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Operation Tractable

Building and Painting the Figures
Building the crew figures started with adding a "bridge" to the turret interior to mount the figures on. This "bridge" was made from a piece of .040 plastic card and painted flat black. It was necessary to do this first to establish the critical vertical dimension which then determined how tall each figure would have to be.

As can be seen in the photos, the turret crew figures were modified with new arms made of twisted brass wire covered with two-part epoxy putty. New Hornet heads and hands were used on both. There was no precise step-by-step to get these figures posed correctly, but rather a back and forth dry-fitting process. The commander's head was modified using an Ultracast Mk I steel tank helmet with scratch-built head phones and an elastic chin strap added to the rear. His microphone was also scratched up with styrene bits. The wire leads were made from .010 diameter lead wire that is made for tying fly fishing lures.

A FGH beret badge was trimmed out of .005 plastic for the loader's hat.

The infantry figures were built pretty much stock in their poses. Again, I replaced the heads and hands with Hornet parts. I did substitute some of the equipment with Tamiya parts to reduce the "sameness" between them. Any necessary extra equipment straps were made from .005 plastic card. The weapons' slings were made from the same heavy aluminum foil that the tool tie-down straps were made from. Sling swivels (the metal loops that hold the slings to the weapons) were made from thin copper fuse wire.

The Bren gunner has a Hornet head with an Mk III steel helmet. The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division, being one of the original D-day assault units, was partially equipped with these. The use of the Mk III helmet was also more common than many modelers realize. Careful examination of wartime photos might reveal some surprises.

I begin painting figures by airbrushing Tamiya flat white as a primer. I follow this up by blocking in all the basic colors using acrylics. I either airbrush or hand paint these acrylic undercoats. When possible, I prefer the smooth airbrush applications, especially for the larger uniform areas and flesh tones. I paint the entire figure, to include all the details with acrylics. I vary the acrylic flesh colors to get some differences in the complexions of the figures.

On top of the dried acrylics, I use artist oil paints, starting with the face and hands. These areas get a wash made of burnt umber, most of which is removed using a brush dampened with mineral spirits. This is followed by flesh tones mixed with the oils. The large uniform areas come next, again, over painting the acrylic colors with oils. Generally, I start with the shadows and work out to the highlights. Details are painted next, with insignia usually last. I use more or less traditional wet-on-wet blending techniques with the oils.

I allow the figures to dry for a few days, and then give them a flat overcoat with Testor's Dull Coat reduced with ordinary lacquer thinner.

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