Saturday, January 19, 2013

Iron Man

Iron Man, by Moebius.  Not quite a figure, and not quite a tank, and not quite a car, but something in between all of them.  In some ways, this is an excellent kit, not too fiddly to assemble, and with good engraved detail in the parts.  In other ways, though, it's a pain.  Most of the major parts (arms, legs, head, torso, etc) have highly visible seams, and it takes a lot of work to get rid of them.  Not much filler putty, but lots of heavy filing to level the parts, and then progressive sanding to get rid of the tool marks.  Some of the seams cross raised detail or occur in places that are hard to reach.

The upshot is that my natural urge would be to paint the model in process and assemble the pre-painted parts at the end.  But the nature of the seams means that you can't do that, not unless you want ugly seams visible.  If I were to build this kit again (and I might) I'd probably assemble, file, and sand the arms and legs separately, but I can't find any way to assemble and sand the chest and torso independently.  Most of my time was spend sanding and polishing the fully-assembled model before painting, and I think that's just a fact of life with this kit.  (I reduced the amount of time I spent on it by not getting too obsessive about the seams on the backs of his legs.  I did some work, but not as much as I did on the fronts.)

The instructions don't offer much insight on painting.  The instructions list good painting tips and techniques, but they aren't so helpful in deciding which part is gold or silver or red.  Fortunately, there are a lot of references, and since it's a comic book thing, I figure a certain artistic license on the part of the modeler is acceptable (such as the silver I applied to the flexible joints in his wrists and elbows - not prototypical, I don't think, but it makes sense to me, and it's MY model, so neener). 

I spray-painted the whole model with Tamiya metallic red lacquer that was left over from a Corvette model.  In retrospect, I wish I had used a somewhat deeper red, but it's still okay.  The silver and gold were brush-painted with old-school Testors enamels.  I basically brush-painted the whole model with a layer of thinned flat black acrylic craft paint, and then rubbed most of it off with an old sock and Q-tips, leaving the black paint in the recesses and along the edges of panels.  I rather like the effect, but then again, I like canned tamales; my tastes need not be taken as necessarily good.

I enjoyed building it, even with all the filing and sanding, and the fact that it's difficult to paint.  I didn't mind the work.  But I suspect a lot of kids are going to buy this model and be confounded by the scale of the task, or put off by the amount of sanding necessary.  It looks like a beginner's kit, but it really isn't.

Dragon LVT

This is the Dragon 1/72nd scale LVT, which I built fairly quickly mostly so I could try Vallejo paints on an armored vehicle.  LVTs were amphibious armored vehicles intended to help the Marines invade islands in the Pacific; this particular one is armed with a 75mm howitzer from an M8 and served with the 2nd Armored Amphibian battalion on Iwo Jima.  The kit offers two marking options, but I liked this one, because of the sand and brown camouflage.

It's a nice kit, and quite detailed for 1/72nd scale, especially in the turret.  The tracks are a kind of glue-able flexible plastic (maybe Vinyl, maybe not).  But they're a little too glue-able; I melted the joining areas right off one of the tracks through overzealous use of cement (you can see the gap in the tracks just over the rear return roller).  The Achilles Heel of many 1/72nd scale armored vehicles is the tracks, but the tracks in this kit are quite nice, with detail on the inside and outside, and the proper "scooped" grousers that propelled the thing through water.  There are two quirks with the model.  One is that the antenna bases are missing.  I'm pretty sure these were provided as parts and I merely lost them.  The second is the presence of two holes in the rear doors.  They look like mounting holes for something, but no parts were provided, and they aren't mentioned in the otherwise excellent instructions.  Maybe they're just peep-holes.  I don't know.

I spray-painted it with olive drab (really, Krylon "Oregano") and then brush-painted the rest of the camouflage with Vallejo acrylics.  It took several coats to get decent coverage, and even now, the coverage isn't great.  When I get around to weathering the vehicle, the blotchy sand and brown won't be evident, but if I wanted this model to show a factory-fresh example, I'd need another coat.  Or have to learn how to airbrush Vallejo paints.

The tracks are painted Oily Steel, and I do quite like that paint.  When you first apply it, it looks too thin, like it'll never cover, but it undergoes some kind of transformation as it dries and what looked like poor coverage at first suddenly turns very good.  I approve.

Vallejo Paints

Behold, my first use of Vallejo acrylic paints.  They're all the rage in the modeling world these days, but for a long time I resisted using them, mostly because I already had so much paint on hand that buying more felt like an needless expense.  The models are 1/144th scale Russian fighters: an Attack MiG-21MF in Egyptian markings, and an Academy Su-22 in what I think are Hungarian markings.  Both were brush-painted with Vallejo acrylics.

So what do I think?  First, the kits:  I like the Attack MiG-21; it's quite refined even in 1/144th scale, though a touch fiddly - the wings and horizontal stabilizers have TINY joining areas, and long-term durability is doubtful.  The Academy Su-22 is much more crude, simplified and chunky and sporting heavy panel lines that bring the old Matchbox kits to mind.  But they're cheap and easy to build, and don't take up much space on the shelf.

The paint:  I've been using craft paints for years, and honestly, Vallejo acrylics strike me as being little more than good quality craft paints.  They're good, and I'll probably keep using them, but if you have any experience with craft paint, you'll find Vallejo paints pretty familiar.  I like the squeeze bottles, and I think they lay down a little thinner than craft paint, but in most other respects, they're about the same.  The main advantages of them is that you don't have to mix colors - if you want US Army khaki, you can get it pre-mixed and you don't have to fiddle around trying to mix it on your own.  So, I regard them as good and worth using, but not quite the life-exchanging experience that the buzz seems to argue for.

(There is, upon reflection, one major advantage of Vallejo paints over craft paints.  I've never found a metallic craft paint that was worth anything, but the Vallejo "oily steel" metallic paint is very, very good.  Even if I decide not to keep buying Vallejo paints, that's one that I WILL keep using.)