Sunday, 15 October 2017

Star Wars Snowspeeder [WIP - Power/Repulsor/Laser Systems & Airbrake Flaps]

Filling up the snowspeeder's upper hull involved assembling and painting two large units, each of which contains the power coupling/convertor, laser activator, air intake, repulsor and air brake flap. They are basically the second most focused-on eye candy apart from the pilots inside the cockpit. As such it's well worth it to put in the necessary hours to make them look as good as possible. At this stage their paint job is more or less complete with weathering as the only step yet to be done.

Bandai Snowspeeder work-in-progress: Power/Repulsor/Laser System and Air Brake units

Assembly was easy and straightforward with each unit having options to deploy the air brake flaps as well as have certain sections showing its innards. I chose to have the left air brake flap deployed and all other sections completely covered up. Both choices relate to how Wedge's snowspeeder looked inflight during the Battle of Hoth, specifically when it was banking upwards from dive and turning leftwards at the same time. This will require both air brakes on the lower hull to be deployed as well (please refer to the two separate unattached pieces on the lower left quadrant of the last photo).

Assembly of the right unit together with an undeployed version of the main air brakes
Assembly of the left unit together with a deployed version of the main air brakes

One key weakness of Bandai's plastic (used to mould the parts) is that it's susceptible to cracking when exposed to white spirit or enamel thinners in general. I've had many parts break into two after being weakened to the point of brittleness by overexposure to thinners. In fact the smaller trapezium-shaped section on the left unit broke off and had to be reattached with the help of some glue. When this happened I was too busy cursing and swearing to take any photos of the damaged stage. 

Similar to the hull, the whole unit/piece was treated with an enamel-based panel liner ...
... and the excess liner was cleaned up with enamel thinner

Chipped orange stripes put the not quite finishing touch to the pieces. There is still some weathering streaks as well as decals to add before these can really be called one. But those steps will only be carried out once the snowspeeder has been fully assembled. Also missing from these two large units are the laser barrels, which I had inexcusably forgotten about. So that needs doing too.

All painted up and ready to be attached to the snowspeeder's upper hull

Before the snowspeeder is fully assembled and given its decals plus weathering streaks, it will undergo its second dry fitting session. Here, everything except the laser barrels, deployed air brake flaps and canopy will be attached to the main hull. It is essentially the last opened-cockpit look at the vehicle before the final photos are shown. So the end is near and the snowspeeder that took down a AT-AT walker during the Battle of Hoth will soon have its day in the sun ... or is that snow?

Thursday, 12 October 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Road Wheels]

There are more ways than one to paint the road wheels of a tank. Among the choices available to scale modellers are to use an air brush/spray can in conjunction with a commercial road wheel template or to hand brush the rubber sections separately from the steel rims. In between are of course many other variations of these two techniques. What I eventually came up with may not be the best method to paint wheels but it's definitely one that works for me. It involves creating disposable paint masks with a circle template plus a combination of hand brush and spray can painting. 

Tamiya T-55A Medium Tank work-in-progress, metal tank wheels with rubber tyres

My initial priority was to find a suitable material for use as a paint mask. Ideally I would've preferred to use masking tape. But the largest one I had was 18 mm in width so short of sticking several together and cutting through a sticky mess I was left searching for an alternative masking material. In the end I settled for some cheap index cards which I cut into a circle and inverted circle (waste not, want not). The former was used to mask the steel rims while the latter masked the rubber section. Adhesive tacks and rolled-up Tamiya masking tape were used to stick the masks onto the wheels.   

Using a circle template to make disposable paint masks for the tank road wheels

First up for spray painting were the rubber sections of the tank road wheels. So the steel rims were masked with the circled cut-outs. In hindsight, I should've spray painted the steel rims first followed by the rubber tyres. This was because the circled mask worked so well that I had an almost flawless results i.e. practically no visible overspray of Rubber Black paint on the steel rims. This was largely due to the slightly larger size of the circle mask versus the inverted circle mask. 

Steel rims of the tank road wheels were the first to be masked out
Tamiya TS-82 Rubber Black was then sprayed on the road wheels
Road wheels with their rubber tyres/liners all painted up
Seeing how well the paint masks worked, I should've painted the steel rims first instead

As you can see below, overspray was a problem when the steel rims were spray painted. Some of the Olive Drab 2 colours had gotten onto the rubber tyres, which was to be expected seeing that the inverted circle never fully covered the rubber section of the wheel. In addition I made a technical error of spray painting the insides of the road wheels (side facing the lower hull). If I had analyzed the whole process better I wouldn't have wasted precious paint (and primer) on the insides as they aren't visible once attached to the lower hull. Something to take note of in future builds.

It was now the rubber tyres' turn to be masked out for spray painting
Tamiya TS-28 Olive Drab 2, the tank's primary hue, was then sprayed on the wheels
This time the masks didn't work as well with paint overspray hitting the rubber tyres

Fixing the overspray on the rubber tyres was easy for two reasons. Firstly, painting black on top of any colour is always going to be easier than vice versa. Secondly, there wasn't much surface area to touch up with paint anyway so it wasn't a wasteful, time consuming process.   

To fix the overspray I used Tamiya's paint bottle version of rubber black i.e. XF-85
A milk-like consistency of Tamiya XF-85 Rubber Black was then hand brushed on the tyres

Tedious as the whole process was, it has positives too. There is something to be said for the repetitive nature of painting tank road wheels. It begets an almost similar zen-like state I find myself in when applying layer after thin layer of acrylic paint on miniature figurines. Not quite as calming. But as monotonous tasks go, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It all boils down to one's state of mind when working on parts of a scale model that require repetitive tasks. You can either get hot and bothered or you can enjoy it. Since you're already spending precious little free time on a hobby you love, I say enjoy it. If not why do it, right?

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Star Wars Snowspeeder [WIP - Initial Dry Fitting of Parts Painted So Far]

When I first started out in this hobby I always grappled with the dilemma of either painting a fully assembled kit or painting individual parts before putting them all together. Of course I now know this to be a false dilemma. There is a third option that lies somewhere in between both extremes. And the Bandai 1/48 scale Star Wars Snowspeeder is a good example of this in which a few sub-assemblies can be build and painted before everything is put together. Using parts already painted so far, which incidentally is only up to Step 2 of 10, I carried out an initial dry fitting that you can see below.

Bandai Snowspeeder work-in-progress: initial dry fitting of parts painted so far
Many parts (e.g. repulsor/power system, air brakes, etc.) are still missing from this initial dry fitting exercise

In my earlier TIE Fighter builds, I had used canopy options sans any clear plastic coverings so as to allow better visual access to the cockpit area. A lack of lighting on the TIE pilots had necessitated my choice then. In contrast, numerous openings on the snowspeeder canopy meant I could now use the canopy option with a clear plastic covering. I'm fairly confident the visibility of the snowspeeder pilots will remain good even after the canopy is firmly attached to the ship's cockpit area.

Canopy openings have been installed with a clear plastic from the inside
Clear plastic on the canopy openings should prevent dust from getting to the pilots

Many parts are obviously still missing from this initial dry fitting exercise. Notably absent are the snowspeeder's repulsor/fuel/laser systems and air brakes. When these parts are attached, the upper hull will have a less monotone look as it receives more stripes of chipped orange paint. 

Upper hull of snowspeeder will eventually undergo weathering with pastels ...
... for the moment it's just basically panel lining on the basecoat ...
... and some chipped orange paint stripes

One key thing I wanted to find out from this exercise was to see how the pilots and cockpit area - as an integrated unit - would look like in relation to the upper hull. In any scale model kit, the focal point of one's eyes will more often than not rest on the accompanying figurines. It is more likely for a badly painted figurine to ruin a scale model rather than vice versa. Based on this early dry fitting, I'm completely satisfied with how Rebel pilots Wedge Antilles and Wes Janson has turned out.   

As of yet, the cockpit area has not been fixed with the canopy
Closeup of Rebel pilots Wes Janson (left) and Wedge Antilles (right) from the side
Getting 'metal' to show from 'scratches' gives the cooling fins a more 'weighty and solid' look 
Orange stripes on the forthcoming repulsor/fuel systems will add more colour to the whole scheme
Bright colour scheme allows the power generator/engine remains visible, albeit barely, through the cooling fins

Although this is only Step 2 of 10 of the build process, I fully expect things to gather pace after this. For one I've already determined which painting/weathering techniques to use in the subsequent steps. That means less time will be wasted on experimenting. Moreover I expect less paint-hours to be spent on the subsequent parts as none should be as time consuming as the two pilot figurines.    

Empty spaces at the bottom right and left corner is where the repulsor generators and fuel tanks will go
Overhead view of the work-in-progress snowspeeder
Bottom view of the work-in-progress snowspeeder
Its stating the obvious but things will look less empty once the repulsor/fuel systems are attached
Rear section of the snowspeeder is also missing its air brakes

Looking back at what has been done so far and what has yet to be done, it's becoming obvious to me that the snowspeeder is going to be a very easy build. It's the painting, weathering and decals that constitute the main challenges for this Bandai Star Wars scale model kit. 

Pilots add a badly needed injection of colours to the whole scheme
Closeup of both pilots from the reverse side angle

So the stage is now set for the final few sub-assemblies to be painted and put in place. Even once everything is in place there is still the weathering and decals to do. Best I get to it then. The weekend is almost over so I bid you au revoir and a pleasant week ahead.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Primer and Basecoats]

Even before any significant layer of paint has been applied, it already feels like I've achieved a lot of progress in the Tamiya 1/35 scale T-55A Medium Tank. The key phrase here is feels like because all I've actually done up to now is only prime and basecoat the scale model. And yet many hours have been poured into the tank just to prep, prime and basecoat it. But as insanely monotonous as the whole process was, it's still an important one to do carefully and patiently. A good foundation is critical for the subsequent painting and weathering process to have any chance of turning out well. 

Tamiya's Fine Surface Primer retains the rough texture on the turret
Mr Hobby's Mr Surfacer 1200 (Gray) and Tamiya's Fine Surface Primer (Light Gray)

Two types of primers were used because I wanted to try out the Mr Hobby Mr Surfacer 1200 as a complement to my trusted go-to brand i.e. the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer. Where I live, the former is cheaper to source thus affording me an alternative with which to stretch the hobby budget out. As I didn't know how the Mr Surfacer 1200 would perform in hot and humid weather, I tested it out on the road wheels, tracks and gun barrel. The first two was chosen because if things went wrong I could compensate with extensive weathering while the gun didn't have any fine details a primer could hide. 

Each wheel was primed (and later basecoated) individually making it a time-consuming affair
Other than the wheels, the tank's gun barrel and tracks were also primed using Mr Surfacer 1200

As it turns out I had nothing to worry about as Mr Surfacer 1200 worked great. The resulting primer coat was fine enough that no details were lost/covered up. And as for the rest of the tank (i.e. turret, hull, commander, snorkel, unditching log, tow cables and fuel drums), they were primed using the Tamiya Fine Surfacre Primer and produced the usual excellent results. For an idea of just how fine the resulting Tamiya primer coat was, take a look at the first photo in this post. All part details as well as turret texture was well preserved. In short both primers worked well in hot and humid weather.  

Figurine, unditching log/beam and to a lesser extent the snorkel was primed using Tamiya
Priming tow cables with a spray can lead to unnecessary wastage; something to avoid in the future
Each and every part detail and texture was well preserved by the Tamiya Fine Surface Primer
Eagle-eyed modellers would've spotted injector pin marks on the inside of the turret hatch
Wheel support arms were masked off to prevent paint/primer getting on them and affecting assembly later on
Tamiya's primer was fine enough to prime the mesh/grilles and not affect its details

While allowing the primer coat to dry overnight, I tried out two Tamiya greens to try and match the primary colour of the Czechoslovakian Army T-55A tank. As you can see from the immediate photograph below, the spoon on the left (sprayed with Tamiya TS-28 Olive Drab 2) was a better match when compared with the spoon on the left (Tamiya TS-61 Nato Green). Technically, the recommended colour for this version of the tank was Tamiya XF-51 Khaki Drab. However, I felt that that colour was too dull as the primary hue considering the tank will undergo further weathering. 

Comparing TS-28 Olive Drab 2 (left) to TS-61 Nato Green (right) for use as the primary hue of the Czech T-55A
Comparing the sprue's original khaki green hues to the spray painted fuel drums' TS-28 Olive Drab 2
Certain parts of the tank were painted in Tamiya XF-51 Khaki Drab for some colour variety

Nonetheless I do plan to incorporate Tamiya Khaki Drab into the overall colour scheme in some form or other. At the very least this should provide colour variation into what otherwise would be a monotone hull. Anyway, in a short time I had used up nearly one whole 100 ml can of TS-28 paint. These Tamiya spray paints are expensive hence not very cost effective if one can lasts for only one 1/35 scale tank. Going forward I will have to consider getting an airbrush system. That would burn a big hole in the hobby budget but in the long run I could save much more money. 

Canvas covering gun mantlet offers opportunity to further diversify the overall colour scheme
Details and texture remain good even after a layer of Tamiya TS-28 Olive Drab 2 lacquer paint
Tamiya T-55A hull, basecoated and awaiting further paints and weathering

Apart from the monotone olive drab covering the hull and turret, other more appropriate basecoat colours were used on the rubber portions of the road wheels, the tracks, the tow cables, the unditching log and of course the commander figurine (see below). Getting clean lines for the road wheels took a lot of work and the entire process will be expanded upon in a later post.     

Road wheels took the most time to basecoat and will get their very own how-to post next week
Tracks and tow steel cables were basecoated with AK Interactive Track Primer
And most colourfully basecoated were the commander figurine and unditching log/beam

Meanwhile, a momentary loss of concentration resulted in too much paint being sprayed onto the mesh aka grilles. This clogged up a fair amount of the holes in the mesh. Thankfully it was nothing too complicated that a simple toothpick and a repaint couldn't fix. At the time I didn't have any Tamiya XF-58 Olive Drab (a paint bottle equivalent of the TS-28) at hand for the repaint. Instead I used the Vallejo Model Color 70.894 Camouflage Olive Green which is a fairly close approximation of the TS-28 hue. This time care was taken not to re-clog the holes during the repainting by brush.

A momentary lapse in concentration saw the spray nozzle being depressed too long thus clogging up the mesh 
To fix the clogged-up mess I used a sharpened toothpick to poke out some holes again in the mesh
Closest colour match I had to repaint the mesh was the Vallejo Model Color 70.894 Cam. Olive Green

Both the primer and basecoat are the boring parts of the whole AFV process. The fun begins when painting and weathering starts to bring the scale model to life. Work on this has begun even as I do an initial dry-fitting of the painted parts of the Bandai Star Wars Snowspeeder. More soon on both the T-55A (next week) and Snowspeeder (later this week). As I busy myself with hobby stuff, I leave you with this humorous quote from a late US columnist ... "Have you noticed that even the busiest people are never too busy to take time to tell you how busy they are?" Sound familiar?

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