Building the T 34/85


The T-34 has, for as far as I can remember, been one of my favourites from the great patriotic war. When Dragon released their outstanding T-34-85 I immediately bought two of them and started planning a diorama of two wrecked vehicles! “Pet cemetary” was finished in feb-2000 and only fueled my passion for the design, the simplicity and grace of this tank. The fact that there are plenty of aftermarket accessories give the builder a great opportunity to superdetail the vehicle. This kit’s a perfect choice if you choose to build OTB, but a nice PE-set will without doubt add to the realism even though russian tanks aren’t exactly well known for different brackets littering the hull.
The theme for this project was to give the tank a realistic dirty impression. Not a polished matt brown airbrushed to the lower hull , but DIRTY! A tank in field, in a conflict without the piecetime regular maintinance does get very, very dirty. My T-34 is one of Konievs on the Ukranian front rushing towards Germany over some of mother Russias most fertile soils. One great inspiration before starting out on this juorney were a couple of pictures I found in CONCORDs “SOVIET TANKS IN COMBAT 1941-1945.” On page 24 there are a two T-34s struggling to get accross a field. One of them is missing its left rear fender overhang and this results in a massive pile of dirt on the tank, thrown up by the track. This was something I wanted to incorporate on my model.

Part used are DRAGONs T-34-85. Two Aber PE-sets, basic detail and fenders, Jordi Rubio gun, Verlinden extra fuel drums and Fruilmodel tracks.
I started with the removal of fenders and the parts of the upper hull that hampers the addition of Abers louvres under the engine grilles. Before further construction could be done I painted the PE under the grilles. It’s simply impossible to reach that place once the tank has been assembled for painting. The rest of the construction’s very straight forward. I left all the hatches open since I wanted parts of the crew to be visible.

This picture clearly shows the number of different modules/parts I painted seperately before put together. The big issue was, as mentioned before, the dirt. I applied all lumps and the bigger piles with Milliput. The big concentration of this treatment was of course given to wheels, lower hull, tracks and the right rear where my “extra spill” was supposed to be. I prepared a lump of Milliput and took small pieces out of it to treat firstly wheel by wheel. I worked the Milliput into every corner, just like real dirt tends to do. Every wheel has a different amount of dirt wich adds on to the realism. Some totaly covered, some just a couple of patches. After put together I squeezed dirt in between the wheels as well. When slightly wet, the Milliput’s easy to work with an stiff old brush. This helps reaching everywhere and it gives a nice rough texture to the surface. I used this technique over the whole lower hull. I left the space directly over the suspension arms free from dirt, as if pushed away when the arms moves over rough terrain. Lot’s of work and almost impossible to see on the finished model…I put a small amount of Milliput on every track-link and once again attacked with the stiff brush. The pile has to be constructed in a different way. This dirt has been thrown, or lobbed, up by the tracks. I didn’t use the brush here but instead rolled small pieces of Milliput and added them in layers to achieve a fluffier look. To get the whole thing a bit more exciting I let the dirt cover parts of the toolbox of the rear right fender, lower part of the extra fuel drum brackets and a towingwire. I find it easier to add dirt like this rather than as one of the last stages. It’s difficult to put dirt in all the concealed places when the model’s completely assembled, ie. between the roadwheels.

Stage two was to prepare a mixture of a two component super glue and static grass. This will result in an extremely slimy, sticky mixture. I added this to places preferred and for the next couple of hours watched it closely beacuse the grass tends to blend in to the glue completely unless you take that old stiff brush again att lift it up an shape it the way you want. This method will give you pieces of grass hardened by the glue and perfect for drybrushing/painting and suitable for transport etc without loosing it’s shape. Before painting, it’s vital to carefully testfit the runninggear, by now full of rockhard Millibut that really has the ability to stop the tracks from fit into the wheels etc. Bearing this in mind when applying the dirt will definetely save a lot of frustrating corrections!

The crew’s basically TAMIYAs “Soviet tank crew at rest”, a lovely set of russians peacefully posed around the vehicle. This set’s not avaliable in Sweden, but an add on Missing Links Fleamarket rapidly resulted in a number of offers from the US. What a great way of getting what was impossible a few years back! The bloke sitting of the edge of something, dangling his right leg was what I basically wanted from the kit, but ended up using the “driver” as my commander and the “commander” as my driver. The relaxed guy was, since a long time ago, dedicated for the loaderrole. The figures are not that bad, but benefits enormously from new heads. I used Ultracasts set of russian tankers heads and they’re superb!

All the different stages now put together, the painting begun. I use Humbrol paint exclusevily, an 30 year old habit that’s difficult to change and I can’t find a reason either… I started with airbrushing everything with Humbrol primer1 after masking off the grilles so that the inside and louvres wouldn’t get gray spots on them, impossible to correct at this stage. When the airbrushing was finished I removed the tape and painted the grilles and the area around it with a brush.

I preshaded with brown matt98 and after that gave the whole kit it’s basecoat, green matt86. Since this model was supposed to get a dirty look it had to go through quite a few stages, each and every one of them darkening the basecoat a little . Consequently I airbrushed the green basecoat very thinly, the preshade clearly visible. Also, the preshade colour was the same as I had planned as the basic colour for the dirt,and by letting the basecoat shine through it gives the tank a overall dirty look, dirt that more or less has been part of the tanks colour. Next comes the tactical markings. I didn’t bother copying a specific vehicle from a photo. Instead I chose a very common marking from the end of the war.

Russian crews often handpainted the markings in a rough way and this was something I tried to copy. I printed the template for the diamond in the computer and used it for masking of the very fine lines and painted the lines with a brush, white matt34, to achieve that anything but polished look when looking closely at it. Letter an figures were handpainted. Nice to be totaly relaxed when doing this instead of being totaly devastated when they end up irregular! Finally I added a few spots around the markin as spilled paint by a sloppy crew.

I now airbrushed the whole model with a thin layer of satin135 and even thinner clear35 in a few places. There were several purposes of doing this. Most important is the more natural finish it gives the surface of this big lump of steel on a foggy, wet day in November. Equally important is the sense of depth it enhance when applying washes, chipping, dirt and so forth. Now was the time to chip the paint. I prefer doing this with a fine brush and never use ie a pencil. The brush gives the chipped places a more irregular realistic look. Beware! It’s easy to fall in the “everything one direction” trap. If going over the modell, front to rear, without turning it now and then I’ve found the chipping all tends to move the same way. Therefore I often turn it around to keep from doing this unconsiously. Rails, corners, handles and other exposed parts get the majority of spots, but an occasional chip on flat surfaces also looks right.

Now I painted a few details. Tow wire plain brown matt62, sparelinks brown matt98 then two layers with Rustall. With a very fine brush I now painted on streaks of dirt and rust. For dirt I used Windsor&Newtons Raw Umber and for rust Windsor&Newtons Burnt Sienna mixed with brown matt62. The same technique is used for both categories. A needle’s the tool to put a decided amount of mixture on the tank and with a very fine brush, slightly wet with wite spirit, dragged downwards. The extra fueldrums and the fender below also had a few spots with Tamiyas smoke X-19. By the way, the fueldrums were painted separately and glued on as one of the last stages.

And now’s the time for a heavy wash. I don’t wash all my models, actually very rarely, but this one is crying out loud for that treatment! It dramatically increase the filthy shade to the colour. For this I mixed black matt33 and Windsor&Newton Raw Umber. After the wash had dried I repeated the dirt/rust streaks here and there. This again gives an impression of depth and the long time in field under harsh conditions. At this stage I had a tank nearly finished in some places and bright white where all the Milliput was sitting, but this way I got the chronological order of the different layers. I now painted the Milliput brown matt98, and then stippled the paint around the corners where the dirt’s supposed to fade over to smooth surface. All the little straws/turfs of grass then were painted buff matt84, a colour close to pale grass in the fall. Then I took my oldest, stiffest brush and used it as a catapult loaded with a brown matt98 mixed with black matt33. Dip the brush in the paint, force the bristles back with the thumb and aim. The effect’s like local splashes from puddles or other vehicles passing by. I did the same thing with gloss varnish to simulate watersplashes. Heat and exhaust dries the areas around grilles and exhaustpipes quite quickly so these areas were painted as the last step. Black matt33 was airbrushed to the grilles to simulate smoke leaking out from the engine compartement. Exhaustpipes were painted brown matt62 and then a couple of layers with Rustall.

After priming, this is what I did to the tracks. Totally covered in brown matt98. Then generously painted two times with Rustall. This is where I put the spare tracklinks for the turret aside. All the Milliput dirt on each tracklink was now painted brown matt98, and then comes the moment of great excitement when the tracks are put in place and the model’s almost finished.
Final touches
To bond all the parts and make them look like the same unit going through the same treatment a thin layer of brown matt98 and gloss varnish was airbrushed over the more heavily soiled areas, especially wheels and tracks.
The classical Russian saw was painted with mixed Windsor&Newton Raw Umber and gunmatel53 then randomly treated with Windsor&Newton Burnt Sienna dragged from end to end with a sponge. Normally that’s the way the saw’s dragged through the wood…I drybrushed the teeth gunmetal53. A loose spade livens up the scene a bit. This one’s german from a TAMIYA halftrack. Handle was painted brown matt29 and blade again Windsor&Newton Raw Umber, then orange pastells for light rust and lastly drybrushed edges with gunmetal53.

I added three towshackles, not in it’s dedicated place on the fender but stacked behind the forward hullrails. They got the look of frequently used pieces of equipment as they are bare metal. Green matt86 drybrushed with gunmetall53 and edges with silver11. The chain on the enginedeck is originally for boatbuilders but fits perfectly to scale 1:35. Painted brown matt98 and wethered with pastels, pure orange. Black pastels were added as smoke on the gunmuzzle and under the exhaustpipes. A piece of rope’s holding the wire in place at the front, and for this I used copperwire simply primed with no1. The antenna was glued in place from the very start and is originally a fine wire used in radio controlled planes. Here I have all different stages of rust and wear and tear and it really helps making the overall impression so much better.

There’s not to much to say about the painting here except basecolours are brown matt29 for the commander and a mix of black matt33 and blue matt25 for the loader. Fleshtones were painted with oil over a mix of flesh matt 61 and white matt34. Holsters were also painted in oil to get the leather semigloss finish. I added a cord from pistol around the commander neck to give the figure something extra. Don’t know if this was practise among soviet tank crews, but I do have seen it on a couple of photos.

Needless to say the paint must be given the chance to dry completely before moving to the next stage. Also it’s very, very easy to get carried away when ie chipping paint. Overdo it and it all of a sudden looks terribly out of place! Another healthy thing to do is to put the model aside now and then, after finished painting the very obvious of the process currently under construction. This will help you not get blinded and keep on doing things you’ll regret in the end.
It’s a paradox really that when all you have to do is either sit back and wait or just stop doing something, that’s when you really got a big chance to screw things up! At least that how it works with me.

See the rest of the pictures of the T-34/85 here>>

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