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Half scratch-built tank WIP!

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So, while working on painting my Yvette sculpt, I figured I might as well work on the other aspects of the Valkyria Chronicles-inspired fantasy not-WW2 story I've been meaning to sit down and write for a while.

Namely, they have a tank. Or rather, an assault gun (turretless tank).

I don't think it'd do to just have a WW2 tank, dressed up a bit, though. For one thing, only two countries really fielded them, and they're quite distinctive, at least to history buffs and tank lovers.

So, I decided to scratch-build a custom one. How hard can it be? (cough, cough).

The first step was to search for a donor tank model kit. It had to be cheap, relatively simple, but not too advanced in terms of era. WW2 tanks, designed, built, and fielded under total war conditions, have a certain brute simplicity to them. I ended up picking up a Tamiya M41 Walker Bulldog. A couple pluses:
- Cheap! It's an old 70s kit, so picked it up for $15.
- Designed just after WW2, so with some scratch-building it ought to look crude enough to fit in the era.
- Simple! Only three sprue trees. One of them is crew, the second is roadwheels.
- Though I didn't realize it at the time... the top of the hull comes off and also locks in place! Meaning I can just scratchbuild the top and not worry about the undercarriage.

So I opened it up, and assembled the bottom half more or less to instructions... and then started mutilating the top half.


The back engine grilles were pretty low. Standard for a modern tank, not inefficient-looking enough for my taste. So I sawed them off, to be remounted higher later... or broken into bitz. Not sure which yet. But to get there, I had to saw off almost the entirety of the sponsons, leaving only the front fenders. That turret ring ever so slightly protrudes over the sponsons, too, meaning I can't just weld a strip of stryene flush along the sides. Might end up making something like the side hatches on an M3 Lee.


The front of an M41 has very sloped armor. Again, too advanced looking. Also I was converting it into an assault gun, which meant that the slope was too severe to mount a cannon. So I sawed away the driver's hatch and mounted some styrene to cover it all up. I hope it'll pass for applique armor.




I kind of want to evoke a knight's jousting helm with this design, so an angled superstructure will go where the driver's hatch used to be. The cannon is made from some telescoping metal tubes; a short section at the base for the barrel mount, and a short section at the muzzle to thicken the appearance of the barrel. I sand it flush on a whetstone, and mount it on a section of PVC pipe, which will form the structure for the gun mantlet.

Edited by djizomdjinn
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Thanks guys!


knarthex: Up and down, probably. Side to side would invite too many comparisons with the M3 Lee, I think, with the hull-mounted main gun and the tall structure on the side. The Priest is another one of my inspirations, yes.


Many scratch builders painstakingly sketch and draft everything, and then trace those shapes onto styrene, carefully cut them out, and it looks beautiful every step of the way.




As you can see, I prefer to wing it. In this case, leading to a happy accident. I rather like how that forwards cant of the superstructure looks. Some cementing, and the application of .010 styrene for the curved overhang, and it's starting to look good, actually.


I'm inordinately proud of myself. Did I mention that I've never scratchbuilt or kitbashed anything at all before?




The commander's hatch, carefully sawed off the turret, and the driver's viewports, carefully sawed off the hull, are probably going to rest on top after I build it up some more. Looking at the original gun mantlet... I think I can use it, actually, I bore out the hole for my metal barrel, and some plastic cement and thin CA glue make the strongest metal to plastic bond I think I've ever felt. If I change my mind, I can probably rip it back off.


I'm wary about using too many original bitz, though. Kitbashing from only one kit I think has a tendency to make the thing look... like a nightmarish, freakishly assembled version of the old kit. Going to have to custom build some details, probably. Or pull them from a different kit. In the story, they do get a light tank with a proper turret later on...


It's important to find reference, even for completely custom, scratch-built vehicles. In this case, I'm pretty obviously drawing inspiration from the Sherman BARV here:



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And sometimes I wing it with my winging it, constructing something that doesn't really look like my mockup. Ah well. Amazing how just a slight increase in complexity of shapes makes construction take that much longer. Is that why the Tiger I looks like a box on top of a box?




Looking up some scratchbuilding tips; melted sprue to make easy rods of arbitrary thickness and medium length. I used it to highlight the edges of the port superstructure, which is now looking a bit short next to the main gun superstructure, so I'll need to build up the top slightly. The hatch is a sponson box cover thing.




Crammed some copper tubing into the mantlet machine gun opening, to break up recognition some more. Also, my three scale references. From right to left: The tank commander that came with the kit, my quick sculpt of one of the teenage girls that are actually crewing this particular tank, and a same scale motorcycle rider from a different kit I have. As you can see, the hatch is kind of small... but the cupola hatch is about the same size, so I guess that's military design for you, More armor, less comfort.




Where design and practicality collide. If i mounted the gun in the same position as on the M41, the gunner would have to sit there to see through the gun sights. Kind on cramped and uncomfortable, sitting just over the tracks, with zero headroom. It'd be fine for the current crew, but it's not supposed to be designed with teenage girls in mind. Flipping it the other way... the gunner can sit in the hull, the loader can stand behind her to load the gun, but the downside to that arrangement is that the loader has to lean beside the main gun to load the machine gun, and bailing out is a bit difficult with the gun breech in the way.


Maybe I'll add a loader's hatch and pintle MG, have that hatch be the main crew hatch, and have the side door be an ammo door / auxiliary hatch / firing port.

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Depending on how crazy you want to get....


If you drill holes along the edges of the armor, glue pieces of stretched sprue into them, leaving a mm or 2, then bring a heat source CLOSE to it, it will melt down and form a line of rivets....


Yes, I used to build military models and dioramas back in the day...




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Depending on how crazy you want to get....


If you drill holes along the edges of the armor, glue pieces of stretched sprue into them, leaving a mm or 2, then bring a heat source CLOSE to it, it will melt down and form a line of rivets....


Yes, I used to build military models and dioramas back in the day...





I was actually planning on doing that after everything was built... but with flush cutters and/or sandpaper instead of heat.

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Another final level to the commander's... tower, I guess you could call it. It raises the height of the vehicle to above 3 scale meters, which is rather tall, except that shooting that tower doesn't really do anything to knock out the tank (except maybe pulp the unfortunate commander)


The gun mantlet has been flipped, some styrene welded on top, a thin sheet welded on top of that to continue the curve, and the mantlet maintenance lifting lugs cut off and welded to the new top. There's a pretty noticeable seam where they meet, I can only hope that I can blend it in later with some texturing to make it look cast.


Liberating more bitz from the M41 turret, like the gunner's periscope and the loader's pintle-mounted .50, which I'll probably mod. Also a new hatch, but I can't cut neat circles, so it looks pretty bad.

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For round I suggest a couple of things.


First, compass cutter is your friend.


Second, drill a centre hole and then put a pin through.  Spin it along the pin and gently file with an nail file (disposable ones are cheap and excellent fine grit sanders).


Third (I know, I lied and said a couple) try building it in layers.  Round is easier with thin plastic, do a series of thin discs the same size and then glue together with a styrene cement and file the finished circle smooth.  The final bit (using a heat gun) is to cut an edge in thin styrene.  Measure a strip as long as the circumference (that's the outside distance - look it up for an easy formula) and as wide as the height.  Gently heat and bend it around for a nice finished look.

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Because I obviously don't have enough to work on, I've decided to construct a whole new raised engine deck. why did i do that


Also, limitations of hand-cut sheets of styrene are starting to show themselves in subtly not-square angles. What I'd give for a good foot shear right now...


Also I've burned through about a quarter of that brand new bottle of MEK. I don't think I've used that much, so it's probably been evaporating somewhat. Been using the respirator when I cement just in case.

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