Sunday 27 January 2013

A new tank

It's been weeks since I did some modelling, but it's too cold to sit in the attic with the airbrush, so I started construction on the Abrams tank.

I'll try something new for reporting construction progress. I'll follow the steps in the manual.

Step 1 :  Road wheels, idlers and drive sprockets.

Every wheel consists of two parts, plus a poly cap that is inserted in between. This cap fits snugly on the axle, but allows the wheel to rotate freely. At least, that's the general idea. It remains to be seen if we'll end up with actual working tracks or not.

Construction normally goes fast, depending on the quality of the parts and how well they fit together. Sprue attachment points are usually located near the edge of parts, where they are easily removed or not visible once assembled.
Not so for the wheels of this tank. The sprue attachment points are on both sides, so one will always be visible.When I used to handbrush, the layer of paint would be thick enough to obscure minor defects around badly cut attachment points, but with the airbrush, the paint is so thin that all defects remain visible.

So I decided to treat every part with extra care and sand away the attachment point, rather than cutting and risk cutting too much. Since there's 38 parts for the wheels alone, I took my trusty sprue-cutters, hobby knife and sanding paper, put on a movie and started the tedious job. The movie was done by the time I was finished.

Step 2 : Lower hull

Assemble of the rear of the tank and return rollers (that don't actually roll).

This step has you instal the wheels as well, but - as usual - we will postpone this until after painting. The poly caps do allow the wheels to be installed and removed, but I do not intend to find out how many times you can do this before something breaks.

Warning : study the instructions carefully. I installed part J39 (only for the Marine build option) too soon and had to squeeze in part J56 afterwards. The reverse order would have been a lot easier.

Step 3 : Upper hull

Install ome minor parts, like headlights.

Parts A8 (the headlights themselves) did not fit in the designated holes. I removed 1 mm from the attachment point to make them fit.

Part D20 needs 3 clear windows installed. These parts are not provided in the kit. What's provided is a large  square clear plastic, from which you have to cut the desired shapes yourself. I would have preferred to see some actual fitting parts for this, but maybe this is to lower the cost of the kit.

I did not install the clear parts (nor cut them yet) because I want to paint the inside first.

Saturday 26 January 2013

M1070 truck & M1000 HETS trailer

Yes, I bought another kit, even though I have many unfinished ones. But I promise I won't be buying any new ones for the rest of 2013. Well ... I promise to try.

It was on my wishlist and when I found out the local hobby shop could get it, I just had to order it. "It" being the Hobby Boss 1/35 M1070 Truck tractor & M1000 Heavy equipment Transport Semi-trailer. That's quite a mouthful, but the kit is at least as elaborate as its title.

The box is huge and heavy and filled to the brim. Besides the plastic sprues, there's another box in it, with lots of upgrade/detail parts. (Keep scrolling to find out the content)

The kits I used to make in the past contained between 50 and 150 parts. The biggest thing I ever made was probably the International Space Station, which had around 200 parts. The M1A1 Abrams I'm about to make has around 300 parts.

This M1070 has around 1.500 parts (!!), counting only the 35 plastic sprues. They appear beautifully detailed and are well protected in the box. I haven't unsealed the plastic bags yet, because I don't plan to start construction right away.

The instruction sheet is a 48-page book with roughly half of the book for the truck and the other half for the trailer. Each step has a huge amount of construction, so it will be a challenge to build.

There are 2 painting options : "Sandy brown" or green/brown camo. I'm gonna stick with the sand color. Since my M1A1 Abrams is also 1/35 scale, I will paint both kits in the same color, so I can put the tank on the trailer (as shown in the box art), making up a nice display.

A bunch of decals provides warning signs and lots of small details.

As for the green box that is included, it appears to contain all the transparent and non-plastic parts.

51 rubber tires and 6 rubber suspension rings are provided. I'm guessing these will give a more realistic look and feel, instead of plastic wheels.

There's 157 photo-etch parts on 11 frets, which is a LOT. I only hope I will be able to bend and place all of them as intended. I have only ever installed 5 photo-etch parts and they required minimal bending.

Further realism is added by the remainder of the box. Metal parts and springs, rope and plastic ducts and metal wire are all included.

This is definitely the biggest, most expensive and most complex kit I've ever bought. I do not expect to build this in a couple of weeks. This is a kit for experience builders and even tough I have the required age (14), I'll continue sharpening my skills on my other works in progress before I tackle this one.

Sunday 6 January 2013

Finished : Academy 1/144 Sepecat Jaguar

After a 10-year break in scale modelling, I re-started my old-time hobby in september 2012. 
Because I needed to learn new techniques (airbrushing, for instance), I started small with this 1/144 scale Jaguar. It's really tiny, which was a challenge in itself, even though I only bought it because it had a camouflage pattern and I wanted to try that out with an airbrush.

Because I'm working on 7 models at the same time and I had to wait almost 2 months for my airbrush to arrive, it took a long time to complete, but here is the result.
It won't be an award-winner because the paintjob is a bit messy, the landing gear is crooked and the canopy is foggy, but I'm happy to declare this my first finished project.

Price : € 3.95
Number of parts : 36
Time spent : about 7 hours
Project completion time : 4 months

This was the intended camouflage-scheme. 
The endresult is not identical, but recognizable.

I finished one!

It was about time to finish a project, instead of starting new ones all the time. The Academy 1/144 Sepecat Jaguar is finally finished.

After applying the decals last time, I added one final layer of Satin Varnish (Vallejo 71.060). This will seal in the decals and protect them. It should prevent silvering and discoloration over time and will also protect from handling (e.g. holding it in your hand and accidentally brushing over a decal).

I'm really happy with how the decals turned out. I'm not sure whether it's the MicroSol that has worked it's magic on the decals, or the extra layer of varnish, or both working together. It's hard to see any remnants of the decal film and there's no reflection on the decals, no matter how you turn it onder a bright light. Definitely the way to go for the "painted on look".

After removing the masking tape from the canopy, I could probably have done a better job, but remember the canopy is about a centimeter long. The clear part has fogged over on the inside. I remember reading about this. I think it's a side effect of the superglue, which can be avoided by giving the part a protective layer before attaching it.

Painting through a template - part 2

Painted the wheels for the M60 and the Puma through the circle templates I cut last week.

The green paint has nice coverage, the yellow one a little less. I guess this must be related to the pigments. The darker they are, the faster they provide total coverage. I sprayed all wheels with 2 layers now. Once dry, I'll evaluate if more is needed.


After masking the part that is to remain black, I sprayed the display base in gold. It'll probably need a second coat, once it's dry. Then I need to mask the gold part and spray the midde silver. Masking might prove a challenge, but I'm up for it.

A clear coat for the submarine

I tried giving the submarine a coat of gloss varnish, but it wouldn't go very well. I experimented with thinning it, but not sure the result will be okay.

In the end, the varnish was really pebbly or grainy, not sure what the best term is. It's hard to get on camera, but here's a picture anyway.

I'm not sure if it was a bad (old?) bottle of varnish, or if there's some trick to applying it to prevent this. I doubt I'll be able to correct it, unless maybe by putting a massive wet coat on top of it, to even it all out.

The bottle's empty now anyway, so correcting it will be for later.

Saturday 5 January 2013

Unboxing : Academy 1/35 M1A1 Abrams

My fingers were itching to do SOMEthing and airbrushing wasn't it, so I decided it was time to start prepping the next kit : Academy's 1/35 M1A1 Abrams "Iraq 2003".

It's roughly twice the size of my previous tank (the M60), which is currently in the painting phase, but that doesn't mean it will be easier. It simply has more parts, more details, more things that can go wrong.

6 sprues contain a little more than 300 pieces, plus the lower and upper hull, 2 vinyl tracks and 22 poly caps. These poly caps will enable the wheels to rotate. If I can manage not to overdo the glue, we should end up with a tank with actual working tracks. If not ... oh well, it's not as if I'd let anyone play with it.

The older version of this kit had a main gun barrel that was way oversized. Luckily, I have the newer version, where the J-sprue contains a better scale version, as well as a lot of improved details.

Purists point out that the turret dimensions are for the old M1 and so are the tracks. The turret should be a little shorter and the tracks need to be replaced by the proper T158 "Big foot". If you're into historically accurate models, you can find the proper tracks as aftermarket parts, but I consider myself a more casual builder, not willing to spend $20-$30 on replacement parts for a kit that only cost $30 by itself.

Painting options are simple : desert yellow all over. I still have to determine which Vallejo Air color that will be, but a close match will be good enough for me. Details like water cans, various boxes, ... can be painted yellow as well, or olive drab.
There's 2 decalling options, for either US Army or Marine Corps. 2 replacement stickers are provided, but I do not understand why and since they are yellow, it will be difficult to match the base colour with them, so I'll just stick with the regular decals.

For the turret basket, a piece of plastic mesh is provided, which you need to cut in the exact shape to fit in the basket. For the windows, one piece of clear acetate is provided, also to be cut in the desired dimensions. Is this a way to reduce the cost of the kit?

The instructions sheet consists of 9 steps. Each step seems very "busy", not sure why they didn't just make more steps, but a little simpler. We'll have to study these carefully. Some optional parts also depend on which build option you choose (Army or Marine), so pay close attention.

Like all instructions sheets for tanks, the first thing you have to do is attach the wheels, which is a big no-no if you want any means of painting it afterwards. Seems almost like these modelling companies only do construction without painting.

As usual, I start with soaking all the pieces in warm, soapy water so all residue (oil, mould release agent, ...) is removed, which could hinder paint-adhesion. The big pieces get extra attention with a sponge. Then everything is put in a warm place to dry.

Thursday 3 January 2013

Adding the last parts

The last detail parts to be added are the missiles.

I handpainted these, because I wasn't sure how to hold them properly for airbrushing. Because the white paint doesn't cover very well, I had to add at least 5-6 layers of paint and the result isn't the best I could have gotten. In retrospect, I should have just airbrushed them, because the airbrushed layers of paint give much better coverage and are more smooth.

Applying decals, using MicroSet and MicroSol

Now that the Jaguar has a nice glossy layer, its time for adding the decals.

In the past, I just slapped on the decals. On many of my older models, the decals have "silvered". Hard to describe, but you'll now what it means if you see it happening. Now, I'm gonna use more care to place them.
Step 1 is making sure you have a glossy spot to put them on. Decals will not stick to matt, acrylic paint, if you do not add a glossy layer.
Step 2 is using decal softeners. I've chosen Microscale's MicroSet and MicroSol.

Cut the desired part from the decal sheet, using a sharp hobby knife. Scissors work equally well, but I find a knife easier to control. If possible, cut a little extra, unused paper, to have a "handle" to hold it with tweezers.

Hold it in a bowl of water for 10-20 seconds (If the decal floats off the paper, you held it in water too long)
then place it on a towel. The towel will absorb the excess water, while the wet paper will continue to do it's work, which is releasing the decal from the paper, while the "glue" is activated, which will stick the decal to your model.

Prepare the spot on your model where the decal is to be placed with a puddle of water, or use MicroSet, which is a dedicated product that will soften the decal, making it easier to place it and easier to follow curves or detail lines on your model.

At this point, using a paintbrush or your knife (careful you don't damage it!), you should be able to move the decal around on the paper. Pick the paper up with tweezers, hold it next to the spot on your model and slide it off onto the puddle of water or MicroSet.

When the decal is in place, you can still slide it around until it's 100% where you want it. If it doesn't want to move, apply more water or MicroSet.

If you're happy with it's placement, softly apply pressure with a cloth to press it down and remove excess moisture.

If the decal is not conforming to the model's shape very well, use MicroSol, which is a more concentrated version of the same product, if I'm not mistaken.
If you experience wrinkling of the decal film, don't panic, it will go away again. If not, apply more MicroSol and let it dry. If there are bubbles underneath the decal, carefully prick the decal and apply more MicroSol.

This is the end result, with all decals placed. The box art shows the circles to be a lot bigger, but my reference photos show them to be more or less accurate.