Modeling project

Merkava 1

This is a model that was initially semi-completed somewhere in 2018, but I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the finish for some reason. I still am not, hehe, but it has reached a much more acceptable level so I’m leaving it here to move on to some other projects.

I find it pretty hard to not spend eternity on a model, especially when I photograph it thoroughly and spot many things that could be enhanced. I rarely have the heart to get back on it to bring is to its full potential. Hopefully as time goes on I’ll keep on getting better on the first pass.

The one main takeaway from this particular project is that weathering can go muuuch further than this. It can be more precise, more detailed and every corner of the vehicle can tell its own little story. Here I think references can play a key role in establishing what kind of point of interest every angle of a build can yield.

The kit is the truly excellent Takom one (ref # 2078) mostly out of the box, with just a few additions (Friul spare links, metal Tow shackles and some tweaks here and there). I wrote a short article about that kit over here. Best kit I’ve ever had the pleasure building.

The figure is from Black Dog, “Israel army tank crew N°2”, Ref # F35066.

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Modeling project

Takom T-55AM

This is Takom’s T-55AM made as a Romania’s 81st Mechanized Brigade vehicle, straight out of the box, and started a couple of years ago.

It’s one of those project where I saw a picture of the real vehicle in maneuver (see below) and decided I wanted to represent one. Full disclosure: Technically, callsign 45526 is a command tank with a bunch of little differences and additions compared to a straight AM but I did not let that stand in the way of completion :).

The Takom kit is, generally speaking, a great kit, although it’s not to the level of their Merkava 1. The roadwheel are – somewhat surprisingly – not easy to get perfectly even (I didn’t managed to get that on mine, but there was an errata in the kit about this and I don’t recall whether I used it or not), the IR spot arm assembly is a little fiddly, and so is the DSHK. These points, however, are the only ones worth mentioning. The rest of the kit is very, very good.

The T-55 is a wonderful modeling subject. There are tons of variants, it’s been in service all over the world and it’s just a bad ass looking tank. Especially the AM version with the cheek armor. This ain’t the last one I build for sure.

Honest Assessment

Objectively, I am happy with the end result, but at the same time, I see many, many things I’d like to to better. Not all of that is obvious from the photographs, but here’s a list.

Things I’m happy with

  • The global vibe of the tank is more or less what I was after: an operational, relatively well-maintained (if aged) vehicle on maneuver.
  • The Silouette Portrait 2 cutting machine is just so cool. Super easy to use, great results. The observant will note my turret number and roundels are smaller than their real life counterpart.
  • I’m getting better at the pin wash game now. I managed to get a more controlled application.
  • The unditching log. Doesn’t it look like a wonderful unditching log?

Things I’m okay with

  • Weathering dosage is about right compared to my reference vehicle.
  • Track finish. Not perfect, but not bad at all. They lacks a bit in character, and the photograph lighting is not ideal.

Things I could do better

  • Paint finish. Cleaner, smoother base coat. This one was much closer to what I am after. For once I moved away from the rugged Tamiya XF flat finish. I need to invest more time into this stuff. It’s like super basic chop for modelers and I still don’t quite grasp the whole painting game.
  • Paint finish. Corollary, but keeping the paintjob clean and free of lint is still a major challenge. I did work around this a bit with smooth sanding but I’d rather keep it clean and tidy than having to fix it.
  • Paint finish. Romanian T-55s are of a much bluer green than the good ol’ Russian Green. I landed way too close to the later. I’m having great difficulties is guesstimating the proper color of uncommon tanks. I had the same issue with the AMX-30B.
  • Photographing and, specifically, lighting. I still haven’t nailed a proper lighting setup for both the work area and for taking pictures of the projects. I need some secondary light source. As it stands I have a much too big gap between zenithal lighting and side light. I’m using foamcore panels to bounce some of that light but it isn’t enough.
  • Suspension and track work. This is truly crucial for a tank, seriously. As soon as you get a roadwheel not sitting properly or a track not behaving likes is made of links of solid, heavy metal, it looks odd. Mine here isn’t bad but the left track and roadwheels of the tank do have some issues.
  • Still getting a case of rushing things a little at the end.

Project Specs

  • Takom T-55AM (Kit ref #2041)
  • Voyager PKT mg barrel (kit ref #VBS0209)

Started: Sometimes , dunno, in 2018 maybe?
Finished: Early January 2021.

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Modeling project

C887 HMAS Kodiak

In early 2006, the fine personnel of A battery, 1 RCHA went into action with their trusty M777 during the battle of Panjwaii. Firing a surprisingly shot burst, two guns managed to exact substantial casualties to the retreating Talibans. Three weeks later, during a post-action briefing held at NDHQ Ottawa, a civilian analyst, marveling at this particularly shining result obtained with conventional arty, casually wondered if it wouldn’t be worth looking into providing the gunners with a little more operational mobility so that they could throw punches like that further away. The notion was promptly dismissed as “another civilian-who-never-ever-got-shot-at nonsense”.

A few minutes later during the same meeting, the officer in charge was struck by an epiphany. What if we could provide our guys with more mobility to support liaison convoys, security patrols? We could likely mount longer-range offensive without relying on those lousy A-10s that kept firing on our guys. That would be brilliant. Thus was launched what was to become a sluggishly long procurement program. Yet it was off to a good start, for it took only a year to get the necessary approval to proceed with cost and capabilities requirements analysis, and another year to greenlight a procurement commission to shop around.

In typical Canadian fashion. the privileged approach was to try and buy an off-the-shelf platform. A stealthy lobbyist managed to slip a spec sheet of the South African G6 wheeled artillery vehicle to people that mattered and a few months later, an evaluation mission was – quite surprisingly – sent to Thaba Tshwane in Pretoria, then off to Johannesburg to witness a live demonstration from the Transvaal Horse Artillery (now known as the Sandfontein Artillery Regiment). That demonstration went well apparently, with the South African gunners of 8 battery hitting targets more than 40 kilometers away with great accuracy and after successively moving from five different firing positions.

A mere five weeks later, 16 guns were ordered, but for a variety of reasons, these guns weren’t delivered until 2020, a whopping twelve years later, long after they could be of use in Canada’s longest deployment. The system went through a number of modifications and is now operational in the Canadian Forces under the name of Kodiak (the official designation being the C887, High Mobility Artillery System (or “H-Mass” among gunners), but most army personnel now refers to the system as simply the Kodiak (not to be mistaken with the Leopard 2-based gen3 AEV).

Externally, the most immediate difference with the original G6 is the M284 gun in lieu of the quite excellent G5 (itself based on a Canadian gun, the GC-45). This is considered by most analysis to be a step back in pure ballistic envelope. Canada chose this barrel for interoperability reasons with the US Army, and the change is the main culprit for the system taking so long to reach operational status.

Other differences include:

  • Different light clusters on the vehicle’s front, along with an anti-slip pathway and grab handle on the glacis left, as well as a hand guard added on the upper left of the driver’s compartment.
  • A FLW 200 remote weapon station on the turret top, very slightly offset to the right. This made it possible to drop the bulky turret smoke dischargers. The station is not entirely satisfactory due to the limitations on the field of fired on the forward arc. It is unclear whether this arrangement will be kept as formal dotation.
  • Enormous all-terrain, non-directional tread 630/75R34 Michelin battle tires produced under licence by Boisso. Canada retained the original tires for arid deployment (God forbid!) but it was deemed necessary to get more polyvalent shoes for temperate climate.
  • A different, wider design for the turret front steps for better access in winter gear.
  • Complete redesign of the anti-slip patterns on the hull and the turret.
  • A ramp on the turret’s rear right accessway. Contrary to UAE’s massive rail that goes all the way to the turret’s wall, this one is much smaller and only offers an alternate holding point.
  • The antenna point has been moved back the upper rear of the turret. (An anchor point for a T-antenna mount remains available slightly behind the station’s base when the RWS is not mounted.)
  • The absence of any tie-down on the turret sides.
  • The addition of a rear-looking camera.

All in all, the Kodiak is said to be on par with the M109A7 in firepower and protection, with which it shares many FCS and operation management features. It is slightly behind in pure off-road capabilities, but has a much greater operational mobility.

In 2020, four vehicles went from Gagetown to Valcartier using almost exclusively New-Brunswick and Québec country roads, a telling testimony of the system’s robust mobility.

Project Specs

  • Takom G6 Rhino (2052). A great kit. Its only main drawback is the fiddly front wheel assembly that requires somewhat of a long range leap of faith.
  • Live Resin FLW 200 Low Profile (LRE-35240). Wasn’t impressed with this one.
  • 3D Printed Custom Made Wheels. My eternal gratitude goes to Étienne Boisseau for sculpting these sweet sweet piece of modeling.
  • Other 3D printed parts include: rear camera, lights on the front, a small cap over the original antenna location and the steps in front of the turret and a repair part for the FLW 200.
  • Custom made maple leaf and callsign templates, and a few decals from the Trumpeter’s AVGP Grizzly and Echelon’s Canadian Leopard 2A6M sheets.
  • Various custom bits here and there.

Started: Sometimes in the first half of 2020.
Finished: December 2020.

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Book Review, Modeling Technique, Reading Material

Hangar no.1 – Special Jet Fighters

Every once in a while, you come across a book, a picture or some other reference, and you are impressed durably. Many of us fondly remember the sense of wonder we felt, as kids, when we first laid eyes on Sheperd Paine’s books, for instance. More recently, I was literally floored when I acquired Michael Rinaldi’s Tank Art series of books. As it turned out, these books had an immense impact on me as a modeler – and still very much do. Not only did they significantly contributed to the array of techniques I now use, but there was a sense of sharing at its core on what the hobby means, I dare say, in a more spiritual sense.

I’ve recently acquired such a book in the form of the very first offering of a new publisher, Joycraft Productions. The book, Hangar no.1, Special Jet Fighters, from modelers René Joyal and Jarek Rydzy Rydzyski, has been released in early December. Although I’m an armor guy first and foremost, jets are what got me into this hobby when I was a kid, and they always remained of immense interest to me. I even have a few flying things in my stash, with a firm resolve to build them someday. So this new book not only drew my interest out of curiosity to see what an acquaintance of mine might have created (Joyal is from Québec City, where I live, and we’ve met a few times), I also harbor a genuine interest and some humble pretentions for airplane scale modeling.

The book, as an object, is exquisite. A hard cover, full color, 144-pages A4 landscape format packed with excellent quality photographs and presenting six models, three from Joyal and three from Rydzyski. From a purely graphic design standpoint, the visual appeal is truly wonderful. Layout is clear, composition is well balanced and dynamic, and subject coverage flows naturally.

And man, those models.

Specifically, the subjects are, from Joyal:

and from Rydzyski:

In addition, there is a special 8-pages section devoted to Polish air photograph Slawek Hesja Krajniefwski presenting excellent and pretty stylish pictures of Polish F-16s (you may also know him for those awesome SU-22 pics going around on the Interwebs these days).

On the cover of the book, this statement: “Inspirational – Military Aircraft Scale Modeler“. I think this is right on point, as the book sits somewhere between a coffee table art-book and a full-fledged tutorial book, but is neither of those. The authors do describe their approach and share some techniques, but the perspective remains at high level, so to speak, and most of the talking and explaining is made through photographs. You get some views on constructions, painting and weathering, along with commentaries and observations from the authors, but there is no literal step-by-step per se. The authors do mention precisely what kit they started from and any aftermarket items they used.

I’m pretty sure advanced aircraft modelers will pick on much more info than I could possibly do with my somewhat limited knowledge of aircraft modeling, but I did learn a bunch of things. As far as I understand it, dry-fitting seems to be an immense key to success. You could say this applies to any sort of modeling, but it sounds like it really is critical to success for aircrafts.

The quality of the projects presented in the book will be obvious to anyone. Sure, there might be debate as to whether it is appropriate to use dry-brush here, gloss coat there, but it is objectively undisputable that Joyal and Rydzyski know their business through and through. Construction is sharp and irreproachably clean, painting is perfectly executed, and weathering is inspired and highly credible. The resulting models are frankly beyond reproach. I can attest of this even more because I’ve had the chance to see two models from Joyal in person, and perfection is indeed a fitting word here, in my very humble opinion.

Joyal also makes use of 3D printing on his CF-104 with an extremely convincing application for avionics, wheels and some pods beneath the fuselage. 3D printing is about to change the face of this hobby durably (I can see why, having acquired an Anycubic Photon S this year, and it is incidentally thanks to René for the most part).

In a deeper sense, the book has had some impact on me. I suppose this is because of the outstanding quality of the models, and I don’t say this just as a matter of compliment. I mean, sure, the models are truly great, but we do get a sense of achievement through hard work, patience, technical mastery and minutiae. The authors sometimes let us into their frustration and make it plain that the journey to get these sort of results isn’t all glittery (and they actually make it plain that the journey of their models came close to ending into a wall at times). I think this is revealing, and a matter to consider for ourselves, as modeler.

Just as Rinaldi’s books were an interesting conversation about the hobby, Joyal and Rydzyski’s book is a visual testament of what true modeling excellence is. Looking at their models, you tend to wonder where you stand on that path, and where you get enjoyment from the hobby. Some people like to complete a model in a weekend and be done with it. It’s perfectly ok. But some folks are much, much more serious about it, as this book amply demonstrates. It will not come as a surprise to learn that Joyal’s SU-24 took over 200 hours to complete, for example, and this is certainly some food for thought as to what we, as modelers, are ready to invest in the hobby. In my case, with three kids and a busy life, but very serious about the hobby, a book like this act as a milestone, witness of my own aspiration to excellence, but also to what it means in terms of dedication.

Joycraft Production’s first offering is a gem of a book. It is inspiring and somewhat daunting to us mere mortals. It’s a magnificent object that both the serious modeler and the collector will appreciate, and I look forward to more books from them.

Signals Info

Publisher: Joycraft Productions
Publication Date: December 2020
Author: René Joyal & Jarek Rydzu Rydzyski
ISBN: 978-1-7774093-0-2
Format: hard cover, full color, 144-pages A4 (landscape)

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Modeling project

Salvaging a Tiger

Once upon the time around 2010, a colleague, knowing I was into scale modeling, asked me if I would be interested to paint a Tiger tank he had assembled a while ago.

I immediately said “Sure, why not?” I figured it would be some cool and quick paint practice.

And so it was that one morning, he came up to me with this in hand:

I assembled it quickly” he said.
Mathieu’s Tiger. The expression “Quick build” takes a whole new meaning here.

Impressive eh? All these neat glue joints, this sharp and comprehensive parts cleanup, the overall spirit of precision!

I quickly dropped the idea of a quick paint run. After some soul searching, I decided to try and salvage this build to make it at least acceptable. So I started to remove, clean and replace.

Unfortunately, I seem to have lost the pictures of the actual cleanup process, which involved ripping pretty much everything I could and replace that with parts from the spare box, cleaning absurd amounts of glue (which were quite literally puddles) in the process. I decided on a sPzAbt. 501 ride in Tunisia, taking my cue from the old Panzer Color volume III and keeping it to the kit’s decal sheet.

Regardless of the initial state of that build, it was, and remains, a pretty entertaining journey. It was quite satisfying to slowly witness the emergence of something that resembled a Tiger tank, at least in its basic shapes.

The primed and semi-restored Tiger:

Base coat, decals and some sort of shading.

Weathering.

Final shots of the build.

That’s it. The only Tiger I’ve ever built.

Now, looking back, I see a millions things that aren’t quite right with my work on this model. Gaps, ghost seams, actual seams, very rough and uninspired weathering, etc. Hey, it was a while ago, after all. But no matter how basic this restoration ended up, it remains one of the most satisfying project I did to this day. Not sure why.

Maybe that’s because I felt confident I could only make it better no matter what. Or perhaps it’s because I simply took my kick out of the simple pleasure of cleaning things up, making sure it was overall better than it was, and completing the project in a timely fashion and giving the model back to Mathieu in a much better state than he had left it to me.

I don’t know, but what I do know is that thanks to this particular build, I’ve managed to appreciate what scale modeling has to offer in its simplest form, and that feeling has remained with me ever since.

Skol.

Signals Information

Kit: Italeri Tiger I Ausf. E/H1 #286 built by a colleague from work.
Parts: Various replacements from the spare box.
Antenna: Some RB Model aerial.

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Modeling project

T-70M

This is the Miniart T-70M I did in 2013. It is mostly OoB except for the tracks and barrel. I destroyed the kit’s tracks trying to remove them from the sprue and had to fall back to these, which are absurdly better, but also crazy expensive.

The finishing plan was to create a white wash I would eventually magage to pull off on the BT-7, but in this case, my first try with the hairspray technique, I failed miserably (not enough hairspray, was I told), and had to adapt, improvise and overcome 🙂 .

Signals Info

Kit: Miniart 35113.
Tracks: Friuls ATL96
Metal Barrel: Aber 35 L-055

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Modeling project

Ukrainian BMP-1

This project started when I subscribed to the Facebook Military Equipment Of Conflict In Ukraine group. I spotted a picture of a BMP with one of those weird hand painted, bright, hastily applied scheme, and I decided I would go ahead and try to recreate it. Unfortunately I haven’t saved the picture and can’t seem to locate it. I did spot an Echelon decal sheet with that exact vehicle depicted (D356195) so I immediately acquired it.

The project is based on Trumpeter’s BMP-1 kit #05556 with Friuls tracks (ATL-133 IIRC) and possibly some metal barrel, although I forget about that part. The figures are from Evolution and Ant Miniature and Masterclub.

The funny thing is that I noticed that some people looking at this model, not seeing the original vehicle it is based on, sometimes think this is my attempt to create a hard edge legit scheme. They remain polite but you see they think I suck big time at painting camo, hehe.

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Book Review, Reading Material, Reference

The Leopard 1 in Danish Service

For some reasons, I’ve been acquiring a massive quantity of new reference books during the pandemic. Among those, I was fortunate enough to secure a copy of the rather sizable new study on Danish Leopard 1s, The Leopard 1 in Danish Service, from Kim Hartvig Sørensen and published by, you guessed it, Trackpad Publishing. That book sold out surprisingly fast, but I am told it has now been reprinted. 

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