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  1. Hurricane Harvey

    There's many ways to contribute money to relief efforts. For those of you who regularly shop on Amazon, they make it particularly easy to donate to the Red Cross.
  2. Does every model have a "make or break" moment?

    Really two things here. Some of my projects do have a "breaking point" that's a particular challenge and that I must do to some level of satisfaction in order for me to then go on and finish the build. As I get older, I enjoy that challenge but then sometimes neglect the model after I've successfully overcome the challenge! An example is a 1/144 USS Gato that i just painted (replacing a previous, poorly done finish). I peel the tape, grin at how the plastic toy now really starts to look like a Pacific War predator, and then forget about it for the next few weeks rather than spending the time to add the final details and finish a piece of scrap lumber as a base. A bigger problem is that I quickly grow bored of a project when it bogs down in drudgery. Airframes get assembled, but then I lose interest filling and sanding seams or molding sinks. Right now I have a 1/35 project held back from completion because I need to finish figures for it. That's typical. Personal productivity experts would cite TED talks to declare I lack "grit," a vital personality trait required to succeed by seeing things through to the end. Whatever. Modeling is my hobby, and the reason I get bored with projects is because my real job, together with work around the house seldom allows me lots of time in the week to build models. So a 20-hour project gets scattered over months. If I've only got a few hours a week, spending it on tasks that don't obviously show a lot of progress is dull.
  3. VERY early M113, 3AD 1963

    Binoculars, and possibly a canteen might be stacked somewhere on the maps. I might add a 1911 pistol, too, but that seems a bit dramatic for a peacetime exercise. I find Milliput is too tough to do fine work, but I've seen people do it. I think the trick is to keep your hands wet. For the guys above I used Kneadatite, that I got from a seller on Amazon or Ebay (I forget which.) It's a little easier to work with, especially if you warmed it up by mixing it rigorously. I'm working in the Cold War, which has an admittedly limited set of figure options. But even with World War II figures it can be frustrating to find troops that really help you create a lifelike scene, or even tell a story in a diorama. During the 1980s and 1990s Dragon did a lot of semi-action poses where guys were standing legs apart or slightly leaned forward, holding but not aiming a weapon. These are useful for a limited set of possibilities in dioramas, and require at least modest sculpting skills to modify. More recently we're getting diverse poses and scenes from Dragon and now other manufacturers. To their credit, Tamiya had from way back some sets of guys in interesting arrangements, including the troops with this M113 kit, their M3A2 halftrack, M577, and a "German troops at rest" set. Even during the '90s they had some of these, such as the StuG III crew with the puppy. Having done some uniform modifications, such as scraping off straps (want to send Dragon's 29th Infantry guys to a battle in September or October of 1944? Get rid of the D-Day-specific gear) or adding pockets, I'm coming to think that poses may be more important than the period or unit depicted by a particular figure. Some figures, with simple uniforms, can be excellent bases for many eras. I particularly like Tamiya's German tank crew loading ammo set, since the coveralls and fatigue uniforms are easy to modify to later NATO or even Warsaw Pact troops, and the poses are good for men laboring at some task. Tank and field artillery service appear to include a lot of back-breaking toil, so these guys are excellent to have around.
  4. VERY early M113, 3AD 1963

    So the M113's almost finished. I need to do some odds and ends detail painting, staining, and extensive mud and dust. Plus I'll cobble up some antennas, too. But that can wait until it's time to integrate the track into a base, when I need to create groundwork anyway. (The base is cut out of scrap pine lumber, but I'm waiting for the paint to thoroughly dry.) What slows down my projects is that I keep adding jobs as I go along. So I wanted to add someone standing in the troop compartment hatch, looking at the maps. As usual I didn't have anyone who quite had the right pose, with the right uniform. (Rarely, it seems, am I satisfied with soldiers right out of the box, with no modifications.) A guy from Tamiya's old U.S. M577 kit (they're sold separately; I can't recall the name of that box, though) had an OK pose but I thought his arms were too skinny and he's not wearing a uniform jacket. Plus I'd like to either have him bare-headed or wearing something other than a steel helmet. So I made modifications accordingly, using epoxy putty. I needed the practice, anyway; I'd like to do more extensive sculpting in future. He probably won't be a commissioned officer, like I joked above. Instead he'll be a track commander, and an NCO. In this era they still wore big yellow chevrons, and non-subdued patches on the sleeves. I can hardly pass up a chance to add such color, considering the track is practically Napoleonic with the bright markings!
  5. Train travel in France, Germany

    I've paid special attention to the various exceptions to rail passes, but they seem less of a problem where we're going (Eastern France, Western Germany.) We need to book seats for TGV, if we don't avoid it, and maybe ICE. But we're able to make all our trips by regional trains, and I've not (yet) seen where those in France or Germany don't accept rail passes. Europe's come a long way in integrating train travel. (Military history buffs may chuckle at that, since interoperability in trains was a factor in past wars.) But understandably, perhaps, it is still complicated in 2017.
  6. Train travel in France, Germany

    I suspect my great-grandfather worked for one of Deutsche Bahn's predecessors (probably Royal Württemberg.) I was hoping to casually drop that into conversation at a ticket window, to see if I could get a discount.
  7. 1/35 Trees, shrubs, other plant life

    Towan's got great tutorials generally, and specifically I think he does a good job of showing how to build up the trunks and branches from wire. I've got two of those punches coming in the mail. I wonder how they'll hold up in mass production. For the leaves, I considered soaking them in a glycerine solution, which I read preserves them really well, and keeps them from being brittle. But that may mess with the punch. We'll see! This is all a big help. Thanks to both of you!
  8. Train travel in France, Germany

    Valuable input from all here! As near as I can tell, our trip might benefit from a Eurail pass, since we're going to take regional trains on a near-daily basis. I did consider renting a car, but since we're tourists, we're probably going to be in places where parking is difficult to find. Where I considered it was trying to take a day trip to OP Alpha, although that would be kind of out of our way. You may find your railways frustrating. But coming from the United States, we're frankly amazed at European rail networks. When we visited the United Kingdom, my wife was pleasantly surprised how easy long-distance, regional, and local rail transport was, compared to our few options back home. Since I've studied some railroad and tram history, I was aware of this, but like many USians, she had no idea this kind of thing was even possible in any civilization! We actually planned for France's lively organized labor scene, when scheduling. I told my wife it's as much part of experiencing France as the food and wine!
  9. If my armor modeling has a grand strategy, it's to build like the classic Shepard Paine scenes so many of us enjoyed seeing years ago. In my earliest diorama efforts I discovered that slathering plaster, cat litter, and model railroad turf onto a hastily cut plywood base didn't make very convincing groundwork in 1/35th scale. And in the past several years, I've focused on the confrontation between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Europe. Germany is green in mind, body, and spirit, so I'd better learn to build trees. Here's some experiments I've done lately. In all cases, the major trunk-and-branch system is twisted wire armature coated with Vallejo's mud paste. Variations on this method can be found scattered throughout the modelmaking internet. (The tallest tree has some epoxy putty in it, too, but I'm not sure I'll bother with that next time.) In each case, I'm using products really sold for smaller-scale model railroading, so the question is whether in 1/35 scale it's persuasive for smaller leaves. Let's see: This shrub's foliage consists of the finer branches or twigs done with Woodland Scenics' polyfiber, stretched around the bigger branches and then snipped with scissors, per Andy's (He of Hobby Headquarters) tutorial on YouTube. I then added leaves from Noch. Looks good, if somewhat dense, but I suspect the leaves can be thinned by simply sprinkling them on less heavily. This small tree has polyfiber for the smaller branches, but I used Scenic Express' "superleaves." Very similar to Noch; it may be my imagination, but the leaves might be slightly larger. If so, it's not obvious. Scenic Express sells this stuff in a shaker bottle, as well as these "Eco" bags. The bag is better, I think, because the shaker is tedious and slower than simply using my fingers to scatter the leaves on the tree. I think this looks pretty good, and I'm going to try scaling this up. I don't think this looks like a European tree. On my largest armature, I used Noch static grass (5mm) instead of cut up polyfiber. I think that's the mistake. The static grass didn't give the leaves (also Noch) a sprawling branch network to lay on, that the polyfiber would have provided. I think I've seen trees that look like this in other parts of the world, though, so it's worth filing away. I'm looking for sources of larger leaves right now, and have at least two ideas in mind. But I'm pleasantly surprised that the smaller scale leaves I tried out both look reasonably good for smaller leaves in 1/35 scale.
  10. VERY early M113, 3AD 1963

    With the decals on, it's time to seal them with varnish and begin weathering. I'll add some mud and dust, but I might in future do some parade-ready clean vehicles in this dark olive drab, high visibility marking scheme. It looks good to me! The big vehicle number in the bright red circle looks like this machine is ready for 24 hours at Le Mans!
  11. Fellow modelers, Europeans, and international travelers: My wife and I are considering visiting parts of France and Germany. From prior experience we're big fans of trains in Europe, but our previous adventure was in the United Kingdom only. When I look for information on train travel in France and Germany, the web offers a lot of different sites, all of whom are trying to sell things, and I think I need some feedback from a real person. (And if I can't trust plastic modeler builders, who can I trust?) Simply put, what are your favorite resources to learn about pricing, reservations, and trip planning for railway trips between cities in France and Germany? We also plan to do a lot of day trips out of cities on local railways, too, and I'm looking to see if any of those are covered by rail passes, too. Beyond these questions, any other advice is welcome!
  12. VERY early M113, 3AD 1963

    The hatch is attached at multiple welds because, being a ham-handed sort, I'm big on sturdiness. So rather than rip it back off I simply shaved away the old strap. I could labor over trying to provide a detailed replacement... ...or I can be a dirty cheater and simply add a vague strap, and then put scale maps on top! Of course, having introduced all this paper, I should probably add an officer to the scene, too. I've been pulled away from the M113 project for the past few months because of overtime work at my job, and this project, Miniart's "French Cafe." With vacuum-formed walls, this build was a real challenge for me. I made matters worse by modifying it for the 1980s, and to be a backdrop item that takes up fairly little room in a scene. Despite the rigor, my amateurish work, and my suspicion that it's a little over-scale, I think it's awesome since it makes diorama buildings a more realistic prospect. I've already procured more Miniart building components, and have all sorts of ideas for Cold War scenes. In this case, I might park some U.S. soldiers eating a fine German breakfast out front, with their M151 at the curb. ("It could be worse. They might have sent you to Fort Lost-in-the-Woods, Missouri.") Or add another building alongside, and maybe put a Bundeswehr 8-wheeled Spähpanzer in front. But that's a story for a different thread...
  13. A Warning to Moai Vincent

    Moai Jagger himself was all broken up when he learned David Bowie departed his mortal coil, no doubt. Typical. The Jedi funeral is full of a bunch of Naboo dignitaries dressed sillier than a Princeton commencement, and then includes Jar-Jar Binks and an R2 unit notorious for his lack of decorum. All the dignity of a Chuck E. Cheese birthday party. By contrast, Darth Maul's funeral was an appropriately dark Metal Music festival. Even I must admit to getting a little emotional when Anthrax performed "Metal Thrashing Mad" as mourners solemnly poured plutonium vodka onto his chromed casket lid.
  14. I actually like the contrast between the missiles and the vehicle. It calls attention to the vehicle's reason to be. Great job on a historically interesting subject!
  15. Sad day today in my modeling world.

    Before he got out of the business, my LHS owner commented that video games probably sold more model kits than hurt them. I eagerly built World War II models as a kid because of early PC games focused on that subject. I wonder: if kitmakers had seriously committed to making kits of video game subjects--Mass Effect, Fallout, or even fantasy subjects like Dragon Age or Witcher--instead of just a few hesitant and token examples, would the hobby be in such pathetic shape as it is now in North America? Revell's HALO kits are an encouraging start, but...well let's see if isn't too late. I'm beginning to think a lot of this hobby's problems are self-inflicted. I'm a Cold War junkie, so I eagerly awaited M60A2 or F2H-2 kits. I just finished a 1/350 November Class submarine this morning. But really, are subjects like that realistic products for sale to many people, especially if we accept $50+ pricetags? This products might do well enough in a global market, but they're hardly helping recruit modelers under 60 years old. Hollywood keeps interest in Shermans, Tigers, Mustangs and even BF-109s high, but then the hobby industry in North America hasn't exactly capitalized on that, either.