by: Eddy Nevarez [ ]
This is Alex Clark’s third small-scale armor modeling book. Where his two other soft cover books focus on the building and finishing of a specific type of armor vehicle – Panzer IV and Tiger II, this hardcover metal ring-bound guide covers his approach to small-scale armor modeling, from WWII to the present, encompassing the general building, detailing, scratch-building, finishing, displaying and photographing techniques and processes he uses to achieve museum quality armor replicas aimed at the moderate to advanced modeler.
About the book
Leading with an introduction by the renowned author this 192-page guide, part of Osprey’s ‘Masterclass’ modeling series of books, is divided into 8 separate chapters and an index. Written in English each of the first 7 chapters contain no less than 7 to 10 topics with several of the chapters covering over 15 topics, each fully explained with the majority of the covered subjects benefiting the modeler with an easy to understand instructional step-by-step format using captioned color photographs. Throughout the guide the author expresses his thoughts and experiences gained through his years of building giving a good account of his present approach to creating realistic and eye catching small-scale armor models.
Each of the chapters are well explored giving the reader the pros and cons of the individual subject topics within the chapters with options as to how best the modeler may achieve a desirable end result with a given method, technique, tool, product or material and the how and why the author practices his chosen way at arriving with a constant successful outcome using any one of the addressed subjects.
The first chapter takes a look at the tools and materials used by the author that the modeler should at least think about obtaining to aid him or her with the kit construction, painting and weathering. A detailed account on the use of each item is given and summarized with a captioned photograph.
I was pleasantly surprised to see, with the exception of one or two items that the author uses a very sensible selection of basic hand and shop tools, paint brushes and materials, that most moderate modelers usually already have acquired, to construct, detail and finish his models with. The few other pricey items such as the airbrush and compressor, photo-etch bending tool and punch and die sets eventually find a way to the workbench with the more advanced modeler. None of that, "I have to evil-bay out my other head and dogs to acquire an 8 in 1 gizmo-tool’ola" in order to add an accurate to scale dent to the plastic armor plate with heavy collateral damage to the wallet kind’a stuff here! And even without those specialized pricey items the modeler can still produce a quality attention-grabbing model using other alternatives as explained by the author.
No time is spent on the elementary building basics on the following two chapters, or in this guide, as these pages are devoted as a means of adding further guidelines, tricks and techniques that the armor modeler may find of use, I did! These two basic and advanced building construction process chapters total well over 20 separate topics, most of which are illustrated with an instructional captioned step-by-step arrangement. Starting with the simple clean up of parts all the way to unfolding the complexity of scratch-building in an easy to understand format that even a caveman, like myself, easily understood.
As I read through these two chapters I discovered new, better and easier methods by which to build my own kits. Common kit molding issues (ejector pin marks, sink holes, molded on tools, grab handles, overly thick parts, etc.) are covered here with simply explained techniques to resolve each of them. The authors approach to improving, modifying and fabricating (tracks, headlights, windscreens, rivets, bolts, tools, etc.) and working with different mediums to create, duplicate and texture kit parts (stowage, tarps, WWII Zimmerit paste, exhausts, cast metal, etc.) including a section on designing and casting your own parts, is all well illustrated and explained.
For me chapters 4 and 5 are where things really get exciting as this is where all of your previous construction efforts are covered in paint and that can either make or break your model. Here the author expresses his thoughts on painting with an interesting side note on his disaster prevention method. Color accuracy, preparation, scale lighting, single, multiple, hard and soft-edged color camouflage schemes, masking, markings, paint chips and scratches, pin washes, rust n’ dust, weathering, stains, etc., all of this and more fully explained with illustrated examples, and all on the first of these two chapters!
‘Oh, did I forget to mention that chapter 4 also contains a separate complete step-by-step section on figure painting in this scale?’ What a treat! Nothing tells a story or gives scale, life and action better than a figure(s). This is perhaps one of the most ignored areas in armor modeling especially in this small-scale where good figures are hard to come by and achieving a realistic appearance with paint is an art of its own. Here the author takes the modeler through his easy to comprehend figure painting process and shares some insight on his choices of available plastic, resin and white metal figures with a little mixing and matching of parts of scales.
The second half of these chapters deals with the more complex and advanced finishing effects and here the author examines two opposing finishing techniques in recreating both a realistic winter whitewash and a desert weathered worn and sand pitted bleached out finish using two differing masking methods and giving his take on the hairspray technique.
In chapter 6 the author looks at the few ways he goes about mounting his finished models to a plain base with a nametag to a fully illustrated step-by-step simple but practical ground work process that can be used to spring board the modeler into creating a more dynamic base in which to display his or her model(s). This would not be complete without photographing your work and here the author gives a full and detailed account on his personal set-up and method for photographing his models. Along with what camera and equipment he currently uses the lighting, camera angles and settings, digital formats and backgrounds are also explained in full detail. In fact all of the photographs in this book from cover to cover were taken by the author. Ending this chapter is a short communication on the upside of writing modeling articles. . . worth thinking about!
Chapter 7 ties all of the proceeding chapters together showcasing almost two dozen of the authors most recently built models effectively demonstrating all of the construction techniques, methods, paint finishes with photographs taken by him as described throughout the guide. Additional information is included for each of the featured models, giving an insight of the kit used and detailed summery of any aftermarket parts, modifications made and finishing techniques used, should the modeler wish to replicate a similar project.
The final chapter provides the modeler with the authors suggestions on periodicals and books containing small scale armor articles that the modeler may wish to acquire for extra reading to help him or her in building up their modeling skills with a section listing all of the sources and suppliers for the materials and references used most often by the author and included in the guide. A small communication on museums and the Internet is also included in the chapter. This area of guide is of much help should the modeler wish to seek further reading and research or add a few of the same tools as used by the author to his or her workbench.
If you ever wanted to take your armor modeling up to the next eye-popping level, well here it is! This guide is perhaps one of the most complete and comprehensive master-class works on small-scale armor modeling to date and a must have reference guide for any armor modeler! In a nut shell all of the methods, techniques and tools in this guide suit the entire armor vehicle scale range from 1/76 to 1/35.
Loaded with hundreds of pictures and explained techniques and methods for building and finishing your own kits with the added bonus of enhancing your own skills too – monkey see monkey do – in creating realistic looking armor vehicles, how can you go wrong? For me the figure painting and photography section alone are worth the price of admission the rest is just icing on the cake. This is one modeling guide that will sit open on my workbench for a long time to come.