This is a Space Marine Chaplain from the Warhammer 40K war gaming series.
March 26th, 2013
March 23rd, 2013
Dragon’s Orange-Box M4A4: An American in Burma; If You Know What to Look For By Rick Knapp
Dragon has produced some armor kits that are beautiful and highly detailed. Dragon has also turned out others that fall into the “not so much” category when it comes to quality. Their Orange Box “Sherman M4A4 75 mm” is one of the latter.
The M4A4 Sherman tank had a powerplant consisting of five six-cylinder Chrysler automobile engines arranged in radial fashion around a common drive shaft. The M4A4’s hull had to be lengthened to accommodate this setup. One sure way to identify one of these tanks is the extra space between its suspension units. Another unique M4A4 feature: humps on the engine deck and hull bottom that were needed to make room for a massive common radiator for the five Chrysler engines.
Most M4A4s were used by allies of the U.S. in World War II. The British employed many of them as mounts for their excellent 17-Pounder antitank gun. The Chinese also received this Sherman model and some of the M4A4s serving with the 1st Provisional Tank Group in Burma were crewed by Americans. Dragon’s Kit No. 9102 purports to represent one of these. And there’s the rub—the kit can be made to replicate a short-gun M4A4 in the India-China-Burma theater, but only if the builder combines a disregard of substantial parts of the kit instructions with some research.
What Dragon did with this kit was to take sprues from a Firefly model (the British name for their M4A4 with 17-Pounder gun), throw in a few other sprues, and call it an “American in Burma.” The first page of the kit instructions reveals that a large number of parts supposedly will not be used. More on that later in the article. The thrown-together nature of this kit is also revealed by the inclusion of a bonus set of crew figures—a U.S. tank crew in Northwest Europe, 1944. U.S. forces in Europe did not use M4A4s.
What would any kit build be without challenges, though? This one provides plenty of those! Starting from the bottom up, the first thing to be rectified is “DS” tracks that are well-detailed but too long—aggravating, but easy to fix. Cut two links off each track run, grind out the receiving end of the track as well as can be with a small ball cutter, glue and clamp. The tab on the “male” end of the track is plenty long, and the bumps on the two removed links designed to help hold things together are pretty puny anyway. If the springy DS tracks are used, they will have to be glued down to the return rollers even after shortening the track. A proper-length track will nevertheless be a vast improvement.
The kit’s tracks are of the rubber chevron variety. Chinese M4A4s in surviving photos appear to have steel chevron tracks; the track type on the American Shermans couldn’t be determined by this author. One thing that is certain, however, is that tracks of all types were found on Shermans in the Pacific, and with Burma being one of the stepchildren of the war when it came to supplies and equipment, rubber chevron tracks are as likely as any other type.
The VVSS (Vertical Volute Spring Suspension) units are nicely detailed and designed to articulate. Trapping the springs inside the units is a bit tricky, but only on the first try. A very bizarre situation comes to light with the drive sprockets, however. Used as given, the sprockets will stand way too far out from the hull sides. The fix for this is to cut the sprocket shafts and the parts that will receive them (Parts C8 & 9) down by about an eighth of an inch each. Getting out the old power drill would work, too, as long as the drilling doesn’t go too far; the edges of the transmission cover block the drive sprocket shafts from seating fully in Parts C8 and 9. Which is mighty odd.
Research will show that the rear end of the lower hull on most short-gun M4A4s was pretty plain. Do not install the box-like thing the instructions would have you add near the bottom of the rear lower hull plate. This was a smoke grenade discharger used by the British. There is quite a bit of other detail on that plate that needs to be ground and sanded away. It appears that Dragon did not modify this section of the kit in any way from their Firefly version. Yours truly also eliminated one of the double mounts for tow shackles on each side of the bottom of the hull rear. Towing shackles from the “not-to-be-used” parts were installed in the remaining mounts. Shackles from another source will have to be used on the hull front, since this kit provides only one pair.
Care is needed when attaching the transmission cover/drive sprocket assembly to the forward part of the lower hull. If the front of the upper hull won’t fit, this assembly is not installed correctly. This modeler, after prying these pieces apart to fix an improper joining, used styrene strips inside the lower hull to strengthen the very inadequate method Dragon used to mate these pieces. Still haven’t figured out the strange gaps where Parts H11 and H12 meet Part C1. Take care with placement of C1, the strip of bolts that represents where the transmission cover joins with the upper hull. Much finagling may be needed to figure out which end is up with this piece; the instruction drawings are not very helpful with that.
The back end of the upper hull fits very loosely onto the lower hull, and only a very narrow ledge is provided for this purpose. Wide pieces of styrene glued onto the inner sides of the upper hull, level with this ledge, will allow the upper hull to sit properly and securely.
Moving upward, the next difficulty involves the strips around the bottom of the upper hull sides and part of the upper hull rear that sand shields would be bolted to. These shields were never seen on Shermans that operated anywhere mud might commonly be found—places like Europe and Burma. Since the shields aren’t mounted, they should display empty bolt holes, but for some strange reason, Dragon molded them with bolt heads. Shaving off the bolt heads is easy; drilling holes in their places and getting the holes in a straight line—not so easy—but it must be done. There is also a pesky seam that runs through the center of these strips along the entire length of the hull sides.
Next up, the rear of the upper hull needs a bit of work. Brackets that would hold the long stowage box carried by most British Shermans need to go. No huge deal there. The M4A4s used in Burma should carry the track-tensioning tool, a few small bolts, and nothing else on the rear of the upper hull.
For some reason, it’s common for models of the Sherman to be molded with recessed weld seams on their hulls. This kit is no exception. This can be corrected with styrene rod softened with liquid cement and then textured, or with thin ropes of epoxy putty similarly textured. This modeler used the latter method to replicate proper raised weld beads. Beads of liquid cement replicated welds around splash guards and in a couple of other areas.
The splash guards around fuel caps, ventilator covers, etc. should also have drainage holes drilled at their bases; photos of the real thing will show where. There are some mounting holes on the engine deck and upper hull, intended presumably for British equipment, which require filling. The kit instructions don’t indicate this.
The hatches for the driver and assistant driver/bow gunner are not intended to be modeled open. Surgery is needed to correct this. The molded-in rotating mounts for periscopes must be drilled and carved out. Once that’s done, the “not-to-be-used” parts provide replacements for those mounts, as well as periscopes, periscope covers, and brush guards. The instructions show no installation of the wire guards that protected periscopes on Shermans from brush and other hazards, but they are included in the kit. Spares from other Sherman kits or after-market pieces will have to provide brush guards for the turret periscopes.
There is no indication in the kit instructions that this M4A4 should have a travel lock for the 75mm gun, even though research shows it should. Well, guess what? That’s right; the “not-to-be-used” parts come to the rescue again, and in full.
Photos of an American-crewed M4A4 in Burma show that it had no shell ejection port on the left side of the turret, so the molded-in detail there has to be ground away. The opening for the port is then backed with thick styrene sheet and epoxy putty fills the hole. Photos also show this tank had integral supplemental cheek armor added to the forward portion of the turret on the right-hand side. This extra armor was installed to protect a weak spot in the vehicle’s turret armor. The Dragon kit supplies a curved, welded-on plate for this area. Part of this kit piece combined with a lot of putty and much sanding will reproduce the proper cast-in supplemental armor.
The only truly strange part of turret assembly has to do with mounting the assembled 75mm cannon and mantlet. The entire thing will fall right through the opening provided for it in the turret front unless styrene strips are used as backing pieces on the inside! Weird? You bet!
The photographs of an M4A4 in Burma referred to above are of a vehicle driven by Sgt. Leonard Farely, and why Dragon didn’t use its markings for this kit is mystifying. The hull of Sgt. Farely’s “Fight or Frolic” bears different paintings of scantily-clad ladies on each side. The port side of the turret displays the triangular Armored Corps insignia, while the starboard turret side bears the profile of a human skull. The photographs of this tank are not the clearest; otherwise your author would definitely have reproduced the cheesecake art by hand. The markings for Dragon’s “Lucky Eleven”, the only decals in the kit, are pretty plain.
MiniArt produces a set of U.S. tankers in herringbone twill fatigue uniforms suitable for adapting to an Asian setting. One has sleeves rolled up; another has an unbuttoned fatigue jacket. Don’t use any of the lower torsos featuring gaiters (three of the five figures in this set do)—those leggings were despised in all theaters, and rarely if ever seen on tankers in the Pacific or Asia. MiniArt has also produced a set of Afrika Korps figures with bare torsos, and these are handy for doing figures of shirtless tankers in the hot and humid climate of Burma.
If you are an armor builder who’s tired of “shake the box” kits—kits that just fall together—try this one. If you can turn it into an acceptable replica of an American-manned fighting machine in one of the most difficult and crucial battlegrounds of World War II, that feat should give you a real feeling of accomplishment. (And yes, blunting the Japanese threat to India and tying down as many Japanese as possible in China and Burma was crucial).
Taking the kit instructions with a grain of salt and doing some hunting for references are musts for this build. A little more research by Dragon would have been nice, but maybe what they save there goes into keeping Orange Box prices low. One thing is sure: Turning what some would call a “dog” of a kit into a decent model is what separates the men from the boys in the world of glue and styrene.
The Pulaski Tech modeling class will be meeting at 6:00 p.m. Monday, March 25, 2013, at the Business and Industry Center which is at 3303 East Roosevelt Road Little Rock, AR 72206 (where the old IMAX Theater was). Just check the monitor for the room number.
You certainly don't have to, but you are strongly encouraged to bring a kit to work on. We are going to do a brief show and tell; then, go to work on our own current builds. We should be able to learn from each other as we work. If you have not been in awhile, this should be a fun class. Last time we met this worked out well.
Just a reminder about the Revell contest, it doesn't cost anything and you can do something other than cars this year. All you have to do is send photographs so let's all participate. See revell.com.
Bring a friend, show and tell, something to work on, and whatever tools/materials you will need to work with.
On the 11th when we met, James brought his 1:1 Micky Thompson drag car he just found. We had a great time and everyone is welcome!
The 6th Annual Arkansas Model Championship will be held on April 20, 2013 at the Jacksonville Community Center. Doors open at 8:00 A.M. and registration of models ends at 12:00P.M. The contest lasts from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Model registration fee is $5.00 for the first model and $2.00 for each additional model with a maximum fee of $20.00. Admission to the public is free and registration for juniors and teens is free. The contest theme is “Corvette-First 60 Years.” Other features of the contest include a Scout Championship Pinewood Derby, commemorative hat pins for the first 100 entries, raffles, door prizes, and a Revell Make’nTake. Contest categories include aircraft, military, figures, spacecraft, automotive, dioramas, and box stock. Special awards for juniors include Best Finish and Best of Show. Special awards for adults include Best of Show, People’s Choice, Best Detail, Best Army, Best USAF, Best Aircraft, Best Military, Best of the Rest, Best Automotive, Best Engine, Best Paint, Best Interior, Dave Branson Sr. Memorial, Al Superczynski Memorial, Pete Harwell Memorial (Best Muscle Car) and the Pioneer American Award. The Jacksonville Community Center is located #5 Municipal Drive, Jacksonville, Arkansas. For more information please contact Dave Branson (501-772-1483) or Ken Leslie (501-681-9980).
Perspectives on Judging:How To Be Fair, Impartial and Consistent by Brent Bristow
Being asked to judge any event is an honor. It should be a point of pride that others value your work in a particular field enough to allow you to adjudicate. However, it is also a great responsibility, as participants place their hopes and hard work on display for your judgment. While we can enjoy the compliment of being asked to judge, it is of equal importance to put our egos aside and approach each item we are assessing with an open mind. How you conduct yourself during judging is a reflection of your character; preparing your state of mind can mean the difference between encouraging a participant to try harder the next time or giving up completely.
Education in the arts has spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars developing rubrics and formalized systems to help adjudicators have specific criteria in mind. Whether you are judging a painting, musical performance, or theatrical audition, having a breakdown of the important elements in front of you helps to insure you consider all aspects of the subject. Judging a model show, which is an artistic endeavor, should be no different. Many shows have already adopted judging rubrics, but even if you are judging a contest without one, you should have specific criteria in mind before you approach the first piece. The criteria often includes construction, painting, finishing (weathering, decals, shading, etc.), and accuracy/interpretation. Each should be considered on its own merit before determining the final ranking of a model. The judging criteria also allows for specific and constructive criticism.
Construction should be easiest to agree upon. If, for instance, an aircraft has uneven wings, a car has wheels that do not all touch the table, or large seams are visible, it should be obvious to a judge and reflected in the score. But, when judges do not approach a piece systematically, they can be blinded to basic construction flaws by a great paint job or after-market parts. Conversely, spotting an obvious flaw upon the first look may prevent a judge from seeing other aspects of the finish that are done very well. By approaching each of the criteria elements separately and in a specific order, adjudicating is an accurate process for placement rather than a gut feeling.
The remaining elements present difficulty because of their subjective nature. While decal application may be somewhat cut and dried, the other aspects have as many different approaches as there are modelers. So, it is incumbent upon us to let go of our bias, and look for substance rather than style. For instance, determining if a paint job and/or weathering are well done and appropriate for the piece is much different than deciding if it is done the way you would have done it. Modeling would be a very boring hobby if we all did the exact same techniques. We should revel in the diversity of modeling styles and a good judge is able to determine what level the techniques used have been mastered. Approaching judging with this in mind may even inspire you to try a few new tricks.
Accuracy/interpretation is perhaps the trickiest aspect of all. Looking at any piece, you are often asked to determine how accurate it is. You must be careful with this. While most photos may indicate a particular configuration, it only takes one authentic photo with a different scheme to invalidate your judgment. You may have to determine if the modeler tried to build an accurate standard version of the piece and fell short with the accuracy or if they had a different interpretation altogether. If you know the piece, this is probably fairly obvious. If you do not know the piece, relying upon your judging criteria will allow you to place the model based on the merit of the work. A great model with a different interpretation is still a great model, and should be judged as such.
A judge must suppress their bias when it comes to subject matter. You may love Corvettes, and are drawn to them on the judging table. Does this mean they deserve a higher ranking? Should you automatically judge it down because you expect more from a Corvette than other car models? While you may be answering no to these questions, separating this preference while in the show room does take a bit of will power. Breaking the criteria into its individual components helps you more easily become an unbiased judge.
Another preconception that judges struggle with is based upon the modelers. Judges often know who built the model being judged and form an unintentional bias, favorable or unfavorable, based on their experiences with the modeler. An experienced modeler may be judged favorably even if the piece does not meet his usual standard. It is also possible for a novice modeler to focus a lot of energy into getting a piece right and actually do an exceptional job but be judged more critically because of the pre-knowledge of the judge. The solution to judging bias is to study each piece carefully and judge the model, not the modeler.
The next time you are asked to judge, keeping this approach in mind will serve you. Judges that make snap decision based upon first impression, what they like or how they think a piece should be finished do not gain a reputation as a fair and impartial adjudicator. Remember, shows are meant to promote the hobby, not tear modelers down. A systematic method of judging with constructive comments will help to improve the skills of everyone.
Down the Rabbit Hole: Infusion
According to Wikipedia: “Infusion is the process of extracting chemical compounds or flavors from plant material in a solvent such as water, oil or alcohol, by allowing the material to remain suspended in the solvent over time (a process often called steeping). An infusion is also the name for the resultant liquid. The process of infusion is distinct from decoction, which involves boiling the plant material, or percolation, in which the water passes through the material (as in a coffeemaker).” Infusion was also a process utilized while painting in the Renaissance. Sandro Botticelli is credited with perfecting the process of infusion in his paintings. He believed his love and passion for a subject would influence and become a part of the finished work. Not all painters of the renaissance followed this method.
Look at the following painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. This is a painting entitled “Madonna and Child with a Pomegranate.”
Most art critics agree this is a technically beautiful picture. However, the emotional impact of the painting is one of coldness and separation between infant and mother. The Madonna lacks eye-contact with the infant and the viewer and there clearly is no feeling of reciprocal relationship between the two. The child reaches for the Madonna but the Madonna remains distant. The emotional impact of the painting is different than one would expect from a painting of the Virgin Mary with Jesus. But compare it to Sandro Botticelli’s work “Madonna of the Pomegranate.”
Art critics agree there is a qualitative difference between these two pictures. When compared side-by-side (non-digitally) Botticelli’s painting emotionally affects the viewer at a deep emotional level. Most people are impressed with both works when viewed individually but when Botticelli’s painting is viewed after Da Vinci’s most people “feel” differently. The Madonna in this painting is emotionally connected to all of the people in the painting and the viewer. There is a feeling of inclusion and acceptance. The infant is not looking up toward the Madonna looking for relationship because it is clear the infant is in relationship with the Madonna by being held close with both hands.
Some art historians point to specific differences between the two men as influences on their painting style. Leonardo Da Vinci had a petulant and perfectionistic personality that drove him to technical perfection but other attitudes hindered his ability to paint women in general and Madonnas in particular. It is alleged he disliked women, in general, and spiritually he believed John the Baptist was the true Messiah and that Jesus and, later, the Virgin Mary usurped John’s crown. As such, he disliked painting Madonna pictures. Botticelli, on the other hand, loved women, the model who sat for the painting, and was a passionate follower of a group of people who believed Mary Magdalene was the correct successor to Jesus based on her being a part of the bloodline of the priest Aaron and her relationship to Jesus. This religious group taught and demonstrated God’s love and forgiveness and supported the inclusion of all people into the Kingdom of Heaven. His paintings of Madonnas were actually his rendition of Mary Magdalene and not the Virgin Mary. Setting religious ideology aside, the process of painting this subject was approached differently by the two men. Due to Botticelli’s passion for the topic, he would fully experience his emotions as he painted and allowed his emotions to guide his brush. His art was infused with his strong emotional passion for the topic and, as such, he believed his emotions became part of the paint and technique he used when rendering a piece.
Does this concept of “infusion” apply to modeling? Most modelers I have met are extremely passionate about the models they build. They often spend many hours on research and execution of the piece. Much time, energy, and emotion is used in accurately representing the subject of their modeling. I have rarely met a modeler who is indifferent about the piece they are building no matter what the selected genre. Technique is, of course, important. But does their passion infuse into their work? If you were to place two models, side-by-side, completed by two different modelers of similar technical abilities would there be a difference in the models based on the level of passion that was infused into the model?
Is there a difference in the following two models? The first picture is of a completed piece I made four years ago which I painted with the intent of experimenting with a new technique. My interest was in the technique and the model was purchased because it was somewhat cool but mainly because it was inexpensive. The second piece is a current work-in-progress where my passion was related to the beauty and the story of the piece. I was also trying some new techniques but that was of secondary importance to me.
If you place the models side-by-side, there is a difference, perhaps not as noticeable when digitized and when the second has not been completed. It might be just a difference in competency of technique but it may also be something that was involved with the emotion that was prevalent at the time of the rendering.
I am intrigued with this idea of infusion and think it may have applications to other genres of modeling. Would there be a difference between models built by the guy who loved Shermans or Panthers or the aircraft guy who loves F-16s or F-18s as opposed to the guys who just generally like armor and aircraft? With the level of passion that is prevalent by modelers while making their creations it would just make sense it would somehow affect the finished product. I don’t know. What do you think?