Andy has built his new Mk. I Male WWI Heavy Battle Tank in 35th scale from Takom. This tank looks like an exciting proposition as it comes with a lot of extras to the kit and seeing what Andy will do with them gets our mouth-watering. Let’s see what he thought of the plastic before he starts painting and weathering the kit.
Mk. I Male WWI Heavy Battle Tank
Kit Number# 2031
Scale - 1/35th
Price - £41.42, ¥7,740, US$63.11, €58.59 from Hobbylink Japan
Part II – Construction Review:
We had a good look at what Takom had given us in their new Mk. I Male kit late last year, but with the Christmas festivities over, it's time to get stuck in to the build. A brief note before starting; the plastic in my example had a noticeable coating of silicone mould release, so it's a good idea to give everything a wash in warm soapy water before starting.
Step one gets underway with the construction of the driver's cab. This is built up from four side panels and the roof plate. Despite the various angles, the fit here was excellent and the completed cab dropped perfectly into place on the hull roof plate. If you're fitting the forward machine gun, you'll need to add it now, as it's fitted from the inside and isn't accessible once the hull's together. On mine, I also opened up the vision slits using a fine drill bit.
There is however an issue with the accuracy of the cab. Unlike the later Mk.IV, the Mk.I had a wide cab that extended close to the edge of the hull. The cab that Takom have included, although it's been re-tooled to have the details of the Mk.I, is still the same narrow version used on the Mk.IV.
Although incorrect, once the tracks are fitted, the discrepancy isn't too obvious. Possibly an aftermarket company will step in with a replacement resin cab. One other area which is questionable is the cab roof. The two holes in the roof plate for the periscopes have a raised lip and bolt detail around them, whereas photos seem to show a flat roof with two flush holes and no bolts.
I elected to leave the moulded detail in place, but it could easily be sanded off to better replicate the photograph. With the cab complete, the next step covers the construction of the main hull. This is built up flat pack style from six main panels, with the driver’s cab added to the top. The instructions show that the panels should simply be attached to one another, but I was a little concerned that it would be hard to keep everything square.
Instead, I used one of the track frames as a jig to line up the panels at the correct angles, before flowing liquid cement along the joints. Each joint was allowed to fully dry before adding the next panel. I didn't glue the panels to the frame at this point. It's simply acting as a guide to keep everything aligned. If you're building the version with the sponson crane, don't forget to open up the eight holes in the hull roof plate.
With the hull built up, it was time to get the track frames together. These have quite a lot of internal structure to add before the two sides of the frame can be joined. Pretty much all of this framing is invisible on the completed model, but it's good to see that Takom have none the less fully detailed the parts. If you want to model the tank with a thrown track, then the internal detail will be there to see.
Before the track frames can be joined, the road wheels need to be added. Being a WWI rhomboid tank, that mean a lot of them. 108 wheels in total, plus the idlers and drive sprockets. But, again being a WWI rhomboid, none of them will be seen, so a few short cuts can be taken with clean up. I simply snipped the parts from the sprue, leaving as little of the gate as possible, glued the wheels to the axles and left them at that. There really isn't any point in spending more time on them, unless they are going to be visible as part of a damaged tank.
The instructions recommend leaving the wheels unglued while assembling the track frames. This isn't really necessary, and lining up 27 individual axles into their corresponding holes, while cementing the two track frames together would test anyone's patience. Instead, I glued the axles onto one of the frames and left them to fully dry before adding the other frame. Don't forget to add the extra road wheel to the upper rear of the track frame, as it will be partially visible through the small cut-out in the inner frame.
With the wheels solidly in place, the outer track frames were added, trapping the sprocket and idler in place. These two were left unglued to freely rotate, but if you choose to glue them, like the rest of the wheels, it won't affect the final build, apart from not allowing the tracks to rotate when fitted. That's not a big issue, unless you were planning on rolling it around the floor when it's finished.
Now we move on to the sponsons. Like the hull, these are built up from flat panels, and again like the hull, I used the track frames as an alignment jig while assembling them. These were left in place overnight to fully set.
Fit was again excellent. The only part that needed any adjustment was the narrow angled plate that forms the lower corner of the sponson. This needed sanding slightly to get a snug fit. There was a hairline gap at the rear edge of the panel, but that was the only area that required a smear of filler.
The two six pounder naval guns feature very nicely detailed breeches. I left quite a few of the smaller details off, as none of them are seen when the guns are installed, but if you decide to make use of the sponson trolley and crane, then the kit features a very accurate interior to the sponson. Unfortunately, leaving one of the sponsons detached will reveal the completely empty interior to the hull.
The two gun shields are split down the centre and the resulting join needed a little filler and some sanding to get a smooth finish. If you decide to fit the full sponson interior, the shields can be left to freely rotate as the guns are mounted on poly-caps on a support frame inside the sponson. As I wasn't fitting the full interior and I wasn't too bothered about having the guns poseable, I glued the two shields in place.
The access doors on the rear of the sponsons (and also the rear door on the hull) have solid moulded handles. These were carefully sliced off, and replaced with thin copper wire.
I wanted to be able to paint the guns separately, then install them at the end and to allow this, I also needed to leave the sponsons separate from the hull. The only attachment point for the sponsons on the track frames are the four corners of the cut-out. To give a bit more surface area for them to sit onto, I added some fillets of plastic card to the inner edges of the cut-out.
I could now bring the track frames and the main hull together and finally start to see the Mk.I take shape. There's always a concern when joining major assemblies together that something will be slightly out of alignment, resulting in the tank not sitting squarely on the ground. No such problems here. Everything lined up correctly and the frames sat strait, with no rock or wobble.
I could now add some of the smaller details to the hull. The first was the shield for the hydraulic jack used to raise and lower the steering tail. I'm building the Palestine version here, which didn't carry the tail, but period photos show that the the shield was still fitted. Whether the jack itself was in place is unclear, so I left that off. The rear plate of the shield features a block where the tail would attach but this is absent on photos of the Palestine Mk.I's.
Rather than slice off the block and risk damaging the remaining details, I decided to scratch build a replacement. This was simply made from a rectangle of plastic card, cut to the size of the kit part. The positions of the rivets were marked, and these were added using the spares provided on the kit sprue.
The result was a much better match to the period photos. The bracket for the rear lamp was added using an off-cut from an old sheet of photo-etch.
There's very little PE included with the kit and most of it is used with the sponson trolley and crane. However, you do get three, very nice exhaust baffles, which add a nice touch of refinement to the upper hull.
The two headlights that mount on the front of the hull have been moulded solid, with no clear parts included for the lenses. I do think this is a bit of a shame, especially as the parts don't even have the shape of the lens moulded on.
I managed to find a couple of suitably sized clear lenses in the spares box. The lights were hollowed out with the tip of a large drill bit, leaving a small rim, to which the lenses can be attached after painting.
Before the lights were attached, a short length of fuse wire added to represent the cable. A small hole was drilled in the hull plate directly behind the light, and the other end of the wire inserted into it when the lights were glued in place.
Lastly for the tank we've got the tracks. These are the same click link tracks that Takom have included with most of their WWI British tank kits, and they're some of the best out there. There's a small moulding pip on each link which is dealt with by a quick pass with a sanding stick, then they simply click together. Despite needing 90 links per side, it only took about 20 minutes to get them cleaned up and clicked together. Once they are together, they're really quite strong, and will stand quite a bit of rough handling, and have enough give to allow them to be easily attached to the frames after painting.
That concludes the build of the Mk.I, but that's not all you get in the box. Depending on which version you choose to build, Takom have included a sponson crane and accompanying trolley, which are used with the Palestine version, and also a steering tail for use with the western front options. The steering tail is well detailed, with poly-caps fitted in the wheel hubs, allowing them to be removed for painting. If you're adding the tail, you'll need to install it at the same time as you add the track frames to the hull, as the tail needs to be trapped between the two frames.
The sponson trolley is also very well detailed, and matches well to the example displayed at the Bovington Tank Museum. Like the steering tail, it also features poly-caps in the wheels, the front wheels being poseable via an articulated bogie. I further detailed mine by adding a woodgrain texture by scoring the plastic with the tip of a knife blade.
Even if you forgot to drill out the holes for the crane, it can still be attached to the upper hull. The pulley features some very delicate PE brackets that need a little care when bending to shape and attaching, but look very nice when in place. Brass chain is also supplied to add to the pulleys, although for my build I'm going to place the crane frames and pulleys on the trolley.
So that's the Mk.I built and ready for paint. It's been a very enjoyable build and, despite what seemed like a large number of parts at the start, the construction was actually very strait forward, helped by the excellent fit throughout. The narrow drivers cab is a bit of a disappointment, but isn't enough to spoil what is otherwise a great kit. Hopefully, it'll look even better in colour and that'll be coming up in part 3
And as a brief teaser to part 3, we've been kindly supplied with some new decal releases by Denis Anikanov of New Penguin Decals. They've produced three sets for the male, female and the Palestine Mk.I's and I'll be reviewing these decals and using some for the build, so stay tuned.