Sunday, 13 January 2019

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [WIP - Decals, a Clear Coat & Oil Painting Begins]

Moving on from boring test sessions, I finally resumed work on the Meng King Tiger proper. But before any oil paint filter/render techniques could be attempted, there was the matter of applying decals on the tank to mark it out as Tank No.124 of the Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505 or the 505th German Heavy Tank Battalion. Even so, I did get a start on the oil painting process albeit on a small scale i.e. the left front skirt of the German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret).    

Meng Model King Tiger work-in-progress: Decals and a clear matt coat
Markings on the original Tank 124 as it was found in the war

With this being my first use of Meng decals, I wasn't too sure about the quality and how they would hold up under the stress of my clumsy hands. And true to form I did encounter problems, initially at least. On my first attempt at applying the 'charging knight' decal, the plume on the knight's helmet tore off and the tip of his lance bend in on itself. Luckily I was in one of my 'in the zone' moments and retained enough patience to more or less fix things (see 'charging knight' symbol on the left side of the turret; eighth photo from the top). Soon enough though, I got used to the decals' firmness and my hands' muscle memory adapted accordingly. As such, no further decal problems arose.     

Charging knight symbol of the Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505 (s.Pz.Abt.505) tank unit
Zoomed out view of the charging knight symbol on the tank turret
Decals denoting this as Tank 124 of the s.Pz.Abt.505

Decals have a tendency to stand out in unwanted ways. This is due to their glossy nature as well as visibility of a semi-visible demarcation between the decal material and the surface area sans decal. To improve realism so that decals look like they were painted, I decided to apply a lacquer-based clear matt coat i.e. the Mr Hobby Mr Super Clear. A note of caution: the Mr Hobby website warns that usage of this lacquer-based clear coat over decals may damage them. Thankfully, this wasn't the case for me. I went ahead despite the warning out of necessity and an analytical guesstimate.

Decals adhered to the zimmerit layer without any problems
Clear matt coat reduces the shine of the decals thus ...
... making the decals look more like it was painted onto the turret

Firstly, it was a necessity because usage of water-based clear coats can be a hit-and-miss affair for me. There have been occasions when white spots formed if the spray can of clear coat was too old or if the weather was too humid. I've found this becomes a non-issue if I use lacquer-based clear coats. Secondly, it's my guesstimate that if I apply clear coats in a thin enough layer, then the hot weather would evaporate most of the clear coat's solvent (which would damage the decals) before it hits the surface of the model kit. In the conditions that I work in, which is fairly hot and humid, I can safely conclude that usage of the Mr Super Clear on top of Meng decals did not damage the latter.

Oil Paint Filter and/or Rendering Process Begins

Having applied the clear coat, I wanted to give the protective layer a few days or even a week to dry in order for it to sufficiently strengthen. This meant I couldn't start the oil dot filter weathering or oil paint rendering process on the tank proper. However, I already had a piece of front skirt clear coated much earlier so I could at least begin the oil painting techniques on that part (see photos below).

Results of an oil paint filter/rendering session on the matt surface of the tank's front left skirt

A previous foray into this technique didn't yield good results. So something had to change. What I did differently here was threefold namely be more patient; be more particular in the placement of specific hues and be more judicious in the use of white spirit (less is more). A disregard for all three in my previous attempt had resulted in a messy mono-hued filter look. It's actually good I got to start on a small part of the tank first as I'm still unhappy with the results. But with every attempt I am beginning to better understand the oil dot filter weathering and/or oil paint rendering technique.

Step 01: Part primed with Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray) and basecoated with Tamiya TS-3 Dark Yellow 
Step 02: Oil paints applied as dots onto the part
Step 03: Oil paints blended with white spirit
Step 04: Results of the oil dot filter weathering / oil paint rendering after a few cycles of steps one through three

In addition to the three new approaches I used, I also changed the number of times I would apply this procedure. Previously, I would just place the the oil paints, blend it once and then consider my task finished. Now though, I'm doing up to three passes (Steps 01 to 03 above) of oil dot filter weathering and/or oil paint rendering - one on top of the other - until I'm satisfied with the final results.

Extreme closeups of the before and after oil dot filter weathering / oil paint rendering process

So then, it's now on to the rest of the tank for the oil dot filter weathering and/or oil paint rendering process. I'm slowly getting a hang of the technique and I'm fairly confident results will be better when I apply this technique on the tank hull and turret, decals and all. And as I make good progress on the Meng King Tiger, I feel confident enough to start a new project in addition to the two I'm working on (the other being the atelier iT Race Queen). All I'll say at this stage is the new project involves a car and it's one of my top two favorite cars ever. Do enjoy what's left of your weekend and see you soon.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

A Look Back At 2018

Ever since I began my journey in this hobby, I've never had as lean a year as 2018 in terms of miniatures or scale models completed. Two was the measly number of projects I had managed to see over the finish line. There were mitigating factors but it's all still a pretty sad state of affairs.

Nocturna Models 70 mm resin figurine Soum 13 Moons, painted as DC Suicide Squad's Katana

What I did complete, I was fairly proud of. Firstly, there is the 70 mm resin figurine from Nocturna Models namely Soum 13 Moons which I painted as DC Suicide Squad's Katana (see above). And then there is the Bandai Star Wars 1/48 scale model of an Imperial AT-ST Walker (see below).

Bandai Star Wars 1/48 scale Imperial AT-ST Walker

Surely I can do no worse this year than what I had done in 2018. That's the plan anyway and we all know no plan ever survives contact with real life. But I'm going to try and that in a nutshell is my simple 2019 resolution for the hobby. With that, here's wishing a great year ahead!

Monday, 24 December 2018

A Visit to the Tamiya Plamodel Factory in Tokyo, Japan

Recently, the missus had to go on week-long work trip to Japan. And because of her hectic schedule, she didn't have much free time to roam the streets of Tokyo for some shopping. But as luck would have it, she did manage to make an unexpected trip to the Tamiya Plamodel Factory in Tokyo. While there are probably better deals to be had in hobby shops in Akihabara, the Tamiya flagship store presumably has a wider range of its own products. Regardless, it's an awesome shop in its own right.

Tamiya Plamodel Factory in Tokyo, Japan

Being a spur of the moment decision, the missus only reached Tamiya's store rather late in the evening. So with closing time not too far off and a need to make the last train out of Shimbasi District where the store is located, she began sending me quickfire photos of Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV) model kits. Her question ... was there anything I wanted? For a moment, I just froze. My mind blank, unable to really process the multitude of Tamiya model kits on display.   

Behind the main display window of the Tamiya Plamodel Factory in Tokyo
Standing out among the German and Finnish WW2 kits is the 50th Anniversary Panther Ausf.D
Tamiya 1/35 scale model kits mostly from the modern era
Russia and Italian armor as well as military figure kits
Some 1/35 scale accessory parts, British armor, French armor and soldiers

Well, it was a moot question and the missus knew it. What there anything I wanted? Well, a better question would've been was there anything that I didn't want? Anyway, I recovered my senses soon enough and my initial exhilaration wore off quickly as I grappled with the realities of want versus budget. While the former is insatiable, there is never enough of the latter. So after a fair bit of dilly-dallying with choices made, unmade and remade, I eventually settled on a selection of AFVs entirely from the World War II era. Most were Wehrmacht armor with an iconic Russian tank thrown in.

American armor and artillery including the more well known 
M4A3E8 Sherman Easy Eight
Scale model equivalents of vehicles in the Wehrmacht Panzer and Panzergrenadier Divisions
Yet more 1/35 scale German armor including the infamous ... 
1/35 scale Japan Ground Self Defense Force model kits and 1/16 military figures 
On the lowest shelf are Tamiya's large 1/16 scale model kits

Other than the wide selection of 1/35 scale model kits that were my main focus, there was also a good selection of 1/48 scale model kits in the Tokyo flagship store (see below). But because kits at this slightly smaller scale are pretty rare in the local hobby shops that I frequent, I never really took to building them. I believe Tamiya is one of the (if not) main producers of 1/48 scale military vehicles.   

Tamiya Plamodel Factory (Tokyo) has a huge collection of 1/48 scale AFVs
More 1/48 kits and some rare 1/25 scale remote control tanks
German and Russian 1/48 scale model kits
British and American 1/48 scale model kits
Ships aren't my thing but the Japanese Battleship Yamato was tempting

In hindsight, I should've taken a more careful look at the various tools and accessories available in the shop. There were certainly a few stuff I could've used in some upcoming projects. That being said, I don't regret it too much as my priority then was getting my hands on a few hard-to-find kits.

Tamiya paint brushes, weathering master sets and miscellaneous tools
Closeup of Tamiya's premium paint brushes
A wide selection of Tamiya airbrushes
More Tamiya airbrushes and air compressors
Tamiya Electric Handy Drill, which actually needs to be assembled like a model kit
Various types of Tamiya branded glues

In the end, things ended up more expensive than anticipated. It turned out there was a 8% sales tax yet to be included into the final prices on display. Moreover the Tamiya Plamodel Factory in Tokyo was unfortunately a shop that didn't reimburse tourists for the tax. Prior to bringing the kits you see below to the cashier, the missus had actually upon my request returned a number of Russian tanks (i.e. the KV-1B, Su-85 and Su-122) back to the display shelf in order to keep the bill low. And with the added tax I was prepared to return a further two kits to the shelf but she kindly suggested I keep them as it wasn't everyday that she got the chance to visit Tamiya's flagship store.     

What my missus got for me from Tokyo's Tamiya Plamodel Factory

Apart from the Pz.Kpfw.IV Ausf.J 50th Anniversary Special Edition kit, the others came packaged in smaller sizes than your average Tamiya box. Correspondingly, they were cheaper than what an average 1/35 scale Tamiya kit retails for. Now I'm not a Tamiya fanboy by any means but I do appreciate the quality of their kits. So I was extremely happy with her haul in Tokyo, especially the Russian T34/85 Medium Tank. What's more, there was icing on the cake in that the missus bought all of them for me. Talk about having your cake and eating it too, icing and all. Looks like Xmas came early for me. On that note, here's wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger with Henschel Turret [WIP - Oil Dot Filter Test on Three Tone Camo]

As much as this hobby resembles riding a bike in that we never forget how to do it, there was a slight hiccup when resuming work on the Meng King Tiger after such a lengthy period off. Old bad habits resurfaced and this one bears highlighting again as it's a bane of a lot of hobbyists whether they realize it or not namely impatience. This coupled with the fact that oil dot filtering is a technique I haven't mastered yet meant unsatisfactory results (see immediate photo below). As a comparison, you can see the effect as it was meant to be (see second photo below).  

Oil Dot Filter Technique Test on a German WW2 Three Tone Camouflage

Right off the top of my head I can already pinpoint what went wrong. What was required, and this I knew on an intellectual level, was to slowly blend the oils using a damp-to-dry brush. What I did, in my impatience, was to blend in an overly quick manner with a brush loaded with too much medium. Speaking of medium, I used the Winsor & Newton Artists' White Spirit versus the recommended Abteilung 502 Odorless Thinner which may be a contributing factor. Lastly, my placement and choice of oil colors could've been much better. In the former oil dots were placed too randomly without any consideration of the camouflage color concerned while in the latter I might've used too much black and greys which washed out any tonal variation achieved by the other hues.        

Effect of oil filters on the camouflage when properly applied by expert hands (not mine)

All negatives aside, this oil dot filter test was carried out on a styrene sheet that had been spray painted with a three tone camouflage pattern which in turn was protected by a matte clear coat.  

German WW2 Three Tone Camouflage using Tamiya TS-1 (Red Brown), TS-2 (Dark Green) and TS-3 (Dark Yellow)
Prior to the oil dot filter technique, a matte clear coat was applied to protect the camo basecoat 

While I had recently stocked up on Winton Oil Colours, I ended up using Abteilung 502 oil paints which I had procured from a local hobby shop during a clearance sale. Based the book Mastering Oils Vol.1 by Joaquín García Gázquez, the oil do filter hues recommended for use on a German WW2 three tone camouflage pattern are Snow White, Black, Magenta, Yellow, Payne's Grey, Intense Blue, Olive Green, Raw Umber and Neutral Grey. The first six colors are conveniently found in Abteilung's Base Color Alteration Set while the others were taken from other sets or bought individually.

Paints used comprised solely of Abteilung 502 modelling oil paints
Colors used were based on recommendations found in Mastering Oils Vol.1 by Joaquín García Gázquez

Similar to my previous attempt at the Oil Dot Filter Technique, cardboard pieces were used as a palette in order to absorb excess oil from the paint. For this purpose, I found it sufficient to leave the Abteilung 502 oil paints on the cardboard palette for a few hours in an airtight container.  

Excess oil was absorbed on a piece of cardboard for a better matte finish
Enclosing oil paints in an air tight container prevent them from drying up to fast

Blending of the oil dot paints was carried out using a brush and white spirit. As touched upon briefly, the recommended medium for blending these Abteilung 502 oil paints is actually the namesake's Odorless Thinner. It is supposedly softer and less aggressive than white spirit which in theory would be better for smoother blending. But because one 100 ml bottle of Abteilung 502 Odorless Thinner costs the same as a one liter tin of Winsor & Newton Artists' White Spirit, at least locally, I will be using the latter for my blending purposes for the foreseeable future.  

Dots of varying hues of oil paint were applied onto the camo basecoat ...
... and then blended using white spirit and some brushes
Results were unsatisfactory leaving much room for improvement

Despite this setback I still believe oil dot filters are a must in order to introduce some tonal variation, no matter how subtle, to the hull of a tank. Going forward I plan to apply the oil dot filters on the tank itself before perfecting the technique with further tests as above. Having just come back to the hobby after such a long layoff, I feel it would be better to do things on a trial and error basis on an actual scale model rather than practicing on a piece of painted sytrene. I found that my heart just wasn't really in it for the latter. If I'm not careful I'll likely slip back into the hobby malaise I fought so hard to come out of. So it's on to the King Tiger itself for the next steps even if I mess things up badly.
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