Photo Studio Upgrade

The garage photo studio got a huge upgrade last night. In fact, I’m tempted to go all Idiocracy and call it an “Upgrayyedd” (the double D’s are for a double dose of pimpin’).

ShootingTable 7

Light Evolution

Back when I first got back into modeling, I had a very simple setup consisting of two clamp-style work lamps and a sheet of posterboard.

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It worked well enough in 1/48, but even smaller 1/32 kits bumped up against the limited size of the posterboard, and I had to be careful how I shot to avoid running out of backdrop at the edges of the frame.

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With the move in the fall of 2011, I upgraded somewhat, with a dedicated space in the new garage. This setup expanded to four lights, but the same old posterboard.

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And in time came to incorporate a light tent.

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This setup got me some great shots, particularly on black and silver backdrops, but running out of backdrop was still a big issue, particularly as I’ve been moving more and more into 1/32. When you start hitting wingspans of 15″ and up, a 20″ wide backdrop becomes somewhat limiting.

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Going Big

So for Father’s Day, the better half gave me permission to splurge on a dedicated photo table…basically an aluminum tube frame supporting a 40×80″ sheet of slightly translucent plexiglass.

I got it built last night.

Overall, assembly wasn’t bad, but flattening out the rolled plexi was a pain. Working slowly and swearing a lot I eventually got it mounted to the frame. Then, after an epic session with the ShopVac to clear away spider webs and other debris, I got the new setup, um, set up.

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The diffuser bags on the main lights are awesome photographically, but big and annoying from a placement perspective. I had to get creative with the one on the right…

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Underneath, the two work lamps soldier on, providing underside illumination.

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As for the results…well…

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The table is also big enough that I can photograph multiple subjects next to each other.

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I still have some dialing in to do in places (namely white balance), but so far I’m in love. This table makes it easy to get killer shots, and it’s more than big enough for even larger 1/32 kits like the Hobby Boss P-61 or HK B-25 Mitchell. Goodbye, days of doubling up posterboards and killing the seamlines in Photoshop!

Choosing a Big Cat

With the end of the Panda Pz.38(t) build in sight, I’m cautiously lifting my eyes to the next build(s).

While I waffle on aircraft (I’m leaning toward a MiG-3 and an He 162A-2), I have to say, the Pz.38 has re-ignited my long-dormant interest in armor. I’d been planning to follow up the 38 with a Soviet BM-21 Multiple-Rocket Launcher. Sadly I think my anticipated peaked too soon. And now in the true home stretch, I’ve found myself eyeing some big German cats. The problem?

Choosing.

I’m faced with three kits all giving me googly eyes…which would you choose?

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King Tiger (Porsche Turret)

Panther Ausf. G

Panther Ausf. G

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Tiger I Ausf.E

Review: PleasedShop Airbrushes

Recently, an eBay seller from whom I’ve bought a few ridiculously cheap items (like $1 braided airbrush hoses) sent around an email about a new online store they were opening – PleasedShop.com.

I’m always open to really cheap stuff, so I clicked over.

And then my jaw dropped.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting. But it sure as hell wasn’t $10 airbrushes. $10 airbrushes that looks to be fairly decent knockoffs of far more expensive airbrushes.

Curious, I ordered two – the $10, 0.3mm number that looks like an Iwata HP-C knockoff.

And a second $10 airbrush, a 0.2mm dual-action that looks for all the world like an Iwata HP-B.

Instead of the usual review, I’m going to do this as more of a Q&A. Mainly because I hate photographing/reviewing airbrushes. You don’t care if I can draw little food coloring stick figures on a paper towel, and neither do I. Ultimately, there are people out there who can do things with a Paasche H that would put any work I’ve done with a high-end Iwata to shame.

Ultimately, airbrushes come down largely to feel. They’re subjective.

Q. Is this a scam?

A. I was hesitant, but no. I placed my order (two airbrushes and a 10-pack of glass bottles) and received my goods in about two-three weeks. Packing wasn’t anything to write home about, but the airbrushes come in their own protective cases, and the glass bottles didn’t break or anything, so everything worked out.

Q. Are the airbrushes cheap Chinese knockoffs?

A. Yes.

Q. So that means they suck, right?

A. No. Both the 0.3mm and 0.2mm spray rather well. They aren’t as smooth as an Iwata or a Grex, and I wouldn’t necessarily favor them for work that requires detail and maximum control, but for general duties I can’t fault them.

Q. How do they “feel”?

A. Both are solid and don’t feel cheap at all. Balance is not as good as with my Iwatas, and on the HP-B knockoff the trigger seems uncomfortably close to the paint cup. 

Trigger resistance is relatively light (lighter than Iwata), and there’s a slightly gritty feel to it. Paint flow is linear and easy to anticipate.

Q. How are they to clean?

A. Overall, these airbrushes aren’t as smooth/precise as the best from Iwata/Grex/Harder & Steenbeck/etc. That means rougher textures in the paint cup, paint channel etc. And that means more places for paint to grab. These definitely require a bit more elbow grease to clean.

Q. Any problems with them?

A. Yes. The nozzles are cheap. I managed to snap one in half when reinstalling it the other night. Fortunately, replacements are also cheap.

Q. Are they worth it?

A. Yes. Think of it this way – they’re $10. Your argument is invalid. I would argue they’re worth it even just to experiment with different airbrush styles…

Conclusion. These two airbrushes aren’t about to replace my regular stable…but I have quite the stable. For me, they’re going to get the nasty jobs when I don’t want to trash out my better brushes. But for somebody looking into a first airbrush, or looking for a spare or four, I can’t recommend these highly enough. Just be sure to order some extra nozzles.

 

Thinning the Herd

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UPDATE: WOW! The response I’ve been getting has been staggering. I’m handling all on a first-come, first-served basis, so please bear with me as I work through all the shopping lists! Kits that are spoken for have been crossed out.

Additionally, I’ve added some kits that I neglected to list the first time around. They’re in bold below.

When I got back into modeling, I told myself I wouldn’t be one of those modelers who acquired an overflowing stash.

Yeah…

In the last three years, I’ve certainly acquired an overflowing stash. And over that same time, my tastes in what I want to build have changed. My interests have refined, and I’ve learned some things about my preferences along the way.

And looking at my stash with fresh eyes, there’s a lot there that, if I’m honest, I know I will never build.

So it’s time to make room.

Below is the list. Things that don’t go will be getting posted to eBay soon. Shipping will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Figure about $9-11 for most kits, but I can get exact estimates as needed.

If you want to inquire, use the comments, contact me via my Facebook page, or email me at mrmcdougall@gmail.com

1/32

  • Craftworks Lavochkin La-5/-5F/-5FN – $120
  • Dragon Messerschmitt Bf 110D/E Nachtjager – $50
  • Hasegawa Mitsubishi J2M2 Raiden “Prototype” – $55
  • Hasegawa/Minicraft P-51D Mustang – $15
  • Hobbycraft SPAD XIII – $15
  • MDC Hawker Typhoon Ib
  • Revell “ProModeller” Junkers Ju 88A-1 – $40
  • Revell Panavia Tornado GR.1 (incl. extensive Desert Storm decal set) – $25
  • Roden Nieuport 28c1 – $35
  • Trumpeter F4U-4 Corsair (previous owner started painting the cockpit) – $25
  • Trumpeter P-47D-30 Thunderbolt (late bubbletop) – $75
  • Trumpeter Grumman TBF-1C Avenger (includes some FAA markings) – $70

1/35

  • Bronco Archer 17-pdr SPG – $45
  • Bronco Bishop – $45
  • Dragon M4 Sherman Composite Hull – PTO – $35
  • Dragon Panzer II Ausf.C – $30
  • Dragon Firefly Mk.Ic – $35

1/72

  • Hasegawa Su-27 “World Flanker” (sealed) – $40
  • Airfix BAE Sea Harrier FRS.1 – $10
  • Hasegawa B-24J Liberator “Assembly Ship” – $40
  • Revell Lancaster Mk.I/III – $20
  • Revell B-17G Flying Fortress – $20
  • Revell Tornado IDS – $17
  • Revell Tornado GR.1 – $17

1/48

  • Academy Supermarine Spitfire Mk.XIV – $15
  • Accurate Miniatures F2G Corsair (incl. detailed resin ‘corncob’ engine and Lone Star decal sheet) – $40
  • Accurate Miniatures A-36 Apache – $15
  • Accurate Miniatures P-51A Mustang – $15
  • Accurate Miniatures B-25C/D Mitchell – $35
  • Airfix Messerschmitt Bf 109E-1/3/4 – $15
  • Airfix Seafire FR.46/47 – $20
  • AMT Douglas A-20G Havoc – $10
  • Azur MS 406 – $20
  • Dragon Messerschmitt Bf 110E Nachtjager – $30
  • Dragon Messerschmitt Bf 110D-3 – $30
  • Eduard Fw 190A-5 ProfiPack – $20
  • Eduard Fw 190A-8/R2 ProfiPack (sealed) – $25
  • Eduard F6F-3 Hellcat – $20
  • Eduard Bf 109E-1 ProfiPack – $25
  • Eduard F-16 Fighting Falcon “NATO Falcons” Ltd. Edition – $35
  • Eduard SPAD XIII “American Eagles” Dual Combo – $35
  • Great Wall Hobby TBD-1 Devastator “Battle of Midway” – $55
  • Hasegawa Curtiss Kittyhawk III – $25
  • Hasegawa Curtiss Kittyhawk IV – $25
  • Hasegawa Curtiss P-40E Warhawk – $25
  • Hasegawa Fw 190A-8
  • Hasegawa Hawker Typhoon Mk.IB (teardrop) – (incl. sharkmouth decals) – $35
  • Hobby Boss Ta 152C-0 – $20
  • ICM Spitfire Mk.IXc – $15
  • ICM Spitfire Mk.VIII – $15
  • Kinetic Lockheed F-16D Block 52+ Polish AF – $45
  • Monogram B-26 Marauder – $25
  • MPM Pe-2 – $30
  • Revell (Monogram) B-24J Liberator – $20
  • Revell (Monogram) PBY-5 Catalina – $20
  • Revell B-25J Mitchell “Gun Nose” – $15
  • Revell F-8 Crusader – $10
  • Tamiya F4U-1 Birdcage Corsair (sealed) – $25
  • Tamiya Fi 156C Storch – $45
  • Tamiya Fw 190D-9 (sealed) – $20
  • Trumpeter Hawker Sea Fury FB.11 – $25
  • Trumpeter MiG-21F-13 Fishbed C – $25
  • Trumpeter Sparviero SM.79 – $35
  • Trumpeter Supermarine Spiteful – $15
  • Trumpeter Vampire FB.Mk.9 – $20

1/16 Panda Pz.Kpfw 38(t) Pt. 3: Whitewash

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Part I: The Build-Up | Part II: Paint + Markings | PART III: Whitewash

I decided pretty early on in this build that I wanted to go after the last marking option Panda provides:

Four marking options in 1/35

Four marking options in 1/35

Why? Well, mainly because I’ve always found  straight-up Panzer Gray somewhat boring (and difficult to weather without it looking stupid). Part of me thinks maybe the Germans felt the same way, which is why things eventually shifted toward dunkelgelb and increasingly intricate camoflage schemes.

Anyway. How to pull off kick-ass whitewash?

The last time I tackled a whitewashed Panzer Gray something, it was Cyber-Hobby’s awesome Panzer III Ausf.L Vorpanzer, done up in Lifecolor RAL7021, with whitewash courtesy of Tamiya XF-2 Flat White.

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I think it worked out pretty well. The Vorpanzer has taken third in its category in two different shows…something I’m totally cool with given the level of competition.

But it’s not exactly the look of the Pz.38(t) in the Panda profile. So I went hunting for alternative solutions.

Whitewash Options

The first option was the most obvious one – the good old “hairspray” technique – for which I use AK Interactive’s Heavy Chipping fluid.

Some searching, however, also revealed an interesting product from Italian company True Earth. They make an acrylic whitewash that seems to contain all the hairspray technique properties in a single bottle.

Whitewash Options

Armed with my two techniques, I pulled out a stalled KV-2 build to repurpose as a guinea pig.

The first test was the AK Heavy Chipping Fluid overpainted with thinned Tamiya XF-2 Flat White. This technique certainly produced chipping, but the effect is stark, not diffused in the way I was looking for, with the whitewash gradually “melting” off the vehicle.

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On the other side, I tried out the True Earth whitewash.

This initial test proved hit-and-miss. In some areas, I found the stuff just streaked but didn’t scrape away (perhaps I went after it when it was too wet, or too thickly applied?). In others, such as around the German cross, it looked fantastic.

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Clearly more experimentation was in order. Moving to the back of the  KV-2’s turret, I airbrushed the whitewash onto one side, and brushed it onto the other, then set about the wetting and removing. The airbrushed portion on the right was definitely my favorite – I’m a fan of the way the whitewash subtly tints the surface.

True Earth Whitewash

Applying the Whitewash

But…getting the whitewash to work the way I really like required that it be pretty friggin’ thin. So I arrived at a middle ground solution…using Tamiya XF-2 to establish a “base” for the whitewash, then applying the True Earth stuff on top.

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Pz.38(t) Whitewash

Pz.38(t) Whitewash

Pz.38(t) Whitewash

Overall, I’m pretty thrilled with how the whitewash came out in the end, and I feel like there are secrets in the True Earth whitewash that I have yet to unlock (for instance, applying it heavier…).

Stay tuned for Part 4, when the tracks get painted and the big 38 gets seriously weathered.

1/16 Panda Pz.Kpfw 38(t) Pt. 2: Paint + Markings

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In Part I, I took the Pz.38(t) through its relatively straightforward buildup.

Now, it’s time to paint the bloody thing!

RAL 7021

The Pz.38, like all things German armor in 1941, was finished in a gray so dark it was nearly black – often referred to as Panzer Gray or Panzer schwarzgrau. Whatever. RAL 7021 was the official paint code, and we’ll just call it Panzer Gray.

To prepare the surface, I primed the tank in my new favorite thing, Mr. Finishing Surfacer 1500.

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This was going to be followed up by AK Interactive’s Panzer Gray modulation set, but I found myself backing away pretty quickly. The AK stuff sprays nicely, but even the darkest “shadow” tint was too light for my taste.

So I pulled out my Lifecolor. I’m not the biggest fan of the way Lifecolor sprays, BUT I really, really like their RAL  7021. It worked perfectly on my Panzer III a few years back, and worked equally well on the Pz.38.

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Markings

After the Panzer Gray came the gloss. My plan for the 38 is to liven things up with some winter whitewash, so no need to do anything fancy with the gray…just get it on. After it set up a bit, I tried out a new gloss, Testors’ Aztek Clear Gloss, and found that I actually liked how it worked. It gave me a nice gloss base to play with my decals.

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On top of this went the few decals. They aren’t terrible decals that Panda includes with the kit, but they aren’t great, either. The biggest problem has to be the thickness, which remains apparent even after they set and you use Solvaset AND seal them up nice with additional coats of clear.

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While all the glossing and marking work was going on, I also spent a bit of time to knock out the track runs. Not bad!

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Stay tuned for Part 3, when it’s WHITEWASH TIME!

1/16 Panda Pz.Kpfw 38(t) Pt. 1: The Build-Up

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Recently, I received an advance copy of Panda’s new 1/16 Pz.Kpfw 38(t) to review for Scale Plastic & Rail (read the review HERE).

You can read all about the kit itself over on SP&R. Here, we’ll actually explore building the thing.

The Hull

I can totally understand why Panda eschewed the usual one-piece lower hull with their big 38(t). By the time you take the hull bottom and add the sides, the tank takes up about as much space as a shoe box. Offering a one-piece hull such as that in the 1/35 Dragon kits would have required some serious three-dimensionality in the molding process, along with an entirely different approach to packaging the kit.

So instead of a one-piecer to work from, I had started out with several slabs that needed to be glued into a tank-like shape.

This is one of the few areas of the build where I’ll unabashedly ding Panda. There is no positive location between the hull slabs. None. There’s no engraved channel where the bottom fits to the side. Instead what you get are basically areas with an absence of rivets. The hull would be super-easy to weld together if you happened to have three hands. I don’t, so I resorted to awkwardly holding the bottom and side together and tack-welding in a few spots with my trusty Tenax 7R. This held enough for me to add the other hull slabs, and when everything was finally supporting everything else, I went back with Tenax and fully welded all joins.

As you see above, even at this point, the 38(t) is a sizable beast.

With the main lower hull welded in place and happy, I moved on next to the upper decking. Again, Panda levels out a mild dose of frustration with some very vague attempts at providing the modeler with positive location.

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Once again, my process of tacking an area at a time worked well, and as areas were joined to the hull the entire assembly began to really solidify.

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The Hull

With the main bits of the hull together, I next turned my attention to the fenders. I guess the best word for these would be…infuriating. As with the hull slabs, there’s a general lack of positive location that has to be overcome. The plastic fenders only attach to the plastic hull at three tiny, shallow tabs. The rest is intended to be supported by photo etch “L” brackets. The only problem is that it’s difficult to know how far to bend them without the fenders in place. So to get things started, I tacked the fenders with Tenax.

Moving on to the PE…this stuff is beefy! That’s great in terms of support (the brackets fit over raised plastic “bolts”), but awful in terms of folding the fenders into the proper shapes. Even after aggressive annealing, the brass was basically too much for my Small Shop PE folder. After many expletives, I did get the fenders fitted up.

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Getting them fitted and getting them secured were two different matters, however. The latter required all of my locking tweezers and clamps and clips, as well as the judicious use of extra-thin CA glue.

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With the fenders in place, the rest of the build was honestly a cake walk. The fit is generally quite good and there are very few headaches to deal with. If you’ve built 1/35 armor of any complexity, this one shouldn’t present a challenge.

I will, however, point out two very clever engineering elements this kit features.I love them both because they make it easy to leave components out until near the end of the build (see: cupola vision ports).

The first is the design of the wheels and tires as two separate pieces. So much more convenient.

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The second is the convenient design of the cupola. The turret itself has some risers that I will call “cupola supports”. The parts that make up the cupola build around these supports, and if you’re careful, you can assemble the cupola so that it’s removable. All the better for installing the clear vision ports after all the painting and weathering is done.

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The Tracks

Another really nice element of the Panda kit is the workable design of the tracks. Each link is joined by two small track pins that, glued carefully, leave the join completely workable, similar to the way Friuls work. The assembly is tedious but foolproof.

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The only problem is that the kit I received did not include enough track. By my count, it was short by six links, leaving me SOL for the spare tracks mounted at the front of the tank.

Still, that’s a minor issue. Overall, the Pz.38 builds up quite well, and looks suitably impressive in 1/16 scale.

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Stay tuned for Part 2 – Painting and Markings!