Sunday, 24 May 2020

Bumblebee in Volkswagen Beetle form [WIP - Front Uprights/Suspension, Handbrake, Stick Shift & Pedals]

This extended stay-at-home period has allowed me to sustain a level of focus on my scale modeling and miniature painting activities that I would otherwise never been able to achieve prior to the ongoing global pandemic. It has given me precious opportunity to clear my backlog of stalled projects. Not all of it though, as some projects retain a higher on-the-shelf-gathering-dust inertia than others. One project with new life breathed into it is the Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) which acts as a proxy for the Transformer Autobot Bumblebee in vehicle configuration.

Tamiya VW Beetle Work-in-Progress: Front Uprights/Suspension, Handbrake, Pedals & Shift Stick

So far I've been following the recommended order of assembly which in this case involved Steps Five through Seven (see instructions below). In this series of steps, the Front Uprights, Handbrake, Front Suspension, Stick Shift and Pedals (see above) were put together and painted. In terms of difficulty, the only real one I faced was the fragility of the Stick Shift. I went through hell twice with this tiniest of parts, which I'll elaborate on later in the post. Everything else was quite straightforward. 

Steps Five through Seven of the Tamiya 1/24 scale Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model)
Front Uprights/Suspension, Handbrake, Stick Shift and Pedals prior to being fixed to the WIP Chassis
Front Uprights/Suspension, Handbrake, Stick Shift and Pedals after being fixed to the WIP Chassis

Just from looking at the state of the Front Uprights and Front Suspensions as they are right now, I have an inclination to weather them extensively in dirt and dark rust colors. And in a normal vehicle I would've already done so. However, this Volkswagen Beetle is supposed to be the vehicular form of Bumblebee. As such one could logically conclude that his insides won't be rusted, unless for disguise purposes. At the end of the day, it's all make believe so for now I'll leave it in its all-black color scheme. The blacks are differentiated only by glossiness and semi-glossiness of its surfaces. 

Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) Front Uprights/Suspension (isometric view, left side)
Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) Front Uprights/Suspension (isometric view, front)
Volkswagen 1300 Beetle (1966 Model) Front Uprights/Suspension (isometric view, right side)

Apart form the Front Uprights/Suspension sub-assembly, this stage of the assembly process also required a few key items of the interior to be installed. This as I mentioned earlier comprised the Stick Shift, Handbrake and Clutch/Brake/Accelerator Pedals (see below). 

Volkswagen Beetle's interior will soon receive its seats as well as the dashboard while ...
... its engine (lower left corner) can only be called complete when its Air Cleaner System (not shown) is fixed
First closeup view of the Handbrake, Stick Shift and Pedals in the currently bare interior of the Beetle

One issue, partly self-inflicted through clumsiness and partly due to a design induced flimsiness, had caused me a bit of a hiccup during assembly. To my horror, the Stick Shift had snapped into two even though I was consciously aware of its weak design and was being extra careful. Worse still, it broke not once but twice. Putting such a tiny part back together again would've been impossible if it wasn't for the Mr.Hobby Mr.Cement S low viscosity plastic glue. Luckily for me the Stick Shift was a plastic part. If it had been a resin or photo-etched part, I couldn't have used that life saving glue on it.    

Use of a paperclip and a five sen coin as scale comparison for the Tamiya Beetle

While the Front Uprights/Suspension has been left in its pure all-black state, the case was marginally different for the Handbrake, Stick Shift and Pedals. These were painted, then fixed onto the interior before being weathered with Dark Rust and Dirt pastels of the Tamiya Weathering Master kit.

At this early stage, the Beetle interior is still extremely bare safe for the Pedals, Stick Shift and Handbrake
Volkswagen 1300 Beetle with Clutch/Brake/Accelerator Pedals, Stick Shift and Handbrake attached
Volkswagen 1300 Beetle's Clutch, Brake and Accelerator Pedals (closeup view)

In the last two photos of this blog (the one above and below this paragraph), I used my DSLR camera with a dedicated macro lens to allow me to capture an extremely closeup view of the Clutch/Brake/Accelerator Pedals, Handbrake and Stick Shift. It's only with these macro shots that the texture of the Pedals, for instance, become visible to the naked eye. Equally pleasing was the fact that my Stick Shift repair job seems to be largely invisible unless you look very carefully. Unfortunately, the extreme closeups also laid bare my incompetent job during the prep stage. In these same photos you can easily spot the injector pin marks that I forgot to sand away before priming and painting.   

Volkswagen 1300 Beetle's Stick Shift and Handbrake (closeup view)

Going forward things will hopefully be more aesthetically pleasing for my Bumblebee Beetle project. Next on the to-do-list are the more interesting bits of the Beetle's interior such as the front/rear seats, doors, dashboard, steering, etc.  Lots to do, lots to look forward to. And with that I leave you with a quote from the Bumblebee movie's main protagonist Charlie Watson ... "People can be terrible about things they don't understand." It's my one-fingered salute to online social media idiots who've spread life-threatening misinformation during the pandemic. As always, stay safe dear readers.

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Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Star Wars Millennium Falcon (The Force Awakens) - Bandai 1/144 Scale Plastic Model Kit [Completed]

And so another journey ends. Having begun more than four years ago, the project initially gathered momentum; then faltered; inevitably got shelved; and like a shy phoenix it was tentatively resurrected before the current stay-at-home exile saw the 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon finally completed. A replica of the iconic spaceship as seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Bandai plastic model kit is chock-full of movie accurate details fantastically rendered even at this scale. Let's have a look then my take on the Falcon with its water decals, paint job, panel lining, and weathering effects.      

Bandai 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon from Star Wars: The Force Awakens [completed, top view]
Bandai 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon from Star Wars: The Force Awakens [completed, bottom view]

Although I had painted the entire cast of 1/144 scale figures, in the end I only used Rey, BB-8 and Finn for the final photo shoot. Even then, only Rey is visible as BB-8 is mostly hidden in the cockpit while Finn sits obscured behind the Lower Hull Turret. I'm saving the Han Solo and Chewbacca miniature figures for a landed version of the Falcon which I hope to work on eventually. My plan for this future version is expected to involve a different basecoat hue, an installed LED lighting system as well as airbrushed paints instead of water decals for the colored panels. That's the plan anyway. 

At this angle, Rey can be seen through the cockpit while BB-8 is hidden from view

From the get-go I had had my reservations about the small size of the Desert Display Base provided by Bandai. To me, the base does nothing to suspend disbelief and increase realism in the Millennium Falcon vignette piece. In fact, it does the exact opposite and makes the entire vignette look toy-like. The base feels like an afterthought. Both incomplete and underwhelming. That's one of the reasons motivating me to work on another version to make it into a more realistic diorama.  

Bandai Star Wars 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon and its Desert Base Display
A key gripe for me is that the Desert Base Display is smaller than the Millennium Falcon
Millennium Falcon 'floats' above its Desert Base Display courtesy of a rigid stand (hidden)

Being the "unlighted Sublight Drive Engine" yet "in mid-flight" version of the Millennium Falcon, this particular representation of the iconic ship was intended to mimic a scene in The Force Awakens in which Rey shuts down the Falcon's engines and let it free fall in order to evade a First Order TIE Fighter. At the same time, Finn is seated behind a Quad Laser Cannon in the Lower Hull, fingers poised at the trigger, ready to blast the TIE Fighter to smithereens. If only I had a 1/144 scale TIE Fighter, this vignette would've been complete. Alas I do not, so just imagine it ... pew pew pew.

Angled side view (port side) of the Bandai Star Wars 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon
Weathering effects were done using Tamiya Weathering Master pastel-like applicator sets
Rear Exhaust Vents had long streaks of soot trailing towards the Sublight Drive Exhaust
Weathering effects were kept as subtle as possible to prevent it from overwhelming painted details
Angled side view (starboard side) of the Bandai Star Wars 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon

Apart from the overly small size of the rectangular base, I also had issues with the display stand that supported the Millennium Falcon in its 'flying' pose. It's understandable that Bandai made the girth of the stand thick in order to support the weight of the Falcon. However, the least they could've done was supply a clear display stand to give viewers the illusion of a ship in mid-flight.   

Starboard side of the Millennium Falcon, which rests atop the Desert Display Base
Most prominent structure on the rear of the Millennium Falcon is its Sublight Drive Exhaust
Sublight Drive Engines within the exhaust is not lighted up as there isn't any LED system installed
Port side of the Millennium Falcon, which rests atop the Desert Display Base
Thickness and solidity of the Display Stand takes away from the illusion of a spaceship in mid-flight
Front end of the Millennium Falcon as seen in a head-on closeup view

While I was tempted to include a video to showcase a wider gamut of angles of the fully completed Millennium Falcon kit, I decided to hold off for now. I feel that I still need more time with the Vegas Pro 15 Edit video production software before I can make a video about this Star Wars project that isn't a complete snooze-fest. Until then, these set of photos you see here will have to suffice.

Forward Mandibles and Nose Section (containing concussion missles) of the Millennium Falcon
Square Radar Dish marks this Millennium Falcon as a the one from The Force Awakens
Rear Exhaust Vents had long streaks of soot trailing towards the Sublight Drive Exhaust
Closeup view of the Starboard Escape Pod (round structure)
Cockpit section of the Millennium Falcon, with Rey and BB-8 seated inside

That's yet another tick off my hobby checklist. It feels good. Really good. And thankfully there isn't any sign of a hobby burnout despite the longer than usual hours spend on the hobby during this past few weeks. Surprisingly I actually feel more invigorated to tackle more projects, both new and old. With the Falcon now finished, my focus will shift onto the other Sci-Fi ship project on my worktable. It's a somewhat less neglected project but one that has yet to really take off. I'm speaking of the Space Battleship Yamato 2199 (Cosmo Reverse Version). Assembly on the Yamato should start soon. 

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As always it seems I will end my blog post with yet another quote. As we live in such surreal times whereby the whole world seems to have come to a standstill, I find this recurring quote in the TV series Westworld most apt ... Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Well have you?

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Saturday, 9 May 2020

Star Wars 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon [WIP - Base]

Above the desert sands of Jakku, a planet in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the Millennium Falcon finally made its big screen return after its original debut more than forty years ago in A New Hope. This fictional planet is actually based on the sand desert of Rub' al Khali in the Arabian Peninsula, whose almost silky smooth sand dunes are recreated in base provided by Bandai.    

Bandai Star Wars 1/144 scale Millennium Falcon - Desert Base [Completed]

Materials used to spruce up the Desert Base consisted of the Tamiya Weathering Master (Set B) specifically its Rust hue for the dune shadows and an application of the Mr.Hobby Mr.Super Smooth Clear matt topcoat over the weathered base in order to protect and seal in the weathering effect.

Materials used on Desert Base: Mr.Super Smooth Clear and Tamiya Weathering Master Set B

In terms of accuracy, the color that the base came molded in was actually too yellow for my taste. That usually would've been enough of a reason for me to repaint the base. But this time is was not. There was an overriding issue that made me decide to put in as little effort as I could get away with and yet still make the base look reasonably good. What was the issue? It's size. The desert base is way too small. In fact, it's smaller than the Millennium Falcon kit that it will eventually support. This is an unforgivable act by Bandai. If they were going to do things halfheartedly, why even bother?

Silky smooth sand texture is similar to the actual desert that Jakku is based on i.e. Rub 'al Khali
First, darker hues were applied onto the recessed areas to create shadows thus a sense of depth
Second, a clear matt topcoat was sprayed over the base in order to seal in the weathering effects
Key issue I had with the base was its size, which was way smaller than the Millennium Falcon

At the tip of the display stand there are three possible posing positions, each located on two separate axes, which are at right angles to each other. This should allow for a total of nine different posing positions for the Millennium Falcon atop its Desert Base. That's sufficient poses if you ask me. 

There are three possible posing positions each on two separate axes at right angles to one another
At the display stand's top are three cylindrical studs, which are used to fix onto the Millennium Falcon  

Finally, it's time for the cherry on top. Soon the Millennium Falcon will soar above the desert sands of Jakku ... in the next post. All it took was an enforced stay-at-home period to push this project across the finish line. A global pandemic no less. Speaking of which, Malaysia has restarted its economy as new cases continue to flatline in the low double-digits. While new viral clusters are still emerging, unemployment is also soaring and financial hardships piling-up. Amidst the risk of a second wave, the middle-class and poor find themsleves between a rock and a hard place. As Dolores Abernathy put it in Westworld Season 2 ... Strange new light can be just as frightening as the dark.

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