Saturday, 13 July 2019

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger [WIP - Dust & Dirt Weathering on the Lower Hull, Tracks & Road Wheels]

Scale modelling work on the Meng Model 1/35 scale Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger (Henschel Turret) has taken me on a long and convoluted journey, but the end is nigh. Dust and dirt weathering on the German heavy tank's lower hull, tracks and road wheels actually marks the last bit of paint and weathering work. So these are the last pictures before final assembly is carried out.

Dust and dirt weathering on the King Tiger tank tracks [Completed]
Road wheels within the tracks also underwent the dust and dirt weathering process

Before any weathering, the tank tracks had been primed with Tamiya Fine Surfacer (Light Gray) and given a basecoat of AK Interactive Track Primer. The former is a lacquer-based primer while the later is an acrylic-based one. Now there isn't really any need to lay on two coats of primer. I did so mainly because I found the Track Primer's hue to be a suitable basecoat color for tank tracks. That means I used the Track Primer mainly for its color. But I'm sure having a strong basecoat layer in the form of the acrylic-based primer surely helped in resisting any corrosive effects in the weathering stage.

Materials used in the dust and dirt weathering process
Weathered tank track (left) versus one in its basecoat color (right)

Materials used in the weathering process comprised AK Interactive Dust Effects, Earth Effects, European Earth Pigments and Dark Steel Pigments, Vallejo European Earth Pigments, Windsor & Newton Artists' White Spirit and Plaster of Paris powder. And while weathering of the tank tracks went fairly well (see above), things didn't go as smooth for the road wheels (see below). Unsightly white spots on the wheels likely resulted from mixing too much plaster of paris into the enamel-based paints and not mixing it well to boot. As a fix, I plan to remove the spots with white spirit later.

Weathered road wheels (top) versus those with only a pin wash over the basecoat color (below)
Inner section of the road wheels aren't weathered as much; after weathering (top) vs before (bottom)

After the tank tracks and road wheels had been weathered to reflect accumulation of dust and dirt, the Dark Steel Pigments (essentially graphite powder) was then rubbed onto sections of the track that was exposed to friction. These are the raised areas of the tracks which look shiny after application of the Dark Steel Pigments (see photo immediately below, refer to bottom track).

Sections of tracks exposed to friction brought out using dark metal pigments - before (top) vs after (bottom) 

Meanwhile, both sides of the lower hull was first given a light uneven coating of Earth Effects followed by Dust Effects. This was done with both enamel-based products first diluted with white spirit before being airbrushed onto the lower hull. Following this, the same products were applied straight out of the jar onto the lower hull using an old brush by hand. The effects were shaped accordingly by wiping any unwanted excess off using cotton buds dipped in white spirit.

Lower hull (left side) airbrushed lightly with AK Interactive Dust Effects and Earth Effects
Lower hull (left side) with heavier hand brush application of the Dust Effects and Earth Effects
Lower hull (right side) airbrushed lightly with AK Interactive Dust Effects and Earth Effects
Lower hull (right side) with heavier hand brush application of the Dust Effects and Earth Effects
Light dust and dirt weathering meant their application was confined to the bottom of the lower hull
As with the front of the King Tiger, the rear received a similarly light application of dust and dirt effects

Minor touch ups such as lightening the skin tone on one of the tank crew and removal of unwanted white spots from the road wheels remain to be done. However, apart from these steps, the King Tiger (Henschel Turret) is essentially completed. All that remains is to put all the remaining pieces together and snap the requisite display photos. All these tasks should be completed soon thus enabling me to put up the final photos for viewing by the next post. Do bear with me for just one more week and this particular journey - my second AFV scale model project - will be completed at long last.

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Friday, 5 July 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP Part 3 of 3 Core Fighter : Final Assembly & Panel Lining]

My first Gundam project began with a fair bit of trepidation at the need to paint a myriad of small parts separately before assembling them. That uneasy feeling has since dissipated as anticipation of the said task turned out to be worse than the actual experience. In fact I found it quite gratifying to paint the many tiny parts individually, before seeing them transform into a complete whole. Where I expected tedium I found instead satisfaction, which arose from a series of small accomplishments that kept me going until the parts could be pieced together to take the shape of its intended form.  

Bandai 1/100 scale FF-X7 Core Fighter of the RX-78-2 Gundam [Completed]

At this final stage of the Core Fighter's painting/assembly process, the only steps left was to piece all the separate parts together and apply the finishing touches i.e. panel lining. I toyed with the idea of clear coating the entire Core Fighter with a matt varnish but decided against it at the last minute.  

Color scheme comprises a simple red, white and blue with gun metal thrown in for good measure
While sticker decals stick out rather than blend in, they still increase the Core Fighter's aesthetic value

Not being a die-hard fan of Gundam lore, I am stumped as to why the fighter's landing gear was molded in clear plastic. So for now I just left it untouched because it looked kinda cool as is.

Landing gear (see lower right corner of the fighter) was left in its original clear molded plastic
Back view showing the engine thrusters of the FF-X7 Core Fighter
Wings were folded up in its semi-deployed configuration to show off the decals on the side

Although the sticker decals don't look as good as water decals or dry transfers, they still make the Core Fighter look better by being stuck on the hull rather than off it. For now they stay on.

Landing gear (see bottom of the fighter) was left in its original clear molded plastic
Canopy can be opened but it remains closed over the cockpit in this configuration
Core Fighter assumes a configuration with its wings semi-extended and its missile pods open 

In the photos shown here, the Core Fighter is in a configuration which sees its wings semi-extended; its missile pods opened; its canopy closed over the cockpit. The fighter's wings can either fully extend out to either side or fold into its body (over the missile pods which in turn can be closed). Also not shown here is the canopy in an opened configuration which sees the cockpit/nose section fold into the main body. In this form the Core Fighter actually fits into the torso of the RX-78-2 Gundam. If I remember later, I will try to show all these different poses alongside the completed mecha.   

Top down view of the FF-X7 Core Fighter of the RX-78-2 Gundam
Bottom view of the FF-X7 Core Fighter of the RX-78-2 Gundam, with its landing gear attached
Bottom view of the FF-X7 Core Fighter of the RX-78-2 Gundam, with its landing gear removed

Painting the Core Fighter versus leaving it in its original molded plastic colors was a decision I didn't regret one iota. If you take a look at the photo immediately above this paragraph you'll be able to see the different between unpainted and painted plastic. The white square section immediately below the blue nose section is unpainted plastic while the net white square section following that is painted. I think you'll agree that the painted section looks so much better than bare plastic.

BEFORE Panel Lining was applied to the Core Fighter
AFTER Panel Lining was applied to the Core Fighter

Every time I feel too lazy to do panel lining I should refer back to the two before and after photos above. Initially I had thought the Core Fighter looked good enough without any panel lining. But in the end I decided to apply some Mr Weather Color (Multi-Black) into the grooves before washing away the excess with Mr Weathering Color Thinner. I'm glad I did because details on the Core Fighter become much more noticeable after application of the panel lining wash. I was also glad I painted the display panel on the pilot cockpit (see below) as it gave the piece an added oomph.

Top down view of the cockpit/canopy section near the Core Fighter's nose
Close up view of the display panel facing Amuro Ray
Close up of Amuro Ray seated in the cockpit of the Core Fighter

So my first experience of the 'Gundam approach' to painting has been a surprisingly pleasant one. This goes to show that too much thinking before any undertaking can be extremely detrimental to a hobby project even beginning. Maybe that's why I've a lot of hobby projects mothballed.

Easy part of the RX-78-2 Gundam scale model kit is now finished

With the Core Fighter now completed, my attention has shifted into planning mode (... just as I called for less thinking and more doing ...) for the next section of the RX-78-2 Gundam to be assembled and painted i.e. its Body Unit. In hindsight, starting off with this Master Grade kit was a masterstroke in that I got to experience, via the Core Fighter, a microcosm of the usual lengthy process of painting and assembling a Gundam mecha. For sure it has left me wanting more. And that's a good thing.

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Friday, 28 June 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP Part 2 of 3 Core Fighter : Detail Painting and Sticker Decals]

It has been quite a while since I painted figurines at a scale of 1/100 or less. My last effort dates back more than three years ago for a 1/144 scale project that has since been mothballed. Back then I painted the ensemble cast revolving around the Millennium Falcon (first Han and Chewie followed by the rest). from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As you can see my painting skills at such scales have degenerated due to lack of use. But being a fastidious online chronicler of the progresses made on my miniature figurine and scale model kit projects, I am still posting the results, warts and all.

Amuro Ray, seated pilot version at 1/100 scale [Completed]
Torso looks a bit of a mess but I didn't bother with touch ups seeing it'll be largely hidden from view
To my naked eye the results looked great but up close with a dedicated macro lens ... not so much
Painting straight lines at this scale gets easier the more you practice
At this tiny scale, the miniature figurine looks better the farther you pull back

Apart from Amuro Ray in the seated pilot pose, there wasn't really much detail painting required of the FF-X7 Core Fighter of the RX-78-2 Gundam. Ordnance in the fighter's missile pods was painted a plain red; the cockpit backlit display green with off-white nondescript letterings; while surrounding area of the pilot seat received a dark gray hue with more green instrument panels plus dots of off-white and reds to signify instrument lights. That last bit would eventually turn out to be a waste of effort as at that time I didn't realize most of it was going to be completely hidden from view.

Missile pods attaching into the wings had the tips of its ordnance painted red
Cockpit instrument panel with a green 'backlit' display and some nondescript letterings
Surrounding area of pilot seat which, at the time of painting, I didn't realize was going to be hidden from view

Throughout my eight years in the hobby, this was the first time I had come across sticker decals. And after working with them for just a short while, I can easily say I'm not a fan. At all. To me, they have too many negatives. Firstly, outlines of the sticker decals are extremely obvious thus cheapening the look of the whole kit. Secondly, if any weathering or panel lining is done too close to the sticker decals then the paint will tend to seep underneath the decal making the outlines even more obvious. Thirdly, it's impossible to move them around once stuck onto a surface. Peeling the sticker decals off to reposition them can work occasionally but in my case they were damaged beyond repair.    

Semi-assembled sections of the Core Fighter which required sticker decals
Bandai Gundam sticker decals and instructions on where to place them on the kit

Visibility of the sticker decal outlines seem to vary depending of the color of the surface the decal is stuck on. The frosty outline of the decal looks best hidden against a white background. But then again it could just be surfaces angled in a way to reflect more light therefore exposing the outlines. 

Sticker decals on the fighter's nose section was both wrongly placed (warning sign) ...
... as well as damaged (the nondescript words after WB102 had been torn off)
Frosty characteristics of the sticker decal seem more visible when placed against a blue versus white background
Most of the sticker decals for the Core Fighter require a mirror version to be placed on the other side
Any weathering or panel lining tends to seep underneath the sticker decals and make the decal outline visible
Yet another sticker decal which requires a mirror version of itself to be placed on the opposite side
White backgrounds seem best for hiding the frosty outline of the sticker decals
         On the wing tip, the sticker decals show another inherent flaw in that they don't conform well to uneven surfaces            (note: a groove in the middle of the decal causes the wordings to reflect light differently) 

Does that mean I'll never use sticker decals again? Unfortunately that may not be possible. I'll definitely avoid sticker decals if alternatives such as water decals or dry transfers are available. In cases where alternatives aren't available I'll either do without or use the sticker decals anyway.

Sub-assembled sections with sticker decals are placed next to a five sen coin and paperclip for size comparison

Before I sign off for this week, I thought I would add my two cents on Gundam kits in general. Initially I had wondered if I should paint the Core Fighter at all seeing that the color separation of this kit was so good. Even at this fairly early stage I can tell you I'm very glad I did. Though slight, the differences between a painted surface and a standard molded plastic surface is perceptible enough to the naked eye. So much so that the former has a higher realism factor while the latter looks toy-like. Well that's it for another week. The next should see a completed FF-X7 Core Fighter. See you then.

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