I haven't built an actual armor model since 1994 when my last build was a 1/35 Italeri Hetzer. Sure, I've acquired quite a few armor kits over the years since 1994, but these have been sacrificed for the greater MaK. This is my first attempt in 18 years to build a historical model.
Why did I do this? Why did build a boring old tank when I could be having fun with a Falke or some new MaK kit bash? Well, I've built them all. I've been building MaK for over 20 years and I feel like I've built them all. This does not mean I'm switching teams, so calm down. I just wanted to try something different with a new set of challenges. Research, accuracy and yes, rivet counting - I'm already noticing quite a few inaccuracies on this kit. I visit the armor modeling sites, I follow the blogs on a regular basis, I buy the magazines, I read the reviews for new products, I do everything but build tanks. Until now.
The following is the build diary for the StugIII
The basic kit is the Dragon 39-45 Series StuG Ausf. B. #6008. First off, do not buy kit #6008 if you want to build a Stug B. Purchase the newer "Michael Wittmann" ausf A release and don't make the changes. The Ausf B is an older Dragon release. It can still hold up on some details, but the newer Ausf A release has some tweaks made to the road wheels and suspension that make it a slightly better kit. This build will actually be a combination of the two. Better yet, get the Tamiya StugIII Ausf B. It has a partial interior, inlcudes the metal barrel, and has nicer details. The one knock against the Tamiya kit is the molded on fenders.
A rundown of the aftermarket sets used:
Eduard 35820 Stug III Ausf A fenders - These fit the Dragon kit but are incorrect on several details.
Voyager Model PE35091 - Superb set for the Tamiya Ausf B. Voyager claims this fits the Dragon kit too. Not really.
Eureka XXL ER3531 - Towing cable for Stug III Ausf A-E.
Archer Fine Transfers AR35249 - Nice set of markings for the Stug. I did not want to risk any decals silvering.
Legend Productions LF1149 - Stug III Stowage Set. Very nice set. Lots of extras.
Friulmodel ATL-03 - Nice set of white metal tracks. The Dragon set had ejector pin marks.
I acquired a partially built Ausf A with all intentions of finishing it with a minimal of aftermarket. But as I looked into the progress they had made and the details on the kit, I realized I was going to need a few more parts to update and correct. The following weekend, I attended a model show and found the Dragon Ausf B for cheep. It was a chance to start over. After I started digging into the Ausf B kit, I was glad I had the A to use as back up. I've also decided to pimp this out with plenty of details but not go bat-shit-crazy with open hatches and all that. Just PE fenders, tool clasps, turned barrel, metal tracks and resin detail bits. Just minor crazy.
But first, basic assembly. I'm skipping around in the instructions to maximize a solid foundation. All the details will be added later. This kit has a lot of sink marks in the hardest to clean up areas. There are also plenty of ejector pin marks on some very visible details like the idler wheel. Who engineered this kit? I don't know if newer Dragon kits are this bad, but the rear idler assembly has some part interference that would result in mis-alignment if not fixed. It took a bit of time just to get this sorted out. There's only minor detailing at this point. I drilled out all the molded in hinges and adding the missing weld bead around the armored cover for the main gun. I also scribed in the missing lower seam on the armored collar around the barrel. The barrel is a Jordi Rubio turned aluminum job with a separate dust cap which I plan to use.
Here are a few shots of the aftermarket parts. I started with the hardest part first, soldering the PE fenders. I've never done anything like this before, so I think I did a decent enough job. Detail wise, these are acually missing some details compared to the Dragon parts like the panel lines that denote the seperate fender parts. I had to cut these in by gently scoring the brass with an x-acto. Any imperfections can easily be covered with Mr Surfacer and a rough cast texture. Oh... wait... no I can't fall back on that crutch anymore. I'm not sure how chewed up I'm going to make the fenders. I guess it depends on how the fender details go. I'm going to need to use the mud flaps from the Voyager set as the fenders are for the Ausf A. This is OK as the Voyager set has working hinges. Bring it on!
I've made a little progress with the fenders. I know I should probably wait to attach these and especially the mud flaps until later, but if these don't end up looking good, there is no point in going any further. The rear right mud flap has given me hell. Half the fingers on one hinge broke so I had to glue it into place. I then dropped the fender and the part broke off. I stepped on it while looking for it which caused one of the sides to snap off. Fender damage is based on photos, except for the stepping which is my own interpretation. Mud flaps on these were often flipped up and not missing so I really need to fix this. Maybe tomorrow things will go better.
I'm laying out the rear deck stowage. As the Germans advanced further into Russia the supply lines were stretched thin so crews had to carry their supplies with them. Stugs also lacked a turret so internal stowage was a premium. This combination lead to some Stugs taking on the look of what has been refered to as "gypsy caravans". The gear is mostly from Legend's StugIII Stowage Set. Nice castings and great details but the casting blocks were beefy and required quite a bit of work with the Dremel. These are a good fit out of the box, but will need a bit of extra work with putty to make the stuff look like it belongs there. I'll add a few bits and bobs to fill in the gaps. I'm debating unditching timgers stowed on the fenders. It all depends on how well the PE work for the jack works out. I'm pretty pleased with the working clasp on the S hook. Too bad it gets glued in place.
I've finished up the PE work on the Stug. It took me a little while to figure out that I could not build what I could not see. I picked up a maginfying visor with 5x zoom macro enhanced something something. It really helped. I would not say it was a breeze, but the tiny wingnuts and bits were quite a bit easier to deal with. I also stared on the mundane and cleaned up all the road wheels. I chipped these to show road damage to the rubber. I gave everything a good coat of primer then started base coating everything with Tamiya Flat Black. I decided to skip the unditching beams on this as I could not find decent reference images of the particular mounting style I wanted to use. Perhaps on the next one.
I'm finally getting to the whole point of this exercise, the paint. I've painted the modulation/zenithal lighting effect several times on MaK models. I even did a panzer-gray one several years ago. The effect looks good in person, but when photographed and posted online, the effect gets lost and blends in with the natural lighting and shadows because of the the broad curved surfaces of most MaK designs. I wanted to give it a shot on a slab sided and see what happens.
I used Tamiys acrylics for all the airbrushing. I wasn't trying to replicate a worn out hulk, so I didn't want to mess with the HS technique this time. Over the black base coat seen above, I airbrushed a base of Tamiya Dark Grey. To this base I mixed black for the shade and Dark Sea Gray for the tints. The final tint was dark Sea Gray with a touch of White.
I also started hand painting the tools and started adding small scratches to the red primer undercoat. For this build I'm going to keep chipping to a bare minimum only added the effect around the access hatches and fenders. The muffler was drybrushed Vallejo Dark Rust and Standard Rust with a torn sponge. Other colores were added with a small brush.
The fun part now, weathering. I applied a couple of filters to knock back the contrast. I used a blue on everything below the fenders and warm light gray on everything above the fenders. I also applied a few dark washes to accent the panel lines and used a couple of applications of AK Streaking Grime to add some grime. I also dirtied up the tracks and dusted the underside with pigments. Still plenty to go.
All of the gear has been painted with Vallejo Acrylics.