Friday 28 February 2014

Panzerjäger - WIP

Some more progress on the Panzerjäger's turret, which is just a regular Panzer IV turret. The interior colour is a yellowy-creamy colour. Since I try to stick to Vallejo Model Air, I just had to guess what would be appropriate from the online colour chart, which is not really the best way to go about this. I had to choose between Yellow Lazure ("ivory") and broken-white, and went for the first option.
It arrived a few days ago, so off to the workbench we go.

Straight out of the bottle, it's a bit too yellow, so after half the parts were done I added an equal amount of white to tone it down. I ended up going over it again with a misted layer of white. The result is good enough.

The track piece is almost done. Weathering went on a bit too heavy, but a layer of varnish will dull it down a little. Time to assemble the whole piece. The crossbeam part (wood) fits underneath the trackbed (rock) and the rails slide into the metal thingies on every wooden beam. The fit is really tight, especialy with multiple layers of paint, so I wasn't surprised to be scraping off a lot of the metal paint off the rail again.

Once all the rails were in place, a few more pieces (to keep the rails together) are needed. Out come the trusty clamps.

Now all the turret pieces are painted, and slightly weathered by dry-brushing with "German grey", I can continue it's assembly. I seem to have forgotten to paint and place part B56, so it'll take a day longer to close it all up.

If you want to gun to move up and down, it's best to NOT place part B40. On the REAL tank, skipping this piece will result in the gun not elevating, but in the scale model this small gear provides enough friction to hinder fluent movement of the gun.

The rail is completely done, the scratched off paint is touched up, so at least this piece is finished. While writing this post, I notice I forgot to touch up the outside border, but that'll be a quick fix.

Next step : closing the turret, masking off the interior and 3 layers of AK "Worn effects". After that I can start the sand-yellow base coat and green/brown camouflage. I'll be attempting to airbrush this camo free-hand. Wish me luck!

Saturday 22 February 2014

A diversion into D&D

It has been mentioned on this blog before, that my other hobby is D&D (Dungeons & Dragons).
As I have only 20 followers (yet!), I always make it a point to check out my new followers and their interests. My latest minion, uh sorry, loyal follower, "The lord of Excess" (Hi, and welcome!) led me to discover the "D&D 40th anniversary Blog Hop Challenge".

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of our beloved game, an initiative has risen - much like our very own Sprue Cutters Union - to have all interested blogs participate in a daily blog carnival, posting about various aspects of another shared interest.
As the initiative started on february 1st, I'm much too late to join the (now closed) list of participants, but this cannot prevent me from writing about another passion of mine. Who knows, some of you may also share this hobby with me and we find something more to talk about. As for myself, this one single link has allowed me to encounter a TON of D&D-related blogs in only a few minutes, so I have my work cut out getting to know all of them.

As I'm 3 weeks late, I'll not be doing this on a daily basis, I'll just cover all questions in one go, skipping the ones that are not relevant to my case.

If you like the subject, give a shout or comment below.

#1 : First person who introduced you to D&D? Which edition? Your first character?

Back in the day (almost 10 years ago), I was part of a LOTR-fanclub, heavily into swordfight-reenactment. I'm not talking LARP-style foam weapons (no offense), but actual steel weapons used in "stage" combat, meaning the moves where choreographed, but a layman's eye would never have seen that. Some blood was involved once in a while, but that just added to the show. Nobody ever lost an eye, although sometimes it was only by a few millimeters.

This was the club where I met my girlfriend and a lot of friends I still know today. One of them was a longtime D&D player, looking to start a new group (2nd edition, not that I knew what was what then). I was most drawn to play the "rogue". It's now 9 year later and we still play about once a month for a 6-7 hour session. My rogue is now a level 6 shadowdancer (level 18 total), leader of his own guild and it's safe to say I've grown attached to the little guy.

#2 : First person YOU introduced to D&D? Which edition? THEIR first character?

Somewhere last year, I persuaded 2 of my colleagues at work to try their first D&D game. I was anxious AND scared to play the role of DM, but we're now 10 sessions later, another friend has joined and we're happily cruising along. Still 2nd edition, as that seems to be every long-term player's favourite. They play a dwarf warrior and an elven ranger.

#3 : First dungeon you explored as a PC or ran as a DM.

As a player : in our very first session we defeated a vampire in the caverns beneath Silverymoon. Not sure if it was an official campaign or something that sprung from the imagination of our DM. My girlfriend got charmed and had to fight her own friends and we tried our cooking skill on a defeated Umberhulk (turns out you can't eat Umberhulk?!)

As a DM : I started my first session with a fan-made 2 hour adventure that I found online (research into what happened after a local mage's tower exploded). It was meant as an introduction to the world of D&D. They loved it, and we continued with TSR 1073 "Dragon's Den adventure pack". I'm currently running TSR 9063 "Against the cult of the reptile god".

#4 : First dragon you slew (or some other powerful monster).

First slewn dragon was probably a bone dragon that I almost killed single-handedly. This was with another (short-run) character. Not sure if it was with my warrior or my paladin. Both characters were only played 4 times or so, as we decided to focus our time on the main group instead.

A green dragon followed, a red dragon (twice, through a loophole in time/space) and some monster, the name of which escapes me, all in "Red hand of doom". Our DM makes sure we get our share of interesting monsters.

#5 : First character to go from 1st level to 20th level

We started at lvl 6 (sorry if you think that's cheating :-)) and my rogue is now 18.

#7 : First D&D Product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

When we started playing, I bought a Player's Handbook and The complete Thief's book on Ebay. I think I also bought the Dungeon Master Screen as a gift for our DM's birthday.

When I started as a DM, I bought a whole range of books, most from a friend who quit playing long ago. (DM manual, Monster manual, Encyclopedia Magica, ...) I will never sell any of these!

#8 : First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

Yup. Bought at the "Gamesworld" fair in Brussels. I don't think the fair still exists. I bought a second set a while later. It's all part of my more prized possessions.

#14 : Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play?

I didn't meet her at D&D, but we started playing in the same group when we were only a couple of weeks together. She quit playing after a few years, but her character lives on as a very occasional NPC, when needed to fill in a storyline that was created by our DM to span many years.

#22 : First D&D-based novel you ever read?

I've read just about anything from R.A. Salvatore about the adventures of Drizzt and his companions.

#23 : First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

"Requiem for a dream". It's one of the catchiest songs I know and our DM has used it in numerous combat sequences. (If you're into metal, try Eric Calderone's version.)

#25 : Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in.
#26 : Do you still game with the people who introduced you to the hobby?

Already answered in #1, but yes, I still play with basically the same guys as 10 years ago. 3 players of the original 5 have left, 1 new has joined and stayed, 2 have come and gone again after one year.

#27 : If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?


#28 : What is the single most important lesson you've learned from playing Dungeons & Dragons?

Hardest question out of the bunch. I guess it's important to go outside the house and meet with friends IRL, even if it's to sit in THEIR house all day. There's a quality to it, you don't get from only playing online.

Panzerjäger - closing the hull

I have attached the wheel wells to the inside of the lower hull, but had to do it in 2 steps. I glued the left ones in place, clamped up and reinforced with tape. A day later I did the right side. Its not that the fit is bad per se, but the parts need some persuasion to keep in their proper place.

It gives the model a very sturdy structure, which translates again into issues when joining the lower and upper halves. I would have needed a bench vice to get the parts to sit flush, but had to make do with what I could find.

The result is as good as it's gonna get. Some obvious gaping seams were filled with putty and are now left to dry.

Friday 21 February 2014

Fun for everyone!

I'll let these speak for themselves. Suffice to say the whole family enjoys it when new boxes arrive!

First time soldering photo-etch

I already mentioned in an earlier post that I was very impressed by the latest workshop at the local IPMS meeting : soldering photo-etch parts. So much, in fact, that I ordered the necessary tools and materials to try it myself. My current project (the German panzerjägerwagen, i.e. tank on a railroadcar) has a complete assembly around the turret consisting of many photo-etch parts and I wasn't eager to start glueing them all together.

When do you apply this technique?
When you need to assemble multiple brass parts together.

  1. Because I don't like fiddling with CA glue
  2. Because a soldered bond is many times stronger than a CA glue bond
  3. The bond is reversible by applying heat again

I'm not gonna try this on some actual part of a kit, until I get the hang of it, but I have some left-over photo-etch fret from an earlier model to experiment with.

The first try
On my first attempt, last monday, I didn't have anything to stabilize the parts while soldering. You need at least 3 hands (preferably 4) to hold both parts, the soldering iron and the tin wire. I could easily attach 2 pieces together, but they would occasionally move when touched with the iron.

A second try
I bought a so-called "third hand", which is usually a stand with 2 alligator clips and an optional magnifier.

The proces is extremely simple :

  • attach both pieces in an alligator clip (one each), maneuver them against each other and free your hands to hold other things.
  • apply some flux at the join (a liquid that cleans the metal and makes the bond easier and better)
  • place a smal strip of the tin wire
  • place your soldering iron against the bottom (!) of the pieces to be joined, alternating every few seconds from one piece to the other
The flux will start the sizzle first, then the wire will suddenly liquify and run against the length of the join through capillary action. Withdraw the iron and you're done.

The resulting bond is instantly as strong as it's gonna get, which is VERY strong. I pressed down on the resulting piece and the surrounding metal is more prone to bending, then to breaking the bond.

I continued attaching several more oddly-shaped bits and was very happy with how quickly it all went. I will need to learn to use only exactly enough wire to make the bond. Any excess will need to be cleaned up with a file or something.

I will experiment more later and report my findings.

Thursday 20 February 2014

Vallejo's new thinner formula

While browsing the racks in my not-so-local hobbyshop, I discovered the Vallejo airbrush thinner has a new formula (for over a year now). It's transparent now, where the previous version was milky-white, and smells more like their airbrush cleaner.

I asked the store clerk if they knew what exactly had changed about it, but that conversation went like this :
  • (Me) Hi, do you know what's "new" about this "new formula"?
  • It's a little better.
  • (Me) Okay, but the previous was milky white, so is anything fundamentally changed?
  • It's always been transparent.
  • (Me) I have a bottle with the white version at home.
  • It's never been white.
  • (Me) Ow-kay. Thanks!
  • You're welcome! 
  • (Me) /facepalm
I decided to purchase a bottle to see what could be different about it.

Both bottles are marked as 71.161 and say they're to be used for thinning Model Air. I've been thinning Model Color (for brushpainting) with it as well, as I prefer to thin paint with an appropriate thinner and not just water. Thinning with water tends to destroy the adhesive property of paint.

The old (white) version does not change the colour of the paint in any way, but if you leave a puddle of the pure product to dry, it will produce a matt white-ish layer.

The new version appears to be "thinner" (pun intended) than the previous, making it actually - for me - better and easier to work with. Since switching to the new version, I've not had issues with paint consistency or occasional clogging. Cleaning the airbrush seems easier as well. I still use the dedicated "Airbrush Cleaner" (71.199) for this, but it would seem less is needed to get the brush clean.

Even though the new thinner smells a bit like the cleaner, it is not the same product (maybe a "softer" version or missing a key "cleaner" ingredient? I'm no chemist) because the cleaner actually breaks down the paint. I recommend against using the cleaner as a thinner, even though  many modellers seem to swear by it for thinning Model Color for brushpainting.

Anyway, for me this new formula makes airbrushing easier.

Monday 17 February 2014

Sprue Cutters Union 28: Pack Your Bags

Some of us like to go to conventions, whether it's to enter models in a contest, look at other people's work or try to score a big discount on some items on our wishlist. But ...

- How far are you willing to travel for this hobby? -

Personally, I do not attend that many conventions. I do not enter my models in contests, which alleviates the need to go and attend all of them. I tend to come home with at least 3 new models each time, so not going is the best way to avoid growing the stash too rapidly. (I still buy online, so it's not that I'm completely safe from increasing-stash-syndrome).

As to how far I'd be willing to travel? That really depends on who I'd be going with. When going alone, I prefer not to travel longer than one hour. Luckily, Belgium is such a small country, I can reach most places in that small time frame. I'd probably go to more conventions if I had a few friends to go with.
(I *HAVE* friends, don't you worry, but none of them are modellers.)

If I had a group and there would be a big convention in - say for example - Paris, I wouldn't mind the 3 hour drive in the morning and back again in the evening.

Care to find out other modeller's habbits? Check the links below :

Friday 14 February 2014

More boxes?

More boxes, I hear you say? This time it's an order from Conrad, a rather cheap webshop in Brussels. They have almost anything (bikes, tv's, tools, ...) and it's easy to qualify for free shipping.

What's in it? A soldering iron (15 or 30 Watt), a stand, a cleaning station and a length of soldering wire.

Yay, I can start soldering photo-etch this weekend! Right? No! I ordered soldering liquid and flux from yet another site ( - mainly books, but also various other items) and it hasn't arrived yet. Can't do much soldering without flux, so I'll have to hang on just a little longer.

Thursday 13 February 2014

When I fall in love ....

If you know me IRL or have been following this blog a little longer than most (or if you're a co-worker and you hear my daily obsessive rambling), you probably know that once a though is stuck in my head, there's no removing it. If I set my eye on a kit that I really like, I tend to make statements like "I'll buy it as soon as I finish a few more models." Rest assured, it rarely takes that long. I start worrying the kit will be nowhere to be found if I wait a few years, so I start looking around.

Without further ado : guess what the UPS-guy brought all the way from South-Germany?

Trumpeter's 1/35 Mörser Karl - Gerät 040/041, the early version (different suspension in the later version, among other things) - WITH the rail transport carrier - now takes a prominent place in my stash.

30 sprues contain 1.300+ pieces. Nice details, no flash and - if my few experience with Trumpeter holds true - a beauty to assemble.

3 boxes hold the lower and upper hull, vinyl tracks, 2 photo-etch frets, some metal rods and springs and the railroad-sections we already know very well from the Panzerjägerwagen I'm currently building.

A 44-page booklet will guide me through the process. The railway cars buildup looks very familiar. It will get tedious at some points, assembling many identical sub-assemblies many different times, but I'm looking forward to it.

There are many options, like a 60cm or 54cm barrel, or the option to pose it in transport (suspension lowered, gun lowered, no loading tray) or firing position (suspension raised, handrails raised, all kinds of panels folded out). Deciding which to show could be a tough decision, as both present a beautiful model.
Well, if I wanted to show it in firing position, I shouldn't have bought the version with the railroad cars.

I'd say "stay tuned", but it may take a while before this one gets tackled. Stay tuned anyway.

Tuesday 11 February 2014

Panzerjäger - Further construction

A motor tool again comes in handy, as we need to drill holes in the rear buffers, to attach the lights. I'm looking for references to see if electrical conduits are neede for these. I'm trying to go a step further in detail finishing my models.

The front "blade" fits near perfectly, with very little persuasion.

The amount of detail is very nice. There's little to no flash, and if there is, it's easily removed. Go sparingly on the glue. Once again, I recommend Tamiya extra thin. You require very little of it and with the brush applicator provided in the lid, the glue goes only where you want it.

I sprayed the wheels with Natural Steel, then several shades of reddish brown - which I may have slightly overdone - except on the running surface. Then a layer of Dark Earth pigment to make it look more convincingly used.

The turret has a nice amount of fiddly bits. I really like fiddly bits. There's something soothing about attaching a lot of little pieces.

The gun is very nicely detailed. The entire turret will be removable, so some care needs to be taken to the inside looks. I'm trying to get my head wrapped around how far I can assemble before needing to paint. I'd also really like to keep the movable parts movable THIS time. (The gun is supposed to elevate)
Overall fit of all pieces so far is excellent, ejector marks are cleverly located in invisible places.

Here are the wheel wells and wheels, fully painted, weathered and assembled, ready to be placed inside the chassis. Invisible when the train is standing on the rails, but it will be nice when you pick it up for a look inside.

 22 wooden beams times 2 metal braces each to hold the rails equals a whole lot of masking fun.

The base is sprayed Dark Sea Green (my favourite "rock" colour).

My new soldering iron should arrive any day now. I'm anxious to get started on the photo-etch. Stay tuned!

Saturday 8 February 2014

Sprue Cutters Union 27: Photo Finish

While our hobby is mostly about building and painting models, a big aspect of it is showing off our creations. If you have a blog or just post pictures on a forum, you need a way to capture your model on film. How much effort do we put into this?

- Show us your photo studio! -

Well, this is going to be an embarassingly simple post. I own a simple digital camera : a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ30. I take most pictures where I work, so that can be the workbench or the dining room table.

I'm not much of a photographer, but I take dozens of pictures from slightly different angles and then just take the best one(s) to post online. I've learned not to use flash too much, that daylight is much better than artificial light, that pictures on a black cutting mat or my bright-white workbench tend to be hard to get right. The best ones are on the wooden dining room or the matt-white wall next to my computer desk.

The camera has a "food"-setting, which has a better macro-setting than the normal macro and a less bright flash. This is the setting I use most often to take detail pictures of certain parts.

I *COULD* invest some time in getting to know my camera better, because I'm certain it has the ability to control many settings, but most of the time I just can't be bothered and the pictures are "good enough". You''ll see me apologizing for picture quality sometimes, but I rarely go back to make better ones.
I do tend to apologize too much in general, for which I am sorry. (See what I did there?)

EDIT (March 15): I did take Motorsport Modellers' advice and made a first attempt to make a photobooth to take better pictures. Read about it here.

Check out who has a photo studio and who has just a camera :

Sunday 2 February 2014

Trumpeter 00368 Panzerjägerwagen - Unboxing

Sometimes, I don't feel like painting or continuing a certain model. Sometimes I just want to open up a box and start a new project. Today, we open up Trumpeter's 1/35 Panzerjägerwagen (kit 00368). The kit appealed to me because it was not just another tank. It's a tank on rails. A section of rail is included, eliminating the need to worry about how I will display it.

The box contains 5 sprues, 2 hull halves and a few pieces of rail section. These sections are meant to be used for one model or can be build continuous in one 2-meter long (6 foot) section when combined with other kits. Several Trumpeter kits (5 if I recall correctly) can be used to build the German BP-44 armoured train.
It's meant to be symmetrical, so you'd really need all kits (except the middle command section) twice, but I have neither the display space, nor funds at the moment, to go and hunt down some of these more expensive kits. Maybe one day? (I doubt it)

Some photo-etch is provided as a replacement for the protective skirt around the cannon. You can opt to build the plastic version, but where's the challenge in that?
The last IPMS meeting just so happened to be a workshop on photo-etch soldering, so there's no excuse to not give it a try. I ordered the necessary tool(s) and material online and hope to start soldering really soon. You can look forward to an in-depth report about that.

The colour callout is in colour, which is a hell of a lot better than what some kits provide. Revell has the habit of making black-and-white dots-or-stripes paint instructions, which are often near-indecipherable. I'm looking forward to airbrushing these patterns free-hand for the first time. Or at least trying to.

I immediately started with the rail-section, to get that build and weathered, so I can display nicer WIP-pictures of the train.

The 4 wheel wells look alike, but are unique, and consist of 2 pieces each and several parts on the inside. I want to paint and weather them as much as possible pre-assembly, as they are nigh unreachable once built into the chassis of the train. After removing them from the sprue, it will be hard to identify which is which, so I painted their numbers on the back with the same pen I used to paint the windows on the USS Enterprise.