Thursday, October 20

Done and "Dusted" - Andy Finishes Meng's 35th Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank (Part V)

Andrew Moore has already shown us his 35th scale Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank kit from MENG in an insightful four-part build review series - Now that he has finished the kit see, how he sowed it all together in the last of his  “Big Cat Diaries.” 

Leopard 2A7 German Main Battle Tank (Part IV)
Manufacturer - Meng
Kit Number - TS-027
Scale - 1/35th
Product Link at Meng Models.
Price - £50, ¥6,560, US$65, €57 from Hobbylink Japan

Construction review Pt. IV

"Big Cat Diary Pt. V"
Okay, with the painting finished, it's time to start on the real weathering now. The German Army like to put their Leopards through their paces on exercises, and they generally come out looking distinctly muddy. I wanted to show a progressive build-up of mud and dirt, with heavier layers on the lower hull going through to a lighter, dusty look on the upper surfaces. To achieve the bulk of the dust layers I used the Abt. 502 oils that are now available in handy box sets. At this point, the Leopard is looking rather clean and innocent, and doesn't know what's about to hit it!
First off, a pale mud tone was mixed from the oils, and thinned to a heavy wash. This was applied all over the upper surfaces and allowed to pool around details and panel lines. Due to the longer working time of the oils, you can adjust the build-up to give a more natural appearance.
The Abteilung oils dry to a nice matte finish and are excellent for replicating this kind of dusty look. You can see how the bright contrast colours of the camo are really starting to tone down and look far more realistic now. It's important to keep the dust effects subtle as you don't want to completely obscure the paint finish. It's also important to think about where the dirt would naturally accumulate, and apply the heaviest layers there.
To further build up the dust coat, AK's Light Dust Deposits wash was applied. This wash has particles mixed into it which leave a very convincing dirt encrusted look. A side benefit of the enamel based wash is that it helps seal the previous oil layers.
The front and rear of the hull, together with the running gear were given a misted over-spray of a light mud coloured paint before any heavier mud coats were applied. 
Some of this was sprayed sparingly over the upper hull as well, to blend out any patchiness from the oil and enamel washes.
The turret too received the dust treatment, but here it was far more restrained, concentrating on the sides and outer edges, and those areas where the crew would climb aboard. It's crucial to always keep checking photographic reference while applying any weathering to see which areas get dirtiest and which remain relatively clean.
Before adding any further mud to the hull, I decided to turn my attention to the tracks and wheels. The tracks had been primed with the AK black primer at the same time as the hull and turret. To start the painting process I masked off a line on the inner tracks where the main wheels would run and polish up the steel links, then gave the tracks a coat of AK Rusty Tracks mixed with a little Dry Light Mud, both from AK's Tracks and Wheels set (AK 557).
After that, the rubber blocks on the outer face of the links were painted with a mix of satin black and rubber tires, again from the Tracks and Wheels set.
With the main painting done, I peeled off the masking on the inner side of the tracks and was a little surprised to find that some of the black primer came away with the tape. This wasn't something I would have expected as the primer had been on for a couple of weeks prior to the tape being applied. Not a big deal as I was intending to over-paint the area in a dark steel colour, but I would have expected the primer to be a bit more durable.
When the tracks had been given a dry brush with steel, some of the areas where the primer had lifted still showed but, if anything, it added to the worn and polished look, and since more weathering would be added anyway, I left them at that.
The outer sides of the tracks were given a heavy wash of the AK Dust Deposits mixed with some light earth coloured pigments. Once that was dry, the tracks were flipped over and the inner sides were given the same wash.
The wheels had been base coated in NATO green, then the tyres painted in the same mix used for the rubber track pads followed by a dry brush with straight AK720 Rubber Tires. 
The wheels were then coated with the same enamel and pigment wash I'd used on the tracks.
Moving back to the hull now, and it was time to get some heavy mud on. If you want to get a real encrusted mud look, it's important to get some texture into the mix you use. For this mud mix, I combined plaster, very fine sand and dried garden soil, and to bind it all together a little AK earth wash and some good old Humbrol enamel.
The dry ingredients were sieved to remove any large lumps, then thoroughly mixed, as any unmixed lumps of plaster will stand out like the proverbial sore thumb when the mud mix is dry.
The enamels were added to the dry mix along with enamel thinner to get a thick sloppy consistency. This was then liberally daubed over the lower hull and running gear, having made sure to mask off the axles first. You don't need to be too neat with this step, but equally don't go wild, and try to keep the effect looking in scale. You can also flick the mixture on with a stiff brush, but be careful to cover any areas that you don't want the mud to cover.
Once dry, the mix gives a very realistic caked mud look. You can see where the muddy mix was flicked onto the front and rear of the hull to leave a more diffuse edge. 
 The same mix was also applied to the wheels.
Damper areas of mud were simulated by over-painting the previous mud layer with AK Dark Mud wash.
With the hull nicely dirty I could add the wheels and track runs. Since the Leopard has side skirts I didn't bother with the upper run, and simply glued the two ends of the tracks to the idler and drive sprocket.
After the side skirts had been added, I masked off the lower hull with a piece of card and used a variation of the muddy mix I used before to splatter the sides of the tank. This time I left out the plaster and sand I as didn't want the resulting mud to be too clumpy, replacing them with earth coloured pigments. The mixture was loaded onto a brush and was then blown over the sides of the model with a blast of air from an airbrush.
It's worth practising this technique against card, or an old model before doing it for real, and always remember to check photos of the real vehicle to see how mud gets distributed over the bodywork.
The last couple of details were now added to the model. Namely the rear-view mirrors with their funky mirrored sticker faces, and that pesky aerial that I'd knocked off earlier. Both of these had some light weathering to match them in with the rest of the tank.
The very last thing to do was add some contrast to the muddy weathering with some damp patches created with a mix of AK Fresh Mud and Wet Effects. This was brushed around the wheel hubs and the panel lines on the skirts, and anywhere else that looked like it would retain some dampness in the mud.
And that's the big cat finished. Meng has created a really first class kit with the Leopard 2A7. The parts fit was great, and the detailing is about the best I've seen on a model. The moveable suspension makes placing the model on contoured base very simple, and the working tracks links mean you can easily paint and weather the hull, then add the tracks right at the end. 

Some of the kit's details close up
There are quite a few Leopard kits on the market right now from an assortment of manufacturers but for me, this Meng's 2A7 is hands down the best of the lot.

Highly recommended.

Andy Moore

Construction review Pt. IV

The painting and weathering materials I used on this kit.
...And now a circle 'round the "Big Cat"

Thanks to Meng Models for sending this kit to make and to AK Interactive for the paint sets that Andy has used on this kit.
 AK Interactive for sending the paint sets and all the weathering gear you see used with this build 
 Abteilung 502 Oils for being able to use their oils on the build also, last but not least

Michael Shackleton of Leopard Workshop for supplying the aerial set used on this build