Construction Notes, Modeling project, Product Review

Joycraft F-16D Viper Toon

Last year, Joycraft launched a new series of products: fully 3D-printed aircraft kits. You may recall a review I posted here a while ago of a book from that company, written by master modelers René Joyal and Jarek Rydzyski.

When Joycraft announced its first kit, I jumped on it for a number of reasons. First, it was a fully 3D printed kit, and I wanted to see firsthand how they would go about producing that, Second, well, Joycraft is awesome and I was pretty sure anything it would come up with would be interesting. So I preordered a kit, got it, and built it. Here’s how it went.

What’s in the box?

The kit came in a super neat package, a work of art in itself (which apparently will change a bit in future offerings to make it more efficient). All the parts were neatly glued on a sturdy cardboard plate. Right away I could see that the definition of the print was pretty crisp.

Getting down to work

The first order of business was to clean the parts. Now, let me tell you right away, it looks much worse than it actually is. It took me about an hour to prepare all the parts down to basic cleanup so that I would only have to finish cleaning up each part more precisely once ready to put it into place.

You need to be extra careful, however, to avoid breaking parts. It’s not a huge deal, but this is not like cast resin, and certainly not like injected styrene. 3D printing resin is brittle and fragile. In the course of the project, I broke a number of parts that weren’t too complicated to fix, but it was self-inflicted pain nonetheless.

The Kit

The kit is a pretty cool design of a pretty cool jet fighter. I am not, myself, a huge fan of toon planes, but this one struck a note and grabbed my attention. Contrary to most toon planes I’ve seen, this one keeps the right ‘vibe’ of the F-16, and even though it is a vastly simplified version of the original, it keeps its awesome aerodynamics and signature lines. It comes with a centerline tank and two wing tanks, two AIM-9M, two AIM-120C, and two AGM-88. In other words, it is armed to the teeth.

In the end, I went for a more sleek loadout, but that isn’t exactly a voluntary choice. Rather, I was the victim of my own inexperience.

The kit is pretty well engineered. The cockpit is not only very detailed, but it fits pretty well without any issues to speak of. I didn’t take pictures of all the kit’s details, but the flight stick, the throttles, and a bunch of switches are all fully present. This level of detail and crispness makes it very promising for the future: a kit of this level of quality won’t require additions.

The instructions are pretty clear as well most of the time, and the decals are from Cartograf and are of excellent quality. You get two options in the kit: a Polish and a Greek aircraft. (I decided to add a fictional squadron insignia on mine and cut a Corinthian Helmet I found on the Internet. )

There are two things that aren’t quite awesome, though. The two-parts fuselage and the canopy. The former requires a pretty hefty putty job while the latter implies that your sanding and polishing chops are up there. I guess this had the benefit of forcing me to put those skills to practice. Joycraft told me that their next offering, the F-16I Sufa, will come with a one-piece fuselage.

In addition, I think it is fair to say that while a cute little toon plane, this kit isn’t for beginners. Like I said, parts are fragile to prepare and handle, you need a solid knowledge of CA glue handling, and PLEASE DRY-FIT EVERYTHING.

Yup, this is why you don’t see my ship bristling with missiles. You not only need to clean the wing hardpoints locators, but you need to make absolutely certain they will slip-fit in those slits. I didn’t do that and, right at the end of the project, I started to try and wrestle them in, coming dangerously close to some catastrophic breakage. I deemed it safer to leave those ordnances alone.

Oh well, some more experience.

In the end, this project was a very satisfying change of pace. It wasn’t as simple a build as I had expected. It drilled home some basics that I, as an armor modeler, am not often required to put into practice. It was also an excellent demo of what 3D-printed modeling is likely to look like in the future, and I cannot wait to see what Joycraft will come up with for their next kits. I was so impressed with the quality of their kit that I ordered their Sufa right away.

Project Specs

Joycraft F-16D Toon

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Modeling project, Uncategorized

2K11A/9M8M Krug-A Ganef

My good friend Vladimir Bocanin is a prolific builder. On a good year, he finishes more kits in a month than I build in a year. Lately, he’s been running a massive backlog of unpainted kits. Something like fifty-two. FIFTY-TWO. Let that sink in. He builds mostly weird middle-eastern field-modded armor and technicals as well as Eastern bloc armor and the occasional modern NATO subject.

I’ve been bugging him for years now to let me paint at least one of his numerous unpainted-yet builds. In January he finally agreed to let me paint this humongous SAM launcher.

I’ve opted for a museum vehicle, inspired partly by a picture taken by Massimo Foti, though I made it slightly less distressed and weathered than I would have liked and kept it a bit cleaner. I also somewhat limited the weathering passes to get it done asap.

An interesting project on many counts, my thanks to Vlad for letting me have a go at one of his kits!

Project Specs

  • Trumpeter Soviet 2K11A TEL with 9M8M Missile Krug-A (SA-4 Ganef) (Ref #09523) built by Vladimir Bocanin.
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Product Review

3D MicroCosmos Small Arms 3D Prints

It’s been a while since a did a review per se, but recently I made a substantial order from a small Greek company called 3D MicroCosmos and I received it today. I figured it might be interesting to look at it more closely for the benefit of my modeling colleagues around the globe.

3D MicroCosmos

I became aware of this company through its Facebook presence. Like many other modelers, I was intrigued by their offering: mostly 1/35 small arms, but also a bunch of accessories seemingly focusing on Greek vehicles (Humvees, M113, mostly) and some diorama items like tools and containers.

When I saw that they were working on M16/M4 base weapons, I reached out to them to suggest they produce a C7A2 and a C8, and, to my delight, they promptly went about doing just that, created both, and, well, I had to order them. So I did that along with many more.

Ordering

There are two ways to order if I’m not mistaken. Directly via Messenger from Facebook or via Hobby Market. I ordered my stuff through messenger, paid via Paypal, and got my things a few weeks later in a low-profile cardboard box.

What’s in the Box?

I had ordered a bunch of things, about twenty references in all (not all on the pic below). Everything came in small Ziplocs bags. For the most part, the parts were still on their supports. More importantly, there weren’t any damaged parts whatsoever, despite some very delicate parts such as barrels.

The Parts

Now, this is where this gets interesting. As far as 3D printing goes, this stuff is top of the line. The prints are extremely crisps, printing resolution looks like it’s under 0.01mm, you really have to look closely to see any sort of layering. On my batch, I did not have any sort of warping or misalignment. The quality of the sculpts is also very, very good.

An M60 with its supports.

Evidently, these guys know 3D printing. The prints are not only clean like I said, but they’re also cleverly supported so that cleaning them is relatively easy.

The same M60, quickly cleaned.

You have to be careful, however. The nature of printing resin is such that once cured, the resin gets somewhat brittle, and if you try to clean the support too quickly, you can easily damage the parts (just like I did here, I was a little too enthusiastic and broke the left footplate of the M60’s bipod). Of course, it would be even cooler if the parts were already cleared away from their supports, but then I suppose the price would go up. Maybe they could offer customers to buy cleaned parts for a slightly higher price. I think I would rather buy that and spare myself the trouble.

Now, I don’t intend on taking detailed pictures of all I’ve bought, but the important point is that whatever MicroCosmos is showing on its page is pretty much what you get.

Oh, before you ask, they do NOT sell .stl for to print on your own. They sell the actual prints. After seeing the quality of those prints, I think it’s a sound proposition because I would peddle quite a bit to achieve this level of quality, I’m afraid.

The Canadian C8 carbine and C7A2 rifle, w00t!

In terms of accuracy, I haven’t challenged the parts, not yet anyway. I would say it looks pretty much spot on, but it would be interesting to take a good look at these offerings from an accuracy standpoint. For instance, the M4/M16 30-rounds magazine for their earlier M4 looks slightly off, but like I said, this is purely based on eyeball mk.1. The magazines of their M16A1 series (shown below) looks spot on.

1/35 guys, 1/35. Look at those flashiders.

Conclusion

Pros – Very sharp, crisp 3D prints, seemingly accurate models (will require further examination on this point but clearly proportions are spot-on), and a quickly growing range of items. Very reasonable prices.

Cons – No cons per see, but a simple word of caution about cleaning the parts. We do this all the time with styrene, so that’s no big deal, but I mention this because it’s not obvious when looking at their FB page and if you’ve never cleaned a 3D part, you need to be extra careful doing so.

Very highly recommended. I hope they keep going, so far it’s a very interesting little company that I am sure to keep following in the future.

Not the best quality picture, but that side-by-side shot should help you get a bearing on the overall quality.
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Modeling project

Tamiya M3 Stuart

This is Tamiya’s 2018 iteration of the M3 Stuart. A very nice kit, with some PE additions. I made it a ‘semi-fictional’ tank of the 1st Armored Division in North Africa. Tamiya’s kit depicts El Diablo, I chose to portray fictional albeit, dare I say, quite plausible, Hercules.

I had some trouble deciding exactly what vehicle to represent. My initial intention was to portray a vehicle States bound in the massive manoeuvers prior to America’s baptism of fire in Africa, but I unexpectedly discovered that a Late production M3 is a rather elusive variety since it’s got most characteristics of the M3A1 but not quite. It was not easy to get references on this specific sub-variant. Steven Zaloga’s Osprey book on the Stuart deals with El Diablo but I, unfortunately, do not possess this book, so I had to make do without it.

When I realized that most, if not all the references I had of North African Stuarts showed them with the fuel tanks add-on, and I had omitted to mount what appears to be the braces to secure them in place on the sponsons, I decided to go for an undocumented callsign 🙂 .

If you look carefully, you’ll also note that the last digit of Hercules‘ serial isn’t perfectly aligned *innocently whistling*.

References

Doyle, David. Stuart Tank Vol. 1 – The M3, M3A1, and M3A3 Versions in World War II, Legends of Warfare: Ground series, Schiffer Publishing, 2019, 112 pages, 9780764356605.

Collier, Richard, The War in the Desert, Time-Life World War II collection, 1977, p.177.

Prime Portal Armor

Project Specs

  • Tamiya M3 Stuart Late Production (35360)
  • E.T. Model PE set (E35-280)
  • Master US 37mm M6 gun barrel (GM 35-029)
  • The New TMD .30 cal. MG Barrels (AR 0378)
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Construction Notes

Crazy Sideline: The Sanctuary 3 – Part 1

This has very little to do with the main focus of this blog, but who cares? I’m going on a limb here and I’m going to build and, hopefully, upgrade a spaceship.

The subject is the Sanctuary 3, a 1/200 (?) model that was included in Borderlands 3 Diamond Loot Chest each Gearbox developer (including Yours Truly) was given upon the release of that most awesome game. It has been sitting in the stash for a while and I decided to get a shot at it, not because I’m particularly fond of sci-fi subjects but because after working on Takom’s SA-N-12 I thought this might be another cool practice mule. I’ve had this idea for a while, after realizing most Star Wars ships have many parts of Tamiya panzer kits. Any random pic of the Millenium Falcon, for instance, reveals any number of 1/35 and 1/72 armor parts.

The Project

So here we are. The project is fairly simple: I’ll build the ship straight out of the box, then I’m going to scratch a few additional details using only spare parts. I’m not going for a super involved thing with DEL flashing in the boosters, etc. I’ll only add a bit of definition and relief, so to speak. It’s the painting part, and most specifically weathering, that’ll get a full serving.

The Kit

The kit doesn’t sport a brand per see, but I’m willing to bet it’s Revell, simply because it’s a snap-tite kit that is absolutely like Revell’s Star Wars kit. The fit is excellent, with a tolerance that makes for just the right amount of friction to make the parts hold while still being easy to mate. It took me about an hour and I was careful cleaning some parts and adding glue here and there to get better bonds.

As you can see in the following pictures, however, it’s not exactly a detailed kit. It is crude on the details, but considering it was a piece of merch sold in a videogame deluxe package, it makes total sense: the focus here is to allow fans to quickly obtain a nice replica of the spaceship they spent a good amount of time running in and flying on. As such, it is very well engineered.

The real fun will begin once the assembly is complete and I get to kitbash this into a somewhat more credible vessel. I don’t plan on making this a super intense crazy thing, mind you, but just improvising this into something a bit more realistic and cool. We’ll see.

Just to give you an idea of what I’m going for, here’s the center rear booster assembly before and after. It took me, I don’t know, ten minutes. It’s not much, but I really want to see where this can get. Thank goodness the kit’s styrene reacts well to both Mr. CementS and Tamiya Super Thin.

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Modeling project

Tiger Model AMX-10RCR

The AMX-10RC is an armored reconnaissance vehicle designed and produced since the early 1970 by GIAT industries (now Nexter Systems), replacing the EBR within the ranks of France’s ArmĂ©e de terre. “RC” means “Roue-Canon”, literally “Wheel-cannon”, meaning that the platform is wheel-based but packs enough punch to take care of itself in case of contact with the enemy. The French call this “reconnaissance-feu”, literally “reconnaissance-fire”. Contrary to what is written on the box, the AMX-10 RCR is not employed in a “Tank Destroyer” role per se, although it can certainly destroy tanks.

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Modeling project

Dragon T54E1

Like many armor fans out there, I’ve been playing World of Tanks, and like many modeling companies, Dragon took notice of the WoT craze and tried to cash in some of that enthusiasm by creating a couple of kits aimed specifically at the player/modeler. The T54E1 is one of those kits. It has this badass vibe to it that I find quite appealing, so I decided on a hunch to get one and build it as a quick side project.

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Modeling project

441 Squadron Mustang III

I wanted to do a plane for some time now, and I had this Tamiya Mustang III in the stash since forever. I’ve always found this particular box art to be totally appealing and it played no small part in finally pushing me toward the dark side.

It’s one of those projects that I started with only a vague idea of what I wanted to do. This is generally not a good way to start a project for me. I need to feel inspired in some way. I knew I wanted to create a Mustang with the Malcolm canopy, which gives it a super cool profile (even more than a D if you ask me!)

Looking around a bit, the project quickly evolved toward a Canadian aircraft. I sourced IPMS Canada’s excellent Mustang IIIs decal sheet along with their pretty interesting and well-made reference guide and I decided to do that weird D-Day stripes-sporting 9GS ship (The 441 got hold of their Mustangs right at the end of the war. D-Day markings were out of fashion by that time).

You’ll notice I’m not providing close-up shots of that build. Some things are better left seen from afar, hehe. More seriously, this project was a learning experience, and a good one, but it really ain’t perfect, to say the least, and I post it here merely as a milestone on the path of getting better.

No matter how this project ended up, I’m super stoked for more aircraft modeling and I’ve grabbed Trumpeter’s 1/32 Mustang III to quite possibly create a larger and, hopefully, better version of this very same aircraft.

Honest Assessment

Things I’m happy with

  • Painting. Still not perfect but I did obtain a pretty okay finish. I made my own mix since I didn’t have the exact colors on hand and it looks the part. Did a bunch of masking which worked out pretty well, too. Oh, and I masked and hand-painted the D-Day stripes to give them a rougher look.
  • Weathering. Could go muuuuch further but in this case it remained restrained but still somewhat meaningful.
  • Getting to the finish line. There were moments of discouragements on that one after I screwed the propeller,
  • I used foil for the landing gear’s hydraulic arm and I managed to pull it off not too badly.

Things I’m okay with

  • Decaling went well, despite the fact that the kit’s sheet went bad and I ended up with decal shredding all over the place. I managed to pull through using careful placement as well as falling back to stenciling the roundel using my portrait 2 cutting machine. I still have more silvering I care to admit but overall this is a good step in the right direction.

Things I could do better

Boy, where to begin?

  • Modeling aircrafts is pretty different than modeling AFVs. Duh! But hear me out. In broad terms, an AFV is a big chunk of styrene on which you slap a bunch of smaller parts. An aircraft is more like two halves of a shell that you prepare meticulously for the moment you’ll pair them. This means a lot of dry-fitting and a lot of small incremental adjustments to get that perfect fit. It can be tedious. I think I don’t dislike that but I do realize I need to approach this differently. More deliberately I’d say.
  • The cockpit was a humbling experience in that regard. Test fitting everything, then getting creative not only to make sure it would fit properly but that I’d be able to handle it while closing the fuselage was worrying (in a good way!).
  • Canopy masking, handling, gluing. All of that I need to refine quite a bit. It’s not easy to make a perfect canopy that sits where it should, remain clean, and has a sharp cut.
  • Wheels and landing gear. It was surprisingly tough to get a perfectly straight, sturdy and properly aligned set of wheels. I epoxied the wheels but I did the cardinal mistake of not having sufficient time to properly monitor the bond and ended up with a slight misalignment. Booo. And this is an absolutely basic thing to nail, just like tracks on an AFV. Nothing worse than an aircraft that doesn’t sit properly on its legs.

Projet Specs

  • Tamiya Mustang III (Kit ref #61047)
  • 3D-printed unshrouded exhaust stack (my own sculpt and print).
  • IPMS Canada Mustang IIIs decal sheet.
  • Eduard Propeller (for Eduard kit but easy to adapt to Tamiya’s; Kit ref #648487)
  • Aires P-51B/C Cockpit (Kit ref #4223)
  • Ultracast P-51 Radial thread (Kit ref #48134)
  • Scratchbuilt dorsal fin

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Modeling project

Takom 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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