Sunday, 16 July 2017

Scratch-Built Jungle 'Hut'

Palm-woven dwelling designs vary across the Far-East and Pacific so I'm
going with a sort of generic impression. I don't want to model a building of
a specific location as I want to re-use these model for any Asia or Oceania
scenario or game.
It was always my attention to scratch-build a couple of island dwellings to compliment my Arcane 15mm laser-cut Jungle house, but the need to make my own buildings may be more necessary than I thought.  As it turns out, I am not quite happy with Arcane's scaling of their house model, I personally feel it is a smidgen bigger than the stated 15mm.

Another of Arcane's 15mm Far-East/Pacific building models. It's a nice model,
for laser-cut MDF, but one compromise is the roof which perhaps should be
palm thatch (which would be very hard to replicate in MDF). I'll probably
rectify this with my models though.
My criteria for judging a 15mm building's scale is quite rudimentary and is based on a 'standard' door dimensions - which I judge to be about 10mm wide and 20mm height at 15mm or 1/100 - and Arcane's doors and windows seem a little too large for my taste (especially next to Zvezda's M3 Stuart tank).

So, I'm making my scratch-built houses a little smaller (I'll still use the Arcane hut, but keep it separate from the rest of the island buildings - I'm thinking of using it as the Japanese HQ objective).

Kappa the Hut (Sorry)!
I'll be using 3mm foam board as the main building material for my huts (which we used to call 'Kappa Board' when I was at art school). It's quick and easy to cut out and put together a basic framework for a building with this stuff...

Er, yes...I am using spaghetti as 'bamboo' flooring!

Cladding the framework - Palm Woven Texture

The construction may be simple enough, but to get that native-made look I'm had to do a bit of head scratching. Many of these island (and Far-Eastern) dwellings seem to have woven walls made from dried palm leaf strips (which I believe is very fibrous and strong). Now, how do I get a pattern that looks like it's palm-woven?

Left: Palm-weaving. The newly harvested palm leaves are still green at this point, but eventually, dry out into a khaki beige colour.

Arcane went for a simple engraved checkered design which - in actuality - looked exactly like a 'brick wall' pattern. But it sort of worked (if you half-close your eyes). So, I decided to pinch the idea, tweak it slightly and here's my take on a faux- palm-weave pattern...

After a good search through all my various textured cards and whatnot, I realised that if I turned a regular 'brick wall' pattern texture vertically it kinda looked like a weave pattern (-ish).

A Note on Construction - 'Solid' versus 'Box'
While the GF9T game is seen as an entry level Segway or introduction to 'Flames of War', there is no infantry - or, indeed, any other vehicles aside from tanks - in GF9 TANKS!

Store bought 15mm buildings intended for FofW are of the opening box type so that you can place infantry inside them, but buildings made for GF9T do not need this facility. Obviously, if you think you might progress onto Flames of War you may want to make your scratch-built houses with removable roofs, but you do not have to. GF9T buildings can be solid (i.e. not openable).

Above: My 'box hut' on the left, compared to the lovely Arcane Far-East house
on the right. The Arcane's removable roof can be seen at the bottom and the
floor planking of the laser-cut model's interior is very nice.
This can make you building designs a lot simpler, particularly when making multi-storey houses.

Round or Flat Planks?
One small quandary is whether to make the outer frame and flooring round or flat/square planks. Arcane, naturally, went with flat as this suits laser-cut MDF models, but really native-built palm huts would have been constructed from the natural trunks of trees or palms, so would be round.

However, finding my cunning spaghetti plan for the wooden planks was a stupid idea I have now returned to bamboo skewers and cocktail sticks...

As usual, I'm making things up as I go along, but - in theory - this should be a simple enough model for me to get away with it. Once I have completed this first test design the further two huts I require for my game should be easier and faster to put together.

I'm using super glue to stick the wooden frame together and as usual, I'm sticking things to me more than anything else! I must really look into what kind of glue is the best for sticking wooden things together quickly and securely.

Anyway, super glue is doing the job and I was rather pleased with the job I made of the hut's porch...

Though, I am a little unsure just how high I should make the stilts that these houses stand on. I based my initial attempts on the stilts that the Arcane model has, but I'm now thinking these look a little low. I may double the height.

Well, that's it for now. I'll have to put a bit of a spurt on this week as I'm on a tight schedule with this project and I wan to start the jungle scatter foliage this week.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Arcane 15mm Jungle 'Hut'

With progress being made on the tank models for my planned Pacific Island scenario for my 15mm TANKS! game, it's time to start putting together some of the terrain. (I'm working on some sketches of what the 3" x 3" game mat will look like, with the Japanese defending.)

I am thinking along the lines of including three jungle huts and two Japanese anti-tank bunkers and a collection of scatter foliage to break up the line of sight. I didn't know where to start with the island dwellings, so I relented and spent some money on a pre-build which I intend to use as a template for a couple of scratch built houses/huts.

The pre-built model I bought is an Arcane Scenery and Models laser cut MDF Far East or Jungle Small House (£7.50)...

The model comes on two A4 sized 2mm MDF sheets and is quite easy to
Once you knockout all the parts you end up with a big MDF jigsaw puzzle! But the instructions are good and it's pretty obvious where everything goes...

And you quickly pop the model together. The fit and design is very good and PVA glue is only really needed for the external framework (but you can glue the whole thing together if you prefer).

Lasercut MDF models have a tendency to be a little blocky, but this one isn't too bad (the roof is perhaps my only niggle) and - in this case - the bare MDF colour looks exactly right. You could get away without painting this jungle house.

It will be interesting to see if I can replicate this design. 

Japanese Bunkers
Galeforce 9 games have some stats for the use of bunkers in one of their Normandy operation expansions (which are a free download from their website), but these stats are for a concrete bunker armed with the formidable German 75mm Pak40. The stats would have to be tweaked for a Japanese earth and log bunker and I will have to figure out what gun would likely be emplaced in them (perhaps the excellent Type 1 47 mm Anti-Tank Gun).

As to the design of the bunkers, I've been looking around for a design I can replicate and fount this one...

This is the Masterpiece 1/35 model, but it will make a good template for a
scratch built 1/100 version.

Way Down Deep in the Middle of the Jungle...
Finally, there is the jungle foliage itself and luckily The TerrainTutor has some excellent 28mm ideas for making wargame jungle 'scatter' that I should be able to scale down for 15mm...

Phew! A lot of work, but let's crack on...

Next: Scratch built Island Dwellings.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Zvezda 1/100 Tiger I - Finished

Finally managed to get my Kursk Tiger I finished off. Phew, I made a meal out of this one (I blame the wife giving me loads of jobs around the house)!

I'm reasonably pleased with it, but Zvezda's simplified tracks niggle me. Still, that's half my German force done for my TANKS! Kursk scenario, I just need to make a couple of Panzer IVs for cannon fodder! :)

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Quick update on current projects

Taking on a temporary work contract really put the breaks on my model making, but with the contract fulfilled it's time to get back to the real work!

So, here's a quick update on what's going on at the moment...

• Zvezda 1/100 M3 Stuart - Number 2
This is the second of these diddy little tanks for my TANKS! game (early Pacific scenario). It'll end up with the same ad hoc 'mud camo' as the first, ready to hunt Nips!

• Zvezda 1/100 Tiger I
And for my TANKS! Battle of Kursk scenario I am adding the formidable Tiger I model which I have gotten to the weathering stage. It's a bit of a dirty kitty!

This'll compliment my Elefant for the planned game, and I will be adding a couple of Panzer IVs to finish off the German force.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Zvezda 1/100 Tiger I - Part 2

Before I got down to priming the model I decided to have a go at drilling out the model's muzzle break as that feature (or rather lack of feature) is the one major gripe I have with this kit. The tracks are a bit oversimplified as well, but I can live with them as this is pretty standard for Zvezda.

Anyway, muzzle improvement done, I primed the Tiger with Flames of War's 'Panther Yellow'...

I was really pleased with how this primer goes on, for a rattle can it lays down quite a thin and smooth coat. That said, i'll be glad when I have an airbrush again as it's a lot more cost effective than the Flames of War spray can at £7.50 a pop.

Tiger Stripes?
OK, now what camo scheme? Since this Tiger is intended for my planned 'Battle of Kursk' GF9 TANKS game, it won't be one of the more familiar post-D-Day 3-colour patterns (or popular 'Ambush' pattern). I want a pattern that's specifically not D-Day-ish.

Something like this...

And NOT because it's Michael Wittmann's tank, by the way! I just fancy a simpler 'tiger stripe' pattern...Because, it's a tiger! (I won't go as far as making it black and orange though.) Here's another example of green 'stripes'...

The only issue, if you can call it that, is that I will be using a brush to apply these stripes, whereas it would normally be tempting to reach for an airbrush for these stripes. However, the second example I have (above) looks like it is hard-edged, so a brush should be perfectly fine.

Finally, my choice of green will be Vallejo's German Cam. Dark Green [979].

Keeping Track
I'd like to get the tracks out the way before I launch into the hull painting. With this Tiger - as it is for a 'Russian Front' game - I want to produce a similar reddish coloured mud effect that I did for my recent 'Ferdinand' (which is for the same game). I may be wrong but I equate the eastern front with a redder mud, I admit this may just be my false impression (as I guess mud is mud really).

I used Vallejo pigments for my Ferdinand's tracks but I am trying something different this time and I'm following a tutorial from the Flames of War website called: 'Changing A Tiger's Stripes'.

Not the tidiest job - those road wheel edges were a nightmare - but it should
all smooth out once I apply a wash. I'm still not sure about starting with a
brown base for tracks, but let's see how it turns out.
The Zvezda tracks are very simple 'slats' and this is where - as mentioned previously - where Battlefront's (and possibly the 15mm models of the Plastic Soldier Company) have the advantage in the level of detail. How much this will mean if you are primarily a gamer and not a modeller is something each buyer will have to decide for themselves...I had my gamer hat on when I bought this.

The Tiger Onesie!
Back to camouflage now and the striped scheme should be, technically, a pretty simple pattern to reproduce. I'm not a confident freehand painter but in this case sketching out the pattern lightly using a pencil seems a little unnecessary, so I'm jumping straight in with a slightly random pattern...

Next: Hopefully this Tiger will have all its stripes and I can move on to the decals!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Zvezda 1/100 Tiger I

Another quick weekend project, this time the mighty Panzerkampfwagen VI Tiger for my Kursk scenario (and another M3 Stuart for my Pacific Tanks game scenario project). This is Zvezda's 1/100 scale Tiger I and like all Zvezda's models in it's 'Art of Tactic' series it's detail is simplified as it is intended as a gaming piece.

I won't go through the construction as it will probably take longer for me to type out the process than it actually took me to put the kit together (there were only 12 component parts). Instead, here's a picture of the instructions which tells you all you need to know...

Once again, Zvezda's 1/100 kits are a bit more
complicated than they perhaps should be because
they are 'snap together'.
I've done a few of these Zvezda 1/100 kits now - and, indeed, made a second example of their M3 Stuart while I was making this Tiger - and I have to say that I'm a little disappointed in this take on the legendary 'big cat'.

It's not a horrendous and neither is it hard to put together - in fact, the fit quality is very good - but the combination of Zvezda's usual oversimplified tracks together with a turret with a prominent moulding seam (and an awful mussel break).

In short, it's my least favourite Zvezda so far...

Muzzle break, what muzzle break? (And, oh, isn't the Stuart small!)

Zvezda's Tiger is a bit soft looking and although it's a small thing that excuse for a muzzle break really spoils the infamous '88'. That said, there is some nice detail on the engine deck, it's just a shame that they didn't carry that on to the turret and the tracks.

A nice level of detail on the Tiger's engine deck. Tow cables
are moulded on, but at this scale that is more usual.
Still, it is a wargame model and meant to be seen at tabletop distance, so let's see how she paints up.

Note price: Zvezda 1/100 models are usually very competitively priced - I just bought one of their mighty KV-1s for just £3.50 - but the Tiger I is one of their more expensive kits, at £6.50. Now, this negates the advantage of buying Zvezda's kits instead of the official Galeforce 9 (Battlefront) ones. The Galeforce Tiger I is exactly the same price. I only bought the Zvezda version because my local model shop had it (so I benefitted from not having to pay shipping). But at this price level Zvezda has less of an advantage over the Galeforce 9 kits (which are generally better quality anyway).

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Zvezda 1/100 M3 Lee - Part 2

Before moving on, I decided that I needed to do something about the kits exceedingly flimsy 37mm gun barrel. There's no doubt in my mind that this would quickly break off while being handled during a game so I am replacing the plastic barrel with a piece of brass rod of roughly the same diameter...

The Painting Process
Onto my usual painting regime now; priming, base coating, (decaling), wash, staining/streaking, pin-wash outlining and then varnishing. Priming will be done using Humbrol's [86] Light Olive Matt - Acrylic Spray Paint, this should give a slightly faded US Olive Drab suitable for the Pacific theatre.

Amusing note: You'll probably be thinking 'that 37mm looks thicker than it did in the last picture'. And you'd be right, I broke off my first attempt at 'improving' the barrel! So, I had to have another go and this time I drilled right into the turret and superglued in a thicker brass rod. LOL

Decal Scheme
Because this model is for a game and will be used in a few different scenarios representing completely different WW2 combat theatres, I am using a little artistic licence with the decals in order to create a generic representation of 'a' M3 Lee tank in US Army service. The scheme is fictional...

Wash, Weathering & Mud
I'm going to try and go easy with the weathering and particularly with the amount of mud I will be applying this time. I was quite pleased with Tamiya's Weathering Sticks - which I used on my last 1/100 model - as I like this softer, more blendable medium. (Apparently, Tamiya's Sticks are just normal weathering powder pigments but mixed with a sort of cream or oil preparation. This makes them into something akin to cosmetic creams, like cheek blusher crème...Not that I'm an expert on lady's make-up you understand!)

But, before I start the weathering, I'll be applying what has become my 'usual' pre-weathering preparation of a wash of Citadel's Agrax Earthshade...

I'd like to try and go for dusty rather than overly muddy this time. I've never really mastered realistic dust and I'm thinking that I might play with eyeshadow powders and maybe some pigments (but added 'dry' onto the surface)...

The eyeshadow powder is a little bit granular compared to Tamiya's Master Weathering kit and their Weathering Sticks. I prefer the cream mediums a little better as the blend really well, creating a nice smooth - non-gritty - pigment film over the surface.

I added a little pin-washing effect with more Agrax Earthshade carefully painted into the panel lines and then finished off with some very fine line work using black ink for deep lines and the edges of doors and armoured windows and hatches.

And that's that for now, the tracks need some more attention before I finish this model off with a coat of matt varnish.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Coming Soon...More Little Tanks!

Having completed the GF9 TANKS starter set models, I'm getting back on with my 1/72 projects. But, I'm already planning my next expansion of my GF9T inventory and the postman brought these additions to my kit stash yesterday...

These mid-WW2 (1943) Soviet tanks will make up a small Red Army force for a 'Battle of Kursk' themed game I am currently planning. I have already built a German 'Elefant' Tank Destroyer, have a Panzer IV H in construction and have a Tiger I in my stash, so my inventory is in place for the game.

One of the German opposition that my new Soviet tanks will be up against!
My recently completed 'Elefant' (or 'Ferdinand' if you prefer).
I went for the Zvezda KV-1 m41 as it was the cheaper option than buying the rarer - and much more expensive - 1/100 Battlefront KV-1S (£9), even though by this stage in the war the KV-1 had been mostly replaced by the KV-1S. I can get away with this as I know there were at least 22 of the older KV-1 tanks at the battle (and probably more).

It will be interesting to compare the size of the Battlefront T-34 with the Zvezda T-34 I already have, as Battlefront tends to be a little larger than Zvezda's '1/100'.

My Zvezda 1/100 T-34/76 m40. How will this compare in size to my new
Battlefront T-34? Will there be much difference?

Friday, 26 May 2017

Something for the Weekend...1/100 M3 Lee

This is something new, I'm getting into doing very short and quick weekend projects courtesy of Zvezda's little 1/100 tank kits. This week I'm adding to the M3 Stuart that I already made for a WW2 Pacific scenario I have in mind with a US M3 Lee tank...

The M3 Lee is an interesting - if not terribly exciting - early way American tank. It was the predecessor to the legendary M4 Sherman and the US Army's first serious contender - if not quite a match - for contemporary German tanks. The M3 was the tank in which the US Army learned about 'modern' armoured warfare and - perhaps more importantly - first introduced a 75mm gun to the Allies armoury. As a lend-lease tank, the M3 added some much-needed firepower to the British in North Africa.

The Americans early war contribution - in North Africa and the Pacific - is often
overlooked somewhat. This was a real trial by fire for them and they had a lot of
catching up to do, with their already out-moded M3 they learned the hard way.
Crew of M3 tank at Souk el Arba, Tunisia, November 23, 1942. Wikipedia.

The Zvezda Kit

Despite being a diddy little kit Zvezda's Lee is a little complicated with quite a lot of parts compared to other tanks in its 1/100 range. This has as much to do with their insistence that their kits be 'snap together' as it is to do with the M3's unusual design.

Other companies - like PSC and Battlefront, for example - minimise the number of component parts their models require because they rely on the use of glue to stick the parts together. And even Zvezda, themselves, manage to come up with very part-efficient 1/100 models when the original tank design is conducive to low numbers of parts (their KV-1 kit has only 6 parts).

Anyway, the M3 is a complex design, what with its dual turrets featuring a Barbette-style hull-mounted 75mm gun....

The above picture illustrates the point. This is just the upper hull assembly, holding the 75mm gun and when finished it will consist of no less than 8 parts! The lower hull was just as convoluted...

It was all a bit too complex for my liking, though I understand that to make it 'snap together' these extra parts were required.

Anyway, much fiddling about later...

Not a bad looking little model.

Thoughts about Construction & Quality
The construction was a faff and needed a bit of pressure in places to ensure parts fitted together nicely. I had to hold some parts together until the glue set so that the seams didn't have any gaps.

But, overall I was happy with the quality. As usual with Zvezda, the moulding was crisp and there was a reasonable amount of surface detail, though - of course - the level of detail was simplified as this is a wargaming model.

The one noticeable issue is that I feel is worth mentioning is the fragility of the secondary gun barrels. The 37mm - top turret - is very thin and wouldn't take much of a knock to break it (in fact, you have to be careful cutting it off the sprue). Zvezda seem to scale their tank guns accurately, while other 1/100 wargame model manufacturers tend to 'over-scale' their guns to make them a bit more durable.

As usual, the tracks are simplified without much of a detailed tread pattern (the M3 tracks of the time were the pretty simple steel links with rectangular rubber track pads - the same ones used by the early Shermans).

Overall, I'm quite happy with the model - delicate parts aside - it captures nicely this early US tank and allows you to play early war Pacific, Far East and North African scenario and also Lees were supplied to the Soviets lend-lease, though they had a far from favourable view of this antiquated design.

Next: Priming and Painting

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Battlefront 15mm Panther and Jagdpanther - Part 2

Applying the Wash
With all the base colours done it's time to apply the overall wash to the model. I'm using Citadel's Agrax Earthshade (again), diluted 50/50 with water...

Aside from adding a 'dirty' film all over the model, giving the basic paint coats a stained and 'aged' appearance (which I like) the wash also gives definition to panel lines and outlines other surface detail.

This replaces, to some degree, the pin-washing technique I normally use (usually after weathering) on larger scale model projects. Though, I will still be applying pin-washing to pick out the most prominent detail (using Vallejo's Dark Brown Wash) as this is a far darker outlining medium.

The Agrax Earthshade is a medium brown wash and for most
detail, this will suffice as a replacement for pin-washing. 
While I'm quite pleased with this 'new' (to me) effect, I am aware that it does darken the base colours. I can, and do, put this down to a later of 'dirt', but I will have to be aware that if I want a fresher looking model I may have to start with lighter base colours.

Staining & Streaking?
Actually, I'm cutting out this process (where I would apply oil paint dabs and streak them) and I am using eyeshadow powders to achieve a similar, though softer, effect. This is another change in technique due to the scale of the model.

While my usual weathering effects can still look quite nice when taking closeup photos of the models I think they may be a little bit of over-kill as these small models are meant to be seen at arm's distance on a tabletop. So, I am starting to use broader, less focused weathering effects for my 1/100 gaming models.

Far Too Shiny and Chrome!
With the upper hull of both versons of the Panther done, I turn my attention to the lower hull and tracks. At the moment the tracks are far too clean and shiny. As with the upper surfaces, I am looking to a more 'cosmetic' medium to apply the effects I want.

Tracks are definitely a part of my tank models that I still have the biggest problem with. I haven't devised a satisfactory 'recipe' for painting and weathering them to a point that I am happy with the result. My previous results have all been a bit hit and miss.

So, let's have another go...

The medium I have picked to weather my tracks are Tamiya's Weathering Sticks (Light Earth and Mud). Nothing new that I haven't used before BUT I recently discovered that these cosmetic type sticks can actually be mixed with water to produce a creamy paste.

I used this technique On my 1/100 Stuart model and although I didn't quite get it right, I like how this cream approach was slightly more controllable than the powder method (with pigments) that I have been using. So, let's have a test on the bottom of the tank's chassis...

Because I wanted to add so much mud to the chassis I started by adding a thin coat of pigment mixture to give some texture, then applied the weathering stick medium over this. This saved on weathering stick and gave a mottled multinational mud effect.

So, in effect the pigments provide coverage and a base with the weathering stick medium softening the edges of where the mud ends. I haven't mastered this technique yet, and I've overdone the effect a little on this model (too much mud) but I'll go easier the next time. However, I am happier with this method than I am with the all-pigment method I used on my 1/100 Shermans where the mud was far too thick...

Pigments on the bottom, merging into Tamiya Weathering Stick medium on the
front-upper hull for a softer transition.
You'll notice what I mean by the fact that I have managed to retain the track pattern detail, instead of coering it up which I did with my heavy-handed approach on my Shermans. Here's the result...

Nearly, but not quite, happy with the result...Yet!

Next: Protective varnish and completion photos.