Saturday, 21 October 2017

Star Wars Snowspeeder [WIP - Snap fitting parts onto the upper hull and a final open-cockpit view]

Snap fitting the snowspeeder's power coupling/convertor, laser activator, air intake, repulsor systems onto the upper hull may be a simple enough task. But the life it breathes into the scale model is immense. At long last, the snowspeeder now looks like it should with the exception of a few missing parts. Yet to be attached are the snowspeeder's canopy, laser cannons and three out of four air brake flaps (one on the upper left wing and one below each wing). Still, the vehicle undeniably looks more like a snowspeeder now. Here then is one final open cockpit view of the almost finished snowpeeder.

Bandai Star Wars Snowspeeder work-in-progress: more parts attached and a final open-cockpit view

Following the previous update, the only new painted parts are the snowspeeder's lase cannons. That leaves the base as the only section of the scale model kit that remains unpainted. But as far as the snowspeeder itself is concerned, all its parts have been painted. They await final assembly (mostly snap fitting with some glue required at weaker joints) and of course the weathering effects process.

Laser cannons are the newest and final snowspeeder parts to be painted

As much as I prefer the view of an open cockpit - undoubtedly influenced by the many hours spent painting the pilots and cockpit area -it isn't much of an option for a snowspeeder that's suppose to be in mid-flight. So short of converting the snowspeeder into a grounded vehicle, that canopy is coming down on Wedge Antilles and Wes Janson. So this will essentially be their final photographic hurrah.

Snowspeeder sans canopy, laser cannons and air brake flaps
Hull generally still looks 'clean' because no weathering effects have been applied yet
Aft section of the snowspeeder looks bare because it's still missing most of its air brake flaps (and decals)
Wes Janson is the focal point of this shot; sadly he will soon be almost completely covered up by the canopy

Aside from the all to obvious canopy, also missing from the upper hull are three of the four air brake flaps found on the snowspeeder. The upper left air brake flap is already on the right wing, deployed in a closed position. All other flaps will be deployed in the open position to contribute to the narrative I'm trying to weave for the snowspeeder's final display position. This will become clearer in the final post in which I'm going to show the movie screenshots that my build version is based upon.

Loving how the snowspeeder looks even at this incomplete stage of its build
Side view of the unfinished snowspeeder in an open-cockpit configuration
Greens of Wedge Antilles' helmet add a dash of contrast to the whole colour scheme
In an open cockpit configuration, the eye is easily drawn towards the pilots
Noticeably absent from the snowspeeder's lower hull are its air brake flaps on both wings

I had actually forgotten completely about the laser cannons. It was only as I was about to post the latest progress update that I noticed the missing laser cannons ... d'oh! Luckily they didn't require much work and were ready in no time to be included in this second last post on the snowspeeder.

Closeup of the laser cannons; seen here after a basecoat, panel lining and washes
Differences in orange hues reflect lighter tones of the pilots' flight-suits versus darker for the hull stripes

Not much is left to really do before the Bandai Star Wars 1/48 scale Snowspeeder is finally completed. Putting together what's left of the unattached parts and painting of the base should be a quick affair. Only the weathering process could extend the date of its final reveal. But even that shouldn't take very long as the weathering will be fairly minimal.  

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Wednesday, 18 October 2017

T-55A Medium Tank [WIP - Decals and Wash; prep work before the weathering process]

Before the weathering process for the T-55A even begins, there were some prep work that needed to be done first. There is no set way to prep for weathering and in this case it involved the application of decals, the painting of a key non-metallic part of the tank and finally the application of washes. Each when combined forms an underlying canvas onto which weathering effects will later take shape.

T-55A turret work-in-progress: Painting gun mantlet's canvas sheath as well as applying decals and washes 
Turret is still missing dirt streaks and rust stains, which will be added later in the weathering process

To protect the underlying paint as well as provide a suitable surface tension for the decals and enamel wash, a water-based semi-gloss clear coat (Mr Hobby Top Coat) was sprayed onto the basecoat. Once the clear coat had dried at least overnight, the decal set for a Czechoslovakian T-55A was fixed onto the turret using a combination of Mr Hobby's Mr Mark Setter and Mr Mark Softer. The former provided extra adhesiveness underneath the decals while the latter helped soften the decal and helped it conform better to the curved shape of the turret as well as grooves of the storage box. 

Mr Mark Setter provided extra adhesiveness while Mr Mark Softer helped the decal conform to the turret shape

After the decals, it was time to paint the canvas sheath on the turret. Now you might be wandering why a canvas sheath is covering the gun mantlet. As I understand it, the sheath is there to prevent water and dirt from getting into the mantlet. During the painting process, I used Vallejo Model Color 70.921 English Uniform, 70.880 Khaki Grey and 70.821 German Camouflage Beige WWII as well as a Citadel wash of Agrax Earthshade to achieve a fairly realistic looking canvas texture. 

Canvas sheath (for the gun mantlet)  was painted with a Vallejo Model Color triad and finished off with a Citadel wash

Then a dark brown wash was applied judiciously on the tank hull and turret. And because an enamel wash (AK Interactive Dark Brown Wash for Green Vehicles) was used, any excess of it was easily cleaned off using either a brush or cotton bud dampened slightly with white spirit.  

An enamel wash of dark brown hues was applied to create the first impressions of depth on the tank

Shown below are the same photographs (as the first two) of the tank turret after its canvas was painted as well as after decals and some wash had been applied. The only difference was that a white instead of black background was used. There are arguments for and against using either a white or black background when taking shots of the tank so essentially it's just a matter of taste.

T-55A turret work-in-progress, this time against a white background
Czechoslovakian flag symbol and canvas add colour variety to the turret's predominantly olive green hue

Using a wash helps define any edges and grooves on the tank. In addition, the wash creates depth to the whole piece versus the flat looking basecoat only paint job. It's important to note that the wash will darken/brown ever slightly when a semi-gloss clear coat is sprayed over it. So at this point in time I'm not too worried about the wash taking on a seemingly greyish tint after it has dried.

Although the dark brown wash seems to take on a greyish tint after drying ...
... the dull hues (as seen above) will become darker and more brownish once a semi-gloss clear coat is applied
Clockwise from the top are the idler wheel, drive sprocket and road wheels
A simple wash sans any weathering already increases the sense of depth to the tank parts
Before (right) and after (left) a dark brown wash was applied to the tank hull

Work on the T-55A has now past the halfway point to around the 66% mark. Major milestones in the future include weathering, installing and painting the tracks, getting a realistic wood effect on the unditching log/beam, and most importantly paint the tank commander. My AFV paint job mantra is that a good figure can save a bad tank but not vice versa. That I will leave for last. The next milestone is to weather the T-55A as a tank in operation for a few months or even a year. As to how that would look like I admittedly have no idea. So I'm going to play the creative license card and see you soon in the next work-in-progress blog post of the 1/35 scale Tamiya T-55A Medium Tank.


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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?

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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?

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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.

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