Saturday, 30 March 2019

MENG Model Sd.Kfz.182 King Tiger [WIP - Spare tracks for placement on the tank turret]

My research on how to accurately portray the spare tank tracks on a King Tiger turret led me to two main color schemes. Most modelers tend to paint the spare tracks as heavily rusted pieces. But I've noticed schemes in which the spare tracks had camouflage pattern painted over them. An excerpt of color images available online from an excellent book titled SuperKing, Building Trumpeter's 1:16th Scale King Tiger as well as a few black and white historical images of Tank No.124 of the Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505 showed its spare tracks to be somewhere in between.

Meng Model King Tiger (Henschel Turret) work-in-progress: Spare tank tracks for placement on the turret

Note the spare tank tracks on the turret of Tank No.124 of the Schwere Panzer-Abteilung 505
Superking, Building Trumpeter's 1:16th Scale King Tiger by David Parker
To obtain the specific look as achieved by expert modeler David Parker on the King Tiger No.124 (see above) I decided to weather the tracks using the chipping fluid method. For this purpose, I used the AK Interactive Worn Effects acrylic chipping fluid. Prior to paint-chipping via this method, the tracks had to be prepped first (Steps 01 to 04). After the prerequisite primer coat, a basecoat mixture comprising Mr.Color Mahogany and Mr.Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black at a ratio of roughly 19:1 was applied to the tracks. This was followed by an uneven layer of AK Interactive Track Primer in order to lighten the colors. Lastly a clear matte coat was applied to form a protective layer.      

Step 01: Prepare the spare tank tracks for painting by spraying them with the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray)
Step 02: Basecoat the tracks with a paint mixture comprising Mr.Color Mahogany and Mr.Finishing Surfacer 1500 Black 
Step 03: Airbrush an uneven layer of AK interactive Track Primer to lighten the basecoat hue
Step 04: Spray a protective matte clear coat, in this case the water-based Mr.Hobby Top Coat

Once the protective clear coat had dried overnight, I proceeded to airbrush a few layers of the AK Interactive Worn Effects fluid onto the tracks - allowing each layer to dry before starting on the next. It is said the more layers of Worn Effects you pile on, the larger the resulting paint chips. While I can't attest to how accurate this is without first doing control tests, I decided to take it at face value and sprayed on a few layers in the hope of getting reasonably sized paint chips. And when the chipping fluid was dry to the touch, it was time for the main camouflage hue i.e. German WW2 dunkelgelb

Step 05: Airbrush AK Interactive Worn Effects acrylic chipping fluid on the tracks - more layers equal larger chips
Step 06: When the chipping medium is dry to the touch, airbrush the tracks with Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow
Step 07: Once the dark yellow acrylic coat is dry, moisten areas you wish to chip and use a brush to remove the paint

Having access to an airbrush system is critical to the chipping fluid method. Previously I had tried using a hand brush to apply the paint color that follows after the chipping fluid layer to mixed results. Personally, I feel the method works best with an airbrush. Once the Tamiya XF-60 Dark Yellow was dry to the touch, I moistened areas that I wish to have paint chip from the tracks and started rubbing at it with an old paint brush. During this step, I was careful to not rub too vigorously so as to be in better control of how much paint I was actually chipping from the tracks.

Results: Paint chipping effects using the AK Interactive Worn Effects acrylic fluid

Despite decent paint-chipping results, more weathering awaits the spare tank tracks when they are eventually placed on the King Tiger turret. For one, the tracks will likely receive dust hues. In addition, they may also get dirt or rust streaks depending on how I want the final look to be. Meanwhile, I will be attempting even more paint-chipping but of a different kind on a different area. So next up is micro paint-chipping on non-zimmerit, exposed surfaces of the King Tiger. This technique entails adding chipping effects with a fine brush. That's the next step. For now it's goodbye.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Star Wars Scout Trooper & Speeder Bike - Bandai 1/12 Scale Model Kit [Unboxing and Pre-Assembly Review]

Each Star Wars movie in the original trilogy had its own wow moments, especially to first my highly impressionable five, next eight and then 11-year-old eyes. In 1983 Return of the Jedi (RotJ) actually had two of such moments. And no, the Ewoks wasn't one of them. First impressive bit from RotJ was the Imperial AT-ST (All Terrain Scout Transport) Walker which I completed last year. Another is the awesome speeder bike chase scene involving Luke, Leia and a pair of scout troopers. With this scene as inspiration, my latest Star Wars project will revolve around the Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike.

Bandai Star Wars 1/12 scale Scout Trooper & Speeder Bike unboxing and pre-assembly review
Side boxart showing close-ups of the incredible detail that closely mimics what was in RotJ
Yet more possible poses for the Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike as shown by the other side of the boxart
Mr. Scout Trooper is a specialized stormtrooper while the Speeder Bike is an Aratech 74-Z military vehicle
With a two-in-one kind of deal for this scale model kit, the box contains eight sprues

Due to it being a combination of a figurine and a vehicle, this model kit is generous in part count and as such fits into a larger than normal box to fit this two-in-one deal. In short, the Bandai 1/12 scale Star Wars Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike makes for an impressive out-of-the-box offering. And because there is so much to do in this kit, the instructions come in the form of a booklet instead of its usual fold-out design. Pictures on the booklet's back cover show the tremendous potential that this scale model kit has, especially if one takes the time to paint and weather the Speeder Bike, the Endor moon vignette display base as well as parts of the Scout Trooper.    

Front and back cover of the instruction booklet offers a fair amount of high quality reference pictures
Guide is diagrammatic with minimal Japanese instructions that are easily translated using online apps

Having worked on a fair number of Bandai Star Wars scale model kits, I wasn't the least surprised to find the near ubiquitous Sprue PCF-6AC. Included in almost all kits with a figurine, this sprue has polycaps and various connector parts for articulation of the joints. Apart from this, the rest of the kit has new molded parts I haven't seen before. Sprues A, B1 and B2 consists of the majority of parts required to build the Scout Trooper while Sprues C, D and E are for the Speeder Bike. The kit also contains two bases - one solely for the Scout Trooper and the other a vignette of the Forest Moon of Endor. Last but not least are the water decals and stickers for use if painting isn't your thing.

Sprue PCF-6AC: Polycaps and joint parts for articulation
Sprue A: Scout Trooper body and leg armor pieces, google lens, boot, etc
Sprue B1: Scout Trooper leather clothing, elbow, knee, groin, weapon parts, etc.
Sprue B2: Scout Trooper neck, hands and display connector parts

If there was only one word I could used to describe this kit, then its details, details, details! A close inspection of the molded parts on the sprues reveals a host of movie-accurate sculpted details. And judging from the completed pictures on the boxart and instruction booklet, these inherent details provide a strong platform from which an experienced modeler can build a realistic recreation of the Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike as they were seen in RotJ. Bandai has yet again knocked one out of the park with this excellent 1/12 scale kit of an iconic pairing from the original Star Wars trilogy. 

Sprue C: Speeder Bike thrust flap options, seat, stowage and miscellaneous parts
Sprue D: Speeder Bike directional steering vanes, bodywork, etc.
Sprue E: Speeder Bike altitude controls, cargo compartment, repulsor engine, etc.

An unexpected bonus of sorts was the inclusion of two different display bases on this kit. One is a black glossy square base for the Scout Trooper while the other is a more elaborately sculpted vignette functioning to contain the Scout Trooper seated on a Speeder Bike. Although I see better use of the latter, the former does provide the option of placing an additional Scout Trooper to the vignette.

Sprue SWB5: Display bases for Scout Trooper alone or in a vignette with the Speeder Bike
Water decals (blue sheet, left) and stickers (green sheet, right) for the Scout Trooper and Speeder Bike

As I've alluded to earlier, this kit offers much potential for the average modeler to work with. It'll still look good if a novice modeler decides to just assembly then display it. Therein lies the beauty of most Bandai's Star Wars plastic model kits. Baseline aesthetics are already good sans any painting and weathering. But putting in an effort to do both opens up the path to realistic, movie-accurate works of scale model art. And that's the holy grail for most if not all miniature hobbyist. On that note, I hope this week brings you closer to your hobby perfection. Until next week, it's goodbye from me.

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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