Sunday, May 20, 2007
I took a four or five year hiatus from modeling a while back, for various reasons (getting married being high on the list of reasons) and the Gemini was one of the first things I built after getting back into the hobby. Consequently, it isn't terribly good, and spending a year in storage and going through a couple of house moves didn't do it much good either.
I built it entirely out of the box. The finish is hardware store flat white and hardware store flat black, though I lightly sanded the flat white until the grey plastic of the raised hatches, screws and access panels just started to show, and I rubbed the flat black with graphite I harvested by rubbing a common pencil on a piece of sandpaper. I like the graphite-over-black look; it looks more metallic than just flat black, but it doesn't look overly metallic either. The crew and interior were painted for the most part with acrylic craft paint, and I used red craft paint, an extremely stiff brush, and masks made from masking tape to stencil on the red Velcro strips.
I'm pleased with it because it represents my return to a hobby I love, but I'm displeased with it because I think I could have done better.
I don't remember if the markings came from the Tamiya kit or not, to be perfectly honest, but if they didn't, then I have no idea where I came up with the checkboard rudder marking.
Friday, May 18, 2007
The main story behind this model is that the unbuilt kit was blown off my carport by a terrible dust storm one summer. The box vanished entirely, as did the instructions, but after wandering around in the desert for a while I found the bagged parts wedged in a bush and the tracks scattered across the ground. So I built it without the box and without the instructions, so I'm pretty sure I didn't get the decals on right, and I'm not sure the pintle-mounted .50-cal machine gun is right either. But it's not bad for guessing, I suppose, and the paint isn't bad for having come out of a spray can.
This is a nice kit, enough of a multi-media thing to give one a mild thrill of excitement, but not so much that it starts to feel like building a brass locomotive. I really like Dragon/DML figure sets too, though I have a sneaking suspicion that I like the Don Greer cover paintings more than I like the figures themselves (though to be honest, they are nice figures).
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Ah, this was a fun one. This is the Glencoe reissue of the old Strombecker "Lunar Reconnaissance Ship." It was apparently retasked by Glencoe because now it's the "Retriever Rocket", but either way, it's the same kit. In principle it consists of the top stage of the Strombecker "Three Stage Rocket" equipped with external fuel tanks and with a nuclear reactor in the nose stinger (I think the silver part is the nuclear reactor, and the red cone is part of the radiation shielding system). I like the contradiction between the rocket's pointy and aerodynamic shape and the decidedly non-aerodynamic chunkiness of the external fuel tanks. It can either be cool or it can cause nagging existential confusion; it's your choice.
It is great fun to build. The styrene used in this kit was very flexible and rubbery, so much so that I could twist the fuselage halves through 180 degrees without any sign of distress at all. Since the fuel tanks are external, the interior is almost entirely devoted to crew quarters, but little can be seen through the portholes so I didn't bother adding anything to the interior. I did find a complete and fully painted Tornado cockpit assembly in my junk box and glued it in under the windscreen, but hardly any of it can be seen, even up close (the windscreen is not very clear and doesn't fit very well either; experts may wish to chuck it entirely).
The rocket engine and fuel and oxidizer pipes are nicely done. Less nicely done is the steerable communications antenna. At least that's what I guess it is, the copper-colored thing atop the whole works. It would look much better as a photoetched part, but then again, the original Strombecker kit didn't feature PE, did it? I departed from the instructions by painting the "bottle suit" on the bottom airlock blue, something I shouldn't have done, but I've learned a lesson for next time, yes?
I painted the tanks in a mishmash of colors, mostly "desert mustard" and slate blue, the theory being that in a busy depot, crews would replace damaged tanks without paying much attention to their paint schemes (and I further presumed that the paint represented varying makes of tank insulation). The whole fuel tank assembly looks like trouble during the early stages of assembly, but once you get the tanks installed on the rings and the rings installed on the fuselage, it turns out to be surprisingly robust. Not robust, mind you, but not nearly as flimsy as one might think. The modern decals work well, but I wish there were more of them.
I love these old blast-from-the-past kits!
This is the Academy SCA ("Shuttle Carrier Aircraft") with Shuttle payload. I can't remember the scale, actually, but comparing it with an STC-Start Buran suggests that it's 1/288th scale.
It's an easy kit to build. Neither the 747 nor the Orbiter consume a lot of parts, and the only real trick is getting the combined blue cheat line and window decal on straight. I laid down a strip of thin Tamiya masking tape to establish a straight line, then masked the white so I could spray the grey. Once the masking tape was removed, I used the ege of the grey line to help align the cheat line decal. It didn' want to fit terribly well at the nose, so I mixed a little blue acrylic paint to match the decal to tidy up the mess. I elected to leave off the main engine fairing and marked the Orbiter as Discovery. If I have any real complaint with the kit, it is that the main windscreen for the 747 is molded in transparent orange plastic, the same stuff that the stand is made from. If I were to do it again, I'd fill the windows entirely and replace them with bits of black decal film.
It's not a wonderland of detail and the decals, while acceptable and workable, are not profuse. But still, it builds into a nice-looking model without making one gnash one's teeth. One may want to replace the vertical fins on the ends of the horizontal stabilizers because the kit-supplied ones are probably about six feet thick in scale, and if (like me) you didn't drill out the holes for the pylons, you're left having to eyeball their placement and alignment. But there's nothing in here to daunt a halfway competent modeler.
One night I was watching an old Mystery Science Theater 3000 rerun and fiddling with a random piece of hardwood when it suddenly struck me that the piece of wood had pretty close to the same proportions as the monolith from 2001. I had an Airfix Astronaut set in my collection, the flexible vinyl guys that bear the mysterious scale of "HO/OO", and suddenly the idea of combining my piece of wood with a couple of Airfix astronauts occurred to me.
The first order of business was sealing and sanding the wood until it was quite smooth, and then covering it with six or eight coats of flat black paint. I then used a car model paint polishing kit to slowly smooth out the flat black paint. I wanted the monolith to be extremely smooth but not mirror-polished, so I stopped at one of the middling grades of polishing cloth when the monolith became smooth but not reflective.
At that point it was easy to make a small base out of a scrap of basswood, covered with Durham's worked into "lunar-like features" and sprinked with a variety of small stones sifted out of the dirt in my front yard. I painted up a couple of Apollo astronauts (easy enough - white suits, blue and red connector details, gold visors, metallic highlights on their implements, and a couple of tiny US flags taken from a Verlinden 1/35th scale US uniform decal sheet). And that was that.
Tycho Base, do you copy, over?
I like painting figures, and seem to have the most fun with figures around the 120mm mark. Larger than that and they get kind of cumbersome and tedious; smaller than that and they become difficult for me to paint. But 120mm is a nice size, at least for me.
Mostly I used so-called "craft paints" on Grant, mostly Delta Ceramcoat. I like these paints because they're easy to access, are quite inexpensive, mix easily, and clean up easily. They don't stick particularly well and like all acrylics don't support on-the-figure shading and highlighting, but I'm not that involved. If my technique of using washes and drybrushing won't win me any awards at model shows, well, I'm okay with that.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
I have no idea what this is supposed to be. I bought it in a "make offer" bargain bin from a game shop that was going out of business. It's 25mm, and it's from Citadel, but that's all I remember. It's some kind of science-ficiton cannon and two guys in vaguely Russian uniforms, but past that, your guess is as good as mine. (I say "vaguely Russian" because they look very Russian but have skulls where one would expect red stars.)
Probably the main comment I wanted to make was the base. The large rocks are pieces of decorative redwood bark, the groundwork itself is a mixture of Durham's water putty and kitty litter, and the base itself is a plastic lid from a jar of mixed nuts. The vegetation is dead stuff I found out in the yard. God knows what it is, except for dead.
Here's a 1/48th scale paper model of a Pegasus XL booster, in this particular case dressed as it was when it launched HESSI. The kit is available as a PDF from Philippus Lansbergen. I can't provide a direct link to the download as the artist asks one to not link directly to the model page, but it can be found by going here:
And then clicking on the "Models" button on the left side of the page.
It is pretty complicated for a paper kit, involving a lot of layering and creasing to reproduce the proper thickness of the fins and wing, but it's certainly not impossible. And frankly, as one can probably guess from the serious mess I made of the payload fairing, creasing and layering are something I can handle; making rounded or ogival nose cones is something I can't handle.
This particular example was printed on a Epson Stylus C66 printer, certainly not a high-end printer, on 67-pound stock. I enjoyed the built a great deal, except for the flush of shame that the wretched payload fairing gives me. Don't let the payload fairing deceive you; this is an excellent kit.
The burly-looking IS2 heavy tank was the Red Army's answer to German heavy tanks like the Panther and Tiger. Its lack of refinement made it an uncomfortable vehicle to crew, and the split ammunition for its 122mm main gun reduced its rate of fire, greatly accelerated crew fatigue, and reduced its ammunition load to only about 25 rounds. But for all that, it was well-armored, fairly mobile by heavy tank standards, and could stand and trade shots with the best the Germans had.
The kit comes with a lot of extra parts, but I have no idea what they're for, as the instructions are entirely in Russian. Once you get past obvious Russian words like "pectopah" and "het", I'm pretty much at sea, but my hunch is that the kit includes two upper hulls, one for the IS2 and one for the IS2m with its revised armor layout, and guns and mantlets for the IS1 (85mm main gun), IS2 and IS2m (122mm main gun).
Building the kit was not without problems. The road wheels are very delicate, and the sprue connections are very beefy, so getting the road wheels off the runners without ruining the steel rims requires care and deliberation. The upper and lower turret halves met with a substantial step, but instead of sanding or scraping the step, I attacked it with a stiff brush and lots of MEK, which made it look more like a weld seam than a step (and highlighted the turret's heavy cast texture to boot). The turret grab irons were afflicted with heavy parting lines and the plastic was brittle, so I replaced them with thin Evergreen styrene rod bent with round-nosed pliers and inserted into holes drilled in the turret. The unditching beam at the rear was a featureless cylinder, so I roughed it up by dragging a razor saw over it until it started to look a bit more like a genuine log. Some of the smaller parts are hard to identify - the saw in particular was difficult to identify, but other small parts were pretty good - the DshK machine gun was quite nice, I thought.
The kit uses link-and-length tracks. I don't like link-and-length tracks in general, and this kit did nothing to change my mind. The track links have desperately tiny attachment points and they are very easy to break. I made the tracks in upper and lower halves so I could remove them for painting, but during drybrushing I broke them into eight or ten or twelve pieces each. Time for the super glue, boys. Somehow in all this breaking and re-gluing one track ended up a half a link too short, and the other a half a link too long. To make this even more fun, the teeth in the drive sprockets don't fit through the tracks, so they had to be trimmed off.
The kit also has strange plastic. It has a definite grain and likes to split or tear like wood, not plastic, and that makes freeing the small parts even more fun.
I painted it overall green and added a lot of drybrushing and a liberal coat of dust (actual genuine dust), and hand-painted the markings, which are limited to a white recognition band around the turret and simple tactical numbers. I found a vinyl figure in my junk box - I think a Russian Spetsnaz guy from an old Esci (or Italeri, I don't remember) "modern infantry" set. I carved off the brim of his bush hat and built up a padded Russian tanker helmet out of epoxy putty, and mounted him in the turret so he's barely peering over the rim of the commander's cupola.
All in all, I found this kit difficult to build. The plethora of small parts, the huge gates, and the strange grainy plastic take some work to overcome, and the link-and-length tracks just never worked for me. And at $16.00 it's a bit pricy for 1/72nd scale. But on the other hand, it turns into a nicely detailed model that captures the brutish, ominous lines of the original. Recommended if you're interested in Red Army armor of the Great Patriotic War, but the kit requires a certain amount of patience.
This was even easier to build than Emhar's Mark-IV. The tracks and suspension are one-piece parts, which makes for extremely quick assembly. I didn't count, but I'd be surprised if there were more than twenty parts in the entire model. The only parts that required much in the way of manual dexterity were the mufflers, and the machine guns are not universal so there's a need to keep them halfway organized before installation.
I painted it olive drab (because it was handy) and drybrushed it with Radome Tan, then hand-painted the tracks dark red-brown with a lot of silver over the top of that. And that was pretty much the length of its forty cubits. The red and white recognition markings are decals, and I expected trouble from them, but I worried needlessly. It took a fair amount of setting solution to get the decals to conform to the deep relief of the track tensioners and details on the engine hood, but in the end they did conform nicely indeed.
I would have to say this is perhaps the easiest 1/72nd scale armor kit I've ever attempted, and certainly one of the most satisfactory.
Here's Emhar's 1/72nd scale British Mark-IV tank from the Great War. It's a mixed bag, frankly. I liked the surface detail, which was heavy on rivets and bolt heads. The tracks were workable, being three-part things made out of some kind of odd plastic that was sort of halfway between vinyl and styrene, but they were easy to form to the contours of the tank and secure with super glue. The decals were excellent - thin, opaque, and highly responsive to Micro-Sol (note the way the F56 decal settled down over the rivet heads).
On the less than brilliant side, the rails on the top of the tank (meant to carry unditching beams up and over the exhausts and top clutter, I think) were murder. The instructions are not clear on where they fit, the parts themselves are brittle and easily broken, and in the end I just sat and stared at the tank for a while and thought "If I were designing this, how would I fit the rails?" I also thought the machine gun barrels were very over-scale, but chose not to mess with them.
I painted the tank medium green and drybrushed it with my standby for such things, Model Master "Radome Tan", and then stabbed on a lot of dark brown craft paint wherever the tracks might have carried fresh mud.
In the end - nice surface detail, acceptable fit, excellent decals, and except for the unditching rails, a quick and easy build. The main problem is the difficulty in fitting the rails.
Assembly was pretty straightforward, except for adding the wings. They are butt-jointed to the fuselage, and whenever you butt-join a flat surface to a cylinder, you get gaps. I filled them with auto body filler and sanded them out, and replaced the basic seat with a better one I found in my junk box. I decided to show the canopy open, but I couldn't find any source that told me which way the canopy opened. Despite my hunch that it was a clamshell-style thing, I cut it in half and hinged it forward, like early MiG-21s, because I happen to like that look.
Oh God, another launch table! The same comments pertain. It's not easy to build, and most of the small parts are afflicted with parting lines, and I was never sure if I was putting the right parts in the places, but if you keep it all aligned and don't mind scraping a lot of tiny parts, it builds into a nice table that is actually sufficiently square it won't require any shimming.
I decided to build a "launch complex". The complex is entirely fictitious, as I never found any photographs of what a real A4b launch facility would have looked like. Guessing that the Germans would have mounted the boarding and umbilical tower on rails, I sacrificed a piece of HO EZ Track for its rails, and took a truck off an HO boxcar. I added a platform to the top of the truck, and then added a wooden dowel to that as a platform. This was dressed up with random bits and pieces of wood and plastic. The "boarding ladder" was snipped out of quarter-inch hardware cloth, and the various boxes and whatnots at the base of the tower are (I think) interior parts from an old 1/48th scale F-105. Not accurate at all, but they convey a reasonable sense of accuracy, I think. I drilled the A4b and added fuel and drain lines made from ordinary insulated wire (I like using that because one can eventually convince it to take a fairly accurate droop, something that one can't do with rubber tubing).
The base is a piece of plywood, and the raised launch platform was carved from a piece of Styrofoam. The whole works was covered with Durham's water putty and scribed to resemble concrete. The vehicle is the old Hasegawa Mercedes staff car, the six-wheeled one with the figure riding shotgun who isn't in any way meant to resemble Adolf Hitler.
Oh God, another splinter scheme... This one was entirely made-up; I picked a scheme of light grey, grauviolett, and black, and spent a week picking all the tiny slices of 3M tape off my fingers. The black was dead-flat out of the bottle and looked strange and rough compared to the other two colors, so I sat for a while with an old t-shirt and a tub of rubbing compound until the various colors had a similar sheen (even though I overcoat my models as a matter of course, the black would have looked rough and pebbly even under a clear coat).
The decals were a mixture of Condor decals (mostly colorful circles that ring the points where the hoses connect to the rocket) and stuff out of my supply of spare decals, which by this point was virtually depleted of white Balkan crosses and swastikas (no great loss, one might say).
The interior parts consist of a couple of bulkheads, a seat, a stick, and a tiny vacuum-formed canopy. I somehow lost the canopy, so I filched a canopy from the Condor A4b kit and made a push-mold by pressing it into a block of warm clay. I let the clay cool overnight and pulled the canopy out, then poured in JB Weld. The resulting canopy was sanded, cleaned up, painted gloss black, and added to the model.
Here is my stab at building Condor's 1/72nd scale V2. The problem with photographing rockets is that their height requires me to stand quite a ways back, which means that no detail is visible. But I guess that's okay.
This actually is a fun to kit to build, within certain limits. The V2 itself only consumes a handful of parts, and the fit is pretty much what you'd expect from a limited-run kit - if you check, sand, fiddle and fuss, the fit is excellent. If you don't, well, be sure to have some putty on hand. The main corrective work involves butt-splicing two of the fins so they don't leave gaps, and doing something about the rather substantial offset between the two halves in the region of the nozzle. The nozzle insert and the steering vanes hide a lot of sins in this area, but some work is still called for.
The launch table is much harder to build. I didn't think the instructions exactly suffered from an excess of clarity, and there are a decided lack of positive locating features. I spent a lot of time eyeballing things and adjusting the alignment. It's fiddlesome work and there were some small parts I just couldn't figure out at all, but in the end you're rewarded with a pretty detailed launch table (if you build carefully, it'll even revolve, but I wasn't that careful).
The kit instructions include a four-view drawing of a V2 in splinter camouflage, but I used a scheme I found on the Internet. Is it accurate? I don't know, but it looks the part, and I half-suspect that no two V2s were quite identical anyway. I used Model Master panzer buff and panzer yellow, and Krylon olive drab, and lots and lots of sliced-up blue 3M tape. Have I ever mentioned what a drag masking a hard-edge splinter is?
I painted the launch table basic dark grey and oversprayed it with Burnt Metal metalizer, concentrating on the flame deflector in the bottom of the table.
To show some idea of scale, I threw in an old Hasegawa Schwimmwagen and a couple of figures on a base made out of Sculptamold and MDF.
At least until the authorities catch up with me.