Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Years Resolutions

With the new year coming at midnight tonight, it is always traditional to make a resolution of what one wishes to change or accomplish in the new year. Traditionally this usually had to do with weight loss, or other mundane ambitions.

As a modeler and minis painter, have bigger ambitions. While losing a few pounds might be a prudent thing to do, I've got lead to paint! Thus, here are my "new years resolutions." Let's see how well I keep to them!

1). Finish building and painting my Normans from Gripping Beast. I have an ambition to finally go to Historicon for the first time this upcoming year. Part of that is because Historicon will, for the first time, be in Valley Forge, which is around an hour from me. This means no need to arrange a flight, get a hotel, and the like. Plus I can simply drive home and sleep in my own bed while the Con is on. To that end, I need an army to play in the WAB tournament, and the Normans were one I had been working on previously. Due date for this is a bit earlier, by necessity the beginning of July 2010.

2). Finish building and painting my High Elves from Games Workshop. Well, technically the building phase is done, and has been for some time. But definitely not the painting phase. There are rumors of a new edition of Fantasy Battle coming out this summer, and that would be a perfect time to wrap up this army. Now I haven't played WHFB since maybe 4th edition, and there has been some changes, but I've managed to keep up with the High Elves specifically, collecting army books as they come out, and buying figures here and there. Although I have a lot of classics (including some 40 classic plastic spearmen), I've also bought some new stuff for this army as well. Much of the army is already either started or done, so this should be a relatively easy goal to achieve, just like the Normans. Due date again is July 2010, the rumored release date of WHFB 8th Edition.

3). Build and Paint a Dark Elf Army from Games Workshop. One of the frustrations I often run into is that none of my friends collect minis for gaming, or at least for the games I want to play. In historical circles, often gamers will build two parallel armies that conceivably would have fought (i.e. Early Imperial Romans and Britons). Dark Elves and High Elves are a classic match up, and who knows, maybe I'll convince someone in my game group to actually get a game in. Due date end of the year 2010.

4). Finish Eldar Army from Games Workshop. Eldar were the first army I started collecting for Warhammer 40K, but for various reasons not the one I ever really finished. I already have a lot of stuff for them, much of which is not finished: 12 Jetbikes (including 3 Shriekers), a bunch of Fire Dragons, and a load of Guardians. Although I can supplement the collection by additional purchases (some of the Aspects I need to "max out" as I only have 5 for some), with what I have I should be able to form a pretty rounded army. And maybe I can convice someone to have a game with me too. Due date end of the year 2010.

5). Collect remaining figures for a Sisters of Battle army from Games Workshop. I really wasn't expecting this to make the list, but there are rumors that they might get redone by Games Workshop. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, one of the negative aspects to this is that if the core figures go plastic, there is a chance they won't mix well with the current metal figures I already have (which amount to a command squad and a single combat squad). That being said, the closer to release date we get, the more information we should get. Part of the rumors I've seen so far have to do with vehicles, and a vehicle update might be worth waiting for. Due date end of yea 2010.

6). Start and Finish a Late Roman army for Fall in. Late Romans have always been a fascination for me. Still retaining their classical trappings to a certain extent, the Roman Empire by this time was also very troubled, from succession crises, Sassanian Persians, and German Wanderlust, to economic failures and a decline in authority. This combines to make a compelling story. Part of this will depend on where Fall In will be this year, but considering that the 3 largest conventions on the East Coast US are in eastern Pennsylvania, I really don't have a lot of excuses.

7). Finish a few models from my "stash." Model Building was my "first" real hobby, and the one that gives the most satisfaction. Over the years I've built a massive collection of kits I haven't finished yet. In my defense I always start a model, but finishing has been a challenge. Because of that, I plan on focusing my efforts on finishing a few kits in my collection. I also plan on having a "moratorium" on kit buying, with only the M-41(G) Walker Bulldog in German colors and the German Jagdpanzer Kanone as my only purchases. Special concentration will be focused on my two most expensive projects: the Chieftain Mk.11 and the T-64B (expect to see some updates in the near future). Unless something comes out that completely wows me of course. Due date end of year 2010.

That's it for the list, and it breaks down fairly well into 2-month projects, so it should also be do-able. I'm sure that I'll pick up other projects along the way, and interests will wane and grow as go along. But I think it's a do-able list, and we'll see how well I can stick to it...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Project: 1/35 T-64B Progress II

I finally got the Miniarm turret today, well packed from Historica Hobbies. It was an expensive turret, but it also is chocked full of parts, including a 2 piece turned aluminum cannon!

Of particular note is the delicate casting of the NSVT machine gun, and some of the interior parts that can be seen through the turret hatches! Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be a cannon breach, but for what is there, and the size of the actual hatches, simply placing a figure in the hatches should obscure any further detail anyway.

I'm probably going to start laying into this conversion tonight. The nice thing about the turret is that it is modular, so I don't need to wait for tracks or a detail set before I can slap it together, paint it, and call it finished.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Project: 1/35 T-64B Progress

I'll have to admit, I already started working on the hull of this model. As the aftermarket parts are mainly focused on adding details -- and replacing the turret outright -- I could feel safe in progressing in this project.

One of the generalities about Eastern European model manufacture is that the level of technology and finesse is not on par with the West (including Japan and China). That being said, ofttimes it isn't necessarily bad, but may require more work. For example, in the West, the lower hull is often a single piece, using multi-part molds and slide molds (that is, multi-part molds that use sliding sections to de-mold the components, and allowing details on more than two sides). However, the Skif kit like a lot of Eastern European kits has the hull built up from multiple components. Usually this isn't a problem, just a bit more work...

Well except in the case of this kit.

Upon construction, I discovered that both the hull floor as well as both hull sides were warped, with the floor bowed upward, and the hull sides bowed outward. It took a lot of patience and gluing to get the lower hull to assemble correctly. What I did was remove the locating pins on both sides of the lower hull, and used liquid cement to glue the forward and rear portions of the hull sides first. Once the glue had cured sufficiently, I started gluing the hull floor, going a bit at a time. Nonetheless, the plastic still had a tendency to pull away, so I ended up reinforcing the glue join with a dab of cyanocrylate glue instantly cured with accelerator (you can see where I did this in the top-down photo below).

The rest of the construction was much less painless. The upper hull was slightly warped as well, but fortunately rubber bands came to the rescue here.

Much of the detail on this kit is a little soft, so I am awaiting a set of Eduard photo-etch to add general details on the kit. Sadly, the model is missing the light guards on the forward hull, and the Eduard set is necessary to recitfy this, either on their own, or as patterns for styrene rod or metal. Finally, the Eduard set adds important details to the spare fuel drums (not shown in the photos).

The next phase of this build will be either the turret or the Eduard details, whichever comes first!

Project: 1/35 T-64B

When the West first learned of the existence of the T-64, it caused quite a stir. Abandoning the evolution started with the late-WWII T-44, the T-64 was a radical departure for the time. Featuring a small, 2 man turret and a low profile hull, it incorporated advanced tank design features like an auto-loader for the main cannon, hydro-pneumatic suspension, and an advanced fire control system. The T-64 seemed to herald a new "tank gap" for which the West had to catch up.

With the fall of the Soviet Union and thawing of relations, much more information has come to light. The T-64 was not quite the threat the West believed it was, and the initial designs were nearly a turkey. Produced alongside to the T-72 , which was intended for Motor Rifle Divisions (rather than the T-64, for frontline Armored divisions), if the baloon had gone up in the '70s, the West would more likely had to face hordes of T-62s and T-55s, since the value of the T-64 was questionable.

Although many of the issues that plagued the T-64 were mostly resolved, and it still serves with the Ukranian Army, it was never exported, and still has issues to this day (such as reliability in very cold weather -- ironic considering its country of origin).

Over the years, I have built my fair share of Soviet Cold War era tanks, but the T-64 was always elusive. Lacking good photos or captured examples, the T-64 remained a garage kit until Skif (of the Ukraine) came along and produced a kit in styrene.

While one would think that a model manufacturer producing a kit of their country's tank would ensure a very accurate model. Unfortunately not. The kit I selected (T-64B) has a reasonable hull, but a very inaccurate turret. While the kit could be built out-of-the box with modification, to get a real show-winner requires quite a bit of work.

Luckily, Miniarm comes to the rescue with a very fine (if expensive!) turret for the T-64B, which I still have on order. Add to this the Eduard photo etch set (for general details -- though the picture shown is for the T-64BV, the set is suitable for the earlier variant) , and possibly the Miniarm track set, and you can have a very nice model. The last part I'm not sold on, beause the end connectors are attached to one track shoe, and thus do not bend realistically, but in the end it really depends on how well I can get the kit tracks to work. There is also a styrene set of tracks from Skif as well, and that might be a good, cheaper alternative.

All in all, I am very excited about getting this kit going, and should be a unique addition to my collection, especially next to the Chieftain.