A Look Around

As part of the Tow Tank feature I would like to offer a look at what is out there from some of the manufacturers. In depth analysis, in terms of fit and finish, of these models will follow. For now I simply offer a view of what one gets when they order a particular miniature. Some are quite good, some are less so. You can judge for yourself.

Viking Forge

Here are some of the offerings from Viking Forge for the PLAN. These models were purchased about seven years ago and the good folks at VF have increased their range of available ships since then. I’m in the process of acquiring the new ships re-shooting the finished models.

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052C DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG in the blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 052B DDG

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale PRC Type 054 FFG

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG in blister pack

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VF 1/2400 scale Type 053H FFG

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ve Got A Guy…

If you’ve ever lived the life of an Ex-pat far from your home country then you have probably experienced some level of culture shock.  It takes far longer to get even the most mundane tasks accomplished until you can figure out how things work.  Where can you get hobby paint? Or tools?  Or anything you need for that matter.  Often knowledge and wisdom come slowly – mostly through tribal knowledge.  When I lived in Bahrain it was a phenomenon I like to call “I’ve got a guy”.  You need your date palms pruned?  I’ve got a guy.  You need your son driven to rugby practice? I’ve got a guy.  You get the idea.  Well this is another post about decals, specifically 1/2400 scale ship decals.  If you need decals for an aircraft carrier, a modern PRC destroyer, or a U.S. cruiser…  I’ve got a guy.

Actually in this case it is two guys, Tanner and Brad.  Tanner handles the design and Brad does production and sales I believe.  Brad sells these decals through an ebay storefront known as Taskforce2400.  Copyright information on the decals will either say WWII Central, Tanner’s handle, or Taskforce2400.  To date all the decals in both the modern and WWII ranges are specifically sized for 1/2400 scale ships from GHQ.  The picture below offers some idea of the range of modern vessels covered.  The decals are full color which is both a benefit and a problem as will be shown a bit further down.  The selection is not limited to helo decks by the way.  In fact the LHD deck decals are some of the most detailed decals I’ve seen.  My latest LHD is still in progress so the big reveal will have to wait.  Additionally, Brad and Tanner have recently added RN Falklands campaign deck decals for the Type 42, 22, and 21 ships.  I have these on order but they haven’t arrived yet.

An array of modern deck decals for USN, RN, and PLAN ships from Taskforce2400.

An array of modern deck decals for USN, RN, and PLAN ships from Taskforce2400.

If you prefer WWII they offer a wide selection of carrier deck decals as well.  There are many more designs than the two included below including decals for Graf Zeppelin and Aquila.  Some of the decals are offered in slightly different designs which feature different color shading, air recognition symbols, or line markings.  I believe the goal is to be able to model any fleet carrier, light carrier, or escort carrier from the war.

Flight deck decal for GHQ 1/2400 Ark Royal by WWII Central.

Flight deck decal for GHQ 1/2400 Ark Royal by WWII Central.

1/2400 scale flight deck decal for USN CV-5 or CV-6.

1/2400 scale flight deck decal for USN CV-5 or CV-6.

Why is this important?  Well if you game with or collect modern warships you have to deal with aviation capable ships, after all helicopters are everywhere.  Until now there have been very few options.  Paint the lines yourself, find decals, or go without.  I certainly don’t have the talent to paint flight deck lines in this scale so that was a non-starter.  I don’t really want to go without if I can avoid it so that leaves decals.  I’ve tried to make my own decals with some success

1/2400 scale USCG Cutter by Viking Forge.  Decals by the author.

1/2400 scale USCG Cutter by Viking Forge. Decals by the author.

But making your own decals is hard and white lettering, marks, or lines don’t work very well unless you have access to an ALPS printer which I don’t.  Even my attempts to find a good used ALPS printer on ebay were totally frustrated.  So most of the time I went without as evidenced by the bare helo deck on the USCG Cutter.  Then in the mid 1990’s another option appeared, SeaBat Replicas.  For a while these were a godsend.  They offered a limited range – only the USN 1/2400 ships offered by GHQ were covered.  But there was one huge advantage SeaBat offered and that was hull numbers for the whole class and usually in three different colors.  The SeaBat decals were white lines on clear film so, unlike Taskforce2400 decals, whatever color you painted your deck would show through.  Here are some of the SeaBat decals still on the sheet.  It is hard to make out the white markings but they’re there.  In 1998 or so these stopped appearing on store shelves so I quickly bought out any remaining stock I could find in hobby shops or on ebay.

1/2400 scale deck markings for Ticonderoga class CG by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale deck markings for Ticonderoga class CG by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Spruance DD by CinC, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Spruance DD by CinC, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Arleigh Burke DDG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Arleigh Burke DDG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Oliver H. Perry FFG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

1/2400 scale model of Oliver H. Perry FFG by GHQ, decals by SeaBat Replicas.

Here are the Taskforce2400 decals for comparison.

1/2400 scale model of Ticonderoga CG by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

1/2400 scale model of Ticonderoga CG by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

1/2400 scale model of Jiangkai II by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

1/2400 scale model of Jiangkai II by GHQ, decals by Taskforce2400.

So here you can see one of the problems of the Taskforce2400 approach.  My old flat black flight decks are not technically correct in terms of  accurate color representation.  Personally these are more game pieces than museum pieces so I don’t worry about it that much.  When you use decals which have the deck color included it can really stand out if it doesn’t match you planned deck color.  The Jiangkai II for example looks kind of wonky because the blue gray deck color referenced from pictures here does not match the gray of the flight deck decal.  The white balance of the photo above is a little off but the deck decal matches nicely with the gray of other photos of Jiangkai IIs just not the pictures I chose to use.  So who is right?  Well it looks kind of silly so I’ll probably have to strip the ship down and repaint to match the decal.  Guess I should have waited to paint the ship until after I had seen the decal. Oh well.

I really like these decals and I love that the range is continually expanding.  If I could have one wish it would be for them to expand their coverage to the Viking Forge line of 1/2400 scale ships as well.  Unfortunately because they can’t print pure white decals I don’t think they’ll be able to make hull numbers anytime soon.  One other note about applying the decals.  If you use the Micro-Sol/Micro-Set approach be aware that the decals will bubble and wrinkle and generally look like an epic fail but will then smooth out very nicely.  Don’t get too anxious and start trying to smooth it out or move it around.  If you can’t resist you stand an excellent change of tearing or stretching the decal.  Good luck and I hope you enjoy.

 

God is in the Decals, I mean Details

For those who frequent the GHQ military models forum you may recall that last September I posted a bit about some F-86 decals from Scale Specialties.  This is an update to that post.  To start with I purchased a pair GHQ F-86A-5 (GHQ stock # AC80).  I have my doubts that they are actually the -5 version but my reference library is in storage so I’ll table that discussion for the time being.  The models themselves are of the same excellent quality expected of GHQ.  One of the models had some minor pitting on the fuselage near the leading edge of the wings but it is barely noticeable at arms length.  You can see in the close-up view below that the mold lines were another area where I had to use an X-Acto knife to smooth it out a bit.  Here are the models after adding magnets and priming.  One word of caution, if you intend to place decals on the underside of the wings glue the drop tanks on as the final step.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabres from GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabres from GHQ.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 by GHQ

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 by GHQ

My original intent for these models was to paint them in Pakistan Air Force (PAF) colors for the ’65 war with India and to a lesser degree ’71 war.  I also intend to pick up a couple of the Raiden F-86 models for comparison.  In the end though I changed my mind and opted for a Korean War USAF F-86 instead due in large part to the Scale Specialties decals I found while looking for something else.  The company offers three sets of decals for Korean War Sabres.  The first pack represent the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing from 1950-51.  At that time Sabres were flying with black and whit ID stripes on the fuselage and wings.  The second pack, which is the one I selected, represents the 4th Fighter Interceptor Wing during the period from 1951-53.  This pack has the familiar yellow bands which replaced the earlier black and white strips.  The final pack represents the 51st Fighter Wing during the same ’51-’53 time frame.  A very cool feature of these packs is the second decal sheet which includes distinctive nose or fuselage art which was carried by several aces in those wings.  In fact the decal sheet for the 51st Fighter Wing has a very cool dragon which goes on the fuselage that tempts me to buy another pair of Sabres.  In both packs the appropriate tail numbers are also included which allows you to make a very accurate model of that ace’s aircraft.  The downside is that the decals are specific to those aircraft.  Some purists might not like having to mix squadrons and wings when gaming with formations of more than two aircraft.  If that sort of thing does bother you I-94 Enterprises has good decals which are a little more generic in nature.

After priming I airbrushed the aircraft with Humbrol Chrome Silver #191.  In hindsight I should have used some kind of sealant over the silver.  With all the handling required for the decals the paint around the nose of the aircraft has worn off which will require a touch-up by hand.  I probably could have also worn latex gloves to prevent it as well.  Here are the models after painting and having some of the yellow bands applied.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabre by GHQ.  Humbrol Chrome Silver #191. Scale Specialties Decals.

1/285 Scale F-86A-5 Sabre by GHQ. Humbrol Chrome Silver #191. Scale Specialties Decals.

I should mention here that I am a big fan of the Microscale Industries Decal System.  I think their products do a wonderful job of really making the decals smooth onto the model presenting a appearance much closer to reality that other systems.

The Microscale Decal System

The Microscale Decal System

Micro-Sol softens the decal film which enables it to conform to the detail lines of the model.  An obvious hazard of using this is the softened decals can be ruined if handled during the drying process.  Unfortunately, I had this happen to this model when applying the yellow band on the vertical stabilizer.  As you can see here the aircraft number is mangled.  I briefly considered stripping the decals and starting over but I liked the artwork so much I decided to go on.

I handled the model too soon after applying Micro-Sol and ruined the aircraft number on this side.

I handled the model too soon after applying Micro-Sol and ruined the aircraft number on this side.

Here is the aircraft with wing and fin flashes, rounders, aircraft numbers, and “USAF” decals.

1/285 Scale F-86A by GHQ.  Decals by Scale Specialties.

1/285 Scale F-86A by GHQ. Decals by Scale Specialties.

Here are the aircraft with their full complement of decals.  All that remains is applying a protective coat and painting the canopies, intakes, and tailpipes.  All thins considered I think they came out very well.  If I had it to do over again there are things I would change but that is what learning is all about.

The decal process is complete.  All that remains is painting the final details.

The decal process is complete. All that remains is painting the final details.

In The News…

This week I’m taking a step back from my own work to highlight some recent news in the hobby industry.  Admittedly it is a bit of a cop out but with Carnivale last weekend there wasn’t much time to do more.

First up is I-94 Enterprises, one of go to favorites for storage boxes and 1/285 scale aircraft.  You may recall that I’ve previously mentioned that Dave WInfree purchased Raiden MIniatures.  Their latest news release states that they’ve brought several models back into production. Most interesting to me are the Grumman F9F Cougar and the Gloster Javelin.  While neither aircraft saw real combat there were ‘what-if’ scenarios that could have resulted in combat engagements for the Javelin and they’re both cool looking aircraft.  During the early 1960’s Javelins were stationed in Singapore to support Commonwealth forces in the ‘Konfrontasi’ between the British Commonwealth and Indonesia over the creation of Malaysia.  Indonesia operated mostly Soviet aircraft designs it could be an interesting scenario for fans of early cold war kit.

Next item is an announcement from author and game designer Larry Bond. Here is their announcement:

Larry Bond and Chris Carlson are pleased to announce the formation of the Admiralty Trilogy Group, LLC, a Virginia limited liability corporation. The Admiralty Trilogy Group (ATG) are the exclusive publishers of the award-winning Admiralty Trilogy wargame system, games that span naval combat in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. These include:
· Harpoon (1955 and later, up to current day)
· Command at Sea (1925 through World War II and up to 1955)
· Fear God and Dread Nought (1905 through World War I and up to 1925)
The new company will publish wargames in digital format, using the Internet to deliver quality products through the Wargame Vault. We have over twenty titles available for sale, and will be expaning the list in the coming days.
Our biannual newsletter, the Naval SITREP, will continue publication. Issues 14 (April 1998) through 47 (October 2014) are available for sale at The Wargame Vault. Content in earlier issues will be condensed and published in an upcoming product. Current subscriptions with Clash of Arms will be honored, but will not be renewed. Instead of a $21.00 subscription for three issues ($28 overseas), each new issue will be posed on The Wargame Vault for $3.00.
In addition to the Trilogy product line previously published by Clash of Arms, Inc., The AT Group will be expanding and improving the game system with new naval and land-based rules sets, all designed to work with the current system and enhance your gaming experience.
The AT Group can be reached either at our email, AdTrGroup@aol.com, or on our Facebook page.
Our webpage, AdmiraltyTrilogy.com, will be up soon. We hope you will come and visit.

For the uninitiated Larry is the techno-thriller author who is also the creator of the Harpoon naval wargame system.  While sometimes maligned by gamers as ‘too technical’ or ‘too complicated’ for casual gaming the system was used extensively,at least in the 80’s and 90’s, within the U.S. Navy to teach basic naval warfare concepts to officer candidates.  What began as a modern naval combat system has expanded and evolved through the other games of the Admiralty Trilogy to encompass all naval warfare from about 1900 to the present.  The Admiralty Trilogy staff have been ‘unifying’ all the underlying equations for damage, construction etc. across the entire spectrum.  Does it matter to the average gamer that the data sheet for their HMS Agamemnon battleship of 1906 is calculated on the same basis as their HMS Agamemnon minelayer of 1940 or their HMS Agamemnon nuclear powered submarine of the present day? Probably not.  For me however it is significant.  After all, haven’t you ever wanted to game out the Final Countdown attack where the Nimitz class carrier travels back to Dec 1941 and must decide whether to intercept the Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.

Tea, Earl Grey, Hot

What would you ask for if you had a replicator?  I suppose people in the 23rd century are beyond needing cash or maybe Jean-Luc would order up some gold bullion instead of tea.  While I don’t have a replicator but I do have access to Shapeways 3D printing. As I have mentioned before I have become very interested in Figurehead’s line of 1/6000 scale modern naval miniatures.  They pack a very impressive amount of detail into very small packages.  To date I have collected a little over 300 of these ships.  Sadly I have been a much more diligent collector than painter.

Figurehead Miniatures will be the topic of a future post so I won’t get too far down in the weeds here.  What I will say is they have a decent range of models available for the lines they choose to cover.  As one example, their Falkland Islands range is probably the most complete range of any manufacturer in any scale.  If you want Russian/Soviet kit, Royal Navy or U. S. Navy ships the you’re in luck.  If you want Chinese (either one), Japanese, Korean, or even French ships you’re out of luck, so far.  I have no insight into Figurehead’s production plans and I have no patience either.  Enter Shapeways.  I guess I should say once again that Shapeways is actually the print shop the actual designer is afrodri from Objects May Appear…

I have been reluctant to order very many “printed” ships.  The pictures on the Shapeways website aren’t always convincing.  Other photos I’ve seen on various fora suggest the models come out looking a little fuzzy.  Not out of focus but actually fuzzy.  My own experience with the JMSDF Hyuga was positive but not overwhelming.  But I have needs.  I need JMSDF, Korean, Chinese, and Indian naval vessels.  Looking through the Shapeways catalog I settled on a one-stop shopping approach for the Indian Navy.  While these ships weren’t at the top of my list they had the advantage of being offered all together.  The other “fleet packs” for JMSDF and Korea didn’t have the mix of ships I was looking for and there isn’t a set for PRC that I could find.

In terms of what comes in the package this is what the website says.  Indian Naval Fleet: 3 Brahmaputra, 3 Godavari, 3 Delhi, 6 Talwar, 8 Kumbhir, 12 Veer, and 1 Vikramaditya.  I don’t think I would have left the aircraft carrier last in the list but that is just me.  It looked like a pretty solid offering and all that for under $20.  I would like to see the Kolkata and Shivalik classes as well but this is good enough for now.  I have to say even though it was only an investment of twenty bucks, ordering a bunch of ship models with only the computer generated picture to go by was a bit disturbing.  Printing a Veer/Tarantul at this scale seemed unlikely to be successful.  In fact at one point I received an email from Shapeways informing me there was a delay with the shipment of my order “Each and every product is made to order at Shapeways, so sometimes we experience delays during the complex 3D printing process”.  And I felt sure the next email would start “We regret to inform you…”

Of course that didn’t happen.  The shipment went out three days later and arrived about a week after that.  Right out of the box I was impressed with the ships.  The level of detail is  on par with the Figurehead ships I think, although the semi-translucence of the material makes it hard to judge for sure.  If I can figure out how to base them in a manner similar to the rest of my 1/6000 fleet I will definitely call this experiment a success.  Here are some pictures…

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack.  Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear...  3D Printed by Shapeways.

1/6000 INS Naval Fleet Pack. Models Designed by afrodri from Objects May Appear… 3D Printed by Shapeways.

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear...

Detail of 1/6000 Vikramaditya. Model by Objects May Appear…

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

1/6000 INS Destroyers, Frigates, Missile Craft, and Amphibious ships.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

Detail of 1/6000 INS Delhi Class.

If I can get my hands on a digital calipers I’ll take some measurements to see how close the models are to true 1/6000 scale but that will be the subject for another day.

How Small is Too Small?

I was so pleased with how well the rare earth magnets worked with the flight stands for 1/285 scale aircraft that I wanted to take a look at smaller applications.  Could they be made to work with 1/2400 scale aircraft?

Well…  Um…  Ah…  In a word, no.

The problem isn’t with the magnets really.  I found some 2mm x 1mm magnets which aren’t too obtrusive even considering the diminutive size of 1/2400 scale aircraft.  The problem is the stands themselves.  I couldn’t find a reliable combination of base and post that works with the magnets and provides acceptable stability without looking too chunky drawing attention away from the models.  The search will continue.

  In the meantime I have decided to mount some of my 1/2400 scale aircraft on more traditional stands.

  I used sheet styrene and my Dupli-cutter, from North West Short Line (NWSL), to make a handful of roughly 1/4″ strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

An excellent tool for repetitive cutting of sheet styrene or balsa to make uniform strips.

  Once that task was complete I used my Chopper, also from NWSL, to cut the strips into roughly 1/4″ x 1/4″ squares.  Obviously, I could have skipped some of this work if I had strip styrene of the appropriate size on hand.  I didn’t have anything acceptable on hand on my desired time line so I did it the old-fashioned way.

Another great product from NWSL.  The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

Another great product from NWSL. The Chopper makes short work of chopping strips to a uniform size.

  After cutting the rough bases I drilled a hole in the center of each one for the steel pin which would become the stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

Bases before and after drilling center hole for flight stand.

  To prevent the model from teeter-tottering on the game table I counter-sunk the hole on the underside of the base that would conceal the pinhead.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

Underside of base features countersunk center hole which will accept pinhead to prevent teeter-tottering.

  Before gluing the pins to their bases I cut them down to scale lengths appropriate for hovering helicopters, aircraft flying Nap Of the Earth (NOE), aircraft flying low level bombing runs, and maritime patrol aircraft.  With the current bases size pins longer than 2 inches would probably be unstable.  At scale that is about 400 ft, a reasonable representation of routine operating altitudes for ASW aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size.  Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Some of the steel pins cut down to size. Those on the right are for hovering helicopters while those on the left are for NOE aircraft.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Here is the flight stand base and pin ready for gluing.

Glue applied to pin.

Glue applied to pin.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

Pinhead fits into recess presenting a flat and stable surface for the flight stand.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

These are completed flight stands, except for painting of course.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted.  In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s.  Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

Prototypes are complete. Aircraft are mounted. In this case GHQ F-111 standing in for SU-24 and two MiG-29s. Caution, these are really small. I accidentally drilled all the way through the second MiG-29.

 

Making these flight stands was pretty fun and I’m looking forward to making more.  After I get these stands painted it will also be much easier to photoshop them out of pictures with my fleet.  I hope you enjoyed the mini tutorial.

IDF Colors?

I have struggled for several years to find just the right shade of gray?, green?, tan? for my modern IDF forces.  My Google-fu reveals scores of pictures from Al Gore’s internet depicting IDF vehicles in a wide array of colors.  It is difficult to account for differences in sun angle, unit location, or whether the vehicle was photographed on a parade ground or during an actual combat operation.  No clear winner as far as color goes. Strike One!

So… I move on to step two: check the fora.  The Miniatures Page, Arab Israeli Wars, GHQ, and four or five others were not much more help.  Lots of opinions but little consensus.  ‘It Depends’ was probably the most common response.  What year?  Which unit?  Which front?  Which operation?  Well at least the diversity of opinion matches the diversity of photographic evidence.  Strike Two!

There was one positive development out of all of that however.  Several forum members suggested hobby paint manufacturers, such as Life Color, that offer pre-mixed IDF colors for specific time periods.  Progress!

But here’s the thing.  When the Lord gives with one hand watch out he doesn’t smite you down with the other.  In spite of the fact that I live in Italy, where I’ve been told Life Color paints are made, I can’t easily get my hands on them. There are precious few hobby shops in my area and those I have managed to find don’t carry Life Color paint.  Damn!  And for the double whammy military postal rules seem to scare online stores away from shipping hobby paint to APO/FPO addresses.

All of that is pretty disappointing.  Maybe there is a hidden silver lining.  Given the fact that there are so many different opinions and so many different photos out there it is possible there isn’t one right way to do it.  Perfect!  I Can now use one of my favorite modeling approaches… TLAR (That Looks About Right)!

Here are my Namers and my Magachs (with turret magnets) in my own version of IDF gray/green/tan.  The white chevron decals are from GHQ and the white barrel stripe decals are from an unknown source.

1/285 scale IDF Namer Heavy APC.  Model and white chevron decals by GHQ

1/285 scale IDF Namer Heavy APC. Model and white chevron decals by GHQ

1/285 scale Magach 6B Gal. Model and white chevrons by GHQ.

1/285 scale Magach 6b and Namer Heavy APC.