Soviet-style priming

The great mass

At long last I got to dig out my airbrush and my low-running grey primer (VSP Grey Primer). I started the priming process from the bottom of the turret, then proceeded to the upper hull and from there to the lower one. This way the turret's bottom and the upper hull's turret ring had the time to dry so that I could put the turret in its place and then paint the rest of it easily. Maybe it sounds silly but this has been the quickest and most fingerprintless method of priming the whole model.

Of course I was prepared to touch up some places, most likely the road wheels / suspension system part. But that was something I'd see properly the next day.

Tracking, tracking, tracking

Naturally I primed the tracks as well, both on the inside and the outside. Following the idea I mentioned in the previous post I blasted the inner surface of the tracks with steel coloured paint (VMA 71065 Steel), aiming from left and right to get proper coverage.

The idea of this trick was that as the metallic road wheels were grinding the track links constantly, on the same position. For the next step I cut some long, thinnish strips of masking tape, approximating the width of the road wheels. Then I laid them on both sides of the teeth, just where the road wheels were touching. As the base colour of the tracks I chose a darkish brown.

The brown I painted in a few steps, first I just brushed on some Tamiya's paint (XF-10 Flat Brown) pretty liberally and later I airbrushed with better coverage some gently lighter brown (VMA 00000 Brown). Because the outer surface of the tracks was damn annoying to even think of painting by brush, I didn't consider that option but airbrushed the buggers happily and quickly.

While removing the masking tape strips I saw, as pretty much expected, that the result wasn't optimal. A while later I touched the metallic surfaces by brush. Again after a day of letting the paint dry, among other things, I applied a brown wash on the inner surfaces (VMA 71136 IJA Earth Brown).


Some Soviet-style individual track links


As I think I mentioned when I started this project, I wasn't going to play with the rubber band tracks and these individual link tracks weren't entirely individual. There was a long strip to be located under the tracks, then two shorter bits that'd be going from the outmost road wheels towards the drive sprocket and the idler wheel. All the rest were to be done out of individual alternating toothed/toothles pieces. In case you wanted to build it with slightly sagging tracks on the top, the kit offered jigs for that. I thought that I ought to try that at least once.

Slacking tracks

First I cut off the jigs from the sprues and checked the instructions to see how many it suggested per side. That was 34, which didn' tmean that it wanted that many of each type but half of one and half of the other type. Patiently I cut off and cleaned 17 of each and set them in handy groups.

work in progress
Maybe I was silly for building these upside down, with the guiding tooth pointing upwards, but I did that to get the gluing done with much less of a hassle. Had I done this the other way, I'd had to glue them all separately or to drown the whole setup in glue, inviting disaster. Laziness won again.

A bit later I flipped my setups around and pressed them into shape. At that point I didn't need to be too worried about the track parts getting stuck to the jigs.

Some assembly required

Again I sorted my pieces in a line and when ready, applied glue on the inner surface of the track. After waiting for a few minutes I bent it around the wheels and set the top bits I had prepared the previous evening to get the whole track in place - without gluing these two sets together. Then I let them be for a good while. Finally I carefully detached my constructs and admired what I had achieved.

I repeated the same show on the other side of the tank. Before I could get too confused I used a permanent marker to mark the first side's track bits and the inside of the tank to link them together. In the photo the second trackset was still being set to shape.

This was a popular approach to tank tracks, I had understood, but I hadn't tried it out so far. This way doing the basic painting of the tracks was going to be simple and they also wouldn't be on the way while I was painting the rest of the tank.

I was interested in trying a trick I had once read about: I'd paint a clean metallic band on the inside of the track where the metallic road wheels would be constantly grinding. Of course I couldn't find my source anymore.

An extra bonus piece

In the earlier stages of the build I had ignored the tow cable completely, and I hadn't realized that I could've done it any of the times I was fooling around with superglue. Now I finally cut off the cable ends, cleaned them up and pressed the ends of this string to them. Then I applied some superglue to set them and left them for the night. I was pretty interested in seeing how these would soak up the paint later on.


Stalin's turret


Now that my tank's hull was just about complete, I started working on the main gun, the D-25T tank cannon. The gun barrel's halves behaved extraordinarily nicely as the muzzle brake and the cradle's end held them nicely and tightly together. I didn't expect any problems with the elevation system, as the axle wasn't glued at all but it was just attached to the rubber bits. This subassembly was then glued to the inside of the gun mantlet and the barrel was glued on this. Business as usual, again.

This was a very traditional, Soviet-looking cannon, the familiar look almost made me anxious :p While these buggers were curing I started working on the turret itself.

The turret

First of all I glued two benches to the base of the turret. Somehow this looked so very depressing that I decided to build it buttoned up and that way also save the two Soviet tanker figures for some other project. Then I did some more dry-fitting and pondered on which was the best order of assembly in this case.

Based on that I glued the gun mantlet -setup onto the top part of the turret and after giving it a few moments to cure I glued the bottom on as well. Then all that was left was to glue on all the tiny details, like the commander's cupola and whatnot. The hatches, as I had already decided, I glued shut.

A rear-facing MG

There was a machine gun that was to be installed to the back of the turret. I really couldn't say if it could be possible to assemble it so that it could be moved, but I didn't manage. Just for a more interesting look I rotated it so that it wasn't pointing at a neutral position.

Just to see how it looked  like at this point I piled all the three main components together. It looked fine.

The panic handlebars

You may have noticed a few odd holes around the turret in the previous few photos. The turret was supposed to be surrounded with a bunch of handles for the groundpounders, but one main thing concerned me. The issue was of course that thoes things have always been fragile and it was more than likely that at least one of them would break while either detaching it from the sprue or while cleaning it up. Then I'd have to try to fix it somehow, leave it off or use something else to replace it. As it looked more than probable that I'd have to scratchbuild a handle, I'd do them all myself while I was at it. I'd use the traditional Finnish Army -provided metal wire for this, once again.

During this session I drilled a number of hole pairs around the turret. A few of them along the upper edge, but most of them around the lower edge. I measured the necessary lenght of this wire by eyeand bent it into an edged U shape. The tails being of different lenghts wasn't of any sort of concern as they'd disapper into the turret.

My first guess had been pretty accurate, the width was spot on and just by a tiny adjustment on the entry angle I got it installed beautifully. Finally I applied a drop of superglue on each hole and started working on the rest of the handles.

The turret, assembled

After less than ten minutes all the handles were done and glued on. Each was different and they looked like they'd seen use and life in general. At least that's what I had envisioned and they'd of course look even better after painting. I was most pleased at everything at this stage.

Next I'd finally start working on the tracks. For those I had a new (to me) method in mind that I'd like to try out. Of course it could all fail miserably - or not.



Precision work

To begin with I skipped the instruction's track assembly phase and left that for later. So I climbed from the lower hull to the upper hulll. Interestingly the top hull was built of two halves, front and back. Both of them needed a few (to a total of eight, iirc) 1mm holes. For a bit safer results I started drilling with my finger drill from the inside out and then cleaned the holes up a bit by drilling again from the outside in, then slashing any remaining plastic off with the xacto.

The upper hull halves settled together pleasantly sturdily with their own shaped connectors. In addition to that I was to glue two trapetzoid plates that were also covering the bottoms of the grilles on the sides (I had been thinking of blocking them (before checking this part in the instructions) with some styrene). There wasn't much to see from the driver's closed hatch, but it was there anyway.

Next I dropped an additional set of grilles on top of what I assumed to be the engine's air intake vent. This was a funny-looking setup. Then I glued on the exhaust system's cover pieces. I also liked the simple PE bits on this one: they just were superglued on. No bending, turning, swearing into place not to mention nothing to be searched crawling on the floor with a flashlight and a magnifying glass.

The next time I built and dug up the pieces so I could proceed, I was met with this sight. Who knows what sort of fumes had spread to reveal my touch, but there it was. It reminded me of the detective novels where they use superglue + something aerosolized to find all the fingerprints from a room and so on. Funny.

I then proceeded through the rest of the topside, installing unrecognizeable bits (those in the front and back corners, on both sides), engineering tools, boxes and the fuel drums. While I was working on the nose, I got annoyed when I noticed that the instructions had told me to drill two pairs of holes on both sides of the driver's hatch, but then on the next page I was told that there was only need for two. Into these I installed the light and the horn(!). The extra holes I'd have to cover up later, before priming.


The fantastic world of road wheels

Roadwheels, the arch-enemy of my nerves

I started building the rolling monster from the most tedious part of any tank: the road wheels and their friends. These were built in three sets, each wheel type was to contain a different sized plastic cylinder. The drive sprockets had the largest ones, the road wheels the medium sized ones and the return rollers the tiniest. Just in case, I assume, the were a couple of extras of the tiniest bits, as they were the easiest to lose.

In the same first step with the wheels I was also to set up the glacis plate and another in the rear. So while some wheels were curing I worked on the sloped plates in the way that made sense. I glued the solid bits but left the extra track bits off to make painting much easier and cleaner.

Then I attacked the return rollers first by knolling the pieces and then assembling. Three per side was needed.

Working on the return rollers took surprisingly less of time than I had assumed, so I kept on with the road wheels as I still had some time. While I was at it I did them all, seven per side. Once again, the memories of Tiger/Panther setups made me fear of a horrible amount of time needed, but luckily I was wrong and all 14 were done almost in a blink of an eye.

The photo above shows the layout. Again, being very used to the German way of the Panzerwaffe I was gently confused by the fact that there wasn't a separate type for the idler wheel but just another road wheel took its role. In the photo those were the leftmost ones, those without a return roller directly next to them.

Lower hull

The next evening I proceeded to the lower hull and glued both the front and rear plates on. While they were curing I attached the bits required for the torsion arms and whatnot.

Slightly redundantly the instructions told me to use the holed bar seen in the next two photos to support and force the positions of the torsion arms. Those bits already had guiding pins to lock them in position. Better safe than sorry, they say, so I did as instructed.

A couple of curious horn-like bits were to be installed to the front of the hull and judging by some dry-fitting they wouldn't have allowed the drive sprockets to be installed afterwards. So I put those in place and then glued on the guiding horns.

Who knows what went on in my head but I changed my mind yet again and put the rest of the wheels on. My original plan was to paint the lower hull before doing this, but at least at this point they were installed - not glued on, though. And I'd still have plenty of time to rethink my plans, repeatedly.