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Operation Tractable

Hessian / Scrim Netting
I put a lot of thought into devising a way to replicate the woven look of the real net and scrim. Basically, the only way that I could think to do this was to follow the process used to create the prototype netting: To get the woven look, I would need to weave the scrim into the net.

I started with ordinary medical gauze pads. These pads were dyed using a dark green fabric dye in a glass Pyrex measuring cup. I added boiling water in the cup and about a half of teaspoon full of the powdered dye. I stirred the dye up with a wooden stick and then added the gauze pads to soak for a few minutes. The coloring process goes quickly.

I then rinsed the cup with the colored gauze pads still in it under cold running water until the water ran clear. The pads were then squeezed out in paper towels and spread out in a single layer on waxed paper to dry. I blotted them with more paper towels to speed up the drying. When spreading the gauze out, I tried to retain the, more or less, regular square shapes where the threads crossed each other. This was hard to do along the edges, but pretty easy to do in the centers.

After the dyed gauze had dried, I rolled it up in a paper towel, and then I applied Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement with an eye dropper to it. Rolling the gauze helped to keep it from wadding up, and the paper towel helped to spread the glue evenly. I then un-rolled the gauze back flat on waxed paper. Once the gauze dried, I had a very stiff sheet of colored "net" that would retain its shape.

For the scrim, I used thin tissue, the type that's used to wrap shirts or as packaging in gifts. I bought this in the gift wrapping section of a local Wal-Mart. It comes pre-colored, and I chose a pale yellow.

Sheets of this tissue were airbrushed with Vallejo khaki, brown, and OD. The tissue will be thoroughly wet and the paint is a bit "runny," so this step is a bit messy. Newspaper, a flat surface, and a couple of paint bottles as weights to hold the tissue down by its corners were helpful.

After allowing the airbrushed tissue to dry completely, I cut manageable sized squares out of it. These were then sliced into strips about 1.5mm wide using a new X-acto blade and a metal ruler on a glass cutting surface.

Next, I cut pieces of the stiff gauze to the approximate size for the net on the model. Using tweezers, I then wove the tissue strips into the gauze net. The glue keeps the gauze threads connected to each other at their intersections, so the whole mess doesn't unravel on you. This is, needless to say, a very tedious process. A few square inches of net literally took several hours to weave with the scrim. However, the results were worth it, I think.

Once I had the scrim / hessian strips woven into the net, I then attached the netting to the model using thread and wire ties. Rather like rigging a model ship, use pieces of thread or wire which are long enough to handle and tie, then trim close to the knots. I pre-painted the fine copper wire a rust color, too, before using it to secure the net.

Once the net was secured to the model, I used a wet paper towels to blot and saturate the net / tissue and restore its flexibility and induce natural sags. The net / tissue can be manipulated to get folds and drapes while it is still wet. I used a bit more of the Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement to add some body and stiffness to the tissue strips, too. (The Woodland Scenics Scenic Cement is basically a PVA-type glue, pre-thinned with a wetting agent added. Once dry, it can be "reactivated" by ordinary water. Its main advantages are that it's pre-mixed and it dries dead flat. Very handy stuff.)

As the net started to dry, I used small scissors to trim it to shape around the edges. Finally, I over-sprayed the dry netting with a glaze mixed with Tamiya Buff, Clear, and X-20 thinner to tone down the color intensity and get harmony with the rest of the weathering. I also touched up the rusty wire where the paint chipped off of it.

If (when) I do this again, I'll try to weave the scrim into the netting using more prototypical patterns (called the "Greek Key" by my friend Keith). Also, using scrim strips a bit narrower than 1.5mm might help achieve the "tattered" look of most of the real nets.

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