Construction Notes, Modeling project

Revell Kampfpanzer Leopard – Part 1: The Project

Although the Leopard 1 is my favorite AFV of all time, I only ever built one, the old Tamiya kit, when I was something like 12 years old. During all these years, I’ve accumulated a pretty decent amount of references on this vehicle and its many variants, but I never actually got around to building one (although I have many projects in mind involving it).

So after completing the Fulcrum, I wanted to get back to armor for a bit and decided it was about time to build a Leopard seriously. But which one? It’s always been the main problem. I won’t get into all the reasons why I find the Leopard so interesting, but let’s just say that it stands as a true symbol of the Cold War, the continuation of Germany’s relative competence in designing tanks, and one of the first true MBT. Plus it looks awesome.

So yeah, all variants of the Leopard are interesting, as my own inventory of kits will attest.

In the end, I decided to go with Revell’s. Now, I hear you all scream: “WHAT? Revell?!? This has to be the worst possible option!“. And, as we’ll likely confirm in the second installment of this series, you’d be right. Apart from Italeri’s 1A5 (not bad per se, just old) and Elite’s Dachs (a fiddly, warpy resin affair), all other kits on that stack are superior.

Yet, much to Revell’s credit, their kit is the only “recent” one offering the possibility to build an early variant from the first four batches, and it is also the only mainstream kit in existence that allows for building a Dutch tank straight out of the box.

Thus, from a subject matter perspective, it’s a viable option. You have a bunch of things to correct if you are into getting really precise and accurate, however, and the finer details of Leopard variants and batches can be confusing at times. As usual, good references help. Since I’m planning for a Belgian vehicle, here are the references that I am going to use.

As mentioned earlier, I’m getting serious with this build, at least for the construction part, and I decided to use a bunch of detailing sets to bring the kit to a more acceptable level of accuracy. Here are the sets I am going to use:

For the barrel, I wonder if I could get away with Barrel Depot’s M68 rifled Gun BD35009. It looks quite similar to the L7A3 without its thermal sleeve. This will need to be confirmed.

An interesting program, isn’t it?

Now, about those corrections, I could simply look carefully at Winnepenninckx’ book and infer what needs to be done. I will of course do that, but there are knowledgeable people out there that took the time to list a bunch of specific tweaks. Here they are if you fancy a project like this yourself.

Ok so with the specs of this project clearly set, let’s get going on the construction of this beast. This will form the basis of the second part of this blog.

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Modeling project

GWH Ukrainian Mig-29 Fulcrum-C

I recently bought Great Wall Hobby’s limited edition “Ghost of Kyiv” Fulcrum kit on a hunch. When I got the kit, I was so thrilled about the general shape of the plane I was seeing in the box that I decided to get started right away.

After the simple Spitfire summer project, I wanted to go a little further on this one. Still an OOB affair, I wanted to push finishing and experiment with Jarek Rydzy Rydzyski’s distressed pre-shading technique seen on the book he wrote with René Joyal, and that was the main purpose of this build.

The project went nicely. I would rate GWH’s kit as generally good. The base kit is from 2012, and while there were some surprising things, it went together well and any issues were dealt with relatively easily. I was surprised by the amount of mistakes in the instruction, though.

Honest Assessment

Things I’m happy with

  • Painting. Lots of pretty interesting learnings regarding painting into this build:
    • Distressed pre-shading, or “pre-shading texture” as Rydzyski calls it, is a pretty simple, and pretty fun technique. It yields good results with relatively quick execution.
    • I used Ammo paint from their Flanker set (AMM7280) and I experimented a bit with mixing it up with varnish and retarder. The result was quite interesting in that I managed to get a very sturdy, satin finish that was super easy to work with.
    • Painting a sky-blue fighter plane is awesome.
    • The Mig-29 is an incredibly cool-looking aircraft. Will build one again.

Things I’m okay with

  • Decaling went well. And it is much easier when said decals are of good quality. I’m starting to nail the technique not only to get good decal application but also in doing it at a good pace.
  • Landing gear. Didn’t prove too much of a PITA, but still, it amazes me just how sub-optimal any landing gear struts are every time. What’s so hard in getting that to fit snuggly?
  • Generally, weathering went well. But here again, I forgot one large segment (air intake left side)

Things I could do better

  • Jets are fiddly in the end. The further you get into a build, the harder it gets to manipulate, and the jig I’m using is not optimal. I need to get a better way to hold the plane at any angle.
  • Botched canopy. This is the single most important point I need to get better at. It’s not easy, but it’s pretty vital to get right, as it is one of the highlights of any plane, drawing your attention right away.

Project Specs

Great Wall Hobby Mig-29 Fulcrum-C “Ghost of Kyiv” Limited Edition #S4819
Foxbot Ukrainian Fulcrums markings #48076

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Modeling project

Tamiya Spitfire Mk. I

As the saying goes, in Québec we have two seasons: Winter and July. So in July (say, June to August), we tend to leave the bench alone and go outside. This is particularly true for those who ride a motorcycle: we only get about five months of nice weather.

However, I often try to get at least one project going, just to keep busy, experiment a bit, and learn a thing or two in the process, but the main point is mostly to be doing some modeling in the summer. I usually don’t go nuts much and often leave some glaring mistakes because the fucks I have are generally in short supply. I often end up going for the glorified paint mule in the end. The project I select for this purpose is invariably a simple, worry-free affair, and as you can imagine, it’s often a Tamiya.

So this year’s summer build has been as simple as it could possibly get: an old, straight out-of-box Tamiya Spitfire: the old 1993 Tamiya Spitfire Mk.I.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about this project, really. It went together easily and quickly, with no fit issues to speak of, the paint job went okay and the decals, which I somewhat botched, were brittle but adhered nicely.

As a true out-of-box project, I didn’t add any radio antenna string, nor did I add the red MG tapes that are usually seen on and around the MG openings. This build is very strictly made with only what’s in the box.

Overall, I’m surprisingly happy with the result for such a simple, basic project. I like the final look of the aircraft. The build is clean and that huge yellow-outlined roundel is just great. In the end, this summer project fulfilled its mission admirably.

With Fall now well settled in, it is time to move on to more ambitious projects!

Project Specs

Tamiya Spitfire Mk.I ref. #61032

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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 Armée 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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