Friday, October 14

Read n’ Reviewed: Mike Rinaldi's TankART I German Armour (3rd edition)

With the original “TANKART 1 German Armor” no longer available in shops, Rinaldi Studio has gone back to the future & updated, expanded & refined the third print run of this, arguably the most popular books of the series. We thought we would take an extensive look in the book with several pictures & even more words in our review.

Read n’ Reviewed: TankART 1 German Armor (3rd Ed)
By Mike Rinaldi
(with Lester Plaskitt)
Published by Rinaldi Studio
288 pages in English
Special Lay-Flat Binding.
8 models inside w/ techniques & proficiencies guides
Price msrp $49USD ($40USD on sale right now) from the RSP Website

Why improve? I suppose as modellers, it is the whole reason we work so hard at our hobby. We want to get better at it, from the worst (or least practised) to the best, like a chef in the kitchen who always criticises his own cooking, modellers are hard on themselves, and always seem to think they could have done better next time.

This is my main reflection after reading the book I am reviewing today. It is the THIRD edition of Mike Rinaldi’s ground breaking “TankART I German Armour” book, that was originally released in 2012. I had already read and reviewed the first edition of the book on release way back then it seems. At the time I found that it was a real game-changer in the visual nature that the models were shown, the techniques that were on display and the way the story was told. It was, and still is, one of my favourite books in subject, style and model making empowerment that I own.
A lot has changed since 2012, there has been four issues of the TankART series, including a second reprint of the first German AFV edition which has also sold out, “TANKART 2 Allied Armor” then a “TANKART 3 Modern Armor” (now out of print) and a “TANKART 4 German Armor” (also OOP). The style of the books and some of the techniques has changed a little, and dare I say been updated since the series started. I am sure it is with that with that in mind, that Author Mike Rinaldi thought it was time for a spruce up on the third reprint of the daddy of them all - TankART Vol I “German Armour”.
Now I am not going dwell on any comparisons of these editions of reprinting to each other. I will note some of the changes that had I noticed, but past that, this is a straight book review. The original editions are out of print – not available in shops, and without this re-printing you would not be able to buy this book new anymore. The fact that the author added some extra content to this book for a third printing is surely a benefit to the reader and not a rip on current owners as some have whinged about. 

If you are reading this just to see what you missed out on, then I think you need to re-adjust your way of looking at things, maybe watch the news and see how bad life can be, then go outside and see how good life can be. Some comparison must be made, but only the smallest amount from this reviewer.
The book is relatively the same dimensions as the others in the series in height and width (8.5" x 9.5".) However, this third printing expands on the original by sixty-four pages (the original book was 224 pages) to a thicker weight of 288 pages. This printing also adds two new chapters in its pages, with the subjects of a 10.5cm Sturmhaubitze 42 and the Panzer IV with an AA 88mm the additions. The chapter on figures in the original book that saw some people scratching their heads about (I liked it) has been removed, as the focus on German AFV’s has been sharpened to create something more of what the title promises.
After the extra page weight this book carries in pages, the altered cover surface texture of the book is the next thing I noticed. The new waxy cover has a really lovely feel to it that I was not familiar with in the series so far. Although it is mostly white, it is almost resistant to marks even after months of carrying it around to read it in parts whenever I got a chance. TANKART covers since TA3 have been printed with what is called "matte-lamination", which differs from the more commonly used "matte-varnish" (also called an aqueous coating) that was used on TA1 & TA2 first printings. The feel of the book is very nice – but I did not need to handle it as much as I would another book because of the feature of the lay flat binding.

The book’s binding follows the earlier editions in the "Lay-Flat” binding system. This allows the spine edges of the interior pages to separate from the interior of the cover spine and this helps the books stay open and flat (In other words the cover spine is not glued directly to the edges of the pages inside). It enables you to lay the book flat on the workbench to follow the instructions or to read along “hands-free” as you are doing something else or holding the model parts you just glued together. I like this and it is a great feature of this book.
The book’s paper is something else I noted. The uncoated eco-friendly paper with a rougher, gritty feel that was unvarnished has been swapped for a satin text paper, it's almost matte varnish with just a hint of gloss and takes photos the best without the glare from reading the book at night or in poor light. It also deflects sticky or greasy fingers better. Something that I noticed on my first edition book which was coated with rougher paper. It looked organic, but it carried any grease or grime that I had on my dirty fingers much to my dismay. I like the satin paper printing in this edition much better.

OK Let’s take a look inside…first up the design, layout, and the reason this book was written.

This book is broken up into five chapters that detail the theory, techniques and materials along with the method proficiencies you will need. We then have eight chapters, each about 30 -35 pages, that take you through a built from start to finish. This book is very stylized, with each chapter of these build broken into regular block text, and coloured boxes of text. You can tell that the author has some experience in graphic arts with his layout style and attractive, eye-catching colours he has used in the book. These coloured boxes are very much in his “How & Why” philosophy of building models.

This 3rd edition Contents on the left - the original printing (plus unintentional fingerprints) on the right to show you the contents and added content.
In his introduction, mike explains that his whole raison d'être was the “Why” and “How” the of the models he makes. He explains his decisions about how he chooses the reality and how the environment affects his subject, of the colours chosen, the weathering and technique, and then tells us just how he goes about making this all blend together into some very nice models.

The orange and green break out boxes show you his tips (how) he makes the kit and his thoughts (why) he makes it like he does. The book is kind of laid out like a textbook in a way. The general information is all there – with the coloured boxes that give the thoughts behind the information and how to practically apply these to your own work. It is not a dictation to the reader, but an opportunity to THINK about why you are doing something and what way to make it look as realistic as you can.
Another feature you will notice in this book is the white circles placed at areas the author wants to draw your attention to. These are the areas he is talking about in the accompanying orange box text. This lets you know exactly what the area is that the thoughts and techniques are focussed on.

Chapters: Products, Principles, Techniques, Oil Paint Rendering & Proficiencies.
This book’s introduction by the author goes about explaining the reasons for the book’s being and how it is laid out. We then get straight into the materials and products that mike has in his toolkit, and that we will see in use in the book. The thing I like about this book is that although products are clearly shown, there is no favouring of just one type of brand. Paints and materials are swapped and mingled, whatever gives the best result is used. Some, I suspect, are used just to show a point of difference. I applaud this as it never feels like a pint catalogue like a lot of books currently on the market do.
In the Materials section, we look at primers and the main paints available today, airbrushes, oils, filters and washes and pigments that can be sued by the modeller. We look at Mike’s idea of modelling – he calls it “Artistic Scale-ism” the need to get individual objects looking like the real thing piece by piece. The fact that no chip is too small, no detail too benign, as long as you layer the weathering processes with these small but believable layers you will get the right effect – in scale.

We next look at weathering principles. The layering of effects in his mantra of artistic scale-ism to re-create the everyday workings of the real vehicle you are trying to capture and how the environment, the battle and fatigue the tank endures, and human elements all change the appearance of this subject. Putting all of these together in your thoughts creates your own principle of how the kit will look at the finish. Lastly in this section, we have a small roadmap of the weathering in outline form. A good little guide to follow no doubt, and we are introduced to his white circles we had talked about that give emphasis to the thoughts and techniques he is making a special point of throughout the book...
We look at two chapters of the author’s favourite techniques. Firstly, the “Hairspray technique.”  This is a well-known principle to most modellers, but the author really does tackle this subject in a way you rarely see. This chapter is very much to the point, and broken up into smaller sections for the reader to better understand.  Why he uses this technique, the advantages and application methods and how to succeed and what to avoid doing to fail in the method.
The chapter goes on to show us the right paints to use in co-operation with the Hairspray (“HS”), troubleshooting your own applications and the advantages or disadvantages of the HS vs a branded purpose made chipping fluid argument. We see also several different pictures of the models in the book and how the method worked in that particular application and theme of the kit.
We next look at Mike’s own modelling technique. Oil Paint Rendering (“OPR”) is a breakthrough that many modellers now know about and use in their toolbox, but having someone who understands the technique as much as the author does makes this so much easier to follow on the environment of a learning book.
In the block text of the OPR chapter, we have the reasons and theory, the types of oil paints you can use, as well as just how to apply them. The precise application and wet application of the technique is explained. We see very clearly the whole process in a series of step by step (SBS) windows of the whole steps from start to finish in three double page spread layouts. These insightful pictorial and caption sections really do educate the user on just how it works and, where to apply which of the techniques.
Next, we see the importance of continuously “gettin’ gud” – Technique Proficiency is one of the new chapters in the book. Although this section is not that big, and the several areas are dealt with pretty swiftly. Each of these is a page or half a page, but the main problems people find when trying these techniques are deftly identified and pointed out in pictorials with text.
Ten pages walk us through pin washes, blending washes and oils, Layers and stippling paint to create faded and darker looks on the paint. Hairspray chipping in regular and whitewash applications, colour mapping and the use of pigments and their application his also here, including speckling the pigment on.
The author talks about the reasons for practice and bettering your own result in a build that has stalled, pushing through the barriers that we encounter concentrating on the things we are already good at and layering your work to get that last 5-10% done. This is the most important part to have looking just right, and we get a good pep talk from the author about it here.

These first five chapters start with Mike giving us a new build. The winterized 10.5cm Sturmhaubitze 42 is first. A StuH that Mike had already painted and completed gets a re-do, (kind of perfect for being added to an upgraded book.)  The Tamiya Sd.Kfz 142/2 10.5cm StuH kit had already seen one repaint, but the author shows us that a kit that has stalled or not finished to your liking (just like he discussed in his proficiency chapter) can come to life with a reset of the basics. The author shows how to easily transform an earlier modelling effort as long as your base kit’s surface texture is ok. The addition of parts like a new gun barrel and tracks change the kit a lot also…
We go from the addition of the new details to the first repaint, then through the new colours in steps shown by some great pictures showing similar angles.
Layer by layer the author shows you his craft. The Oil Paint Rendering process is listed next, in shades that were used in a list form, then a great pictorial SBS that gives you all the info you need in easy bite sized pieces. Final details, of how to shade and weather the tracks, stowage and other finishing touches are also shown over a few pages.
The cover girl is next – with an extraordinarily layered Dragon Tiger I Initial kit from 2005 fame. This kit was, and still is, one of the best in its scale on release – a real game changer, and the author talks a little about the influences this kit had on him. He describes his effort to improve on what was already a completed and award-winning model in the green coloured boxes (again the “Why”) and then the “how,” with a detailed look at the kit going together.
I like to see construction processes in these books. To me, the kit is more about the whole process than just a weathering exercise, and It’s a thing many modern books and magazines omit. Much to my chagrin. Great pictures that the modeller took throughout the original construction are here, the basecoat and then the shading and layers of weathering are displayed in much the same methods as the first article.
We see the pigments and weathering process as well as the use of the metal Fruil tracks and how the author got the best out of them. We see a second layer of layers of oil paints and pigments. I was starting to get the picture when I saw the layers going on until I could not really say if this was a real metal tank or a model. The layering is a massive highlight of this model, and as you can see in the picture below it is totally realistic, in the way it’s pretty astounding to most of us modellers out there. The thing is it is NOT astounding when you have someone talking you through the processes every step of the way.
We go to "Afrika" next – with a 35th scale Dragon kit of the Panzer IV Ausf. E “D.A.K” kit. This popular (and numerous) model of Panzer is an ideal subject. This variant opens up a lot of opportunities for an educational book like this. The layers of colours on the vehicle firstly, finishing in the hastily applied sand yellow, as well as the effects the harsh desert would rend on the hull in such a short time - well it kind of begs to be picked doesn’t it?
A short build-up of the kit, with areas of how to improve it is featured, then the base coats and interior colours are applied, with a fair bit of attention centred on this area also. As with all of the builds in here we see each and every product used in the build along the way (Lifecolor this time) which is great.
Even at the point of painting the author was still adding what detail he thought he needed to bring realism to the finished product and he talks us through all of this, from tools and markings, to the chains and rusted, bullet worn exhausts, to battle damage on the fenders and superstructure.  The upper areas of the tank especially cop a lot of damage from the elements and the weather (and battle) – and it’s all described in easy to follow pictures and accompanying text to go along with it. We learn the fine points of desert styled weathering, with is slightly a different shade and weigh that the dirt roads of Europe or plains of the eastern front. The layers of pigments and OPR, along with heavy (but tiny) HS chipping make this model a study of detail after detail.
We next go to a similar process, but this time the complete other direction. A Befehls Panther Ausf.G from Tamiya in 35th scale that goes from a summer camouflage to a winter whitewash. This gives the author another popular vehicle in a modelling “set “piece” to tick off the box. The author jumped on a highly updated model a friend was building with a LOT of lovely photo etched enhancements. This model really is beautiful to look at even before the paint, and again, it is good to see something as important as painting and weathering in a book.
We go right throughout the processes of layering and painting this Panther up as if this was the end scheme. The author shows just how to the kit looking like a combat weary machine in all but the pigment and final stages – but first the whitewash and the distressing!
The whitewash, HS chipping, mapping, weathering, pin wash, OPR are discussed in detail on their application here. Also, the large amount of work making the tracks look suitably rusted and worn to dress up the very white hull and turret. These processes, and the very interesting reasoning in the weathering choices – in thinking about what the crew did on the tank, how it reacted with the environment and ground are all here, all explained in more detail than you could hope for.

The finished product is just awesome as anyone would admit...
The feature that tops off each and every chapter of this book is the roundup of the steps taken from start to finish. Over two pages for each kit – this tops off each build and gives you the step process order and page number that each of these were featured in. A very handy ready reference if you need to pinpoint a process.
Another of the new builds – next is the little-known kit-bash of the 35th scale Panzer IV mit 88mm. A lot of controversy came about the dragon release of this kit, which the author notes needed some work to match the photo of this super rare prototype. Another feature of all of the builds you can see is here – the introduction of the build, shown in a colour saturated profile view of this model is a feature of all of the front pages here in this book. It keeps in these with the graphic design of this book and the series.
The fact that this kit had to be corrected and made from not only Dragon and Tamiya parts, but also from liberal amounts of scratchbuilding with plasticard warrant some build pictures. This is what we get in this part of the book and it is welcome to me and I guess anyone interested in altering or improving their own it to correct it.
The relatively straight forward painting is given depth and scale realism (that word again) with the author's system of undercoating, painting, chipping, applying glazes, pigments, Fruil model track work, and finishing touches are here in the style of the rest of the book. Also here the author talks about making mistakes and evaluating your model at certain points in the build and how to progress successfully through this to the finish line.
Next up is one of my favourite little tanks. The 35th scale Tamiya Jagdpanzer 38t or “Hetzer” as most people call it. This little turretless tank destroyer in an interesting “Ambush” scheme that is hard to capture and with the size of the model being so small, easy to make look toy-like. I was interested to see what transpired here, and I was not disappointed to find several pages, plans and thoughts of the model builder here in his process. We get to see the simple construction process, and then the garish looking scheme. Keeping in mind that several layers still are to be applied, and reading the author's positive outlook at this point, I was hooked to see how it would turn out.
Weathering, pigments and then the all-important chipping are shown, as you can see in the picture below the beating up of this AFV matched the damage quite well. The masks applied, the layering pigments, paint and wear, evaluation of the model at each step, and adapting the shades with the other techniques in the author's toolbox are again shown here in order.
You can see by this picture below the many tiny details that make this small vehicle come to life…
Next is another impressive build – AND it is in 48ths scale! The Sd.Kfz 251/22 Pakwagen is an interesting choice because of its scale, but the new market opened up by this Tamiya offering and others in the market make this an astute choice. The fact that if I didn’t know I thought this could well have been a 35th scale AFV.
The author first talks about, and then shows the quality of the kit and his efforts to kit bash it into something a little more of what he is thinking of in the finished product. On top of the painted undercoat, then base and slight second colours, the really distinguishing part of this model is the very fine hairspray chipping work by the modeller. 
The detailed interior is paid even more attention, as the smaller the detail, the better for this author.
Again, we get the step by step process in order with the thoughts of the modeller, his aims of the project, and how he sowed it all together. A rare treat for 48th scale modellers in a book of this profile that loses nothing if these processes were employed on any scale model.
Next, we look at the guest author’s section. Talented modeller Lester Plaskitt's VERY nice looking Sd.Kfz 251/21 “Drilling” Halftrack in 35th scale with a crew full of figures in its open top is the final model of the book. This part of the book is interesting, because the thoughts of the guest author are tied into the modelling text. Another perspective on another great model is welcome and a good addition I think.
Although not in the exact same style as the main author Lester’s section features again a lot of the delicate and fine work on the building of the kit (I think you know by now I like this) and a step by step (though a little more simplified) version of the painting and weathering from there on.
Lester goes on to discuss in a more block text, straight forward method how he applied the base, three tone camo and then the weathering process to the model. The gaudy colours shown in the pictures below endure a lot of weathering, chipping and a HS chipped whitewash that brings it into reality. It’s an interesting process that’s quite illuminating to the reader.
The figures that inhabit this halftrack are next shown in the barest of detail. I personally would like to have seen more of this – but I think I am in the minority. I heard that some people really did not want to see figures in a book that covers AFV’s so I think that this scared the authors off including too much figure work tutorials. A shame for me, but not for most modellers who want what's on the cover.
The book ends with another gallery showing off this beautiful work, and the matrix showing which step and page the models steps were employed at.

OK that’s it. For a book in its third printing, I can see just why it is so popular. From reading what I have written, or just looking at these pictures of the book, you can tell how much regard I hold this book and its authors work in.

I have heard this compared to David Parker’s “Kingtiger” and the “FAQ” series but I think it offers a bit more than those do. This book, and for that matter its series shelf mates, are just wide enough in scope, but successfully pinpointed in genre & gathering of subjects to catch your favourite & perhaps in addition a few other like it in the same title. It is this, and the how and why's which make this book a favourite of mine. German AFV lovers get a bit of everything here except the King Tiger – and that is in the TA4 German Armour II edition.

A modelling textbook that explains how and why to you – a guide from one of the best in the business, amazing models that you can access by following the roadmaps included herein. Books on modelling don’t get much better than this.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Rinaldi Studio Press for sending this book to us to read and review – I see right now they have a “Fall Savings” sale on (16% off all in-stock books
Special sales items 20 - 50% off) – so if I were you - I would take a look and grab them at a discount from the RSP Website before they go out of print.