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Armor/AFV: Axis - WWII
Armor and ground forces of the Axis forces during World War II.
Hosted by Darren Baker
DML StuG IV Early Production Blog
wbill76
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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 12:54 PM UTC
Ever since this kit was released at the end of 2009 I've been wanting to get to it and things finally worked out to allow me to build the StuG IV. I had to wait a little while for the Atak zimmerit to be available since this kit definitely needs zim to be accurate and other projects got in the way in the meantime but now this one's finally getting its due. I'm building it mostly OOB with the exception of the added zim and replacing the static Magic tracks with the MK workable SK-17 tracks.



I did things a little differently and built up the MK tracks right at the outset instead of waiting until later in the build. I had some time on my hands while my previous build project was finishing up so I took full advantage of it and assembled two runs of 96 links each and will add the extra links 3-4 links I'll need for the full run later when I can test for fit and sag. Before committing that far, I assembled the kit sprockets and tested them with a short run of MK links just to be sure everything would play nice.

I also managed to complete today the rest of the elements called for in Step 1 which included the assembly of the idlers. I opted for the cast-type idler and added the PE inserts as called for in the instructions. I also opted for the simple design steel return rollers for no other reason than they had fewer clean-up points vs. the type with the reinforcing ribs. All 32 of the road wheel halves were removed from the sprues and cleaned up. The rear halves all had some minor flash on the back where they mount to the suspension arms so each one had to be cleaned up with a sharp #11 blade. Each road wheel half also had a mold seam that needed to be removed, easily accomplished with a sanding stick although somewhat time consuming due to the number of parts involved.



That's as far as things got but the build is underway! More progress to come for sure.
Tarok
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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 01:52 PM UTC
Looking forward to following your progress again, Bill

Do we get to see a base and possibly figure from you this time?

R~

p.s. you know I'm going to keep hassling you about a base and figure until you do one
jimz66
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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 02:35 PM UTC
Great to see you back over here Bill, now I know you are starting a new project I need to check out the finished Nashorne.
gremlinz
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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 02:41 PM UTC
I'll be following this, I've got one of these to build but have been putting it off while I contemplate the best way to do the zimmerit so I'm interested to see how the Atak set comes out.
shopkin4
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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 03:11 PM UTC
Bill. was this the build on the cover of finescale? definitely seems familiar
wbill76
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Posted: Sunday, March 14, 2010 - 03:30 PM UTC
Rudy, wouldn't expect anything less from you, happy to have you along for the ride!

James, Dean, thanks for your interest as well!

Sean, the one you're thinking of is the StuG III G not the StuG IV. I can understand the confusion though, the StuG IV is essentially a StuG III G casemate married up to a Pz IV hull and voila! StuG IV.
wbill76
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 10:06 AM UTC
More progress has been made on the StuG front from last time and I continued on with Step 2 in the instructions. This step is a fairly simple step as it deals with the details on the rear hull plate prior to its installation into the hull. There are two small bolts on the top edge that need to be removed as they were the fastening points for the retention bands on the auxiliary turret traverse motor exhaust that wasn't fitted to the StuG IVs. You have to orient yourself carefully with the diagram to be sure you're removing the right bolts but otherwise this is no problem. The option of the square or round blanking plate for where the exhaust would have exited the hull is provided but since the Atak zim set has the square cutout, I went with that one. The tow point was assembled and installed as well to round things out.



Step 3 deals with the lower hull tub and the first order of business is to remove part of the stiffening ribs molded in place in the middle of the tub. Since the tub is a standard Pz IV hull, these ribs have to go in order for the StuG casemate to install properly. These were cut down with sprue cutters and then the remainder removed with a micro chisel and sanded smooth. The small mold stubs along the top of the hull were also removed, these aren't called out in the instructions but experience with previous Smart Kit Pz IV family builds makes it old hat to know to remove them. The rear plate from Step 2 was installed along with the front nose plate. The nose plate also received the front tow points and the openings for the tow pins had to be slightly opened up with a round needle file for the pins to fit properly but everything else worked as designed. The front portions of the final drive housings were added as well to complete the step.



Step 4 begins work on the suspension components, adding the final drive housings to either side as well as the two-part rubber bump stops and the mount points for the suspension bogeys. The rear tow hooks are also added in this step. The Atak zim set provides single panels for the lower hull and additional small strips for the areas around the final drive housings, making it pretty straightforward to add the zim to these areas. The Atak panels required some minor trimming on the openings for the return roller mounts as well as some adjustments around a couple of the bump stops but otherwise fit very well to the hull. I glued the large panels in place with Gator Grip glue to allow for adjustments and some work time and then followed that up with regular Testors liquid glue around the edges. The capillary action pulled the liquid glue into the small spaces left between the panel and the hull and made for a nice tight join. On the smaller panels I just used the liquid glue approach due to their small size and tight spaces. I also added the front hull zim panels at this stage as well using the same methods. There is a little bit of a raised area present around the tops of the final drive housings, this will get trimmed down once the glacis plate is fitted to provide for a seamless join.







Step 5 returns to the rear hull plate and installs the idler mounts as well as the exhaust. The Atak set provides multiple small panels to properly zim this area which makes it much easier to work around the complex surfaces vs. using a single large panel with a lot of cutouts. These panels were installed with liquid glue due to their small size. The instructions do have some confusion/error in the parts call-out for the bases of the idler mounts. In the small sub-assembly diagram, they refer to parts B13/12 but in the main diagram they are labelled B15/B14. The B sprue actually includes 3 different styles of idler mount and the front page of the instructions has all but the B13/12 combination marked as "not for use". However in checking reference photos, the style presented for B15/14 are seen on the "early" model StuGs that this kit covers so I opted for those. It's also important to install parts B2/B3 before you add the bases for the idler mounts as they form part of the attachment surface for the bases and it's much easier to add them first vs. later. I also added the starter crank access pipe and cap at this point before installing the muffler due to the tight spaces involved.



Rounding out Step 5 is the muffler/exhaust assembly. This consists of 9 parts all by itself and the fit tolerances to the hull are pretty tight especially with the exhaust pipes and their curved armored trays. I needed to trim back a little on the Atak strips around where the pipes install since the Atak arrangement doesn't take into account the fact that the armored trays need to make contact with the hull. Some careful work with the sharp tip of a #11 blade fixed that problem and the muffler/exhaust was installed.



Next up will be the glacis and adding the rest of the suspension components.
pseudorealityx
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 10:15 AM UTC
Nice start Bill!

Is the ATAK zimmerit a styrene? What I had read previously made me think it was a resin, and would have to be glued using 2 part epoxy, superglue, or the like. Being that you used liquid cement in places, why use the gator glue at all?
metooshelah
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 10:27 AM UTC
following with interest. nice build so far! keep on posting
wbill76
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 12:20 PM UTC

Quoted Text

Nice start Bill!

Is the ATAK zimmerit a styrene? What I had read previously made me think it was a resin, and would have to be glued using 2 part epoxy, superglue, or the like. Being that you used liquid cement in places, why use the gator glue at all?



Jesse, the Atak zim is indeed resin but cast in paper-thin sheets. I used the Gator Glue for the larger panels because of the need to avoid air pockets forming under the resin and allow for some adjustments in the panels, i.e. worktime. You can use 2-part epoxy or CA with them but each of those presents different challenges as the case may be.

The liquid glue is used only after I've got the panels in place and I'm happy with their position using the Gator Grip since once the liquid glue is applied it will start to interact with the styrene of the kit parts very rapidly. What the liquid glue does is it slightly softens the styrene kit part surface and when you apply pressure the resin will "stick" to this softer layer and bond that way. Since there's a relatively large contact surface area between the panel and the styrene parts, the liquid glue approach works very well as a supplementary glue approach along with the Gator Grip. I don't recommend it for heavier resin parts that have narrow surface area though as the bond won't be strong enough to hold it under those conditions. HTH!

Matan, glad to have you along for the ride, thanks for the comments!
pseudorealityx
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 12:34 PM UTC

Quoted Text



The liquid glue is used only after I've got the panels in place and I'm happy with their position using the Gator Grip since once the liquid glue is applied it will start to interact with the styrene of the kit parts very rapidly. What the liquid glue does is it slightly softens the styrene kit part surface and when you apply pressure the resin will "stick" to this softer layer and bond that way. Since there's a relatively large contact surface area between the panel and the styrene parts, the liquid glue approach works very well as a supplementary glue approach along with the Gator Grip. I don't recommend it for heavier resin parts that have narrow surface area though as the bond won't be strong enough to hold it under those conditions. HTH!



Do you sand the back of the zim to give the softened plastic a rough surface to bite into at all?

I'll be attempting my first AM zim application in the coming months, so just trying to get an idea. Thanks!
pzcreations
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 12:45 PM UTC
I'll be watching this one for sure.. I just got the kit in a few days ago..and Im also doing a build review of the Orange Hobby sets for this kit. so,I'll remember to check this when building the kit ..thanks for posting this by the way.
wbill76
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 01:16 PM UTC
Jesse,

No need to rough up or prep the back surface as the smoother surface actually works better to attract the liquid glue and adhere. Same thing with the Gator Grip glue.

Tim, sounds like a fun project! My pleasure in terms of posting the blog, hope it's helpful for you when you get to yours.
panamadan
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 03:37 PM UTC
Bill,
Just talking about this kit and the new ATAK set and here it is!
I'll be watching!
Dan
exer
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Posted: Saturday, March 20, 2010 - 11:28 PM UTC
Nice work Bill, the Atak Zimmerit looks really good
wbill76
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Posted: Sunday, March 21, 2010 - 03:43 AM UTC
Thanks Dan and Pat, appreciate the comments!
wbill76
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Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010 - 03:48 PM UTC
I had originally meant to post the updates yesterday but got sidetracked by some odds and ends so the update is today but really was a culmination of the weekend activity!

Picking up from the previous update, I worked on Step 6 which calls for the construction and installation of the glacis plate, the spare track run at the front, and the suspension elements.

The glacis plate was replaced with the Atak-supplied zim resin part which is a perfect match for the kit part right down to the molded in locator holes and cutouts in the zim holes for the track holder parts. The holes were opened up from the underside using a # 72 finger drill and slightly enlarged with the tip of a sharp # 11 blade but the track and holders will be installed later after painting.

The Atak set also includes resin brake access hatches and armored vent covers which were added to the glacis plate with CA gel. The plate was then matched up with the styrene shelf that will support the edge of the top deck plate extension on the casemate and the plate glued to the hull with CA gel. The Atak set also includes a small strip of zim to create a seamless pattern with the hull nose plate as a nice added bonus. To complete the step, I also installed the suspension bogeys to each side using regular glue but left off the wheels, sprockets, idlers, and return rollers for later when it comes time to install the tracks.



Continuing on to Step 7, this deals with the assembly of the engine deck. First up was the rear plate of the deck which I decided to zim prior to installation to the rest of the deck by adding the appropriate Atak panel. The panel needed some modifications in order to accommodate the three spare track links mounted to the rear, so I glued the panel in place first, then drilled out the locator holes from the other side of the styrene part and then trimmed away the required amount of the panel to allow the links to fit correctly. The links themselves were left off for now but I did install the mount hooks for the tow cables.



The rest of the deck was assembled as per the instructions and the zim panels added to the side of the air intakes. These panels have the locator holes provided for mounting the gun cleaning rods on the one side and the shovel on the other which will make it much easier to add those items later on.



That brought me to Step 8 which deals with the fenders and their various gear. The instructions would have you install everything to the fenders and then add the fenders to the hull in Step 9 but that runs a high risk of potential damage and/or complications so I left all the tools and gear off for now. I did add the front mud flaps and the requisite zim panels for them but had to customize the panels provided a little bit for the extension above the hinges. The panel the Atak set provides isn't quite the right size for some reason so I trimmed it and used the bits and scraps left over to rig up a suitable coverage based on reference photos. The panels for the rear mud flaps required only a small amount of trimming for them to fit correctly and I left them separate until after the fenders were installed. I've learned from previous Pz IV family builds that it's better to install them this way due to the tight way they fit in relation to the rear plate.



Step 9 installs assembles and installs the floor of the fighting compartment and, for some reason, DML chose not to mold any sort of pattern into the floor even though it's a custom made set of parts for the StuG IV. I corrected this by adding some strips of generic non-skid pattern PE plate from Lion Roar. It's not perfect but will do the trick for the small amount of space that will be visible through the open loader's hatch since I want to display this one with the top MG deployed for a little variety.

The fenders were installed and I discovered an irony with the zim pattern...the beautiful pattern at the front of the hull around the final drive creates a clearance issue with the front mud flaps so I ended up having to trim and sand most of it down in order to get the fenders to sit properly. DML kept the engineering of the fenders the same from their non-zim Pz IV kits so there's no margin of error for the slight thickness created by the pattern...even though Atak stayed true to accuracy with their design, the physics don't allow for it. It's not a big deal since the area in question isn't visible but is something to take note of if you are using the Atak set on your build.

The rear mud flaps were then added along with the tension springs and the PE reflector for the left flap. I also added the PE air intake cover flaps and added the wing nuts using parts A58 that are never called out in the instructions but are there for use if you know where to look for them. The wing nuts are tall and needed their posts to be trimmed down to look right but they add a nice little bit of detail. What's more, they provide you with more than double that you need so these are also handy to keep around in the spares bin.



Next up will be assembling the gun and working on some of the various interior details.
bravo2zero
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Posted: Monday, March 22, 2010 - 04:38 PM UTC
I have yet to indulge myself in adding zimmerit onto my assembled tiger's, panther's or panzer III's but will follow this built closely as the wip steps shown here is very helpful.

jimz66
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Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 01:05 AM UTC
Looking GREAT Bill. Don't stop no.
alfa10
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Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 01:22 AM UTC
I was thinking of starting a new thread to ask about techniques for gluing AM zimmerit, but all of my questions have been answered here. Thanks Bill, looking good, will follow with interest.
metooshelah
#011
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Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 01:48 AM UTC
looks great Bill.
question: how did you buy the ATAK zim? seems to me it's very delicate and fragile and ordering it by mail might be bit risky
wbill76
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Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 02:26 AM UTC
Bravo2zero, Jimz, alfa10, thanks for the comments and glad this log is helpful for you.

Matan, I usually get my Atak stuff from Jadar Hobbies in Poland. The zim panels come on a single sheet and aren't separate pieces and have a very sturdy cardboard backing and packaged inside a zip-lock bag along with any resin pieces that are included in their own little additional bag. I've never had a problem with ordering and recieving them by mail. Considering that it travelled from Europe to the US via normal postal service mail, I'd say you have nothing to worry about in terms of potential damage.
bill_c
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MODEL SHIPWRIGHTS
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Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 04:22 AM UTC
As you know from our PMs, I'm very interested in this topic and will be taking notes!
wbill76
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Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2010 - 06:46 AM UTC
Had a feeling this one would be of interest to you Bill! Glad to have you along for the ride.
wbill76
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Posted: Saturday, March 27, 2010 - 03:36 PM UTC
A very productive session today with a lot of pics to go with it so I'll just dive right in.

Step 10 begins the work on the main gun and is actually organized in three sub-steps to complete the full step. The first sub-step assembles the breech end of the gun along with the recoil guards. This assembly goes together fairly easily although you do have to give some thought as to the order of things. I started with the front halves E3/E2 and slowly worked my way backwards. The two part breech has a solid fit but there is a slight seam that results that has to be carefully sanded to create the unified block look.



The next sub-assembly deals with the external portion of the gun and the mantlet. The instructions would have you glue the barrel into the mantlet at this point but this could cause problems if you aren't careful since the base of the barrel has a D-shaped tab that is supposed to fit into the neck of the breech half of the gun and you don't join these together until Step 14 when it's time to install the gun and mantlet into the casemate, so I left them separate for now as a precaution.



The third sub-assembly is the creation of the gunner's side of the gun mount. This adds 7 parts to the gun mount and then the step is completed by joining the two halves of the mount together. If you follow the instructions and don't apply any glue to the trunnion pins, the gun will remain able to elevate and has enough friction in the fit to hold its position without glue. I also added parts E18 and E19 to complete the base at this point even though those aren't show as installed until Step 14, it makes sense to add them now in preparation for painting. Step 10 also calls for the assembly of the holder for the two "C" towing hooks but I put that off until later since they aren't actually installed for some time in the instructions.



Step 11 deals with the inserts for the interior sides of the casemate structure and the first order of business is to modify them to conform to the StuG IV vs. the StuG III G hull. This requires that the lower portion be removed, I did this using sprue cutters and then trimmed/sanded the area smooth as needed. In the pic below you can see one modified and one still in its original state to get an idea of how much needs to be removed.



Once that's taken care of, the radio gear that goes in the side sponsons is assembled and added. To save on plastic, DML designed these as multi-part assemblies that are hollow on the inside and the faces of the radios have some very nice raised detail as a result. Since I will only be displaying the loader's hatches open, I drilled out holes with a #72 finger drill in that side's radios for a little wiring to be added later on. This step also calls for the construction of the spare wheel box and installation of the wheels but I will leave that for later after I get the casemate installed and prior to paint.



Step 12 is a big step, it deals with the casemate itself and since I'm adding the zim, required a lot of attention in that department as well. I started by removing the two bolts on either side that aren't indicated until Step 15 that need to be removed to allow the schurzen rails to mount properly. It's much easier removing them now vs. with the casemate installed as directed in the instructions. I then added the zim panels starting with the commander's side and working my way around, again using the same combo of Gator Grip glue and liquid glue as needed. The zim panels did not include cut outs for the lifting eyes on the casemate sides so those had to be glued directly to the panel using CA gel. I used Squadron white putty to fill the gaps between the panels where needed.

The radio inserts were also added and the driver's hood assembled and installed as directed. The zim panel for the left side needed to have a cut-out created to take the lifting eye on that side, easily done with a #11 blade. I also removed the small molded on pistol port to allow the panel to fit properly and replaced the right side bolted-on armor plate with the resin piece provided in the Atak set. I also had to do some hunting for the small triangular pieces that install into the gun opening. The instructions label these as parts K39/40 but no such parts are present on the K sprue. They are in fact on the G sprue and are parts G23/24. I also opted for the PE version of the C-hook holder and installed that in front of the casemate vs. on the right side fender...this piece of gear moved around on different vehicles so the choice is up to you on where to place it although that choice isn't indicated until Step 14.



For the panel on the left side of the casemate, a little bit more work was needed. Since this side receives the 2 3-link spare track holders, I had to create cut-outs for the bases of those holders in the panel. This required some very careful cutting and measuring to get it just right since the cuts had to go almost to the base of the panel but not quite.



Last but not least, I added the rear panel. It's important to install this first before adding the exhaust fan cover or the antenna mounts due to the size of the cutouts provided. The Atak set does include a small circular piece just for the armored cover so it too was zimmed and then installed with CA gel to the panel. I cut off the small antenna stubs molded into the antenna bases and drilled out mount holes with a #72 finger drill to allow for installation of RB Models 2m brass antennas later on to complete the step.

On a side note, this step also presents the option of installing an angled rain guard, part K5, but this isn't an accurate feature for the time-frame that the other features of the kit represents so I left it off. This, along with other parts marked as not for use, are appropriate for a later StuG IV so the hint is there that DML will likely issue a "mid" or "late" production variant some time in the future.



With that step out of the way, I could now paint and detail the interior in anticipation of installing all the different elements into the lower hull. I applied a coat of Testors Model Master enamel Panzer Interior Buff by airbrush to the gun and various interior portions of the fighting compartment that would be visible through the loader's hatch. I detailed the breech with non-buffing Metalizer Gunmetal, dry brushed some Steel, and used enamel Silver for the chromed breech block surfaces. I applied a wash of Raw Umber and then dry brushed more of the Panzer Interior Buff over that to create a weathered appearance.

I also added a spent shell basket courtesy of a spare part left over from a DML Pz III N build. After playing around with it, I can see why DML didn't include a shell catcher basket in this kit...the dimensions on the interior don't allow for one to be properly attached to the extended holder arms provided and still allow the gun to elevate properly...which is a big issue due to the way you have to install the gun in order for everything to fit properly...more on that in a little bit. I just wanted the basket there to occupy the blank space and the way I have it installed it would interfere with the gun recoil but is a compromise vs. not having anything present at all. As I mentioned, it's not possible to do this accurately so it's the best possible solution under the circumstances. I didn't bother with painting/detailing the gunner's side since after a test fit with the roof and the gun in place nothing from that side is visible anyhow.



For the rest of the interior, I painted the floor with my own custom mix of Red Oxide primer by hand and weathered it by dry brushing enamel Steel, stippling on more Red Oxide, then stippling some Raw Sienna for a slightly muddy/dirty appearance....even though most of it won't be seen once the roof is on, it's there if you look! I also detailed the radios and added some wiring in the form of 0.5mm diameter solder installed with CA gel and painted with Flat Black. One key detail that the kit doesn't provide that is very prominent/visible on the real vehicle is the MP40 mounted on the rear wall so I added that using a left-over gun out of the spares bin and rigged up a simple square bracket from a spare Eduard PE fret. The part was about twice the size I needed it to be so I cut it down and re-glued the necessary folding parts to reduce the size, then glued it to the wall with CA gel and voila! MP40 and holder. There should be a 2nd smaller holder for the barrel to achieve 100% accuracy but I couldn't really make that one work out after a couple of attempts so abandoned it in favor of just using the one.







Step 13 deals with the exterior components of the roof including the commander's cupola, so I skipped that for the moment and proceeded directly to Step 14. This is an incredibly tricky step as it installs the gun into the fighting compartment, installs the casemate to the hull, and installs the exterior gun barrel and mantlet to the gun...and also adds the roof (which I haven't finished yet). What makes this tricky is that there's a very specific order that you have to do all these things in or it will not work properly...and there's only ONE way it will all work...so I studied this very carefully and did lots of dry-fitting before committing to glue. So, here goes...this is the order you have to do it in:

1) You must install the mantle to the breech portion of the gun
2) You must then elevate the gun to it's highest possible elevation which in turn depresses the recoil guard at the base to it's lowest point
3) You must then slip the elevated gun, from the bottom, up over the bottom lip of the opening in the casemate. This is a tough thing to do and you have to be patient because the tolerances around the mantlet are tight but if you carefully work at it, you can get it all to fit. Don't force it though and make absolutely sure the mantlet glue has set up properly to avoid an accidental separation of the mantlet from the breech.
4) You must then place the casemate and the gun together onto the lower hull, which means you have to simultaneously glue the base of the gun into the mount plate and glue the casemate to its mount points on the fender. Test the gun elevation carefully as pressure on the mantlet front end can cause the base to lift up from the mount plate which can cause major problems if it comes all the way undone.
5) After you have this all glued in place, you then add part C12 to the top of the casemate gun opening and that essentially secures the gun in place permanently.

If you pull all that off successfully, you get a very nice solid installation of the gun and casemate sans the roof. I did encounter one small fit problem with the front where the extension plate meets the glacis and I'm not sure if this is the result of the replacement using the Atak plate or not, but the gap that resulted was substantial enough that I had to use some styrene rod to fill it vs. putty. I placed a length of rod, applied liquid glue, and used a squared off toothpick end to gently prod and push it down into the gap and resolve the issue.

Last but not least, I did have a small issue with the front mud flaps wanting to flare out at a slight angle so I used some CA gel to glue the bottom corners securely to the hull side just over the final drive housings to solve that little irritation.



I told you it was a productive day! Next up will be the completion of the roof and cupola, installation of some of the details on the fenders and other miscellaneous items and then it will be time for paint!