Sunday, 11 April 2021

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 [WIP - Assembly of the Drive Sprockets, Road Wheels, and Idler Wheels]

 On the surface, it doesn't seem like I got much done on the Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 this past two weeks. Who am I kidding? I didn't. All I managed to do was Step 5 i.e. the assembly of the armored fighting vehicle's drive sprockets, road wheels, and idler wheels. In my defense, there was a lot wheels. And there was a lot of mould lines to remove from said wheels. 

Sturmgeschütz III work-in-progress: Assembly Step 5

Tamiya Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 assembly instructions, Step 5

 For parts located in an area that'll likely see significant weathering effects, they are incredibly detailed. The wheels sport amazing little details such as the rims, nuts and bolts, metal surface texture, and weld lines. So much so that I still made the effort to remove mould lines from the road wheels, all 12 pairs of them, even if they'll likely be covered with mud effects.    

Sturmgeschütz III idler wheels assembled and prepped for paint

Sturmgeschütz III drive sprockets assembled and prepped for paint

Sturmgeschütz III road wheels assembled and prepped for paint

 Mould lines. A scale modeler's worst nightmare. If there's a task more tedious when prepping a part for paint, I do not know it. A caveat: as I've never had the opportunity to get up close to a real-life Sturmgeschütz III, I am assuming those are mould lines. I stand corrected if they are not.

If that is a weld line, then it's an excellent piece of detail on the road wheels

Except for the occasional oversight, the mould lines on the road wheels were completely removed

Mould lines (and the absence of) on the roads wheels as seen from a different angle

 One would think the never-ending pandemic lock down, in one form or the other, would provide me with more time to work on hobby-related stuff. Surprisingly the opposite has happened. Ah well, at least I haven't hit another period of the dreaded hobby malaise, so I'm grateful for small mercies. The heart is still willing so if all goes well, I'll see you again in two weeks time. Cheers and be well.

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 [WIP - Assembly of the Lower Hull, Suspension Springs/Arms, Return Rollers, and Rear Panel/Grille]

 Assembly of the Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 began, for me at least, with steps one through four as per the instructions. This series of initial steps focuses on the lower hull and its exterior parts including the suspension arms/springs, return rollers, and rear panel/grille. For a sense of what is involved in putting together the lower hull, other exterior parts yet to be worked on for this section comprise the idler wheels, drive sprockets, road wheels, towing hooks, and tracks. Below is an account of the progress so far at this early stage in the assembly process.

Sturmgeschütz III work-in-progress: Assembly steps 1 through 4 (top/front isometric view)

Sturmgeschütz III work-in-progress: Assembly steps 1 through 4 (top/back isometric view)

Tamiya Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 assembly instructions, Steps 1 through 4

Having had some experience building World War Two (WW2) tanks, I was appreciative of a simple design that ensured the suspension arms did not fall out from the lower hull. Rather than creating a tight fit for the suspension arms into the lower hull, Tamiya had designed an elongated piece of plastic (see below; top half of first photo) which is glued on over the spring arms, on the interior side. This design helps secure the arms and prevent them from falling out of the lower hull, at least not easily.  

Interior view of the piece of elongated plastic that is glued over the suspension arms

Side view (from left) of the work-in-progress lower hull, showing the attached suspension arms

 Another interesting design concept by Tamiya was to include suspension springs that are attached to the suspension arms located at the four farthest corners of the lower hull (see below). These springs provide a rudimentary suspension system. As to how effective this system is, I'll only be able to tell when the drive sprockets, idler/road wheels and track has been installed to the lower hull. 

'Front-left' section of lower hull; note the suspension arm farthest to the left ...

... which on its reverse side (interior) is attached to a suspension spring ...

.. which then allows the said suspension arm the ability to absorb some tension ...

... when the said arm is depressed upwards towards the upper hull

 Details on the lower hull are pretty good, especially towards the back end of the lower hull (see below). That is to be expected because the front end of the Sturmgeschütz III's lower hull would've been plain as it's function was dedicated solely to being a lower glacis armor. 

'Back-left' section of the lower hull has incredible details ...

... which continues on to the rear section of the lower hull ...

... and on to the 'back-right' section whose details mirror the opposite side of the lower hull

 As for both sides the lower hull so far, details are mainly in the form of return rollers, suspension arms and the surface texture of the front protrusions (into which the drive sprockets will eventually be attached). Things will look much busier once the idler/road wheels, drive sprockets, and tracks are attached to the lower hull. These latter parts will likely be painted separately from the lower hull.

Side view (from right) of the work-in-progress lower hull

'Front-right' section; note the surface texture on far right protrusion (example of good detail)

Front view of the Sturmgeschütz III's work-in-progress lower hull

 Below are photos showcasing the progress so far as seen from the bottom of the lower hull.

Sturmgeschütz III work-in-progress: Assembly steps 1 through 4 (bottom/front isometric view)

Sturmgeschütz III work-in-progress: Assembly steps 1 through 4 (bottom/back isometric view)

 Apart from the tedium of having to meticulously remove mold lines from the suspension arms, the build has been pretty straightforward so far. As unique as the suspension spring system was, the process of putting them in place was also easy with minor difficulty arising from having to handle the tiny caps that secure the spring in place (see instructions above). So all in all, there has been no major issues or problems thus far. Assembly on the Sturmgeschütz III should continue soon, if I can pry myself from my latest time-sink of reading books, lots of them. So until next time, it's time for me to curl up with a good book or three to read. For now, stay safe dear reader and see you soon.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 [Second Color Test for WW2 German Gray including Blue Filter Effect]

 On a previous paint set review, I had taken the opportunity then to do a quick color test for the upcoming Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 project. But results were unsatisfactory. So having a hobby induced obsessive-compulsive-tendency coupled with an inherent perfectionist approach to work meant I had to bury (or at least quieten) my demons by revisiting the  maiden color test. To build upon my earlier effort, this particular color test had three differences in the form of: a black primer coat instead of light gray; a color gradient for a more accurate comparison to the molded part color; and use of a blue filter specific for Panzer Gray.  

World War 2 (WW2) German Gray color test revisited in more detail

 First, comparison between the German Gray hues on black versus light gray primer. To the naked eye there doesn't seem to be any discernible difference to the German gray hues being painted on top of either black or light gray primer. Certainly the rudimentary lighting system used in my photography sessions certainly doesn't help the neutral observer from discerning such minute details. Even under natural lighting the difference - all round lighter tonal value for gray hues painted on a light gray primer coat - is almost imperceptible. However, which primer being used becomes pertinent when considering one's approach to color modulation. This I'll explain in future posts.

German Gray hues from the Mr.Hobby Color Modulation set painted in a gradient; sans topcoat

A clear matt topcoat was spray painted onto the gray gradient hues as a protective layer for the next step i.e. application of a AK Interactive Blue Filter for Panzer Gray

German Gray hues from the Mr.Hobby Color Modulation set painted in a gradient; with topcoat

Comparison between the painted German Gray gradient vs the original plastic mold colors

 Second, painting a German Gray color gradient that changes gradually in tonal value. To give you an idea in how this gradient was created, the following is the steps involved:

1. Coat entire styrene plastic sheet with black primer;
2. Paint first layer with darkest hue in the Mr.Hobby color modulation set i.e. German Gray Shadow CMC09;
3. Paint second layer with German Gray C40, leaving a band of bottom layer (i.e. CMC09) showing on the left;
4. Paint third layer with German Gray Highlight 1 (CMC07) on top of C40 layer, leaving the exposed 5. CMC09 layer alone and leaving some of the C40 layer showing on its left;
6. Paint final layer with lightest hue in the set i.e. German Gray Highlight 2 (CMC08), leaving the exposed CMC09 and C40 layers alone and leaving some of the CMC07 showing on its left.

To sum up, in the end what you have is a color gradient with CMC09 on black primer; C40 on top of CMC09; CMC07 on top of C40; and finally CMC08 on top of CMC07 (see photos immediately above this paragraph). This gradient is then 'unified' under a blue filter (see photos below). 

Filter of choice was an enamel product i.e. the AK Interactive Blue Filter for Panzer Grey

German Gray color gradient with the blue filter applied

German Gray color gradient plus blue filter compared to the original plastic molded part

 Third, application of an enamel-based filter (AK Interactive Blue Filter for Panzer Gray) on the German Gray color gradient, with white spirit as the blending agent. Whether it's because of my inexperience in applying enamel filters or because the product was already too old thus damaged or made-ineffective in some way, the blue filter didn't blend well. Streaks, blobs, and globs of blue are clearly visible versus having a non-visible filter that changes the underlying color. On the bright side, the streaks, blobs, and globs of blue actually give the color gradient a natural weathered-look. That it also unifies the color gradient and make color transitions look smoother is a win-win for me. 

German Gray color gradient with the blue filter applied but under brighter settings

German Gray color gradient plus blue filter and the original plastic part, under brighter settings

 Finally, with the color tests for the Sturmgeschütz III done and dusted, I can now move on to its assembly process. For miniature figurine painters who are unfamiliar with the 1/35 scale armored fighting vehicles (AFVs) assembly process, know this at least ... it's fairly hard and time consuming. More so when you have to consider some parts need to be painted separately before assembly. And then there are the photo-etched parts which are a whole different level of headache. In fairness it's a challenge but a fun one, so I'm equal parts looking forward to the assembly process, and dreading it too. “What am I doing? Tearing myself. My usual occupation at most times.” Charles Dickens

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Bumblebee, Autobot Transformer in vehicular form [WIP - Bodywork and Paint]

 In what seems to be a pseudo-Groundhog Day situation, first quarter (1Q) 2021 finds me seemingly entangled in either just color tests or plain base-coating. February is but a day away from its end, and here I am at the base-coat stage of the Volkswagen Beetle's bodywork. Pair this with my previous color test for the Speeder Bike black section and a near future color test for the Sturmgeschutz III Ausf.B armor, you can perhaps understand my feelings of déjà vu. In short no substantive progress is expected on any project before 2Q 2021. Yet it's still a start beyond inertia, so there's that.

Tamiya 1/24 Volkswagen 1300 Beetle work-in-progress: Bodywork and Paint

 More so than perhaps any other vehicular project I have undertaken thus far, the Beetle required more meticulous prep work to ensure a smooth as possible surface for the subsequent primer and base-coat layers. It helped tremendously that the Tamiya Beetle bodywork parts had minimal mold lines, especially the Bonnet and Boot covers. While the main bodywork itself had some mold line issues (see below) which required some prep work, it wasn't considered too major an issue. 

Main bodywork of the Volkswagen Beetle had some mold line issues ...

... particularly above the headlight cavities ...

... running all the way below the said cavities, and ...

... on the roof surface, located close to all four  side doors, as well as ...

... two lines running parallel to each other near the bottom third of the rear bodywork

 After carefully shaving off the mold lines using a hobby knife with a rounded blade tip, I applied my go-to primer product namely the light gray Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (see below).

Volkswagen Beetle after the priming stage and prior to receiving its base-coat layer

 Having an airbrush system is a prerequisite to achieving the smoothest base-coat paint layer possible. This is because an airbrush allows the consistent application of several thin layers of paint, which translates into a final coat of paint with a fairly uniform thickness. Painting via hand can still accomplish this but it will unrealistically lengthier amount of time. Meanwhile, using a spray paint injects a level of unpredictability due to lesser control over the amount of paint being dispensed. Regardless, an airbrush was used and first to be painted was the Beetle's roof interior.

Area surrounding the roof interior was first masked off before being painted

Roof interior with masks removed; note interior color is a variation of beige

 As for the outer surface area of the bodywork, a previously determined shade of Bumblebee Yellow was airbrushed onto it in several light, thin coats. In addition, a protective semi-gloss clear topcoat was sprayed on top of the paint base-coat. I used a spray can to apply this protective topcoat, which is hypocritical of me seeing I had already established that spray cans did not afford good dispensation control. But not really, for I had used Mr.Hobby Super Clear topcoat, which based on experience is well-formulated to be almost fool-proof. Specifically, if you didn't depress the nozzle all the way down for long periods and at a too-close-distance to the paint surface, the topcoat should even out nicely.  

Volkswagen Beetle with its base-coat and a protective semi-gloss top-coat applied

Closeup from the front; isometric view of the main bodywork

Closeup from the back; isometric view of the main bodywork

 Shown below are photos of yet more angles of the base-coated Volkswagen Beetle bodywork.

Front view of the Volkswagen Beetle main bodywork and bonnet

Back view of the Volkswagen Beetle main bodywork, and the boot cover

Volkswagen Beetle main bodywork, after base-coat as viewed from the left side

Volkswagen Beetle main bodywork, after base-coat as viewed from the right side

 Next on the Beetle's progress I'm faced with a figurative fork on the road. I could choose either to weather the painted bodywork first, or install the headlights, back-lights, door handles, side windows, windshield and such before attempting any weathering effects. The latter seems the likelier route but I'll have to put some thought into it first before I deciding. And if it seems impossible my projects can go any slower, I am afraid it can. For you see, I've rekindled my love of reading in a serious way with a backlog of hundreds of scifi/fantasy/horror titles to be consumed. On that note, I leave you with a Lemony Snicket quote ... “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.”

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