Friday, August 13, 2010

"Tarting up" the KV-1s

Shitty summer here; typhoons, heat, rain, heat and rain, and just plain meteorological filth as far as the weather is concerned. 

Airbrushing and spray priming are out of the question for the foreseeable few weeks here, but that hasn't stopped me from working on my Soviets.  A bit here, a bit there, but most of all I have been muckin' around with my Pegasus Hobbies KV-1s kits, in particular trying to get one "test model" done.

As I've mentioned earlier, I like these kits a lot, and the KV-1s has long been one of my favourite tanks.  So I was determined to do a good job on the four of them that will make up the 12th Heavy Tank Breakthrough Regiment.  

Here is the first one done, wanting only for the weather to cooperate (hah!) so that I can give it a black base coat prior to airbrushing. (click on any of the photos to enlarge).

Now this is not about to win any IPMS awards, but I think I've managed to capture the character of the beast a lot more than if I had just built it up straight out of the box.

Looking at pictures of the original vehicle, it was amazing just how "rough-hewn" the armour castings were.  Here is an example, and you can see more pictures at this site.
So looking at the models, I decided to modify them.

First I filled in the gaps in the turret assembly and sanded the whole thing down.  Then, using two-part epoxy putty, I filled in the gaps between the turret and gun mantlet. I used a needle to texture the putty to get that "rough cut" look.
Using strips of plastic card and rod, I added more substantial side discs and weld seams. For the seams, I soaked the plastic strips in liquid cement, and after about 15 minutes, I took a sharp craft knife and scored in umpteen grooves to get the welded look.

In order to roughen the turret surface, I spread several coats of Gunze-Sangyo's  Mr. Surfacer 500 liberally over the turret sides and faces, using old retired paint brushes to texture and stipple the surfaces.  

As I got more confident with using it, I was able to  vary the consistency of the surfacer with liquid cement.  I ended up texturing  all the surfaces of the vehicle that would have been cast- or drop-forged, such as armour plate, but not on the pressed-steel components such as track guards and fuel drums.  

The surfacer is really versatile stuff, and is just great for getting that unpolished factory finish that was so typical of Soviet mid-war armour.  

All things considered, tarting up the turret didn't take all that long. 

Purists will note that the weld seams are considerably over scale, but for wargaming models they characterize the look of the KV-1s nicely.  Once the tank has been painted dark green and weathered appropriately, they won't stand out so much anyhow.

I also decided to add some more detailing to the tracks.  Because of the moulding process, the tread surfaces on the kits are quite smooth and crude.  After mulling over whether I really wanted to go through with this- after all, there are three more models to do and some SU-152's as well- I decided to bite the bullet and add chopped up strips of plastic to try and approximate the waffle pattern on the treads where they were visible.  

Again, this would not pass muster at an IPMS competition, but I think I did a good job of hinting at the waffle effect.  After the liquid cement dried, I gave the tracks a wash of good ol' Mr. Surfacer 500 again.  

Once that was done, I epoxied some weights into the hull to give the model some heft, and then glued the lower and upper hulls together.  They went together extremely well.

The turret hand rails are just suggested using plastic rod.  I was thinking of making them out of brass wire, but in the end decided that it wasn't worth the extra effort, especially as they would easily be prey to clumsy fingers anyway.

Here you can  also see what was the biggest pain in the ass to do- the tow cables which were such a feature in photos of Soviet heavy tanks.  

I could have ordered some of these as resin and copper wire after-market accessories, but that would have added much to the cost of the models, so I decided against it.  Besides, as designed they wouldn't have worked with the way the hooks are modelled on the Pegasus Hobbies kits.

So scratch building it was.  I could find the wire easily enough at a local hardware store, and had thin brass wire to make to tow eyes.  But it was fiddly, trial-and-error work involving  masking tape, lengths of paper clip for hooks, super-glue, epoxy and a mess of cussin'.  And it took many a failed attempt before I had a result which I was happy with and which would be sturdy enough to survive the gaming table.  

It didn't help that I got impatient and ended up breaking off one of the kit tow hooks, which was a bugger to replace.  Now it is placed asymmetrically with the one on the other side, which I will just have to put down to a hasty and inexpert field repair- common enough going by a lot of photos I've seen of Soviet wartime armour.

Note the gun barrel, which is from a UM OT-34 kit and is just there for the photo- it hasn't been cemented in place.  I found the barrels on the Pegasus Hobbies kits somewhat anaemic and spindly looking, so I splurged out and ordered some of the Aber turned aluminum gun barrels from Cove Models to replace them.  They are on their way as I type.  Cove Models is an excellent company to deal with, by the way.

So much for what were meant to be fast-build kits!  But having spent so much time on this one vehicle, the others should prove a lot faster to build now that I know what- and what not- to do!  

I'm happy with the results so far and look forward to  getting the rest done, and to giving them a coat of paint and markings (I've just ordered some decal sets for Soviet armour from Aleran).

Providing the weather sees fit to cooperate, of course...

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