Sunday, 16 December 2012

Moving on Up


As you can tell I'm still breathing.  I also haven't been quite as idle as the blog would suggest.

The blog has presented an interesting challenge for me.  I intended it to serve as a "behind the scenes" look at what I was doing, as well as serve as a log that i could look back on when I wanted to duplicate something later.  Whilst it served in both roles I found out two things:
  1. Blogs are time consuming.  At least to write to the standard that i wanted to write.  This took time away from actually doing the work in the first place.
  2. An idol blog is an albatross.  If I didn't post anything it started gnawing at me.  But I only liked posting when I was doing something interesting   If all I'm doing is painting StuG platoon number 4 then what is going on the blog?
So, in the end the Blog fell by the wayside.

I'm hoping that not being the sole provider of content will make the blog more relaxing to write as I wont feel to need to work on filler.  The level of content will stay the same on my part, but I will also be writing a bit more generally on wargaming outside of just modelling stuff.  

In the meantime "Safety Markings" will go idle.  Honestly, you won't notice the difference here given my lousy output in the recent months.  If it all falls apart over there then I will likelly come back here and re-launch the blog.

Hopefully you will come and join me over at this new venture, the Brighton Warlords blog.  I just posted my first entry that launches (pun intended) my new project, a V1 launch enclosure terrain piece.

Just follow the rocket trails!


Sunday, 11 March 2012

Zimmer-it Up

It's always important to document the heroic failures as well as the successes so this week we'll take a look at an experiment I conducted with applying Zimmerit on 1:100 models.

Firstly, what is Zimmerit?  It's an anti-magnetic mine paste that was applied to German tanks.  If you've ever seen a German tank that looks like its got a bad case of cellulite, then that is Zimmerit.  Here's a close-up photo I took of a JagdPanther at the Imperial War Museum, London that features it.
Nothing a bit of moisturiser wouldn't solve.

The paste is not anti-magnetic, it is just non-magnetic.  It provides sufficient stand-off that a hand deployed panzer-knacker magnetic mine can't find purchase and will fall off.  Based on this, the Geramns decided to apply it to all of their front-line tanks from the end of 1943.  There was just one problem...  Only the Germans used magnetic mines.

The Germans had, once again, made a massive assumption that everyone else would follow suite (like heavy tanks).  Sadly the opposition's thought process went more or less like this:

  • USA - Why'd I want to throw the mine when I can launch it on a rocket?
  • Britain - Why'd I want to use a magnet when I can use glu-OH LORD!  IT'S STUCK TO MY LEG!
  • Russia - Why'd I want to use a mine when I can send wave after wave of my own men to use up their ammo?

Also, Dog Mines
Combined with a rumour that it caused tanks to catch fire (later disproved) it disappears off German armour production lines in September 1944.  More info can be found here.

Now, the Plastic Soldier Company have been producing some fantastic plastic kits of late, but all the German kit is 'sans Zimmerit'.  That's fine for stuff pre December '43 or post September '44 but, for the admittedly quiet  bit in between, the models are technically incorrect.

So what's a boy working on an early 1944 army to do?  There's two obvious choices here:
  1. Ignore it.  At 1:100 the Zimmerit is barely visible beyond a slight surface patterning and a softening of the edges.
  2. Try and sculpt it on.
I'll admit that Number 1 was the most tempting, given I still haven't started painting the StuG, but the PSC kit did leave me with a load of spare StuG F8 hulls to experiment on so I thought I'd give it a go before entirely rejecting it.

Looking at the patterns of Zimmerit used, I decided that the columns of horizontal lines (pattern 1 here) would be the easiest to replicate (although the waffle scheme - no.6 - was pretty common on StuGs and does look cool).  I also decided to try three methods of replicating it:
  1. Paint on green stuff, sculpt lines as soon as applied
  2. Paint on green stuff, sculpt lines as soon as the green stuff darkens and dries
  3. Paint on green stuff, leave overnight, then sculpt in lines the next day.
Here's the sculpting tool I used.  The important thing is to get something with a decent, broad-ish point on it.
Also, kind of looks like a xenomorpth tail
Approach 1 - Wet Sculpt
I used a standard GW paint brush to apply some liquid breen stuff evenly over the armour plate.  It's important to get the thickness right.  The yellow plastic underneath should not be showing through.
I applied the green stuff to one location then used the sculpting tool to sculpt the lines in.  If I was doing a whole tank I'd then proceed to do the next location, and so on, always sclupting the green stuff as soon as its applied and not letting it dry.  As it was, I only did the one panel to assess the look.
Approach 1 - Sculpted straight after application
To better show the panel off, I then painted it Vallejo "Middlestone", followed by a 50:50 Brown and Black shade followed by a "Buff" drybrush
Approach 1 - allowed to dry and painted
Approach 2 - Short Dry Sculpt
I used the GW paint brush to apply liquid green stuff on all panels.  I should not that the real zimmerit wasn't applied all over a tank (this large scale photo-etch kit shows where it should be), I just wanted plenty of area to experiment with.
Very reminiscent of my early "Space Crusade" era work.  Thick, blotchy and un-even.
I then waited for the green stuff to change to a darker shade of green all over (about 30 minutes).  At this point I then set to work with the sculpting tool.  One thing I noticed was that if I got the lines too close together, it tended to rip the green stuff off which may be useful as a technique for doing battle damaged zimmerit.
Approach 2 - Green stuff applied all over and allowed to dry sufficient for colour to darken
Here's what it looks like after painting
Approach 2 - Painted
Approach 3 - Long Dry Sculpt
The liquid green stuff was painted on at the same time as Approach 2 but left overnight.  The next morning I used the sculpting tool to sculpt in the lines.  I found that it was a lot harder to get a decent line as the tool tended to stick in the solid green stuff.  Teraing seemed to be minimesd though.

Approach 3 - Allowed to dry overnight before working
Here it is painted.
Approach 3 - Painted 
I'd have to say that Approach 2 works the best based on the painted results.  It's also probably the faster approach to use too.  Approach 1 is too slow to do and far too subtle.  The texture does not come through the paint.  Approach 3 was equally underwhelming and difficult to work.

I painted up the Approach 2 example fully (or at least the modded area) to get a better look at the end result.
As mentioned - Zimmerit wouldn't be on track skirts and lower hull top surface as I depicted here.  So don't copy it!

But, I'm still not convinced the end effect is worth it.  The result is far too subtle and really just merges into the paint scheme.  I'll probably stick to non-Zimmerit on the StuG battery but it does seem possible to apply  it if it really bugs you.

I'd appreciate some feedback on this.  Which do you think works better?  Is it worth doing at all?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Commence engine restart procedure

in 3... 2... 1...

Hmm, November 2nd was the last update you say?  I guess I have some explaining to do...

Okay, so about November I really knuckled down on building terrain for the Brighton Bash Tournament.  With the assistance of Mike and Nathan, over the course of November, December and the first few weeks of January we cracked out 40ft of tree lines and about 50ft of hedge rows along with some Ironclad Bocage sections and a Kerr and King village in a box!  The likes of Skip, Steve B and Si also contributed.
Kerr and King Normandy Buildings - Donated by Skip, base coated by Mike (along with FFI graffiti), fine detail and frontage by me.

The tournament seemed to go well and the terrain was well received.  I took photos over the weekend which can be found here (photo-bucket uploaded them in reverse order annoyingly).

It took me a while to recover enthusiasm after that, but did eventually pick up the brush in late January to do some M3 Stuart I "Honey" tanks in Operation Crusader era Caunter camo.  I took photos along the way and we'll look at them at some point in the future.
Ready to stroll around the blue!
Finally, the release of the Grey Wolf and Red Bear source books for Flames of War got me looking at the Eastern Front with renewed interest.  I picked up a few boxes of Plastic Soldier Company StuG III to form a Begleit StuG Battery and that really forms the basis for today's article.  If your interested, I did a review on the StuG kit over at Mighty Miniatures.

I want the StuGs to be multi-purpose so they can be just as easily used as a Panzer Battalion equipped with StuG IIIG or as a Normandy era StuG Battery, neither of which have tanks riders.  Now, I could just ignore the tank escorts when appropriate and leave them as a permanently fixed part of the tank, but that would be far too simple (as well as confusing if I don't upgrade all the platoons in the company to have Begleit).  Instead, I want to magnetize the the riders and the tank to make them removable.

The main issue with this approach is the Begleit StuG riders.  They come as a set of separate figures, rather than as a clump of figures (as the Russian equivalent do/did).  Whilst this makes for a more versatile figure it does complicate the magnetisation process!

To get around this I decided to use a central piece of stowage to take the magnet, and then mount the figures from this, daisy chaining them if necceary.  This would allow me to disperse the figures around the back of the tank whilst still keeping them as a single whole that could be lifted off as required.

Placing the magnet on the tank side was simplicity itself.  A Ø1.5mm rare earth magnet (I used Modifix) would sit in between the engine covers of the StuG so the magnet on the tank would need to correspond to this location.
Almost made to measure!
The plastic is thin enough to be semi-transparent.  Holding the upper hull of the StuG up to a bright light, I scribed the corresponding point on the underside of the hull between the engine deck blisters and used this to glue a magnet in place.
Stealth Mode Initiated!
 It's important to keep all the magnets pointing the right way so I glued a magnet to a piece of stowage first and held that in place on the hull when gluing the one on the underside.  The magnet on the underside will, when dropped into place, self locate AND make sure its pointing the right way.
If you look closely you can see where the magnet dragged itself into place
That done, I completed the construction of the StuG's (an article in itself, maybe next week).  The magnet on the tank is now completely out of sight.

The next stage is to play around with some blue tac and find a good pose for the tank riders.  I use three or four of the Begleit models for each tank, positioning them around a crate, oil drum or other convenient piece of stowage that will accommodate a 1.5mm magnet.
Once happy, I use a 3mm drill bit in a dremel to drill a hole to locate the magnet.  I then place the magnet on the hull (to ensure its up the right way), added a dab of super glue and then put the drilled stowage onto it.  Keep moving the two bits so they can't get stuck to the hull!
It's obviously important to make sure that  the stowage is bigger than a 3mm hole...
It's now a case of pinning the Begleit to the stowage.  Take one of the Begleit and dab a bit of bright paint (I use red) on it then push it against the stowage to transfer the paint over.  This lets you work out where you should drill if its difficult to judge.

Now, use a 0.5mm/0.75mm drill to place a hole on both the Begleit and the stowage.

You now need a piece of metal wire to pin the two bits together.  I use sandwich bag tie wraps as they tend to be about 0.5mm thick.  Cut off an plastic covering and stick one end into one piece with some superglue.  Once dry, cut to length and stick into the other piece.
The very definition of "being pinned"
A similar technique can be used to attach a Begleit to a Begleit already attached to the stowage ("daisy-chaining").
Oooh, nasty!
As can be seen, a similar technique can be used for 0.50 cal exit wounds...
<sing>"here I am, stuck in the middle with you"</sing>
Once this is dry it should leave a cluster of Begleit and stowage that lifts clear of the hull like so:
All ready to keep them damn ruskies off the StuG
"Stealth Mode Ini.. wait.  What do you mean it doesn't work on the escorts?"

The next stage will be to go back and add some green stuff tarps and bed rolls to hide the pins where I've needed to use long ones and also add some more stowage so it really looks like the Escorts are having to find somewhere to sit.

Of course, the magnet in the hull would also allow us to make "destroyed" smoke plumes or clusters of stowage (so the rear hull doesn't look empty without riders).

So there we go.  Next update will either look at the finishing work on the escorts or tips on building the StuG kit depending how much work I get done!  I'll try and get back into weekly updates too.