SAFS Split Suit
The SAFS – Super Armored Fighting Mk1 suit first appeared in the December 1982 issue of Hobby Japan. The SAFS has been an icon of the SF3D/MaK genre ever since. The basic SAFS became the basis for numerous variations such as the Fireball, a space version, the Achillies , a combat engineer armor, and the more advanced SAFS MKIII Raptor. I’ve always had a fondness for the basic SAFS and it was time to give this classic another build. I also decided to test myself by building this as a split suit version with a pilot suiting up.
The basic pose is based on a series of modified 1/35 Yellow Sub toy SAFS by a "I don't know his name" Japanese modeler. He had a series of four individual SAFS progressing from open without pilot to pilot climbing in, pilot suiting up, and pilot enclosed. This series of models was later used as an underlay for a series of sketches shown in the MaK Encyclopedia Vol. 1. I chose to model the particular moment the pilot is placing his arm into the armored sleeve. Weather this is ergonomically possible is still up for debate, but I prefer to think of the pilot’s arms in the suit arms and not bunched up inside the SAFS torso.
This particular build is based off parts from the spares bin, hence the Fireball shoulder, hip, and knee armor. The interior padding is based upon a combination of resources and doesn’t accurately copy any of them but is more of a representation of them all since most of the padding won’t be visible once the pilot is installed and the suit is semi closed.
The pilot is made from a mannequin of Tamiya 1/20 pit crew body parts with a head from the new SAFS. All clothing was sculpted with Duro Green Stuff Epoxy Putty. The figure was painted entirely with Vallejo acrylics. All of the gear is sculpted from epoxy putty and painted with Vallejo. The base is a cast block of plaster and painted with Tamiya and Vallejo. The supplies are from the Hasegawa Mercenary Figure Set and the spares bin. I used a combination of oil based washes and filters and straight artist’s oils for the weathering. MIG Productions pigments were used to dust up the suit once it was attached to the base.
Below is the Build Diary for the SAFS
I started the project because I was reminded by the Wave SAFS how cool the basic SAFS looks. I have a Nitto SAFS in the stash and was planning on using that, but checking my spares bin, I had enough leftovers from past projects for a nearly complete SAFS. Good thing too. I used two sets of torsos for the split torso, and ruined an upper arm assembly because I didn’t have a set of instructions handy.
All interior padding is sculpted from Aves Apoxy Sculpt. The pilot is a Tamiya Pit Crew with all the det ail ground off since I plan to sculpt the uniform. The head is actually from the recent Wave SAFS which a forum member kindly donated. Getting the figure to fit just right is a fiddly challenge as there are so many loose parts flopping around. My plan is to have one arm in the laser arm while the right hand is just fitting into the right suit arm. We’ll see. I’m trying to be a bit loose with ergonomics but getting things to fit the way I want them may be a challenge. If I were to do this again. I would have waited to sculpt the interior padding until I had the figure further along.
More arm and more details.
Not a whole lot of big progress, just a bunch of little progress that adds up. All the loose bits were getting to be a bit much to handle so some parts have been glued as sub assemblies even though they will make painting more challenging. The suit legs have been glued to the pilot’s leg stumps and the fold down suit sides have been glued to the suit rear. This has helped me finalize the arm positions. The hole in his gut is a through hole for a brass pin which holds the torso to the rear half of the suit. I’ve also worked out the details for the hatch hinge. The original hinge looked really weak so a more robust hinge was scratched from styrene.
I used a punch and die set to add a few styrene bits of detail in the cockpit.
This is the most thorough sculpting I have ever done on a figure. I did sculpt a short sleeve shirt on a minor conversion, but the figure never was finished. All fabric has been sculpted with Duro Green Epoxy Putty, referred to as Green Stuff. I've studied the works of noted figure sculptors and the main thing I took to heart with this was to work in sections and don't try to do it all at once. You may not tell the photos, but I sculpted the utility belt first and let that cure. Then I sculpted the "pants" and let that cure. Next I sculpted the shirt for the main torso and let cure. Then is was the sleeve and collar, cuff and pocket flap and finally the glove. By working in small sections, there is less risk of damaging something just sculpted.
The "utility belt" and neck are sculpted from Aves Apoxie Sculpt. The utility belt received a few details to make it look more mechanical. The shirt buttons are formed with a .5mm punch knocking out tiny disks of .005" thick pewter foil.
The gear was sculpted in a few sessions with Green Stuff. The details are Aves and the rope is .015" solder wire. Copper wire is used for tie down points.
Note on Green Stuff: This epoxy putty is repackaged by several companies, Games Workshop is one, but the epoxy is the same. A ribbon of yellow with a ribbon of blue. Equal amounts are mixed together until a uniform green. The working consistency is like old bubble gum or stiff silly putty. I have not paid attention to working time, but as the putty sets, it becomes easier to sculpt convincing looking wrinkles and folds which make it perfect for soft goods. It does have its down side though. The stuff is a challenge to sand and work with after it has cured.
Paint and Decals
I haven't documented as many steps here as this part has been pretty straightforward. I airbrushed a dark base coat of Tamiya Flat Black mixed with a little Flat Brown. This is the preshadeing in case I miss anything with the color coat. I next airbrused over the engine several different browns and rust colors. When this cured, I airbrushed hairspray and let dry to the touch. The grayish-green is custom mixed with Tamiya RLM Gray, Buff and a little White. This was close enough for a light RLM02. The gray camo is Tamiya Dark Gray with a little Sky Gray and Buff to lighten the base color. Over these, I airbrushed progressively lighter versions of the base colors to add some highlights. When the paint had dried enough, I gently scrubbed at the engine with a damp paint brush to soften the hairspray and loosen the paint. The paint was rubbed off the high points with an old brush and a toothpick.
When all this had dried overnight, I airbrushed a couple thin coats of Tamiya Clear to seal the paint and prep the surface for decals. The decals are from a few different decal sheets and snuggled down well with Micro Set and Micro Sol though a couple of the decals are a bit thick and will need a good coat of Future to eliminate the edge.
The figure and internal details are being painted with Vallejo Model Color.
Colors used so far:
Shirt - Panzer Aces US Tanker Highlight
Cap - Panzer Aces US Tanker Base with Vallejo Brown Violet 1:1
Internal Padding - Panzer Aces Leather Belt Highlighted with Light Brown and Shadowed with German Camouflage Black Brown + black
Joint Covers - German Camouflage Black Brown
Hip Belt - Black Gray Highlighted with Sky Gray and Shadowed with Black
Skin - Panzer Aces Flesh Base
Assembly and Weathering
All the parts have been glued up and I've started weathering. I started with a couple of different MIG filters to help add some life to the base colors. When this dried, I added localized filters with oil paints to add some variety. The model has been glued to the base for easy handling as there are a lot of hanging bits just ready to be broken off. I also applied paint chips with Vallejo German Camo Brown and Flat Brown. These were applied with tiny bits of torn foam and a 00 brush. Different applications of pin washes, some with oil paints and some with acrylics have been added to accent panel lines and details.