Wednesday 29 January 2014

Armoured trains and stuff

I very recently started construction on Trumpeter's Panzerjägerwagen, which I bought second-hand at a convention. I'll be posting more as soon as I have time to glue more than 2 pieces together.

I started googling the BP44 (the German train of which this is just one of many wagons) and found out only 8 were built. I found a picture of a fully assembled train by creator Mark Deliduka. I don't know how long it took and where he got all the model kits, but it is very impressive.

Considering the space needed for the entire train, it's not a project I'm eager to dive into, although it's a subject I really like.

Browsing the web looking for what kits might be available within this genre, I ran into more of Trumpeter's offerings, namely the 280mm Leopold railroad gun and the Mörser Karl, both shown below. They are a bit pricey, but if I can make it through the next 4 or 5 stashed kits, and they still appeal to me, they might become part of my collection.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Sprue Cutters Union 26: Glue

A pretty simple question calls for a pretty simple answer. Right? No?

- What glue(s) do you use, and how do you apply them? -

Polystyrene cement
My goto-glue for over 10 years. It does what it does : it melts polystyrene (i.e. plastic model kit parts), creating a rather strong bond. The gel in the tubes is a little thick, so distributing it evenly and sparingly can be a bit tricky. Up to a point, I kept the empty tubes, but when the number reached 20+ I tossed them away.
At some point, I discovered the same product but with a needle applicator, which was a lot easier to use. This version is a lot more liquid as well, so it reaches the harder-to-get places. For really big surfaces you're still better off with the old gel-in-a-tube.

Over a year ago, I needed new glue to get started modelling again, and bought UHU plast. I assume it's the same stuff as the Revell Contacta. The bottle ran out not 2 days ago, but I still have a very small Revell bottle that came with the Bismarck kit, so I'll manage with that one until I can get new hobby supplies next saturday (road trip, woohoo!).

A product I discovered only recently : Tamiya extra thin cement (a LOT thinner than UHU). The brush applicator flows it effortlessly in between the tiniest places. You can snap together 2 pieces and when you're sure they are aligned properly, go over the seems with this little brush. It gives the best results possible. No excess glue oozing out of seems. It evaporates very quickly, so even if it goes where it shouldn't, it's gone without almost any trace.

What about non-plastic parts?
When one of the things you're glueing is not plastic, but photo-etch for instance, we all go for the traditional CA glue or instant glue or whatever it's called in your region of the world. Just watch out for sticky fingers. Separating bonded skin with a sharp knife is probably something all modellers have had to do at least once.

Also a more recent discovery of mine : Zip Kicker of the same brand as my CA glue. It makes the glue set (almost) instantly, eliminating the need to hold parts in your hands while applying pressure until the glue sets, only to discover you pressed too hard and some stuff got on your fingers and you're now walking around with a piece of tank permanently attached to your body. (The next product to discover would be a CA de-bonder, but I can't seem to find any).

Good ol' white glue.
This is the stuff I use when I need huge amounts of glue for something (it's cheaper), or when glueing larger amounts of pigment or just plain dirt. More the stuff for ground-work in diorama's, it sets almost rock-hard, but takes a long time to do so. I mainly use it thinned with water, then apply with a dropper (or just an old paintbrush) over pigments, pigments mixed with plaster (for bigger apllications, pigments are expensive) or the heavy stuff, like the base for my M60 (which is ALMOST finished).

Check out who got his fingers stuck together :

Thursday 23 January 2014

Sprue Cutters Union 25: Time Management

A new way of introducing weekly topics to be discussed, is having the Sprue Cutters themselves come up with them. This week, Jim from Fill 'n Sand is the first to give this a try.

- How do you find time for the hobby? -

You may have hit a sore spot there. If I come accross as a little whiner in the following post, I apologize for the overdramatization (is that a word?) and I urge you to just let it slide this time.

/Wall of text crits you for 5.000. Continue? (Y/N) _

Find time, you say? Lemme see ... uhm, nope!

Make time? Yes and no.

For me, more is required than "finding time". I also have to find motivation. I know it may sound weird to HAVE to find motivation to do something you really like doing. I guess this is a good time to introduce you to my brain and it's wonderful quirks.

When planning my next modelling session, my brain will often short-circuit into doing the following:
"I should continue that M60. All it requires is something extra on the base and it's done. But what? The Missouri really needs to be continued. Where was I? Right, masking off the vertical parts. That liquid masking stuff didn't agree with me. Pass! Starfury? Misting paint didn't go well. But I have a different airbrush now! Hmm, should really give it a go then. Oh, if I'm airbrushing, I should really try a new base-colour for the castle. Meh, I don't feel like doing that right now. Prime the spaceshuttle in white? Last time, I couldn't get the mix right and I had to keep disassembling the airbrush to unclog it. New airbrush, remember? Oh, right. Uhm, nah ...."

You see, I try to plan ahead to maximize the efficiency of what time I have available and end up loosing time worrying and planning and end up doing nothing because it frustrates me and I end up in front of the  television. Don't get me wrong, I like watching all my (many!) series and the occasional movie as well.

This tends to go on for a couple of weeks and then I'm back into my sort-of normal routine.

I admire Jon and Matt for setting apart 2 hours most every night, modelling until midnight while the rest of the family sleeps. I doubt I could make that work. I'm away for work about 11 hours a day. I require about 8 hours of bedtime, which actually translates into 8 hours in bed, but only 6 hours sleep. I'm a light sleeper and we have a 2-year old. An extra hour is spent each morning and evening to just get ready or eat.

So we're left with 3 hours per day to "do something". I like reading blogs, doing research or just spend some time aimlessly on the PC to unwind my mind into some form of relaxation. I also like spending time with my better half, something she seems to appreciate as well.

Somewhere last year, we came to an understanding : 2 evenings a week, the TV stays off and we try to do something more "creative". This doesn't work every week, but it's good incentive to try.
She's no modeller, but likes to make trinkets, jewellery or something for our daughter. Or we both read a book. These are the times I try to use for modelling. Last tuesday, I chose instead to do some work on a computer program I'm trying to make for myself to make AD&D sessions go easier and faster (with less stuff to track on paper myself).

During weekends, it varies. There's not really a pattern, just a random hour here and there. There's family and social obligations. AD&D also takes up a whole day each time we play. Weekends tend to fly by, don't they?

This post may seem a "bit" gloomy, so I really need to set things straight again. I'm quite content with the amount of time I spend on this hobby and the amount of "work" (i.e. number of finished kits) I do in a year. I'm happy with the result, insanely so if I just tried something new.

Time to end this stream of consciousness. Congratulations on making it all the way to the end and thanks for sticking with me!

My fellow Sprue Cutters seem to be more organised, at least some of them :

Saturday 18 January 2014

Bismarck - Finished

This one has actually been "finished" since november 18, but I'm not extremely happy with it. It's a cheap model, so expectations weren't be too high. The kit was decent enough. 

There's really only 2 problems with it :
  1. I fail to take a decent picture of it.
  2. I can't seem to find the right way to weather it a little
The first issue is a more common problem. Sometimes I just get it right and take decent pictures of my models. Sometimes I just can't find the right angle or lightsource. Maybe I should invest in a  few decent lamps?

The second issue I don't quite know how to approach. It just looks too clean, too shiny.
I tried airbrushing it with Tamiya brown panel line accent colour, but the result is too subtle. 
I then tried airbrushing Vallejo black wash, but that was a disaster. This product behaves differently from other washes. I'm getting used to washes flowing into the little details. The Vallejo wash just smothers the entire object. I guess you're supposed to remove it with cue tips or something. I just dunked the model in water and removed all the black stuff again.

For now, it is done. I plan on putting it on a water-base later, because I'd like to experiment with representing water.

Price : €1
Number of parts : 31
Time spent : 3.5 hours
Project completion time : 71 days

Paint : (Vallejo)

  • US Grey (Hull)
  • Basalt grey (Hull, front and back)
  • Light grey (vertical surfaces, details)
  • Intermediate blue (horizontal surfaces)
  • Dark Seagreen (Planes)
  • Black grey a.k.a. Anthracite (masts, funnel)

Other :

  • Alclad II Klear kote semi-matte
  • Microscale's Micro-sol and Micro-set

Castle - Progress report

I haven't been modelling a lot these last 2 weeks, but little by little the castle pieces are taking shape.

Many parts are uniform, but can have optional parts removed to make windows, doors, or different kinds of wall sections. This means a lot of cutting is required. While this can be done with a simple hobbyknife, I am extremely happy to recently have bought a motor tool. It's a bit pricey as an initial investment in a new tool, but definitely worth it when you're cutting pieces in half in a few seconds.

Below a picture of all the wall sections that make up the keep. Some careful planning is needed to find which windows go where (see previous post). This parts also have battlements on top, that needed to be removed.

I intend to make the top of the tower removable, so some extra attention to the interior is required. I removed all locators on the inside walls, some of which I have no idea what they were intended for, and filled up all the holes. The dining room table is filling up nicely.

Meanwhile, 3 wall sections were put together. It required a lot of pressure to keep them flush, but I didn't feel like holding them in my lap for half an hour, so I picked up some of my heavier books to do the work for me.

Below is a picture of the main keep starting to take form.

The kit provides 3 watchtowers, with 6 or 7 different ways of placing them. The towers have no interior and if the light is positioned correctly, you can see inside. Maybe I should have removed that part of the wall, so looking through the arrow slits wouldn't show the battlements inside.

Having the option to model these watchtowers in different ways, leaves you with some spare parts. I used my trusty motortool to remove a door from one of these parts and glued it inside a corner of the tower. This will provide passage to the watchtower that will be fixed to the outside of it.

I spoke earlier of the issue with the obvious seams. The problem is you can't just fill them and sand them flush afterwards because that would remove the stone texture details. The solution was rather simple and looks okay afterwards. I just placed (Vallejo) putty in the biggest gaps and holes and went over it with a (soaking) wet finger. After it's dried (and painted), it looks convincing enough to look like masonry, or at least a lot better than leaving the holes in place.

Don't try to do the same with Tamiya putty. That stuff is of a whole different (chemical?) composition. I wouldn't touch it too often with bare skin. It eats away at the plastic as well. For SOME applications, the Tamiya putty is better though, as it seems to dry harder and faster. The Vallejo putty always remains a little malleable, making it harder to sand flush against any surface.
I mention this because sanding Vallejo putty never seems to get a smooth surface. The sanding stick/paper always hollows out the putty because it's too soft, I think.

I intend to leave the base as a piece of rock, so was looking for a "rocky" kind of grey. My first choice was "Dark Sea Green", which may not seem evident, but in some languages this paint is called "Blueish grey" (translated back to English for your convenience), making it perhaps a little more logical. Anyway, a first layer looks promising. I tried giving it different amounts all over, to let the black primer shine through and not create a uniform colour. I will attack this later with a darker wash.

The next colour choice - the walls - is a little more difficult. I'm trying to achieve a sandy grey kind of look. For my first experiment I chose US Grey and Tank yellow. I mixed it 50/50 and sprayed the bottom section of the walls.

The yellow is hardly noticeable, so I mixed again 80% yellow and 20% grey. I thinned it to make it easier to spray, but ended up overthinning it. On the black primer the effect is okay-ish, but on the grey it's way too yellow. The section above it is without any thinner.

Since I've been priming most of the pieces with black because I just can't seem to get the grey spraying right, I'm leaning towards 60/40 for the next try.

Thanks for reading.

Friday 17 January 2014

Sprue Cutters Union 24: Pet Peeves

This week, Jon wants to know how the people around us can annoy us, what pushes our buttons?

- What do other modelers do that gets under your skin? -

I actually had to go look up the meaning of "pet peeves". As non-English speaker, it's a term I've encountered before (in a book or movie), but not to a point where I really grasped it's full meaning.

As a modeller, I know full well that my skill is "average". This can be interpreted as a negative thing, but it is not. It means I am happy with the results I'm getting, knowing that I could try to take it further, but not feeling the need to achieve perfection. I see my skill improving with each model I make, and I do try to push myself a little each time, but I know myself well enough that if I aim too high, I will loose interest and not continue.

How does this relate to this week's topic? It means I'm finding it really hard to find how a fellow modeller could annoy me or get under my skin. I know my models aren't perfect. I am aware of their flaws and where I could have done better but didn't bother. I challenge you to find a point of criticism in my models that I do not know myself. Of course I am open to suggestions about making things better, easier or more realistic. Destructive criticism has no effect on me. Rivet counters? I'm an out-of-the-box builder, go blame the kit maker. Colour purists? I work with what I have and looks close enough.

This all doesn't mean I never worry about how I'm going to do something, or obsess about some stupid detail. It just means that if YOU feel the need to trash my or another's work, you're probably (over)compensating for a lack of confidence or the fact that you live in your mother's basement.

I guess I just have a thick skin, somewhat relaxed attitude and a good sense of confidence. I know what I can, how it relates to others and what I should aim for. I'll never be a guru or first-prize winner. It wouldn't be "me" anymore.

Now, if we were to move away from modelling, into the everyday world, or the workplace, I could probably come up with stuff that get's me all riled up and argumentative, but that was not today's question :-)

EDIT : you know what DOES annoy me? Blogger-templates that look differently in the editor-window than in the end result. How hard is it to get some WYSIWYG these days?! I had to post this three times to get it right. Thank god I know my way around HTML so I can fiddle with the source.

Maybe other Union members are less lucky with their surroundings? Read for yourself :

Sunday 12 January 2014

Sprue Cutters Union 23: Something to Talk About

The calendar has turned a page and - after a short holiday break - the Sprue Cutters Union continues. In this time of New Year's resolutions, we take a moment to think about what we want to discuss the coming 50 weeks.

- What three topics would you like to see the Union address? -

Actually not that easy, now that I think about it. Jon did a wonderful job over at The Combat Workshop, keeping us thinking about various subjects the past 22 weeks, but it also means that many subjects have already been discussed at various length.

I've tried to be a faithful Sprue Cutter every week, so not heeding this first call in the new year feels wrong. Let's see what I can come up with.

1. Competitions

Have you ever entered a competition? Do you ever intend to? If not, why?
How do you prepare? Do you build ONE model for a competition or do you just bring what you made and feel proud of?

As for me : I build out-of-the-box, I do not care (much) about historical accuracy. I feel happy as a child when it's done. I show it to my girlfriend and take it to the club meeting. Beyond that, contests don't interest me. Or am I afraid of what they'll say?

2. Recommendations

What can you recommend to your fellow modellers? What do we NEED to do or try? You can take this subject very broad : must-build kits, mandatory tools, easy/effective techniques, ...

Or maybe you can do the reverse and warn us never to try a certain something.

3. Legacy

Have you ever inspired someone to start modelling? Have you ever sucked someone into our community?
Do they regret it? :-)

See what other Union members came up with :

or check out the comments at this topic's hub at The Combat Workshop.

Saturday 4 January 2014

M48 - Finished

The tracks are bare and there's no weathering, but I'm at a point where I want to declare this little project finished. I'm quite happy with the "chipped paint" experiment, using AK Interactive "Heavy chipping".

I left the front idlers detachable, so removing and painting the tracks at a later stage remains an option.

Originally made to be 1/35 scale, it turned out to be rather off-scale, so later re-issues were called 1/40. You can't really blame Revell, since this kit was made in 1959, when the M48 Patton had only been in service a few years. I can imagine information wasn't as readily available as now and perhaps the blueprints even still classified?
If you want to use the bridge only in a diorama or something, that part IS compliant to 1/35.

Price : €21
Number of parts : 252
Time spent : 15.5 hours
Project completion time : 40 days

Paint : (Vallejo)
  • Black primer
  • Olive drab (71.043)
  • Dark seagreen (71.053, the planks on the bridge)
  • Natural steel (70.864, details + layer underneath chipped planks)
  • Vallejo gloss varnish (used a thick coat on the pistons, so there would be no friction at all)
  • Alclad II klear kote (semi-matte) as a varnish
  • AK Interactive "Heavy chipping"
Below is a video demonstrating the kit to be fully movable. The bridge halves are pulled open by a spring, that appears to have just about the right force (it could have been a tad stronger, but I'm not complaining). Remembering that this kit is over 50 years old, that's quite an impressive feat.
Important to know : there is NO piece of white string. /waves hand like a Yedi/

I found a nice video of the real thing in action. These are on the M60-chassis, but it's basically the same thing. Seeing these in real action, again brings to mind : impressive!

A few more shots from various angles :

Below a series of pictures showing basically the same as my video.

Castle - Planning ahead

Planning ahead in any project with more than 30 pieces is a good thing. Blindly following building instructions - particularly in a complex or very big build - can lead you into difficult situations. While I started removing parts from the sprue for my castle's keep, something seemed odd about some of the window's placement. I started going over the instruction, taking notes and counting how many parts were actually in the box.

The complete castle requires 695 parts. The box contains easily over 800, because there's some leeway here and there during construction and many sprues are duplicated, but not always all parts are needed.

There are 34 doorframes, 34 windowframes, 24 grates, 36 doors and 54 shutters provided. 1 shutter is gone (the carpet monster requires the occasional sacrifice), so make that 53. If I comb through the instructions, it requires 33 doorframes, 28 windowframes, 20 grates, 13 doors and 56 shutters. Leaving me with a few spare parts (many doors), but 3 shutters short.

The keep
Looking at the construction photo's of the keep, something struck me as odd. All the outside windows in the castle walls are barred shut with a grate, as well as all windows on the right-side of the keep, which functions as part of the outer wall. But the back of the keep - also part of the outer wall - has regular windows with shutters. It makes more sense to bar all windows (at least up to a certain distance from the ground) and not design a built-in flaw in the backside, to attract burglars or overzealous adventurers.

Some re-organizing - while keeping track of available parts - turned out all barred-up windows on the first-floor and shuttered windows on the second floor.

This leaves me with more than enough doors and just enough doorframes to add some extra doors to the ground level of a few select wall segments. These would be doors to things like stables, armories or barracks. It would be illogical to only have ONE door at ground level (leading to the main keep) where all personnel would have to go through and leave dirty footprints in those precious carpets.

The gatehouse
There's a big issue with the gatehouse. In the front is a big drawbridge - of course - that can be raised or lowered across the moat. Behind that is a portcullis. The back of the gatehouse has a double door, with a big wooden bar to keep it shut if the outer gate has failed against intruders.

So far, so good. But between the gatehouse and the main keep is a raised walkway. The two constructions that make up this walkway, have arches underneath, but only along one axis. The other two sides are completely shut (marked in green below), blocking movement from one segment to the other AND blocking the big gate (marked in red below) in the back of the gatehouse.

I see no solution but to completely eliminate all parts A2 from the raised walkways. It wouldn't be losing too much structural integrity, since they'll be attached to the gatehouse and the main keep anyway.

The tower
Blindly following the instructions for the tower, lead me into the situation below : a window partially facing a blind wall. The window needs to go and I'll try to repair it, but it will remain noticeable, no doubt.

Another lesson learned about going over the instructions before commiting parts to glue.