Friday, March 19, 2010
Project: 1/48 Panzer III Ausf.M Progress II
Made a little progress on the Panzer IIIM project. As can be seen here, the turret is complete in terms of construction. When mounting the main armament to the turret, Hauler fails to provide much of a mounting area, just a blank space behind where the mantlet goes. I can only assume that Hauler intends the builder to simply butt-glue the mantlet to the turret, but this creates unsightly gaps either on the top of the mounting, or below (depending on what elevation you desire). I resolved this by cutting the plastic mounting piece from the kit in half, and then gluing it into the space provided. Although not called out in the conversion's instructions, I assume this is what Hauler intended. Nonetheless, cutting the component along the seam lines means the cannon is super-elevated. Not really much of a problem as I rarely depict models in the act of an actual engagement, but I would have at least liked a choice.
The Panzer IIIM moved the headlights from the hull front to the fenders, as I had mentioned in my previous post. Hauler provides new mounts and headlights, but unfortunately, while removing one of the headlights, it promptly fell on the floor and disappeared! I can rarely get through a project without losing a piece or two, and for this one it was a headlight. Luckily Hauler provides the correct types as a separate set, so I promptly ordered a new set (which has not arrived yet).
The smoke grenade launchers on the side of the turret are also offered as a seperate upgrade kit for people building the Panzer IIIN (Tamiya doesn't provide these), or upgrading the IIIL for a Kursk era machine. Given that, I have some experience with these components, and I while I think Hauler puts out an excellent product, these components are not one of their best efforts in my opinion. The set does give you some variety, providing both loaded and expended launchers. Unfortunately, however, you only get 8 mortars, (you need to use 6), with 4 loaded, and 4 expended mortars. Again, it would have been nice to have a total of 12 mortars to depict a vehicle at full load out, or perhaps one that has already expended all of it's smoke grenades.
That, however, is a minor complaint compared to the photo-etch mounting brackets.The big problem here is that each smoke grenade is supposed to be angled slightly in order to clear it's neighbor. The photo-etch mounting bracket unfortunately lacks relief-etch fold lines to aid the modeler. This means that without special tools it is very hard to get a good fold, and really a special PE folding device is recommended. I don't have one of these, so I instead scribed the brass to provide a "weak" point to fold at. It wasn't entirely successful, and as a result, the bend is a little more sloppy than I would like. I'm going to have to live with it, but if Hauler happens to be reading, I highly reccomend adding relief-etch fold lines to these components!
The suspension has already been spray-painted black in preparation for further painting. Normally, I weather the tracks and then hand-paint the wheels. This time, however, I think I'll do things a little different and use the fine needle in my airbrush to spray them instead. Hopefully, with enough patience and skill, I can minimize over-spray on the tracks themselves.
Finally, with the suspension components fully assembled, I joined the lower and upper hulls permanently. On the Tamiya kits with metal hulls, this is usually facilitated by a pair of screws. I personally dislike this as again it reduced the number of options one can do with the kit. In the case of the Panzer III series kits, the mounting holes are covered by one of the transmission access hatch and one of the engine access hatches in the rear. Some other kits, however, have the mounting points through crew hatches and such. In many ways this reminds me of the early DML 1/72 scale kits, which similarly had cast metal components and screw together assembly. These compromises were made because the true purpose of the kits were for the collectible, pre-constructed and pre-painted market. This market for whatever reason values weight and metal as equaling quality, despite the fact that metal cannot hold fine detail as well as plastic. Unfortunately, it is one of the things we must live with, as the actual model-building market is of secondary importance.
I'm actually planning on painting the turret in short order, mainly so I can start applying decals. For some people, the decalling stage is a chore; for me, a good set of quality silk-screened decals are a pleasure, and one of my favorite aspects of this project.