|MILITARY MODELS - HEADLIGHT ENHANCEMENTS: The realism of even the best detailed military model can be |
spoiled by the typical molded one-piece headlights that come with most kits. Kit instructions usually tell you to paint the lens
area of the headlights white or silver. While silver is more realistic than white (i.e. it looks like the silvered reflector inside a
headlight) it still lacks the realism of a real headlight's glass lens. Here are some hints for improving this detail on military
models by creating more realistic looking lights.
There are two ways to improve the appearance of headlights on your military models:
A. The Simple Approach - Paint the lens area silver, as per the kit instructions. Let the paint dry completely (I
recommend letting it set overnight). Apply a small drop of clear acrylic medium over the painted lens area and let
it dry completely before installing the headlight on your model. 'Glassing over' the front of the lens will give a
slightly more realistic appearance to the headlight. This approach works best for very small lights.
B. The Detailed Approach - This technique produces very realistic looking headlights, but requires time & careful work. To
upgrade your kit's headlights you'll need - 1. A micro drill (size #60 bit or smaller) 2. A small standard drill bit (the size will vary
depending on the size of your kit's headlight parts. The drill bit should be just a little smaller than the lens area of the
headlight) 3. A small ball-shaped cutting bit. 4. A small ball-shaped grinding bit (again, the size of the bits can vary with the
size of your headlight).
STEP-1 - Carefully position the micro drill over the center of the headlight's lens area. Drill a pilot hole nearly to the back of
the headlight part. (NOTE: If you accidentally drill through the back of the part, don't panic - the hole is tiny and can easily be
filled with just a dab of plastic model putty).
STEP-2 - Use the pilot hole to center your standard drill bit, then drill out the lens area. Do this slowly & in stages so that you
can judge the depth of the hole you are creating. The hole s/b at least half way into the headlight part.
STEP-3 - Shape the interior of the headlight. Use the ball-shaped cutting bit to clean out the hole (Step-2) and create a bowl
shaped recess inside the headlight.
STEP-4 - Use the ball-shaped grinding bit to widen and smooth out the reflector bowl inside the headlight. The bowl area
should be as wide as the inside of the ring that formed the front of the headlight (i.e. the ring around the lens area). Be
careful when drilling and grinding to avoid reducing or eliminating the ring detail (if any) at the front of the headlight.
STEP-5 - Swab out the interior of the headlight with a wet Q-tip to remove any dust or fragments left by the drilling & grinding
process. Paint the interior of the headlight bright silver. Be sure to paint the entire bowl right up to the upper edge. Set part
aside and let the paint dry completely.
STEP-6 - Secure the headlight so it sits level, with the reflector bowl facing up. Place a drop of liquid acrylic medium into the
reflector bowl. Add drops of acrylic medium until you have formed a dome that rises just above the upper edge of the
reflector bowl. Set aside and let dry completely (overnight). When the acrylic dries it will shrink - you will most likely end up
with a small dimple or dent at the center of your headlight. Simply add a few more drops of acrylic to reform the dome shaped
lens surface and set aside to dry. NOTE - the acrylic will be milky when applied, but will dry crystal clear WARNING - even
when dry the acrylic is easily marred - avoid any contact with the new lens area created by the acrylic medium!
This approach works best for larger headlights but can be adapted to smaller lights by using scaled down bits to cut out the
|MOUSE OVER - position your mouse over photos for additional views.|
|QUICK TIPS for IMPROVING YOUR TANK MODEL -|
Many model tank kits suffer from one or both of the following problems:
1. The tank's lower hull was molded to be 'motorized', which means there are holes in the sides for axles to pass through from
the gear-box inside the hull and there are holes in the bottom of the hull where the gear-box and motor are attached by
screws, and there's usually another hole for an on/off switch.
2. The underside of the sponson area is left open (I.E. There's a gaping hole between the upper & lower hull where the
upper hull overhangs the lower hull).
Both these problems are easily fixed, and will improve the overall appearance of your tank model (even in
cases where the underside of your finished model will not be seen, these quick fixes are a good idea just
because they improve the overall realism of the model).
PROBLEM 1: UNNECESSARY HOLES.
The following simple fix can be applied to any unnecessary, or unwanted hole in a model tank hull (or any
other model for that matter).
STEP 1 - On the inside of the model, cover the hole or holes with thin sheet styrene plastic. By covering the holes from inside
the hull (or other kit part) you reduce the amount of putty needed to fill the holes (next step)
STEP 2 - Fill each hole with modeling putty (Green Stuff, etc.). Over-fill the hole so the putty forms a small bump (necessary
because putty shrinks as it dries - if you fill the hole flush with the surface of the kit part, you'll end up with a dent or dimple in
STEP 3 - Allow your model putty to dry completely. Carefully sand the putty 'bump' until it is flat and flush with the surface of
the kit part. When the holes have been properly filled, painting the kit part will make the holes vanish and the part should
appear as if it had been molded solid (with no holes).
EXAMPLE: See Photos Below. This is a Tamiya M5A1 Stuart kit. The lower hull was created using older molds for the M3
Tank series which were originally designed to include a motor & gear-box.
|PROBLEM 2: SPONSON GAP|
The term 'sponson' refers to that part of a tank's upper hull that overhangs the lower hull and extends out over the suspension
assemblies. Even some of the best model tank kits fail to fill in the gap between the upper and lower hull caused by this
overhang - the kit manufacturers figure nobody is going to look under the hull. However, this gap is a glaring mistake and,
depending on how you display your finished model, the open area just above the top of the tracks may be visible.
This flaw in the kit design can easily be fixed.
STEP 1: BEFORE you begin assembling the kit, TEST FIT (no glue!) the upper and lower hull parts
STEP 2: Use a rubber-band (lengthwise across the hull) to hold the upper & lower hull parts together. Insert a thin
piece of cardboard or very heavy (stiff) paper into the gap where the upper hull overhangs the lower hull.
STEP 3: Trace the outline of the upper hull onto the piece of cardboard (or paper) to get the length, width, and
shape of the sponson gap.
STEP 4: Cut out the paper outline of the sponson gap (cut INSIDE the pencil lines) and use the cut-out as a
template. Place your template onto a thin piece of styrene plastic sheet (no more than 020 thick) and trace the
shape of the sponson gap.
STEP 5: Cut out two (2) plastic sponson gap covers (one for each side of the tank. Test fit the cover; trim or sand
it as needed to get it to fit cleanly over the gap between the upper and lower hull parts.
STEP 6: Attach (glue) the sponson cover to the underside of the upper hull part - NOTE: This way you do this will
vary from kit to kit, depending on the design of the kit parts (E.G. on a Tamiya M8 Howitzer kit, it is possible to
attach the sponson covers to the interior hull box that fits inside the upper hull, while on a Tamiya M4 Sherman kit
you'll have to glue the sponson covers directly to the upper hull.
EXAMPLE: See Photos Below - Installing sponson covers on an M4A2 Sherman. This procedure applies to any
Tamiya M4 series Sherman tank or similar tank:
|The Tamiya kit has a gap between the |
upper and lower hull parts, indicated
in the photo (LEFT) by the areas covered in
white sheet styrene plastic.
Filling the gap between the hull parts adds
to the realism of your model, since no real
tank has an opening between the upper &
lower hull areas.
|The photo (RIGHT) shows the|
finished M4A2 Sherman model
Once painted and weathered,
the covered sponson areas
look far more realistic than the
gaps in the unmodified kit
would have looked.
|ANOTHER QUICK TIP - WEATHERING TANK WHEELS|
Many W.W.II tanks ran on steel wheels with hard rubber 'tires'. On tanks that used relatively wide road wheels, the rubber tire
surfaces were fairly prominent and clearly visible. But even on more narrow wheels (like those on German Panther or Tiger
tanks), there was enough rubber tire surface to be clearly seen on a 1:35 scale model.
The assembly instructions for most model kits tell you to paint the tire portion of each wheel 'flat black'. This is fine IF you're
building a 'factory fresh' model of the tank. Rubber tires (tanks, trucks, jeeps, etc.) were subject to heavy weathering from salt
water (as when exiting a landing craft on D-day), mud, rain, gravel, and just about anything else that might have come in
contact with them. A combat vehicle did not have to be in the field very long before its tires began showing wear & weathering
effects. In many cases this meant the 'flat black' color of a factory-new tire turned to a duller, ashy-gray color. This was rarely
a uniform color change and some areas of a tire might show more weathering than other areas.
To give your tank (or truck or jeep, etc.) a more realistic 'in the field' look, you can use this simple procedure to weather your
vehicle's rubber tire surfaces:
1. Spray paint the entire wheel (including the tire area) whatever color you're painting the rest of the vehicle. This provides a
base onto which the tire coloring can better adhere.
2. Create a black wash by mixing flat black paint (I use Tamiya XF-10 Flat Black) and rubbing alcohol (NOT water!). Thinning
your paint to the consistency of a heavy wash with alcohol causes the paint to dry much faster and much duller / flatter, giving
you the worn-out appearance you want for your tires. Thinner washes generally produce a more dramatic effect, but require
multiple applications to get complete coverage. I suggest that you experiment with thinning your paint and apply different
densities of wash to your kit's sprue or other unneeded plastic surfaces (or even unseen interior areas of the model) to
determine the right ratio of alcohol to paint for the weathering effect you want.
3. Brush on the wash, carefully covering the entire rubber surface of the wheel. Allow this coat to dry completely. Repeat as
needed to get the dark ashy finish you want - DO NOT worry if some areas are darker than others, an uneven finish is more
realistic than a totally uniform finish in this case!
Another approach is a technique sometimes called 'color scaling'. Instead of using a true 'flat black' paint as per the kit
instructions, use a paint like Badger's Grimy Black or Weathered Black; both these 'black' paints dry to a dull gray finish. You
can then apply a thin wash of flat black over the dry Grimy or Weathered black paint to create an uneven weathering effect.
Again, thinning the paint with a little alcohol will produce a duller / flatter finish.