Thursday, 10 May 2018

Along the coast of the interior seaway

Early morning, misty and damp. A mother and small child walk through a dense part of forest where they have been sleeping under the cover of trees. They are heading towards an open field to catch the rays of the sun and warm a little before continuing their way along the coast of the western interior seaway. It is the cretaceous, 66.000.000 years BC.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex

The Tyrannosaurus Rex is probably the most famous dinosaur to date. It lived in what is now North-America during the last million years of the cretaceous, an geological time 145 million years to 65 million years ago. During the last few million years of the cretaceous the climate was hotter then today, probably due to volcanic activity. There was snowfall but this was restricted to mountains in polar regions. The sea level also was a lot higher compared to today flooding what now is the mid-west and dividing North-America in 3 large landmasses. The sea is called the 'western interior seaway' and was shallow, warm and full of life. The fauna of the time was much like it is today, only grasses had not evolved yet and broadleaved trees and flowers where relatively new. Large parts of North-America could very well have looked similar to a present day in summer with pine forests. On the west most landmass, Laramidia, the Tyrannosaurus Rex roamed.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex was a member of the Tyrannosauridea, a family of meat-eating dinosaurs walking on their hind legs and with tiny fore-arms living in what is now Asia and North-America. The fore arms are still the size of human arms and are fully developed so they are no vestigial parts of the animal. The Tyrannosaurus Rex probably didn't had 'feathers' or a very limited amount. The feathers that had evolved at this point are called 'dinofuzz' or filaments and are more primitive then the flight feathers of modern birds/dinosaurs. Here an interpretation of the Tyrannosauridea Yutyrannus Huali with filaments. This is a smaller member of he Tyrannosauridea form China and it looks like even scarier like this then with scales. A documentary on the Tyranosaurus Rex reveals the latest research on this beast:

The Tamiya Dinosaurs Diorama Series

In 1993 Tamiya released 7 diorama sets with dinosaurs in 1/35 scale. These sets are based on the scientific knowledge from the time. Most of it is still accurate until today for as far as I know with two noticeable exception:
  1. The Velociraptors are a lot smaller in reality then in set 60105. These are probably Deinonychus. A member of the dromaeosaurs family. This is the dinosaur featured in Micheal Critons book 'Jurassic Park' but somehow the name became 'velociraptor' in the movie version. These sets are released in the same year although they are are not official merchandise (that is good news for price and availability)
  2. The velociraptors/Deinonychus and oviraptor from the Mesozoic Creatures set (60107) had feathers. This was unknown at the time these sets where made.
In the 'Dinosaur Diorama Series' the following sets are available:
Item. No.Main subjectExtra accessories
60101ChasmosaurusJuvenile, small lizard, turtle, tree base, base plate
60102Tyrannosaurus Rex2 Cycads, Parasaurolophus bones, base plate
60103ParasaurolophusA Cycad, 3 flying reptiles, baseplate
60104Triceratops2 velociraptors, fishes, a small palm like plant, pine trunk, base plate
60105Velociraptors (6x)None
60106BrachiosaurusJuvenile, Archaeopteryx, base plate
60107Mesozoic setSet contains: Juvenile Parasaurolophus, Juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex, Hypsilophodon, Oviraptor, Crocodile and Archaeopteryx
These sets are very nicely made, the accessories make it possible to faithfully recreate a piece of natural history in scale. Tamiya hired the Japanese Paleontologist/artist Kunihiko Hisa to assist in the creation of these sets. Apart from the Mesozoic set all sets include a figure for size comparison. All sets do include a booklet with a lot of information on the featured dinosaur. Although released alongside the Jurassic Park movie Tamiya made their own choice in what dinosaurs to model. I think it is great they didn't just include the most famous dinosaurs but also scientific and evolutionary important subjects such as the Hypsilophodon and Archaeopteryx. With the inclusion of the Parasaurolophus an iconic member of the too often ignored Hadrosaurus family is also included. Even the flora of the time hasn't been forgotten.

The Tyrannosaurus Rex

I build the Tyrannosaurus Rex from set 60102. The nameplate for the Tyrannosaurus suggests this could be in either present day Asia or North-America. The Tyrannosaurus Rex didn't live in Asia but the Tarbosaurus Bataar did 5 million years earlier. They are both Tyrannosauridea and look almost identical. The largest Tarbosaurus found is slightly smaller then the largest Tyrannosaurus Rex specimen. Also the Tarbosaurus arms are relatively smaller then those of the Tyrannosaurus Rex and it probarbly didn't have binoculair vision. The text suggests the Tyrannosaurus Rex also lived in Asia but that is not the case. The model can be build as a Tarbosaurus for all intents and purposes however. I suggest painting the eyes as side looking and leaving the model as it is when choosing to interped it as a Tarbosaurus.
The model can be build depicting the animal with it's jaws open or closed and in a walking or running position. The total model consists out of 17 parts. I usually don't build a lot of large scale models but I have a few 1/25 tanks and 1/16 figures. This model comes in a large box and it barley fits in, it is simply huge! The model is 37 cm long (1 foot, 2 inch), 14 cm (5 2/5 inch) high and 7 cm (2 4/5 inch) wide. I build mine in a walking, jaws closed position. A metal rod is included to attach the model more firmly to it's base but is doesn't look good. The model is well balanced and the rod is not needed when fixing the model to the base. Under one foot there is a peg for an even better attachment so I don't think the rod is needed even when building the model in running position. If you want to use the rod you have to remove a small section of plastic from the belly of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, so the model doesn't have a gaping hole when you don't use the rod.
For a Tamiya model a lot filler is required to get all the seams between the parts away. The attachment point of the head to the neck needs a bit more. There are no holes but there is a pronounced 'didge' there. The head does fits good and it is easy to make a strong connection however. I also made the juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex from the 60107 Mesozoic set. This model has 8 parts and only a bit of filler on the legs and on the underside of the jaw was requerd. The arm fit but are easy too glue in the wrong position so extra attention is needed here. I made pine trees because they where also abundant in the cretaceous but the Cycads supplied are very nice and authentic. The instructions detail how to easily and fast make the leaves from green paper that is supplied in a more then sufficient quantity. I didn't use the Parasaurolophus bones because this animal lived a few milions of years prior of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. I decorated base plate with mosses and ferns.

The model with filler. The spot on the middel of the tail is a spill. On the next photo the model with the first two shades of ocker (Revell 88) lightend with white.

What colors dinosaurs have is unknown. Skin impressions give some clues and I am aware of only three dinosaurs of which the coloration is known. All are stripped and we are talking about a Hadrosaurus and 'bird like' species but not a Tyrannosauridea. Blue and green are generally difficult colors to produce for animals and most animals are 'counter shadeded' (light on the underside, darker on the top). Apart from that the sky is the limit when it comes to colors and patterns. I was inspired by a few birds of prey I saw often on my way to work in the summer so I painted them this color since birds literally are dinosaurs too. Many animals have brown as a camouflage because many animals are (partially) colorblind and reds/browns look the same to them as greens, that is why brown is so common on fur but also feathers.

The photo's of the finished model:

This was a very nice diorama and model fun to build. The model holds up well in the face of 25 years of new paleological finds and research. It is a nice change to recreate a piece of natural history still fueling the imagination today. Although the model is very long, the dinosaur itself should fit in most display cabinets. You don't have to be a brilliant model builder or painter to create something nice and complete from this set. It holds up very good in the face of the latest research. Highly recommended.

Okey, finally the most iconic scene from the movie that started it all:

Friday, 27 April 2018

Use the force Luke!

The Star Wars movies have seen a real revival the last decade and unsurprisingly new models have and are being released by several manufacturers. I decided to recreate the trench scene from 'Star Wars IV A New Hope' from 1977. Revell released several models from it's easy kit line as regular kits. So they do have a limited part count but are not prepainted. I used two Tie Figther's (kit No. 03605), Darth Vaders Tie Fighter (kit No. 03602) and the X-Wing (03601). The scale of these kits is not the same but close together according to the boxes. The Tie Fighter is advertised as being 1/110 scale but is actually closer to 1/65, almost twice the size! Normally this is only positive but in a diorama it just doesn't look right. In the picture below we see the pilot figures, when (approximately) the same scale all these figures should be the same size. The Tie Fighter Pilots (the two identical figures on the left )are clearly to large. Darth Vaders Tie Fighter and the X-wing pair up just fine.

The models are scaled in such a way they all fit in the same sized box, apparently you can fit a lot of Tie Tighter in a box. First I painted the figures and cockpits. The hatches of the The Fighter cockpits can be opened and the figures can be seen quite clearly through the cockpit glass. I darkened the cockpit glass of the X-wing fighter just as in the movies. I painted the Tie Fighters in Revell's 036176 Light Grey and highlighted some details with 036175 Dust Grey. I kept the look of the Tie Fighters as clean as possible just as in the movie. The X-Wing Fighter was painted as Like's Red 5 using pictures from the movie and heavily weathered. The models are very good and well detailed. There ware just panel lines on the wings is the X-Wing where the red identification markings go which might not be accurate, but then again it is stuff from a Sci-Fi movie so how accurate is accurate? I found painting the Tie Fighters quite a lot of work.the surface to be covered is massive and full of detail. There is a sharp well defined boundary between the black solar panels and the gray frame but this requires a lot of patience to get right. Surfaces are not easy to mask because of all the detail which is great. Painting the X-wing fighter was very easy in comparison. The Tie Fighers also come with a stand but the X-Wing doesn't.

On to the pictures:
The pilots can be seen quite good in the cockpits:

The models with kit numbers 03600 to 36010 seem all to be 'easy kits' repacked as normal models. So when you are looking to build a highly detailed with many parts this might not be you thing, looking for a highly detailed kit with a few parts? These are just your pick. At just € 6,95 you get a very nice model of a popular subject. The low part count doesn't compromise the detail or similarity to the movie models.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

A not so passive pacific

The United States fought the Third Reich during World War II but also another powerful force of it's day; The Japanese Empire. This foo from the other side the pacific ocean attacked the United States at Pearl Harbor in 1941 destroying a large part is the Pacific Fleet. This was, as far as I could tell, a preemptive strike to make sure the US would not interfere with Japans annexation of territory in Asia. The opposite was the result however, the US declared war on the Japanese Empire and entered WWII. This was already predicted by the Japanese admiral. It took slightly over four years and countless lives to end the war. However, the US and Japan have been close allies ever since. A lot of fighting in the PTO (Pacific Theater of Operations) took place from ships or on Islands. Aircraft carriers played a central roll all throughout the war in the pacific as did there aircraft. Both navies had a fast number of different aircraft operating from their carriers. Among these the A6M2 Zero Fighter (Japan) and FM-2 Wildcat (US).

The Sweet models

The Japanese manufacturer 'Sweet' makes a whole series of these planes in 1/144 scale but issue 11410 and 14109 have a carrier deck included. The Wildcat also includes a crew made out of..... cats! Both aircraft are made out of about 15 parts. The deck that comes with the Zero is very large and a aircraft lift in also placed in it. This lift can be constructed slightly below deck level indicating it is a lift. The deck of the Wildcat is a single piece. Although the pictures on the box are cartonish, the models are accurate representations of the real aircraft. The fit of the parts is perfect and special care is taken you won't get similar parts like the aft wings on in the position. Only the cockpits are lacking detail so I placed a seat in there made from pieces of a tin can myself. They can't be seen on the photo's but not putting them there leaves a noticeable hole in the cockpit.

The photo's:

More photo's, the one the air craft with some of there contemporaries and the second one with there present day successors:

Both models are recommended although it is a but frustrating to make a tiny seat. The addition of carrier deck is a very nice bonus.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A foo from below: The ZSU 23-4 Shilka

The ZSU 23-4 'Shilka'

During the late 1940's and early 1950's more and more aircraft became jet powered enabling them to fly faster. Mechanically aimed anti-aircraft guns started to become ineffective. Missiles are often used for air defense but in the middle of the last century this was mainly for long to mid-ranges. For the short range radar aimed anti-aircraft guns where developed or SPAAG's where developed. The ZSU 23-4 Shilka is the Sovjet variant of such a weapon. The ZSU 23-4 was introduced in 1962 and has been used all over the world. It proved to be effective not only against the low flying aircraft it was designed to shoot down but also in mountain combat. The Wikipedia page contains some information on problems with the targeting computer but that computer is made from axles and vacuum tubes so I'm not sure how relevant that is today since many armies have done upgrades, such as with this Polish version. Given that this weapon has been used all over the world for over half a century a lot of different colors and patterns are available. The radar can be lowered so it is not visible on all pictures. The Tunguska Anti-Aircraft system is it's successor.

The 1/100 Zvezda model

There are no plastic models in 1/72 available of the Shilka, Armo made a resin model. In 1/35 only dragon had a model. In 2017 both Meng and Hong Model released their products in 1/35. Luckily for small scale fans Zvezda released a 1/100 scale variant as part of their modern wargaming series. I build this model and it is really very, very good. It is made in such a way no glue is needed. I did glue all the parts and only on one or two places of the turret I really needed glue to get the parts to fit perfect. A generic sheet with decals is provided but I didn't use these. It is truly amazing how much detail Zvezda crammed in this little model using about 30 parts. Even the unditching log on the back looks like a real piece of wood. On to the pictures since the speak the most.

Like all their 1/100 kits of modern vehicles the ZSU 23-4 Shilka retails for about €7,50 which is well worth it. Highly recommended, for beginners also. If you really want a 1/72 model you need to find the ARMO resin kit or a ready made model for collectors from Fabbri for example.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Communist commercial succes (Revell 03306 T-55 AM / AM2B

The T-55 is the most produced tank in world history with about 85.000 vehicles build until to today. The T-55 is the culmination of tank development between 1945 and 1958. It's a sort of 'cold war T-34'. Reliable, cheap and produced in large numbers. The T-55 is still in use in many countries in the world. It's principal successor is the T-72. The basic design has been updated and modified, the Finish Army even as 6 T-55 with a British Marksman turret installed om to top as an anti-aircraft weapon, that's just totally crazy! Follow the link to tanks-encyclopedia or wikipedia to read more. The T-55AM2B is a modernized East-German design. On prime portal there is a 'Walk around' series of photo's of the T-55AM2B.

A Sri-Lankan T-55AM2B. Image form Wikipedia

Several photo's my by myself of tank with pieces cut away. This particular vehicle was used at a tank school. It usually resides at the Panzer Museum in Munster (not the famous Münster, that is an entirely different place) but these photo's where taken in Soesterberg where it was on display in 2017.

The Revell model

In 1/72 there was not a lot of choice for modelers wanting to build a T-55. PST from Belarus has several models but these can be hard to come by. In 2016 Revell released a model of the 'basic' T-55A (Kit. No. 03304) and last year (2017) a model of the T-55 AM2B (Kit. No. 03306). This is a very, very good model. It is classified as 'skill level 4' and has somewhat fewer parts compared to most other 1/72 tanks from Revell. You can build 2 Russian, a German or a Hungarian version. All country versions are different from each other, the largest differences being the turret roof and infrared camera. There are two points that require some extra attention. The first point is the attachment of the tow cable on the front. You have to bend the tow cable in place. The plastic is quite thin so I hoped I could bend it after the cable was attached to the tank and the glue would hold in place. Unfortunately that doesn't work as the part is to stiff so it snapped. heating the part a bit in hot water and pre-bend it is necessary. The cable is carefully molded and looks and fits perfect otherwise. This is the first plastic cable I used since i can remember. The German/Hungarian style infrared camera is a polygon shaped piece and consists out of a upper and lower half. There is a noticeable gap after gluing which needs to be filled. This gap is in a recess that is a genuine part of the camera so filling in and sanding away extra filler can be difficult. The Russian version doesn't have this issue as it has a different type of camera. The handle bars on the square box in the turret are a bit co thick so the perfectionist might wants to replace these with metal wire.
These are things to take into consideration when building. The kit itself is simple perfect. The rubber side skirts are thinned out, the wheels look fantastic, the tracks fit perfect on this one. (I also build the T-55A version and there I had very minor fit issue which must be due to myself but I'm not sure what went wrong so do pay attention here). The characteristic track sag is beautifully molded as are the fuel tanks, infrared equipment, wind sensor, applique armor and all other parts. The rear fuel drums are molded in two halves and one half is already molded on the rear of the tank. I recommend first building these drums and then attaching the rear of the hull.

The photo's:

This is pretty much a perfect model kit. It just doesn't get much better detail and fit wise in a plastic kit. Only the previously mentioned handle bars are a bit thick but they can't be made thinner in plastic without a big change of breaking when the part is released from the mold. The assembly is easy, the part count not to large so apart from little children everyone should be able to make something nice out of this kit.