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.


Monday 7 March 2016

Merkava - Off to a flying start

The reason I finished the Lunar Module in rather a hurry, was because THIS thing was waiting around the corner : Meng's 1/35 Merkava Mk. 3 BAZ with mine roller!

I was dreading to start it. Not sure why actually. Granted, it's a rather expensive kit. So, I guess I was using the commom excuse that I didn't want to start it "until my skill was good enough". Well, if that's a reason not to do anything challenging or even slightly difficult, my "skill" will never amount to much.
No better motivation to start this, than a Group Challenge, organised on a Facebook group I rather enjoy : The Scale Modelers Critique Group. The challenge started March 1st and runs until August, so it's more suited to my speed of modelling than a Weekend Build Challenge.

The number of parts is staggering though : over 750!

Assembly starts - as usual - with the running gear. This takes up step 1 through 6 of a whopping 56.
You're immediately confronted with the choice of wheels : steel rim or rubber, foam insert (prevents mud and rocks from building up in the rim) or not. I went for a mix of both, for some visual interest. Each  wheel consists of 7 parts.

Engineering of the wheel assembly is very clever, but even then I messed up instructions twice before I completely got it. Let's say the first batch of 6 wheels took at least an hour. The next only 20 minutes.

It's rather easy to have all wheels touching ground (especially important of you mix the 2 wheel types), in the way the arms connect to the springs, There's at least a millimeter wiggle room, so no reason for having a wheel hanging in the air. Very clever engineering indeed!

Wednesday 2 March 2016

Lunar module - Finished

Having reached the 90% spot mid-december, I once again found myself stuck on a model, unable to find the motivation to push through to the end. Wich is why the last 10% was finished - after a 2-month hiatus - with least possible effort. The Vallejo Metal Varnish actually made it worse in some parts and I won't be bothering to do extra paintwork on the astronauts.

Nevertheless, the kit served it's purpose as source of nostalgia for a long-lost model from my childhood and as a testbed for Vallejo's Metal Color range, which has impressed me (except for the varnish).

Kit: Lunar Module
Scale: 1/72
Manufacturer: Airfix
Price: €7 (second-hand)
Number of parts: 90
Time spent: 14 hours
Project completion time: 4 months

If you get to the last picture, you might think it's a varnishing-job gone horribly wrong, but it is in fact a recreation of micro-meteorite impacts. :-)

Materials used : (Paint = Vallejo)
  • Black primer
  • Metal Color - Duraluminium
  • Gold
  • German Grey (Pure black would have been too harsh)
  • Mix of Light Grey and Yellow Lazure for the base
  • Aluminium foil for the lower stage
  • Sand + white glue (diluted) for the base