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Panzer Perseverance
Airfix Model World

Panzer Perseverance

Posted Wednesday, April 15, 2015   |   1343 views   |   Hobbies & Crafts   |   Comments (0) TONI CANFORA DEFIES MURPHY’S LAW TO PRODUCE A BEAUTIFULLY FINISHED DRAGON PANZER I COMMAND TANK

When one sees construction articles in the various magazines, it’s easy to imagine that they go without a hitch and the writers are modelling gods.

For this author, though, Dragon’s diminutive Panzer I Befehlswagen provided an altogether different experience, and the little beast prompted a journey from hate to love...with many mishaps in - between. But much was learnt along the way, and in the end, it proved to be an incredibly satisfying journey. The intention was to enjoy a quick build without getting bound up in references and photoetched (PE) accessories. This
tank was very small compared to a Tiger or equivalent piece of armour, so how hard could it be? The main challenge was how to achieve an interesting look with a plain Panzer Grey finish.

Promising beginnings
When the kit was examined, it was found to be generally well-moulded, with crisp detail and little clean-up required. It included a number of typical Grey coloured frames, clear plastic parts, a small photo-etched metal fret and individual Magic Track links. The kit could be built in either initial or early production form, and the two variants were well explained in the instructions. One thing to consider was that there wasn’t a sharp line between the two versions, and in certain photographs, one could see features from the initial production incorporated on the early sub-type.

The chassis was a straightforward process, and in this updated release of the Pz.Bef.Wg.I, Dragon included small PE discs to fit on the rims for a more correct look...a thoughtful inclusion. On the PE fret there were also side railings for the fenders, and these really brought about a sharper appearance. They were a little fiddly to get in place, and it was important to ensure that no ugly glue stains were left on the outside.

With the chassis completed in straightforward fashion, the upper hull was approached, and in this area there was room for improvement. Blaming Dragon for a poor fit was not the issue, but once the upper structure was test fitted, this revealed that many weld seams were missing, and some looked incorrect. Remember how this was supposed to be an unchallenging build without a lot of extra work? Well, the temptation to add the missing weld seams was too difficult to ignore. The welds were made by cutting thin strips of plastic and when in place, they were melted with liquid cement. The cement softened the plastic and the weld pattern was then added with a hobby knife blade. This was repeated two or three times until the correct look was achieved. There were numerous seams so a few evenings were spent on this process.
Further improvement
After the upper and lower hull came together, focus shifted to surface details such as tools, headlights, hatches and the like. At this stage, Advanced Modellers’ Syndrome (AMS) kicked in to scupper the ‘easy build’ plans even further! In mitigation, just scratch-built parts and scrap box items were used here, as opposed to buying various PE sets. So, the jack and its block were refined using PE left-overs. A new shovel and holder were also created from scratch using plastic card and rod, and tow hook and crow bars were fashioned from brass rod. All tools were then fitted with Aber PE clamps from the spares box. The antenna was replaced by a brass item from SKP, which is highly recommended.

Another extra detail was to replicate the wiring for the front lights on the fenders, and this was done using lead wire. Two excellent reference books which helped at this stage were Tankograd no. 4002 German Military Vehicle Rarities 2 and no. 4009 Pz.Kpfw. I.

Raising the tone
Extra detail work really lifted the overall impression of the model, and seeing that little crisp thing sitting on the work bench only heightened the desire to tackle the main challenge; the painting of the Panzer Grey. But disaster lurked...

The entire model was primed with Games Workshop’s Chaos Black, which resulted in a pleasant satin finish. Preparation of the Panzer Grey then commenced, using Tamiya XF-63 German Grey mixed with approximately 20% Medium Blue. This was applied by airbrush, and then the model received three layers of a subsequently lighter mix by adding White to each coat. Further highlighting was applied to some of the top surfaces for greater variety. Once satisfied with the finish, this modeller usually applies a coat of clear varnish before weathering, and Johnson’s Klear floor polish is the preferred medium. However, none was at hand for this build so another brand and thinner was employed... then disaster struck. The surface turned frosty and uneven, and after a first examination, the desire to throw away the model was immense. But after all the extra effort invested in the project, the little tank deserved a chance despite proving problematic.

After the initial anger and frustration had passed, the model’s surface was carefully sanded with very fine abrasive paper. Surprisingly, most of the frosty pebbles were removed rather easily, and with a stiff brush (in a scrubbing motion), the corners were also reached. Certain parts fell off during the process and the Grey plastic shone through in places, so there was no choice but to repaint the model.

After a new coat of Grey, followed by a coat of Klear, satisfaction was restored and the weathering could start. The vehicle’s markings were also added at this stage. A reference photo showed a vehicle from the 6th Panzer Division in Russia in 1941, and these divisional markings, which comprised two Yellow crosses, were sourced from an old Verlinden rub-down transfer set. The national insignia also came from Verlinden dry transfer sheets.
Weathering
The first step was a thin wash of diluted Dark Brown oil to accentuate detail and give the surface greater variety. This was followed by a pin wash in the creases and corners, and around details such as rivets, hinges and hatches. Panzer Grey had been applied in different tones to create depth and highlights, but to further break up the Grey, a colourisation process was instigated; it seemed daring at the start but produced excellent, yet subtle results when completed. Small dots of oil paint, in various colours, were applied to the surface; in this case, White, Umber, Yellow Ochre and Blue-Grey. Then, a brush moistened with white spirit was worked downwards so that the oil paint created small streaks. The brush needed cleaning frequently on a piece of paper, but the process was repeated until there were just small traces of the oil paint left. Strong and very apparent streaks were not desirable, rather just a hint of them. This process was repeated all over the flat Grey surfaces.

What remained was a Grey finish that was all but monotone and dull, but extra character was instilled by adding the appearance of damage. Small scratches and chipped paint were simulated using two techniques. Firstly, a small piece of sponge was dipped in a thin mix of Brown-Black and carefully padded onto the model, leaving only very fine traces. To simulate heavier wear, the same mix was applied with a fine brush, and this treatment was concentrated in areas where the paint was most likely to wear, such as around hatches and on edges. When using this process, work on small areas at a time as the chipping can easily be overdone. On Grey surfaces, however, such a mistake is not as apparent as on a lighter base.

At this stage the model looked weary, but to get the right feeling, some Earth tones were necessary, this is what really brought the model to life and gave a hint of the environment in which it operated. The chassis was first to receive a mix of Humbrol Earth tones, Yellow Ochre and a small amount of plaster to build texture. This mix was applied with a brush in a random pattern.

Earth tones would also replicate accumulated dust, so a mix of Humbrol and oils thinned with white spirit and worked into corners and around all surface detail, and blended into the flat surfaces in the same way as the streaks were created earlier, using a downward motion. This process must be executed gradually, and left to dry in-between, as it is hard to see the result when the paint is still wet. Drying times can be accelerated by using a hairdryer. The earth mix was rendered in approximately four to five sessions, and concentrated on the lower regions of the vehicle’s surface.

Finishing up
More or less completed, all that was left was the track and several minor details. The former was supplied as individual links which were very delicate, but pleasingly detailed. With hindsight, it would have been better to assemble and test fit the tracks before the model was painted, and before the tiny surface details were put in place, as these easily break off with too much handling. Fortunately, they were assembled without any major problems; as long as one makes small sections at a time, the process is fairly straightforward. Do use slow-setting liquid cement, though, so there is time to form the lengths into the desired shape. The tracks were first painted Black, followed by a Red-Brown mix, using Tamiya acrylics. To make the tracks blend into the running gear and chassis, they received the same earth coloured blend of diluted Humbrol, oils and plaster.

When the tracks were attached, the only tasks left were to add the antenna, and to create a final touch of polished steel on the most exposed areas, such as the teeth of the drive sprockets, on hatch rims and on some of the vehicle’s tools. Wood grain on the latter had previously been painted using a base of

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Airfix Model World magazine is your complete guide to the world of scale modelling. Published monthly, it caters for all manner of modellers, from the eager novice to the experienced master modeler, and includes hints and tips, step-by-step builds and much more.

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