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!

I Can’t Get No…

The past couple of nights at the bench have been awful.

I can’t seem to get traction on anything. And it’s driving me nuts.

Let’s start with the Pz.38(t). The big 1/16 tank is painted and decaled.

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Of course, now I’m into the tedious task of assembling the tracks. Don’t get me wrong, I really, really like the workable links Panda provides with the kit. They’re easily the best kit tracks I’ve ever used. But…assembling them is tedious.

photo 1And then there’s the tools and minor bits that I need to start painting before I can really start in on the weathering, and I just can’t get motivated.

So when the Fisher -C conversion arrived for the Trumpeter F-8 Crusader, I was really excited. The nose fit way better than the Rhino intake.

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Sadly, the cockpit didn’t fit well into the nose, and I just couldn’t muster the wherewithal to blow another several days sanding and filing and swearing. Work has been busy, and three kids are a lot work. Bench time is supposed to be about decompression, not adding to the stress.

So tonight I pulled out the sad beast that is Trumpeter’s 1/32 MiG-17F. Figured I’d get it up and running again.

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After grinding down the *$*!#(@ pour stub on the G-Factor metal canopy frame, I got the very nice AMS resin cockpit to fit. Then I started playing around with the intake nose ring and discovered that it’s off center. Not that it doesn’t fit. It’s actually MOLDED OFF CENTER.

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Seriously?

The kit does provide parts to build a radar-equipped MiG-17PF, so I gave it a shot, but come on. The MiG-17F has some damn classic lines. The PF, on the other hand, looks like a yodeling fish.

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So, ugh. What now?

I feel like I need something to really sink my teeth into, and get my groove back. Something I can break into without days of cutting and sanding and swearing.

But what? I can’t figure out a scheme I want to do for Hobby Boss’ F-84. I’m worried about tackling another questionable, like the Kinetic/Italeri F-86 Sabre. I still have miles of research to do on my 1/32 F/A-18D. I’ve got my wrecked MiG-21 project, but I’m feeling that’s a very slow burn, long-term type of affair. And I’ll be procrastinating because the diorama aspect terrifies me.

Maybe I’ll just say screw it and pull out the big Trumpeter Mi-24 Hind. The only thing I’m pushing on it is PE.

 

 

No Quarter

I’m burned out on 1/48 scale.

It’s strange. 1/48 is predominantly what I built as a kid. Of the thirty-two kits I’ve built since returning to the hobby around three years ago, seventeen of them – 53%.

But I’m tapped out on quarter scale.

It hit me as I was wrapping up assembly on Eduard’s beautiful new Spitfire(s).

Here’s the thing. They’re solid kits. But the whole time, I kept thinking “yeah, but they’re no 1/32 Tamiya Spit”.

I know, I know. That’s not really fair. I could count the number of kits that approach the bit Tamiya Spitires on one hand.

But fair or not, that’s what was in my head. If I really cared about what I was building, I’d do it up right with a 1/32 Tamiya Spit Mk.IX.

So I set the Spits aside to focus on Wingnut’s brilliant Sopwith Snipe. And when I rigged my last line and pronounced the biplane finished, I found that I just had zero desire to even contemplate 1/48.

Not sure where it goes from here. But look for the next several builds, at least, to be in scales that start with the number “3”.

Review: 1/16 Panda Pz.Kpfw 38(t) Ausf.E/F

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PCM’s Upcoming 1/32 Tempest – First Pics!

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Given its contribution to the war effort, the snarling Hawker Tempest has been given one very long shaft by the model manufacturers. When the most celebrated release is a warmed-over re-release with some included resin that literally cannot be made to fit, well, you get the idea.

It looks like that will be changing in 2013, with the release of not one but two 1/32 Tempest kits, one from Pacific Coast Models and the other from Special Hobby.

I will be reviewing the PCM Tempest when it is released, but for now, here’s a first look at the kit.

Stay tuned for more as the Tempest nears release.

In the meantime, you can pre-order the Tempest straight from PCM if you’re so inclined.

1/32 Wingnut Wings Sopwith Snipe Part II – “Pailding”

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Part I | PART II| Part III | Part IV

When approaching a biplane, I think it’s helpful to consider them as a completely different genre from other aircraft. Literally, as distinctly apart as armor or ships.

With your traditional monowing aircraft, the build process is straightforward. Once the interior is sorted, you slap it together, do the seam repairs, paint it and decal it. Basically.

With biplanes, and especially depending on your scheme, this just isn’t an option. If nothing else, you’d be crazy to do full assembly before you do the painting because of the two wings. With the Snipe, I’ve taken things even further, doing almost all of the painting before and during the assembly process. I call it “pailding”. Painting + building, simultaneously.

I started by painting the cockpit shielding Tamiya XF-82 Ocean Gray, which we saw in Part I:

Clear Doped Linen

After the shielding, I moved on to the bottom of the wings and control surfaces, which I painted Tamiya XF-55 Deck Tan. I then came back with Deck Tan mixed with a touch of Dark Earth and X-19 Smoke to provide some distinction between the fabric and the ribs:

To add some further definition, I taped off the ribs and sprayed a thinned coat of X-19 smoke over the tape lines, as well as some Flat Brown inboard as a start to representing linen dirtied by the engine.

This was chased with a thinned coat of Deck Tan to blend everything together.

The Airscrew

While the under surfaces cured, I moved on to the airscrew. This one’s tricky, with a central hub of varnished wood, then gray on the forward-facing surfaces and black on the backside. I used my scraped-oil method for the central hub…

Only this time I added some burnt sienna and black to the oil to get better definition against the darker XF-52 Flat Earth.

Once the woodgraining was complete I masked the center portion with a mix of Tamiya tape and liquid frisket, then shot the blades with Gunze Flat Black.

The backsides were then masked and the fronts painted XF-82 Ocean Gray.

Topside Green

Moving on to the topside, I mixed up my own shade using Tamiya XF-65 Field Gray, XF-22 RLM Gray and XF-60 Dark Yellow (just a few drops) and shot it on over a base of Gunze Flat Black. I was sure to spray over the ribs and various contours first to provide a start to visually defining the wing surfaces.

Next, I taped off the ribs and went over the tape with thinned X-19 Smoke…

And then went back over them with a thinned coat of my topside green to blend everything together.

The Bentley BR.2

The engine was a piece of cake – especially next to the over-engineered mess of an R-2800 I fought on the Trumpeter Jug. Painted it up with Alclad stuff, gave it a wash of MIG Oil & Grease Stains, and that’s really about it. The engine looks damn sharp on its own and doesn’t need much help.

Fuselage is Go

Once I got the principal painting done, I pre-rigged the fuselage, glued it together, fought the seam battle up top, then painted over where the glue/sanding/filling work had obliterated the paint.

Stay tuned for decals!

Part I | PART II| Part III | Part IV

Thoughts on Tamiya’s Upcoming 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair

Well, it’s official…ish. Yesterday Hobby Link Japan posted a product page for TAM60324, effectively spilling the beans about Tamiya’s latest addition to it’s formidable line of 1/32 uberkits.

Speculation has been raging about this kit since, well, the announcement of the Mustang two years ago. “What next?” has been a popular topic on forums across the internet, with everything from the Corsair to the Focke Wulf Fw 190, P-38 Lightning, De Havilland Mosquito and really just about any aircraft you can name thrown into the mix.

In recent months, speculation solidified into rumor. The next superkit would be the F4U Corsair. Specifically, as it turns out, the F4U-1 “Birdcage” Corsair, so named for it’s framed canopy.

Birdcage

It’s obviously too soon to speculate about the kit itself. I think we can all guess that it will be amazing, and push the envelope of engineering even further than the Spitfire and Mustang. But exact features? For those we’ll have to wait for the first test shots to make their appearance. Personally, I’m eager to see how they plan to tackle the wing fold.

Instead of speculating about the kit itself, then, I figured I’d put forward some thoughts on what it means and yes, start the speculation of the next big Tamiya release!

1 – NOBODY EXPECTED THE BIRDCAGE

That Tamiya’s next 1/32 release would be a Corsair has been something of an open secret for a month or two now. But I don’t think anybody saw that they would lead off with the birdcage. If I were a betting man, I’d have put my money on the Malcom-hooded F4U-1A, but when you stop and think about it, leading off with the birdcage makes perfect business sense.

The birdcage is, I would argue, the least popular of the F4U-1 variants. Mainly because it’s slightly “off” the iconic shape represented by the F4U-1A and F4U-1D. If Tamiya released all three at once, I promise you the birdcage would be the worst seller of the lot. By releasing it first, however, Tamiya could potentially get two or three kit purchases out of a modeler, where with a different release strategy, they might only get one or two.

2 – YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT THERE WILL BE F4U-1A AND F4U-1D RELEASES

The external differences between the F4U-1 Corsairs are minor in the extreme. A slight repositioning of the cockpit and the Malcolm hood being the prominent features on the -1A, and the frameless Malcolm hood and rocket tabs defining the -1D. It is possible that Tamiya could release a single kit that could be built as either the -1A or -1D, but I would bet on two separate kits. Look for them to follow over the 12-20 months following the July release of the birdcage.

3 – DON’T GET YOUR HOPES UP FOR THAT 1/32 P-51B/C MUSTANG

Tamiya has a terrible reputation for offering a variant or two of a subject, then moving on, gaps be damned. In their 1/48 lineup, they completely skipped out on the P-47N Thunderbolt and the F4U-4 and later Corsairs. In 1/32, they could have expanded their Spitfire lineup to encompass the Mk.Vc and Mk.XIV with minor changes and new parts forward of the firewalls, but alas.

A P-51B/C may seem like a no-brainer, but it would take a new fuselage and new wing (or gun fairings at the very least). I’d still hoped, but now that the Corsair is coming, it’s likely that Tamiya has moved on.

4 – TAMIYA CONTINUES TO PURSUE THEIR 1/32 SUBJECT-PICKING STRATEGY

So far as I can tell, Tamiya’s 1/32 subjects are chosen primarily by two factors. First – popularity. Developing kits of this magnitude can’t be cheap, so they need to sell at volume. The Zero, Spitfire, Mustang and Corsair all fit.

Second – an opening. Tamiya doesn’t avoid competition, per se, but they do seem to have an eye for subjects that nobody has nailed. Then they swoop in with the definitive kit. Trumpeter offers 1/32 F4U-1 Corsairs, but they don’t have the greatest reputation, so Tamiya has one hell of an opening.

5 – LET THE SPECULATION BEGIN

I’m going to call it right now. Tamiya’s next 1/32 subject will be the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. And it will be released in the summer of 2015.

Why the Jug? Four reasons.

  • First, with the Corsair, Tamiya will now have an exquisite Pratt & Whitney R-2800, the same engine that powered the Thunderbolt.
  • Second, Tamiya already has a strong foundation to build from in their 1/48 Jugs, which remain the best P-47s in any scale.
  • Third, the P-47 fits the popularity qualification. I’d say it’s as or probably more popular as a subject than the Corsair.
  • Fourth, nobody has nailed the P-47. The Hasegawa kit is spartan and a bit lazy in its engineering. And the Trumpeter kit, while detailed, is an absolute slog to build, with fit tolerances that fall well short of its ambitious engineering. It’s basically the Mustang situation all over again.

Why 2015? Basically, precedent.

Since 2009, Tamiya has established something of a release pattern, with new 1/32 subjects dropping in odd-numbered years, and new 1/48 subjects in even-numbered years:

  • 2009 – 1/32 Spitfire Mk.IX
  • 2010 – 1/48 Fi 153 Storch
  • 2011 – 1/32 P-51D Mustang
  • 2012 – 1/48 Il-2 Sturmovik
  • 2013 – 1/32 F4U-1 Corsair

The 1/32 follow-ons – the Spitfire VII and XVI and the PTO Mustang – tend to release about a year after the first variant. So I bet we’ll see the F4U-1A and -1D in 2014, along with something new in 1/48 scale. Then the Jug (fingers crossed!) in 2015.