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Review: Alliance Modelworks FAMO mit Flak 88 conversion

A few years back, I ordered the Alliance Modelworks FAMO mit Flak 88 conversion kit. It’s been sitting on my workbench since then, calling my name so sweetly. Well, I finally listened and busted it out.

This conversion kit takes the Tamiya FAMO (#35329) and the Dragon’s 8.8cm Flak37 (#6287) and reworks with resin and photoetch. At $150 USD, it’s a pricey kit for a big vehicle.


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I have mixed feelings about this kit. At first glance, the instructions are clear, the resin parts have crisp details, and the photoetch was nicely done. And the subject was an interesting one, so I was excited looking at the parts and instructions to get started.

Like so many conversion kits, however, it’s the details that matter. While the instructions are some of the best for conversion kits I’ve seen, they are still lacking in a number of ways, in a number of places. Even a few notes along the way from someone who’d built the kit would have made these world class instructions. Locating the support rails for the real platform (front to back, as well as right to left) was confusing. A few lines of text from someone who’d built the kit would have made this incredibly easy. As it was, I had to build and test-fit to figure out the right position. I also had to google for images constantly to figure out how pieces went together. And I’m pretty certain I’ve completely missed the mark on the real platform. If Alliance Modelworks had done a few simple things, we builders would have had a much happier experience:

  • Add explanation text to accompany the images
  • Add more images… A couple extra pages of build detail wouldn’t have been a major effort for the creators
  • Provide HIGH QUALITY LARGE images of the official build model on the web site so we builders can see clearly where pieces go. Why oh why would the company only put up smaller version of their fantastic photos??
  • Add a tips and tricks collection as feedback comes in from builders to the product page on their site

In real life, this was a low production, war’s end vehicle with very little surviving documentation. We need all the help we can get. Unlike a Tiger I, I can’t go to the library and find 43 books on every detail, or pop by a museum to see one in person.

On to the parts… First the good: the photoetch. Multiple frets of various thicknesses are designed perfectly for each part. The thick front armor plate, for instance, is quite thick. As it should be. Smaller details were on thinner frets. I only had one instance of the thin parts breaking during folding.

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Now on to the bad…. The resin. While the surface details were pretty impressive in most cases, it’s generally been a nightmare. I had to email Alliance twice to get replacements for the cab floor part, as the first was insanely warped, the second was broken and warped, and the third was just slightly less warped. I gave up and tried to heat and bend into shape. My resin bending skills are marginal, so I just opted to close the doors.

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Except as I write this review, I’m struggling through making the doors fit properly. I’m seriously considering tossing them and building replacements that I know I can get to fit easier. You have to cut out the braces from the single piece cab, but knowing where the lines between part and brace are extremely hard to find. Fine edges for the overhangs above the doors are so thin, one side was broken on arrival and the other was snapped off with a minor, minor errant knife slice. And the way the roof hatches are casts, I ended up shaving off the necessary lips on accident. And of course, warpage was a huge problem on more than just the cab floor.

I am going to replace the fold down benches because there is so much flash between the bench slats, it’s nearly impossible to clean up without damaging the slats.

I’m also working on replacing the stabilizers because of poor detail and warpage of the resin parts.

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With conversion kits, I feel like there’s a three legged stool of:

  • Quality – how is the material itself? Is there flash? Are the instructions clear? Where are the knock outs/fret connections/casting plugs?
  • Cost – is the price point reasonable for what you’re getting?
  • Love – yes, I said it… Is there an attention to detail that shows you that the manufacturer put the time in to make something great? Did they do their research to get it right, or include details/accessories that make the kit sing?

These three need to work together to make a great kit. Quality could be marginal, and cost could be standard, but that extra bit of love makes a great kit overall. Or if cost is too grand, the love and quality might not be able to make up for it.

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With this kit, cost is prohibitive against the other two categories. It’s a great kit, overall and certainly in context of how many truly awful conversion kits are out there. But at $150, the resin should have been top notch, or the experience overall should have been much tighter with better instructions, and web based images and tips to help put it together. Be ready to do some work on the resin, but it shapes up in a pretty impressive build.

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:31+00:00 September 3rd, 2016|Build Logs, Reviews|1 Comment

Learning to paint German Oak Leaf camo

I’ve been working on a Waffen SS Steyr 1500 Radio Car conversion for quite a while. I’m getting close to the end and started working on the figures. I’m not a great figure painter, but I really wanted to use some figures who happen to be wearing the Waffen SS reversible smocks. These smocks are patterned with the Oak Leaf camo pattern. (For more information, check this page out) Since I have only painted a couple figures, so of course the natural next step is to attempt a pattern that is super hard to do…. yeah. Not sure what I was thinking, but here we go. I thought I’d share a few thoughts about how my progress went. I googled high and low to find tutorials, and I found some good stuff. But not easily.

Here are a few key points I’ve learned about the oak leaf pattern:

  • This was only used Waffen SS
  • The pattern was only used on smocks, not on pants
  • The smocks were reversible, with a orange/brown autumn pattern and a green/brown summer pattern
  • When painting your figure, you need to make sure you keep the seams of cloth in mind. Each smock, like any garment, is made up of a series of panels sewn together. So the pattern should conflict at seams.
  • Colors are a rough estimate, given the wide variety of producers and variables for fading.

At the end of the day, it would seem that the most crucial task in painting these patterns is the getting the design of the ‘land masses’ blobs right. Let’s look at my first effort. Please don’t judge…

IMG_3826

 

Yeah, this sucks. Good thing I was trying this on one of my test figs, eh? Don’t worry, another spray of primer and we’re back in the game.

Displeased, I started consuming photos of the real camo to figure out the pattern better. I also changed techniques: rather than trying to paint the orange dots with a brush, I switched to a toothpick. Much better results!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The trick with the toothpick though is that you can’t get it too much paint on the end or your dots will be too big. I’m not satisfied, but I’m on the right path… now to try again and hopefully get the blob design right.

Wish me luck.

UPDATE: Round 3, and we’re getting somewhere!

DSC_3990 (1)

So a few things I changed up:

  • I painted the darkest color blobs first, and much larger. (The Timelines forum article starts with orange and I just can NOT figure out how they make the pattern with outlining the
  • Toned down the orange color and lightened the base brown
  • Added a mid-brown color (per instructions in this post)

Next step… try it for real on an actual figure I want to put in a vehicle! Wish me luck. Again!

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:34+00:00 April 18th, 2014|Build Logs|0 Comments

Build log: M8 Greyhound research

Given that the M8 detail project is utilizing so many pricey add-ons, I’m really wanting to get my research right the first time. Here’s a few of the links I’ve discovered as I’ve dug around the Web.

Build logs from other modeler’s projects

Books

  • Verlinden Military Vehicles Vol. II

Vehicle Information

 Walkarounds

Engine Details

Historical Photos

Jake’s photos

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:34+00:00 April 14th, 2014|Build Logs|0 Comments

Build log: Steyr Radio Car Engine painting

After a bit of a break, I’m back on the Steyr 1500 Radio car project. I had done some The main focus recently has been the engine. First it was the construction and detailing, now we’re on to painting and weathering.

Basic base paint

Finding proper color charts for this engine proved tricky. The only color references or details I could find were restored vehicles, which aren’t always the best references. Given that, I decided I’d just go with what seemed the most fun to paint! From this fantastic walk around, I used these great photos to lay down the basic paint.

As you can tell, this was very, very flat. Almost cartoonish!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s time to get gunky…

Weathering and Grime

Everything I’ve read about German vehicles says that most were either maticiulously maintained and/or bombed from above before they had a chance to go very far. Engines, especially in this era, are going to get dirty quick. And for a command vehicle, there’s a good chance it would have had a chance to remain in action a bit longer than average. So there’s a good chance the engine would have gotten gunky, but restraint was the key here.

There were a number of techniques I applied, all layered up with plenty of drying time between the layers.

  • Chipping (done with a brush around the high spots
  • Dark wash with AK Engine Grime (I did several rounds of this wash because I wanted to make sure it looked appropriately gunky without going overboard
  • Rust wash (AK Rust effects, just enough to give some color variation)
  • Light wash (I did one or two layers of AK Afrika dust wash just to add some depth and a sense of dust collecting on top of the grease)
  • AK Oil effects (glossy oil effects, around the dip stick and in a few other random places)
  • Mig and Vallejo pigments (Both dark steel on the first layer, then lighter dust on the final layers. The goal was to have that grungy look of oil caked dirt, plus fresher dirt that just landed)

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. It certainly doesn’t look cartoony anymore! I’m pretty sad that I’ll have to cover it up with the engine hood!

DSC_1848 DSC_1847DSC_1850  DSC_1843

Oh, and one last note: The belt was made from wine foil and painted before gluing in place. I started with a dab of super glue at the bottom of the lowest pulley, let it dry, then applied a dab to the next pulley in line and pulled it tight and held it until it dried. Same for the third pulley, then the back to the first pulley to close the loop. Once all was fully dry, I took a fresh knife blade and sliced the very bottom of the foil where the two ends connected (and overlapped) and then all set flat.

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:35+00:00 December 13th, 2013|Build Logs|0 Comments

Build Log: Sd. Kfz. 251/20 UHU research

As I work on build of the Sd. Kfz. 251/20 UHU, I’ve collected a number of links, articles, and photos to help the process along.

As I started building the searchlight, I realized there was a lot of detailing to do. I found multiple resources for this process:

I’ve also collected a number of research photos, shown below.

 

The following photos were found in this thread:

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:35+00:00 October 14th, 2013|Build Logs|0 Comments

Build log: Steyr 1500 research materials

During the Steyr 1500 Radio Command Car superdetail project, I’ve been doing a lot of research online to find great pictures of the small and large Steyr details. I especially dug around for engine pictures as I worked without a net to add details. I thought it might be helpful to share some of this content here.

I found a lot of other images around the Web, but those where the biggies. Just a warning though: many of the walkarounds seem to be done on museum or private collection vehicles…which means historical accuracy may or may not be all that correct. Proceed with caution!

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:35+00:00 August 21st, 2013|Build Logs|0 Comments

Build log: Steyr Engine detailing

The last part of the Steyr 1500 radio command car construction is the engine construction. Man oh man has this been a long process.

The construction process started several months ago, even before any of the vehicle detailing had started. My original intent had been to start the detailing process with the engine. Seemed like a fun place to start, but as soon as I cracked open the package, I noticed that one of the larger parts was pretty horribly cast. I reached out to CMK to get a replacement. They sent me a replacement, but it was also horribly cast. More conversation and they informed me that they were going to re-build the molds and recast that particular part. CMK was easy enough to work with, but the “small company feel” was certainly coming through loud and clear.

CMK3013-2T

In the end, however, these delays caused a happy accident. I was able to practice my first superdetailing, photoetch, and resin work on other, bigger (read: easier) part of this build. I learned some basics while working in larger spaces. By the time I started on the engine, I had enough to skill to not just jack it up!

Here’s what I had to do in this build:

  • Drilled holes in the blowers to add plastic rod shaft. This shaft “connects” to the three point pulley holder at the front of the engine
  • Added .010″ lead wiring, including routing back to the distributor cap
  • Created dipstick out of copper wire
  • Added photoetch details from the Aber detail kit
  • Replaced the support bracket on the round alternator (?) pulley mechanism with bent flat brass (the resin part was impossible to get off the sprue in one piece… it fell into three broken pieces as I cut it)
  • Added a brass wire …uh… part between the blowers. Not really sure what this is for or what it’s called!
  • Created the reserve oil/lube reservoir (white part between the radiators). I used two pieces of hollow tube stock. I used one of the pieces whole, and cut the other in half. I glued the two together to create an oval shape. Then I used putty to make the sides of the two parts flat and to fill in the top and bottom wholes. A little sanding and I had an oval shaped can!

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Once the engine was fully constructed, I test fit it and realized that the front plate didn’t fit. It extends far lower than the base of the engine, and I hadn’t removed the plastic between the oil pan  and the bumper in the kit part. Even after I removed that plastic from the kit that (inaccurately) connected the oil pan to the bumper, there wasn’t enough room. So I had to start sanding the inside of the bumper to make room. Hey, when the model is complete, nobody will know! Hopefully…

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I still need to finish a few final bits and add the belt. Then it’s time to move to the painting stage of this build… <gulp>

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:35+00:00 August 21st, 2013|Build Logs|1 Comment

Steyr 1500/A Radio Command Car: Initial construction

(Originally posted on Armorama.com)

This is my first build log, so be gentle…  I’ve been working on converting a Tamiya Steyr 1500 to a Radio Command Car version. I’ve also been adding details with two other detail kits. Here’s the full list of sets to be used:

Tamiya Steyr 1500A

Verlinden Steyr Radio & Command (1409)
1409_2

Hauler PEparts for Steyr 1500
link

CMK Steyr 1500 Engine Kit
CMK3013-2T

Aber Additional set with parts for engine and suspension to german Steyr Type 1500 A/01


Yes, that’s a lot of kits, but each one had something I wanted that others didn’t. Plus, this was my first superdetail project and I honestly wasn’t sure what I was getting into 

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Getting started
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I learned a great deal along the way on this build. I’ll be posting some of my “superdetailing for newbies” thoughts shortly, but suffice to say that I touched on a number of different areas from using CA with a piece of wire, to first time PE soldering, to figuring out ways to recreate tiny parts that have flown off into the ether.

I’ll post a link in this thread to my tips for newbies post. Stay tuned.

The biggest challenge for me was that as a first time project, using five different kits at once was a logistical headache. I had to really set aside time in the beginning to plan the work. I made sure to write notes on each of the 5 instructions sets to remember where in the sequence of events I should be pausing on one kit to work in elements from another kit.

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Final build
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Here’s the final build. As you can see, I’ve left out much of the interior details for ease of painting. I almost messed this up until I read another build log talking about the difficulty of airbrushing around detail parts that were already glued in. Whew. Thanks, online modeling community!

(Note, these photos are pretty rough, lighting wise. I am using the very cool and very helpful software Helicon Focus (and Helicon Remote) to create “focus stacked” images that ensure that the model is in focus from front to back…something that macro photos suffer from. More on this in this thread: link)

left-side

(You can see some putty that I had to float into the tarp/cover to mask the gap between the tarp and the support arms. Fortunately the right side fit like a glove, so I didn’t have to do it on both sides. I also had to do some scraping on the underside of the tarp to get it to sit flat against the vehicle. Make sure to test fit the heck out of this thing!)

front28

Lots of work on the engine bay. I made the mistake of putting the PE wheel well replacements in before I put the engine in… the engine (as one full assembled piece) won’t fit after the fact. Fortunately I had to get an engine kit replacement from CMK because of bad casting quality. So this time around, I used the plastic kit part for the bottom manifold piece and will use the resin for the rest.

This is actually an area worth noting: the bottom/manifold part of the engine is a tricky thing. The plastic piece fits great against the frame, but is not the same size as the same resin part. But the resin part won’t fit properly based on how the instructions tell you to remove plastic. Test fit this engine like crazy before you commit to anything. The other problem in the engine bay is that the transmission case (?) behind the engine block is visible with the hood opened, but it’s not a solid molded piece in the original kit. It requires filling to make it look like the real thing. Quite a bummer that it’s not “just right” from the start, but now all is good.

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In retrospect, I wish I’d left the doors open. I would have had to either detail the trunk to look realistic or hidden the lack of detail with some stowage, but there’s something cool about all the PE parts on those rear doors that I think would have come across more strikingly if the doors were open. Oh well, there’s always the next one …

The other thing you may be able to (sorta) see in this photo is that I added a pin and chain to the tow hitch. Doing this like the reference photos showed meant drilling a hole through the hitch, cutting the chain from the pin on one side (it’s all one connected piece of PE), gluing the pin in the hole, then working the chain (slowly and carefully) to make it look like it was naturally hanging there.

chassis

In retrospect, I’m not sure if the (extreme amount of) time and/or expense was warranted on the Aber suspension updates, considering nobody execpt me is probably going to notice any of them. The longest part of the process was working on getting the replacement springs right. That was surprisingly difficult for my newbie skills, especially considering that was one of the first things I did. After further research, I realize I was probably doing it wrong…. I should have bent a curve into shape on each piece, put a wire through the hole in each part of the spring, soldered on either end, and then put in place. Superglue on this kind of subassembly didn’t work so well. Live and learn. The Aber set was great for the engine compartment pieces though. Lots of good stuff there.

parts13

A few of the other subassemblies waiting to get painted separately. The Verlinden parts fit like a glove (with the except of the oversized wire reel…it was too big to fit properly in its place). Of all the aftermarket kits, the Verlinden instructions were BY FAR the best, even if I could have used some more detail on wiring diagrams.

seats1

The part that’s given me the most guff in this process is the handmade wire seating frames shown in copper in the photo above. Verlinden gives you a resin jig (a flat piece of resin with a channel carved into it) to create these new frames. The idea is you take the piece of copper wire they supply, squish it into the jig, and viola! new parts! The problem was that they’d given me the wrong gauge of wire. It was too big to fit into the channel, and didn’t bend very easily. After several hours of struggling, I gave up on this particular piece of wire and grabbed the one out of the other Verlinden Radio kit I have. I had to laugh when I saw that in the other kit, the wire was a smaller, softer gauge and I was up and running in minutes. The trick withe these parts, and I’m not sure I got it right at all, is that the jig works OK to create the basic shape, but I had to do a lot of work to try to get the bends sharper, to get the full part to lay flat, and to generally make the part look like the real thing. I may try to do these a different way for the next one of these conversions I do.

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Other notes
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The grills for the engine area was a HUGE challenge when I used the ones from the Hauler AM set. I can’t strongly recommend skipping these and using the Verlinden ones instead. The Verlinden ones look perfect and fit even better. The Hauler version simply did not fit and left huge gaps around the edges. Plus, they seem to be too small to be right in scale, at least to my eye.

I was surprised at how many times I started building a PE version of a plastic part, from any of the AM sets, and realized that I actually thought the plastic part would look better/more real once the paint was on. It took me a while to get OK with the fact that PE wasn’t always better than plastic.

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Next steps
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Last night I sprayed the model and the separate subassemblies with Windex, let it sit a few minutes, then sprayed with distilled water. I repeated this process twice overall, then set aside to dry. I have family in town this weekend, but Monday night I plan on spraying the primer and starting to paint.

Wish me luck!

By | 2016-10-29T19:09:35+00:00 August 7th, 2013|Build Logs|3 Comments