Thursday, 27 February 2014

The best laid plans, etc...BA-10 problems

Funny thing about doing a scale model hobby blog is that you have a tendency to highlight the successes rather than the failures. I don't think it's deliberate, it's just that people like looking at interesting or nice models. Well, anyway, by way of balance here's a tale of one of my 'mishaps'...

If you model then you know what a 'Ping!' is. It's fairly self-explanatory if you have tried making small plastic models - it's when you are working with a very small part or cutting it off a sprue when...'Ping!' Off it flies, who knows where. Certainly I can never seem to find them again.

I blame my 'Ping!' episodes on my big porky sausage fingers...I really should use tweezers more often (note to self).

Anyhoo, 'Ping!' went the passenger's side side-step thing and despite a good search it was never heard of again. So I had to make one. I guess - actually - this is a positive thing and shows how I have improved a little as a modeller because I didn't panic (I did use an expletive) but philosophically thought out how to make a replacement part.

Luckily this was a simple small part, with not a lot of detail...Otherwise I would have been scuppered! :)

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

eBay bargain - Deagostini Steyr 1500A/01 & 20mm Flak 38

A chance find on eBay was this diecast (and plastic) Deagostini Steyr and AA gun set, and so I popped in a speculative (low) bid but much to my surprise I won it!

It arrived this morning and I have to say that I am very pleased with it - particularly for a war game based project. I got this two-piece set for half the price of just an equivalent plastic Steyr 1500 kit on it's own!

Now, to the purpose of this purchase...

I've been mulling over what to use as a generals staff car for my Finnish army project. At first I was going to convert a lovely Wespe resin Opel Kapitan into a c1940 Ford sedan (the two are so similar and the sedan was such a common car in Finland at the time). But then I came across mention of the supply of 3 Steyr 1500s to Finland as a gift from Germany on the very useful Axis Forum.

Marshal Mannerheim's collection of 'posh' staff cars! Including a couple
of superb Mercedes gifted to him by Adolf Hitler himself!

Apparently, Hitler himself presented Finland's Marshal Mannerheim with several different staff cars - among them a brace of Steyrs presumably for his visits to the field.

These three Styers were also presents from Herr Hitler.
Now, as you can see from the photos above the Deagostini Steyr model differs somewhat from that which the Finnish general staff had. In fact Marshal Mannerheim was given the A/02 Kommandeurwagen version - what I presume was a pretty cutting edge military car at the time - rather than the version represented by my model which is the A/01 Infantry Carrier.

If I was going to be really picky and a stickler for authenticity I guess I could cut and shut the model - removing the spare wheels - and cobble together a passable A/02, but I don't think I will. Mainly because my car is a representation of 'a' staff car, but mostly because it's a pretty sweet little model and I don't want to hack about with it. [I reserve the right to change my mind. LOL]

As for colour, well I think the Finns probably kept the German field gray colour and didn't repaint it. As much as anything it will have denoted that this car was 'something special'.

The Flak 38 presents less of a problem. The Finns ordered a quantity of these and I am guessing that they used them straight from the factory (only repainting them with white winter camo when needed I suppose). The Deagostini Flak 38 is ideal for me as it represents the gun in it's towing configuration...

I already have a nice little (cheap) model of the Flak 38 by Zvesda to represent the gun in action (I am going with the wargaming convention of having both a towed and decamped artillery piece).

Final thoughts...
I'm really pleased with this little set as it has saved me time and money. Additionally it's nice to have models that are already just to be pin washed and weathered and Bob's yer Uncle!

You might ask 'why not use the set as is?' - after all, I will need a tow vehicle for the Flak 38. Good point! Well, although I know that the Finns did use the Flak 38 I am pretty sure they didn't have the Steyr troop carrier. I was thinking that the Finns would use whatever light transport they had available - probably something like a captured GAZ truck or even a seconded commercial vehicle.

But we shall see how my collection of the models pans out. But it's nice to have these in the bag.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Why I don't like (most) white metal models!

...Is it white metal models I don't like, or just 'cheap' white metal models?

This snapshot shows why I get so grumpy when I have to deal with 'wargaming quality' white metal kits. Note the pile of metal filings...

This is *just* what I removed to 'clean up' the cab. And I haven't even finished yet!

I know it would be fair to say that if I don't like white metal models then I shouldn't buy them. But it's sometimes hard not to when you are looking for a rare vehicle. The other thing is that I simply can't seem to resist a challenge - I get a rabid determination to turn a mediocre model into a nice looking one.

Well, anyway...Maybe instead of moaning on about other peoples' attempts at making model vehicles I should have a go at scratch building my own. That'll shut me up! :)

Monday, 24 February 2014

UM BA-10 - new wheels

I'll keep it short and sweet today...My BA-10 armoured car now has new wheels!

To recap, I was worried that the infamous 'vinyl rot' would affect the UM's rubbery tyres but aside from that the moulded tyres were quite distorted and slightly misshapen. A few of the tyres bulged when fitted to the wheel hubs and looked like they were going to pop off.

Well, I solved this problem when I came across a cheap Pegasus BA-6 kit, this included hard plastic one-piece versions of the wheels and tyres. Bit of an annoying sacrifice - as the Pegasus kit is nice in itself - but I was determined to finish my BA-10.

Well, they aren't perfect - but the new wheels are now on. Next, glossing and the decals.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

MMS T-20 Komsomolet - white metal done right!

OK, I sorta felt bad after yesterday's tirade against white metal models. After all, white metal does play a very important role and has it's unique properties and is the ideal material for a particular type of model made for a particular purpose. To be absolutely honest with you I almost wish I had designed my Finnish Army project around 20mm white metal models instead of 1/72 plastic...Sometimes...Almost! (But then again no!) :)

Thing is, white metal is great for knocking out short run wargaming quality models. It allows a whole cottage industry of enthusiastic model makers to come out with rare and niche vehicles that the mainstream injection moulded kit manufacturers just don't think make good commercial sense. Such is the case with the WW2 Soviet T-20 Komsomolet...

Fat Finns need not apply to drive a T-20!

Let's face it, the T-20 is hardly the most sexy military vehicle and some might argue that it wasn't even all that important, BUT in the context of my Finnish WW2 project is is an important vehicle and I would find it hard to imagine a Finnish wargaming army without a squadron of T-20s!

The T-20 was sort of the Soviet Bren Gun Carrier. It was a very light artillery tractor which was designed to haul the Soviet 45mm anti-tank gun and the 120mm heavy mortar. Unlike teh British Bren Gun Carrier the T-20 had a fully enclosed armoured crew compartment - although the unfortunate gun crew had to ride on the exposed benches on the back.

Large numbers of these little vehicles were captured by the Finns during the disastrous Soviet invasion of Finland in the Winter War (1939-40). As usual with the Finns this obsolescent vehicle was not only put to very good use but was

Here the Finns are asking a lot of this poor little T-20! With a full gun crew
aboard and towing a German PAK-40 the 50hp engine must have been
a hairs breadth away from a nervous breakdown!

Anyway...To the models...

Long story short - nobody makes a plastic 1/72 T-20 (yet, North Star are working on one), so - ironically - I am having to make do with 20mm white metal versions!

My first two attempts at procuring a suitable T-20 model resulted in models bought from SHQ and Shellhole Scenics and I cover my thoughts on them my 'Shellhole Scenics T-20 review'. To cut to the chase, neither of these models impressed me - to say the least - and probably explains my rabid dislike for white metal!

The 1/76 MMS T-20 Komsomolyets Artillery Tractor
So, I am now in possession of all three white metal model of the T-20 that are available.* I've already moaned on at some length about the SHQ and SS versions, so what's the MSS model like?

*I've been reminded that there is also a version by Skytrek (which seems on a par with the Shellhole version).

Well, you know all those nasty things I said in yesterday's post about the merits of white metal? Here's the exception that proves the rule.

The MSS T-20 is a thing of beauty. It not actually the amount of detail that make it a stunning example of what can be done with white metal - although that is a factor - it's the quality of the metal itself. Unlike the SHQ and SS versions there is no noticeable distortions or pitting. And, amazingly - I can't actually believe I am saying this - there is practically no cleaning up required before assembly!

I say amazing, because I have just spent the better part of this morning filing away at my SHQ Citroen C45 truck and ended up with a pile of excess white metal which was enough to make - it seemed - a second model!

From left to right: Shellhole Scenics, SHQ and finally the MSS T-20. Be glad
that the Shellhole model is slightly out of focus...I'm doing you a favour!

I cannot complement MMS enough, their mastery of the medium and I can safely say that their T-20 is the best on the market. To be somewhat objective, the SHQ T-20 come close but is let down - drastically - by the disappointing quality of the white metal components (which are distorted).

The MMS T-20 (front) compared to the next best option, the SHQ T-20.

Of course, there is still the problem of the scale - the MSS model is still a 1/76 model and not 1/72 one. Here I am relying on the fact that the T-20 is quite a small vehicle anyway, so any differences in size between the scales is commensurately small. I think there is something like a millimeters difference in length and height between 1/76 and 1/72 for this model.

At the end of the day, yes - I would like a 1/72 plastic scale model of the T-20 for my project, but in the meantime I am quite pleased with the MSS T-20 and will add it to my inventory of Finnish vehicles.

The MSS model - Comsomolyets Artillery Tractor Ref: 022 - is £10.95 plus postage, which I think is fair enough for such a niche item. The cost includes a artillery limber for the Soviet 45mm AT gun and a set of additional spoked wheels to convert MSS's German 37mm AT gun into the Soviet 45. So, when you included the amount of component parts in the MSS kit as well as these extras then the cost seems very reasonable. (The SHQ T-20 is - by comparison - £8.)

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Comparison of available Citroen 45 truck kits

I need a lot of trucks for my Rapid Fire Finnish 1944 army, a whole lot! The Finns used a wide variety of commercial and specialised military vehicles and among these were French Citroen 45, 3.5-ton, 4x2, Cargo trucks.

Apparently they inherited these large lorries from the Germans, but these distinctive and powerful vehicles were desperately needed and I wanted to included them in my Finnish army. The main problem is that this truck is a relatively rare subject for Braille Scale kit manufacturers, and none of the mainstream injection moulded companies produce a model of it.

I did manage to track down a couple of examples however, but both have various pros and cons and neither is exactly a convenient a solution. The first is by SHQ and is a 20mm white metal model and the other is a rather gorgeous 1/72 resin kit by Wespe.

Now I've mentioned SHQ models before and I can't say that I am exactly enamoured with this company's products. For a start, they're models are 20mm scale, that's 1/76 and not my target scale of 1/72 - so they are, of course, under-scaled. Additionally, they are made from white metal, and I have come to dislike this media as I prefer a softer material to work with. But - SHQ's Citroen 45 is easy to get hold of, unlike the Wespe C45 I bought next.

Wespe Models is a Romanian company with an enviable reputation for making very high quality scale replicas of historic military vehicles. But, as you might imagine, such premium products come at a premium price!

The SHQ model isn't actually all that cheap at £12 plus postage, but the Wespe model is £17.50 plus shipping. To be honest the additional cost of the Wespe is a very fair representation of the quality gap between the two models, although I think the SHQ is - in my opinion - overpriced for what it is. The Wespe price may make you wince, but you'll have no complaints about the quality of the product - which certainly isn't the case with the SHQ kit.

Now, onto the differences in scale. Naturally SHQ's 1/76 model isn't ideal, but I am willing to accept the slightly underscaled model if it represents a item that isn't available in the larger scale, or is good value for money. But in this case the actual difference in the sizes of the two models is negligible in certain areas.

The differences in the sizes between the two kit's wheels is the most
noticeable indication of the two disparate scales. 
In other areas the differences in sizes between the models are almost
As you can see from the accompanying photos there are some aspects of the SHQ model which seem to be close to the Wespe C45 dimensionally, though there are others - like the wheels - which obviously exemplify the differences between the two scales. In the end, however, overall the two trucks don't look that different...But then we come to the difference in quality.

A lot of my disappointment in the SHQ C45 does come from the material it's made in, I just don't think that white metal is the ideal medium with which to produce a display quality model. It's propensity to distort and it's excess of flash and pitting work against the detail that the manufacturer has puting into the model. For sure, with care, an acceptable model can be produced in white metal - MMS models exemplify the best in this area - but largely it seems to be a cheap material for fast results.

Resin, on the other hand, can produce some very subtle and delicate detail - and Wespe seem to be masters in working with this material as some of the tiny components included in their model are rendered perfectly. But maybe I am prejudiced, but at least with regards to these two models we seem to have a model which typifies the worst aspects of white metal models compared to model which epitomizes the best of resin modelling.

My last word on the differing merits of the two models is to point out the
number of parts in either kit - the SHQ has about a dozen, while the Wespe
model has about 50 parts!
Note: In defence of the SHQ model it is a wargaming quality kit and is meant to be a simplified model, not a display quality model (which the Wespe model very definitely is). However, when one considers the comparative prices, there really isn't enough difference between the two kits to fairly represent the obvious gap in quality between them. I'd say the SHQ kit is worth about £7.

Next: How do the two model compare when cleaned up and constructed?

Friday, 21 February 2014

Right...Let's go! Finnish armoured cars!

OK, having taken time to tidy up my attic 'man cave' and take stock of the plethora of half completed projects littering my work bench. Having done my inventory and checked against what my plans were I have created a plan to get me up and going again and making models!

Top of my list for 2014 is my 1944 Finnish Army (Rapid Fire) project, and a large number of the semi-completed models belong to that category. I've drawn up a list of what I have and what needed doing and have decided the running order for kit making for the next couple of month. There'll be no getting distracted this time!

Job number 1 is to complete my Finnish Armoured Car Company. To re-cap from last year this was going well, I was really pleased with my purchases - a ACE BA-20 light armoured car and a UniModel BA-10 Heavy Armoured car - and they were both about 70% complete...

Left: UniModel BA-10. Right: ACE BA-20

The snag which stopped me finishing off this set was the issue of the UniModel's vinyl tyres. I had come up with a plan to stop the notorious 'vinyl rot' but, in the end, was scuppered by the very bad fit of the tyre on the wheel hubs. The tyres bulged and were - in any case - of inconsistent quality, some looked fine but others were badly moulded.

So, to get this project to completion I have bought Pegasus's BA-6 Soviet Armoured Car Set...

The Soviet BA-6 and BA-10 are nearly identical, the most noticeable
difference being the turret types (though both are armed with a 45mm gun).

This is rather a nice set in it's own right - and gives me the option to add a BA-6 to my BA-10 as a companion heavy armoured car - but it's the solid plastic wheels/tyres that I want scavenge. I will use one of the sets of BA-6 wheels to replace the shoddy UniModel BA-10 wheels and thereby get the kit on it's way to being finished.

The nasty vinyl tyres of my UniModel BA-10 (left) compared to the one-piece
plastic wheels of the Pegasus BA-6. You can also see the different turret
designs which defines the two armoured cars.

(I will send the second set of wheels up to my brother and have him duplicate these wheels in resin should I wish to build the second BA-6 or get any further kits with similar wheel issues.)

As I said, I originally planned to make my Rapid Fire Finnish AC Company up from the light BA-20 and the heavy BA-10, but having seen the quality of the Pegasus BA-6 I think I will pair up one of these with my BA-10 to make a all heavy armoured car company (the Rapid Fire Finnish rules I am using allow for the choice of these two types in the unit). My BA-20 will now be moved to another unit in my army as either a reconnaissance or radio car.

A captured Soviet BA-20 being used by the Finns as a radio/recce car.

EDIT: Just double checked the Rapid Fire rules and I cannot, in fact, replace the BA-20 with a BA-6 in the Armoured Car Company as the rule specifically call for a BA-20 to be used as the Company 'HQ' vehicle. Still, never mind, the BA-6 kits will come in handy - they are nice.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

1/72 T-20 Komsomoletz model on the drawing board

North Star's concept for a resin and photo etched 1/72 model of the T-20.

Very exciting news (for me anyway) is that there is a proper 1/72 model of the Soviet T-20 artillery tractor on the cards. Fantastic for Soviet and Finnish model army enthusiasts as this fills a hole in the market as up til now anyone wanting one of these has had to make do with one of the shockingly shoddy - or very expensive - 20mm white metal models of this vehicle. Hardly ideal.

My initial attempts to get my hands on a few T-20s for my Finnish Army
project were these 20mm white metal models by Shellhole Scenics & SHQ.

This was quite an important vehicle for the Finns in particular as large numbers were captured from the Soviets during the Winter War and put into service hauling anti-tank guns around. Sometimes these diminutive little vehicles were put to work pulling guns far larger than they were ever intended to pull - like the PAK 38/40 AT gun.

The Soviet T-20 was never designed to tow something as beefy as the German
PAK40, much less a full complement of crew as well! But the Finns were
masters of getting the most out of what little they had!

The thing was that these small tractors were ideal for negotiating the thick woodland areas of the Finnish theatre. So despite being horribly underpowered they were a very welcome addition to the Finnish Army's pool of transport vehicles.

This gives you a good idea of just how small these diddy vehicles were!

Fingers crossed that this model get's off the drawing board as I need about four or more of these for my Finnish Army.

Link: North Star Models - Work in progress 1/72 T-20 Komsomoletz

Monday, 10 February 2014

Dusting off Kitnoob for 2014!

Blimey! It's February and this is my first Kitnoob post of 2014!

Well, there's been lots going on - too many hobbies and not enough time. So it's about time I dusted off some of my half-complete projects and got busy with the plastic again.

Top of my list is my Battle of Berlin diorama exercise. So here's a look at where we got to...

A rather poor quality snap of the current state of this diorama - but I want
to save better quality photos for the 'final reveal'.

There isn't actually that much more I want to add as I learned a lot of the things I set out to learn about scratch building architectural scenes. It's far, far from perfect but it's been a lot of fun. I'll definitely do more.

Anyway, aside from this one of my New Years resolutions was to really try hard and concentrate on getting my WW2 Finnish army vehicle project completed this year. So let's remind ourselves of where I was with that...

Top: ACE BA-20 - Bottom: UM BA-10

I'm using the Rapid Fire game rules to design my vehicle units (just to give me a plan, I don't intend to war game with these). So that was my armoured car/reconnaissance squadron.

Next week I will have some real modelling work for you to look at, I promise.