First to Fight Polish TKS Tankette Diorama Build in 1/72 Scale

Several of the blogs and boards I follow are devoted to the painting of (and/or gaming with) “minis”.  The work of these figure painters is fantastic and inspiring, but makes me more aware of the limitations of my own modeling skills.  I need practice, so I decided to add bases and figures to my recent batch of completed vehicles.

I’ve seen modelers try various ways of building bases on You Tube videos. This one didn’t look difficult and I already had most of the materials in the garage. This is just foam insulation glued to a wooden base. Instead of cutting the foam, I used the “fat lardie” method and contoured the foam by stepping on it on a concrete floor – worked like a charm!
The edges are dressed up with strips of 1 inch (25 mm) wide balsa wood from the Local Hobby Store. All this is glued with carpenter’s clue, clamped, and left to dry overnight.
I added surface contours with lightweight spackling compound. An advantage of the lightweight spackle is it can be compressed when dry without fracturing.
The base color is a suitable shade of acrylic beige wall paint. Cheap, and a quart will be a lifetime supply for modeling purposes.
I have become interested in the use of mounted cavalry during WWII, and surprisingly there are a few choices of figures available in 1/72 scale. These are First to Fight Polish Uhlans mounted on Zvezda horses. Turns out the Polish and Russian cavalry tack is similar, so only a few modifications were needed. The poses of the figures were modified, and reins and bedrolls are made from masking tape.
Here are the figures under a coat of Mr. Surfacer 1000. The biggest improvement is the replacement of the molded-on reins, the tape reins are more dynamic and can be mated with the figures’ hands. The Mr. Surfacer and subsequent paint layers are generally sufficient to bond the reins, but a little dab of superglue doesn’t hurt either!
The mini-diorama depicts a TKS supporting the advance of a unit of Uhlan cavalry. The ground cover is a mix of Woodland Scenics products. I made indentations in the grass where the tracks of the TKS passed by rolling a coin, an example of where the ability of the lightweight spackling compound to compress came in handy. I’m definitely not quick about the figure painting and basing yet, but I do like the effect!

First to Fight Polish TKS Tankette Build in 1/72 Scale

This is kit number PL1939-001 from Polish manufacturer First to Fight. It was initially released in 2013, and re-released in 2019 with a turned metal gun barrel. It is an interesting design, and quite small. It carried a crew of two and makes me wonder just where is the line for being too small to be considered a tank. The main gun is a 20mm cannon, there was another version which carried a machine gun instead, which First to Fight also kits.
There is only a single sprue which contains twelve parts, plus a turned brass barrel which is a very nice touch. The suspension is mercifully molded as a single piece for each side and is very well detailed. For many subjects this approach is adequate for 1/72 scale, and much easier to build (and align!) than a pile of tweezer-bait. Instructions and a painting guide are printed on the back of the box.
The hull is split into top and bottom pieces. There is a gap under the mudguards, which is not obvious on the finished model from normal viewing angles but only takes a couple of minutes to fill with plastic card.
Assembly complete. The brass barrel is a nice touch as the molded barrel would be difficult to clean up and keep straight. I cut off the handles on the front plates and replaced them with wire stock, a simple improvement which enhances the looks of the model.
The model was primed with Mr. Surfacer to check for flaws, and then with black Alclad primer.
I followed the illustration on the box art for the camouflage scheme. It is interesting that the colors are so similar to those adopted by the Wehrmacht in 1943.
Here is the finished model after a panel wash and a light coat of dust. This kit goes together well and its simplicity and low parts count makes it a perfect choice for a quick build.

Renault FT Book Review

French Light Tank Renault FT US Six Ton Tank M1917

By Witold J. Lawrynowicz

Series: Armor Photo Gallery # 15

Softcover, 72 pages, drawings, and photographs

Published by Model Centrum Progres, January 2006

Language: English

ISBN-10: ‎ 8360672008

ISBN-13: ‎ 978-8360672006

Dimensions:  8.0 x 11.2 x 0.2 inches

The Renault FT was a French light tank which saw initial service during the First World War.  It is notable for introducing what has since become the standard tank configuration – a rotating turret containing the main armament, engine to the rear of the hull, and driver in the front.  Over 3,000 were produced in France, with several other nations producing copies of the design.  Although obsolete by the standards of WWII, there were several hundred still in service during the Battle of France, and captured examples were retained in Wehrmacht service in secondary roles through the end of the war.

This book is number 15 in the Armor Photo Gallery series and is intended to be a visual reference for modelers.  Two-thirds of the pages are devoted to well-captioned full-color photographs of preserved vehicles presented in a walk-around style.  There are two tanks presented – a Renault FT in the Musée Royal de l’Armée et d’Histoire Militaire in Brussels and a U.S.-built M1917 which was at the West Point Museum.  The two vehicles exhibit a number of construction differences which the captions point out.

Also included are drawings in 1/48 and 1/35 scale, but nothing for 1/72 scale enthusiast.  There is a short history of the type and several pages of black-and-white photographs of the tanks in service. I purchased this book at a model show, and was not familiar with the series at the time.  These happy little discoveries are one of the best reasons to go to shows, you can always find something you didn’t know you needed!  It is a quality publication and judging by what is listed on Amazon, somewhat sought after.  Recommended.

Cunningham T1 Light Tanks Build in 1/72 Scale

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The Cunningham T1 was a series of prototype light tanks developed in America. They were modified and rebuilt into a number of configurations, but were never formally adopted by the U.S. Army. Apparently, versions have become popular in the World of Tanks game, and I found the type interesting enough to print out a couple using a file by “Turenkarn” here: http://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2192170

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The mudguards didn’t come out too well on my prints as can be seen on the nearer hull. Fortunately this is pretty easily corrected using sheet styrene.

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An earlier iteration of the Cunningham had no mudguards at all so they were simply removed from the print. The 37 mm cannons and machine gun barrels were replaced by Albion Alloy tube.

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Mr. Surfacer 1000 smoothed out the printing layers well. The tanks were painted and weathered as usual from there.

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I wanted to display the tank on a base. Here are some small trees made from twisting copper wire from lamp cord. After bending to the desired shape, the trunks are fixed with superglue, primed with Mr. Surfacer 500, and painted. The foliage is from Woodland Scenics.

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The base was made using a small plaque and represents a dirt backroad.

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Here is the finished scene with a figure added for scale. The figure was converted using a Preisser Luftwaffe pilot as a base. Another fun little printer project to clear the pallet between more involved builds.

Vickers Mark VI Light Tank Build in 1/72 Scale

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I have a Creality LD-002R 3-D resin printer, it is small enough to fit on a corner of my workbench and not horribly expensive for what it can do. The printers are quite useful but you can easily go down the rabbit hole with these things. I found a file for a Vickers Mk. VI light tank from designer “TigerAce1945” on Thingiverse here: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2055879 I scaled it to 1/72 and soon it was ready to go.

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Assembly consists of removing the supports and placing the turret on the hull. The resin is cured by UV light, so I placed it in the sunshine and flipped it over after the supports were off to make sure everything hardened up completely. The resin is hard and a little on the brittle side but cuts and sands very much like typical model plastic or casting resin.

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The model would be fine for wargaming just as it was, but I wanted to jazz it up a bit as a display model using Evergreen strip and wire. The shovel and ax are separate prints. The towing eyes on the front of the hull and fire extinguisher are from the spares box. I rebuilt the stowage frame on the rear plate because the wall thickness was too much.

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A couple of coats of Mr. Surfacer 1000 smoothed out most of the printing layers. These were not all that bad, but the prints don’t yet have the same fidelity as injection molded kits. The technology is getting closer though and works well for many modeling tasks!

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Here is the model with the Malta “stone wall” camouflage prior to weathering. I love the scheme, and this is a quick and painless way to try to represent it.

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What better backdrop for a stone wall camouflage than a stone wall? I found a suitable example and printed a wall to go with the tank. The file is intended for 28 mm wargamers, but one of the neat things about printers is the files can be re-scaled within reason. The designer is “Ravenloth” on Thingiverse: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4231810

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Here is the wall mounted to a display base. Small pebbles from the driveway enhance the randomness of the wall and provide rubble where sections have fallen down.

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I added more rocks to the top of the wall to break up the flat profile. The small tree is a twisted wire trunk, scattered grass and tufts complete the terrain.

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The Vickers was finished off in the standard way with washes and chipping, then sprayed with DullCoat. The antenna is Nitenol wire, and there is some basic stowage added in the rack on the back.

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Here is the finished product, with a Preisser Luftwaffe figure modified to represent a British tanker added for scale. All in all an enjoyable little project which came together quickly.

Marine Corps Tank Battles in Vietnam Book Review

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Marine Corps Tank Battles in Vietnam

By Oscar E. Gilbert

Hardcover in dustjacket, 288 pages, photographs, bibliography, notes, and index

Published by Casemate 2007

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1-932033-66-1

ISBN-13: 978-1-932033-66-3

Dimensions: 6.0 x 1.2 x 9.0 inches

Despite the number of books published about the Viet Nam War, many people are unaware of the role played by armor, or that the U.S. Marines deployed armored units.  Perhaps this is due in part to the nature of their employment.  Armor rarely fought in units larger than platoons, and often in groups of only two or three tanks.  There were no large set-piece battles, the tanks were generally employed to defend bridges or firebases, or to support sweeps through the countryside.  The result is the tanks were disbursed and moved in small groups from place to place, many of the crews commenting that they had never even seen their Battalion commanders while in-country.

Not surprisingly, the constant movements and changes in unit assignments have made it very difficult for historians to document the histories of the armored Battalions in Viet Nam.  Sweeps and patrols in support of the myriad of operations tended to blend together for the crews to the point that even the men involved were unsure if they had actually been part of a specific operation.  I was surprised to learn how vulnerable the M48 was to the RPG-7, a great many crew casualties were caused by this weapon.  Another problem was mines.  While these rarely totally destroyed a tank they generally were enough to disable the track and suspension, taking the vehicle out of the fight.

This is the third of Gilbert’s “Marine Corps Tank Battles” books which I have read.  Like the others, the bulk of the text is derived from interviews with the Marines themselves, in their own words.  The opening chapter gives a history of the country leading up to the war which is well worth reading just on its own.  The book is well written, and I enjoy the first-hand perspectives from the Marines who were there.  Recommended.

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