Saturday 30 November 2013

M48 - The suspension is killing me

My next project is Revell's 1/40 M48 Bridgelayer. It's one of their classic kits from 1959, making this one of their earliest releases. It's a re-issue of course, but still using the original tools. There is flash and ejector pins and seamlines all over the place where they shouldn't be, but for a kit designed 50+ years ago, I'd call the quality excellent.

You get a box FULL of plastic, but many of the parts have "fallen" of the sprues. This is partly because of the sprue layout (some parts of the sprues are very thin and just waiting to break or bend with the slightest handling) and probably also from handling the box a little too rough. (not me, the vendor)

One thing that does compensate for this, is that almost all the parts have the part number engraved, so even loose parts can be identified. Unfortunately, this number will also be visible here and there on the finished model, but I'm not about to go file it all off.

The bridge, carried around by the M48 to be deployed over gaps up to 60 feet wide, is a very lovely and intricate build. It's meant to be workable, so I'll have to be carefull during painting to make sure it remains like that.

One of the parts of the workable mechanism is a cilinder with a metal spring inside. Care must be taken during construction of the cilinder - consisting of 9 parts - as the spring will try to push it open.
It's possible to shorten the spring so it's equally long as the cilinder's inside, but I did not dare take this risk, so as not to reduce it's working range.

Now, on to my reason for this post's title. The tank's suspension has many parts, ALL of which require sanding in one or more points. There are 12 torsion bars with a big seam, 18 pieces to keep them in place, 10 return rollers (2 parts each) and 14 road wheels (3 parts each), making a total of 92 parts just for the propulsion system. I sat down in front of the television, sanding each part carefully over the course of an evening. It does look good, though!

There are big locator pins inside and in the back, hinting at some kind of extra modification. The drive sprockets are movable, as are all the wheels, so I'm guessing this kit was able to be motorized.

While looking for part 10R on a particularly wobbly piece of sprue, I accidentally misjudged the shape of the part and cut it in half, thinking it was a sprue attachment point. After realizing my mistake, I was able to glue it in place as good as possible, but traces of my error remain visible.

Below is a hint for storing small pieces, ready for assembly, but not yet being used. Don't just throw them in the box, they tend to disappear.

In the back is a big gap, again assuming for possible motorization, which is neither mentioned nor shown in the building instructions. I could leave it as is, but I'm going to try to fill it up and remove any trace of it altogether. I started by glueing a piece of sprue to the inside (black sprue, in case you don't see it in the second picture). Once fully cured, I'll add putty and sand flush (or at least try to).

I like movable parts and this kit is full of them, like the turrets seen below. The tricky part will be to keep them movable after they have been painted.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Enterprise-C - Finished

The Enterprise has actually been finished for 10 days now, but I couldn't find the time to take pictures to post. Well, here she is, after more than a decade she's finished and ready to join her sisters in storage.

I'm not going to do any weathering. Why? Allow me to explain. We all know space is mostly "empty". But, as the Enterprise is flying through it at near-lightspeed, it is being bombarded nonetheless with tiny particles and micro-meteorites. The "deflector dish" (the round, blue thingie in the lower front of the drive section) pretty much solves this by enveloping the entire ship in a "shield bubble". While protecting the hull, this shield also guides any encountered particles (mostly hydrogen, but preferably deuterium) towards the "Bussard ramscoop collectors" (the shiny red thingies in front of both warp nacelles) that collect everything, in order to resupply fuel and basic materials.

Thanks for allowing me a moment of techno-babble. It's been years :-)

Price : Can't remember, probably around €20, back before we even HAD euro's
Number of parts : 26
Time spent : 27.5 hours (14 painting)
Project completion time : 15 months

Paint : (Vallejo)
  • Gray primer
  • 20% Light grey + 80% White for the base coat
  • 20% Insignia blue + 80% White for the dark blue stripes
  • 10% Insignia blue + 90% White for the lighter blue stripes
  • Transparent red & blue for the nacelles and deflector dish
  • 40% Flat yellow + pinprick of Ferrari red (Revell) + 60% white for the escape pods
  • Black grey for the phaser banks
  • Gold, Silver, Black & Insignia blue for the display stand
Other :
  • Alclad II klear kote semi-matt as a varnish
  • Posca ink-pencil (black & white) for all those tiny windows
  • 18m of masking tape (give or take)
  • Microscale Kristal Klear for attaching the transparent parts

And finishing with a close-up of the damaged section, that I repaired by taking a Latex mould from the other side of the saucer and filling it in with plaster. More visible to the naked eye than on photo.

Tuesday 26 November 2013

Sprue Cutters Union 19: Back in Black

Black friday is a post-Thanksgiving tradition to give insane discounts to the horde of Christmas-shoppers. As a modeller, it would seem the best time to score one or more extra pricey kits, considered too expensive the rest of the year.

- What did you score this Black Friday weekend? -

Unfortunateley, Black friday is an American tradition, not honoured here in Europe. So I didn't get to go crazy shopping. I guess the only thing I can do, is report on my latest purchases, made past weekend at a local  scale model convention.

Trumpeter's 1/35 Panzerjägerwagen, which is basically a tank on rails. Much more rapidly deployed, as trains can move a lot faster than a tank, but they can only go where the rails point, of course.
I liked the included rail-section, eliminating the need to build a base for it myself. I bought it for €15 as a second-hand from our very own chairman at IPMS Ghent. Not 10 minutes later, I saw it at a vendor table for €40. Score!
Bending the included photo-etch will prove a challenge, but that just makes it interesting and a good learning experience. If I frack it up, I can still go with the plastic version.

Revell's 1/72 Kamov Ka-50 Hokum is a kit I built 20 years ago and was very proud of. Unfortunately it got destroyed after getting squished between two planks while preparing to move to another house.
I bought this for €3, because it had no decals. I see this as an opportunity to try and print my own decals, another area of our modelling hobby that I have yet to venture into.

Revell's 1/40 M-48 Bridge builder. A classic kit from 1959, re-issued in 2009. I believe it was meant to be 1/35 but was so far off scale that they just re-issued it as 1/40. It's one of those kits where the box-art and subject (or combination thereof) just speaks to me. At €21, I considered it for a few minutes, but ended up circling back around the room and grabbing it.

Are you as anxious as me to see what the other Spruecutters got? Follow the links below :

Sunday 24 November 2013


Yesterday, I went to a modelling convention for the first time in god knows how long :  Artevelde Challenge 2013. It was organised by IPMS Ghent, of which I am a member.

No self-respecting modeller will go to a convention without bringing something back (unless I'm misinformed). I needed some paint of course, and a new model (or several). Having recently spent a little more than intended, I mainly stuck to the second-hand tables, althought I did end up looking over every possible isle in the room(s). 
The encyclopedia of tanks is something to improve my poor knowledge of tanks, their history and evolution. I instantly liked the Panzerjägerwagen because it's something different and has a base (i.e. rail) to display it on, eliminating the need to build your own. The Ka-50 was supercheap, but has no decals. I bought it out of nostalgia because it is one of 2 kits that did not survive my last move and was crushed beyond recognition.

The M-48 bridgebuilder is the only "new" kit (even though it's a rebox of a 54 year old tool) and one of the earliest Revell kits (like my USS Missouri). I find myself drawn to these early models, even though they have more flash and often troublesome fits. 

Some models are BIG. I wonder how much paint goes into these.

If you thought the previous was big? Below a picture of a scratchbuild, fully working RC-tank.

A lot of interesting ways to display models.

And more fully scratchbuild stuff. (The creator is also a member, that's how I know).

More pictures on my facebook-album.

Wednesday 20 November 2013

Sprue Cutters Union 18: Inspiration

How do we decide what is the next kit that hits our workbench? Why take a particular kit out of the stash, or - worse - why buy a certain new kit, while there are still many in the stash?

- Where does the inspiration for your next build come from? -

I'm afraid my answer will be pretty simple (thus short) this week, as I'm a fairly "spur of the moment" kinda guy. Most of my decisions (life-, work- or hobby-related) are formed very "organic" (or maybe even totally random), without actively thinking about it. Ideas may come in the middle of the day, at work, at home watching tv or in the middle of the night. If I think about things too actively, I start worrying and second-guessing myself.

My inspiration for buying kits is purely random : browsing a store or convention and just seeing what pops. Or - as evidenced in yesterday's post - seeing a certain topic and falling in love with it. It happened with the Merkava (now in the stash) and it happened again with the Russian Zubr-class (or "Pomornik") hovercraft, which is unfortunately only available in 1/700 and not really inspiring.

As for deciding which kit to build next? With my multi-project attitude, I pretty much build whatever tends to draw my attention, or a sudden idea might make me rush upstairs, take the kit out of the closet and start building. I do try to keep it to a maximum of 6-7 projects at the same time.

Other Spruecutters may have a different approach. I'll post links to their posts as soon as they appear.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

I'm in love - again!

My eye was caught by the picture below on Facebook. This is the awesomest, most badass hovercraft I have ever seen. It's the Russian Zubr-class LCAC (Landing Craft Air Cushion).
If this exists as a kit somewhere, I *WANT* it.

Some more links :

Saturday 16 November 2013

Enterprise-C - 99% done

After a layer of varnish (Alclad II semi-matt), it was finally time to place the decals. They had turned yellow over time, so I tried an old tip I read once, to remove the yellow : tape the decal sheet to a window and let the sun do it's work. This didn't change anything, but maybe it would require a summer sun and not the grey light we get these days.

The 1% remaining is sealing in the decals with another layer of varnish, but I was anxious to show the results :-)

A picture of the underside shows where the kit was damaged and I performed repairs. It's still obvious, but I'm happy with my work.

Except for the yellowing, I'm still content with the quality of the decals.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Sprue Cutters Union 17: Go Big or Go Home

While browsing the web, a blog or a forum, we sometimes encounter truely magnificent pieces of modelling work. Things the maker spent the better part of a year (or more) finishing and perfecting.

- If you had the resources, would you attempt one HUGE project? -

Given my current resources - in regards to time able to spend behind the workbench - I would never consider a HUGE project. I already find myself struggling to keep my attention on ONE project, hence my current 6 or 7 "Works-In-Progress". I do not see myself spending even more time on just one single gigantic subject.

However, would this change if I really had the time, if I could easily spend 10+ hours a week at the workbench, without sacrificing work, family or my much-needed time-away-from-everything (even modelling)?
With that much time, I would be churning out at least 1 model per month. Quickly this would result in no longer being happy to just "finish" a model. I would be looking for that little something extra, probably a vignette for each model or something even bigger. I could see myself starting to feel the need to do something bigger, something awe-inspiring.

I don't really see myself getting (or taking) that much extra time, so the above is purely hypothetical. But, nothing is written in stone, so I'm keeping my options open ...

Would any of my fellow Spruecutters be tempted into such a project? Follow the links below :

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Sprue Cutters Union #16: Brush Up

This week's topic for the Sprue Cutters Union is one that I personally associate with a lot of frustration. At least, it used to be.

- What is your preferred airbrush/paint brush manufacturer? -

When I came back to this hobby after a 10 year absence, I knew I wanted to do at least ONE thing a little more "professional" than I used to as a teen : no more amateuristic brushpainting. I know there are modellers out there that can do anything with a brush, but *I* cannot.

So, the decision was made to look into airbrushes. I decided to start cheap, just in case I would turn out to hate it and not use it after a few times. I started with a Revell airbrush, with a little blue compressor. The compressor has 3 settings, but you have no clue at which PSI it's running and there is no moisture trap.

Right from the start, I both hated and loved it. When I got it working, the paintjob was smoooooth, so much better than even the best brushpainting I had ever done and exactly the reason why I wanted an airbrush in the first place. BUT, I had to fight for every inch of paint I sprayed. I took it apart hundreds of time, cleaning needle and nozzle and paintcup until I ran through a 200ml bottle of airbrush cleaner in a very short time.

(You can read up on all my trials and tribulations by reading posts with the label Airbrush)

It took me over a year to make up my mind to buy a new one, mainly because the pricetag of an airbrush + compressor (easily around €250-€300) was upsetting. Why? Because I kept doubting if it was just a bad airbrush, something I did wrong or if I just lacked the skill or finesse to work with it.
In retrospect, I shouldn't have doubted so long and just bought a damn new one.

Shortly after making this decision, I happened to find an interesting lot on Kapaza (a local website, like Ebay) : a compressor, an Aztek airbrush and a few models. I really wanted just the compressor, but I ended up buying the entire lot for about €200, which was the price I had grudgingly settled on for a new compressor. The only risk was that the 2nd hand (but unused) tools wouldn't be working flawlessly anymore.

I had never heard of Aztek as an airbrush manufacturer, and I did find a LOT of bad reviews - mainly about breakage of internal components. I just took a leap of faith. As I bought the whole lot, I got the brush itself rather cheap and with my new compressor, if the Aztek was junk, it would only require another €100 or so for a Badger Velocity, which comes highly recommended.

Since then, I have logged a couple of hours with this new airbrush and it's enough to give me a decent impression and how it compares to my first one.

I *LOVE* how much more control it gives me. Much easier to use than the Revell, more trigger control over the amount of paint and - most importantly - no blockages, no issues whatsoever. It does feel a little toy-like and the trigger is very loose, but I'm getting used to it and am a lot less anxious to start an airbrushing session, whereas the Revell used to have me stressed out even before I started painting. I really like the side-feed, even though I had doubts first, but it acts as a gravity feed anyway and the removable paintcups make colour-switches a lot easier than before. I also like the whole multiple nozzle idea, even though I've only used 2 of them so far.

So, while I'm certain there are Revell airbrushes out there doing wondrous things, my cheap one was a dud. My next choice would have been Badger, but circumstances landed me with this Aztek and - for the time being - I'm a happy modeller. I still use the Revell, but only for Alclad varnishes, limiting my Aztek to acrylics only.

I'll keep this short. I try to reduce the need for paintbrushes to a minimum. No matter what I do, I cannot get rid of brushstrokes. Diluting the paint tends to level it out more evenly, but is also more likely to pull it into small nooks through capillary action.
I have no idea which brand of brushes I use. I have blue ones and red ones :-). If I ever need to know more about what brand and what material to buy, I will consult my brother-in-law, who's an expert miniature painter.

The airbrush seems to be the preferred tool of most modellers. Read their stories here :