Sunday, 31 December 2017

Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55A Medium Tank [Completed]

With the new year only hours away, I've just barely made a self-imposed deadline to post my final completed scale model project for 2017. So the Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55A medium tank has the honour of rounding up my year of miniature and scale model kit painting. It's the first ever 1/35 scale military AFV model kit I've ever worked on, and a prelude to many more to come. Paint job wise the tank certainly could've turned out better but I'm hoping that that will come after a few AFV kits under my belt. For now I present to you my first 1/35 scale tank, completed with warts and all.

Tank commander atop the cupola of the completed Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55A
His pose is reminiscent of war propaganda illustrations on posters appealing for new recruits
A view of the commander atop the tank cupola from further out
Yet another closeup of the commander's contemplative pose
Back view showing the contrast between the tank commander's black uniform and the olive green hull

This version of the Tamiya T-55A is supposed to belong to the Czechoslovakian army during the cold war. It's background story is that of a tank only one year or less into its operational duty. As such weathering was a bit on the light side with the beginnings on rust on parts of the tank as well as streaks of grime. Meanwhile, exposed metal parts such as the tracks saw a more advanced stage of rust weathering. And there were also some minor diesel stains on the fuel tanks and drums.

Spare tracks were weathered to look rusty, providing good contrast to the olive green hull
Decal markings are for a Czechoslovakian army T-55A
Fuel tanks and tow cables add detail to the tank's upper hull
Unditching beam/log is positioned to the rear of the T-55A
Tracks and wheels of the T-55A medium tank

Initial 360-degree shots of the tank were made against a white background. Subsequently as a comparison, the latter 360-degree photographs were taken using a black background. Personally I prefer the images with a black background which incidentally makes the point for any completed tank or AFV scale model kit to be displayed together with a vignette or diorama. When placed against a white background, the T-55A tank looks decidedly plainer. That being said, a white background has a 'transitional purpose'. It can highlight areas of a work-in-progress tank/AFV that needs further work. 

Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55A medium tank [Completed]
The T-54/55 tank series became the most produced tank in military history 
Back of the T-55A sports two fuel drums, a snorkel and an unditching beam/log
Overall, weathering was pretty mild to portray a tank that had only a year of duty under its belt

Painting with spray cans has its limits. For example I couldn't airbrush a variety of clear paints onto the hull to give it a less monotone look. But that doesn't excuse the fact that the T-55A's paint job could've been so much better. Especially with the subsequent layers of weathering. Don't get me wrong as I'm pretty happy with the results, moreover when considering this is the very first 1/35 scale AFV scale model kit I've worked on. Yet I would be remiss not to accept that I need to do better.  

Tank tracks were modified to sag naturally onto the wheels
Decal markings denote a T-55A medium tank belonging to the Czechoslovakian army
Front view of the Tamiya T-55A medium tank
Arguably the best viewing angle of both the figure and tank combined

With a dark background, the T-55A tank seemed to look much better in the photos (see below). Of course this could just be pure bias on my part as I tend to prefer having miniatures and model kits I've completed placed against a black cloth during their photography sessions.

Ultimate test of parts painted in black (commander's clothes) is to contrast it with a black background
View of the tank commander from a slightly higher up angle
When the whole tank is displayed against a black background, it arguably looks more realistic
Light brown hues of the canvas gun mantlet cover breaks up the monotone olive green look of the hull
Czechoslovakian tank markings, especially the ex-nation's flag, add bright hues to the overall scheme

One's first is always special. And so it is with this Tamiya T-55A medium tank. It's the benchmark against which future 1/35 scale AFV projects will be judged. I'm hoping the only way to go from here is up (as in better paint and weathering jobs) notwithstanding the occasional slip-ups along the way.

For the most part, this version of the T-55A had a final coating of semi-gloss clear
The unditching log/beam at the rear also adds variety to the overall colour scheme
Against a black background, the tank's weathering was more discernible; an optical illusion perhaps?
Storage boxes on the turret and upper hull were weathered with some rust to add faint orange hues into the mix
Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55A medium tank is my final project of the year (2017)

Next on the AFV to-do-list is the Meng 1/35 scale German Heavy Tank Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret). Jumping from Tamiya to Meng in only my second 1/35 scale scale model project seems like a big leap for an AFV noob but I couldn't resist working on the king now could I? Well the king will have to wait until next year. As for this year, it's hours away from ending as I write this blog post. So here's wishing you a Happy New Year 2018. Make it a good one, yes?

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Wednesday, 27 December 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Tank Tracks and Wheels]

It looks like I'm on track (... groan, pun intended) to finish my first Tamiya AFV project before the year is over. This second to last step before the T-55A tank is finally completed involved attaching the track and wheels onto the lower hull. A key disadvantage of working with flexible rubber band/vinyl tracks is that they do not sag naturally. First two photos you see below are the tank tracks after they had undergone a 'sagging process'. Bear with me and I'll explain this process in a bit.   

Tamiya T-55A work-in-progress - tracks and wheels attached to main hull
More importantly, the tracks have been made to sag as a heavy metal track should

Prior to attaching the tracks to the hull, they were first primed with Tamiya's lacquer-based Fine Surface Primer before receiving an acrylic basecoat of AK Interactive Track Primer. Subsequently, a variety of rust-hued pigments were applied on the tracks and sealed with white spirit. In hindsight I would've been better served using pigment binders instead. I had used white spirit as it didn't darken colours upon application unlike pigment binders. However pigment binders did a better job of sealing in the pigments. It's easier to adjust to darker hues than having pigments rubbing off the tracks. 

Outsides of the tank tracks - weathering done using pigments atop an acrylic basecoat
Insides of the tank tracks received similar weathering treatment as the outsides
Painted vinyl tracks are glued end-to-end forming a reasonably flexible loop

In keeping with my aim to portray a tank that has been operational only for about a year or so in a mostly urban environment, weathering on the lower hull (where the wheels are attached) was kept to a minimum. To be specific, weathering was limited to streaks of grime and nothing more.

Weathering on the lower hull where the wheels are attached was limited to streaks of grime
At this stage the tracks still look wrong as they aren't sagging as their heavy weight dictates they should

As you can see from the immediate photo above, when the tracks were first attached to the tank ... they looked wrong. In real life, the T-55A's tracks were made from metal and their heavy weight would cause them to naturally sag onto the wheels. But because the Tamiya track parts were of the flexible rubber band/vinyl variety, they couldn't sag due to their inherent tension. To induce a natural sag, the tracks had to be glued onto the wheels. Some wads of tissue were lodged into the spaces above the tracks to mitigate the tension in the tracks and allow the glue enough time to take hold.  

Tracks were glued onto the wheels and some tissue helped maintain the sagged shape while the glue took hold
Final result is an authentic look mimicking a heavy metal track sagging onto the wheels

So the T-55A's tank tracks are on and sagging as expected of them. All that remains to be done is to attach the turret and do a final weathering touch-up to the overall piece. Then the Tamiya T-55A will be the first ever AFV I've completed and the last project of the year. Here's hoping my final hobby-related hurrah for 2017 actually pans out with only five ... nay four more days left until the new year.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Blast from the Past: My Very First Model Kit

More than three decades ago, I worked on my first model kit. I never finished it. After all these years I can still vividly recall the frustrations I faced as a kid in his early teens trying to put together a model kit without proper knowledge about the hobby. It was an unmitigated disaster that put me off the hobby for the next thirty years or so. While carrying out some year-end spring cleaning, I was flabbergasted when I came across that very model - a 1/72 scale Fujimi F-4EJ Phantom II. As you can see from the photo below, it's in the same bad shape I left it all those years ago. 

My very first model kit ... an unfinished F-4EJ Phantom II

Together with that very first kit was another Fujimi plastic model kit i.e. the 1/48 scale Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter. But due to the bad experience I went through with the F-4EJ Phantom II, this larger scale model kit remained untouched with the parts intact on the runners, which themselves are still sealed in their original plastic wrappings. Everything inside the box still looks to be in good condition (see photos below) be it the instructions, decals or parts.

Fujimi 1/48 scale Northrop F-5B Freedom Fighter
Everything inside the box remained sealed in plastic
Decals and instructions are in surprisingly good condition after all these years in storage
This Fujimi plastic model kit had instructions in English
Fuselage parts of the Northrop F-58 Freedom Fighter
Pilot and cockpit parts
Another pilot, the wings, wheels and miscellaneous parts
Runner containing missiles and what looks like fuel tanks

As nostalgic as the discovery of these kits have made me, it's unlikely that I will be working on the remaining good-conditioned aircraft model kit anytime soon. For now I'm concentrating on hopefully finishing my last model kit for the year namely the Tamiya T-55A. Only a week is left before 2017 ends but I think I can just about make the deadline. It'll be a bigger ask for me to upload the final  photos in my blog by then but I should've completed the tank's paint job. Meanwhile, here's wishing a Merry Christmas to readers celebrating the festivity. Be happy and stay safe for the holidays!

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