Saturday, 4 July 2020

Space Battleship Yamato 2199, Cosmo Reverse Ver. [WIP - Hull Plates: Basecoats & Panel Lines]

After a break of nearly 15 months, the Space Battleship Yamato project is back on the work table. As there will be a few different versions of this iconic space ship entering my project pipeline in the future, it should be noted this particular kit shows the physical form of the Yamato on its journey back to Earth from planet Iscandar in the year 2199. At this point, the ship's prow had been retrofitted with the Cosmo Reverse System - an Iscandarian device with the potential to restore life on Earth - thus effectively decommissioning the Wave Motion Cannon (parts are included to showcase this fact).

Bandai 1/1000 scale Space Battleship Yamato Cosmo Reverse Ver. work-in-progress: Hull Plates

In terms of workflow order, I started on a section termed simply as "Hull" in the instructions (see below) which involves the assembly of the Yamato's Hull Plates, Hull Interior, Hangar Bay, Wave Engine, and Wave Motion Gun/Cannon. And to get the project rolling again after such a long hiatus, I have kept to the more straightforward task of basecoating and panel lining the Upper and Lower Hull Plates. It is this first meaningful step for the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 project that you'll see here. Also included is a short video on how the basecoat layer was applied to the hull pieces.

Hull Plates form the initial parts of the assembly section listed in the instructions as "Hull"

Materials used comprised the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, the basecoat lacquer paint mixes I had prepared over a year ago, the Mr.Super Clear semi-gloss topcoat, and the oil-based Mr.Weathering Color paints used to panel line the painted Hull Plates. In a nutshell, the Hull Plates were first coated with a light gray colored fine surface primer before being airbrushed with specially mixed basecoat colors representing the iconic grays and reds of the ship. Then a protective topcoat was applied onto the basecoat layer before commencing with panel lining. Of course, sufficient drying time of about a day was factored in between each step. Simple, straightforward steps to kick-start the project.

Light gray primer coat on the Upper Hull Plates of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199
'Yamato Gray' basecoat layer on the Upper Hull Plates of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199
Upper Hull Plates of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 top coated with semi-gloss clear, then panel lined

One thing of note is the Hull Plates aren't finished yet, not by a long shot. They still need to be weathered. And that is going to be a time consuming process if I want to do it well. Firstly a lot of research will have to go into finding the right effects and hues to use on a gray/red ship that can fly in space and in a planet's atmosphere as well as sail its waters. Secondly I will have to paint up some test pieces (i.e. spare sprue parts, plastic spoons or even styrene sheets) in order to try out some of the weathering ideas. For a scale modeler with OCD tendencies, this looks like a long hard slog. 

Light gray primer coat on the Lower Hull Plates of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199
'Yamato Red' basecoat layer on the Upper Hull Plates of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199
Upper Hull Plates of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 top coated with semi-gloss clear, then panel lined

Without an airbrush, it would not have been possible for me to achieve the paint job I wanted with the Hull Plates. Prior to getting an airbrushing system I had relied on spray cans to paint scale model kits with large surface areas. While results with spray cans can be pretty good, they cannot hold a candle to the inherent abilities of an airbrush to deliver paint at a fairly consistent velocity and volume. Add to that fine control over the paint's spray pattern, and we now have the means to slowly build up numerous thin layers of paint over large surface areas. This is essential to painting smooth basecoats that aren't too thick as to cover up molded details. The video below is a short take on this process.


Admittedly though, the video above may be too short to really explain the process to getting smooth layers of the basecoat color onto your scale model kit. With that in mind, I plan to do another longer and more in-depth video, voice-over and all, in upcoming video productions. Up next for the Yamato are its Interior and Hangar Bay sections. Meanwhile I've so many unboxed projects - like the Star Wars Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike, Neon Genesis Evangelion EVA-01, and Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B - all raring to go as well as the Bumblebee Volkswagen to continue working on.  

FourEyedMonster Miniatures YouTube Channel

Speaking of which, that latter project would likely be the one I do a detailed 'airbrushing smooth basecoat process' video when I eventually start painting Bumblebee yellow onto the Beetle car body. Anyway the weekend is here and it's an unusually exciting one for me as Formula One racing returns at the Red Bull Ring in Austria. As an F1 fan, that means I get to end my blog with my all-time favorite Kimi Räikkönen quote ... Just leave me alone, I know what to do (see here). 

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Friday, 26 June 2020

Bumblebee, Autobot Transformer in vehicle form [WIP: Air-Cooled Engine of the Volkswagen 1300 Beetle]

While a large portion of the Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) engine components (i.e. engine assembly/cylinder attachment and fan housing/engine installation) had already been painted, weathered and placed into the rear interior, the air-cooled engine itself wasn't finished yet as a whole. To complete the engine, I still had to paint and assemble a couple of tiny, fragile parts such as the Air Cleaner/Intake which is connected to the Warm Air Pipe, the Distributor and the Heater Hoses. This blog post chronicles the final few steps towards the completion of the Beetle's rear-engine.   

Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle Air-Cooled Engine [closeup view, right]
Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle Air-Cooled Engine [closeup view, front]
Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle Air-Cooled Engine [closeup view, left]

Work on the Air Intake, Air Cleaner, Warm Air Pipe, Heater Hoses, and Distributor parts (see below) began only after I had put together the interior of the Beetle. This was necessary because parts of the engine like the Heater Hoses actually connect to the frame of the rear interior. The work comprised freehand red warning pseudo-letterings on the Air Cleaner; an orange-black-metal color scheme on the Distributor; and finally a grey-black wash combo for the Heater Hoses. In addition to these new additions, I also painted existing engine components i.e. the Ignition Coil in a light turquoise color while adding a touch of metallic paint to the nuts and bolts securing the Fan Pulley Cover. 

Beetle Engine Components: Air Cleaner/Intake with Warm Air Pipe (left) and Distributor (right)
Volkswagen (VW) 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) Engine Components: Heater Hoses
VW 1300 Beetle latest engine components in a scale comparison to a five sen coin and paperclip

Because all the above fragile pieces were added to the existing engine setup only after the vehicle interior had been assembled, it was a minor miracle I didn't break any of the parts during assembly. However it wasn't all plain sailing as I had struggled mightily to fit both Heater Hoses onto the rear body framework. In fact, the fit was so tight that no glue was needed in the end. Still, I managed not to break anything so all good. Well, not exactly. The true test of whether I have fitted the engine correctly into the rear will come when I secure the Beetle's exterior body onto the interior/chassis.

State of the VW 1300 Beetle Engine prior to completion, with its Ignition Coil painted in light turquoise
Air Intake/Cleaner with Pipe, Distributor and Heater Hoses all laid out prior to assembly into the Engine
Tamiya 1/24 scale VW 1300 Beetle Air-Cooled Engine [closeup, angled top down view]

Apart from the dashboard, the Beetle's rear-engine is the only other section with a significant amount of detail. In the coming weeks, I will probably work on other fairly detailed parts such as the wheels, hubcaps, rims, headlights, etc. And as impressive as the details on these will likely turn out to be, I don't expect any of them to outdo the overall wow-factor engendered by the dashboard and engine.

Tamiya 1/24 scale VW 1300 Beetle Air-Cooled Engine [zoomed out view, front]
Weathering effects on the engine and its surrounding compartment exist ...
... albeit in a subtle manner; all effects were applied using Tamiya Weathering Master sets

As reference I had used a photo I found online on what seems to be a Volkswagen Beetle (1966 Model) restoration project. With the photo as a baseline guide, I had proceeded to paint up the engine so that it had a slightly more than passing resemblance of the actual engine. While I'm sadly not knowledgeable enough to know whether the colors closely resemble those found in a newly minted engine back in 1966, I feel it's good enough seeing that my subject matter is make-believe anyway.

Reference photo of what seems to be an actual VW 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) engine

With my Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) project about halfway done, I am thinking of doing another short video to better showcase the myriad of details on the car interior and chassis. An uninterrupted 360 degree view of progress so far will likely give the average observer a better appreciation of the inherent qualities of this kit. More selfishly, it will give me a chance to play with the VEGAS Pro 15 Edit software, and get better at video editing. So if I've managed to pique your interest, even for just a little bit, then please look out for that particular video in the near future. Until then, I bid you goodbye until we meet again my dear readers. Stay safe and be well.

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Sunday, 21 June 2020

Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 [Unboxing & Pre-Assembly Review]

Designed as a support vehicle for attacking infantry, the Sturmgeschütz had seen its fair share of battle during World War 2 (WW2). It ran the gamut from being the spearhead of infantry in epic battles on the Eastern Front to being cannon fodder in its final deployments during the desperate last days of the Third Reich. I plan to recreate a 1/35 scale painted version of this Armored Fighting Vehicle (AFV), I'll be using the Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 model kit.

Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 plastic model kit

Choosing the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B as my next WW2 AFV project will signify a sharp departure from my previous effort in terms of both size and complexity. But more significantly, it will mark a slight change in artistic approach for painting AFVs. My earlier attempts had focused on recreating a realistic yet flat look that can be rather dull. However in this project, I am going to try my hand at an airbrush technique called Color Modulation. In short, this method artificially heightens the contrast between shadows and highlights. It works especially well for hard edges like those found on the Sturmgeschütz. It's widely agreed the end result isn't necessarily realistic but it does look better.

Side box art of the Tamiya Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B scale model kit
This Tamiya scale model kit comes with the added bonus of photo-etched parts
Plastic sprues, vinyl tracks and photo-etched parts are all neatly packed inside the box

Options for the different versions of Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B that can be build are displayed in a colored spread, which accompanies the usual black and white instructions. Sturmgeschütz variant is limited to Ausf.B but the kit allows for up to at least six different Assault Gun AFVs that existed historically; all predicated upon markings found on the water decals. These specific six were from either the 1st, 2nd and/or 3rd Kompanie of the Wermacht Panzer Division. My initial plan, subject to change, is to build a specific Sturmgeschütz that saw action on the Eastern Front in 1941.

In addition to black and white instructions, there was a colored guide showing versions that can be build from this kit
Water decals containing vehicle markings for at least six different versions of the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B

In one of the few Tamiya kits to include photo-etch parts, the 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 scale model kit has a small set comprising Notek light covers, grilles and antenna holders.
The kit also provides an Aluminium Gun Barrel that is touted to have been accurately reproduced to include spiral rifling. Apart from this, the other molded parts are generally made from plastic.

Photo-etched parts are available for the gun barrel, engine grilles, antenna holders and Notek light covers

Compared to the King Tiger, the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B has relatively fewer parts which translates into lesser sprues. This is to be expected as the Sturmgeschütz is so much smaller in size when compared with the German Heavy Tank. The lower part count is also due to the fact that the tank tracks provided in the Sturmgeschütz kit comprised just two elongated pieces of vinyl rubber. In comparison, the MENG King Tiger kit had sections of the track molded in individual link pieces.   

Lower hull of the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B is the largest single molded piece in the kit
Vinyl tank tracks are the only track options available for the Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B

So far I've only ever build one Tamiya AFV kit namely the T-55A Medium Tank. Compared to the T-55A which had sparse interior details, the Sturmgeschütz devotes a significant amount of part count to its interior including the assault gun, which is the main component of its crew compartment. The rest of the sprue mainly consists of the outer hull sections/details, suspension system and wheels. And only one miniature figurine is included in this kit: a crew member standing upright.

Sprue A & E: Tank wheels, rollers, suspension arms, miscellanous parts
Sprue B & C: Upper hull sections, tow cables, etc.
Sprue D: Gun assembly parts, bulkhead, tank crew figure, etc.

Interestingly enough, Tamiya also included four separate suspension springs. I assume these metal springs, together with the suspension arms and rollers, provide a rudimentary suspension system for the Sturmgeschütz. But until I assemble the whole thing I cannot tell for sure. And as is standard is all Tamiya AFV kits as far as I can tell, poly-caps are also provided. These poly-caps allow the creation of smooth and secure joints without the need for glue, and are usually used on the wheels section.

Two different sizes of poly-caps and four individual suspension springs for the track wheels

In most cases, each new hobby project tends to coincide with a chance to learn new techniques. And because the Tamiya 1/35 scale Sturmgeschütz III Ausf.B Sd.Kfz.142 model kit builds into a fairly flattened hull with numerous hard edges, it should in theory enable an easier and straightforward Color Modulation process. Moreover the Sturmgeschütz is relatively small in size thus requiring less work (and time) before an end result can be seen. That's the idea anyway.

You know you wants its ... gollum, gollum

More importantly however, this kit allows me to make a dent in my substantial AFV kit hoard, of which I've decided to stop adding to until I can finish at least ten from the existing pile. In short, no more buying new AFV model kits ... for now. But that new Tamiya WW2 tank kit looks really cool. No, I can't. What's one more? The missus won't notice surely. I have too much already. I ... I just can't. That's a limited edition you know. Arghhh, get out of my head. Gollum, gollum!

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Friday, 12 June 2020

Bumblebee, Autobot Transformer in car form [WIP - Assembly of the Volkswagen Beetle Interior]

After the tough challenge of having to paint tiny interior details, comes the fear inducing process of having to assemble a series of fully painted and fragile parts, components and sub-assemblies of a car interior. That all consuming fear soon became a self-fulfilling prophecy. In the process of building the car's interior, I broke the Stick Shift again, not once but twice more. In addition, I also broke the vehicle frame (i.e. chassis) on the rear. The former had to be fixed with a thin, low viscosity glue while the latter was put back together with a super glue and baking soda combo. This then are the photos and story of the assembly of the Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle Interior.    

Painted sub-assemblies and components that make up the Volkswagen (VW) 1300 Beetle Interior

Small little details in miniature form, especially when they mimic real-life objects, have always held a strange fascination for me. I'm sure it's the same for you too, dear reader, for if it wasn't the case you wouldn't be involved in the miniature figurine/scale model kit hobby. So amidst all that tension of trying not to break fragile parts while applying more than enough force to do so during the interior assembly, I still found simple joy marveling at the Beetle interior. Hypocritically, I found myself both praising Tamiya's tiny, detailed parts, and cursing at its fragility. If you had been a fly on the wall, that scene of an old scale modeler oohing and aahing and cussing would've been downright weird.     

VW Beetle dashboard within the car interior; an isometric closeup view from above the right seat
VW Beetle dashboard within the car interior; a closeup view from an angled, top down perspective 
VW Beetle dashboard within the car interior; an isometric closeup view from above the left seat

So what then, did I break? Well, attaching the Front Boot Interior to the chassis was supposed to be an uneventful event. It was anything but. For some reason I had inexplicably ignored assembly instructions to glue the dashboard and front boot together before gluing the resultant sub-assembly onto the chassis. Feeling cocky I only snap-fitted both together before proceeding to glue them to the chassis. Lo and behold, the parts came apart mid-assembly and broke the stick shift into two. This I did twice before coming to my senses. I was lucky not to break the steering wheel as well. 

Front Boot Interior with the Fuel Tank, Windshield Washer Container and Brake Fluid Reservoir
Front and Back Seats of the VW 1300 Beetle, with the PVC covers painted in beige-like colors
Apart form the cover, the Front Boot is also missing the Spare Wheel which will be added later
Grooves on the Front and Back Seats were panel-lined using an oil-based, dark brown hue
Outer surfaces of the Interior were left mostly unpainted as they will be covered up by the main bodywork

When it rains, it pours. Getting the rear section of the interior to fit onto the chassis required quite an excessive application of force. And surprise, surprise, the rear bodywork frame also broke during assembly. If you look towards the bottom of the rear engine compartment (see below, fifth photo from bottom) you should notice what looks like a welded surface on the lower right corner where the yellow bodywork meets the black engine floor. That weld-like eyesore (painted over in black) is actually a byproduct from a mix of super glue and baking soda, used to create an extra strong bond.   

Tamiya 1/24 scale VW 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) Interior; an isometric, zoomed out view
Outer surface of the interior were mostly left unpainted as they'll be covered by the Beetle's main body
Note the light turquoise piece on the partially completed engine located at the rear section ...
... it's the only engine part that had work done on it at this stage (as in being painted further) ...
... and as you petrol-heads out there will know, that light turquoise piece is the Beetle's ignition coil.
Also currently missing from the Beetle's chassis are its four road wheels
All in all, putting the VW 1300 Beetle Interior together had been a rather stressful experience ...
... as it was plagued by the constant worry of fragile, painted parts being broken, which sadly did break  

In a zoomed-out view of the Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) Interior (see last eight photos), one gets an even better sense of how important the intricately molded interior details are to making the car look like a miniaturized slice of real-life. It is after all the prevalent view we'll all have of the car sans the artificially zoomed-in view of a macro lens. And with that I leave you for another week, with yet another unrelated quote, this time from legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov ... The saddest aspect of life right now is that science gathers knowledge faster than society gathers wisdom.

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