Monday, June 17

Construction Guide Pt. III: Miniart's 35th scale Soviet Ball Tank “Sharotank” Figures, Flora & Finishing

Andy Moore has finished his MiniArt 35th scale Sharotank - and this one was truly special, with the construction, painting & weathering as well as adding a lit-up interior to the kit to bring it to life. This, the third article features a base and some figures to bring the kit to life. See how Andy gets this ball really rolling in part III of his guide...

Construction Guide Pt. III: Soviet Ball Tank “Sharotank”
Manufacturer – MiniArt
Product Number - #40001
Scale - 1/35th
Price -  ¥4,800 - US$44 - £34 - €39 from Hobby Link Japan
Product Link on the MiniArt Website
Custom lighting kits available from
In-Box & build Guide Pt. I: Miniart's 35th scale Soviet Ball Tank “Sharotank” Interior

Last time, we left MiniArt's Sharotank almost finished, with just the detailing on the base, a figure, and a little final weathering needed to complete the model. The first step to deal with is the base, so with the tank removed, I got to work on the scenery.
The groundwork had previously been coated with a Vallejo texture paste which, although leaving a nice, earth-like finish, had a slightly unnatural colour. To begin with, I gave the ground texture an over-spray with a more realistic earth colour. Once that was dry, I started adding grass tufts, using a couple of different shades to add some variety to the scene. These are representing denser patches of grass and, as such, don't need to cover the whole area. The tufts have an adhesive backing, and can simply be pressed onto the surface without needing any additional glue.
For the remainder of the grass area, a short static grass was used. The areas where the static grass would go were painted with a layer of PVA, then the grass was scattered across the surface. Once it was in place, turning the base upside down and giving it a quick tap removed any excess, and also helped the grass to stand upright as the glue was drying.
At this stage, the grassy areas were looking okay, but I still wasn't entirely happy with the look of the open ground areas. I decided that the best way to rectify this was to add some real soil which would provide both a more natural colour and realistic texture. This was done with plain garden soil, which had been dried out on a foil tray in the oven for about an hour. The soil was then crumbled up into a coarse powder, and applied to the base over a layer of PVA.
With the soil layer dry, the groundwork was looking far more realistic, but the colour was still a little flat and uninteresting. To improve matters I broke out the enamel washes and started adding some tonal variety. Darker washes were used around the edges of the grass to create damp areas, while lighter washes were used towards the centre of the groundwork.
At this point, I felt that the base was finished to a point were I could permanently mount the model. Any further tweaking to the groundwork could be done with the tank in place. The model was attached with epoxy adhesive, after having carefully threaded the wiring for the interior lighting through the hole in the centre of the base. The small circuit board and battery box for the lighting were secured underneath the base.
I now switched my attention to the Sharotank, as it was looking a little too clean compared to the muddy base. I started by applying the same washes I'd used for the groundwork to the track and the surrounding bodywork. To add a little more texture, I mixed some of the static grass I'd used earlier into the earth washes and applied this in clumps here and there.
I continued to build up the mud effects on the track, using the same range of dark and light washes as the base. In truth, I should probably have done the majority of this work before the model was attached to the base, as getting to the lower areas behind the outrigger wheels wasn't easy, and the resulting weathering wasn't as good as a result. In fact, I think I probably overdid the weathering on the tank in general, and a more subtle look would have been more appropriate.
Stepping away from the model for a moment, I decided to add a figure to complete the scene. The Sharotank is such an unusual looking subject that it really needs something recognisable to give it a sense of scale. For this build, I'm using a figure from MiniArt's Soviet Tank Crew set.
Miniart's figures are some of the best 1/35 injection moulded figures around, and they always have great detailing, especially on clothing, which features very realistic wrinkles and folds. If they have one weakness though, it's that their figures are often modelled in a very specific pose, and are designed with a particular kit in mind. As such, they can sometimes be harder to incorporate into a more generic setting. With a bit of work though, they can be modified to fit different scenarios. In this case, I used the legs, head, and torso from one figure, and the arms from another to create a pose of a commander leaning against his ride.
The right arm in particular needed a lot of slicing and hacking to get it in the pose I wanted, with most of the upper arm cut away, and the shoulder joint re-angled to get the arm in a raised position. The hand on that arm was also removed, and rotated slightly so it would line up with the hull of the tank.
The gaps on the upper arm were filled with Green Stuff epoxy putty. This is a very easy putty to work with, as it's quite firm and not sticky, so you won't get it all over your fingers. 
A pointed silicone shaper tool was used to re-work the folds on the fabric, using the existing moulded wrinkles as a guide. Again, this is an easy process if you take your time, and keep the tip of the silicone shaper wet while smoothing out the putty.
On to the painting and, here, I used a black and white base-coating technique. This consists of priming the figure in black, followed by spraying white from directly above. When sprayed in this manner, the white paint catches the raised areas on the figure and leaves you with instant highlighting in a one-step process. It's then a matter of blocking in the main colours by brush, using heavily thinned paint which allows the shading and highlighting from the previous step to show through.
If you're just looking for a simple and quick paint job, you could easily leave the figure at this stage. In this case, I took mine a little further by adding some subtle glazes to create a richer finish, as well as emphasising the highlights further. Again, this was all done with thinned acrylic paint, and the aid of a headband magnifier.
At this stage, I was ready to call the build done but, as a last minute decision, I added some dried birch seed scales to represent dead leaves on the ground. These were secured with tiny drops of PVA.
And that put the wraps on what's been an interesting, if slightly drawn out, build. The overly long time it's taken me to get the project finished isn't in any way a reflection on the quality of the kit though, which has been a huge amount of fun to put together.
It's certainly an unusual subject, and definitely falls into the more extreme end of the paper panzer/what-if world. As such, it won't appeal to everyone although, personally, I find stuff like this fascinating, and love the relative freedom you get when finishing speculative, or indeed completely made up, designs.
It's not a perfect kit by any means (the undersize interior is a bit of a boo-boo) but, in general, it's excellently designed and engineered, and goes together with no real issues. If you're into the more weird and wonderful end of WWII modelling, I'd definitely recommend picking one up, as I'm sure you'd have as much fun with it as I did.
Andy Moore

Thanks to MiniArt for sending this kit to Andy to review & build for us - For more on this #40001 SOVIET BALL TANK "Sharotank" kit, check out the product link on the MiniArt Website