Saturday, 16 March 2019

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger [WIP - Hull Accessories and Outlining with an Oil Pin Wash]

Despite being fairly new to AFV (armored fighting vehicle) modelling, I found myself in my element when painting the King Tiger's accessories. In essence, the 1/35 scale details covered familiar ground. As a miniature hobbyist, I am thankfully familiar with the techniques involved in painting tiny details. The initial score of photos comprise close-ups of the tank accessories starting on the left front corner, and subsequently moving clockwise around the hull to the front. After being applied to the turret and road wheels earlier, the oil pin wash was also put on the hull in this hobby session.  

Meng King Tiger work-in-progress: accessories and oil pin wash on the hull
Woodgrain texture on the hammer handle had to be scribed using a sharp X-Acto blade
Metal parts of the tools were weathered using Tamiya Light Sand pastel color

Because the wood-based pioneer tools were molded as smooth plastic parts, I needed to create the wood grain texture myself if I wanted to up the realism. So what I ended up doing was to scribe the wood fiber patterns on the axe and hammer handles using an X-Acto knife. Now there are specialized hobby tools for use in engraving lines and patterns on plastic parts. Unfortunately I didn't have any scribing tools at hand to make the wood grain patterns, but luckily the simple hobby knife worked just as good for my intended purposes. And I was ecstatic at how the wood handles turned out.  

Red oxide showing through the hull damage is the actual color of the molded plastic part
Even plastic molded tow cables can approach realism with the help of some painting and dry-brushing
These light brown wooden rods were presumably used to clean the King Tiger's gun barrel 

In the closeups you can also see the effect of the oil pin washes. Results were especially pronounced for the zimmerit coating and rivets and such. Having the oil wash flow into every nooks and cranny of the hull surface adds depth provided any excess wash is wiped off. As with the turret, extra care was taken to prevent the oil wash from pooling at the zimmerit surface. If that was allowed to happen then the whole tank would have taken an unwanted darker shade in the overall color scheme.

Nestled within the curvature of the tow cable, the hand crank retains the colors of the camouflage pattern
Extreme close-up of the wire cutter, secured on the rear hull surface, and resting amidst the engine grilles

When it came to the exhaust pipes at the rear end of the King Tiger hull, less was more. Although many a modeler has gone the route of heavily rusted exhaust pipes, I decided to go the other way. Of course having the exhaust pipes encased in rust is still historical accurate, just not in all cases. Many factors come into play such as operating condition and weather. And even with access to historical photos of Tank 124 of Pz.Abt. 505 as well as photos of finished works by expert modelers, I still can't really tell for sure the exact condition of the exhaust pipes as they were during the war. 

Soot adorns the outtake of the King Tiger's rear exhaust pipes
For a tank in operational condition, rust on the exhaust pipes were kept to a minimum
Wide-angled view of the King Tiger rear hull section sans road wheels and tracks

Cognizant of the near impossibility in determining the exact condition of the exhaust pipes in a historical context, I decided to recreate a 'mildly stressed condition'. This translates into an exhaust system that's in fairly good condition, has minimal rust, and is covered by soot at the outtakes. One of my strengths, which doubles up as a weaknesses, is the need to extensively research how something should look like before trying to recreate this realism via art. Thus any satisfaction I feel when pulling off such an attempt is dampened somewhat by the lengthy time invested in the effort.

Depending on the operating environment, the tank's exhaust pipes are sometimes depicted as extensively rusted
Close-up view of the exhaust pipe shows both soot and traces of rust

One school of thought among modelers is that the plastic tow cable parts provided in most tank model kits should always be replaced by metal equivalents. For sure the metal-based tow cable parts do provide flexibility in how you want to pose it in a vignette or diorama. However, in terms of visual realism I believe there's little difference in using either the plastic parts or their metal equivalents. The end result, I feel, will always be determined by how it's painted and weathered, not by the material the tow cable part is molded from. It's more important that the said part is sculpted well.  

For realism sake, the tow cables displayed traces of exposed metal and old rust
More barrel rods, this time on the right side of the hull
Thinner tow cables lie alongside thicker ones below it

In any case, the tow cables were painted and weathered to show the consequences of a lengthy exposure of bare metal to air. To that effect, dark rust and metallic iron formed the predominant hues of the cables on each side of the King Tiger hull. Apart from the axe, hammer and spade, the other metal-based tool was the hand crank, located on the rear left corner (see seventh photo from the top). This tool took on the color scheme of the three tone camouflage to recreate the idea the hand crank was still in place in its brackets on the hull when the camouflage pattern was painted on the tank.  

Micro-chipping has yet to be carried out on the hull surface proper
Woodgrain on the axe handle was created in a similar way to those found on the hammer
Wide-angled view of the King Tiger front hull section sans road wheels and tracks

Painting and weathering of the tank accessories were carried out using Vallejo Model Color acrylic paints, Tamiya Weathering Master pastels and Citadel washes and metallic paints. Admittedly, I'm not working from any actual historical color references of these hull accessories. It's definitely a worthy endeavor to try and mimic historical color schemes, and I respect modelers that try to do this. But since it's something I cannot achieve with complete accuracy, I am able to let go of the need for historical realism. This is no mean feat with my perfectionist and obsessive compulsive tendencies.    

Materials used: Vallejo Model Color acrylics, Tamiya weathering pastels, and Citadel washes and metallics

For a perspective on the details as they sit on the tank hull we'll have to zoom out and see the accessories as they are on the King Tiger hull. Below are a series of photos showing the work-in-progress tank hull together with the various pioneer tools and tow cables. Trivia time. As I understand it, pioneer tools are engineering equipment attached to AFVs for use in assisting tank operations.

Zoomed out, three quarter view of the King Tiger hull sans road wheels and tracks
Left sided view of the hull showcasing the hammer, spade, barrel rods, hand crank and tow cable
Even without its turret, road wheels and tracks, the King Tiger hull looks pretty impressive
So much work has been put into the hull but I've barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done
Right sided view of the hull showcasing the axe, barrel rods, and tow cables
A lot of weathering remains to be done on the hull e.g. micro-paint chips, dust, dirt, stains, etc.

A weird thing about this hobby is how much it invigorates me when results begin to look like the real thing. Therein lies the problem for most of my extended periods of hobby malaise. Until results begin to take hold, I frequently find it laborious to maintain the inspiration and motivation to continue working on a project. In short, it's all in my head. Lucky for me, the Meng Model King Tiger project has reached the said critical tipping point. From here on, I should hope paint job and weathering successes, however minor, will continue to feed the urge to finish this project. One day. Soonish.

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Saturday, 9 March 2019

Star Wars First Order Stormtrooper - Bandai 1/12 Scale Plastic Model Kit [Completed]

As underwhelming as this project may have been, the Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper is nonetheless complete. Any misgivings aside, you have to hand it to Bandai for designing a scale model kit that looks as good as it does, incongruous to the amount of modelling work required on it. Is the design perfect? No it's not. Especially vexing was the tedium involved in painting the whites of the blaster rifle which was molded (and subsequently primed) completely in black. However it's a small price to pay for a rewarding project that's not too time consuming.

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale First Order Stormtrooper [Completed]

While it's was possible to configure the figurine in a myriad of poses, limitations were being imposed by the very nature of the stormtrooper's armor suit. Constraints in limb movement were determined by parameters of an armor suit that essentially doesn't have a lot of give in its joints. This is translated into 'real-life movie' scenarios whereby you would always see the stormtroopers run, walk or move in an awkwardly stiff manner. Even so, there was sufficient freedom of movement for the stormtrooper to strike up the standard movie-related poses plus a few fairly humorous ones.     

First Order Stormtrooper in the midst of aiming his blaster rifle
In this pose, the stormtrooper is carrying a blaster rifle with its stock assembly attached
This firing stance is frequently used with blaster rifles without the stock assembly attached    
Stock assembly of the blaster rifle is positioned away from the head in case of recoil
Back view of the First Order Stormtrooper in this particular firing pose
For stability while firing, the stormtrooper should brace the stock assembly against his shoulder ...
... which should explain the reason why stormtroopers keep missing their shots so much

Removing the stock assembly from the blaster rifle and attaching the riot shield to the left arm presented new options for poses (see below). What's missing was the combination of a Z6 Riot Control Baton (not shown) with the shield. For now at least, I don't intend to paint the baton for use in the stormtrooper poses. The reason for this is twofold. First, I think the baton looks lame. This in turn reduced my willingness to go through the hassle of painting whites by hand on the baton. Admittedly the baton would've made a good test piece for masking liquids but that's an entirely different story.

First Order Stormtrooper with a riot shield and a blaster rifle sans the stock assembly
Without the stock assembly, the blaster rifle can then be wielded one-handed
Wielding the blaster one-handed frees up the other hand to hold a riot shield for added protection
Disadvantage of firing one-handed is reduced accuracy ...
... which is a trade off for better protection with the riot shield
Riot shield looks good even with minimal painting i.e. on the protrusions at the four corners
Stormtrooper's entire torso is sufficiently covered by the riot shield
Riot shield fits fairly snugly onto the stormtrooper's arm via the arm straps
Back view of the First Order Stormtrooper with the blaster rifle holstered and the riot shield raised

After the regulation First Order approved poses, it was time for a bit of fun with FN-1824. If you don't know already who FN-1824 is, then here is an interesting bit of trivia for you. In Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens, FN-1824 was a First Order Stormtrooper assigned to guard Rey who was being held as a prisoner on Starkiller Base. That character was potrayed by Daniel Craig who happened to be in the same studio the movie was being shot, preparing for his next James Bond film.  

FN-1824 knew that he shouldn't have eaten that leftover curry from Master Kylo Ren's party
Being a fitness enthusiast FN-1824 was constantly monitoring his heart rate
O where are thou my beautiful Rey of Death Star luminance?

As you can see from the immediate photos above and below, the model kit is flexible enough to be contorted into a variety of light-hearted situations. But if the scaled down armor suit has the same degree of movements as its real life counterpart then it would've been an uncomfortable fit for the many extras who donned the First Order Stormtrooper outfits during the shooting of the movies. 

FN-1824 had always fancied himself as an old school gunslinger who is quick on the draw
If there was ever a de facto pose for a First Order Stormtrooper then this would be it
No pose is complete without one of the stormtrooper falling after being shot

So the year's first project is now complete. A short and simple one to get the show on the road. There will be tougher challenges to be had in future hobby sessions but I sorely needed this 'win', minor as it may be. Now then, it's on to the other stuff on my worktable. Hmm ... where do I even begin?

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