : next time, start with the individual pieces and fit in the larger parts, instead of the other way around)



Profiting from the work on it's larger scale brother on the workbench, I didn't need to do any research for the anti-slip. I still have more than enough sand (50 micron aluminum-oxide), which is pretty much scale-accurate (since I used the 110 micron sand in 1/35 scale)

 


Friday, 22 July 2016

Merkava - last details

One last detail I forgot : the 2 big tow-cables that wrap around the turret. The instructions have you connect them with a simple wire, but that looks plain ugly and the real vehicle uses chains to keep them up. So I started looking for alternatives.

I ended up going to a store that sells jewelry-supplies (like thread, pearls, trinkets and .. chain!) The smallest silver chain they had looked close enough in scale.







Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Merkava - Construction finished

Construction on the Merkava is finally finished! The base coat is on as well and the anti-slip has turned out really good.
Now comes the dreaded part of weathering and making it look less ... bland.












Monday, 23 May 2016

Merkava - Anti-slip finished

Last time (too long ago), I was experimenting with different kinds of sand AND how to attach them to the model. A fellow modeler on Facebook came with the solution : blasting sand (for orthodontic purposes, i.e. cleaning dentures).


You can buy it in dental supply labs. They sell per 10kg, but even then it's not THAT expensive. If you play your cards right, you might walk away with a free sample, as a mere 20-30 grams will be enough to cover an entire model.
It's aluminiumoxide, with 3 grain sizes : 0.05 mm, 0.11 mm and 0.25 mm. My findings are that (in 1/35 scale) the 0.05 is suitable for US Desert vehicles and the 0.11mm is near spot on for IDF vehicles.
The best about it is that the grain size is really consistent throughout the entire batch.

The matter of application was also quickly settled : primer! Small detail : I use Vallejo primer, which is a acryl-polyurethane ... substance, which makes it act comparable to a kind of latex film. There's been discussion enough about whether or not this is a good primer (it's flaky when you sand it and when repriming you never get rid if the ridges), but for this application it's qualities are excellent for keeping the grains of sand in place.

Applying it is simple :
  1. paint the primer with a brush on a single panel (no more, as the primer dries super-fast)
  2. take a bit of sand between thumb and index finger and sprinkle gently(!)
  3. tap the model to remove excess sand
  4. let dry
  5. repeat for all other panels, paying attention NOT to do door handles, levers, ...

 

I really like the result (even though I must have spend at least 4 hours on it), and it looks even better when painted black. Anxious to see the result in it's final colour.




Sunday, 3 April 2016

Merkava - Picking a colour

Some progress on the Merkava. Detail on this kit is splendid and abundant. I hope I can do it all justice in the end.
The side skirts can be made in 2 options : 1 big piece or 5 individual pieces. The hooks on the plates have nothing to "hook" on. Meng customer support confirmed they need to be glued on, but I prefer to have them detachable, so I manufactured the extra lips from some flat parts of the sprues.


One of the more difficult parts of any build is choosing the "right" colours (and sticking to my choice). I'm not one to care for people pointing out "That's the wrong shade of gray/green/yellow", but making up my mind can be a difficult process.

Meng calls for Sandy Brown or something Grayish Green. Someone told me they are all painted exactly the same, except that the sun, sand, whatever ... fades the colours to varying degrees.
See the 2 pictures below the instructions. One is sandy-yellow-ish, the other grayish green. They are the exact same panel, shot from a different angle. So, there's definitely a bit of margin to work with.

 

I have a Vallejo primer called "Desert sand", which is too soft and too yellow. (it's actually the colour for US desert vehicles, like the Abrams), but mixed with OD (Olive Drab, my only other non-black primer), it gives a reasonable shade of what I'm looking for.
Afterwards, I decided it still wasn't right, so I experimented further. First by adding brown (Noooo good), then by adding dark yellow, which seemed promising.
I like experimenting with mixing colours. I do *NOT* like cleaning the airbrush however.




The last picture is NOT the final colour, as I changed my mind once it was painted.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Merkava - Anti slip surface

The IDF (Israel Defense Force) uses Ant-Slip on all horizontal surfaces. The grain of the material they use is a LOT courser than what the US uses on - say - the Abrams.



Even in 1/35, the grain should still be visible. As there is nothing molded on the kit, the task falls to the modeller to try and represent this. People use a variety of techniques :

  1. Gluing on (very fine) sand
  2. Textured paint
  3. Baking soda
  4. Stippling on Mr. Surfacer 500
  5. Tamiya Extra Thin to soften the plastic, then stippling with a stiff brush
  6. ...
Most textured paints (#2) seem to be sold in the US/Canada and I'm not about to go on a long hunt for them. Baking soda (#3) or any powder gives a rough effect, which would be more suitable for US-vehicles. The difference in courseness is really big between US and IDF and I really want to see the individual pebbles. Any kind of paste or stippled on anything seems inadequate to my eye. So that ruled out #4 and #5.

So, we go for option #1 : sand. The sand I have leftover from the driveway has a grain of 0.2-0.3 mm. Some research led me to the pet-shop for Chinchilla sand. It measures around 0.15-0.25 mm but also contains even smaller particulates. I was able to sift it, so only the smaller grains remained.




Now, for attaching the sand to the model, also a lot of options here :

  1. White glue (Diluted)
  2. Varnish
  3. Future
  4. Pigment fixer
  5. Wet paint

I tried the diluted white glue, but - on bare plastic - that just doesn't work (photo directly below). Same goes for the varnish and to  a lesser degree also for the Future. Anything water-based doesn't like smooth surfaces, even when I add some detergent.

The pigment fixer seemed promising (it's white-spirit based) and doesn't bead up, but it lacks some decent adhering quality. AK does have a "gravel and sand fixer", but at this stage I'd like to stick with what I have available and not go around ordering (and waiting for) a bunch of products to test.



Then it suddenly hit me that I'd been trying to attach sand to bare plastic and I might have better luck attaching it to painted plastic. So I quickly painted the inside of the tank and tried again with pigment fixer (left) and varnish (right). Both ended up not satisfactory, but with a less sparse application of the varnish AND another layer of paint over it, it'll probably stick a lot better.


Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Merkava - Hatching fun

Sometimes, you build half a tank in 2 hours, sometimes it takes the same time to build ONE hatch.

Parts B36 (hinges) are supposed to just snap in the slots on parts D16 and D17. Yeah ... no.

  • If you apply enough pressure, it will eventually snap in ... and fall back out, because the 2 little pins inside broke off. 
  • If you pry open the large pins to insert the little hinge, you see those tell-tale white lines appear in the plastic, telling you you've overestimated the flexibility of the plastic (or underestimated your own strength).

Nothing left to do, but drill holes and provide your own wire. I didn't have any wire that was a) strong enough and b) small enough, but lucky for me, I have a girlfriend who used to make her own jewelry and has plenty of leftover beads and wire (!). I found some very small-diameter, plastic-coated braided wire. Very strong and small enough.


 
 

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