Friday, December 18, 2009

Long time, no see

It has been a while since my last update, any and all pictures I've taken seem to be gone as the memory card just reads 'corrupt data' when loaded. Between being really sick, the holiday hassle, a lack of work/employment, things have been tough.

Real tough.

I have been selling some of my builds on e-bay to help pay the bills. Truth be told I'm fine with it as I need to make room for the more current stuff I'm doing. I don't get attached to everything I make, although some will never be sold. If I could, I'd do nothing but build and sell this stuff full time...

yeah, good luck with that right?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Back on base.

Time to lay some groundwork. I really need to get my M4A1 half track on the ground here and move on to the next in line. Groundwork has always been a favorite step in the process for me, as a kid my father and I had a train layout. While he enjoyed the trains and running them around the tracks, I loved planting trees and making mountains and such. It has carried over into my modeling in these later years, I don't always build dioramas but scenic basis at least. I guess 'dios' tell stories, I just want to put the kit into a natural setting for a bit of realism.

The first thing I do is make a wooden base. I usually use rich grained wood like mahogany or walnut but I have a bunch of oak cut offs that I need to use. Truth be told, I hate oak. Honestly. As a carpenter who has installed more oak floors, cabinets, staircases, custom built furniture etc. than I care to recall, I've grown to absolutely abhor the wood. I dislike it's look, it's smell, it's feel. So for this base, I have painted it black and then sanded it away to expose some of the wood grain, almost like an antiquing effect perhaps.

Anyway, here's the wooden base with a layer of wall plaster for the starting point. After I've gotten the basic shape I want, I sprinkle on some previously dried plaster chunks and pieces as well as the raw powder to give the ground a more realistic texture as opposed to the smooth surface initially shaped with my fingers.

The next step is adding some color to the plaster. I don't do anything too spectacular here, I spray some flat black followed by some primer 'red' lightly misted over the black allowing for the 'shadow' to show through.

Step three for me is the laying down of the ground litter. This is meant to represent years of fallen leaves and such. I use various seed pod casings such as those from Birch trees, and a few other plants and bushes. These are mixed together and simply sprinkled over some white glue and water mixture. Multiple applications may be needed in some areas to thicken things up, simply apply more glue/water mix the next day and sprinkle more of the ground litter on. I've also added a bit of Woodland Scenics fine turf for some added color and a few railroad ballast stones for, well... stones.

Once that is completely dry I start adding bushes. These can be time consuming as they are added not only one at a time but the previous 'plantings' must be allowed to dry before adding more to avoid bumping the first ones out of position. The trick (in my opinion) is to 'plant' these tightly, on top of one another intertwining the branches to give a natural appearance. If the bushes are to spaced too far apart they look fake, or like someones landscaping.

After I am satisfied with one style of bush, I begin planting another 'thicket' like bush for more realism. Just for the sake of it, take a look at the growth on the edge of the woods, or a country road. You may be surprised at just how many different types of plants you will see growing together. This is (again in my opinion) critical to looking realistic, the more various types of plants you see together, the more real it looks.

This is really only the beginning. I will continue to add different styles of plants within and on top of each other until I am satisfied with the results. Here is the half track placed on the base just for an idea of scale and appearance. I still have some details on the half track to address and then of course tying the pigment color into the roadwork but this will give a sort of 'first look' into where this is heading.

More to come!

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Yep, I've gotten a bit sidetracked over these last few weeks. Life happens, focus gets lost, projects get stuck on the back burner and other things seem to take precedence. This update will show a bit of what I'm talking about and then end on a positive note as I've gotten myself back on track over the last few days. Even though this blog has been update free, I have been very busy at the bench as you will see.

Well enough talk, lets see some photos of what I've been up to.

First up is a small scene that has been an on and off topic that I have been toying with. I'm building a small scene showing a buttoned up M3A3 in British markings about to be ambushed by some German soldiers. The AFV kit as well as the base I've made is still in black primer and I have yet to assemble any figures but this is just a quick snap of what I have done so far. I've covered up some of the exposed white plaster where I've made holes for the tree and fence posts with some black circles so ignore those oddities in the photo. This scene will have very thick groundwork surrounding a narrow dirt road with maybe two or three soldiers hiding in wait for the ambush.

Another one of my on again off agian projects is another AFV Club kit, the M18 Hellcat. I've painted it, added markings and done an initial wash but I have yet to pick out any of the details or really go to town on the weathering. I'm not sure where this kit will end up, a stand alone model or a small base but I have been tinkering with this kit for a few weeks now and thought I might show where it stands at the moment. It looks like I'll need to dust this one before I go any further, perhaps I should put it in the box between working on it? I guess that would only make sense.

Another project I have been working on may come as a bit of a shock. Two, yes not one but two Tamiya Panthers with PE screens, metal barrels and the Tamiya individual link tracks. These two tanks are being built for a freind who loves these big cats. I think he's just doing it to mess with me though, I'm not about to admit that I've enjoyed building these. It is however, a nice change of pace throwing these Tamiya kits together. I know the accuracy police would most likely tear them apart but man these kits just fall together.

I've saved this last kit to cleanse the pallet. Not only is it olive drab but it's a half track. I will be building an XX Corps M2A1 in Belgium. It's just a few un-finished sub assemblies at this point but hey, I've gotta' get that Panther taste out of my mouth and this is just the thing to do it.

Ok, enough of my excuses. Time to get back to my M4A1 base so I can get that project wrapped up. Lets lay some groundwork!

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

M16 GMC Part 3

Paint at last

I wanted to do a paint job other than a standard olive drab, or even the ever popular black over olive drab. There is a photo of 'Avenger' in the LIFE archives labeled as D-Day. It shows an M16 with the gun removed beached in three tone camouflage. Avenger has a hard edge pattern but I wasn't interested in recreating this particular vehicle, I was only interested in it's three color scheme.

With the three sub assemblies dry fit, I could make sure everything lined up correctly and tight before breaking out the airbrush. I drilled out the cooling jacket holes on the .50 cals a bit for some detail, masked off the windshield and prepared to start painting.

I don't go into great detail on the paint process in this blog, it was done pretty much the same way as the previous work done on the M4A1 below. My main interest at this point is getting to the stage of the weathering process and then the display bases for both vehicles. In the photos bellow you'll find the paint applied, markings in place, the first pin wash laid around the small details and the rubber track, tires and machine guns have been painted as well. Oh and a couple of Jerry can racks were scratch built and installed at the last minute.

The last update for this vehicle will most likely have some further weathering with oils and pigments and maybe the two or three figures I've chosen for this one. You may be able to guess that one will be a driver, partially out of the open door.

Stay tuned, the next time you see this one, it will be dug in.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

M16 GMC Part 2

Detailing the cab

Once the basic chassis assembly is complete I can begin adding the cab parts. The cab on Dragons M16 lacks a few small details and their winch option in all of the kits is missing a bit as well. Please keep in mind as you read that, I am not 'dogging' the kit, just pointing out the facts. It is up to the individual modeler to build as he/she sees fit. I have chosen to 'fix' these issues.

Comparing the first image below of the dry fit assembly with the Hunnicutt photo of the winch, we can see some of the omissions I will be addressing. Some omissions may be the result of molding limitations, others may be the result of mistakes in research process, one special not here is part number B-28, which is on the sprue but not called out in the instructions.

One of the omissions that span the entire half track series is the lack of the PTO lever in the cab. You can see a photo of the real thing below and my scratch built version. Note that unlike the other shift levers in the cab, the PTO lever is a tapered, flat stock lever and not a tubular rod shape. I've also replaced the misshapen gear selector with some brass rod.

The inner fender well area is missing some retaining/stiffening strips and their corresponding bolts. After filling in the depresions from the molds, I've added them from some styrene strips and bolts.

In these next photos you can see the actual aerial bracket and the guard on the bottom missing in the kit. I simply bent a piece of foil and added it after placing it on the assembled cab. There was also a common bracket to the M16, found on the passenger side top rail. This was used as a spare aerial mounting and in at least one case I have seen of a vehicle in Korea, a .50 cal. machine gun. I scratch built this bracket and also removed the large gussets and replaced with much smaller versions, closer to what I've found to be more common in reference photos.

As the cab assembly begins to take shape I can still find some places to super detail. The doors are on area, depending on whether you are showing the top section folded up or down. The barrel bolt style locking mechanism is molded in the up position. To show the flap down, I shave back the interior bolt rod to the ridge line seen in the photo. The battery box is lacking a bit of detail as well. Remember, it's all of these small protrusions that catch the pin washes and pigments when weathering.

A last look at the three main sub assemblies before dry fitting. You may notice the Tank Workshop suspension parts in the photo. While they do offer some added detail and accuracy, I will customize the kit parts on the next build. I wasn't completely thrilled with these parts but I'll leave it at that.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

M16 GMC Part 1

Sprucing up the quad .50

Now there are those who consider me, or those like myself to be 'rivet counters'. Usually this term is used in a derogatory manner and to be perfectly frank, it straight up old hat, boring and tiresome to put up with. I'm not sure why those people who choose to research and correct kits and those who choose to build strictly out of the box cannot both exist simultaneously in the same place, at the same time, doing what each individual enjoys without pointing fingers and calling each other names.

Enough of the soapbox rants, lets get back to modeling.

I almost never build in the order of the instructions, especially when it's a kit I'm familiar with. In this instance I've chosen to begin with the gun assembly. Using the TM 9-223 and the Hunnicutt book, I've added many of the small missing details to the assembly. The last of the three photos shows the addition of the missing welds on the gunners shield, made with stretched sprue and the tip of a broken exacto blade.

Moving on to the crew compartment itself using the same reference materials, I've added the various missing details to the gun pedestal and the grenade boxes. I've also separated the fuel tank armor from the tanks themselves and rounded off the edges of the tanks to show the gap which does not appear on the kits as it does on the real vehicle. Lastly, I've had to scribe the joint between the two folding side panels as Dragon omitted this small detail in their molds.

The layout above, with four tombstone ammo cans and the small radio shelf has been chosen purposely by me, even though there are those more knowledgeable that recommend otherwise. I have based my choice upon a wartime photo of a specific M16 called 'Hitlers Hearse', showing this exact layout. Notice in the cropping below that there is also no aerial mounted on the vehicle.

My next entry will start on the cab and get the three main sub assemblies together to prepare for the paint. You wont find too much on the frame and suspension as this is common to all of the half track kits and will be covered in greater detail in other blogs.

Monday, August 3, 2009

M4A1 Mortar Carrier part 4

Nearing Completion

This entry is fairly simple, containing only a few photos with only a couple of changes. Painting the small details is usually a time consuming process and while I have done a lot of things since my last update, they are all so small that it doesn't appear as such. Things like tool handles, machine gun handles and other small odds and ends can really stand out and give the model some life though, especially against a drab, (pun intended) single colored background. While the tool handles would most likely be olive drab in color on the real vehicle, the wood grain technique used by many modelers is done in an artistic way IMO, adding some variations of color to the finished product.

I've also shown the lenses I used for the de-mountable headlights, sitting in the storage rack in the photo below. This is the first time I used the resin de-mountable headlights from Formations and the lenses that come with. While I am happy with the effect they give considering the simplicity of the installation, they do lack the textured lines a headlight lenses would have. The kit lenses have this detail and may have been a better choice in the long run. Live and learn they say and every build for me is a lesson to to apply to the next attempt.

I've also begun laying the pigments, MIG in this case and I'm using three colors in this application to give some variation and depth. I'm trying to imply that perhaps some of the mud/dirt was deposited the day before, while some is fresh. Perhaps some of the lighter stuff is weeks old, while the darker tones are days old. Who really knows?

I apply them using a small brush and some turpentine for a fixer. The pigments will go on much darker than they will dry too, so experimentation for the correct tones you may want is recommended. Below are two overall pictures of where the model is at this stage, followed by two more photos showing closer details of the layered pigments.

My next steps will be making the display base and mounting the half track. Until that point this model will be gently placed into a box awaiting the bases construction. Once the model is mounted, there will be final weathering done to both the half track and the base, to tie them together as one. I will use that time to finish anything I may have missed or anything I am not fully satisfied with, (like the Jerry can on the passenger side and the strap for both). I will also be completing the tarp and a figure during break in this build and will return with the final update when all of the elements are completed and mounted.

Next I will begin my build of Dragons M16 GMC, hope to see you along for that one as well!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

M4A1 mortar carrier part 3

Bringing out the details

I assembled the markings from various Archer dry transfer sets to show a 3rd Armored Division vehicle, 36th Armored Infantry division, 2nd Head Quarters vehicle 41. I can't attest to the absolute accuracy of these set up but it was about the best I could come up with and will hardly be visible due to the weathering.

I applied one final misting from the airbrush to tone down the fresh white color of the markings and went over this with a rough wash of oil paint. I followed this with a more precise pin wash to the raised details and panels lines.

After painting the tracks, road wheels and front tires in Floquil's 'Grimy Black' I added a bit more gray to it and painted the machine gun. The next step was to add a bit of brown to that mix to paint the fiber tubes holding the mortar rounds. For a bit of bare metal shine on the drive and idler sprocket, I used an artists graphite pencil.

A mix of some olive drab and khaki went on the tarps and bedrolls, these will get more various shades applied to them later but this served as a fairly decent base. I lightened the mixed and painted the straps holding all the stowage and then put a little gray/green mix on the buckles.

The last step was some random dabs of paint, some done with a torn piece of a 'Scotch Brite' pad and some with a fine brush. This was applied in the general 'chipping' technique application, although I don't necessarily mean to portray paint chipping as much as general scuffs and smudges.