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M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #6 – Small Details Find a Home and More Small Details are Produced

Now that many (but certainly not all) of the small details have been painted, it’s time to put them where they’re going to stay. The .30 caliber ammo stowage racks were mounted to the sides and the M-3 “Grease gun” and canteen were mounted to the side of the driver’s position:

The pin-up (Rita Hayworth) and canteen were mounted next to the co-driver’s position and behind it in addition to the .30 ammo stowage, the signal flag bag was slid in (barely) underneath it:

I turned my attention to the rear of the tank and discovered that the engine cover was just a bit too wide, so that will get taken care of later:

One of the prominent features in the engine compartment is the throttle linkage. The first step to making that part was to find out how long the cross-shaft that connected two carburetors to one lead foot had to be and a compass with two points did that well:

There is a linkage arm that’s attached to the cross shaft and to replicate that I used a #75 (.025″) bit and center drilled the end of .035″ rod to make the attachment base of the linkage arm:

To make the linkage arm, I used a piece of .005″ scrap and used a #65 (.035″) bit to make a curve where the arm mounts to the cross shaft:

The styrene was cut across the hole leaving a semicircular cutout to glue to the mounting base of the linkage arm:

A small section was cut off the drilled out rod and slid over the rod that will serve as the cross shaft:

Then the length of the cross shaft was transferred to the rod and the cut was made on the mark:

The arm’s base was centered and clamped in locking tweezers on a base, then the trimmed linkage arm was aligned in another locking tweezer on a base and both parts glued to the cross shaft:

While the glue was curing, I started assembling the main gun since work inside the turret is rapidly approaching. A part of me really appreciated the very fine molding of very small parts that inhabit this kit’s box. A part of me wonders why the aerial intercourse a sub-assembly that could make do with three or four component parts needs TEN OR TWELVE component parts! Really…too much of a good thing is more annoying than merely “too much.” An example of this is the main gun (though it is far from the only example in this kit). This thing is comprised of twenty-three separate pieces (it would have been twenty-four if I’d used the gimmicky recoil spring that allows the barrel to move backwards in the receiver). I neglected to take a photo of all the parts laid out; here it is with construction already started:

If having twenty-three parts to this gun wasn’t enough pleasure (spits), there are no location marks or pins. None. Sherlock Holmes, Hercuile Peroit, Travis McGee, and my mother would have been impressed by my investigative efforts to get (what I hope is) a reasonably accurate representation of the T13E1/M5 gun (the two rings cast around the barrel show this, correctly, to be the 75mm tube from the ground attack variant of the B-25 it was taken from). I was impressed that Bronco also molded in rifling in the muzzle (sorry but this was the best photo I could take of that given the light and the autofocus’ unwillingness to focus where I wanted it to focus):

Masking and painting this thing will probably drive me to drink (so I guess it’s not all bad…)

Oh. And as if there weren’t enough parts, I discovered that Bronco, in all the parts they made for this thing, actually forgot two! They forgot the breech opening lever and the bracket is stows in when not in use. So I had to make them.

The socket was made from a piece of sprue chucked into my lathe, turned to the appropriate diameter, and the edges of the nut cut (CAREFULLY) in. A scrap piece of .015″ styrene provided the handle:

I used a piece of aluminum to make the stowage bracket, and although pleased with my efforts, I realized later that where I have the bracket is too high. It should be centered on the rear of the recoil guard and later I moved it down to a less incorrect location:

After dealing with the main gun for a couple of days, the glued parts of the throttle linkage was thoroughly dried and cured, so that got installed. It had aspects of trying to give a snake an enema and several of the delicate solder “wires” were dislodged, but obviously I don’t know when to quit so the installation was accomplished:

The next serious test of patience and commitment was installing the mufflers and exhaust tips. I’m very glad I decided not to mount these parts before engine installations because had I gone ahead and mounted them, the right engine would never have fit…not even remotely. A little foresight helped a bit when I drilled out the parts that had to be mated and added pins. But to get the right (or starboard) muffler to sit where it needed to (more on that shortly), I had to grind away substantial portions of the inner bottom of the muffler and the outer side of the oil filter. The good news is even knowing that moderate surgery was necessary to get the starboard (or…well, never mind…you get it by now) muffler into position isn’t evident. It’s a tight space and the black pre-shading hides the butcher…er…surgery. But it turns out there was one more tiny little thing.

Getting the exhaust pipe to exit the upper hull where it has to is that “little thing.” If the exhaust pipe lines up along the vertical axis, it doesn’t even come close to the opening provided for it. (Part of me wonders if that’s because the engines are probably misaligned…another part of me doesn’t give an intercourse.) I rotated the muffler/pipe around the pin glued into the cross-pipe until the tip of the exhaust pipe was under the little square opening. Now (as it is in other things), I just needed a longer pipe.

It turns out that .062″ solder is the exact diameter I needed to lengthen the pipe! (Would that other lengthening were that easy, or even possible.) I drilled out the ends of the solder and resin pipes, added a wire pin, and then glued the solder to the resin:

A little paint, a little glue, and that problem was solved! (One cannot count on luck, but it’s sure nice when it shows up.)

With the “pipes” correctly aligned and installed, they needed to be cut to the appropriate length and the ends drilled out so that they look like pipes (alignment where the solder meets the resin is slightly off, but once painted with the top hull plate in position it’s unnoticeable):

I GLADLY turned my attention elsewhere! The next major step is to get the upper hull glued down to the lower hull. There were still a couple of items I needed to attend to before that could happen, the primary one being the bow machine gun. The kit parts are fairly decent and given the location of the bow machine gun, it’s not going to be easy to see the receiver. But the barrel will certainly be easy to see, so I worked those next.

My go-to for machine gun barrels has become Birchwood Casey’s Brass Black Metal Finish. The Polish company, Master, makes exquisitely turned and drilled, two-piece (separate barrel and cooling jacket), brass barrels in their Ground Master series for 1/35 scale machine guns. They’re so finely constructed that paint plugs things up. When I was building the M-3 Stuart, I ran across BC’s blackening compound and discovered that it does a BRILLIANT job of coloring the brass without adding perceptible mass to the barrels.

Use of these barrels requires that the molded on barrels be cut off, a socket be drilled for the pin on the end of the barrel, and the barrel glues on. So far, so good. However, the bow machine gun is slightly different from the co-axially mounted machine gun. There is a ball around the base of the barrel and a sleeve that connects the ball to the gun (allowing the machine gun to traverse and elevate in its mount). So, yeah…I had to drill that out, too:

Whew. Nerve wracking.

The barrels were masked (I used a tube of paper) and the receivers painted with five parts Tamiya Semi-Gloss Black (X-18) and four parts Tamiya Medium Gray (XF-20). I like this combination SO much better than any “gun metal” paint I’ve yet encountered. It has just enough sheen to look metallic and avoid the toy-like appearance “gun metal” paints strike my eye as:

Other than replacing the barrels because they’re visually evident, I didn’t do much detailing on the .30 cals because they’re not easily seen. (Of course I did some because, well, I HAVE TO!) So far in my experience, I like how Bronco does their .30s. It’s nice not having to add those tiny, sodding, triggers myself…

One last look at the innards before the upper hull goes on. Dirt and wear were added, things were chipped and worn. And in the first photo below you can see the crew’s microphones “hung” from the upper hull supports. There are NO words that can convey the ABSOLUTE FRUSTRATING TEDIUM involved in getting the solder “wires” connected to the ends of them:

I sprayed the rear upper hull flat black (Tamiya rattle can TS-6) to pre-shade all the louvers and grills:

And the major step of marrying the upper hull to the lower has happened:

Now to work on the turret…

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #5 – More Small Details

Before the upper hull can be mated to the lower, there are a fair bit of small items that have to be worked and painted:

I decided that either I overdid the preshading or I under-did the color coat on the differential/transmission assembly, so I hit that again with white after this photo was taken:

My initial intent was to have all of the upper hull panels be removable. As I tried fitting things together I came to a couple of realizations. The first was I was disappointed with how the parts fit. Good thing I don’t smoke cigars because it was a matter of close but no cigar. The second was that I thought having them removable was too much of a gimmick and that I was just begging for something to break. The more things get handled, the greater the opportunities for things to be damaged.  I taped the forward section of the upper hull into place so that I had a reference point to align things as well as they could be, then set about gluing, aligning, and using scrap stock to fill gaps. I started by filling the gaps:

Then making the engine cover fit, which if you look to the left of it you’ll see it doesn’t really:

And done:

The upper hull was set aside to let the glue cure completely:

Then it was time to see how well, or not, the engines would fit. I started that by first dry-brushing Italeri’s “Flat Rust” (#4675P) onto the exhaust manifolds and pipes, and then touched up the spark plug wires:

If you look closely at the above photo, you can (barely) see where I added pins to the exhaust parts to make aligning them easier when it comes time to put them together. I also added pins to the transfer case where each engine joins it:

I needed to finish the radiator/fan assemblies as well. Dry-fitting showed that the fans dropped too deeply into the radiator shrouds:

I made spacers from styrene scrap so that the fans would sit at the correct depth and glued them under the fan where they can’t be seen:

I used 18 gauge solid strand wire for the mounting brackets (and I dry-brushed aluminum onto the radiator faces in case it can be seen…which it cannot, of course):

With the necessary alignments done, the fans were trimmed and their edges thinned, the U-shaped hose manifolds were aligned and glued to the radiators, then they were glued in place. Once the glue had set a bit, things were painted:

Now to see if the engines fit…and no. Not quite. Either the space allotted is just a bit too narrow or my detailing took up more lateral space than existed. I couldn’t get them to sit straight:

There are raised ridges next to the cylinder heads of the engines and I realized I could probably get just enough space to get the engines in place if I removed some of them. I got lucky:

I walked away with the pressure relieved, took the next day off as reward, and came back to realize that yes…they were indeed in straight. And yes…they were indeed too far forward. I walked away for the remainder of the week.

It’s quite vexing to make a mistake like that and not know how it was made. I thought I’d checked fit and alignment along every axis involved. Clearly not and no answer to “why,” meaning at some point I could do it again. Quite vexing.

I had been making a video of this particular step; fitting, aligning, checking (giggles), and gluing. Much gluing. Enough so that as soon as I realized the error, when I tried prying the engines and transfer case free, I don’t know if it was plastic or resin that I heard creak. Regardless, that ended the notion of prying anything out of there. In the process of editing the video, I saw exactly what I did that resulted in a major Brain Fade.

I was having problems getting the transfer case to fit between the gap of the bulkhead on top and the torsion bar housing underneath. Very early on in the fitting and head scratching phase, unnoticed by Yours Truly, I reversed the transfer case. I certainly did get it to fit nicely, though, I just did it with the part backwards. Then when I added the engines to the mix, I had to put the transfer case in correctly due to the engines and pins needing to meet. That meant the transfer case wasn’t fit correctly, it was too far forward. Attach the engines to it and they were also too far forward.

The angels didn’t exactly sing, but there was much melodic giggling heard from On High when I finally realized how the mistake happened.

The first domino after that mistake was the fit of the floor inside the crew compartment. The forward end of the transfer case extends into the crew compartment and has a raised section of the floor to accommodate that. With the transfer case in its new position, it didn’t allow the floor to set down where it should. It’s not blatant, but if you look at the semi-gloss black ledge that extends from the rear of the diamond tread floor, it isn’t parallel with the openings and boxes of the bulkhead as it should be:

Not thrilling but neither unexpected nor insurmountable. The solution is to simply grind away however much of the transfer case I need to in order for the floor to settle into place. The areas removed will be never be seen again after the floor is glued in:

Once the resin in the three locations had been ground away sufficiently, the floor was glued down.

With the engines in place (permanently) I was able to install the radiators. The two lower support arms for the fans were dry-brushed black to blend in with the pre-shaded engine bay:

With the upper hull in place, not much will be directly seen. What can be seen is as correct as 90-95% allows for:

Next I had to connect the hose attachments on the radiators (the inverted U-shape at the top of the radiators) to the attachments on the coolant manifolds. Once again, solder came to my rescue. I used .062″ solder to fabricate the “hoses”:

Sometimes one must persevere. None of it happened the first time:

A quick coat of Tamiya’s Rubber Black (XF-85) and they “hoses” settle in visually:

With the floor glued in place, it was time to begin populating the crew area. Seats, pedals, control levers, seats, oil can, and fire extinguisher were glued in, not to mention the differential/transmission:

Then the list of what needs to be worked, made, and painted starts to grow. There are many things all competing for limited space inside a tank. One of the complaints about the M24 was a lack of stowage space and a small ammunition load. I needed to make racks to stow cans of .30 caliber machine gun ammo. 0.015″ sheet and 0.010″ brass sheet made the brackets, the ammo cans came from spare parts:

With the exception of the helmet that I decided to not use, here’s what has to go either inside the tank or tied to the outside grouped by the paint color(s) they get shot with:

Bronco provides figures and their gear for the kit. I’m using Bronco’s M3 “grease gun” submachine gun (for the driver) and Tamiya’s M1A1 Thompson (stashed in the turret) and M1 carbine (for the co-driver) (and couldn’t the Army call their hardware something other than M1?!).

The M3’s barrel and sliding stock were plastic and definitely out-of-scale. Instead I used a hypodermic needle for the barrel and 24 gauge wire for the stock (Tamiya’s small arms were fine to use as-is):

One of the things I wanted to do was to fill the hollow backs for the rucks and pouches. I used Apoxie Sculpt as filler:

I let the putty cure overnight before refining its shape and making it look like the rest of the item. The small parts were glued (small dab of superglue) to bamboo skewers and the base colors were put down. Tamiya Olive Drab (XF-62) for ammo cans and the spare .50 caliber barrel bag, and Tamiya Khaki (XF-49) for cloth items:

After sitting overnight, I hit them with Tamiya Clear Gloss (X-22) and let them sit overnight again. I used Testor’s Gloss Black for a wash and hit all items before the last coat of Tamiya Flat Clear (XF-86) finished it:

Generic dirt/grime/wear will be added with pastels.

The small arms were painted with five parts Tamiya Semi Gloss Black (X-18) and four parts Tamiya Medium Gray (XF-20) where metal would be exposed (The M3, not having wood parts, is all that color). The wood parts were painted with Heller Natural Wood (sorry, no part number). Heller Natural Wood does NOT mix well using denatured alcohol as a thinner…unless you want something that looks like wood-colored cottage cheese. The sling for the carbine is lead foil painted with Tamiya Khaki (XF-49):

There are (and will be in the model) brackets to hold the crew’s small arms. As they were probably issued M3s, the co-driver having an M1 means it won’t fit in the M3 brackets. Were I sitting in the right seat, I’d want my piece close to hand (in this case, leaning to the left of the seat):

From here, what drives the build is what I have to do next to be able to put the upper hull on permanently. And speaking of that…here comes the next domino.

With the engines sitting too far forward because of the transfer case error, that means the radiators should be sitting too far forward also; the location of the engines dictates the placement of the radiators. It was with no small sense of trepidation that I put the upper hull in place. There is a raised area over where the radiators should be and I wasn’t sure how badly the misalignment of the radiators would be.

There wasn’t any misalignment of the radiators! What I lack in quickness I like to think I make up for with thoroughness (but then, we all have our illusions). I made sure the upper hull was where it has to be. I checked quite closely to see where the raised area lined up. I even walked away for a couple of days before checking it again with fresher eyes.

Nope. No misalignment. Falls WELL within the 90-95%.

That leaves me with the conclusion that where I had intended to put the engines was inaccurate. Serendipity saved me much vexation by having my “mistake” counter my MISTAKE.

Just about the time I’m arrogant enough to suspect I know what I’m doing, something like this happens. So no…I’m not being humble when someone tells me how good I am at this and I demure. I’m not humble.

I’m experienced.


M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #4 – Small Details…Many, and a Useful Track Trick.

Sometimes I build myself into an impasse. “Well, gee…how the aerial intercourse am I going to do that?!” Most times, rather than sit here and rock back and forth (at my age, that time is quickly approaching anyway…why rush the matter?), I’ll hare off and do other things. Unless I’m right at the end of the build when the Ohgawdammit moment shows up (y’know, like after having painted something that took me a couple of years to build and then having the decals flip me off), there’s generally many other things I can do while I figure out what to do about the Ohgawdammit moment.

That’s what this post is…my rocking back and forth substitute(s).

Dry-fitting showed me that the transmission/differential was too narrow. To fix that I determined what the measurements were (about .060″ per side), punched out a couple of discs from scrap, and then glued them in place:

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One of the things I noticed about Bronco’s individual track links is that they’re very refined and detailed. Maybe they’re a bit too refined (unlike myself) and detailed; I broke a few while assembling two 74-piece tracks. A crazy friend from England suggested Fruilmodel’s metal tracks. If you go this route, don’t buy them directly from Fruilmodel. They’re expensive. But you can find them quite reasonably priced on eBay, which is where I got these:

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If you go this route, check the track shoes carefully. Sometimes they’re “handed”; one set goes on one side, the other on, well, the other. The M24 tracks aren’t handed, but now you know. They’re also not as difficult to assemble as I’d heard. I used my Panavise as the assembly jig and did them in sections of five and then joined the sections:

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The person who suggested these to me (THANK you, Al!) also informed me of a very handy item, track burnishing liquid. I ordered some and stayed relatively busy awaiting its arrival.

Sometimes in spite of all attempts to keep it from happening, bubbles end up in a cast resin part. I had been considering just recasting them. But I’m a parsimonious git. The minimum quantity of resin that I can mix is an ounce. Doesn’t sound like a large quantity until I only need to recast a few small parts. That annoys my parsimonious side. When I discovered a few small parts that had bubbles that were too large to ignore, this time I tried something I learned on a previous build (Gemini Capsule); plug the hole with plastic.

The bubble in the separate part is easy to see. If you look closely at the part still on the pouring block, you can see a light spot in the shadow. That’s the other bubble:

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It’s easier to fit a plug into a square hole than a randomly curved one. So the first step is to open up the bubble hole and square the socket. The second step is to fill that opened and squared gap with plastic and a generous amount of super glue:

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Superglue hardens the longer it sits. So that I don’t have HARD superglue and soft plastic and resin bordering it and run the risk of the superglue holding up to sandpaper better than plastic or resin does, once the superglue is hard enough to work (gave them about an hour), I start trimming the plugs until they’re flush:

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Since the parts weren’t usable as they were, I had nothing to lose by trying to fix them…and I didn’t waste a large amount of resin to fix a small problem. I did the same to the binocular case:

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With the parts plugged, it was time to put some of them in place. The first parts I plugged are supports for the upper hull where the turret sits. I taped the upper hull in placed and then diddled mightily until the supports fit where they (relatively) go. I used denatured alcohol to strip away the paint I’d added prematurely and glued all four of them to just the lower hull:

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With the transmission/differential adjusted for fit, I added the other parts that go with it. Experience has shown me that really small parts are easier to align and stay glued better when they’re pinned. The two holes on the trans/diff will match 24awg copper wire pins:

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And now it’s ready for paint:

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The two seats in the front of US WWII tanks, for the driver and co-driver (aka bow gunner, loader, ammo mule) adjust. They’d raise upward so the crew members could ride with their heads out (of the hatch…where else they may keep their heads isn’t mine to fix) or drop quickly down into the hull and under cover (as much as “cover” can be used describing something as obvious as a sodding tank). I’d never modeled a seat in the up position, and I’ve not noticed that anyone else had. When one can cast one’s own parts (parsimonious or not), a certain ballseyness shows up. “Well, let’s try this. If I totally bitch it up, I’ll just pour another one.” (And then whine about having to waste resin.)

The first step required me to cut apart the adjustment arms of one of the seats (which I’ll probably use in the driver’s position). Once cut apart, I QUICKLY realized that with only two hands, there was no way I’d be able to hold these small and difficult to grasp parts AND assemble them. I drilled out the arms and their mounts to the seat (the white plastic) and added pins to the base:

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I needed something to be referenced physically (ad fancy way of saying “get something to stay in place so I could work the Damned Things) so I used double-sided tape to attach the base to the workbench:

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If you compare the gray arms of the seats in the first photo above, something I failed to do, you’ll notice that the arms aren’t positioned the same way on the arms I’d cut apart. One of the arms is correct (the left one) and the other is reversed (the other left one). What I also failed to notice was that I taped the base down front-to-back. Yes…this turned and bit me in short order. But these errors didn’t get noticed at the time and I glued the Damned Thing together all cocked up (the blurry seat in the background is correct):

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This was when the Boys in the Back proved they existed. Several hours later, after dinner and a movie, I was in bed reading when out of nowhere I had AN URGE: “Get up and check the fornicating seat!” That’s when I realized that I’d put things together backwards: the base and one of the support arms. Earlier I’d mentioned that superglue sets up hard over time. There was NO way I was going to go back to bed with these very delicate parts glued together incorrectly and let that glue cure overnight…

An hour later the parts were correct and myself and the Boys in the Back could rest for the night:

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Just because a wound is self-inflicted doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.

The hatch hinge mechanisms were different with the M24’s front hatches than previous US tanks (turret hatches were typical simple hinged affairs). Once unlatched, there was a lever inside that the crew member pulled down to raise the hatch a few inches and then used to rotate the hatch away from the opening. Verlinden added the housing for the hinge mechanism, he didn’t provide the lever. Also, the hinge mechanism was vertical relative to the tank overall but not perpendicular to the upper hull; the area where it mounts isn’t level. These hinge mechanisms only fit one way. I wanted them to be (mostly) centered on the opening in the hull so I used a circle template of the required diameter to delineate their locations:

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There are also slots in the hinge mechanism that I had to add (“easier” to see to the right side of the right part below):

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I used stretched sprue to make the lever and I dipped one end repeatedly into a puddle of superglue to build up accretions resembling knobs:

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The M24 didn’t have a turret basket. There were three people in that turret; commander, gunner, and loader. Their respective seats were attached to the turret so they didn’t have to scramble as the turret rotated (well…I assume there was a degree of scrambling for the loader…there were no provisions in the turret for ready-rounds to be mounted, the rounds were instead kept in water-jacketed bins in the floor). There was a pedestal affixed to the floor that supported a box with various turret controls and there was an steel arm that allowed the control box mounted on the pedestal to rotate with the turret. There were tubular guards mounted to the top of the control box so that someone’s size 11 didn’t kick something that shouldn’t be kicked. The ones shown below were made from solder…which I decided were too thick so I redid them with a thinner solder. I didn’t take a picture, however, so you’ll have to put up with a photo of the wrong sized one:


The pedestal had the shroud to protect the wiring conduit that I mistakenly cut off, thinking it was part of the pouring block. I replaced it with styrene:

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When the turret gets added to the hull, I’ve no idea how I can make the control box rotate with the turret and still allow the turret to be removed. I’m hoping the BitB come up with a clever (defined as effective and simple) solution, but I’m prepared to not have that feature.

Mounted on the hull behind the driver is a prominent feature the AM set didn’t provide. It’s an oil can with a hand pump and metal hose. What wasn’t provided had to be made:

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I used solder to make the metal hose:

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I used lead foil to make the mounting bracket:

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Between the noise of the machine itself and the sound of its guns firing, I can’t imagine it was easy to converse at a time when the crew needed to converse. Tanks had an “interphone.” No…that’s not analog phone sex, we’d call it an “intercom” today (the interphone, not the phone sex). The AM set didn’t provide the microphones so I made them (though only three are shown, I went back and made two more so that each crew position had it’s mic). I started using discs punched out of styrene (.015″ for the earpiece) and used .035″ rod as the earphone and some .025″ styrene rod as the handle:

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Double sided tape allowed me to hold the tiny parts in place as I stacked and glued the rest of the pieces:

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Attaching the wires to these things is going to be a challenge.

In the process of making the microphones, I realized that the co-driver’s mic (and probably the driver’s as well) hung from a support under the upper front hull that neither the kit nor AM provided. So I used card stock to make a template (the gray part is the vent blower):

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I traced the shape onto .030″ styrene and glued them in place:

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The area was populated by making a switch box that fit underneath the driver’s ceiling light, adding it along with the co-driver’s ceiling light and then added wiring conduits of .020″ and .015″ solder with lead foil strips as mounting brackets for the conduits:

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And then I added all the other conduits:

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Then I realized that given the location of these conduits, nobody’s likely to ever see them. ::rolls eyeballs::

There are other conduits and a junction box that needed to be added to the engine compartment (and these will be easier to see). I drilled a spare resin junction box to accept . 015″ and .020″ solder and glued the box in place after scraping paint away for a good bond:

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Then it was a matter of running the lines and adding the mounting brackets (lead foil again):

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Small parts require special handling and forethought. How does one paint parts that a gnat’s sneeze would blow off the bench and into oblivion? I do that by getting a handle on things. Literally. It starts by very careful drilling holes into resin parts to add styrene rod through later on. Before later on, though, I can stick toothpicks (CAREFULLY) into the holes I drilled to allow them to be handled for painting:

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Finally the rocking back and forth got so pronounced that I started getting motion sickness. Fine. Fine. I’ll deal with the sodding Ohgawdammit thing…painting the engines…something I wasn’t at all looking forward to attempting.

In very small space(s), after painting them flat black for pre-shading, I had to paint each engine with OD Green overall, semi-gloss black on the generators and water lines, rubber black on the spark plug wires and water line mounts as well as two hoses connecting the radiators to the water lines, custom mixed copper for the carburetors, and finallay rusted iron on the exhaust manifolds (which I dry-brushed on to control the paint laid down and not over painting the top of the engine). So the hell with it. I did (and note the now-painted oil box, too):

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A few days prior, the burnishing liquid arrived so I decided it was a good time (or at least not a bad time) to test drive the burnishing liquid and get the basic track color on.

This is the stuff:

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It gets diluted 50% with water. The water where I live is very hard so rather than use it from the tap, I used distilled water. I emptied the contents of the bottle into a plastic tray and then used the bottle to measure the water and mixed it well:

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Any references I’ve read regarding Fruilmodel’s tracks and burnishing liquids (not just this brand’s) stress washing the track shoes thoroughly before attempting any coating, so I did. References stated that the tracks should be immersed and then bubbles knocked and/or shaken away from the surface so that the liquid gets into all the crevices. I used an old toothbrush and the task was surprisingly tedious. I found it easier to wash and de-bubble assembled tracks instead of individual track shoes:

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After a few minutes, I took one of the tracks out and checked it (forgetting that I was going to have to de-bubble it again):

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In checking the tracks, I saw the areas that just didn’t change color. There were no bubbles and I have no idea why they didn’t color. I KNOW I scrubbed the metal thoroughly. Others using this and similar products have had the same results. Okay…looks like parts of these tracks will be caked with dirt or mud! References also state that the time parts are soaked alters the look, obviously tending towards darker with more time immersed. I decided that four hours gave me the look I wanted (though there was one YouTube video where one builder left his tracks in 12-13 hours):

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M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #3 – Painting…Kind of

I suspect there’s an aspect of myself that’s like an old trail horse. As long as I’m going along in my self-established grooves (or ruts), I’m fine. But bump me out of said ruts (or grooves) and my procedure goes to pieces. What I wanted to do was to get the interior ready-ish for some paint because I wanted to show my “trainee” what pre-shading is and why I painted things black to be able to paint them other colors. What I did was focus so much on the instructional aspect that I forgot some construction things. What that means is that much of what this update is going to show will end up being undone or redone because there were some things I wanted to add before painting and just forgot about.

I started assembling the raised floor (under which the actual tank has water-jacketed ammo storage). With the bulkhead just dry-fitted, I placed the floor and added the parts needed, using the hull as my assembly jig:

One prominent feature of the differential is either a breather or an oil filler tube, so I had to make one. Another prominent feature of the differential is that I didn’t paint it flat black! So I’ll have to attend to that:

The raised floor also covers more area than the AM part does. I’d intended to make additions to both rear corners where the floorplates were missing, but on the left side is where the on-board fire extinguisher sits. Yes, I could have put that in but the large amount of work required to get that accurately done is for something that will be difficult to see (at best). Since it will be mostly unseen, I decided to save myself a few hours of fiddly work to achieve dubious and mostly unseen effects.

Since I don’t have any scale diamond tread plate (something I should rectify), I copied a section of floor from Academy’s M3 using heavier gauge aluminum sheet and supergluing a .060″ styrene section to the aluminum and then trimmed it:

I added a section of .020″ scrap to provide more gluing surface, then glued the new floor piece into place. And though not evident in these photos, I also thinned the edge of the resin floor where the actual floors of these sections just sort of hangs out:

One of the (several, I think) things I’d wanted to add before painting and forgot to do was the plumbing around the tops of the fuel tanks, so I added it:

I drilled sockets for skewers so that I had handles to make painting small parts easier. Some sections were painted with Semi-Gloss Black (Tamiya X-18) over the flat black. There’s a shroud at the rear of the floor (left in the photo below), the caps to the radiators and oil cooler (not shown), and the batteries that were painted semi-gloss:

Then the floor and oil filter housings were painted OD Green (Tamiya XF-62):

At least I remembered to paint the on-board fire extinguisher. Tamiya Gloss Red (X-7) was used on the canister (the bottom will never be seen once it’s in place) and Tamiya Copper (XF-6) was used on the valve body. Vallejo Aged White (71.132) was used on the gauge face (later I will use a SHARP pencil and draw on the face details):

To prepare for Tamiya’s Flat White (XF-2), I masked off the interior parts I don’t want to paint white:

And then I misted the flat white over the parts that will be in the crew compartment and the aged white over the fan shrouds on the radiators (I like the look of the aged white in the engine compartment). Later you will see photos of “that.” The quotes are because it’s very possible that most of what has been put down will be taken back up so that I can add the parts and bits that my mono-focus missed.

About this point I’m thinking that Bronco has engineered this kit with diorama builders in mind. MANY of the kit parts are comprised of several pieces that other manufacturers would have done either in one piece or certainly not “many.” An example is the drive sprockets:

There are two parts in that photo and they’re only half the parts the drive sprocket is comprised of. The part on the left is the hub that fits behind the body of the sprocket. For it to fit into the body correctly, the bolt heads on the face of the hub have to be shaved off. The other two parts are separate sprocket plates. If you wanted to do a diorama of the crew changing sprocket plates, the kit parts are preconfigured to allow you to do that easily. It’s not much more work if you only want a sodding drive sprocket, but this sort of thing I’m starting to see throughout the kit. This adds to the parts count, obviously, but it also allows for some VERY FINE AND TINY PARTS as well.

The roadwheels are also multipart subassemblies. Every roadwheel is comprised of six parts and there are five roadwheels per side (and three return rollers just about as complex as the roadwheels):

The idler wheels are beautifully cast and like the idler wheels on the actual tank, they have an inner lip on both sides of the rim. Had I bothered to check references I would have seen that these rims are recessed and not even with the outer edge of the rims the way I have them (and all nicely puttied, too). The plastic is SO thin that I’ve no doubt that if I try to pop those out of there to place deeper, they won’t “pop,” they’ll “snap.” Fine…I’ll live with my mistake. Again:


This kit provides a PE fret for the really tiny stuff, like headlight guards. The kit also provides a forming buck that the PE can be bent over! Nice touch! I annealed the brass before bending. I tried my best to solder the braces to the main hoop but that didn’t work at all, so I ended up resorting to superglue:


The other guard is much simpler.

The batteries were detailed a little:

Each of the five-gallon cans has six parts (and were I crazy enough, the locking lever has its PE equivalent…be seeing as I’m merely colorful and not crazy [snicker], I used the plastic part instead):

Why did I do the cans? I needed something to do while I mapped out what I have to go back and do…and that will probably start by me stripping the paint I’d already laid down.

::bangs head on desk::

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #2 – Getting the Engines Ready for Paint

Having started on the engine bay, seemed to make sense to get the engines assembled and detailed. I quickly discovered that the carburetors wouldn’t stay glued on. There’s very little surface for the glue to adhere the parts to so the carburetors needed pins:

The most challenging of what the engines would need was to get eight TINY (.010″) holes drilled into the distributor caps and then glue eight TINY lengths of .010″ solder into them:

While the superglue cured a bit, I added the fuel lines to the carburetors’ float bowls:

Then I had to drill the distributor mounts to accept a pin; there’s NO WAY this solder and resin assembly could stay on with such a small surface to adhere to:

Okay…time to add the distributors:

Of course, ignition wires (which I manage to get the firing order correct on) then get routed:

Each engine required the coil to step up the voltage for the spark(s). I used 1/16″ (.062) plastic rod as the coils, drilled three holes for more .010″ solder, and then mounted them to their respective engines (as well as adding some lead foil for the wiring loom):

The hose/pipe arrangement needed details added as well as adding the oil filler tube and cap (the styrene rods that have a copper wire sticking out of them are part of the hoses; later those wires will be trimmed to fit):

Return lines were added to the crankcase vents, and the power leads were added to the generators:

Somehow I failed to notice that one of the exhaust manifold parts had a large bubble in it. I cut the thinnest sections of the bubble away to see if I could fix it. The part as-is isn’t useable so I had nothing to lose by trying:

I squared the bottom of the gap and then added styrene scraps to fill and then glued the hell out of it all:

It worked:

A prominent feature on the engines is the lifting rings bolted to the top of each head. I didn’t consider using styrene at all as scale size dictates .005″ be used. Instead, I used .005″ copper shim stock. I was fortunate that the smallest punch of my punch and die set was just the size opening I needed. For ease of manipulating very small bits, I punched the holes first:

I used scissors to cut the strip from the stock and then LIGHTLY tapped the surface with a hammer to return it to a flat shape:

Hammering too hard will cause the soft copper to deform, so if you ever do this, softly with the hammer is required.

As it turned out, my first attempts were too small. There isn’t enough material left on one side to form the mount:

Then my brain caught up with events and informed me that IF I wanted a nice bend with a tight radius, maybe I’d better anneal the sodding copper…so I did:

The first attempt (shown in the above photo) worked well. I needed three more. Then my pattern of the-first-is-easy-and-the-rest-anything-but-easy showed up. Again. I only needed another three, but it took me eight more sodding tries to get three that were acceptable.


With the lift rings finally done, all that needed to be done was to shave off the head bolts so the parts would fit flatly and then glue said parts in place:

I was surprised that this part of the assembly was easy:

Whew. Tiny details. They take forever (it seems). Having done all that, the next step is to start painting while the parts and assemblies are out and accessible. I want to pre-shade the parts, assemblies, and engine bay, which meant that I had to spray them flat black (Tamiya XF-1 Flat Black):

While I had the airbrush loaded with flat black, I did the inside of the lower hull:

That was the easy part of painting the engines and associated parts. What comes next could be challenging…

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) 1/35 Scale Build #1 – The Parts and Hull Construction Begins

Thus far this build has been a little different. I usually sequester myself in the Mad Scientist’s Lair, and while cackling gleefully, immerse myself in my latest obsession…er…build. As those of you Out There who engage in this activity know, it’s mostly a solo activity, interrupted for bathroom breaks, refilling of the beverage of choice (with sharp things and potentially hazardous chemicals, I think alcohol consumption should not be part of that scenario…unless your local hospital ER has cute nurses and you’re more desperate than I am), and sometimes sustenance to keep the vision from blurring. Okay, so maybe you don’t build that way, but I certainly do…or had until this build.

A dear friend of mine (for whom I had built the M3 Stuart) wants to see how I progress from a pile of parts and pieces through the Process of Modeling Glory (TM) and manage to end up with something that looks like [INSERT MODEL TYPE HERE]. Yes, this site is informative for her, but the process of Q&A can be rather cumbersome. So she’s been sitting next to me while I’ve been working. Being a simple-minded sod with limited multitasking capabilities, this has upset my routine of clip, scrape, diddle, and fit and then take pictures for inclusion here. So the beginning of this is a bit off from my usual form. That said…

Here are the parts:

First look at the parts shows judicious use of slide molding. The main gun barrel was molded in one piece including the muzzle and rifling. I usually use metal barrels whenever possible but the kit’s plastic barrel seems good enough to use instead. Parts count is high but they all seem to be well molded without flash. I’ll see as I go along how the fitment of these parts works out.

I intend to add an engine compartment and engines as well as a full interior. Verlinden made a resin detail set for both the engine compartment and interior (interesting note – if you look at the interior set, you’ll see it was made for the Tasca model…except to my limited knowledge Tasca never made one):

Since Verlinden parts will become more scarce, and thereby more expensive, as time passes, I’ve made a habit of copying Verlinden’s resin and using the copies instead of the actual Verlinden parts:

I started by constructing the lower hull. The bottom and sides are molded as one unit and show very nice surface details (including casting marks found on the actual M24). Once those were in place, I added the tow hook mounts at both ends. Since this is supposed to be an early production vehicle, the mounts for the flotation devices shouldn’t be there. The mounting pads aren’t on the front lower hull but there are mounting holes for the rear mounting pads that the kit supplied. Oops. Not supposed to be there. I filled the mounting holes with stretched sprue. Since both the interiors of the hull ends will be seen later on, I had to fill the places on the inside where the tow hook mounts showed through:

The first observation I made after mounting the front and rear lower hull is that the upper front hull doesn’t fit well with the lower (check the lower right of the next photo). Not a good start, Bronco:

I pressed the sides out and settled the upper hull where it’s supposed to go, taped both sides to the upper hull, and immersed the whole thing into a sink of HOT water:

The result was better; about 75% of the misalignment was fixed. The remaining 25% will be dealt with as I add interior parts, particularly the bulkhead between engine and crew compartments.

There are things about this kit I find somewhat gimmicky. There is a spring inside the main gun’s receiver that allows the barrel to “recoil.” Why? And the suspension is clearly designed to be “workable.” It has separate torsion bars for each set of sprung roadwheels. Again…why? I suppose having the suspension posable could make posing the tank on an uneven surfaced diorama possible, but posable is different from workable in my mind, leading again to the question of why. The days of models with “workable features” are over. I’m building a model, not a toy that I’m going to play with until it breaks. I added the torsion bar housings and torsion bars as well as the final drive covers that show inside the hull:

There aren’t many sinkholes in the parts, but I found that all the torsion bar housings had them on the flared ends:

Not a big deal, just add putty:

Time to start populating the hull interior. Using an AM set will frequently result in me sitting there wondering where to start. There’s a lot of parts that have to fit inside this thing and not many definitive places for me to start at. In this case, though, there are two places that the parts can only go into the hull one way; the differential in the front and the sides of the engine compartment in the rear. I decided to start at the rear and installed the fuel tanks/compartment walls (molded as one piece):

With both fuel tanks/compartment walls in place, that gave me the position for the bulkhead. In this photo, the bulkhead is just taped into position to check how it affects its position relative to the sides of the hull, which according to the upper hull is too narrow:

There are gaps on both sides and the top. I’ll add plastic strips to fix them later. Before I do that, there are more parts to add to the bulkhead which will be much easier to do with that part free.

Since I now have a rudimentary engine compartment, it was time to start assembling the engines:

Here are more parts for the engine compartment that I will need to find permanent homes for in there:

This kit contains a fret of PE parts. Among those parts are the casting marks for the lower front hull. They’re VERY TINY and so far I’ve managed not to launch any of them into oblivion. One side is done. Oh…and on that note, Bronco failed to photo-etch one of the “1” numerals…so it’s missing from the left side (there’s supposed to be a “10” next to the star, not a “0”):

I also started assembling some of the suspension components. Each of these return rollers is comprised of four parts and the bolts that hold the shock absorbers in place are tiny and INCREDIBLY fragile:

Once I started the build, I assembled the tracks, ten shoes a day while I sat at the workbench in the morning, having my tea and waiting for my dried up neurotransmitters to hydrate and begin transmitting sparks again:

The tracks are finely molded. Perhaps they’re too finely molded. I managed to snap two into unusability while assembling them. Fortunately while perusing the ‘Net, I found a discounted set of metal T72 tracks that I will try using instead…which means I get to do this tedious task again.

M24 Chaffee (Bronco) an Overview

Since the US deployment of light tanks in WWII, the M3 variants and the M5 variants, crews wanted something that offered more protection and had a larger gun. Being that both the M3 and M5 were essentially developed designs of a mid 30’s design, neither the M3 nor M5 could mount a larger gun. And seeing as the light tank doctrine had to be modified to fit the tanks’ capabilities, such as they were (or perhaps less inaccurately, deal with their shortcomings), the North African campaigns showed that any tank that relied on a 37mm main for defense would lose and that light tanks could not effectively be used in any other role than scouting. One “funny” person suggested that the only effective use of a light tank was to discover where anti-tank guns were situated, which, though I suppose offered a tactical utility, was rather rough on the crews.

For reasons I certainly don’t understand, the US Armored Force remained convinced that light tanks could be useful. (In addition to thin armor and a tiny gun, the armor of M3s and M5s wasn’t proof against any of the anti-tank guns.) So the M3 morphed into the M5 but shared with the M3 a high profile. A thinly armored tank with a high profile was easy to see and knock out. The M5, however, didn’t use a radial engine, which is why the M3 light tank, the M3 medium tank, and the M4s all shared the same flaw of being tall tanks. Instead of designing a new hull, the M5 used a variation of the M3’s basic hull design, even though the M5 used a pair of Cadillac V8s instead of a tall radial engine and could have benefited from a new hull design with a lower profile; they wouldn’t have had any greater firepower or thicker armor, at least they wouldn’t have been as tall.

Finally realizing that the M3 and any development of the M3’s basic hull design were tactically ill-advised, a new requirement was drawn up (1943, I believe). The requirement specified that the new light tank should not exceed 20 tons in weight and be capable of mounting a 75mm gun. The US Armored Force also decided that the four-man crew of existing light tanks was insufficient to combat efficiency and instead stipulated that a five-man crew was required, adding the additional crewmember to the turret crew.

With the pressures generated by an on-going war, as much of the M5 that could be used would be incorporated into the new design. The Armored Force remained convinced that a light tank would be useful for reconnaissance.

Cadillac had been working on an enlarged hull design intended for self-propelled artillery and incorporating as many of the M5A1 components as possible. Chrysler (then a part of GM) used the Cadillac-designed hull and offered a new design, the T24. It used a modified configuration of the M5A1’s Cadillac engines feeding a transfer case to combine the output of two engines into one drive shaft as the M5A1 had, feeding the M5A1’s transmission in the nose (the major difference from the M5A1 was that the new design used a manual transfer case instead of the M5A1’s automatic transfer case which turned out to have problems) as well as larger radiators for improved engine cooling. The original design required a larger turret ring to handle the 75mm gun and rather than make the body of the tank wider, instead the design employed sides that sloped outward at the top (and having an angle to the face of the side armor offered a slight improvement over a vertical side without increasing the vehicles overall weight of additional armor). The Armored Force also wanted wider tracks for decreased ground pressure (lessening the likelihood of the new tank becoming mired in muddy conditions) and designers moved away from the volute-style suspension of the 30s (which had become about as advanced as that archaic design could be) to the more modern torsion bar suspension used in more modern tanks of the Germans and Russians (torsion bar suspensions are still in use on tanks today). As a result, the track used on the M24 during WWII was the T72, a single-pin, center guide, metal shoe, track with a width of 16″. (Post-war track was changed to the rubber chevron, double-pin, T85E1 shoe with a width of 14″. Rubber tracks were easier on paved roads, a consideration of Occupation Forces in Japan.)

Even with the larger turret ring, using the 75mm of the M4 Sherman didn’t work as intended. However, a light-weight 75mm, the T13E1, with a different recuperator and shorter stroke design to absorb the recoil of the 75mm had been developed for the B25G and H models. Though the light-weight T13E1 of the B25 shot the same round as the 75mm of the Sherman, the barrel was shorter which resulted in an even lower velocity of the round, already considered a low-velocity shot. The initial gun, the T13E1, was taken from stores already produced for the B25 ground attack variants. Later on, a purpose-built gun for the M24 was produced and designated as the M5. The only way to tell the T13E1 from the M5 tube was that the former had a pair of rings around the barrel sleeve to engage the recoil mechanism of the B25 installation.

Initial trials of the new T24 went well and the Armored Force requested various changes in the prototypes, and once those changes were instituted, the T24 was standardized as the M24 in July 1944 and production began at the end of the M5 production in May 1944. Cadillac produced 3,592 M24s and Massey-Harris started production in July 1944 and produced 1,139. Total production was 4,731.

The M24’s combat debut was at Bastogne during the winter of 1944 (aka, the Battle of the Bulge) when a pair of M24s intended for 744th and 759th Tank Battalions were intercepted by the 740th Tank Battalion that had arrived in-theatre without any tanks. They were first deployed in Company D at Remouchamps on December 20, 1944, and saw action in the fighting for Stoumont and La Gleize.

The M24 was a profound improvement over the M5 and M5A1s that they replaced and the crews liked them. From what I can tell, the major complaint of the new tank (and probably every tank fielded) was its limited ammunition loadout (not at all uncommon for an M24 crew to go through the standard ammo load twice during an engagement…talk about awkward!). Mobility was praised as was its ability to get into (and most importantly, out of) places neither the M4 because of its size, and the M5 series because of their higher ground pressure, could. The first two tanks were pressed into service without the crews being trained in them. However, due to the mechanical similarities of the M5 series and the similar gun of the M4 75mm, they seemed to have no problem putting the new tank into service.

The M24 was thought to be the tank to use in the invasion of Japan because of its lighter weight (though a bit over the 20 tons initially specified) than the M4 series in consideration of the bridges found in Japan. Tests were conducted to see if the tank could be made to float, thereby decreasing the need for LSTs, and the flotation devices (including 28.5″ grousers bolted to the T72 track to increase propulsion in the water) developed for the M18 were successfully (all terms being relative) adapted and tested between late 1944 and early 1945.

The Enola Gay and Bock’s Car changed all that and the program was dropped. However, the mounting pads for the flotation devices on the nose and rear of the tank had been incorporated into the production lines and never dropped. I found one reference, “M24 Chaffee Walk Around, by David Doyle, ISBN 978-0-89747-592-1 that gives production numbers when the flotation mounts were added to the hull, the only problem being that different production numbers for the start of those additions. On page 12, he states that Cadillac-built M24s started adding the mounts at #1101, and then on the next page, 13, he states that Cadillac started adding the mounts at #713. So that is hardly informative! Either way, early production M24s, therefore, had the rings around the barrel of the T13E1 gun and no flotation mounts whereas late production M24s didn’t have rings around the barrel and had the float mounts. Some of the early M24s also had U-shaped stirrups added to the lower nose and rear plate and some did not. None of the M24s with the flotation mounts show these stirrups.

As mentioned earlier, M24s were used by US Occupation Forces in Japan (my father crewed, and later commanded one, and finally became a platoon commander).

Then Korea erupted.

The T34/85s that the North Koreas brought with them had been good enough to stop the Wehrmacht’s Panzer IVs, Panthers, and even Tigers. Encountering M24 light tanks, the only tanks we had on-hand that were close enough to throw at the North Korean invaders, posed no problem for the T34/85 crews (even as poorly trained as they were…which would significantly change when M4A3E8s and M26s arrived later). (The last tank my father had shot out from under him he was the only survivor of the experience, largely because he was standing in the open commander’s hatch when his tank was hit and destroyed. The explosion blew him clear of the flaming wreck.

Post-WWII, France was the largest recipient of M24s and used them in Indo-China (Vietnam). The Vietnamese army also used them (too frequently in coups, which earned the M24 the nickname of “ballot boxes).

During its initial uses in WWII, the M24 was considered by some as America’s best tank (as if that determination can be made!). Side-stepping that debate, it was certainly the most advanced armor of the European Theatre that the US fielded until the arrival of the M26.

M24 of the 18th Cavalry Squadron at Petit-Thier, Belgium February 1945

M3 Stuart (Academy) after-action report

Total time building 270.5 hours.

Begin date March 21, 2019; end date* December 30, 2019. * Six-month hiatus during the build.



Kit #13269 – M3A1 Stuart


Kit #3542 – Stuart U.S. Light Tank M3

Kit #35360 – M3 Stuart Late Production

Kit #35250 – M4A3 Sherman

Tiger Model Designs (TMD)

Set #35-1039 M3 USMC Interior

Set #35-70023 – Tie-Down Cleats, Small


M3 details #1647 (just the vision block covers for the commander’s cupola)


Set #AF35056 U.S. Light Tank M3/M5/M8 Stuart Vertical Volute Spring Suspension

Archer Transfers

Set #AR35209B – Gauges and Interior Stencils

Set #AR88001 – Resin Rivets, Various Scales


Set #35B24 (RB Models) – Turned Aluminum 37mm Barrel

Set #GM-34-004 – .30 Caliber Barrels (s), turned brass

The Scenic Factory Mud

Set #MK-02 – Ardennes Forest Kit “Dry”

Lots of solder, wire, lead foil, paint, and sprue


My opinion

Academy has a reputation for being soft on details and this kit would support that viewpoint. The kit is labeled as an M3A1 which it’s not. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either an M3 with an M3A1 interior (yes…the two interiors really are that different), or it’s an M3A1 with an M3 hull. So that’s the starting point.

The suspension has earned its reputation as a cock-up. It appears as if the engineers got the ground clearance incorrect with it and rather than start over and get it correct, they “drooped” the roadwheel arms much too far. If you’re concerned with accuracy, scrap the kit’s suspension and get the AFV suspension kit, which is MUCH better. I’d suggest getting that set if you’re doing any Academy M3 variant. The Academy drive cover (the lower nose) isn’t very accurate and the AFV drive cover is…and it’s included with the suspension. Yes…you’ll have to cut the Academy part off and graft on the AFV part. It’s worth it. If you decide to go with the AFV suspension, you’ll either have to use the AFV drive sprocket with their tracks or if you use the Academy tracks, you’ll have to use the Academy drive sprocket. The tracks are sufficiently different that you won’t be able to use the AFV drive sprockets with the Academy track and vice versa. (And each drive sprocket has inaccuracies.)

I was surprised (and somewhat disappointed) by Tiger Model Designs. Their Marine interior for the M3 didn’t really fit. It appeared that I needed more length in the lower hull to fit all the stuff that was supposed to go into the crew compartment, but when I extended the compartment, the driveshaft cover turned up too short (requiring me to lengthen it). I don’t know how that happened; I’m hoping that it was an as yet undiscovered mistake on my part as I really like the guy who runs TMD. And to be transparent, no…I didn’t complain or tell him about it (I think he’d needlessly beat himself up over it and I like the selection he has and the quality of his castings). I made the modifications required to get what I needed and just went on with things. So if you decide to use the Marine M3 interior set, be aware you may have fit problems.

This was my first attempt at adding a light to a model. It was easy, limited more by my ignorance than any other factor, and I suspect I’ll be adding more LEDs in future builds. (And I was proud of myself for figuring out what to do with the battery and switch.)

I knew at the outset that I would be doing a tiny bit of kit-bashing as I wanted to backdate Academy’s turret from the kit-supplied D58101 turret to the more correct (for an earlier M3, not an M3A1) D39273 turret. The ancient Tamiya M3 #3542 has the rounded commander’s cupola that I wanted and that was my source for it. I didn’t expect to do as much kit-bashing as I ended up doing. Tamiya cupola, AFV suspension, and final drive cover, and then the new Tamiya M3, #35360. I’d originally intended to use just the headlights from the new Tamiya kit, but once I opened it up and started looking at what Tamiya’s engineers put in the box, I realized that a few other parts were much better than the (loosely) corresponding Academy parts. I used the air filter assemblies, sponson storage boxes, siren, headlights, and tail lights from the new Tamiya kit. The results were substantially better than if I’d used the Academy parts. (The next time I do an Academy M3, and I have two in the stash, I’ll source the same parts from Tamiya again.)

Another surprise was The Scenic Factory’s mud. GawDAYUM what a nifty product! Versatile and realistic, it’s easy to use and gives a great finish. If you need mud, check this stuff out.

I’m also surprised that this build was as short as it was. Then again, I suspect after the Blackbird, the heat death of the universe would seem quick to me.

This kit was a secret build for someone. Actually, it was done for the wife of the friend I built the Blackbird for. He likes aircraft, she likes tanks…so I built one for her (I managed to be slick enough for her not to know what I was up to when I managed to get her to decide with tank I built!). I didn’t mention it before this because I wanted to keep the secret and surprise her with it. Mission accomplished. The tank was delivered to her on February 2:

2019-12-31 46

2019-12-31 47

M3 Stuart (Academy) 1/35 scale

Then turn the light on:

M3 Stuart (Academy) Build #7 – Final Paint, Decals, Pastels, and DONE

This will be a short post to wrap up this build. December, not my favorite month in general, was particularly crappy this year. A dear friend died and I had a very rare (THANKFULLY) heartburn incident that took over a week to get over. There wasn’t much left to do and once I could get back to it, it wrapped up quickly.

The decals arrived and they’re not bad, more like what I would expect from decals; neither too thick nor vanishingly thin, they did what I wanted them to. First I removed that hideous circle I’d painted onto the turret, repainted the OD, then did the yellow stripe around the turret using Tamiya XF-3 Yellow and XF-60 Dark Yellow. The yellow is YELLOW so I toned it down with the dark yellow by using three yellow to two dark yellow (which is more of a general buff to my eyes).

Once the yellow stripe dried overnight, I added the square markings with the numeral taken from a VERY OLD set of Microscale aircraft decals (which surprised me by going on as if they were new…I thought they’d shatter):

With the decals on, the only things left to do are apply mud to the tracks, then attach the hatches for the pistol ports, and then weather.

If you want mud and don’t want to make your own, The Scenic Factory makes a great product. The Scenic Factory has a YouTube channel for its products and I recommend you check it out. I’m using “Ardennes Mud” for this. It supplies the basic “mud,” which is acrylic-based, can be thinned with water, tinted with paint or pigments, doesn’t stink, and dries hard:

The kit also provides glycerine-stabilized (he says as if he knows what the intercourse that means, other than it doesn’t decompose) leaf and stick bits:

Okay. Enough free advertising. This is the mud on the tracks:

The last items to add were the pistol port hatches. Then the surface was worked over with a silver-colored pencil and a few different colored pastels…and like that, it’s done:


M3 Stuart (Academy) Build #6 – Dealing With Tedious Details and Being Adaptable

At the start of this build, I hadn’t really considered kitbashing. I figured that between the kit, an AM interior, and being able and willing to diddle really small details into the state/condition I wanted them, I’d end up where I wanted to get with this.

And then there are the headlights.

I did not like what Academy provided, and I spent several evenings lying in bed (waiting to get to sleep) wondering just how the intercourse I was going to be able to diddle the provided headlights into anything remotely acceptable…fruitlessly. One afternoon I was chasing M3 Stuart references all around the Internet and encountered a site that did a quick build of Tamiya’s new-tool M3 Stuart (kit #35360). I noticed that the headlights Tamiya provided were SO much better and about 99.5% of what I wanted straight out of the box. Okay…so I bought one.

Once I had the Tamiya kit, I cut the headlights off the sprue and did the other .05%, making the bases thicker and more accurate, then adding bolt heads to the bases:

Checking fit, I can see that I’m already liking these bits MUCH more:

It made sense to me at the time (which is a different way of saying, “I have no idea what I was thinking* when I decided to make the headlight guards from styrene), so I cut a bit .015″ scrap to width and then tried (key word, that) to form them using hot water and something (small cable ties) to hold them to shape and set this aside to settle into the shape I was after:

This wasn’t something I was looking for and checking. My eye chanced across the left rear idler wheel and discovered that it’s out of alignment with its mounting arm:

Blast and bugger. That has to be straightened and that puts the assembly at risk because I’m not shy about the application of adhesives. Nothing for it but to go for it and I used a chisel blade to get in there and break the wheel free:

There was MUCH careful rocking of the edge back and forth to get the wheel loose and I managed to do that without destroying anything. After aligning the wheel better than it had been, more (and plentiful, of course) adhesive kept it there:

While opening the battery compartment, the hinge broke (and somehow the sodding muffler came loose while all this was going on):

I popped the screen off and reinstalled the muffler, considering how to fix the hinge:

That consideration led me to the opinion that if I repaired the hinge, at some point down the line I would have to fix it again (and the further “down the line” this thing broke again, the worse the repair would be). So repairing this wouldn’t work long-term (doing things short-term only creates long-term problems), I would have to do something different. That’s when the Boys in the Back asked me if this had to be hinged…I just needed access.

Oh. Yeah. That.

Instead of repair, I removed the hinge completely and replaced it with another magnet/steel set up:

The result is certainly good enough and even more simple.

Having dealt with that, I went back to the headlight guards…realizing that using thin styrene was rather dumb of me. Where these parts sit, they’re exposed to various unintended contacts. Maybe making them out of sterner material would be a better idea.

About this time, I had someone ask me how involved the process was of using copper sheet for these. My response is, “About this involved.” These are the tools necessary:

The needle is to scribe the outlines of the parts I have to cut from the .010″ copper sheet. The scissors and chisel blade to make the cuts. The anvil (sorry, I forgot to pose the ball-peen hammer for the photo) to hammer the copper flat against after the scissors and chisel blade deform the copper. The smooth-jaw pliers to hold the copper while it’s annealed. The shaped wood to act as the form to curve the copper over. The tweezers to check fitment. (The small clamp was intended to hold the parts in place while being soldered, but instead, I used locking tweezers on bases for that.) The parts were cut out (the kit part in the background for comparison):

Then the parts were aligned and soldered:

The result was something more scale and much sturdier:

I let myself glow in the light of accomplishment a bit before I realized that I hadn’t gotten these things quite correctly. There are bends at the bottoms of all the flat sections that I had not either put in nor allowed extra length to put in.

So I redid them:

About this point, my brain decided it had other things to attend to*, leaving me sitting at the bench wondering what the hell I needed to do next (actually happens a lot) (stupid squirrels…). I knew I wanted to try a bit more in-depth pre-shading, so I had to paint this flat black. And I know once I did that, I’d find all the things I should have done before I painted it flat black.

Okay…let’s do this pre-shading thing:

Huh. Whaddya know. I did forget to do a few things. I forgot to add the headlight guards I just spent all damned day on, forgot that I had to add rivets to the strap in front of the headlights (sorry about the blurred photo…I thought it had come out better than it did), and totally forgot to make the antenna mount (and then forgot to photograph the installed headlight guards):

Once the .010″ copper was annealed and folded into the antenna mount, I added the bolt heads and glued it in place:

The next step in pre-shading is to paint all the areas I want lighter in appearance with flat white:

As things turned out later when I hit this with the color coat, I could have laid down a heavier amount of white in some areas. Lesson learned.

I set that aside for the paint to cure and went at some of the other small details. At present, I’m planning on using the track grousers that came with the AFV suspension upgrade. They were assembled and glued to a flat stick so that I could paint them without the airbrush blasting them into places I’ll probably never see again. I used a small dab of superglue:

The first coat of paint was Humbrol’s “Steel”, #27003 (my FAVORITE when I need plastic to look like steel…you can see the grousers on the right have been buffed as have the tools). While I had the airbrush loaded with that paint, I also did the tools:

The grousers and track connectors were painted the track color (new formula I found online using Tamiya paints: 70% XF-68 Nato Brown, 25% XF-69 Nato Black, and 5% XF-7 Red) and the tools Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab:

Before the OD set up for too long, I used a fine abrasive (nail polishing sticks from the beauty section of a drug store) (or apothecary, if you prefer) on the shovel and a toothpick on the pickaxe to replicate wear:

And while I had the OD in the airbrush, I tossed the first color coat at the tank:

At this point is where I realized I could have been a bit heavier with the application of white. But, if I have to err, I’d prefer to err on the side of subtlety. I’ve often thought that some of the shading gets overdone, so if I have to adjust it, I’d prefer to adjust to more (pastels are my friend) than to attempt to tone it down.

What I’ve been working towards has been being able to attach the suspension and tracks…and now I’m at that point. The suspension did not come with the kit and the individual track links did. So before I could put the tracks on (not to mention the suspension), I needed to know how much track I needed to use. This would establish where the only variable left in the suspension goes; the idler wheel assembly. I thought I had the perfect meter, the rubberband tracks that also came with the kit. I laid them down, placed the track I was going to use next to them, and ended up removing ten track shoes per side:

But once I tried to do that, hold the track in place while holding the idler wheel assembly in place while holding the tank, trying to get the sprocket wheel in place, AND snake the track over the return wheels, I discovered that just two hands made that all IMPOSSIBLE. If I had four hands it would have been difficult. I went back to reference photos, figuring that without the idler assembly in place, NO track gets mounted, so get the damned assembly properly in place, aligned to the ground, and then diddle with the tracks:

Trust me…MUCH colorful invective was abused getting the GODdamned…er…never mind. It was interesting. But as the above photo shows, not impossible and ultimately accomplished.

And when I tried to join the tracks, I discovered that the length as delineated by the kit’s tracks was just fornicating WRONG:

It was four track shoes wrong! Okay…I get that I’m using a different suspension. But I compared what I’m using to what the kit intended to be used and the difference should NOT be four track shoes!


Getting the tracks to where they go is just annoying. It can be done with only two hands, though more would have made it easier:

And then I turned the interior light on because after all the sodding tedium, I just wanted to see if it looked as good as I’d thought and hoped for:


Then I added on the front hatches and their support rods…and then all the parts I could dry-fit just because:

It’s getting there!

When I tried to start adding the markings is when I decided that maybe I’d better wait for the decals (that I just ordered) to arrive. This is what I have, I do NOT like it, and I will be stripping the paint off and doing it over:

A lot of the early Marine markings were hand-painted over the Army markings (which is where their M3s were sourced), but even the most disinterested Misguided Child would have done a better job than I did.

*See “brain fade” in the glossary

M3 Stuart (Academy) Build #5 – Dealing With Disappointing Fit and Tedious Details

With the crew compartment done, I moved attention and efforts up to the turret. I started putting the main gun, gunner sight, and coaxial .30 caliber in place (the chipped paint on the gun barrel was from fitting the mantlet):

Then I dry-fit the turret bottom in place with the mantlet. I wasn’t quite pleased. The first thing I noticed was that the coaxial machine gun barrel isn’t parallel to the 37mm main gun; it’s closer at the machine gun’s muzzle:

Then I noticed that the resin turret front didn’t sit squarely, further exacerbating the misalignment of the gun mantlet. It’s all rotated slightly counter-clockwise:

I decided the easiest way to fix that was to shave material off the gun’s receiver (the body of the machine gun for those of you who aren’t gun-savvy). That would allow the gun to rotate and move the muzzle outward from the main gun. I popped the resin turret front off and filed it to fit the turret better:

Not perfect but it will suffice.

During the dry-fitting, I noticed that the eyepiece of the gunsight wasn’t sitting correctly. I popped the assembly off, sawed the eyepiece off, and reattached the gunsight’s body:

While the superglue was setting up, I added bolt detail to the air intake assembly using Grandt Line bolts (it’s like taking parts of gnats off a sprue and reattaching them…eventually…somewhere else):

But they look great once they’re in place!

When I went back to dry-fit the mantlet to the gun assembly to make sure the gunsight lined up where it was supposed to, it wasn’t even close. On the inner face of the mantlet facing you, there’s a rounded projection. That’s where the gunsight is supposed to line up…and you can see how close it isn’t:

I had first considered that perhaps I’d erred and misaligned the parts as I assembled the gun parts. Nope. I checked the parts, I checked the alignment, and yet that’s where things ended up. (My respect for the person that mastered these parts took another solid hit.) I had to snap the gunsight free and trim the mount a few times before I got an alignment I could accept. That alignment required that the ammunition box for the .30 caliber, which was supposed to mount on the left side of the 37mm to instead be mounted on the turret ring next to the guns (unlike the .50 caliber machine gun, the .30 caliber can only be fed from the left side, requiring the ammo box to be mounted on the left side of the main gun with a chute above the 37mm to guide the belted ammo into the feed port).

No…that’s not correct, but the cramped space inside the turret worked in my favor this time. Much of what had to be fudged and worked around cannot be clearly seen. Tight quarters and limited viewing angles can sometimes hide adaptations.

I discovered that the mantlet’s fit was a bit off. As it “fit,” the peak on the rear of the mantlet contacted the turret face while the barrel of the 37mm was mostly level. Well, that would certainly interfere with elevation:

In order to move the mantlet away from the turret face, I needed to add a spacer (about .045″ of scrap styrene) to its mounting point:

That solved the problem:

References show that the commander’s .30 cal was usually mounted in the Pacific (and at Guadalcanal, which is the locale I’m modeling this tank to represent). That gun is in the line of sight and I wanted to do something a bit more accurate than the kit’s part. I wasn’t especially satisfied with any of my options; the resin guns didn’t really fit the mount and the kit’s gun lacked detail. The easiest problem to fix was the absence of detail. Add some:

I’ve noticed that earlier in the war there was greater variation in gear than by the end of it. My assumption is that pre-war stock was used up and later in the war, equipment became more standardized for easier manufacture. I have plenty of what became the standard .30 caliber ammo boxes on hand (500 rounds?), what I did not have was the 250 round box that was being used by the Marines in later summer of ’42. That required me to make one:

With the brass barrel installed, it just needs to be mounted in place:

While I was wandering around the outside of the turret, I used .005 copper shim stock to fold what looks like an unused antenna mount (because where would they put the second radio?!). As you can see, sometimes even something simple like this requires more than one attempt to get what you want:

This time when I married the upper hull to the lower hull, I decided that IF I needed to vacuum the bench, it could sodding wait until it was ass-biting clear:

While the glue set up, I assembled the linkage that opened the pistol ports:

I also added more Grandt Line bolts because the mounts for the M3’s port hatches are bolted on unlike the Sherman’s, which were welded in place:

There will be more linkage added to the pistol port hatches later on.

Since I had the upper hull in place finally, I puttied the underside of the sponsons to hide the gaps:

As I build, The Boys in the Back wrestle with various things that are problems in search of a solution. One of the (several) problems with this kit is certain details. It started with the headlight assemblies and then grew to encompass a few other things. The taillights were a bit off as were the air cleaner assemblies. While looking for something online that had nothing to do with modeling, somehow I ran across a video review of Tamiya’s new-tool M3 Stuart. My take-away from that was that it’s a MUCH better kit than the hoary old beast from the early 70s and that due to how the parts were engineered, putting an interior in that kit would be a stone bitch. Fine if a silhouette model is the goal, though. Oh. And Tamiya’s headlights, taillights, and air cleaners were EVER so much nicer than Academy’s representations! In fact, they’re nice enough for me to have bought the kit as a donor kit. (Clearly, I need a life.)

For instance… On the left is the mostly-assembled Tamiya air cleaner assembly, on the right is the Academy air cleaner:

The Tamiya part is more accurate, intake ducting (the lower) is present whereas the Academy has none (and there’s no detail on the hull where this assembly goes in the Academy kit), the curve to the output ducting is accurate meaning I don’t have to fix the Academy ducts. Nice. But nothing is perfect (except maybe for stupidity) and Tamiya didn’t provide for the rods that keep the bottom of the air filter housing in place, so I added them:

There was a fair amount of fiddling alignment, application of glue, and waiting for the glue to set up so that I could continue. So while that was curing and waiting, I went back to work on the turret.

With the nuts, resin turret face, and the mount for the opening linkages for the pistol ports in place, I repainted the inside, gave it a coat of clear gloss, a dark wash, and a sealing coat of clear flat:

As that set up, I continued fiddling with the air cleaners:

Just those four small additions took enough time that while the glue on all of those additions set up, I populated the interior of the turret:

Adding more detailed air cleaners would take a bit of surgery. As you can see, just gluing them in place would result in this section of the hull being far too thick (and later on I would definitely need that space):

With that just held in place, I traced the edge of the new part on the kit to see how it could fit. If I could excise the plastic between the scribed line and the hull, I figured I could socket the new parts into place without losing the space I’d need to mount the sponson storage boxes (and this photo shows how bereft this area was of details):

First I hogged out the plastic with my Dremel to get it close:

Then I used a freshly sharpened chisel blade to scrape things to a more accurate configuration:

The new part was dry-fit several times with resulting adjustments until a pretty good fit was achieved:

I also checked to see how the new ducting would line up with the hole in the engine cover, which it does not:

Right, so, that hole got filled. I chucked a piece of sprue into a variable-speed drill and used a file to taper it slightly and then stuffed it into the hole and glued it:

I didn’t know how much of the missing rivets would show so I added some Archer resin decals (great stuff, that!). I discovered later that most of these would never be seen:

The detail for the mud flaps provided by Tamiya was better than Academy’s so I cut off the rear of the fender to add the Tamiya part:

I dry-fit the air cleaner assembly to determine where the new access holes had to be drilled and then checked alignment. Satisfied, right after this photo was taken I glued both air filters in place:

With those permanently attached, I added the sponson storage boxes and the mud flaps:

I also removed the kit’s taillights at this point. I used the Tamiya parts, made mounting brackets from .005″ copper shim stock, and added detail to the back of the light and used some .015″ solder as wiring conduit (which can also be seen in the above photo):

The armored fuel cap covers have distinctive and evident bolts holding them closed. The kit’s covers had the bolt length but no nuts. Once again, Grandt Line to the rescue:

I wanted to improve the detail of the sponson storage box closures. Modern restorations of the M3 seem to favor latches. I don’t know if later variant M3s had them but my references show the earlier ones used straps and buckles.


So I used a buckle from a Verlinden Sherman detail set (did I mention I’m gonna miss that guy yet?) and some lead foil to replicate (TEDIOUSLY) the buckle/strap arrangement. I cut away the molded-in cleats and used small cleats from TMD resin:

Though FREAKING TEDIOUS to do, I like the result. Now to do the other side…

SR-71A Blackbird (Testors) 1/48 scale


SR-71A Blackbird (Testors) after-action report

Total time building 793.25 hours (that’s about 33.05 24 hour days, 19.833 work weeks).

Begin date July 15, 2017; end date September 20, 2019.



Kit #984 1/48 scale

True Details

Resin Cockpits #48487


Ejection Seats #S48012

Metallic Details

Engine inlets and shock cones #MDR4808

Grills and afterburner cones #MD4816

Fisher Model & Pattern

Wheels and tires #A-4806

Caracal Models

Blackbird decals #CD48101

My Opinion

This kit was designed and produced back in the dark ages (Italeri, I think, cut the dies) and IT SHOWS. Gaps. OMFG, do we have gaps? Everywhere. And some of the gaps have gaps. Fit is foul. Sometimes knowing something sucks doesn’t help when it starts sucking.

The “detail” on this kit is equally notorious, which given that the Blackbird was TOP SECRET when the engineers went to take measurements (assuming they were allowed to take measurements) didn’t surprise me. It was obvious they weren’t allowed to get too close to the Blackbird. I knew going in that the details wouldn’t be there and that was damned correct.

True Details. What can I say about them… In general, they don’t impress me, and this time wasn’t an exception. I didn’t use the ejection seats they provided as they were incorrect. I used Pavla’s, which were also incorrect. I used the Pavla seats because those inaccuracies were easier to fix (relatively).

Metallic Details is interesting. Their PE parts are decent, I’m not especially impressed with their resin parts. Still, they probably beat scratchbuilding the landing gear bays…I think.

The build. It was a grind. Just under 800 hours spread over two years. GAH. And the further I got into this build, the more this thing fought me.

I had to modify the True Detail cockpits. Canopy details had to be scratchbuilt and some that didn’t fit just thrown out.

The landing gear and the landing gear bays were also scratchbuilt, and that took a lot of time.

Panel lines. Scribing panel lines on something that’s over 27″ long takes time. Rescribing takes more time. Rescribing the rescribed lines also takes time. Sanding wasn’t my friend. I’m beginning to rethink scribed panel lines. Are they better than raised lines? I figure both are equally inaccurate, just in different ways. I suspect that at some point in the future I’m going to end up filling recessed panel lines and sanding down raised panel lines, replacing them with lines that are drawn on. Sorry, but recessed panel lines are actually out-of-scale, y’know.

If a person has the skills and wants to invest the time, the finished product looks damned impressive; large, black, and sinister. It’s rumored that Hyperscale is doing a new-tool kit of the ‘Bird in 1/48. If you really want one on your shelf (and ONLY one unless it’s a large shelf), wait for that one. This one takes a lot, A LOT, of time to build into something adequate.

This was also my first commission. I told him it was going to take a long time. His patience was definitely appreciated (and he seemed pleased with the result):


In closing, a shout-out to Bruce from New Zealand. About the time I was neck deep and sinking into the swamp of homemade decals, he informed me that Caracal was doing a new sheet of decals (the ONLY complete set of ALL BLACKBIRD MARKINGS in two different sets). That bit of information, without exaggeration, saved this build. My homemade decals were horrible. Thanks, Bruce…I owe you more than one! (For all the good that will do you!)

SR-71A Blackbird (Testors) Build #28 – The Homestretch and the Finish

I know that I haven’t really been doing (or trying to be doing) the decals on this thing forever. It just feels like it sometimes. (The remainder of the time I’m asleep.) Now that I have the clear gloss put down, let’s try putting down decals. Again. This time lets do it on the underside…y’know…just in case:

Once those were down, I put down clear matte over them. The results were acceptable…SO acceptable that I forgot to take photos. They were SO acceptable that I decided I’d try something so different for the top side that doing so felt like heresy.

I put these decals down over a matte surface without using clear gloss first. I put them down and then hit them hard with Walther’s Solvaset (the reason being that it’s the strongest decal solvent I’ve yet used):

I did both sides and then put down a coat of clear matte. Shocking myself to borderline incontinence, there was no silvering! Well…that’s what I thought initially. There was a bit of silvering, but very little. When that happened, I used a needle to prick the decals’ surfaces and reapplied Solvaset. The solvent knocked down the silvering to 99% gone, giving me the best results since I started trying to decal this styrene cunt.

Good enough. So I laid down the rest of the topside decals with similar results (and if you’re reading this before you build this bench whore, and you still want to build this bench whore, the long “No Step” stripes on top should NOT BE DONE IN ONE PIECE…cut them into MUCH EASIER to handle lengths) (no, don’t ask):

Then everything was treated to a coat of clear matte and the results were again good enough:

With the decals done (and the first time I had that thought I almost wet myself) and the (final!) coat of clear matte down, it was time to unmask and remove the canopies:

Some damage was done to the sill of the rear cockpit where the front canopy latch is. The fix was to VERY CAREFULLY cut away the side, insert a piece of .020 styrene, putty it, sand it, and repaint it. I got lucky, it worked perfectly, and the minimal over spray on the decal was lifted off with a cotton swab soaked in denatured alcohol. Whew:

There was the requisite touch-up needed around the cockpit sills. I sanded back the paint with 1200 grit sandpaper to get a nice, smooth, transition. Then what I didn’t want painted was masked and the flat black was put down:

With the sills touched up, I did the same for the edges of both canopies. With that done, I attached the roll-up window shades that are attached at the base of both rear canopy windows:

Before permanently attaching the canopies, I wanted to attend to the front landing gear doors. I started that with the rearmost:

And continued with both side doors:

With those in place, it was time to add the hydraulic cylinders that close and open the canopies (the steel rams look like steel because they are steel…I used straight pins). I’m glad I had the foresight to make those parts with adjustability…it was “snug.” I did the rear canopy first as things were snug enough that had I done the front canopy first, I’d probably still be sitting at the bench and cursing my lack of foresight:

With that bullet successfully dodged, I did the front canopy’s cylinder:

So, this little box probably looks unimportant and therefore undistinguished. The reason I include it here is because that unimportant and therefore undistinguished appearing little box was where I was holding the last few parts I needed to add before construction was done.


I don’t remember how long I sat there after taking that photo. It was several minutes. Then I took these photos:

Oh my gawd…I think it’s done. I had intended to do some subtle weathering with pastels to accent panel lines. Sod that. I think this thing looks just fine nicely black and sinister.

Then I turned the shop lights off and went to bed. Giggling. Then the cat jumped up on the bed and gave me a Stern Look. It was time for sleep.

I awoke this morning and realized a couple of things (which seeing as I am NOT a morning person is miraculous all on their own). One was that since this is actually (technically) a commission, I have to sign it:

The other thing was that IT’S DONE.

For more photos, see Gallery (and I apologize for the background…it was the largest cardboard I had).

SR-71A Blackbird (Testors) Build #27 – The Best-laid Mice of Plans and Men

With the paint and decals stripped off and the canopies remasked, everything got hit with Tamiya’s XF-1 Flat Black:

I think even Minnie Mouse would look sinister painted flat black.

Then things were prepped for Tamiya’s X-22 Clear Gloss, which was then put down:

And here’s where I decided that maybe some paint testing would be in order. I am not going to strip this again. If I keep stripping it, eventually I’ll sand completely through the plastic (which is something I did many years ago with an F-104 I did) (my, wasn’t I surprised), and at 700+ hours, uhm…no. I have another Blackbird kit (actually a mislabeled A-12) that I can use as a paint mule. I grabbed one of the engine nacelles and threw rattlecan black at it:

Then I ordered about every matte and semi-gloss clear I could find.

Those who know me understand that leaving me unsupervised for any length of time is tactically ill-advised. This time that manifested as me trying to figure out exactly how I wanted to treat the panels. #972, as it’s displayed at the Smithsonian, shows very subtle shading where panel lines meet. Perhaps there are those who are proficient enough with an airbrush to be able to paint those subtleties. That ain’t me. And the way I’ve been going of late, I’d probably totally bitch it up. (Have I mentioned that I am not going to strip this again?)

I resorted to using pastels:

I like using pastels. I can get a degree of subtlety I struggle to achieve with an airbrush AND if I bitch it up, I don’t have to strip this thing. Again. Then I learned that my method of not sealing pastel effects with a clear coat was a good, albeit lucky, decision. Once the clear flat coat went down (rattlecan), the pastel effects vanished. Okay. Gotcha.

Then I sat around until the paints arrived:

Since I was going to be doing referenced testing, I didn’t want to go with water, isopropyl alcohol, or anything else not specifically intended as a thinner…and the Model Master thinner was back-ordered, so I had to wait for that to show up.

I worked with what I had on hand while I was waiting. Since my memory makes a sieve look vacuum-tight, I delineated zones with a white pencil and labeled what paint was in that zone:

Nothing left to do but paint it:

As a sidenote, I find it to be a good idea to have the things on hand that can stop a project cold. Things like a little Teflon ring that seals the tip of an airbrush. I dropped mine while cleaning it, rolled my chair back to find it, and evidently rolled right over it, rendering it garbage. Glad I had a spare:

And the results are in. I decided to go with Tamiya’s XF-86. It’s matte enough (I thought) and the manufacturer of the clear and flat are the same, so I figured they’d play well together. Though I liked MIG’s effect, the manufacturer calls for a 1.5 bar spray pressure (or about 17 psi). I discovered it’s VERY EASY to puddle paint at that pressure:

When the thinner for the Model Master paint arrived, I noticed this on the label:

Clearly, I misunderstood the definition of the word “universal.” That’s what I like about building models…I learn shit.

I also learned that I would probably need a spectrometer to see the difference between Model Master’s semi-gloss and matte because IF there’s a difference, I certainly couldn’t see it.

With that decision made, the mule was shot with clear gloss and the decals (I have extras, now) laid down (the snake graphic in the second photo is on there to do a decal solvent test):

I waited overnight for the decals to dry thoroughly (yeah…just a bit gunshy at this point) and then whipped out the XF-86 at got this:

The edges of the decals are clearly visible.

And this is where I sit now…all of that and the edges of the decals are clearly visible. I have no FORNICATING IDEA of where to go from here. I mean, this is the process! I’ve done this before. What…suddenly I have to sacrifice a virgin to achieve the results I’ve been getting for far more years than I care to think about?!

Well, so much for those plans… Time to set this aside for a bit, CALM THE FUCK DOWN…er…regain my center, and decide what to do next or if there’s anything to do next. I may have to accept that this is the best I’m going to get. (I compromise SO well.) (spits)

After all this time, I am not going to start again, I am not going to strip this again, and I am not going to leave it unfinished. It may be that I’m just going to have to put my titties back into my training bra and cope (thank you, whatever screenwriter put those words into Margo from The Magicians mouth).


PS- At this point, I don’t know if I’m the mouse or the man.

SR-71A Blackbird (Testors) Build #26 – Wherein the Action Resumes and I am Reminded of Things One Should NOT Forget…Ever

The decals from Caracal were worth the waits (more on the use of plural later). They were produced by Cartograph and are freakin’ AWEsome:

So it was with shaky hands and misty eyes (and yes…no small amount of drool on the chin) (mine, this time) that I started getting the ‘Bird ready for its markings. First I had to strip the front landing gear doors (because I forgot to) and repaint them. Again:

This time I figured that maybe I should start with the underside this time, just in case, y’know, something goes awry, so I hit where the decals go with a coat of clear gloss:

I decided that since I’d just repainted the front landing gear doors (again), I’d try the new decals there before moving up top:

Okay…so far so good! So I starting cutting, dipping, sliding, and setting and dissolving. “So far so good” continued! Had I heart, the process this time would have warmed it. And with all the decals I wanted on the underside laid down, it was time to lay down a coat of clear flat.

I now turn your attention to a phrase I’ve defined in the section, “What the Hell Does That Mean?” The phrase is “Brain Fade.” G’head. Look it up. I’ll wait.

::sound of ticking clock:

Glad you’re back. Now I can continue…

I got lazy and then I had a case of brain fade. The laziness came when I didn’t want to clean my freaking airbrush. I cannot overemphasize the lazy stupidity of that position. I could stand on the sodding roof and scream it until my throat bled and not emphasize it enough.

I didn’t want to clean my freaking airbrush.

Instead, I used a rattlecan of clear flat. A rattlecan only does one thing fairly well. It will cover an area with whatever the intercoursing can is filled with. What a rattlecan will not do is moderate how much paint is thrown at the target and the process cannot be remotely considered “fine.”

THIS lovely little finish is called “orange peel”:

This results from too much paint being put down per pass…y’know…sorta what a rattlecan does. The brain fade part of all this is that I knew this before I popped the cap on the damned can.

How does one fix orange peel? There are a few ways. Smash the sodding thing with a big hammer. Burn it. Take out the shotgun, load it with birdshot, and keep firing until there’s nothing but powdered plastic left to shoot at. Sand the paint away and start over.

Surprising myself with the maturity of my response, I chose the latter option. (This is also a testament to how much I admire and respect the guy I’m building this for. In short, he’ll get it…probably in one piece, but at this point I guarantee NOTHING.) The nice thing about the Internet (aside from the porn) is that no matter what time of day/week one discovers that the bullet hole in ones’ foot was placed there by one, things can be ordered. I ordered another sheet of decals (which is why at the beginning of this post, “wait” was used plurally).

And so it began:

And continued:

There was a lot of “and continued” (and a couple of oh-goddamn-it moments requiring parts I broke off to be reattached) until I got to this point:

I had started stripping the paint using denatured alcohol (I used plenty of alcohol, single malt and sour mash, to see if sorrows could be drowned…and they can…just not permanently) (assuming that the alcoholic stupor doesn’t kill the imbiber first). Then I realized that some of said denatured alcohol got on the top surface, removed paint, so that will also need the tender ministrations of the airbrush I was TOO FUCKING LAZY TO CLEAN TO BEGIN WITH. So from about the front landing gear bay back, I used sandpaper.

At one point (which was about the time I realized that the alcohol had gotten on the top surface), I put the boarding platform next to the fuselage while it was sitting on its own feet and discovered that it was a colossal waste of money. It was out-of-scale and did NOT come near where it was supposed to rest…which is against the fuselage, even with the cockpits’ sills (and before you mention that maybe this problem is due to the scratchbuilt landing gear, it’s not; they’re the same length as the kit parts):

I have just the hammer for that.

There are a few spots where the paint needs to be feathered and reapplied:

I had removed the masking from the clear areas of the canopy because leaving masking tape too long on a surface doesn’t do good things. The adhesive separates from the paper of the tape and marries itself to the surface being masked. Yeah…it’s removable. It’s just not easily removable. When I set this thing aside pending the arrival of the decals, I didn’t know how long they would take to get here, so I removed the masking. Therefore, step one to repainting this thing is to mask off the canopies again.

Yeah, well, no. Remember how I had trowled the clear flat on to try to get my homemade decals to work? That built up a lot of paint on the canopies…a fact I had overlooked when I stripped the paint off. That means it has to come off now:

And off it has come.

Now to take my airbrush and paint both sides of this thing black, then lay down clear gloss for the decals.

M3 Stuart (Academy) Build #4 – Painting and Interior Assembly Begins and a Minor Tragedy Happens and is Fixed

I installed a piece of plastic under the rear of the upper hull to block off the interior and then used a rattle can (Tamiya TS-6 Matte Black) to paint that section. I also painted some things that needed to be flat white:

The operating mechanism for the M3’s pistol port hatches needs to be built as well, so I started trimming some .010 scrap for that:

These parts aren’t very big:

The aftermarket resin set was intended to be used with the earlier turrets that had flat sides either riveted (D37812) or welded (D38976). I’m using the “horseshoe” turret (D39273) that has curved sides. This means that some of the turret parts will need to be adjusted accordingly. This example is of the map case:

This isn’t the first time I’ve used Tiger Model Direct’s (TMD) parts. They’re well made and nicely cast. What’s surprising me this time is the fit isn’t very good. This isn’t the first time during this build that I’ve found myself having to adjust things to make some sort of fit. This example is of the driveshaft cover. It’s simply too short. If I used it as it was produced, I would not have enough room to fit what must go in there (and forget what I’d like to put in there). Note the gaps on either end of the cover; that’s how much more room I needed:

For this size/scale, that’s just too far off, which required me to add .060 styrene sheet to both ends of the cover:

It fit better after that (the ammo stowage boxes are shown here without the pads that go on top of them to create the only seats the commander, on the right in the photo, and the gunner, on the left in the photo, have) as dry-fitting showed:

With the length of the driveshaft cover adjusted, putty was added to the additions. That needed to be sanded smooth and the paint and stains needed to be touched up:

While I had the airbrush loaded with flat white, I also did the instrument panels. Once the instrument panels were painted, I added the instrument faces using Archer’s “U.S. Gauges and Interior Stencils,” #AR352098. I just wish these old eyes, even with magnification, could see better so the transfers were more centered:

Having gotten the panels as well as I could, clear gloss was added for the dark wash to sit on, then clear matte was laid down:

With the length of the driveshaft cover corrected, it was time to start populating the interior (note the cushions on top of the ammo stowage bins):

The rear bulkhead hasn’t been glued into place yet. The fire suppression system needed to be added and the copper feed line (using copper wire) needed to be painted and added:

With that in place, the bulkhead and center instrument panel were glued into position and other small items (Thompson submachine gun drum magazines, spare main gun sight behind the bow gunner, and spare .30 caliber machine gun barrels behind the driver) were added and things were dirtied up and chipped:

More things were added including the radio, C-ration box (a Verlinden item…I’m gonna miss that guy), canteens, and so forth:

Something I’ve been itching to do was to check the LED light and see how it looks:

Yeah. That works just as I’d hoped it would.

Then I assembled the AFV’s suspension, adding a little putty where needed:

I don’t know why it was so, but I noticed that the M3s used in the invasion of Guadalcanal showed wear on the sides of the roadwheels, leaving a shiny surface. So when I started painting the suspension, the first thing I did was to put down a coat of Humbrol’s steel paint. Once it dried, I painted over the steel with OD green. With the OD dry, I used Tamiya’s thinner on a cotton swab to remove the green, starting with the drive sprocket’s teeth:

I masked the roadwheels prior to shooting the suspension with the OD green: