Miniature Ordnance Review looks at the world of historical and fantasy miniatures wargaming and model building. From 15mm Flames of War, to Warhammer 40K, to 1/35th scale tanks, with some potential surprises on the horizon - you'll find them here!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Panzer IV/70 (A) Track Update

A few months back, I wrote a blog entry about the Panzer IV/70 (A) and my desire to actually do the generally very nice Battlefront miniature (GE110) justice. My major complaint at the time was the lack of a four steel-wheeled version of the tracks. At the time I was working to find a way to create a good set of tracks for the miniature, and now that my Soviet Lend Lease army is largely done, I've finally made some progress.

The first challenge was to create a steel-rimmed roadwheel that matched the scale of the rubber-tired wheels on the plastic Panzer IV Ausf H set (GBX79). I ended up finding some styrene tubing that was the right diameter, though it was too thick for the steel rim of the roadwheel. I thinned it down quite a bit, but left a little thickness there so you could actually see the detail once it's done (as the "real thing" is fairly tiny). I then added the center detail and hub and cast up several (shown below).

I ended up casting the wheels as a fairly long tube and then sanding them back to the required thickness rather than trying to cast a very thin wheel on its own. This let me custom fit the roadwheels to the tracks. Using my Dremel tool, I carefully removed the first four roadwheels of both sets of tracks, and then added in the steel wheels as replacements. 

Above you can see the process half way through - the top track run is ready for casting, while the bottom track run has had the first four roadwheels removed and ready for replacement.  

At this point I have finished both sets of tracks and the RTV is currently halfway through its 24-hour curing cycle - so by tomorrow night I may be able to start casting new tracks. I decided not to cast the fenders with the tracks, and instead I'm going to borrow the plastic fenders from the Battlefront Panzer IV Ausf J (GBX68) and use the metal ones from the Panzer IV/70 (A) (with the correct idler) for the Panzer IV's (as the Ausf J only began to use three return rollers starting in December 1944). I'll continue to post updates going forward as the project progresses!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Soviet Lend Lease Tanks - Done Enough!

I had been planning on doing a full build log as I worked on my Inomarochnikiy Tankovy Batalon, but I was so pressed for time during the painting process, that I didn't really get a chance to take "in progress" pictures, much less actually include them on the blog. I also didn't get a chance to do my normal write-up of the army for the tournament, but I did finish - well, finish enough - to take the army to the tournament and play. Granted, I was cleaning the airbrush at 12:30 AM Saturday morning, but I just made it in under the wire. I've finally managed to take a few photos of the army - they're not ideal, but they'll give you an idea how the army came out.

First up is a unit of Valentines. I based my army on units fielded by the 2nd Guards Tank Army, mostly during the Berlin offensive. I haven't been able to verify whether or not the 2nd Guards still had Valentines that late, but I know other units were still fielding late ones. I also found an insignia used by the 2nd Guards on their Valentines - so I went with that and created my own decals. The paint is a modulated version of the Ammo of MIG 1944 British Olive drab - I mixed my own modulation colors

The Katyusha is one of the quintessential Soviet weapons - used in Berlin and earlier. These are run pretty much out of the box using AK Interactive Soviet 4BO green modulation colors. The figures and rockets are painted with various Vallejo colors. 

Since I couldn't bring the ISU-122 unit that was thought to be used by the unit, I went ahead and went with their little brother, the SU-122. These are some newer blisters, and have the new plastic tracks rather than the holder metal ones. I also created some empty fuel cell racks for a few of the vehicles. The decals are stock (though I can't remember which set I got these from). These were also painted with the AK 4BO modulation set. The tracks are Ammo of MIG Shadow rust with a Vallejo oily steel drybrush.

I apologize for the blurriness of the photos, but below is the SU-76M unit. These were a lot of fun to paint up. I painted the guns and crews separately modulating the various pieces. Again, these were done with the AK interactive set. Decals are from I-94 Enterprises - they make very nice stuff!

For big battles, recon is absolutely vital - so I included a small unit of BA-64 in the army. These things were very quick and easy builds, although painting the gunner in the turret is a bit of a challenge as they're not as crisply molded as some of the other crew figures, but they came out well with a little work. Once again, these were painted with the AK 4BO modulation set.

Now on to the core of the army - the Shermans. Again, the photos aren't great, but you can get the idea. The decals are hand made and representative of 75mm and 76mm Shermans from the 1st Mechanised Corps, 2nd Guards Tank Army. First up are the 75mm M4A2s - these are a mixture of early M4A2 miniatures as detailed in a previous blog. I cast the miniatures with the applique armor, but unfortunately the mold disintegrated after about the 7th cast (which seems to be fairly standard for my molds these days), and I didn't have time to make another mold. Given I have photos of the early M4A2 75mm in Vienna in April 1945, I figured it was okay to include them. The vehicles are painted with the Ammo of MIG Wargame U.S. Armor Set which includes modulation colors.

Finally the 76mm Shermans - these are all various Battlefront models, but I've added the plastic 76mm guns with the muzzle brake since these were seen in Berlin. The decals are hand made again to match the 1st Mechanized Brigade.

Overall I'm pretty happy with how the miniatures came out. This was definitely a marathon, not a sprint, simply because of the raw number of vehicles involved in getting the army together. I'd intended to add some stowage to all of the tanks, especially un-ditching logs as they were very characteristic of the vehicles fighting in Berlin. Unfortunately I just ran out of time. I did get enough done to tie for "best painted" at the tournament. I'm planning on going back and adding some stowage before moving on to the next project.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

On to Berlin! A Late War Soviet Lend Lease Tank Army in Progress

So I finally made up my mind on what to bring to the upcoming "1945" tournament at Guardian Games. I've wanted to do a late war / Berlin Soviet Sherman Army for several years at this point - and I finally decided to just go for it. Armed with my Ammo of MIG (and a few leftover AK Interactive) paints, I've been madly working on the army.

The fun thing about the Inomarochnikiy Tankovy Batalon (Red Bear Revised, page 138) is that you can run both 76mm and 75mm equipped Sherman tanks in the same company in large quantities. Unfortunately there is no Berlin timeframe list at this point, as the Desperate Measures update that includes options from Berlin only covers the T-34 armed Tankovy Batalon. There is a "Hero" list on Digital, but I really wanted the massed armor rather than the smaller units of the Hero list.

I decided to mark my Shermans as belonging to the 1st Mechanised Corps, 2nd Guards Tank Army, 1st Byelorussian Front during the assault on Berlin. True confession time, I don't know if the 1st Mechanised Corps actually had both 76mm and 75mm Shermans available. I know they had earlier fielded the M4A2 (dry) with applique armor, and those vehicles lacked the distinctive "L" shaped markings on the hull sides. I also know that Soviet forces in Vienna, Austria not only fielded both types, but even had some early M4A2 still in evidence. So I figure it's within the realm of possibility given Soviet AFVs fielded at the time to include a mix of models, but I don't have any definitive photographic evidence.

There are no decals available for the 1st Mechanised Corps, so I had to create my own as I have done previously for the Tiger I tanks from my 502 Schwere Panzer-Abteilung. Unfortunately the decal maker gave me a heck of a time today, but I finally have all but three of the tanks ready to go (at least the Shermans). I also made up some decals for some Valentine tanks used by 2nd Guards as well. Again, I'm not sure many Valentines actually made it to Berlin, but I know they were around at the Battle of Küstrin. I also have some documentation for 2nd Guards markings for Valentines.

The Shermans are basecoated at this point with modulation colors from the Ammo of MIG Wargame US Armor Set - I'm now in the process of finishing the decals so I start the washes and weathering. Here are a few of the 76mm armed M4A2 - notice they all have the muzzle brake:

I also have several 75mm M4A2 in progress as well (a mix of large hatch and small hatch dry stowage models):

This is what you call a mess of Sherman tracks - fortunately the Soviets tended to use metal tracks, so the painting will be easier.

I've been able to generate some reasonably nice markings with my decal making system, but it's a bit of an involved process - with at least nine opportunities to completely screw-up. Unfortunately I took advantage of many of those opportunities to screw-up this weekend, but I finally obtained decent markings for all but three of the tanks (I'm going to have to re-do some markings later this week). This is one of the white foils that lets you turn a "black" printed image into a "white" decal:

I'd hoped to add both SU-76M and ISU-122 to the force as I have sources that suggest both were fielded by the unit. Unfortunately the new plastic Heavy Assault Gun Company (SBX37) just arrived at my house this weekend, and given the tournament is in two weeks, and I'm way far behind as is - so these beauties will have to wait for next time. I've gone ahead and added the SU-76M - and thrown in some SU-122 instead of their larger, more heavily armed and armored cousins. I believe most of the SU-122 were removed from service by this point, but it fit into my allowable points and is a good anti-infantry platform. I've used an AK Interactive Russian Green Modulation Set for these:

The Valentines were a bit tricky - I decided to use the late war British 1944-1945 Olive Drab from Ammo of MIG - found in their British 1939-1945 European Colors set, but I had to mix my own modulation colors. I think I could have used more contrast, but they came out pretty good none the less (and to the top you can see the modulated BA-64 armored cars as well - dang those are tiny!):

So, as per normal, I have a lot to do to get all of these done for the tournament, but I'm hoping now that the decal system is working again, I'll be able to get everything taken care of in a reasonable amount of time... yeah, I know, I'll be madly finishing up on the Friday night before the tournament as per normal. I'll try to post a few more pictures as I go along, but if all else fails, I'll do an "after action report" with all of the details on the completed miniatures.