Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Two MT-LBs and towed 120mm mortars

These Old Glory MT-LBs and mortars have been sat around for a long time, based and undercoated, so I’ve finally got around to painting them. Old Glory UK sell them in sets of three but, as far as I know, Russian mortar platoons operate in pairs so I didn’t need the third MT-LB. The third was missing a turret, which I’m sure Old Glory would replace if I asked, but I’ll probably paint it as a wreck anyway so it’s not required.

I didn’t take many photos of the painting because it’s pretty much the same methods I used with my T-72 tanks (click the tags on the sidebar to see ’em). Here are the MT-LBs, with a wash of my favourite colour (FolkArt’s Dark Grey craft paint) and a little drybrushing along some of the edges.

The stowage is a mixture of generic sacks and boxes from the Ancients ranges of Museum Miniatures and Essex Miniatures that I happened to have lying around, and some mystery World War Two items donated by the humble Shogun Tora Kamikaze.

Here is where it started to go awry! First, I weathered the vehicles with my usual ‘mud mix’ of bicarbonate of soda, thinned PVA glue and paint. However, I forgot to varnish the vehicles before flocking the bases and, as you can see below, most of the mud quickly came off.

Second, for some reason the PVA glue on the bases dried white. I had not had any problems with Wilko’s PVA in the past but the current bottle has been nothing but trouble. Maybe they've changed supplier, or it’s a bad batch? Whatever, this bottle of glue has been relegated to jobs where it won’t be seen. Annoyingly, I have another, huge tube of the stuff and I have no idea if this second batch will be good or bad.

There was nothing else to with the bases except scrape off all the white glue with a scalpel:

These miniatures went on hiatus for a month or so until I had time to visit Wickes to buy their tried and trusted waterproof PVA instead. Serves me right for ditching Wickes for a cheaper brand…

So, with the bases re-flocked, I called time on these vehicles. I couldn’t be bothered to re-do the weathering because the miniatures will not get a lot of use anyway and I was sick of them cluttering my workbench. Here is a rear of the first MT-LB, towing a 120mm 2S12 ‘Sani’ mortar:  

And here is a rear view of the second MT-LB. I put the mortars on separate bases to make the MT-LBs more versatile.

Finally, Here are all vehicles and mortars together:

I’m glad to see the back of these. They were a lot of trouble for the amount of time they’ll spend on the table. Setbacks like this blunt my enthusiasm for a project so I’m taking a break from painting miniatures for the Chechen War for a bit and swapping to scenery or to a different project altogether.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Chechen house 1

I used to have a Flickr account way back in 2011, but I filled it and then lost the password. Oops. This weekend I accidentally recovered the password while trying to do something else, so I decided to move the useful stuff over to this blog before I close the Flickr account. Here we go…

After a few experiments, and while I was still dithering over what period to choose, I made my first proper terrain piece: a conversion of the Dapol OO scale bungalow kit to a 15mm scale East European house. I took the pictures with an iPhone 4 so the quality isn’t great. One day I may re-shoot the views of the finished building.

I made the house in sections because I've learned from previous experience that I can't paint the interior properly if I put the whole thing together at once.

The walls of the Dapol kit are untextured plastic so I put a layer of Slater's wood-embossed Plastikard over them. I cut a piece of Plastikard to size, then placed the Dapol wall over the back of it and marked out the window and doors:

I then cut holes for the windows and doors:

 And glued the Plastikard to the kit wall:

Three things I learned:

1) It’s better to cut and glue one section of wall at a time rather than cut all the sections at once and hope they fit together.

2) Leave a little excess Plastikard at the bottom so that, if the walls don’t sit flat on the base properly, you can trim the card down to the right height and make the walls level.

3) Make sure the holes in the Plastikard are smaller than those on the kit because it’s safer to trim the Plastikard holes to match than to try cutting them to the exact size before gluing the layers together:

Next, I glued on the windows. What attracted me to this kit was that the windows sit on the outside of the house. It looks wrong for the English-style bungalows the Dapol kit is supposed to represent, but right for many houses in the Baltic countries I have seen.

When all the walls have been faced with Plastikard, the house should look something like this:

The minis are Peter Pig 15mm U.S. Marines, for scale. I glued half of the walls to a thick plastic sheet base. At this point I found that the roof was bent. This wouldn't matter if I was gluing it to the walls but I wanted it to just sit on top of them so that I could put minis inside the building. My solution was to boil a kettle of water, pour it in the sink then soak the roof in it for five or ten minutes (I can’t remember the exact time – according to my original Flickr picture caption, it was Friday night and I was drinking Ukrainian beer). After heating up the plastic, I gently twisted it so it was straight again, then placed it on a level surface with a weight on it so that it would keep its shape as it cooled.

I added brick-embossed Plastikard to the bottom of the walls. I made the corners by folding the card then pressing the fold together with a pair of long-nosed pliers to get a sharper edge. As you can see, the card splits slightly when you do this. If you heated the card first, I suppose you would get better results but I didn't think it was worth the extra work. I intended to fill the cracks with a little filler but they are barely noticeable so I ending up forgetting to do it.

The kit is OO scale so it is too high for 15mm minis, so the brick trim makes the house look like it is raised up and disguises the height. Because the windows have been pushed out by the extra layer of card, they look right without any additional work.

At this point I slapped some base colours on the kit. The brick-embossed Plastikard only runs around half of the building at this point. I didn't want to finish the other half of the exterior until I had painted the interior and glued the remaining walls to the base.

I raised up the interior floor to make it more suitable for 15mm minis by adding a couple of pieces of 4mm MDF then laying more Plastikard over them as floorboards. I split the building into three rooms by adding two interior walls made from a thick plastic sheet.

The inside of the kit has various shallow holes and raised up part numbers. I cut the part numbers away and filled the holes.

The interior of the building, with the floor and interior walls cut to the correct size and the filler sanded down:

Tnd the painted interior:

After two days of staring at the kit, I realised that the walls needed door frames! I used Plastruct ‘L’ and ‘U’ beams, depending on the thickness of the wall I was attaching it to. I could never see the point of these tiny Plastruct beams until I realised the ‘U’ beams could wrap around both sides of certain thicknesses of plastic sheet and hide my wonky cutting. A door frame cut to size:

It's untidy at this size but it looks fine at a ‘gaming’ distance. I damaged the paint in several places while adding the doorframes and made a lot of extra work for myself, proof that it pays to plan ahead.

With the interior finished, I glued the remaining walls to the plastic base, added the brick trim and doorsteps:

After looking at more pictures of houses from Estonia to Chechnya, I decided to remodel the roof. I was tempted to cover it all with more Plastikard but, mindful of the tale about the venerable old broom that’s only had two new heads and two new handles, I decided that I had to leave something of the original Dapol kit visible. In the end I added a piece of corrugated card to part of the roof, to make it look like the house had been extended:

The roof looked wrong. Even painted, it looked like it was a bit of card stuck on to a plastic kit. At this point I realised I had also forgotten to add doors. More paint was chipped…

My solution to the roof problem was to add strips of tin foil where the slates and iron met, to make it look like roof flashing. The foil wasn't very easy to paint because the paint just slid around on top of it, but I got there in the end. Next time I will try using paper. I painted the base brown, with a layer of sand and flock on top. Here are some photos of the finished building:

I added a small piece of dowel to the back of the house. The roof doesn't need a support but it looked wrong to me without it.

Straight on, the house is pretty close to 15mm but you can still see it is slightly too large. However, when you look at the house from above during a game, the differences between the two scales are barely noticeable. I didn't use the Dapol kit doors and instead made new ones from Plastikard, based on a style I saw a lot in Riga. The miniature is a Peter Pig 15mm IDF mini, for scale.

To end this post, some interior photos:

There are still two interior doors missing. I wrote on my Flickr page in 2011: “I'll add them another time, when I've got a few more houses ready to game with.” Six years later and I still haven’t got around to it!

Monday, 1 May 2017

T-72BMs with cage armour – finished at last!

It's only taken three years and four months, but here are the finished Zvezda T-72 tanks at last. the machine guns and cage armour are homemade. You can read about the various stages of assembly, painting and weathering here, here and here.

Tank 1

The commander is from Peter Pig’s ‘AK47’ range of modern miniatures. The driver came with an Old Glory BMP-1. I’m pleased with how I managed to cut away and rebuild the driver’s hatch and the commander’s cupola. However, this was my first attempt at adding figures to models that weren’t made to accommodate them and I made a bit of a mess of the driver.

I sited the gun barrel unusually high so that I could turn the turret a full 360° without it getting stuck on the driver’s head. It looks odd but I believe a real T-72 can elevate its gun that high.

If I knew then what I know now about Russian tanks and their operation, I would have had the turret facing backwards and the tank commander facing forwards, so that it looked like the tank was travelling rather than in combat. Oh, well. Maybe I’ll do that for another project.

The driver’s hatch is made from scratch. But it is upside-down! The driver hatch pivots on a spindle, instead of flipping up on a hinge. It makes perfect sense to me now why it would be made like that, but I didn’t know much about tanks when I started this project.

Best not to look to closely at the driver, whose has lost part of his face under a blob of epoxy resin…

Tank 2

Tank 3

Tank 4

And a group shot of the four finished tanks:

Next on the list is a pair of Russian MT-LBs and a platoon of Russian BMP-2s. I painted them all last year but haven’t got around to finishing the bases yet. My vehicle box is beginning to empty and I have a horrible feeling that I can’t put off painting the infantry for much longer…
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