T34/76 1941 WIP

February 2nd, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

T34/76 Mod. 1941 Cast Turret Soviet WWII-Era Tank

I got this kit plus an Eduard photoetched parts set off eBay for under $20. Ever since I got a smartphone I do a lot of eBay watching and every once in a while either somebody puts something up with a buy it now price that is too low or there’s a regular auction and people are just sleeping when it ends. This is one of those cases. I saw somebody else buy just this kit with no PE within a month of me off eBay and pay around $22.

When I got this kit I was a bit burnt out from finishing the marathon that was my Valkyrie and was I the middle of rushing to finish my Zaku and the Gundam raffle prize for SCGMC so normally this kit would just go in the stash, but then I got sick…

I was home for two days and didn’t feel like painting my Zaku (respirators are a pain in the ass when you have a runny nose and a cough) so, being excited about my new purchase I put High School of the Dead on Netflix (awesome anime) and busted into this little kit.

I’ve only ever built one tank before, a Sgt. York my uncle gave me when I was about 10, so that doesn’t count. This T34 kit is pretty simple out of the box but it has some problems. The main one is that the turret is too narrow. I didn’t measure it with calipers but saw it in some reviews about the kit. Tamiya’s own artwork and instructions show that the bottom (widest part) of the turret should about match the width of the upper hull. The other problem is that if you assemble the tracks as per instructions, they are too small (more on that later).

Over the two sick days I watched all of High School of the dead and de-sprued the whole model and glued a few things together. AMS got the better of me and I pulled the turret back apart and inserted some plastic strips to widen it to the right size. It was pretty easy and let me sleep good that night… I think I also started shaving off details that were to be replaced by the Eduard PE but after my sick days I had to put the tank aside until after SCGMC.

Once I returned to work on the tank the next thing to do was finish removing the plastic that was to be replaced by PE. This included some molded on details as well as the front and rear fenders and engine grills. The Eduard PE set for this kit is relatively simple. The set I have for a Hobby Boss M4A3E8 Sherman has about twice as many pieces in it. Still, this was just the second model I’ve used PE on and the first time I’ve really had to fold the PE into complex shapes and attach them over anything but flat plastic.

There was definitely a learning curve. The first 10 pieces I bent and glued on took for friggin ever to get onto the tank. I had to figure out how to manipulate these tiny little pieces and learn how much give the metal has until I was comfortable that I could bend and fold it without smashing it. I also had to figure out the best way to use my Etchmate PE parts bender (I ended up using the outer edges more than the “teeth” on the deck of the thing). I have a rubberized matt under my workbench (over the carpet). You really have to have something like that if you are going to work with PE. I had a couple pieces just launch themselves off my tweezers but since they weren’t eaten by the carpet monster I only lost one of them. Other tools that were handy were a razor blade (for cutting the parts off and also bending parts), a wooden block (also for cutting parts, put it under the fret when cutting), tweezers, a toothpick (to help in bending and for applying tiny bits of glue), CA glue (glue of choice for PE) and Gator Grip acrylic glue (I don’t think it’s strong enough by itself but it helps tack parts in place unitl you get the CA on them). I found it impossible not to get excess glue on the model. When I did, I scraped it off with my X-Acto knife and none of it showed after painting.

To take a break from the sometimes maddening PE work I got to work gluing the link and length tracks together. If you use as many track links as Tamiya tells you to, you have to move the tensioner wheel (the frontmost raised wheel) all the way back and down (it pivots on a polycap). This wouldn’t be realistic unless the tank was broken down, and just looks lame. It seems like the ideal track circumference would be achieved by adding one track to each side but real T34 links come in pairs, one with a tooth and on flat one and they go together like a jigsaw puzzle so you can’t just cheat and put two toothed tracks or two flat tracks next to each other. However, if you insert the pair of tracks and put the tensioner ALL the way forward the tracks are just a little loose and if you bend some of the molded-together “lengths” of tracks and glue them very carefully it’s not too obvious. Fortunately these tanks usually had loose saggy tracks so you can kind of use it to your advantage. Still, working on the tracks ended up not being much of a break from the PE work after all. In the end I had the tracks sorted out into 4 pieces, a top and bottom run for each side of the tank that allowed me to paint and weather them and the wheels and hull separately and then assemble them all in the end.

Another thing I had to do was a kind of seam line work around the places I had widened the turret. This was kind of a challenge since the goal isn’t to have no seam so much as it is to have just one reasonable seam (the plastic strip I used made for two seams, one on each side of the strip). I used Mr. Surfacer 500 to fix the seams until they looked like the real seams between the different pieces of the tank. I also used some with some brush stippling to add/restore the cast iron texture to the rear of the side pieces of the turret. They were smooth up to about ¼ inch from the edge and in reality the texture should go all the way around.

Once all this work was done I primed the tank. That’s when I saw that the upper hull is just way too perfect. Tamiya molded it perfectly smooth but every picture I saw of a real T34 showed surface imperfections from the way the steel is rolled flat. To try and at least hint at that I spread some liquid model cement here and there on the hull (should have done it before adding the PE bits…) and then gouged it with a toothpick and X-Acto blade. Then I hit it with the glue again to melt the rough edges and then sanded it so that there were only depression and not any raised bits. It came out pretty good for a first try and I think I’ll definitely try it again on future tanks.

Finally it was time to paint. I painted the rubber on the road wheels first (Mr. Color #125, Cowling Color, an off-black color used on Japanese WWII planes). Then I painted IJA Green (Mr. Color #16) first as a pre-shade and then used #136, Russian Green (2) for the main color. I varied the shading quite a bit knowing that future layers of weathering would obscure the difference. These photos with and without flash show you the color more or less as it appears (no flash) and exaggerates the shading so you can see it (flash). Next I painted the tracks Neutral Gray (#13). I didn’t do them a metallic color because from pictures I saw the metal always oxidizes a gray layer over itself and I knew it was also going to get covered with rust/dirt effects so all I needed was a credible base color to start from.

After painting came a gloss clear coat of decanted Mr. Super Clear Gloss and then a filter wash where you paint enamel dots on the model in all different colors and then swirl it around with a soft brush full of Ronsonol lighter fluid. In the end I drag it downwards to look like rain streaks or spills.

That got sealed with another gloss coat and then I did a panel line wash of Testors rubber enamel paint (square bottle) thinned with Ronsonol. It’s a dark brown that looks like the color I would always mix that included black (for darkness), red (for rust) and tan (for dirt). It’s easier to just use rubber since I don’t have to mix it. The pictures below show it applied around joints, raised details and panel lines (the first one with the flash so you can see it better) and the second one shows the excess wiped off with a Ronsonol-soaked paper towel. The filter and panel washes were also applied to the lower hull, turret and wheels.

Before I went any further with the weathering, it was time to paint details. I chose this point because I thought all the previous weathering was supposed to simulate fading and discoloration of the green paint and would not have occurred to tools and other non-green items on the tank.

I used the wood grain painting technique on the ammo boxes. They were painted with tan lacquer and given a lacquer gloss coat. They I dry brushed them with a darker brown mix of Vallejo paints so that the streaks would represent wood grain. That gets sealed under more gloss lacquer. The with a soft brush you dry brush a light brown acrylic for a more subtle grain effect. Finally you hit it with a lacquer gloss coat mixed with a bit of Tamiya transparent orange (it mixed OK for me) to give the wood some warmth. I hand-painted the metal straps with Vallejo (love these paints for hand-painting, they’ll be replacing enamels for all my hand-painting work). Then they got a rubber wash and finally a flat coat and then they were hit with Tamiya weathering pigments rust color (which is really a dark brown) and soot black just to dirty them up some.

I painted the shovel and saw handles with a different tan lacquer and just gave them a little woody streaking with some Vallejo since they are so tiny they just don’t need the whole rigamorole. The shovel heads and the saw were painted with a mix of silver and black, as was the machine gun on the front of the hull.

The next step was paint chipping with Vallejo German Camo Black Brown. All these areas were hit with another gloss coat to seal them.

The next layer of weathering was meant to simulate more dirt and rain streaks over the tank, and was only applied to the turret and upper hull. I applied dots of Testors tan, gray and OD green (a light green similar to the zinc chromate in WWI US aircraft cockpit interiors) mostly around the tops of facets of the tank and dragged them downwards. This adds some weathering to the freshly-painted details and also puts a layer over the paint chips so they don’t all look like they just happened today. After that it was finally time for the flat coat (Mr. Super Clear Flat decanted from the spray bottle). Again there are two pics with and without flash so you can see how it comes out.

At this point the tracks were still glossy gray. I went to work weathering them with a wash of rubber mixed with Testors rust. I applied it heavily and unevenly. I then flat coated the tracks. Next came the mud. I made mud from mixing AK Industries Dark Mud (an enamel-based pre-mixed wash) with DAP Webpatch 90 (which I had left over from patching some holes in the wall in my house after some electrical work was done). It seemed REALLY dark after mixing it to a muddy consistency so I added a pinch of MIG Dry Mud colored pigment. I applied it to the tracks (using an old brush with fairly short bristles), again unevenly and wiped off the excess buildup on the outside of the tracks since they roll around and anything above the tread pattern on the tracks would be knocked off or smashed level. On the inside of the tracks, I rolled one of the sets of roadwheels along them so the mud would look, well, rolled over. This was a very convincing effect on one of the side of the tracks but it hardly shows on the other. Not sure exactly why. I also muddied up the bottom half of the tank’s hull and the underside of the fenders. I made sure to stipple the mud on so it had a splattery texture to it. I think it came out really well although to my surprise as it dried it got REALLY light, just like real mud (so in the future I would probably skip the pigment). Once it had dried overnight this stuff was stuck pretty tenaciously to the model. You could chip it off if you wanted to, but rubbing it just wore off the top layer of the stuff.

Once this amount of weathering was done, I was finally ready to put the model together. I know many tank modelers out there tend to assemble the whole thing and weather it as one, but I’m used to Gunpla and all its moving parts so I tend to build everything exploded out into parts and then put it together. Maybe I’m just not being imaginative enough, but I don’t know how you could realistically weather something with so many layers of moving parts without being able to get at it from every angle and do things like mud up the whole set of tracks and then roll the wheels over it.

I glued the road wheels on with 5 minute epoxy which gave me time to get them all on their axles and still have time to set them on the tracks and make sure they were flat and aligned since there is a fair amount of slop between the wheels and axles. The I used CA glue to glue the tracks to the wheels and the tracks to each other. Even though I did this in advance before painting it still took some time and effort since I still had to tweak the tracks a bit and some of them broke and had to be glued back on in sections.

Once the tracks were on I test fit the upper hull to the lower hull. I had to do a bit of filing on the rear lower hull plastic because it didn’t line up with the photoetched fender replacements. Once I was happy I epoxy glued it on. I used epoxy since the joint is plastic to metal and the photoetched grill and slats on the rear of the tank prevented me from using the rear screw to hold the hull on. I still had a decent sized gap on the fron and rear where the hulls met and also some glossy glue showing both on the hull and where I glued the tracks on so I mixed up a little more mud and touched it all up. Once it all dried it didn’t all match but I blended it with dry mud pigment.

With the actual tank put together it was time to add all the stowage. The bags had been painted and got a wash for shading. I then painted a mist over that to blend it in. I then used Tamiya weathering pastels to dirty them up as I had with the wooden boxes.

Next was the spare tracks which on top of most of the washes the rest of the tank got I put some scratches with dark umber and silver colored pencil. The flat links on the rear of the tank had the holes in them drilled out and stretched sprue was glued in and clipped off to simulate how they are bolted onto the hull. The tracks on the right side of the tank were attached with glue over some photoetch straps and then the straps had to be buckled around them. It was like doing microsurgery…

I had made a section of 5 spare links to go on the front hull (the topmost picture above) but because all the spares I had left were a bunch of toothed ones and only two flat ones, I made the set toothed, flat, toothed, flat, toothed. Most pictures of models built and every picture of real tanks with these extra tracks went flat, toothed, flat, toothed, flat and that made sense since the flat noes have the hole for bolting them on. Otherwise the toothed ones on the ends would flap around. So, I left them off. One thing I’ve learned with IPMS models is that adding more on can work against you as much as it can work for you.

The last piece I attached to the model was a piece of stretch sprue antenna cut to be 3.9 scale meters long. It’s so thin it wiggles in the breeze from my house heater.

The final steps were to add some last paint chips with the dark umber colored pencil to replicate fresh scratches and to use the MIG dry mud pigment to dust up the wheels and bottom of the upper hull as well as a few random swipes to make some dusty spot on the model. After that, it was finally done.

Click the picture link below to see the completed model.

Completed Model

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