Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Ware Last Men on the Moon

Here is New Ware's 1/24th scale vignette of Gene Cernan (with the red stripes) and Jack Schmitt (sans red stripes) prospecting on the surface of the moon. Everything you see here comes in the kit, except for a few pieces of wire that I snipped out of the innards of a defunct radio. Each astronaut consists of a mere handful of parts - a main body including boots and gloves, a separate helmet, a separate backpack, two sample bags, and a camera. The casting was quite good. Note the shaft of the scoop in Schmitt's hand. That's a resin casting, not a piece of wire, and that attests to the quality of the casting, the relatively supple nature of the resin, and the restrained nature of the pour plug.
This was one of the first models I finished after my heart attack and surgery, and I chose it because it was easy to work on in bed. The mold parting lines didn't require a lot of work, there wasn't a whole lot of assembly, and the pour plugs were not difficult to deal with and didn't require heavy machining.
Painting, on the other hand... After assembling the figures all the way (except for the scoop) I sprayed them with eight or ten coats of hardware store flat white paint, which helped to fill in the few tiny holes and tooling marks I found on the figures. It also accounted for about 90% of the painting, since the astronauts are, as a first approximation, entirely white. As a second approximation, they're almost entirely white. I used acrylic paints for the recognition bands, connectors, gloves, boots and Velcro bits, and stainless steel metalizer for the camera cases. Then it was time to shadow the figures, which I did by mixing up a wash of Testor's Engine Grey and basically dunking the figures. I find white very hard to shadow. I always end up turning the white highlights into dull grey, and these figures are no exceptions. They are more grey than they should be and they don't "pop" like the astronauts in full sunlight did in photographs, but in this case I think I prefer the overly grey appearance because it shows off the detail in the suits better than a whiter and more monochromatic finish would have. Rather than paint the helmet visors gold or black, I tried to paint reflections of the sky and lunar surface onto the curved surfaces, and then covered them with several coats of Future to give them a gloss sheen. I'll leave it to viewers to determine how well I did.
I painted the base with Tamiya "deck tan" acrylic and subjected it to a heavy wash of the same Engine Grey color (using a different color might have made the figures and the base appear to be lit by different light sources) and then after it dried I scrubbed the base with various tan, brown, black, orange and iron oxide red pastels. I use heavy white-bristled brushes for this sort of work and usually don't have to scrape or sand the pastel sticks; the brush does a good job of removing the material. I tried to produce an uneven blob of patchy oranish soil around their feet to simulate the volcanic glass beads that the astronauts found in real life, though overcoating with Dullcote took some of the brightness off of my orange patch. While I was at it I brushed pastels on the the astronauts' legs, boots and gloves. The last construction step was assembling and painting the scoop stainless steel, and then gluing it into Schmitt's hand.
The decals were comprehensive, very well printed, thin, responsive to Micro-Sol, and tiny. So tiny that I lost a few in what amounts to thin air. I plucked them off the decal backing sheet with the tip of a #11 knife blade, but then they simply vanished. Fortunately New Ware provides two identical decal sheets so there were spares, though to be honest I didn't put on all the decals on the front of the PLSS backbacks, and I never did figure out from the instructions where decal #15 (a fairly large stencil) goes.
All in all, I was quite pleased with this kit. On the good side, it featured easy assembly, good fit, modest pour stubs, flexible resin, very few pinholes, good surface detail, a nice base, excellent decals, and good instructions as far as they went. I could have used more comprehensive decal placement instructions, myself. But on the whole, very well done and a hoot to build.

Italeri 1/72nd M-20 Armored Car

Here is Italeri's 1/72nd scale M-20 armored car. It's an interesting thing. It includes the normal (and somewhat spindly) undercarriage shown here, and a more robust one-piece wheel-tire-suspension package probably intended for wargaming. The one-piece assembly wasn't actually too bad, at least from the side. I used the spindly undercarriage and had trouble getting all six tires to touch the ground, and I found that the microscopic attachment points were easily obliterated with MEK. I found it difficult to assemble, especially the suspension, and every time I look at it, I think the rear axles are too far apart. There's also a very significant gap between the upper hull and the sponson; I glued the jerry cans in place to cover the gap. The jerry cans come with a rack, but I elected to not fiddle with it, my eyesight and patience not being what they once were.

I airbrushed everyone Model Master faded olive drab, then hit the vehicle with a heavy wash of burnt umber. The jerry cans and backpacks are native faded olive drab, which shows the difference between the washed and unwashed areas. The tires were painted with acrylic charcoal, and then I drybrushed the thing with - of all things - my wife's Bare Essentials makeup. She got on some automatic refill program and there's Bare Essentials all over the house, so I borrowed the light skin tone and the brush and did the old swirl-tap-buff, and I was amazed at how well Bare Essentials adapted to armored vehicles. Note the straps on the backpacks and the cleats on the tires in particular; all the highlighting is Bare Essentials.

The decals were pretty good. I thought the large star-and-circle would be a problem, with it went down pretty well. All in all, somewhat troublesome to assemble and marred by handle-less jerry cans and that problem with the rear axles, but still fun.

Revell 1/72nd Challenger I

Revell-Germany's 1/72nd scale Challenger I MBT. I liked this kit, by and large. The fit was pretty decent and I thought it had nice engraving and pretty reasonable detail for the scale, though the mesh on the various turret "saddlebags" isn't really mesh and the smoke grenades aren't very convincing. But the FN-MAG machine gun is good, the detail of the thermal covering on the gun barrel is very good, and the various screens and vents on the engine deck responded nicely to drybrushing. The downside is that this kit came with link-and-length tracks, something I've never really liked, and there is no crew at all. I painted it per the instructions, with black camouflage over olivish green paint. I like the effect, though the turret has such a low profile it's tricky to paint.