Friday, 18 July 2014

US Airborne Normandy - Construction

This is one of Dragons early figure sets, 6010 and I must have had these a while because they are still in the old orange plastic, not the grey they changed to later. I decided to go with the guy carrying the bazooka, mainly because it is the least contrived and most natural looking pose (don't be fooled by the boxart).

I made a start by blu-tacking the major bits together to get an idea of the pose and then proceeded to refine the moulding using various scalpel blades to further refine some detail. The photos below show about where I am up to at the moment - most of the torso and the left leg have been done, just need to finish up the other leg, the arms and the boots. You can see in this shot how the chest pocket detail and the left leg pocket really pops out now, this prep work really is worthwhile on plastic figures but it can take ages.

As you can see, I replaced most of the webbing equipment with the superior Tamiya items. Dragon do usually give 100% with their German equipment and weapons but some of their allied equipment really is rubbish. I have also replaced the head with a Hornet one and have made a start on the helmet.

So that is where we are to date, rather than show the "ready for paint" item, I thought it would be interesting to see the figure progress in the "modelling" stage first.

One of the limitations of injection moulding is that the two halves of the mould have to be pulled apart perpendicular to each other (I'm not going to go into fancy slide moulds or anything). What this means for us is that moulding net on a helmet, or ears on a head for example, are pretty much impossible to do properly. Hence my experiment here trying to improve the netting appearance.

First step is to attach said helmet to a length of sprue to give us something to hold onto. I used another orange one to make it easier to see. (If you look closely you will see the moulded on net detail on the helmet, I didn't bother removing it)

Next up, pull a piece of stocking over the top ensuring that the mesh is square and even. Once you have this, "lock off" the piece of stocking with some fuse wire to stop it moving;

Next, continue winding the wire towards the helmet. What this does is pulls the edges underneath the rim;

All you need to do now is glue it. I used Rocket Hot thin CA just on the underside of the rim and on the inside. When this is dry, you can trim the interior bits so it just leaves the mesh turned under the helmet rim. I also brushed Tamiya thin cement over the entire helmet just to remove any nylon fuzz ad that was that.

So there you go, easy eh ?

But be warned. If you get thrown out of Victoria's Secret for fondling the lingerie, I don't know you. It wasn't anything to do with me.

The limitations of injection moulding mean that there is usually a soft edge at the base of most detail, mainly to allow the mould halves to release. Generally the older the figure, the worse it is. However, we can easily enhance this detail using tools you will probably already have, or can get cheaply.

The process is very simple, it just requires all of the base edges to be scraped to some extent, I generally use two different scalpel blades for this. Here are the weapons of choice; a No.6 blade, a No.11P blade and some scotchbrite. I will always start off with new blades for each figure because the edges really do have to be sharp for this.

The curved No.6 is used for most of the work, this one is great for recreating undercuts and refining the points where dissimilar items touch, (belt to jacket, jacket to trousers, etc), and most general stuff.

The second blade, the No.11P (Not a standard No.11) has a very acutely angled tip which is perfect for recreating seam lines and detail around webbing and buckles. This is usually held more perpendicular to the surface so you are only using the very tip of the blade (I suppose you could use a needle for this instead). Downside is that this blade will lose its’ point very quickly and it will need replacing most often. You are lucky if you can complete one figure with the same blade.

The key to the technique is to use very little pressure when scraping, you don't want to remove too much material or leave blade marks in the plastic. Just take your time and work your way around the part methodically, making sure you don’t dig the blade in too deep. What you are trying to do is make a sharper edge around parts, not plough furrows, so be subtle. If you press too hard you are also more likely to get blade “chatter” where it jumps along the line and this leaves unsightly marks which are very hard to get rid of. Remember, it is easier to go over an area again than it is to repair it if you have gone too far.

The dodgy 3D image below shows the process and roughly the angle I hold the blades at.

Very rarely it is necessary to gently sand the area afterwards with some fine wet & dry, usually a rub with the scotchbrite is enough to smooth everything out. Finally I paint the area with a very small amount of Tamiya extra thin cement to remove any plastic fuzz that may be left over - be very sparing here otherwise all of that detail you just created will melt back into goo.

This shot of the right leg pocket is what you get from the box, you can see the edges are very soft and the joint between the pocket and the leg is undefined.

This is the left leg pocket after I have refined it a little, the detail is sharper, seams and joints are more defined and it just looks a lot better.

You can see here in the overall torso just how much this process enhances the moulding around the pockets and webbing.

Now you may not want to go down this route, and to be honest it is a very time-consuming process, but hopefully you can see that with a little work you can really lift basic plastic figures to another level. You will also see a major benefit when you come to the next stage, it makes it far easier to paint !

One of the main things that lets down plastic figures is the boots. Detail is usually very soft indeed and the lace area in-particular can be very poor. This is the OOTB boots;

Once I tidied up and re-scribed the boots, I removed all of the lace detail and scribed a line to represent where the front would come together over the tongue. (I'm sure there is a technical term for this bit but I have no idea what it is, so here are some pictures instead).

Makes a big difference doesn't it ?

In the past I have "laced" the boots with fuse wire (which is usually over-scale) or stretched-sprue (which takes forever to do and has a tendency to melt if you use liquid poly to glue it on), but discovered a far better and quicker way of getting a good looking result.

Get hold of a piece of diamond pattern mesh of a suitable size - I use aluminium because it is soft, but brass will work just as well - and then cut a line of X's off the edge. (You might need to trim it a bit).

All that remains is to glue this onto the front of the boot and hey-presto, laced-up boot.

Even if you don't go to town on the re-scribing of the rest of the figure, I think adding some detail to the boots really does make a big difference.

Put together the Plusmodels bazooka - very nice piece of kit and a definite improvement over the Dragon offering. Still need to add the trigger guard and the carrying strap but here she is; (and yes, that rear guard was a nightmare to do.)

Did a bit more to this over the last few days, cleaned up and added the musette bag (rucksack) and glued the arms on in the correct positions. There will be a bit of magicsculpt work here to blend them in a bit, as well as a few gaps to fill but here is big gun guy so far..

The right hand is just held in place with blutak at the moment, this will need a lot more work to make it look convincing but now the arms are locked in position, it will be slightly easier.

In the meantime, I cleaned up the rest of the equipment and added a sling to the M1 Carbine. I usually make sling buckles by bending a piece of fuse wire around an old piece of etch fret (so it is a smaller, flatter profile) and leave one end free like the letter q. I then drill a very small hole (0.3mm) in the weapon to insert the buckles. The strapping is ordinary paper, stiffened with some thin super glue.

So, invigorated by my progress I exercised some spending power and got these;

And these;

So there we are about ready for painting, just smoothed over a few areas with the 'ol magicsculpt and had to re-build the right cuff area from foil to suit the hand position.The M1 will be painted and added later as it will be a nightmare to paint in-situ.

Anyway, enough waffle - on with the pics.


  1. Nice one Andy - You aren't alone.....

    1. Ha, found me Rob ! Seems like this blogging malarkey is the way forward then. I'll take a look at yours - ooh, err !

  2. That is funny about Victorias' Secret Andy :o)
    Damned good tip about the laces too