I’m going to sidestep the StuG IIIs I’m working on (yet again!) to discuss an aspect of the hobby that I really enjoy – terrain.

In a collection of eBay purchases from over a year ago, a number of plastic tree armatures were included. I have avoided them whilst I have been building up the numbers of my AFVs and also trying to work out how best to use Hob-e-tac, which is needed to affix foliage to tree armatures. The last experiment was in October – you can catch up on it here. During Easter I found Iwas ready to continue my efforts with both of these aspects, Hob-e-tac and making trees.

The first problem to be dealt with was that the armatures have no bases. They end in thin plastic spikes, as they are meant to be simply stuck into polystyrene and left there…they are for model railroad dioramas, not for wargaming. Here’s what they look like:  . Instead,I need them stuck onto some sort of a small flat base so they stand by themselves and be boxed up for easy transportation.

I mentioned last year that I saw a great way to do this – Tim over at Tim’s Wargaming Stuff had a great demo about how he solved an almost identical problem, using GW ‘slotta’ bases. He took leftover ‘slotta’ bases, drilled holes in them, stuck the tree trunks through the holes  and then fixed everything in place with some glue. Simple and effective! The difference for me is that I’m working with 20mm or 25mm scale trees – Tim was working with 10mm scale trees. I needed some sort of bigger substitute for ‘slotta’ bases.

The answer was closer at hand than I thought. I collect unwanted film canisters from film development centres as they have a number of modelling applications:  . I decided to experiment using the two main types, which are Kodak and Fuji Film. I commenced by cutting holes through the grey lids of the black Kodak canisters:   . I then stuck the tree armature trunks into them to see how well they would stand.

I then did the same with the Fuji Film canister lids:  .

When compared side by side   the Fuji Film lids seemed to be the better choice. They had a smaller raised section which, when glued onto a sheet styrene base, would look less obtrusive or could be disguised more effectively. The Kodak lids would suffice but look a little more odd.

I had plenty of both and so gathered all the Fuji Film lids and prepared to cut and shape them all to the task.

…like Оттенки Серого/Ottenki Serogo discusses here. These troops are made with modeller’s clay which you can buy at art&craft or hobby shops and then fire in your own kitchen oven. Beautiful stuff!

Whilst waiting for glue or various paint applications on the Wespes to dry, I’ve been working on two buildings suitable for railway stations or a rail yard – an engine maintenance/storage shed and a water tank:   .

Here’s detail of the water tank, which was 75% scratchbuilt:    . The ladder, iron/wooden frame and half of the floor of the watchtower/look-out came from the Fujimi House & Look-out set (kit #360379). The rest came from my spares box and my terrain-building materials. The cylindrical tank is PVC pipe left over from when I had to do some plumbing repairs; the roof is sheet styrene which I carefully carved with scalpels to fashion planks and represent wood detail; the floor is just a square of sheet styrene and the pipe is a piece of left-over sprue. I did some grinding to get the angled sheet styrene roof to fit on the PVC pipe, but the rest was straightforward and everything was glued together with plastics glue. Easy!

Why such an angled roof? Well, to prevent snow from building up and crushing it. Straightforward physics. I also hoped it would add a nice Eastern European feel to it…

The engine shed is something I bought secondhand from a model railways shop I frequent. Here’s the detail:     .

Both the engine shed and the water tank have turned out really well.

This is the first time I’ve used a wash. I used Badab Black from Citadel in order to give the roof tiles a more realistic colour and also to give both buildings a coating of coal-dust/soot. I also hoped that it would also bring out the details on the bricks, which are not very distinguishable on this kit. I certainly wasn’t going to try to paint in the mortar separating them! They are too fine and not prominently raised and seperated for such finicky painting detail. A wash did a better job by instead bringing up the shadows.

You’ll notice that I have still done a little drybrushing here and there to represent dust build-up and to provide contrasting. I originally wasn’t going to, but in fact it adds the third dimension to the pieces.

I’ve got a second one of these engine sheds to do and that will be some of the next few posts that I make – how to get the same colour and contrasts as I’ve got here.

As an inventory check, I’ve got enough railway tracks to go over a 6-foot board and a couple of extra feet distance too in curves; I’ve got a bombed railway station; I’ve got a water tank and an engine maintenance/storage shed with another shed having its paintwork commenced in the next day or two. Not bad!

I realised during a game of Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist last year (last year being the year ended last night, 2010 – Happy New Year 2011 to regular readers!) that when I deploy my beefy 120mm Mortar Platoon, I’m meant to have a Fire Control base accompanying it. I decided to get rid of some loose figures by making up the required base, plus use up some of those Italeri German motorcycles by making up bases of FAOs on motorbikes.

They were all finished yesterday – the 40 degree celsius heatwave we had here drying out the last paintwork extremely quickly. Here are some photos of all three bases together – front:  and now rear:  .

Close-ups of the Fire Control base – front:  and rear:  .

Motorcycle-riding FAOs – front:  and rear:  .

Glad to finish them…they’ve been sitting around taking up space and effort.

The figures are a mix – Italeri, Revell and Pegasus Hobbies.

The logs that the binocular-wielding FAOs are propping themselves against are worth mentioning. Regular readers would know that I choose real sticks & twigs from nature, paintstakingly saw them using a tiny sawblade and then use them unpainted in my bases and terrain. This time I decided that I couldn’t use twigs from nature as I didn’t have anything suitable in my hobby room and aren’t sure at the moment where to look for fresh supplies. Also, if I did find real twigs they were going to have to fit under the height of the raised leg of the FAO figure – even harder to ensure. I wondered if the two plastic logs supplied with the Hasegawa kit MT30 ( 31130 – GERMAN INFANTRY ATTACK GROUP) would suffice…

I dug them out of a spares box and found that the middle of the big log from that kit would be suitable! I cut the big log into two, filed its bottom so it would sit nicely on the bases and then added the rest of the features. Painting the log to make it look realistic was going to be a real challenge…wood that’s fallen is different in colour to living wood – so I used both a fresh wood base colour, then an aged wood greyish-brown and finally a drybrushing of plain grey. Then I glued some bright green flock onto one side to represent moss (you can’t see it very clearly in the photos above, unfortunately).

They turned out really well and look great in real life.

***

I’m over halfway done with those Matchbox 1/76 Wespes I won on Ebay last November, plus some railway buildings I’ve tinkered with over the months. The decals for the Wespes went on an hour ago and then it’s cammo time. Next come the final fiddly details, then weathering, Dullcoting and at last they’ll be ready for war.

The Opel Blitz cargo trucks and the Opel Ambulance (I’ve assembled and painted it to be a mobile HQ) are finished!                               With the camera flash switched off, the colour is more like this:  .

I mentioned in the preceding post that I was trying to paint the camouflage on the Opel Ambulance using pieces of sponge dipped into paint of varying strengths and that things had not gone according to plan.

Well, after some advice from regular readers, I had another go, and managed to correct many of my earlier mistakes. How I did that is recorded in that preceding post’s Comments, to whit: “So far, spreading the paint around with the sponge after application is helping, it makes the whole lot an even layer of paint. Going back to full-strength paint helped too. I pressed the paint-loaded sponge against the model, released it for a couple of seconds, then lightly pressed again and using the very tip of the sponge, spread the paint around ‘inside’ the splotch to make it even.”

So, my technique for painting cammo with a sponge is:

  1.  Dip the torn-off piece of sponge into full-strength paint.
  2. Press it against the vehicle for a moment, moving it around slightly. This is important and must be done each time you reach Stage 2, so that each time, the shape of the paint is not quite the same.
  3. Stop pressing it against the vehicle for a moment.
  4. Look on the vehicle for where the paint is too thick or has bubbles in it. Gently dab the sponge against it to even it out and pop the bubbles.
  5. When satisfied, go back to Step 1.

I did have to correct extra unwanted splatters with the base colour and did “improve” the shape of some paint spots by going back later and working on them with a brush, but only where I felt it was necessary.

So there it is. Good luck with it! If you improve my technique, be sure to let us all know how.

I’m proud of the aerial recognition flag on the bonnet of one of the Opel Blitz cargo trucks:  . It was done by first cutting up a washing instruction tag off one of my old heavy metal t-shirts into the right shape and size rectangle; covering that rectangle on both sides with PVA glue and then affixing it to the bonnet. Next, I had already collected some strings from individual tea bags – I cut them into four pieces of approximately the right length, coated them in PVA glue and placed them at each corner of the flag, connecting them to the flag and to the mudguard. When all was dry, the tag was painted thickly with Skull White. When the paint was dry, a decal of the swastika flag was applied over the top. When that was dry, Blood Red was used to paint over any remaining white. Brown Ink at 50% strength was used to darken the strings so they looked like hemp rope. Done!

Keepin’ on truckin’

November 16, 2010

I’ve been working on three Opel trucks:  – they are coming along pretty well, too. All are from ESCI or its partners/new owners: -Opel Ambulance by ESCI; -a standard Opel Blitz transport truck by ESCI-ERTL; and lastly – the standard Opel Blitz now done by Italeri.

I’m not going to do the Ambulance as an Ambulance, instead it will be a mobile HQ so I can cammo it up and it can be an objective in it’s own right in games. The other two I’m doing in early War paint schemes, Dark Grey.

ESCI’s Opel Blitzes are pretty simple when compared to Roden’s Opel Blitzes. Hence, I’ve added to these ESCI Blitzes…from out of the spares box I was able to fashion the width indicator poles which I’ve placed on the front mudguards of each truck. I found an excess in the moulding of the Military Wheels’ Gaz-AAs that I made some years back and through scalpel work and lots of glueing, made it into a wing mirror for the Ambulance. Extra sprue, trimmed with my scalpel, became the spotlights that I’ve added to the driver’s side exterior on each truck, mimicking the spotlight Roden provides.

The Roden kit overall is fiddly…that’s the tradeoff for the high detail. I like the ease of assembling these ESCI/Italeri kits, but they need the extra detail to really bring them to life and make them stand out.

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Paul from Plastic Warriors: 1/76 & 1/72 Plastic Soldiers and Armour has been very helpful with my white metal truck from EBay. He sent me this link to a US-based group of WWII re-enactors, the 716 Signals Kompanie. As well as great photos, the text explains that: “The Mercedes version of the (pre-war Kfz 72’s) truck used a much smaller front fender, longer running boards and mounted spare wheels on both sides of the hood.” That sounds like my truck…so, perhaps what I have is a white metal 1/76 scale Mercedes Kfz 72 with cargo tray?

That same link also helped me learn about the little triangle of plastic I added over the cab of the two plain Opel Blitzes you see in the first photo (which I did because that little triangle comes as a dedicated part of the Roden kit)…that little triangle “…over the windscreen is a trailer towing indicator.” So, there you go! If it’s raised, the truck is towing something (most likely for me, guns). If it’s lowered, it’s not towing.

Thanks again to Paul, too!

Tonight at the Mitcham meeting of NWA, two colleagues whom have been assembling, painting and playing 20mm WWII wargames for far longer than myself both commented quite favourably on the star/umbrella aerials that I’d made for the Panthers. These colleagues are people whose opinions I value highly, so for them to admire my work not only confirms that the materials I chose for this second attempt at making star aerials was correct but also that they feel they are realistic enough…in effect, endorsing them.

I’m so proud!

I now don’t have to experiment any further – I’ve got the right-sozed materials and the right technique.

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Peter and I had the best game yet of ‘Panzerfaust: Armoured Fist’ tonight. The scenario was part of the battle of Kursk.

A battle report / AAR will be coming in the next few days.

Panzerbefehlswagen Panthers

August 22, 2010

Back in March this year my Panthers rolled off the production line at Tankoberg and I gave you all a good look at them. I mentioned that aerials would have to wait until I had more supplies of brass wire.

Not only have I been able to obtain plenty of brass wire in the gauges I had previously used, I was able to get plenty in other gauges as well. For those that are interested, I use Detail Associates’ brass wire: . I had held off doing the Panthers’ aerials as I wanted more 0.022″ wire, which I have decided is my standard for aerials from now on (only using the 0.033″ to represent very thick aerials…some StuGs had them).

I had been able to buy 0.012″ and 0.015″ which meant I was able to try some thinner wire for star aerials/umbrella aerials, as I felt the last lot of star/umbrella aerials looked too thick, too heavy, too out of scale and thus totally unrealistic (well, totally unrealistic for my taste).

The last lot were also the first lot of star/umbrella  aerials…you can see them  on some Sd. Kfz. 234/2 Pumas on this link. I commenced assembling them on this link, you may want to read that first, and I completed them on this link.

Here are photos of the second lot, finished and in situ: .

What was different this time? As decided in those posts from last year, the main aerial is of 0.022″ thickness, and the prongs/ribs coming off the main aerial are 0.012″. Also, I used Zap’s Zap-a-gap Medium viscosity instead of the Flash Cyanoacrylate in Thick viscosity. The Flash thick cyanoacrylate made the join look far too oversized. They are still oversized, but I feel I’ve reached the limit, given the techniques and materials available to me.

Most importantly, I feel that I’ve reached the right balance of appearance with practicality/durability with this second attempt. I could have used even thinner wire, but in my opinion it wouldn’t be durable enough. Thinner wire would require some putty or plugging with bits of plastic or filling with extra glue as the drillbit I use to drill the aerial’s anchor hole into the vehicle is already the finest I have and the 0.022″ has plenty of space when it’s placed into that hole, so going even thinner seems silly. Also, when bumped the 0.022″ springs straight back into place whereas the 0.012″ stays bent and that means I have to spend time bending them back into paint and repainting paint that flakes off bent wire…so the practicality/durability combination seem to have been found for star aerials in 1/72 scale, as far as I’m concerned.

With a final black ink wash, what I call the Doug Chaltry technique for painting AFV tracks is done.

I use a mix of 25% Black Ink – 75% water. A previous mix in an earlier post was described as being like milk…well, this mix is like watery milk! Here it is going on the tracks…you can see the raised metal surfaces easily through it – the mix is simply adding some extra shading to crevices etc: and here you can see it pooling together: and to give you another perspective of its strength, here is an almost-dried spilt drop on the upper hull: .

Here are three photos of the final products, all dried: .

With that done, the finishing construction steps in Tankoberg could be undertaken. I glued the hulls onto the lower hulls/chassis, so that I had a whole tank. As the upper wouldn’t sit perfectly on the lower, I used my scalpels to do some trimming on the inside…a major lesson being to ignore UM Models’ assembly advice and not to glue the baggage/stowage that sits on the mudguards until all hull assembly is complete, otherwise it interferes with everything fitting together perfectly! I also had to cut grooves into one side to get a better fit.

I used woodworking clamps to hold the two halves in place for 45 minutes while I waited for the glue to dry.

Having pre-drilled holes in the right place on the hull before assembly, I was able to Zap-a-gap glue in place some 0.022″ diameter brass wire to represent the radio aerials.

Tomorrow: some fine detail glueing (holders for jerry cans etc.)  and some gap filling with putty. Wednesday or thursday…serious detail painting commences.

Here are some some motivational posters for scale modellers, courtesy of the Eastern Suburbs Scale Modelling Club. As well as being funny, “Reference photos” and “Masking” are particularly illuminating!