Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Sturmgeschütz III Ausf B

Tamiya 1:35 Sturmgeschütz III Ausf B, reference 35281


The Sturmgeschütz (StuG) III Ausf B’s production run was between June 1940 and May 1941, during which time 320 vehicles were made. Produced by Alkett, the StuG III Ausf B was armed with the same gun as the Panzer IV of the time; the 75mm L/24 cannon (as were all of the variants Ausf A to E).


I decided to jazz this kit up a little with a few extra details including Ausf A/early Ausf B sprocket wheels, which were taken from the Dragon Heuschrecke kit (the idlers are the earlier of the two choices out-of-the-box), Model Kasten tracks, the dedicated Voyager photo-etch set (which included two excellent soft copper tow cables) and two ‘Little Cars’ reflective lenses for the headlights.

I built this kit in two phases; first the running gear including the tracks, then after a necessarysanity-break the upper hull. The former stage took quite a bit of energy as the Model Kasten tracks demand a great deal of attention, which can sometimes rankle, but the final effects are stunning in comparison to the rubber-band tracks in the base-kit. My two beefs with these aftermarket tracks are the time taken to build them and their fragility, as the tracks can sometimes seem punitively keen to separate after spirit washes during the weathering process as happened here), that said the outcome is excellent, however, I think I might stick to Friuls for a while – a little less heartache.

The upper hull took a fair amount of time and effort, but once I had spent a few days familiarizing myself with the additional set of instructions the build and detailing was pacy and fun; I can’t recommend these Voyager sets highly enough. The detail imparted by one f these sets far outweighs the financial commitment (in this case £9.99 from a model show about a year ago). Cases in point would be the antenna cradle, the front and rear mudguards, the tool detailing and much, much more.


As before I thought I would lay out a simple bulleted- step-by-step process for painting on this project. I tried to incorporate most of my familiar techniques on this build, culminating in a heavy weathering with MIG Pigments and finally oil paints. The 3-dimensional mud effect was achieved with MIG Resin, MIG Pigments, plaster and sand in equal proportions. I matted the ‘volumised’ mud down after application as I wanted the final effect to be dry .In all honesty I feel that a mixture of model putty, static grass, sand, styrene glue and acetone has given me better volume effects, but I thought that I would experiment on this set of running gear after a track disaster mid-process.

These are the stages I followed:

* Priming of the StuG in Games Workshop Skull White from an aerosol can (you might remember my complaints about Halford’s Grey Primer a while ago; I found that this rattle can did not leave an unwanted texture to the AFV surfaces food for thought?)
* Cleaning & sanding any irregularities and fill any gaps; surprisingly few on this project – a testament to Tamiya engineering?
* Second priming of the AFV with Tamiya NATO Black diluted with Mr Color Thinner. This Mr Color Thinner works wonders with Tamiya paints. Excellent stuff!
* Paint the base-colour on the StuG Lifecolor Schwarzgrau. When using Lifecolor paints I would suggest that unless you are opening a fresh pot you strain this through a fine meshuch as a tea-strainer – the paint is great, but does clump and can cause much hassle due to incessant clogging of the airbrush if it is not brand new batch. Hat said, if you take the appropriate steps I think Lifecolor is still the tops.
* Highlight the AFV with a lightened version of the basecolour using Lifecolor Anthrizgrau/White/Blue in a 2:1:1 mixture.
* Lifecolor Brown to all of the tracks applied roughly with the airbrush at a standard pressure.
* One blue MIG filter. In the past I have gone filter-crazy using up to seven filters on one kit, but I have found recently that one is enough.
* Colour modulation with Citadel Fortress Grey & Citadel Codex Grey (most of this is buried after weathering, but actually does create tonal variation on close inspection, the more subtle work being heavily obscured). I chose to modulate the superior surfaces with the Citadel colours painted on thinly in several coats.
* Airbrush Tamiya X22 to decal sites. I dilute the X22 50/50 with Tamiya X20A dedicated acrylic thinner.
* Add decals using Micro Sol. I absolutely love the ‘cartoon tank’ marking denoting Abteilung 226 and was delighted to see it as a Tamiya option, especially as there were four to add to the kit.
* Johnson’s Klear over decals.
* Chips and scuffs to the vehicle with a black and a light grey colour, first using a sponge, then a fine-point brush.
* Paint the chains Tamiya Flat Brown.
* Paint the metal parts of the tools Tamiya NATO Black.
* Metallise, chains, tracks & tools with Citadel Boltgun Metal.
* Pick out sprocket Wheel teeth with Citadel Chainmail.
* Two-step wood process to the wooden tool handles; an acrylic Flesh colour for step one, Burnt Umber oils for step two, which are then removed using a dry brush to simulate wood-grain.
* Black dry-brush whole vehicle using Humbrol Matt Black enamel; I concentrated on the edges of the vehicles, the tools and the tow ropes for this stage. I use a large soft, round brush for this stage the softer the better. Most of the paint should be aggressively removed from the brush with a tissue before dry-brushing.
* Airbrush one thin coat of Vallejo Satin Varnish.
* Heavy Burnt Umber oil wash to the vehicle.
* Lifecolor LC27 Matt Clear. I find that this matt lacquer works more effectively than any others that I have used in the past; furthermore Lifecolor does not need diluting and is aqueous in nature, therefore seems less toxic to the atmosphere when putting through an airbrush.
* The final and most obvious stage seems to dominate the whole painting process: pigments and oil stains using Sepia oil paint. This may have a dominating result, however is a necessary step to recreate that ‘used and abused’ feel to the StuG, which appears to have seen a fair amount of action. If you take your time with the pigments you can create a variety of types of weathering with different applications, solvents and mixes. I tend to use at least three coloured pigments always including a light grey and/or light sand colour as the last to highlight areas of wear and drying of mud and dust. The oil work after pigment application seems to give another dimension to the pigments.


I was extremely pleased with the outcome of this project, but will try to give my next project more subtle approach to weathering, in an effort to avoid making another ‘StuG of the Dump’.

Bill Hazard
Build completed in July 2009