LEFT TO THE RATS

Dragon’s panther G, SD. Kfz. 171 (Late production)

Pieces and Parts:

— Dragon 6268 Panther G, SD.Kfz. 171 (Late Production), figure accessories

— Verlinden Cobblestone street, sidewalks, light post, GI Figures, engine parts

— Homet Heads — Aber PE tools, Panther fenders, buckles

— Plus models, buckets, boxes, rats, news papers and magazines

— Tamiya, Fuel Drums and Jerry cans

— GC Laser pallet and ammo crate

The Scene

On the surface, this build is just a Panther of the 11th Panzer Division located somewhere in Bavaria in the closing days of the war, which has been abandoned by the crew. As we all know a good diorama tells a story and hopefully conveys it on more than one level. With the various teller mines and other explosives strewn about, the crew no doubt planned to blow the tank. However with allied troops approaching they simply spiked the gun and ran.

As mentioned the big picture is the knocked out Panther. However, examining the details like the abandoned weapons tells another part of the story, that this position saw the last part of the pointless struggle. Also, that of two GIs stumbling onto a wounded German solider who has found a place to sit to remove his blood-soaked bandage. However he too decided to drop his rifle and make a run for it instead of surrendering. The nervous Private points his rifle, yelling for him to stop, however the seasoned Seargent is content to let the wounded man run.

Other elements like a length of rusted Tiger tracks, wrenchs, nuts, fuel/oil cans, barrel cleaning rods and bolt cutters show that this site was used as a make shift repair shop. Finally the red paint thrown on the Panther by some disgusted local venting their feelings.

Most of the inspiration for this scene came from the Panzerwrecks books. One subtle detail of this build (the T34 tracks poking out of the rubble) comes from a picture taken in Bavaria showing a knocked out T34 next to a US half track. In this section of Germany the US and Soviet lines were not well defined in the last days of the war. So it was never certain who was around the next corner or coming down the street. This would account for the wounded solider making a run for it instead of just surrendering to the two GIs. No German soldier wanted to surrender to the Soviets.

The Build

The main object of the scene is to pack a lot of detail into a small space. Also, using the «Where’s Waldo’ approach. This approach is meant to keep the viewer’s interest by having them see a tiny detail like the spoon on the ground, the fork on the back of the tank or the rat sneaking around the fuel drums. Seeing items like that pique the viewer’s interest and makes them wonder what else there is to see. This holds their attention searching for other details as if looking for Waldo.

The main element of the base is just a simple cobblestone street and sidewalk. These where made using RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanization) rubber molds of sections of resin cobbled street. Casting plaster versions allows for cracks and breaks like real stone and concrete. Also it can be easily carved, unlike resin. One important note is to use casting plaster and not plaster of Paris. The latter is too soft, does not carve well, and therefore breaks apart easily. It also absorbs moisture from glues and washes which make the plaster even softer causing loss of fine detail.

As for the rubble, it is pretty much actual rubble. Crushed casting plaster left over from making architectural parts, plus model bricks, woodland scenics ballast and sand makes up the rubble. It was secured to the base using Jet Instant CA glue (the low viscosity kind in the blue bottle). Other modellers have used thinned white glue to do this, but it takes many applications or a very thick mixture. Doing this can cause the piaster elements to get soft, lose detail and move. The Jet glue holds everything in place with a few quick drops. The rubble was laid out to show that the main portion of the street had been cleaned and a path had been cleared where the pedestrian walkway would have been between the two median sections.

A mixture of Tamiya paints, black, white and a touch of brown, were used as a base coat to the street and rubble. This combination gives a general look of stone and concrete. The run of tiger tracks were then painted with a dark brown mixture.

The base coat was sealed with a few thin coats of gloss lacquer. All the bricks and other structural elements in the rubble were painted with a brush using various Vallejo colours. Elements like the tank tracks where painted with artist oils. A combination of Raw Umber, Burnt Sienna and Naples Yellow were used to create the rust colour. Finally several combinations of black/brown washes were used all over.

Every build has its errors, this one violates the cardinal rule of having the major element of the Panther at an almost parallel line to the base. A measurement gaff in the initial setup caused the tank’s placement to be hanging off the edge of the base. This shows the need for having a solid design and sticking to it! With the ground clutter glued in place there wasn’t enough room to put the Panther at an angle. This isn’t just modeller OCD, placing elements on a diagonal is a well defined rule of art composition. It leads the viewers eye into the composition. Using the rules of art composition make for a much better build.

The Tank

The Panther is one of Dragon’s smart kits. It is an outstanding kit and was enhanced with some PE parts from an Aber Panther set and Aber chain was added to the towing hook and spare track holders.

After priming, it was painted with Tamiya’s dark yellow and deep green. The hard edged camo was done by first doing a rough outline with the airbrush with the green. This leaves a soft edge. The camo was made hard edged by painting over the green and yellow using a brush with Model Air dark yellow and camo green.

Model Air paints are very thin so they don’t leave brush marks and cover just enough to make the camo look hard edged. The rest of the painting was completed using artists oils to make filters/washes, coats of gloss lacquer and other techniques that have been detailed many times in this magazine.

The only real difference is the various weathering steps are not completed one after another. It is more of a fine tuning process, going back and forth between filters, washes, chipping, mapping etc.. to get the desired effect.

About a quarter of the ModelKasten tracks for this build disappeared (and have yet to be found). So the DS panther tracks from another kit were used instead. DS tracks are the new generation of rubber band tracks Dragon is including in some newer kits. They are very nice and the detail is excellent. However they are still rubber band tracks and don’t sit as well or look nearly as good as the various individual link types. Also the sprocket holes have some flash on them which needed to be cleaned.

The Figures

Two Gls from Verlinden sets where used for the figures. They where painted using artists oils and given a coat of Model Air matt lacquer to reduce the shine. The painting techniques are followed from Mark Barnerman’s Qsprey book on figure painting. The web gear «US» marking and rank stripes are from Hudson and Allen.

The figure heads were replaced with ones from the Hornet range. These heads are simply the best available and add a great deal of expression to the figures.

This detail is very important because the expression on the figures faces go a long way to convey the story a diorama is trying to tell.

One last detail to the figures is the rifle straps. These where made using 1/32 inch decorative tape (which is commonly used on RC Cars) and Aber buckles. There is a thin layer on top of the tape which glossy. This needs to be scraped off because the paint will not adhere to the tape if that layer is left on. This is the same technique used to make the strap on the German rifles.

Odds and Ends

The milk bottle was made just like the cobblestone street using RTV to make a mold of a bottle. Then two-part clear resin was used to first make the bottle neck. Once that hardened the resin was tinted with white acrylic paint and the remainder of the bottle was filled in. The clear resin was also used to fill the bucket holding the two barrel cleaning rods.

News papers and magazines where added to the ground to provide some everyday refuse to the scene. It also is used to tie the Panther to the to the base. Also the downed power lines lying across the back of the tank where added for the same reason.

All the wooden tool handles and rifle stocks were first painted with a light buff mixture of Vallejo model paints then a coat of raw umber artists oils. With a clean brush most of the oil paint was removed. This leaves a faint grain pattern also giving it a greasy and used look.

The metal parts were first painted with a dark grey/brown mixture then given a wash of black and finally rubbed down with powdered graphite.

The smaller metal items such as the hand tools were first cleaned to remove any oil on the surface then put into Blacken It. It is important that anything put into Blacken It be perfectly clean or there will be shiny brass spots left on the metal. Also, with very small items they must be removed from the solution within a reasonable amount of time or the Blacken It will disolve them.

Details are critical. Doing things like bending the handles on the teller mine to hang over edge of the fuel drum, putting «glass» (done with transparent glue used for airplane canopies) into the safety googles and bending the tynes on the fork go a long way to creating a more realistic diorama.

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