Sunday, 20 March 2016

Wargame vehicle base making

Despite the fact that I have developed a particular technique for making my wargame model vehicle bases, I decided to try something a little different. There was one small area of the base manufacture I wasn't happy with, that was the tracks on the ground.

One of my earlier bases. Primarily created with PollyFilla.
I make two furrows in my base surface to show a countryside 'roadway' and on this, I try to imprint a pattern of tyres and tank-tracks to give it a used look. Now, up until now, I have created the basic 'ground' using PollyFilla, which was then painted and this worked OK. But, it was a bit difficult to imprint the vehicle tracks into this quick-drying plaster.

The problem with plaster is that it remains a little too 'squishy' right up to the moment it sets hard. You have to try and catch the plaster just at the moment where it is turning and is semi-hard to press a good pattern into it - too soft and it's like trying to press a pattern into butter!

So, I'm trying out a different approach where I make the majority of the ground as normal - with PollyFilla - but then leave the strips where I want to make a track pattern bare and then I used Milliput (Terracota) to make small areas where I could press my patterns into...

Milliput has the consistency of plasticine when it's mixed and so is far more conducive to having patterns pressed into it...

Prints are far more defined and easier to make and if you make a mistake or aren't happy you just smooth the putty over again and have another go!

Now, there is a downside, Milliput can take hours to dry properly. My PollyFilla technique was dry in 20 minutes and you could have the whole base-making process done in a couple of hours (working at my speed). This new technique demands a little more patience but does pay off with a clearer and more satisfying track imprint.

The rest of the process is the same as normal, I apply a base coat, then an earth coat, weather and then apply my grass (and maybe some grass tufts and rocks). So I won't bore you with this.

I'll see how this (below) turns out and if I decide I like the effect then I will just have to remember to produce the track as a job I do last-thing before going to bed, so it's dry in the morning.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Finnish T-34/85 nearly finished

What a journey this has been. I started my 'easy build' T-34/85 building project way, way back when I started kit building a few years ago. I got distracted by other models and my PSC T-34/85 got pushed to the back of the shelf, coming to the fore every so often as a testbed for a painting or weathering experiment. But now, here I am finally bringing this long-suffering model to completion.

I am applying the first stages of weathering using cheap oil paints to bleach and stain the base colours. It all gets a bit messy and doesn't look all that attractive, but you have to persevere with oils...

A little messy, at this stage the weathering oils are applied broadly, more like
washes as you streak the colours into stains using a brush dipped in thinners.
Once you are satisfied that you have the basic overall weathered effect you are after (I am aiming for a moderately worn look) you can start to work into the weathering to 'neaten it up' and add finer weathering detail....

Close-up the painting isn't so pretty, but when seen at arms length the effect is far more agreeable. You have to remember to stop painting every so often and hold the model at arms distance to check your work. Some things look too much when they are right in front of you eyes, but at two feet away they look just right (and sometimes not, of course, so you have to readjust those).

I guess I have fallen into my 'style' of painting simply by accident and what feels comfortable. It's a tad 'theatrical' I suppose, I do enjoy weathering a little too much. I don't think I'll ever be one of those 'ultra-realistic' model painters - I'll always want to add more rust and scratches or mud!

I think what I am trying to do with my model painting is to tell a story...My models are caricatures.

The wheels and tracks
The PSC track components are one of the best features of this 'easy build' wargame quality kit, far better than the comparable track by competitors like Armourfast and Pegasus. The 'rollers', or road wheels, are a different matter as - like the rest of the PSC model - they are little on the chunky side.

The level of detail on the road wheels is OK and they represent the 'Full Spider' (very late and post war) T-34/85 wheels. They are just a representation, however, and only have 10 'spokes' whereas the real things had 12 raised reinforcing ridges.* Still, they are attractive enough for wargaming, but you have to remember (I reiterate) that these are a very late-war feature of this tank, so the PSC kit will not do for early/mid-1944 representations of this tank.

* I believe this is due to the PSC model being designed primarily for 15mm scale, the 1/72 version is simply a scaled up version so some features are a little too big really (or 'chunky', as I have described them).

Anyway, back to modelling...The wheels only required a dark green wash, some pin washing to pick out the detail and then - finally - a touch of highlighting on the raised areas.

The tracks got the usual powder-pigment treatment of dark earth colours, with the raise track pattern picked out with a graphite pencil and then some touches of silver paint. This gives the impression of bare steel and I may add little spots of rust here and there (I notice that the T-34 tracks are prone to rusting).

Next: Applying mud and dirt, making the base and mounting the model.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Featured work - Great minds, or fools?

"Great minds think alike and fools seldom differ!"

It's been a while since I did a 'featured work' post, mainly because I have weird tastes and I like 'odd' and unusual examples of modelling. So, it was really exciting for me to stumble across another modeller who was undertaking a very similar project to myself.

Back in 2013, Fred Konynenburg - over on the Braille Scale Discussion Group - posted up some fantastic shots of his take on 'accurising' a PSC T-34/85! And what a superb job he has made of it too!

Model: 1/72 PSC T-34/85 by Fred Konynenburg
Spookily, this must have been undertaken at almost exactly the same time as I started off my PSC T-34/85 project. But, being clearly a better modeller than I am, Fred took the concept of improving the wargame quality kit even further than I did and has added loads more detail...

He went quite mad with the PE (photo etched) brass accessories and styrene scratch-built upgrades. In this, he has assembled something more akin to the second of my T-34/85 'accurisation' (I know that's possibly not a real word) projects, my Armourfast T-34/85 project...

My Armourfast upgrade project.
It's really cool to see that someone else finds this sort of concept interesting and worth doing. It's certainly a challenge and - in my humble opinion - is more of a test of the modellers skill than making an expensive display quality kit 'out the box' (where all the accurate detail has already been done for you). But, I understand that this is - as I say - just my opinion.

Fred's completed model displays a standard of painting that matches his modelling talent and looks fantastic...

I especially like the inclusion of the tank loader, peeping out his small hatch! I hope my T-34/85s turn out as good as this. Very well done, Fred!

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

1/72 Egyptian 122mm SPG Project - Part 3

Having examined the T-34/85 tank kit that will be used in this conversion, it's time to look at the main event! Central to this project is Black Dog's Egyptian SPG 122mm conversion set [cat. no. T72027]...

It's a small collection of supplementary parts which are intended for the Revell or Dragon 1/72 T-34/85 kits, but I don't think it's vitally important that just these makes of kit are used for the conversion (they just happen to be very good models of the WW2 Soviet medium tank).

The polyurethane components come jammed in a small plastic bag, something I never like (with good reason as it turns out)...

So let's see what we have. First of all, we have a set of post-war style 'starfish' T-34/85 road wheels (there are hints that these *may* have appeared very late WW2, but I haven't seen any photographs to prove this).

Patience is the key here, as all these wheels will require a varying degree of TLC. Flash is apparent on them all. I'm also a wee bit suspicious about the make-up of these wheels, as I *believe* the Starfish wheels were supposed to have a small hole in each of the raised 'spokes' [see 'Identifying variants of the T-34/85' Brett Green on].

Edit: Nothing is ever straight forward! Apparently, certain T-34/85s were retro-fitted with T-55 style 'Starfish' wheels. On this type of wheel the holes at the top of the raised 'spokes' are not so apparent (but it is still there). Also, the 1963 upgraded T-34/85 (designated T-34/85M) was fitted with these T-55 pattern wheels as standard. I have read that - and it's probably important to note - that these are T-55 *style* wheels, they are not actually T-55 wheels - as the two wheels are different diameters so not swappable. To further muddy the waters, I have seen photos of Egytian 122 SPG's with wartime T-34/85 'dish' style wheels...Go figure!

Next we have a couple of 'sprues' of hull furniture, and we see the problem with packing resin parts tightly in a plastic bag...

Nice boxes for the hull fenders, but - oh dear...
Drat! Not irreparable, but quite an annoying breakage.
The broken part I received was the delicate gun traveling lock. This component is fitted to the rear of the T-34/85's hull and is designed to hold the 122mm gun barrel securely in place for travelling (in 'travel mode' the Egyptian 122 SPG's turret is turned to the rear). Now it's not a hugely critical break, I can glue it back together OK - it's just annoying.

And so, we get to the mean feature...The turret...

Quite a slab of resin! Again, some rough edges which will have to be cleaned up, but generally very nice detail. One of the nice things is that you can just make out the shape of the original T-34/85 turret that has been absorbed into the design of this turret...

This highlighted area of the Egyptian turret conversion is the part of the original
T-34/85 turret onto which the sheet metal expansion has been constructed!
And finally, we have the 122mm howitzer itself. A Soviet 2A18 (D-30) artillery piece was used as the basis for the SPG conversion, this was originally a towed field piece which first went into service in 1963. It's probably worth noting that while this was an indirect fire gun it did have the ability to shoot AT ammunition and there were 'emergency' direct fire sights, but as desperate as the Egyptians were for armour during the Yom Kippur War it would have been a brave man (or a fool) who would have wanted to take one of these vehicles into the front line!

The resin gun of the kit is what it is, but - unfortunately - the very distinctive muzzle break is plagued by the same flash as some of the other parts of the kit. This flash is far harder to reach, though...

There are four parts to the gun kit, the barrel, two halves of the muzzle break and the recoil block (which sits atop the gun).

RB Models metal 1/72 D-30 122mm Howitzer
A solution to the so-so Black Dog 122mm gun is to buy a third-party metal model instead. I mean, if you've gone this far to make something a little out of the ordinary you might as well go all the way!

Now, isn't that much better?

Well, it's going to be a challenge, no doubt about it. But I want to step up a gear in my model making and this seems an interesting subject with which to do this.

Next: Checking the Black Dog turret against the Zvezda hull!

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Zvezda 1/72 T-34/85 Soviet Medium Tank - Unboxing

[Part of my Egyptian 122mm SPG Project.]

I've been looking forward to unboxing this model, as I was so impressed with Zvezda's earlier T-34/76 m43 tank kit. Until I bought that earlier T-34 I had no experience of what modellers might call premium 'display quality' kits, having just made wargame and 'easy build' kits up to that point.

So, the Zvezda kit was something of a revelation for me and marks what is perhaps a transitional stage in my model-making, being a nice half-way house between entry level kits and full-blown premium kits. My kit building career moves on!

Bring out the big guns
The T-34/85 has, of course, a lot in common with its earlier sister. Basically, what the Soviets did was to stick a bigger, (relatively) roomier turret with a more punchy 85mm gun onto their innovative T-34 design.

A T-34 Model 1943 (left), next to the T-43 (the precursor to the T-34/85). You can
see how the turret has been widened considerably. Source: Wikipedia
You have to hand it to the Soviet designers, they hit gold when they came up with the T-34. While British and American tank designers struggled with the technical problems of shoe-horning bigger guns into their standard medium tank - the M4 Sherman - those Ivans created a design that had plenty of room for upgrades right from the get go. This tank put the USSR at the forefront of tank design during WW2, wrestling the crown from the Germans for the first time. And from this point, to the end of the war, the Germans struggled to play catch up with whatever the Soviets came up with.

The production T-34/85. All the advantages of the T-34's innovative sloped armour
with a new 85mm gun. Ominously, for the Germans, the 85mm gun could penetrate
the turret front of a Tiger I at 500 meters! Source: Wikipedia.
The Zvezda kit represents a 1944 variant of the T-34/85, at point in the war where it could be said that the Germans had redressed the balance in tank design innovation with their superb Panther and Tiger tanks. However, what the T-34/85 perhaps lacked in sophistication it more than made up for in ease of and sheer volume of production. (Plus, little did the Germans know that the next generation of 'heavies' was about to be unleashed in the form of the superb 'Joseph Stalin' IS-2 tank with its Tiger-killing 122mm gun.)

KISS - Keep it simple stupid!
The T-34/85 was, like it's earlier incarnation, a 'simple' tank, and Zvezda's kit is suitably simple as well. It's something of a hybrid kit, half-way between a 'wargame quality' (easy-build) and a full-on premium 'display' model. But therein is both it's strength and weakness.

And this is all there is to Zvezda's T-34/85! One and a bit sprues, 64 parts in all.
But is it enough for your modelling needs? (By comparison, the Revel kit has
135 parts and a Dragon kit has 98.)
I made the mistake when I first bought their T-34/76 kit of thinking it was akin to the kits of manufacturers like PSC, Armourfast and Pegasus and their very simple quick build models. But I soon realised that Zvezda had aimed this kit not at wargamers but rather at display modellers who wanted something with a good degree of authenticity but that was quicker to put together than some of the more complex premium kits (by the likes of Trumpeter and Dragon).

While I give Zvezda full marks for trying to carve out a niche for themselves in a very competitive market many experienced modellers have been left wondering if they have created an area of the market that there wasn't really a demand for? What didn't help was that they originally priced their T-34 kit at roughly the same as a premium Dragon T-34 (£14) and because of this there seemed little advantage in actually buying the Zvezda offering!

Clean and crisp. Very tidy moulding from Zvezda and with hardly any flash. A
good start, especially with the subtle surface detailing. But some may find this
moulding a little too clinical, with bearly noticeable welding marks and seams.
I get what they are trying to do, young display modellers and people like myself (who are returning to modelling after many years) might appreciate being eased into scale model making with Zvezda's 'easy build' approach. But, to be frank, it won't be long before consumers get past this stage - and like me - start to eye up Trumpeter and Dragon kits as the logical next stage in their kit-making career.

The good, the bad and the ugly
OK, so Zvezda is neither one thing or the other, so what is it good for? Well, it does actually out-do some of the old-guard kits in some respects and pushes the envelope for both ease of construction and accuracy. No, it won't worry the likes of Dragon - they are far too far out in front with their superb range of 1/72 scale T-34/85 kits, but Zvezda does compare well, in certain aspects of it's design, with the likes of UM and Revell T-34/85s.

Compensation for the rather bland surface detail comes in the form of some very
nicely crafted 'furniture' items. Although, Zvezda has given you what might be said
to be the bare minimum of accessories.
Young modellers may find that they like the idea of being able to produce a finished kit that looks nearly as nice as a Revell's excellent T-34/85, but  with just half the number of parts. And with Zvezda dropping their price somewhat (this kit cost me £7.66) it is starting to make at least some sense in the marketplace now.

The Zvezda kit is a very nicely crisp moulding, very precise, and - as you might expect from a Russian manufacturer - is quite authentic and accurate...Although, there are some gaffs!

Chief among the disappointments is a rather inexplicable inaccuracy in the placement
of the top-port-side periscope and antenna plug. A really rather obvious gaff, and one
that is all the more inexcusable as Zvezda is a Russian company with, one would think,
adequate access to real examples of this tank. Inset (in red) is the correct placement.
A good reference shot of the top of a T-34/85 - knocked out during The Third
Balkan War (1991-2001) - showing the antenna position. It's a testament to the
utility of the T-34 design that it remained (and remains) in active service for so long.
Here's how I would rate the kit, in terms of what's good (accurate), what's bad (mistakes) and what's 'ugly' (the compromises they made to make it an 'easy build'):

The Good
• Dimensionally accurate
• A reasonable amount of delicately moulded surface detail
Superb late war 'Full Spider' road wheels
• Good amount of hull 'furniture' (including spare track, tow hooks, boxes and tow cables)
• Nicely done, and accurate, gun mantlet
• Very nicely done plastic tracks (nice and thin with good pattern)

Zvezda's lovely 'Full Spider' road wheels. Moulded in two parts (front and back
wheel) they represent the design of wheel used in the later stages of WW2 and
then post-war. Noteworthy is the fact that on the Dragon kit the holes are not
drilled out! One to Zvezda I think!
Another commendable aspect of Zvezda's kit are the very nice tracks. Made of
plastic (not vinyl) they are sturdy but still thin enough and also have some
very nice track pattern detail.
The Bad
• All hatches are moulded 'closed' (as are driver's vision ports!)
• Turret periscope and antennae are in the wrong position
• Hardly any weld markings and casting marks (though, this may be an 'ugly')
• Were I picky, I would say the spartan look of this kit means it rather lacks character (but this is a subjective observation)

The fly in the ointment. Detail on the hull is fairly sparce, but what's more is
that the drivers hatch is closed as is the driver's vision ports! If you want to
model the T-34/85 with hatches open then this may not be the kit for you!
The Ugly
• Complete absence of grab rails
• 85mm gun is not 'drilled out'
• Engine vent mesh is moulded on
• Engine transmition access door is not separate (so can't be modelled open)

Somewhat contentious, there will be some disagreement among modellers
about the moulded on engine deck details. My opinion is that the vent mesh
is probably as good as that on the Revell and Trumpeter versions of this model.
No cast marks on the turret, but how noticable would they be at this scale? There
are some subtle welding seams and generally - aside from the antenna and
periscope mistake - this is actually a nice representation of a 'Model 1945'
turret (actually deployed in 1944). There is a lack of certain detail - like the
grab rails and lifting hooks, etc - but the keen modeller could add these.
Now, just to reiterate, the 'ugly' parts are the compromises that had to be made in order to make the kit an easy build. But I'd just like to point out that the engine deck details - like the mesh vents - are every bit as good in their sharpness of detail as I've seen on some of the review of 'premium' kits! (They are on a par with those done by Trumpeter and Revell). Only the superb Dragon kit includes a etch brass mesh component. (If these aspects of the Zvezda kit do offend you, though, you could alays purchase a third-party etch accessory kit.)

To further put things into some sort of perspective, I'd say that Zvezda's superb Full Spider roads wheels actually out-do Dragon's!

Just to show that there is some detail on the underside of the hull. But it's only
just there. Hardly a big issue though.
Unfortunately, the gaff's in Zvezda's model are hard to justify, and they are sorta biggies (for the display modeller who is after complete accuracy). The turret periscope and antenna port misalignment are unforgivable and I am actually considering trimming them off and putting some spares I happen to have back on in the correct position. Not something a young modeller might feel up to.

Likewise, the moulding of the hatches in the closed position, while in keeping with a quick build approach, will undoubtedly annoy many people and will make the difference as to whether they buy this kit or somethings else (though to be fair, the Revell kit also has the main driver's hatches moulded closed too).

Rather nice plastic tow cables. The Dragon version of this kit includes a scale
version of these cables done in wire. I guess if you fancy having these cables
in any other orientation rather than as they are in this picture, you could cut off
the end-loops and make your own wire cable by pleating some thin wire.
As to the 85mm gun, everyone (Armourfast to Dragon) makes a plastic gun. The Zvezda gun is no different and the main niggle is that it is not drilled out. To my mind, this isn't a 'biggy' as I have come to the conclusion that this is the one part of a plastic model tank that modellers will exchange out for a third-party metal version quite happily. That said, Zvezda's plastic gun is quite adequate, is the correct length and thickness and really just needs the modeller to do some drilling-out themselves - a process which is probably one of the first advanced-beginner level techniques that newbie modellers learn.

When complete, the lack of a properly bored-out barrel is patently
obvious and a bit of a spoiler. Luckily, even for a relative beginner
this is easy to rectify.
Finally, the absence of much in the way of welding or casting marks is something of a mixed blessing. I, personally, would have liked to have seen some more welding seams on the hull and turret as standard. And the fact that there is no casting texture on the turret at all is a little baffling, but that said some expert modellers might argue that at this scale such detail might not be so apparent (as say it would in 1/35). The jury is out on that one!

Note on instructions and decals: I really like the Zvezda instructions (text in Russian and English), the illustrations are very nicely done and precise. Colour guidence for painting is in the form of the box art, but - sadly - there is only one decal option supplied. Annoyingly, there is no information as to which Soviet unit, which period of the war or which front this tank's decals represent.

Boy, this model is one long see-saw battle of the 'buts'! As in, 'this is good but this is bad...But then again this is good...BUT this is bad'!

In balance, Zvezda's 1/72 T-34/85 is a brave attempt, and it come so frustratingly close to being as good or, in certain cases, better than the established makes of this model that it leaves you, ultimately, a little frustrated as you contemplate what might have been.

If only they hadn't gaffed with the turret periscope!

That said, it's nice and crisp and goes together well and quickly too. And wasn't that what Zvezda was after?

I would recommend this kit - highly - to a young modeller, or even to someone like myself who wants a quick build for whatever reason. But I couldn't recommend it to either a wargamer (buy a Pegasus T-34/85 instead) or an expert display modeller (you know you are going to buy a Dragon)!

I, myself, had very particular needs as my T-34/85 is only a component part of a conversion project that I am doing, and I won't even be using the turret. So, for me, the choice - and price - was right.

The bottom line: Would I, otherwise, buy this or the Revell T-34/85? Surprisingly, I would probably go for the Zvezda, as the road wheels and tracks are lovely and I am pretty certain I could scratch-upgrade other areas to be as good as the Revell model. But, between the two, if you want the closest thing to an authentic T-34/85 out the box, you'd have to go with the Revell (with the caveat that you know you would eventually want to build the Dragon version)!

Comparative costs (I'm adding this just for fun):
• Zvezda T-34/85 - £7.66
• Revell T-34/85 - £10.79
• Dragon T-34/85 - £14.99 (If you can find it in the UK)

Next: I begin to turn this T-34/85 into an Egyptian 122mm SPG.

Saturday, 5 March 2016

1/72 Egyptian 122mm SPG Project - Part 1

Oh, happy day! The final part of the set of components that I needed to begin my Egyptian SPG arrived today. I'm quite excited...

Today's parcel contained Zvezda's 1/72 T-34/85 kit. This is a fairly new model and is based on the success they had with their T-34/76 m43, of which I have an example of. In fact, I was originally going to make this conversion using the earlier T-34, but decided that there were too many differences in the hull and that it would be easier to just buy the correct T-34/85 model instead.

As it happens, I am curious to see Zvezda's take on the T-34/85 - the c1944 development of the original 76mm gunned T-34 - as I am in the midst of completing PSC's T-34/85. Zvezda's kit is marketed as an 'easy build' model, so comparing this to PSC's 'easy build' will be quite fascinating. But, that's an aside and I'll get to that later.

The Egyptian 122mm Self-Propelled Gun
Now, I'd love to give you a little history of this cobbled-together Egyptian SPG, but I'm struggling to get any information about this vehicle (so far). I'd hazard a guess that this was used by the Egyprian army* around the time of the Yom Kippur War (1973), and represents just one of a variety of ad-hoc armour designs that the Egyptians deployed.

* The Syrians made a similar conversion, apparently.

Sadly, one of the better quality photos of a 122SPG. Turret in 'travelling' position.
The concept was very simple; re-use obsolete T-34/85s by slapping a Soviet D-30 122 mm howitzer into a makeshift turret. It's interesting to note that this was not an altogether new turret, but rather a conversion of the standard T-34/85 turret, which was enlarged by the addition of large steel sheets onto the original tank turret.

A useful shot if the front of the 122SPG in which you can just make out the shape
of the original T-34/85 turret, over which the Egyptians built the larger 'box'
turret of their AFV conversion.
This was intended to be a support artillery vehicle and not a front-line tank. Which was just as well, as the sheet metal turret was hardly protection against much more than shrapnel and light arms.

(Hopefully, I can find out more about this AFV.)

The conversion components
The main part of this project is, of course, Black Dog's conversion kit. This contains the Egyptian SPG turret, replacement 'starfish' (late T-34/85) road-wheels and some hull furniture.

Jewel in the crown is the immense SPG122 turret...

Downside maybe the resin D-30 122mm gun. I'm not a fan of resin for tank guns, I simply think resin is too much of a volatile material and I've yet to see a straight resin gun! (I know you can straighten out resin guns quite easily by submerging the component in warm water, but they always feel too spindly to me.)

To rectify this niggle I have bought a lovely RB Models metal and brass D-30 gun barrel. It is a little piece of scale model porn...

And last, but certainly not least, is today's arrival - Zvezda's 1/72 T-34/85. As I mentioned earlier, this is a fairly recent addition to the Zvezda line, I can't even find a review of the kit.* But, I was quite confident that this would be a very nice model of the Soviet WW2 medium tank as I already have their earlier T-34/76 m43 kit (and it's really very nice).

Zvezda have taken their T-34 further by adding the necessary parts to turn their model into a Model 1944 variant of the T-34/85, with the 'step-jointed' Zavrod 183 style turret. This involved new 'flat' fenders, hull furniture, 'full spider' road-wheels and external fuel pods.

Of course, I won't be needing the turret parts or the roads wheels - these will be replaced by the Black Dog conversion kit parts.

* Typically, I've just found a review of this kit on - it's generally quite positive.

Final notes
The Black Dog conversion kit was intended, I believe, for the Dragon or Revell T-34/85 kits. I don't know - yet - whether my using the Zevezda model will have an impact on the build. We shall see.

I was very tempted to buy a Dragon kit for this conversion, as I think I am about ready to try a 'premium build' (as thus far I have mostly made budget 'easy builds' and cheap conversions). But, in the end, I was more keen to try out the Zevezda kit. Though, as far as I have seen - by way of reviews - I don't believe there is a huge difference in quality between the Zvezda hull and those of, say, Revell's or Dragon's (and certainly the Zvezda hull can be brought up to near-Dragon level, by adding one of the readily available etch accessory sets).

Next: We'll have a look at the Zvezda kit parts and do a test assembly.