So for the first time for about 4 Months I found the time to do some model construction and airbrushing. I focused on a couple of models that I have had in the queue for a while and got the GZG Mantis unmanned robotic missile attack VTOL put together and the pop up ground emplacement turret from Xmarx. Both of these models play a part in the latest update to Gruntz. The VTOL is part of a new classification of Air Attack Vehicles which is in addition to the standard Air Support Vehicles which are built for troop support and transport. The Air Attack vehicles can carry main weapons which makes them more effective at dealing with vehicle targets.
The new Xmarx turret also fits into the revised artillery classifications which includes fixed mount weapons and unlimbered field artillery. The rules allow for the hardened emplacement to pop up by taking 1 action, so they have a higher Soak statistic whilst the emplacement is in closed position which makes them a great base defense. This was a model I discussed with Xmarx and thought it would be a great feature in a 15mm game. Xmarx are now also working through the design for a resin bunker which will fit into the Grunts rules. Both of these resin buildings from Xmarx are inspired by strategy computer games which make use of automated turrets and bunkers to support vehicles and other units.
The VTOL from GZG is a multipart metal kit consisting of a long central bar with fittings like the front cockpit type sections, engine, fins, undercarriage, missile pods and jet thrusters. The various pieces slot on very easily and glue tightly with no pinning needed. The ball turret style front weapon has two options, a laser/plasma or RAC type. I already have two of the Roach variant of this VTOL which has a large container beneath to transport troops and I wanted to add this version which has the AI / UAV cockpit section, so rather than glass it has some digital gubbins and sensors added to the front.
AV-12/U "Mantis UAV" VTOL Gunship unmanned variant (remote or AI-controlled)
With these VTOL's you can place the undercarriage and wheels in a stowed or down position and I went for the stowed option to represent this model is in flight. One of my exisitng Roach models is on the ground but I wanted to go for an inflight option for this Mantis variant, so it can be seen to be threatening with the missile pods. With some effort with magnets you could probably create all the variants of the VTOL (Mantis and Roach varients) in a kit form and just click them onto the core structure "rod" which runs like a backbone through the model. Considering the low cost of 15mm and the fiddly nature of magnetising the model it is probably worth just buying the other options and painting them up.
To prep the model I used a sharp scalpel blade and various grades of Tamiya sandpaper. I did not exhaustively track down every mould line and spent most of prep time tidying up the worst of any miscast sections. It did have some junk in the VTOL blades and exhausts that needed a little TLC to get shifted by using a pin vice to drill out the worst flash. Overall it was very clean and tidy and easy to put together. It spent one night in a clear vinegar bath which then stripped any release agent and cleaned off any grease from my hands which tend to get hot when hand sanding and cutting the components. The fins at the back also needed their slots to be sanded out a bit so they could easily be glued on.
I used the amazing Gorilla Super glue which is thick and contains a resin which makes the join extra tough and avoids the usual superglue crust which can make the join weak.
I used a metal disc base and then glued on the heavy metal "Hex base" from GZG. You can't see the GZG hex base because it is underneath the gel and sand I added to disguise it. The metal rod is also GZG and comes as part of the large metal flight base. However on the top I added a Ninja magic magnetic connector. The magnetic connector allows me to pop the VTOL off the base for transport and was strong enough to keep the heavy metal VTOL in place for movement. I normally use the magnetic connectors on my Full Thrust fleets so I can quickly pack them for transport and change the fleet on the bases.
The Xmarx pop-up ground turret comes as a resin multi-part kit with 3 different turret options. A small missile, large missile and cannon option. It also has a set of bay doors which slide along rails (which are nicely detailed). It would be best integrated into a terrain base with extra details but I decided to paint it independently so I can drop it onto any type of terrain. The doors could also be magnetised to show them open or closed, however I left them lose for ease of airbrushing and you can quickly pop them on as closed bay doors when the model is in use on the table. The detail is really fine.
If you are interested in how I bolt the Ninja Magic Magnetic connectors onto the GZG hex bases you can see a full video showing these components on youtube here:
Primer coat was Tamiya light grey spray primer. This is my go to primer, especially for airbrushing because it has a very fine eggshell type finish, rather than the more powdery matte coat you might get with traditional miniature model primer. This has become a personal preference after years of trying different brands and has worked when I use it on miniatures for painting or airbrushing.
You can see the roach variant here with the troop transport.
My base colour is a black from Lifecolor. I used the Tire black for the base colour, with a highlight of Vulcanized rubber mixed with a little white to lighten the tone. You can't really see the highlights in the photos but I was intending to aim for a very subtle colour because I wanted a stealth black look to the final model.
With airbrushing you will find that the base coat is ultra smooth. You don't get lost (as I did) when painting vehicles where you find yourself looking at an inconsistent coat. It is very hard to finish a large vehicle with a single base coast using a hand brush and the airbrush makes this vital stage much easier. There is nothing better than having your base colour super smooth and consistent.
You can see here how small these models are with the gas mask in the frame. The Deck Tan colour from Tamiya was used for the base colour of the gun emplacement, with the same Tire black mix from Lifecolor used on the emplacement sliding roof and weapon. Note to self to make sure you don't leave any Lifecolor paint in the airbrush when adding Tamiya paint. The Tamiya made the Life Color paint curdle and block the airbrush which stopped the flow and required a cleaning break.
For my airbrushing I use an Awata HPC-Plus airbrush which has a 0.3mm nozzle. They are often used by modellers in the military modelling hobby and can get right down to a very fine and subtle line if you learn to use the fine control. In this instance I used it with the lifecolor paints which I thinned with a few drops of Vallejo thinners. The thinners keep the paint flowing well in the airbrush cup, reducing blockages.
You need a lot of cocktail sticks and cheap pipettes to hand when airbrushing to allow you to easily drop and move thinners, paints and cleaners around. Without pipettes and spare empty pots it becomes a logistics nightmare!
|Ready for Airbrushing. Sundstrom mask on and extractor behind me. My airbrush is resting in a desk mount.|
I also use a Sundstrom mask respirator. It has a great filter to keep out the particles of paint and bad stuff. You can use a lighter mask and goggles but I react badly to acrylic paints and found myself suffering cold like symptons, red face and sore eyes with a standard dust type mask and full goggles. You can always find good quality used Sundstrom masks on Ebay but you might need to purchase a new filter for it. It got pretty bad so an upgrade to a Sundstrom helped. My extractor sucks the worst of the paint fumes out of the house but I still reacted badly to the paints before I purchased the respirator.
Iwata HPC-Plus Airbrush.
The next phase for this mini project is weathering and details on both models. I will try and achieve a stealth look to the VTOL and will weather up the weapons base with scratches and rust water/rust damage.