Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Panther Masterclass Part 3: Filling the Vents

Okay, slight delay on stowage for two reasons. First, I am still adding some, and second I realized I had yet to do this post.

One major difference between the Battlefront Panthers and the PSC Panthers as far as detail is the mesh grille on the engine vents. While I think the PSC ones would be beneficial for wrecks, and allow greater modification, the fact of the matter is that a running Panther would have had a mesh layer on top of any of its vents. Most egregious in this regard is the crew heater modification, which is hollow in the PSC model, lacking any of its critical internal geometry.

To rectify this, I set about making my own grille covers. At this size, any actual mesh weave wouldn't have been fine enough to fill it, so I decided to use greenstuff, and a stamp.

You will need, essentially, three different types of stamp. For the boxed one, I cut plasticard. For the round ones, I discovered to my glee that one section of an Ork Bomma gun was good for both diameter of vents!

To actually make them, I first dragged them along one of my files not across the teeth but along them, to groove the surface. This was deepened and lined with a craft knife in a proper cross formation, so I could get an appropriate mesh look.

Whenever I use greenstuff I tend to work from the 'safest' to 'least safe' part of the model, as far as later damaging the work I've done while it's still malleable. In this case, the crew heater gets a ball of putty that mostly fills, and is a bit higher than the space it needs to go in.

Lining up the grid to be parallel to the tank, I push it in just until the greenstuff starts to extrude. Careful to keep the punch a bit wet so the greenstuff doesn't stick to it.

Next, while the round tool is still at hand, I did the other circular vent. In this case, I used a sculpting tool to lay on as thin an amount of greenstuff as would fill the space. I nudged it into all the cracks and flattened it as much as possible.

To ensure the smoothness and shape, I lick my finger and rub the top. After this, the process is much the same as with the first.

Likewise, the square vents are managed with the tool first.

Flatten this section with the tool, squaring it off. At this stage I try to remove any excess that doesn't fit the rectangle.

This one is an easier one to line up, and I press firmly, rocking back and forth, to ensure a good grid shape manifests.

After all four vents are applied (or in this case, two for the sake of images) I use a craft knife to cut the edges away while it's still wet. For both the round vent and the box ones, cut off anything that would overlap into the joins.

To easier save the putty, while removing it I keep a small ball in my hand which I can use to pull it off the blade, keeping the blade clean for future cuts.

And here's one I prepared earlier! This was one of the first I tried it on: my company commander. You can see that the ridges pick up enough that with painting they should be distinctive.

Similarly, you can see that I have done a similar stamping with the flame hoods on the exhausts. Luckily, I had plastic rod of an appropriate diameter, which I grooved like the vents, and then drilled a small hole in for the nub.

Next time, I promise, stowage. I am adding a ladder or two, and will shortly be using liquid greenstuff to make sure it doesn't fall apart!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Panther Masterclass Part 2: Modeling the Early-G Variant from PSC

Today, in part 2 of 4 (or 5?) of my series on getting the most from the PSC Panther box, I show you how to make an early-variant Panther G from the box, which shows only the default-D, default-A, and late-G versions.

Primarily, my information comes from Germany's Panther Tank: The Quest for Combat Supremacy by Thomas L. Jentz. This book is incredibly detailed, and I highly recommend you attempt to get your hands on it if you're a Panther tank fan. It details all the steps that led up to the Panther's creation, as well as all the important points in variants, official modifications made during the run of the Panther, and after-production field modifications the crew made. In most cases, these are backed up by photographs of Panthers, and where these are unavailable, sketches are provided.

First and foremost, we must talk about what the initial fundamental changes to the Panther justified the modification from "A" to "G".

The A modifications were primarily the additional exhausts on the rear, because of an issue with engine cooling, and the commander's cupola, which now featured a fancy 8-view telescope system, and a hatch that, rather than on hinges, popped up and slid around.

The Panther G, internally, saw some crucial redesigns to the engine layout and cooling, removing the need for three 'exhaust' vents on the left side. Along the same time, the back deck engine cover was redesigned, and the driver and radioman's hatches were redesigned to not be on an angle. This then, gives us an "early G" with what look like the same exhaust pipes as the D, and a modified upper deck.

The famous chin mantlet, defining characteristic of the Panther G, was only introduced about halfway through its run (in Sept 44) and even then wasn't a universal adaptation. Similarly, the other distinctive feature, (Flammvernichter Exhaust Mufflers) were introduced in October of 44.

Another important change, and the first thing I modified on mine, was that the binocular vision slits for the gunner on the D were replaced with a singular view port. Since the chin mantlet wasn't introduced by this point, I used the D and A mantlet, and just eliminated the second view scope using liquid greenstuff.

 I put on more than might have been needed, so that when it dried (and inevitably shrunk) I could just scrape off the excess with a craft knife.

The next change, of course, was modifying the rear-hull to take the D-style mufflers. Unfortunately, the hull shape between the D and G Panthers changed enough that you can't just swap in one for the other. On mine, I used the G rear hull, but then delicately cut the bracing piece of plastic between the two exhausts, cleaning it so the two would mesh properly:

As you can see, at the same time for this panther I've cut off the jack from the back end. The G did generally store its jack between the two exhausts, but I have photos of at least one with the jack mounted on the engine access port, and two jerry cans slotted in to that place, which I had to recreate on one of the ten:

With the bracing arm removed, luckily, the two pieces mesh together cleanly and smoothly, requiring nothing more than a bit of superlgue:
After this, it was glued to the hull, and the rest of the assembly is pretty straightforward "G" assembly, as listed on their instructions, until I had applied the zimmerit.

Before the Flammvernichter were applied, the exhausts were given extra armour plating, to stop a random shot from penetrating into the engine compartment. At the point of connection of the exhausts, this took the form of the armour plates you see already on the vehicle. For the latter part of welded-on armour plates, I used some leftover pieces of photo-etched brass framing. (Throw nothing away, folks: You never know when you might need it!)

I cut two sections that looked to be long and wide enough, and bent to curve them before gluing them in place. On this one, you can see the modified jack and fuel cans I mentioned.

Finally, here's a shot of another Panther G early with the exhaust covers, but in this case with the jack in its as-issued position.

if one doesn't have access to photo-etched metal, I'd recommend either durable paper (more than printer paper, less than a birthday card) or even two layers of tinfoil bent over themselves. Another advantage of tinfoil is that it could be bent and mangled to look like the flimsy metal of the exhaust covers has been dinged and damaged by use, as it often was.

Next time I will cover stowage, and true rivet-counter details, though I am still adding stowage. As a teaser element next time, remember that every tank I've ever seen a good detailed picture of, had a bucket...

Friday, May 10, 2013

Panther Masterclass Part 1: Zimmerit

Having done basic assembly, its time to discuss the single sticking point for many folks regarding the Panther box from PSC, namely the lack of zimmerit. I made a platoon of early-model Gs, (which I'll detail in Part II) and wanted to properly add their zimmerit paste. Thanks go to my fiancee for taking pictures, since trying to do this alone would be either hectic or nightmarish.

First of course, we gather the materials. Here I have my early-model G, with the liquid greenstuff. I find this product not so good at gap filling (which is what they sell it for) but great for adding texture, or making rivets.
First using an older, starting-to-fray detail brush, I dab it on. Dabbing rather than painting gives a nice thick volume, and starts to texture the surface. I highly recommend you do this in small sections, because you want to ensure the greenstuff is wet when you do the next stage, and it's also good to ensure you let it dry before moving to another panel, to avoid thumbprint zimmerit!
Next I take the sharp end of a hobby knife, and start 'drawing' the lines from zimmerit. For the Panther, these will most likely be lines about half a millimeter or so, and I tend to do vertical first.
Next the horizontal lines, as you can see above, give a nice effect. Sometimes you may have to draw the blade along a line two or three times, and I often wipe the blade off on my fingers, to keep it clean. (You'll see my fingers getting green spots as I go on.)
While the turret side is drying, I move to the hull. Be careful to go around the tools, though the nature of liquid greenstuff is such that it's not terrible if you do end up getting a bit on it. Like the turret side, I dab this on an entire side before moving to the next stage.
Next, the hull is lined. If the greenstuff starts to go dry (as you can see above) you can switch to the back, thicker side of the craft knife, which will make wider gaps.
Here you can see an entire side of the tank pretty much 'done'.
Another important part is the turret front. There's lots of angles and subtly different parts on this.
First, be very careful not to accidentally fill in the gunner's sight or the MG slot when applying the greenstuff.
Similarly, make certain to get the turret front behind the mantlet, as well as the side, before anything dries.
For the most part, the mantlet zimmerit is the same as the rest of the tank, except two key places: The mantlet side is lined radially, and the gun barrel's slot is also lined, along the length of the barrel. these were done very thinly, and so again I use the sharp side of the blade, even if it's dried.
The rear of the hull is the last difficult part to do. Here you have one advantage, in that the back of a Panther was almost guaranteed to be caked in mud, so you can really go to town texturing it.
once the greenstuff is applied, again I line it, with the stowage bins getting just the thin vertical lines we saw before on the gun mantlet.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a PSC Panther earns its zimmerit! I will have completed pics of the zimmerit next time when I discuss specifics of modeling the early Panther G, as well as making realistic G vents, and then tackling stowage! Best of luck with your own attempts.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Canadian Late-War 6pdrs

Well folks, I have alas been sick this week, and as such unmotivated to do much painting, modeling, or uploading. Here then, is the post that would have uploaded last week, about the final completion of my 6dprs!

Alas, the colour on these first few shots is a bit cold. I tried fixing it and it just looked more bizarre, so this is "shade light".

I decided to take advantage of the Tom Stanley box bits of wall, so unlike how I've based the rest of my Infantry force so far, these guys are urban-based. At first I wanted to make it appear as though they were one congruous base line, but I realized it was rather silly to have six 6pdrs arrayed that close together, in a line, in any European village.

I did use greenstuff to try to make the bases look as much like they're in a village as I could, with various types of road surfacing, some interior-of-building bits, and lots of rubble.
Tom Stanley himself is present with medal decorated. Though he would be unusable in a Canadian force, I figure having him there allows me the opportunity to 'pretend' my force is a British one and throw him in. Advantageously, this also meant I had an extra wheel (which got put on the T16s) and an extra crew figure, who will likely be a 'firing' PIAT model down the line.
These are by far the most frustrating guns I have painted yet. They are fairly large on their bases, and awkwardly spread for trying to put crew around. There is a lot less variety than I may otherwise have wanted, just because there's only so many places to arrange the same figure on the same base behind the same gun...
 (Here you can see some of the bases are decorated with building interiors. In this case, a hardwood floor that has somehow remained mostly undamaged, despite the near-complete obliteration of the building!)
To keep the theme consistent, the command team had plasticard walls added to their stand, and the lamp post was integrated with the rest of the sidewalk tiling. The pointing platoon commander and the prone figure are made to look like they could be taking cover behind the post, while the remaining crouches inside some rubble. I have yet to decide where to have them fighting, so at the moment the sign itself is blank. I may decide to make it a military-related signpost so it could in theory be anywhere.
These shots are more accurate for colour. I would have these all nicely merged into a panorama shot, but Photoshop's automate function has gotten worse! I can no longer tell it where I want the lines to be assumed from, and so it freaks out most of the time, unless you've taken a hundred photos...

More will be coming soon. The last five Panthers have been assembled, and all are being given stowage now. Because that's a relatively fluid process, it's been taking some time. I hope to put up a preliminary post later this week describing how to do some of the more 'basic' rivet counter things to do with the PSC Panthers, before launching into a stowage special as a final pre-painting post.