Monday, 30 September 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Shoulder Armor, Hands & Beam Saber Hilts]

To complete what Bandai terms as the RX-78-2 Gundam Arm Unit, the arms per se from the previous post will require additional sections namely the Shoulder Armor and Hands. It's these latter two items as well as Beam Saber Hilts that will take center stage in this post. Without further ado, here they are.

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Shoulder Armor, Arms and Hands [Completed]
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Beam Saber Hilts [Completed]

In my fist serious set back with the Gundam painting process, I noticed metallic paint chipping easily from the hands. While friction between moving parts played a part, I suspect this was more a case of the plastic type being incompatible with paint. So far most of the parts I've painted were made from Polystyrene (PS) and these had no paint issues. However parts made from Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) like the hands and from Polyethylene (PE) such as the polycaps saw paint chip rather easily. It seems that the paint doesn't adhere well to ABS and PE even with an initial primer coat.    

RX-78-2 Gundam Hands primed and painted on the sprues, which in hindsight wasn't ideal
Parts of both hands connected to the sprue had to be primed and painted separately
Both of the hands before the respective armor panels were attached
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Hands [Completed]
Paints on both hands chipped easily due to excessive friction between moving parts; another likely cause is either the metallic paint was applied too thickly, not allowed proper curing time; or the plastic type was incompatible with paint  

Thankfully it was much smoother sailing when painting and assembling the Shoulder Armor. I had no issues with paint chipping; none with assembly fit and surprisingly no major problem with the dreaded sticker decals this time. Armor panels on the Shoulder Armor are attached to inner frames with a certain amount of give and freedom of movement. This should allow both arms of the RX-78-2 Gundam a greater degree of motion within the confines of the Shoulder Armor. 

Individual parts of the Shoulder Armor all painted up with decals applied, and awaiting assembly
Core of the Shoulder Armor assembled with only its outer armor panels left to be attached
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Shoulder Armor [Completed]

At the connecting point between the Shoulder Armor and the Body Unit is an inner frame which allows for upward and downward movement only (see metallic part with a circular hole, photos above and below). As limited as this may be, it should be taken in a proper context together with the greater amount movement allowed by joints on the Body Unit itself, which actually connect to the arms via the circular hole. Flexible panels on the Shoulder Armor lower resistance to movement that rigid armor panels would inevitably have. All in all, this will increase poseable options. 

Part on the Shoulder Armor with a hole eventually attaches to connectors on the Body Unit to form a shoulder joint
Back view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Shoulder Armor
Top down view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Shoulder Armor
Innards of the Shoulder Armor which will largely be hidden from view after attaching to the arms
Insides of the Shoulder Armor is hollow as it will be attached to the arms

Meanwhile, the Beam Saber Hilts were straightforward constructs that didn't take long to finish. As they stand, they will be inserted into specific holders on the Ransel (Backpack). When unsheathed and in the 'activated' mode, an elongated, clear red plastic piece mimicking an energy blade will be inserted into the hilt. It will then become a weapon that the RX-78-2 Gundam can pose with.

Beam Saber Hilts before (top half of photo) and after assembly (bottom half)

So now all the components of the Arm Unit are ready for the next step. They will be assembled into complete Arm Units and then subsequently attached to the Body Unit together with the Head Unit, Ransel (Backpack) and Beam Saber Hilts in order to form the RX-78-2 Gundam's Upper Body. That's coming soon, pictures and all. Until then, enjoy this piece of wisdom from everyone's favorite 'Assistant Regional Manager' i.e. Dwight Schrute ... Whenever I'm about to do something, I think, "Would an idiot do that?" And if they would, I do not do that thing.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Arms]

It's only at this stage of the build that one can truly appreciate what Bandai has done with this version of the Grandpa Gundam. What stands out the most is color contrast on the armor which was created using a multitude of small and separate parts. Although the parts already came molded in the different colors, I still proceeded to paint them up. I did so because there is a distinct difference in the quality of appearance between a painted and non-painted part i.e. the latter looks plasticky and toy-like. Below then is the assembly, painting, panel lining and decaling of the RX-78-2 Gundam's arms.

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Right arm sans hand painted, assembled and decaled

Painting both arms was a particularly trying experience due to the numerous tiny parts involved. There were just so many of them that even as a meticulous sort I still lost track of some parts in the assembly process. Right after I took a photo of all the arm parts that had been individually painted I soon realized I had actually missed out a few. That's why in the photo below you can see another picture (top left) within the main one showing the parts I had forgotten to prime and paint.

Arm parts were all individually painted (shown above) before decal application and assembly

One thing I'm always fearful of when painting Bandai scale model kits is having the plastic crack on me during the weathering process. This I experienced quite frequently when using Tamiya enamel thinners to clean up excess panel lining. Nowadays I've switched to an oil-based weathering product i.e. Mr.Weathering Color from Mr.Hobby for panel lining purposes. Because it's oil-based, the brand's propriety solvent Mr.Weathering Color Thinner - which I suspect is either white spirit or the more benign odorless mineral spirit - is much gentler on the plastic. Even using the Winsor&Newton Artist White Spirit in lieu of the propriety thinner has yet to cause the Bandai plastic to crack.      

Individual parts of the Right Arm all painted up with decals applied, and awaiting assembly
Sub-assemblies i.e. shoulder joint done (top left) while innards of the arm are slowly taking shape
Innards of the Right Arm (bottom piece on extreme left) completed
Here, most of the outer panel armor have been attached to the Right Arm
Right Arm with all its outer panel armor attached; only the shoulder joint is left to be connected
Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Rights arm (sans hand) completed
Side view (inner left side) of the RX-78-2 Gundam's Right Arm; note shoulder joint (top right)
Back view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0 Right Arm
Side view (outer right side) of the RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0 Right Arm

Another issue I have when painting/weathering Bandai plastic is the worry that the paint may chip as result of normal handling of the kit. Based on my experience, a good primer coating with the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer followed by a slow buildup of a paint layer using multiple light coats airbrushed onto the primed part has resulted in the said part being largely scratch and damage resistant. Of course it should be noted that the paint layers have been further sealed in with a clear top coat for added protection. I'm sure this has contributed a fair amount to the paint layer's resilience.  

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Both arms (sans hands) completed
Markings on both arms comprise solely of the sticker decals provided in the kit
Arm has excellent color contrast with the pure whites and off-whites ...
... made so much better with the metal innards providing further contrast

So far this has been the most complicated assembly process I've encountered in the build. But the complexity is there for a reason. Bandai's model kit engineers and designers have created a section with many moving parts working in tandem to allow for a smooth 90 degree bend at the elbow. It seems a trivial thing but the mechanism prevents the outer panels from unceremoniously rubbing against each other during the bending process. This in turn reduces chances of scratched parts and chipped paint. In fact the Leg Unit has an even more complex mechanism but that's a post for later.

Both arms have the flexibility of being bent up to 90 degrees

As a whole, the Arm Unit is still missing its hands and shoulder armor. Once those are painted, assembled and attached to the arms then the Arm Unit will be complete. And following that all the parts that make up the RX-78-2 Gundam's Upper Body can finally be checked off the to-do-list. Bit by bit it's slowly coming together. Now there's still a ways to go. But I'm getting there.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

A Most Unwanted Title

It's September and here in Malaysia it means it's time to endure unhealthy air quality courtesy of worsening haze in the country. It was so bad that Kuala Lumpur officially took the mantel of the world's most air-polluted city on 11 September 2019, an achievement it has reluctantly relinquished to yet another Malaysian city namely Kuching, Sarawak. I'm not going to bore you with the details of the whys as you can find it all here in a post I put up about four years ago, nearly to the day.

Haze shrouded skyline of Kuala Lumpur on 11 September 2019 (Source: AFP Photo)

As I am writing, conditions in KL have improved somewhat in that there is sunshine forcing its way through the haze. But the air quality is bad enough that lots of schools have closed. More selfishly, I've had to put any priming or painting on hold so as to not risk having fine smoke/dust particles from the haze getting trapped within a layer of primer, paint or clear coat. Hopefully things will clear up soon. Until that happens I'll be posting up a rather large backlog of photos regarding hobby stuff I've managed to finish these past two months. I leave you with an apt quote by Eugene Harold Krabs ... Do you smell it? That smell. A kind of smelly smell. The smelly smell that smells... smelly.

Friday, 13 September 2019

MG RX-78-2 Gundam Ver.3.0 [WIP: Head Unit Complete]

After the highs of attempting to replicate realism inherent in a Race Queen's facial features, my mood slowly leveled out as I worked on the Head Unit of the RX-78-2 Gundam. That's not to say I didn't enjoy the process of painting and putting the mecha's head together. I did. Besides it provides a welcome change of pace, forcing me to vary my usual approach to a project. Knowing myself, I'm pretty sure if I painted human faces all the time then the highs would soon feel like a regular norm. But I digress. Below is the process of painting and building the RX-78-2 Gundam's iconic head.      

Master Grade RX-78-2 Gundam Version 3.0: Head Unit, unlighted

At this fairly advanced stage, the only new paint I had to use was the Tamiya X-27 Clear Red acrylic paint. This time though I used lacquer thinner as a solvent instead of the standard water-and-alcohol thinner mix for acrylic paints. Characteristics of Tamiya's alcohol-based acrylic paint allow for this, and it's suppose to make the paint layers more resistant to scratches and damage. Do note however that it's generally always a bad idea to add lacquer thinner to water-based acrylic paints.   

Pieces of the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit all laid out (and painted) prior to assembly

Core of the Head Unit assembled; awaiting the outer armor panels and 60 mm vulcan guns (yellow part)
Here the top half of the Head Unit is still exposed, awaiting final assembly including the iconic 'V' fin
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit fully assembled, painted and panel lined

There are two tones of white on the Head Unit. Bluish white on the section encasing the twin 60 mm Vulcan Guns - the only yellow parts on the head. [A bit of Gundam trivia: the Vulcan Guns are the mecha's close-in weapon system that's used against smaller, less heavily armored targets like missiles, vehicles, etc. They are ineffective against other Mobile Suit Armor.] Meanwhile pure white forms the predominant hue of the Head Unit with some red, black, metallic and yellow making up the rest of the color scheme. The eyes comprise clear parts which will channel light from the LED Unit.

RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (front view)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, front-left)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (left profile)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, from the back on the left side)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (back view; note bluish white mid-section sandwiched by white armor)

That segues nicely into the fact that I haven't yet tested how LED lights effect the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit. I thought I would leave that one for the final photo reveal. Speaking of lighting effects, I proceeded to hand brush the eye area with black primer paint to prevent light leakage. Although black sticker decals were provided for this purpose, I didn't use them. Well, you should know how I feel about sticker decals by now. If you don't, feel free to revisit my constant whinging about sticker decals in past posts. Anyway, hand brushing black onto the eye piece was a quick and easy process.

RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, from the back on the right side)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (right profile)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (three quarter view, front-right)
RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit (front view with head tilted slightly upwards to show a clearer view of the eyee)
Top down view of the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit

Upon finishing the RX-78-2 Gundam Head Unit, I was admittedly surprised at its relatively small size in comparison the its Body Unit. In theory I suppose it makes sense as the head isn't truly critical to the mecha's operations in that the Mobile Suit can still function, albeit less effectively, without it. If memory serves me, the head contains the Vulcan Guns as well as the main camera and sensors. But because the pilot is situated in the torso and some secondary cameras and sensors exist on the body, the Gundam can still operate without its head. A blow to the torso however, and it's bye bye Gundam. And with that I bid you farewell for now and end with a totally unrelated quote (apart from the color red) from Pennywise the clown ... Ohhh. Come on, bucko. Don't you want a... balloon?

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