Sprue Cutters Union #4 – Worst Experiences

The Combat Workshop recently kicked off an interesting idea called “The Sprue Cutters Union”. Basically, the idea is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. Every week, a new topic will be tossed out, and participating blogs will each write their own post on that topic.

This week’s topic:

What is the worst experience you’ve had in this hobby?

Easy. Hyperscale’s forum layout.

Okay, but seriously, the worst experience I’ve had in this hobby has nothing to do with kits or carpet monsters or botched work. It’s other modelers. Specifically:

The Absolutists

You know who they are (and you may even be one of them) – the modelers who claim there is ONE TRUE WAY and that everything else is somehow lesser.

If you spend money on aftermarket you’re a failure because you didn’t scratchbuild your own damn cockpit. If you go with kit parts instead of spending $50 on a resin what’s-it you’re a fool who doesn’t care about accuracy.

If you build the Trumpeter P-109 Messerstang instead of the Hasegawa you may as well start just gluing together pieces of garbage because the rudder is too short and the windscreen is 1mm too wide. On the other hand, if you care too much about accuracy you’re suddenly the dreaded rivet-counter.

Do you like Tamiya kits? Congratulations, you’re an assembler who likes shake-and-bake kits, unlike real modelers who scratchbuild entire sections onto 40-year-old Monogram kits.

Do you drybrush? FOOL. You should be using paint modulation and besides drybrushing isn’t realistic. Like paint modulation? Then you’re a shameless slave to trends.

It sickens me. All of it. Modeling, like the rest of life, is filled with gray areas, and for the most part there aren’t really any rights or wrongs. Why do people insist on making it so binary?



Part of being in the Union means we share links to our fellow contributors’ posts. If you liked this post, take a look what some other modellers have to say about this topic:

Sprue Cutters Union #3 – Favorites

The Combat Workshop recently kicked off an interesting idea called “The Sprue Cutters Union”. Basically, the idea is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. Every week, a new topic will be tossed out, and participating blogs will each write their own post on that topic.

This week’s topic:

What is your favorite model kit ever assembled?

That seems like an easy answer…until you try to answer it. Because ultimately, it’s not just the kit. It’s the circumstances around the kit…the build as moment of time, a bookmark in your life.

For me, my favorite build was one of those confluences of kit and circumstance. It began in July 2011.

“Maybe you’ll get laid off and you won’t have to stress about quitting…”

My wife said that, or something very much like it, to me early in July.

I’d switched jobs in May, and while I won’t go into details, it quickly became apparent that it just wasn’t a good fit. I didn’t mesh particularly well with the culture and didn’t find much satisfaction in the work.

It didn’t come as much of a surprise, then, when I got the “hey can we talk for a minute?” in mid-July. Oh, it still came as a gut punch. Being let go, laid off, whatever you want to call it, is always a blow, and a giant stress in the short term, even if it’s ultimately for the best.

In the weeks that followed, I hurled myself into networking and interviewing, deciding to just keep plowing ahead instead of stopping to let the crushing stress of being unemployed with a wife and two kids catch up with me.

And at night, I buried myself in Tamiya’s excellent 1/32 Spitfire Mk.VIII. To this day, it’s probably the finest kit I’ve yet built, from a straight-up engineering perspective (at least until I tackle their new Corsair!). And in the circumstances of being laid off and hunting for a job, well, it was a major factor in keeping me sane and level-headed. After all, here was something I could focus on to the exclusion of all else, something I could control and direct and not have to wait to get back to me in a week.

I can easily name a half dozen other kits that I really, really enjoyed, but ultimately, none of them stand out to me as much as the Spitfire. It’s a masterpiece of a kit, but ultimately, it’s the circumstances surrounding the build that set it apart.

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Part of being in the Union means we share links to our fellow contributors’ posts. If you liked this post, take a look what some other modellers have to say about this topic:

Sprue Cutters Union #2 – Words of Wisdom

The Combat Workshop recently kicked off an interesting idea called “The Sprue Cutters Union”. Basically, the idea is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. Every week, a new topic will be tossed out, and participating blogs will each write their own post on that topic.

This week’s topic:

identify three things that have impacted your modeling, good or bad

Reading through several of the other responses to this week’s topic, the airbrush seems to be a recurring theme. To which I say…obviously. So I’m intentionally not going to address it, and instead focus on three things that have done wonders for my modeling since I came back to the hobby in 2010.

#3 – The Internet

I wandered away from modeling just as the internet was becoming an actual thing in the mid-90s, so stepping back in was very much a shock to the system. I’d seen all my other interests gradually shift to digital – from writing to photography to movies.

With modeling, it was instead like discovering a new world. A world full of reviews and techniques and ideas and research. It opened my eyes to all kinds of approaches I’d never considered, and particularly in those first few months, advanced my modeling further than it had come in all the years I built as a kid.

#2 – Embracing modulation

Even at my most sophisticated, my painting technique in my first modeling go-round basically involved dumping paint into an airbrush cup and shooting. Or, pointing a rattlecan and shooting. The concept of modulation…of tonal variation to bring one color to life…totally foreign.

Now, I’m all about that modulation and tonal variation. That’s not to say I’m a fan of the “lighting modulation” that’s all the vogue in the armor world. I prefer to get my modulation out of shading, fading and weathering. To build up effects in thin layers.

The actual techniques don’t matter so much, in my opinion, as embracing the approach.

#1 – Stepping beyond my comfort zone


I have no patience for the “I need to build my skills up on crappy kits first…” excuse-making you find all over most forums. Face it – in the scheme of things, modeling has a ridiculously low failure cost, and every failure in this hobby is a learning experience, to boot. You literally have nothing to lose by stretching yourself and trying new things.

I will also say this. My best builds have been the ones where I stretched. Where I wasn’t sure I was ready for something, or tackling some rather expensive, “better not fuck this up” kit. The recognition that you’re out of your element and taking a risk really focuses your attention…maybe that’s why the stretch builds are so often the best builds.

Among my stretch kits, I would have to count the Eduard Bf 109E-7 Trop (first 1/32 kit), Wingnut Wings Sopwith Pup RNAS (first biplane, first rigging), Tamiya Spitfire VIII (expensive, first exposed engine, many new techniques) and HK Models B-25J Mitchell (massive, expensive, first use of paint masks).

If you’re holding back out of fear, or because you’re “not ready”, suck it up and step out of your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised what you can do.


Part of being in the Union means we share links to our fellow contributors’ posts. If you liked this post, take a look what some other modellers have to say about this topic:

Sprue Cutters Union #1 – Your First Model

The Combat Workshop recently kicked off an interesting idea called “The Sprue Cutters Union”. Basically, the idea is akin to a group build, only with blog posts instead of builds. Every week, a new topic will be tossed out, and participating blogs will each write their own post on that topic.

First up, fittingly, is the question, “What Was Your First?”

Tell the community about the first model you ever built without the help of any one else. In other words, your first solo.


That’s tricky.

The first model I remember building was a Snap-Tite P-51D. I was probably eight or so…and it was for some class diorama thing that’s long since been purged from my memory. I do know that my dad helped me with it, though, so it certainly doesn’t count as a solo build.

After that, my earliest years of modeling devolve into a series of glimpses more than fully-formed memories. So…since I can’t for the life of me recall what my first solo build was, perhaps I can instead dig up and share some of those glimpses.


I remember building an F-15 in my best friend’s garage…and painting it gloss gull gray, because that’s what we had on hand. No primer, no detailing, and I’m pretty sure we flew them around his backyard as soon as they were dry enough to be just tacky.

Modeling on the Go

My parents were very into tennis when I was a kid, and so I would inevitably get dragged along to random clubhouses and left on my own for multiple hours at a time. At some point I started taking kits with me…and one image that sticks in my mind is sitting in the upstairs cafe at our country club, surrounded by the “thonk” of the tennis balls in the adjoining indoor courts, building Blue Thunder.

Spray It

Getting yelled at by my mom for spray painting a B-52 and getting the paint on the driveway.

Desert Storm

All things Desert Storm, really, which cooked off when I was at the formative age of 11. But what I really remember as it relates to modeling was seeing a display at some airport covered in Fine Scale Modeler. It was a display of every aircraft that took part in the conflict, and I thought at the time that it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

Having No Clue How to Use an Airbrush

My first airbrush was a Paasche H single-action. And I had no idea how to use it. Thinning? Huh?

My First Showpiece

When I was, I don’t know, 12 or 13, I built the NCC-1701D Enterprise and actually got to display it in the local LHS. It was terrible, but for a kid with barely any idea what he’s doing, it was great.

The Enterprise Summer

Another summer, flashes of working on Tamiya’s gigantic CVN-65 Enterprise. Particularly painting all the aircraft, dotting the deck tie downs with a white paint pen, and freaking myself out about applying the decals.

1/350 USS Enterprise CVN-65

My Comeback

Cheating perhaps, but I have to give a nod to the first kit I built when I came back to the hobby three years ago – Tamiya’s 1/48 P-51B Mustang.

P-51B - Rear 3/4

The difference between it and anything I’d ever built before is just…staggering. I chock it up to three things. The intervening years seasoning me, making me more patient and more interested in the craft. The hitherto unknown products…like solvent cement, Tamiya paints, and Eduard masks. And the internet, which is a treasure trove of information that I just did not have as a kid.


So…that’s it. Not exactly my first solo build, but what are you to do when you don’t exactly remember?

On the Bench: Trumpeter 1/32 MiG-3 “Obnazhennyy”


For most people, summertime conjures up visions of sun and surf, of late days, sweltering heat, kickass movies, fireworks and cookouts.

It conjures those visions for me, too. But it also conjurs visions of spiders.

For some reason, my bench becomes the equivalent of a small town Dairy Queen for an unending parade of tiny spiders that get all over everything.

I’ve grudgingly come to not completely hate spiders, because they’re such ruthless dispatchers of basically all other bugs (see: “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”). But these little assholes don’t do that. They just flutter down from the shop light, or wherever the hell they come from, and get into my business. Last summer, I had to put my HK B-25 away for a few months because I left it on the bench overnight and the little douche canoes built a maze of spider webs in the bomb bay so thick it looked like a bad Indiana Jones set.

That’s a long way of saying that, in the summer, I’m forced to pursue more self-contained projects that can easily be tucked inside a drawer or carried inside for the night. Projects without massive openings for dillhole spiders to throw parties in.

So as much as I want to bust out an Academy Hornet, or my Trumpeter Lightning or something else huge and awesome, I’ve decided to keep it small(ish) with Trumpy’s 1/32 MiG-3. I had plans to build this as a recce version, until a fellow modeller got my gears turning by suggesting I build it unpainted to show off the wood-and-metal construction.

“Obnazhennyy” means “uncovered” or “unpainted” in Russian, or so Google tells me…

Mig-3 Profile Mig-3 top

Of course, this quickly became WAY more complicated than a simple metal-and-wood finish. Because wood construction is way more complicated than just screwing a plywood sheet over some spars and stringers. The MiG-3 was covered with thin strips of birch plywood, laid diagonally, then covered at cross angles with more plywood, then back to the original angle, etc.

Aviation-grade basket-weaving, basically.

If you kind of unfocus your eyes, you can see it in the wing skin of this MiG-3 undergoing restoration.

And I get to try to recreate it!

Obviously, there’s going to be a MASSIVE degree of artistic license going into this project, because the final product will ultimately represent a thing that never existed. It would be like a car with everything put in it…engine, seats, floorboard carpeting, you name it…left unpainted. It does not happen. Which…thank god…because evidence isn’t exactly all over the place for the MiG-3.

So how am I going to pull this off? With a combination. The bare metal will either be Alclad or Gunze Mr. Metal (which I need to test), or may in fact be a combination. The wood will be Tamiya and Gunze paints overlaid with Uschi Van Der Rosten woodgrain decals. If you haven’t seen them in action, you need to check out James H’s Natter build on LSM…the wood looks phenomenal!

Aftermarket will be fairly light this time out. An Aires pit and Quickboost exhausts.

Stay tuned for the fun!

On the Bench: Dragon 1/35 Pz.Kpfw.VI Tiger I Ausf.E


Once upon a time, I built armor on a regular basis, often side-by-side with an aircraft build as a way of switching things up. In the nine months or so this went on, I managed to knock out a Tamiya M4 Sherman, AFV Club Achilles IIc, Dragon Panzer IV Ausf.G and a Cyber-Hobby Panzer III Ausf.L. Then we moved, and things kind of fell apart. I managed to finish up a T-34/85 toward the very end of 2011, and then…nothing.

My recent experience building Panda’s big 1/16 Pz.38(t) has rekindled the interest, however, and I’ve been aching to build a German cat of some kind. I even set up a poll to help choose, though the vote between the Tiger I and King Tiger has proven so close that it’s basically been a wash.

So today, on my way up to King’s Hobby, I told myself their selection would settle things. I needed Friul tracks, so whichever they had, that’s what I would build. Well, they had both. And moreover, they had both on sale for $30 – WAY cheaper than you’ll find Tiger Friuls basically anywhere.

Crap. No closer to a decision.

Fortunately, they also had Kagero’s Tiger I Topcolors book, which contains markings for 16 different Tiger tanks. I fell in love with this number on the back cover. And yes…the barrel stripes are included on the decal sheet.


My kit of choice will be Dragon’s Tiger I 3-in-1, which I actually started briefly way back in 2011. I discovered early on that it needed painting in the midst of construction, and since my paints were all packed for an impending move, well…back in the box it went.

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Aftermarket will include Cavalier resin zimmerit, an RB Model barrel, the Friuls, and a PE set to be named later (I need PE track skirts, basically…and exhaust covers would be nice…)

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Stay tuned! This is going to be a fun one!

1/16 Panda Pz.Kpfw 38(t) Pt. 4: Weathering & Finish Out


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

Last time around, the big Pz.38(t) got its whitewash.

Pz.38(t) Whitewash

In Part IV of the build log, it’s all about the weathering and the final stages of bringing the build together.

The Tracks

After being pulled away from the bench for a week or so to tackle a big work project, I came back and decided to go ahead and knock out the tracks. These were airbrushed with a mix of 75% Vallejo Track Primer and 25% Dark Gray.

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Then washed with oils to add in some variation.

tracks after washing

Let’s Go Streaking!

With the tracks at a baseline with the rest of the tank, I turned my attention to streaking and generally dirtying up the tank.

I’ve been reading praise of AK Interactive’s weathering products for quite some time now, and have even used some of their stuff a time or two, but never for all-out weathering. And I didn’t use them this time either, as in my test runs I found the streaking products far too stark, and not very keen to back off without creating a giant mess. So I went back to my trusty oils. In this case, raw umber, Payne’s gray and transparent white.

My method for streaking is simple. I dip the tip of my trusty airbrush needle into the cap, get a tiny bit of oil paint on it, and then tap it against the tank to deposit just a hint of paint. Do this multiple times.

Then, I pull out my not-so-secret weapon: the Aqualon Wisp. This brush has a “rake” shape to it that’s just awesome for streak work.

After barely wetting the Wisp with Mona Lisa Odorless Thinner, I swipe at the tank in quick, light, vertical strokes. This streaks the oil paint down the sides of the tank just so.

Pz38 - Streaking started

Additional oil staining was done on the flat surfaces, such as the fenders and top of the turret.

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Time to Get Dirty

With the streaking done, I turned my attention to dirtying up the lower hull. I wanted it dirty, but not overly so (i.e. not caked in mud).

To get started, I mixed some MIG Russian Earth pigment with Woodland Scenics scenery glue (basically diluted white glue) and slathered it on the lower hull, then stabbed at it to create a bit more roughness, reminiscent of dried mud, rather than dust. Before I switched to Russian Earth, I tried MIG’s Dark Mud and Europe Dust. Both of them were very light and very red, and to me gave the impression the Pz.38 was trundling through Vietnam of East Texas, not the Eurasian steppe. Russian Earth is, I think, a far better pigment.

For the wheels, I did the same, only I mixed the pigment with water instead of glue, and painted it on that way. Once the water evaporated, I worked the pigments in with a wide, flat brush, and blew away the excess. The same was done with the tracks, and the tread areas were then “scuffed” with a #2 pencil to replicate the effect of metal showing through the dirt.

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I was mostly happy with this, particularly with the running gear, but I didn’t get that build up, three-dimensional look I wanted. So back to it, this time with a mix of pigment, white glue, actual dirt, an some bits of field grass cut up and stirred in.

This worked a lot better (particularly when jabbed with packing foam to roughen the texture), BUT the stuff dried like the world’s weakest chocolate milk…several degrees lighter than the surrounding effects. So I painted over the lightness with my Vallejo Track Primer/Dark Gray combo, then went over that with pigment. MUCH better.


Next, oil stains were added to the wheels, per some reference pics, and additional pigment was added in certain areas. Then the tracks were added!

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The Last Bits

At this point, the tank was mostly complete…save for the OVM tools that needed to be placed. Struggling with how to represent these, I did the following:

  • Painted the metal heads of the tools with Alclad Steel.
  • “Woodgrained” the handles of the shovel, sledge etc.
  • Applied liquid frisket randomly as a mask, then painted the tools with Lifecolor RAL 7021 Panzer Gray.
  • Removed the frisket masks, then hit the tools with True Earth Whitewash.
  • Lastly, used Gun Metal, Russian Earth and Light Rust pigments to similar wear and corrosion.

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The PE straps securing the tools on the port side were way easier to work with than the PE fender supports. They were painted in Vallejo German Chocolate Brown, then whitewashed.

And with that the Pz.38(t) build comes to an end. The final result:

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