Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Sturmpanzerwagen 563 'Wotan', Part 3

This project was inspired by a photograph, but while undertaking the sculpting work for the sixteen figures that I needed, it became clear that I'd also, by chance or design, explored a notion outlined in the classic  'How to build Dioramas' by the late Shep Paine.

In the book, the author and master model-maker talks about highlighting a vehicle's unusual feature as a way to create interest and illustrate a point about a particular vehicle.


The A7V tank had an official crew of eighteen men, sometimes up to twenty-two would be carried into combat. So... the unusual feature of the tank was it's massive crew, and what better way to display this features than an image of the crew around their vehicle?

I work as a sculptor of wargaming figures, but even so, sculpting (and eventually painting) the sixteen figures was a huge undertaking. I sculpted them in groups four to keep the project manageable.

I'm extremely excited to reveal the unpainted figures here for the first time. The images.... 




Below is the first group that I worked on. 
Resin heads from Hornet were crucial for this project. However, their M18 Steel Helmet set only contains five heads, so to avoid duplication of faces plastic heads were also used. 

Some figures, such as the first on the left, have a Hornet helmet atop a plastic head. 

Second from the left is the tank commander, Leutnant Goldmann, according to my reference.
Figures with peaked caps needed round cockades. These were punched out of lead foil and an indentation was then pushed into the centre with a pin. The piping around the brim was made from super thin copper wire, salvaged from an electrical coil.

Rather than building the figures over a wire armature, commercial plastic parts were used as much as possible in their construction, mostly from Dragon. Older Dragon bits are easy to spot in orange plastic.



Sometimes I got lucky and could use an arm or leg almost stock, but usually all the detail was ground off and I had to sculpt all the folds and drapery. Even the boots received attention, I re-sculpted all the laces, and added hobnails on the soles using a jewellers beading tool.
One of my aims was to ensure the figures sat securely and comfortably on the tank, with no unsightly gaps where they interact with the vehicle.



Figures such as the one below resting his foot on the open door presented an extra challenge, as more   points of contact with the tank require constant checking to ensure a natural sit.

Gas-mask cases are from ICM's WW1 German Infantry Weapons and Equipment, and WW1 Austro-Hungarian Infantry Weapons and Equipment set. The availability of these sets saved me a great deal of work. I did not, however, use the helmets in these sets, opting to keep things uniform by only using the excellent Hornet helmets.



The standing figure, man seated on hatch, man sitting and resting his hand on the tank and man with peaked cap in the hatch were the final figures sculpted.
All sixteen figures wear the simplified late war 'bluse'. Buttons on pockets and shoulder straps were made from punched-out plastic, and all buckles on the pistol holsters and straps were made from tiny squares of plastic, with a small putty blob in the centre.



So there you have it. I took a bunch of 'in progress' shots of these figures which I may post in the future, but I'll leave it at that for now.

 Coming soon: the completed diorama.


Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Sturmpanzerwagen 563 'Wotan', Part 2

A year ago I wrote and posted pics of this ongoing mega-project focussing on the genesis of the project and building the interior. An excellent new 1/35 scale model is available from Meng Models, but I began my project before this kit was available and so am using the ancient Tauro Model kit as the basis for the model.

This post I'll talk about the exterior of the model, but I'll also talk about the final small items that were placed inside before buttoning the whole thing up.

For those not familiar with the A7V, it was the only  tank made for and used by the Imperial German Army during World War 1. Only twenty vehicles were produced and the sole surviving example now resides in the Queensland Museum, Brisbane.


I built and detailed the running gear in the Tauro kit, and as can be seen below these end up way longer than the correctly-sized Meng running gear. A friend generously donated his Tauro A7V kit to me, so I was able to rebuild the running gear, and replicate the way it's attached under the tank correctly.



The second Tauro A7V kit was moulded in grey,  rather than sand styrene. I used the unseen wheels from inside each Meng bogie, so had enough wheels that would fit the Meng tracks.



The old Tauro kit provides actual springs for the bogies, but the springs on the real tank feature much thicker and squarer coils. I made a new spring from Milliput and had it custom cast at Eureka Miniatures.



Tauro's idler and sprocket wheels are too small in diameter. 

The photo below shows a Tauro idler, my scratch-built idler, and the correctly-sized Meng idler. I'd have to fudge the size of the idler a little, but since only a portion of the circumference is visible on the finished model it's very hard to tell it's undersize. 

Correcting the suspension and resolving the dimensional issues was one of the biggest challenges of making a more accurate A7V from the Tauro kit.



Here are the finished bogies before painting and instillation. Meng styrene and Master Club resin bolts were used for detailing. 



Each of the twenty A7V tanks is different, so constant checking of the excellent references now available was crucial to ensure the accuracy of details. As can be seen below, the four hull sides are from the Tauro kit. The large hull side plates were shortened on their top edge, as they were too tall.



The front and rear roof as well as the command cupola were completely scratch-built. Bolt detail removed from the kit parts as well as on the scratch-built areas was achieved using the amazing Master Club bolt and rivet sets. These are installed into a drilled hole, so very careful measuring and marking for placement was required.



Domed, hexagonal, and hex with protruding bolt were all used to match reference. The guides for the vision port covers, two for each aperture, were individually filed to shape from flat tin.



Tank 563 'Wotan' had applique armour on the cupola, but photos show it on only three sides.



It took me a while to settle on a way to make the many hinges on the model. I used 1mm round copper tube from Albion Alloys for these. The demarcations between the hinge segments were filed in using a jewellers tool called a gapping file.



Using a pin with the end filed, held by a pin vice, I was able to hold the copper tube steady to cut in the details with the 0.5mm  gapping file. Also below are the micro drills used to add the smallest bolts. The Tamiya micro drills are readily available from model shops.



Ventilation louvres are cut into the roof.



'Wotan' featured long, continuous louvre covers, different to the segmented type in the Meng kit.



Suspension, Hull armour, roof and cupola all sorted out, many of the smaller details could then be tackled. Below are the hinged covers for the idlers and sprockets. The hinges were made as described above. Bolts shaved from junked models were also used in some places.



Tiny hooks used to hold open the suspension covers, as well as the small covers for the engine-mechanic's hatches. The rods attached to chains were (I believe) used to holt open these small hatches.



Inside and outside faces of the mechanic's hatches, side doors and assembled cupola vision port covers. 



Front and rear tow shackle covers. These were made from some scrap photo-etch that I had in the spares box, cut to shape and attached to copper hinges.



I decided to paint he model in sub-assemblies. They were given a couple of light coats of Tamiya Fine Surface Primer, straight out of the rattle can.  For the markings, I carefully cut some masks using Tamiya masking tape, basing them on photos of 563 'Wotan' and on the decals in the Meng kit. The maltese crosses on the real tank would have been painted by hand, and are not perfectly symmetrical. 



Once the grey undercoat had cured for  24 hours, I sprayed the the base colour using a mix of Tamiya XF-25 Light Sea Grey and XF-73 JGSDF Dark Green. The interiors of the maltese crosses and individual number were then hand painted with Vallejo acrylics.



It was always my intention to close up the model once the interior was complete. Even so, i wanted it to be complete in every detail. Accounts from A7V tanks in action mention crewmen exiting the tank to clear obstacles and so I reasoned that some pioneer tools may well have been on board. I also made some tool boxes since the engines in WW1 tanks needed a lot of attention.



A photo of 'Wotan' shows a large squarish box near one of the side doors, and a look through my reference brought up some German grenade boxes that looked to be the same shape. The grenades are from one of the WW1 accessory sets from the Ukrainian firm ICM.



Since the model would be placed in a diorama,  I thought that it may be useful to have a bicycle to help fill any empty space. This is an item from Master Box, another Ukrainian firm. The photo-etched spokes, chain and sprocket all come with the kit, and it's a really sweet miniature bike model.



I added a break-line and replaced the moulded plastic seat-springs with some wound copper wire, as well as various other details.



Here's the various bits painted. 



Here are the final photos before attaching the roof and cupola. The model was airbrushed with Pledge floor polish before the weathering was applied.
All the interior accessories, as well as machine-gun ammo belts, ammo boxes, water condensing cans, tool boxes etc were  glued into place.




Next up: the crew!





Thursday, 28 March 2019

28mm Soviet Support Weapons, 1980's

Four new weapons teams are coming soon from Eureka Miniatures.

These join the 1980's Soviet troops shown here and here, which are already available here at the Eureka web store, or here at Eureka Miniatures USA.  They are designed for wargaming Soviet-Afghan War and 'what-if' Cold War scenarios.



As the sculptor and designer of these figures, I first needed to decide the overall look that I was going to go for with the uniforms. Soviet soldiers deployed to Afghanistan during the 1980's wore a wide range of uniforms, which also changed along the duration of the war. In the end, I decided to match the infantry sets that I'd already made, which is primarily a KLMK camouflage suit, over which is worn the 6B-2 flak jacket. Some figures' flak jackets are variants with integral pouches and pockets for AK magazines or grenades, others wear chest-rigs or webbing.
The Soviet engineers in the below photo are an excellent study of this combination.



First is an  SPG-9  Recoilless Rifle with three-man crew.



Next is a standard  82mm Mortar with two-man crew. 



AGS-17  Automatic Grenade Launcher with two-man crew.



And lastly is the NSV  Heavy Machine-Gun with two-man crew. While the above weapons are already available with the  Afghan Guerilla figure sets, this one is newly mastered. Extra NSV photos below.



                                Scroll down for the painting guide available here.