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Trumpeter 1/72 Russia KV-1 M1942 Lightweight Cast Tank (07233) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the Trumpeter KV-1 and normally at this stage of a 1/72 kit, I’d be thinking about drilling out the main gun. Happily, slide moulding means that isn’t necessary here. Hurrah! Unfortunately, instead I have to consider what to do with the nasty, too-tight vinyl tracks.

If you have read my in-box review of this kit, you’ll know that I was unimpressed by the vinyl tracks provided with this kit. They are not only impervious to glue, they’re rather short. I joined both using a needle and thread but, when I tried a dry-fit, one was so tight that it snapped off the idler. So, before I even begin assembly, I have to think about how to stretch the tracks. In the end, I keep it simple – I place two screws in a block of wood with the tracks stretched between. I’ll leave them in place for several days in a warm room in the hope that this will stretch them a little.

Then, it’s time to start assembly. I begin with the turret, and everything fits nicely with no filler required and only a little light sanding needed where the turret halves join. The gun mount and mantlet are fixed in position and can’t be raised or lowered. That means that you have a main gun that is elevated rather high, but I can live with that.

There are no problems adding the various bits and pieces to the upper hull. I’ll be leaving the upper and lower hull parts separate until later, when I have fitted the tracks, but a dry assembly shows a good, positive fit with no notable gaps.

Then I add the running gear to the lower hull. Again, everything fits nicely with no major drama. One minor issue is that the attachment points of parts to the sprues are rather thick. This, combined with the fact that the plastic of which they are made seems rather brittle, led to my snapping some small parts when cutting them from the sprue. This isn’t a major problem, but some care is required.

Then, it’s time to begin painting. I’ll be following a different approach for the upper hull and turret and the lower hull. For the lower hull, I begin by giving everything a coat of Tamiya TS-28 Olive Drab 2 from a spray can. This seems a good match for Russian green.

Then, I paint the upper part of the hull and the sprocket with Vallejo matt white, also from a spray can.

Once that’s done, I paint the roadwheel and return roller tyres with dark grey.

For the hull and turret, I paint in a different order. First, everything gets an overall spray coat of Vallejo white.

Then, I mask and add the small areas of Tamiya TS-28 and add the turret decals and paint the machine guns and exhausts before giving it all a coat of clear varnish

Then, it all gets a pin wash of dark grey oil paint to pick out shadows, highlight the intake mesh screens and to give everything a grubby, well-used look.

I do the same thing to the turret, lower hull and the running gear and then, it’s time for the tracks.

Fitting the tracks isn’t as difficult as I had feared. Their time on my home-made stretching rack has made both significantly longer and I am able to fit them without risking snapping off the sprockets or idlers. For some reason, this photo makes the tracks look unpainted, but they aren’t – I used my usual scheme of a dark gunmetal base followed by lighter gunmetal for highlights and an overall brown wash, all applied before fitting. As you can also see, the track on the far side is now quite loose, but that’s OK because I still have plans for the tracks.

With these safely fitted, I join the upper and lower hulls and the turret. I also add spare track links and the tow cables and it’s immediately obvious that these cables are a little long and, because they are made of the same glue-resistant vinyl as the tracks, I can’t simply cut out a small section and reglue. They don’t look terrible, just a little odd.

The heavy KV-1 tracks have characteristic sag, and the last job on this kit is to try to model this on my newly stretched tracks. I use a few small curved sections cut from a transparent plastic bottle and insert these between the tracks and the track guards.

This approach only works where you have broad track guards close to the tracks, but these small pieces of plastic are essentially invisible from most angles once they’re in place on this kit. With that job done, the Trumpeter KV-1 is finished.

After-Action Report

Ninety percent of this kit is great. All the plastic parts fit well, are cleanly and sharply modelled and seem to be accurate to the original subject. Parts like the mesh intake screens perhaps could have been better executed, but overall the main construction is very good indeed.

Then there are the tracks. Now, I have several other reviews where the tracks on Trumpeter KV-1 kits in 1/72 are either not mentioned in terms of length or where it is noted that they are rather long and a little loose. That certainly wasn’t the case on this kit, but perhaps I was just unlucky? If this came with length and link tracks, or flexible tracks that could be glued or even vinyl tracks that were long enough, it would be absolutely superb.

But it doesn’t. And because of that, this is a little hard to recommend. If you’re confident about your needle and thread skills and willing to stretch the tracks before putting them in place, you can end up with a very reasonable result. Otherwise, you may want to look elsewhere. However, having spent so much time moaning about the tracks, I’m not too unhappy with how they turned out here. The join is still fairly obvious but at least they do have some sag so perhaps this isn’t such a major issue after all?

I guess it all depends what you want and how much time you’re willing to put in. I think there is the basis of a really cracking kit here, but it may take a little work to realise that potential, especially in regard of the tracks.  

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Zvezda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) Build Review

First chore on the Zvezda T-34/76 is drilling out the main gun and with that done, it’s time to start on the hull. There is actually very little construction involved. The headlight and antenna base are added as are the toolboxes. I’ll be leaving off the tow cables to paint separately. The exhausts must be fitted to the rear of the upper hull and, just as on the Zvezda SU-85, there is a small but noticable gap on either side that needs to be filled. 

After complaining that the fit between the upper and lower hull on the SU-85 wasn’t great, here it’s very good indeed. No filler needed and only a quick swipe with a sanding stick though unlike the SU-85, the exhausts aren’t moulded open here.

Then, it’s on to the turret. There are no fit problems with the mantlet, main gun or turret base, and no filler is needed but the hatches have a moulding seam and some distortion once they’re cut off the sprue and they do need a fair bit of sanding to make them flat.

It’s only when I try fitting the turret in place that I realise I have made a mistake in construction. I glued the turret base in place in the upper hull. Then, the turret snaps on to that part. However, it won’t rotate because I have glued the base in place. If I had just pushed this into place from the inside and then snapped the turret on from the top, it would have then revolved. Note to self: read the instructions! At least by glueing the base in position I can keep the turret separate for painting and snap it in place at the end.

I also fit all the roadwheels and the inner halves of the sprockets and idlers – the outer halves will have to wait until the tracks are fitted and I’ll be painting these separately. These wheels fit much better than the same parts on the SU-85 which were a very tight fit.  

It all then gets a base coat of flat white, and then it’s time for the main colour. When building the SU-85, I confidently said that just about any colour of green will do for a Russian tank from World War Two. Protective Green 4BO, the standard green used on Russian AFVs, certainly varied in colour both as it was applied and due to weathering and fading. However, I felt that the SU-85 ended up just too dark, so this time, I’m mixing my own base colour for brush-painting.

After a great deal of experimentation, I come up with something I’m fairly happy with. It’s very light at this stage, but I know that adding varnish and oil washes will darken it quite a bit. One problem quickly becomes apparent – once the two hatches on the turret roof are sanded to make them flat, they fit so closely and flush with the roof that they virtually disappear under the paint. I distress the finish with a scourer to highlight worn areas.

Then I add the decals to the turret and paint on some light chipping and then it all gets a coat of matt varnish.

Then, it gets a dark grey oil wash to bring out shadows and some white oil streaking to give some visual interest to flat panels. 

Then I paint the roadwheel tyres and exhaust and the tracks get the usual dark grey undercoat, with highlights added with a soft pencil, then a coat of clear varnish and some brown acrylic wash on the tracks and roadwheels to simulate mud. Assembly of the tracks is a little fiddly, and might have been better done before joining the upper and lower hull halves. I didn’t do it that way because I want to paint the tracks separately and I was concerned that the upper/lower hull join might need filling and sanding. In the event, this join was fine and I could probably have painted the upper and lower hull separately and then joined them once the tracks had been added. Isn’t hindsight a wonderful thing?

The upper and lower runs are anchored on to pegs on the inner halves of the idlers and sprockets as are the curved end sections. Getting these all neatly in place with the upper and lower hulls joined is tricky, but the end result isn’t bad at all. Overall, I rather like this method of creating the tracks. It’s also nice to see that the upper run isn’t completely straight – it does incorporate a little sag.

All that then remains is to add the tow cables and a radio antenna and the Zvezda T-34 is finished.

After-Action Report

I’m still struggling to get a good representation of Protective Green 4BO. I think this is better than the darker green I used on the SU-85, but my brush painting is still far from perfect.

The kit itself isn’t bad. Fit is generally very good and I do like the tracks. The snap-together nature of this kit doesn’t really affect construction and the fact that I ended up with a non-rotating turret was entirely up to my failing to follow the instructions. I also managed to snap off and lose the headlight to the carpet monster and I was forced to make a replacement.

However, as a kit, this is pretty good. Perhaps the surface detail isn’t quite as sharp as some newer kits, the turret hatches could be better defined and maybe this would have looked good with some tools, spare track links and other bits and pieces of outside storage, but in general this is a good representation of a T-34/76 early Model 1934.

These little Zvezda 1/72 armour kits are good value and simple to build, which makes a nice change from some more complex 1/35 kits I have built. I don’t feel that this T-34 is quite up to the standard of the same manufacturer’s SU-85, especially in terms of the sharpness of the detail, but it certainly isn’t terrible. This makes a pleasant and relaxing way to while away some lockdown hours and there isn’t anything here that would challenge most kit-builders.

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Zvezda 1/72 Soviet Medium Tank T-34/76 Model 1943 (5001) In-Box Review and History

Zvezda 1/72 Soviet Tank Destroyer SU-85 (5062) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of Zvezda’s 1/72 SU-85 and, given that this kit is “Snap together – no glue required” I obviously won’t be needing any glue. Except, that’s not quite how it turned out…

The first job, as usual on most 1/72 kits, is drilling out the bore of the main gun. I don’t enjoy this – it’s just too easy to drill a fraction off-centre, but in this case, it all goes well.

Construction begins with the upper hull. The parts required to assemble the gun, mounting and mantlet fit fairly cleanly and are indeed designed to snap together leaving the gun free to traverse and elevate. However, you will be wanting to use glue to hold things like the rain cover and mantlet securely in place. Likewise the small vents on the roof and the rear part of the upper hull. These do all have mounting pegs and corresponding holes, but IMHO, glue is needed for a secure fix.

Just two parts (the handrails on either side of the hull) have no means of fixing other than glue. In general, the whole snap-together approach actually works very well in as much as it provides clear locations for all parts but really, you’ll be wanting to use glue too. Things like the rear fuel tanks are very nicely made – construction is idiot proof (they will only assemble in the correct orientation) and fit on these is superb.

However, I was less happy with the fit in other places. In particular, there is a notable gap on the right side and top of the main gun mounting. This is sufficiently wide on the right that you can see inside the hull, so filler is required. The rear plate of the upper hull also has fit issues and it took some sanding, filling and re-scribing panel lines to get something that looks right.

Both the exhausts fit into cut-outs in the rear hull that are a fraction wider than the exhausts, so again, filler is required to fill these gaps. The upper and lower hull halves also snap together, but again, glue is required for a secure fit. Both front and rear joins required sanding and filling. The rear join in particular needs a fair amount of sanding to get something that looks right.

The lower hull incorporates part of the track guards that fit into holes in the upper hull. I was concerned that these would be visible from above, but the joins are generally covered by toolboxes and other equipment, so these aren’t really a problem.

I have left off the tracks, sprockets, idlers, roadwheels, tools and tow cables at this stage simply because I want to paint these separately. I find that painting tyres on roadwheels in particular is much easier while these are loose and they can be mounted on a match or cocktail stick and rotated.

With the sanding and filling done, it’s time for something completely different. Rather than using a black or dark base for the main coat, I am going to use white. The reason is simple – I’ll follow this with a coat of varnish and then a coat of olive green. I will then buff the surface, hoping that the white will show through the green on high spots to replicate, wear, fading and highlights. That’s the plan, anyway…

I begin with a coat of matt white from an aerosol can. This is followed by a coat of clear, matt varnish. This also gives me a chance to check that my attempts at sanding have blended in the worst of the gaps. You’ll have to take my word for it because I forgot to take any photos of the kit at this stage. Just visualise an all-white SU-85…

Then I spray a top coat of Vallejo Olive Drab, also from a can. OK, I know, there is great deal of debate about precisely the shade of green used on Soviet tanks in World War Two. There seem to have been several different shades of green depending on where the paint was mixed and the tank painted. Some paints seem to have reacted to exposure to sunlight by becoming darker while others faded to a lighter colour. Then, you have to take into account colour scaling… For what it’s worth and in my view, just about anything resembling olive green is acceptable for a WW2 Russian AFV.

Then I buff with the abrasive side of an ordinary household scourer to create lighter areas on high spots by revealing the white undercoat. Then, it gets a coat of clear varnish mixed with a little olive drab to tone down the highlights a little.

Overall, this is close to what I was looking for. I then add the decals, though I put these on the right side only as that seems to accord with the vehicle in the museum in Moscow. I add paint chipping around hatches and other areas using dark grey and then it gets another coat of clear varnish and then it’s on to the oil washes.

I use a dark grey oil for shadows and to highlight things like the grilles on the rear deck and I add some white streaking and highlights to larger panels. I’m not too unhappy with the overall result, though it has turned out a darker green that I had hoped. If I’m doing another Russian WW2 AFV in this scale, I may use a different, lighter green as the base colour.

Then, it’s time to start on the tracks. You must follow the sequence of construction noted in the instructions here. First, the inner halves of the roadwheels, idler and sprocket are added. And that’s not as easy as it sounds. I really struggled at this stage. The problem is that all are a very tight fit on the spindles or sockets to which they attach. I guess this is to make them snap together, but it took so much force to get things like the sprocket inner half in place that I was concerned that it would snap. So, it took quite a bit of sanding, fitting and re-fitting to get to this point.  

Then, the tracks are added. The inner roadwheel with the pegs on it goes in the centre, and this locates the tracks in place.

I did a fairly simple paint-job on the tracks before fitting, just a coat of dark gunmetal followed by dry-brushed lighter gunmetal highlights and some brown for rust and dirt.

Finally, the outer halves of the wheels are added. Again, this isn’t easy and it takes more force than I was happy with. If I was doing this again (and I will be, soon…) I’d fix the inner halves in place during hull construction, dry-fit the outer halves and sand as required and then and paint the inner halves in-situ rather than trying to add them after painting the hull.

With the tracks done, all that’s left is to add the tools, tow cables and other bits and pieces. And here I found that, once again, the snap together construction means that I might have better to follow the sequence of construction in the instructions. If, as I did, you assemble the toolboxes on the hull, for example, before you try to fit things like the tow cable and saw, they don’t snap into place. To get these to fit, I had to cut off the locating pegs and glue them into position.

All that remains is to add a stretched-sprue radio antenna, and that’s the Zvezda SU-85 done…  

After-Action Report

I have been building mainly 1/35 kits recently, and I had almost forgotten how quick and fun these little 1/72 kits can be. Most construction was done in a single, short session and even the painting took much less time than usual. I also rather like the fact that these smaller scale kits are cheaper and take up less display space than their larger counterparts.

Overall, I was very impressed with this, my first Zvezda kit. Detail is crisp, accurate and complete, there was a total absence of flash and the only mould-release marks are placed inside, where they can’t be seen. As far as I can tell, this builds into a good representation of the SU-85 with no major inaccuracies or problems.

I’m not so sure about the whole “snap together – no glue required” thing. A couple of parts must be glued in place and I am not at all certain that some of the smaller parts could be fitted securely without the use of glue. On some small parts such as the sprockets, the amount of force needed to snap these into place is so great that I was concerned that I’d break them and I ended up sanding these and gluing them into position. It’s not a major problem, but I suggest you do have glue and sandpaper to hand if you’re building one of these.

This approach also means that you must either follow the recommended steps for construction or be prepared to glue some small parts into place. For example, I left things like the tow cables and tools until I had finished constructing and painting the hull, and that meant that some of these parts couldn’t be easily snapped into place.

Fit was, well, all right. Some filing and sanding was needed in a few places but no worse than I have experienced on several other kits. I do like the semi-hard plastic tracks provided on this kit. They look much more to scale than most rubber-band style tracks, they’re less fiddly than link-and-length tracks, especially in this small scale, and they bend round the sprocket and idler convincingly. These do mean that you must follow the recommended steps for assembly, but this isn’t difficult, just different.

I suppose the most important question is: having built this one, would I buy another Zvezda 1/72 kit? And the answer is an emphatic: Yes! In fact, I think I can feel a T-34 sort of mood approaching…

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Tamiya 1/35 Sturmgeschütz IV Sd.Kfz. 163 (35087) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the StuG IV. I’m looking forward to this one because, in my limited experience, these older Tamiya kits are simple to build and fit is generally very good indeed. Because they were originally designed as motorised kits, the upper and lower hull are separate assemblies that can be joined later in the construction process, and that can make painting things like the roadwheels, sprocket idler and suspension a little simpler. I have decided to use the kit decals to model a StuG of Sturmgeschütz-Brigade 237 (formerly Sturmgeschütz-Abteilung 237). This unit was formed in February 1944 and took part in action on the Eastern Front in defence against the Soviet offensive known as Operation Bagration.

I’ll be going for an overall dunklegelb (dark yellow) finish without any additional camouflage. As ever, I’ll be brush painting just about everything and I hope to create a slightly battered looking StuG from the early Summer of 1944.

I begin with assembling the various part of the upper and lower hull and the main gun. And it’s immediately obvious that fit is simply superb. Everything assembles with no gaps; the placement of parts is generally clear and there is no need for filler anywhere.

I assemble the upper hull with the loader’s hatch open (I’ll be placing the figure from the kit in this hatch) but with the Commander’s hatch closed. In retrospect, I might have been better to leave the Commander’s hatch open because the kit includes a rather nice representation of the periscopic Commander’s sight.

I also work on the Schurzen side armour at this point. In the kit, all five panels on each side are modelled as a single piece. However, in reality these were separate plates so I carefully cut the armour into five pieces on each side. Each panel is provided with its own mounting points and I’m hoping that cutting out the individual panels will be enough to suggest that these are separate parts without bending the individual panels as I have seen done on some kits. This also gives me the option of leaving out one or more panels, something that was frequently seen on well-used vehicles.

I then spray everything with a base coat of Tamiya TS-68 from an aerosol can, simply because I have a little left in a can and at least it gives me a consistent base to work on.

I’ll be using MIG Jimenez acrylic paint for the main colour, with Dunklegelb Base and Dunklegelb Shine for highlights. One thing I do like about these paints is that they’re translucent, so I apply the Shine first to areas that would reflect more light…

Then I add a top coat of the Base colour, leaving the highlighted areas still just visible.

Next, I carefully paint chipped areas on the upper and lower hull as well as on the gun and mantlet. I use a dark grey to suggest an exposed undercoat and I try to keep it logical – raised areas and places where there would be likely to get wear show more chipping.  

Then, I paint the tyres on the roadwheels and return rollers – not one of my favourite jobs! I also paint the tools, tow cable, jack and MG34 at this stage, and I’m trying a different technique here. I paint all these items dark grey and then highlighted edges and worn areas with a soft pencil.

I’m fairly happy with the result and these are added to the hull and the decals are applied using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener. The decals are fine, though they do feel a little thick.

Then, and I fix the gun and mantlet in position – a nice touch is that the gun can both traverse and elevate when it’s in place. Everything then gets a coat of clear matte varnish before I start on the oil wash to bring out shadows. I use Abteilung oils dark mud, a fairly dark brown which contrasts nicely with the dark yellow finish. The fine panel detail makes highlighting recessed lines fairly simple.

Then I join the upper and lower hull parts. Hey, it’s starting to look like a StuG!

I assemble the exhaust and give it a coat of Tamiya white putty to simulate a rusty texture and then paint it orange before overpainting with a thick layer of the same oil paint I used for the shadow wash. I then use thinner to rub off some of the oil paint and this gives a blotchy finish that kind of looks like rust. I’m also happy with the effect of the pencil highlights on the tow cable.

Then the tracks get the same treatment as the tools – after a base coat of dark gunmetal and a coat of clear varnish, I use a pencil to add a soft metallic shine to raised areas. When they’re in place I’ll add some brown acrylic wash to suggest rust and dirt.

Wrestling the vinyl tracks into position is fairly simple. They aren’t too tight, though it would be difficult to simulate any sort of sag. However, on this kit the top run of the tracks will be hidden by the Schurzen plates, so this isn’t a major issue.

The figure is next and, once again, I’m really not sure about the information provided by Tamiya. The painting guide is shown on the side of the box. This shows the figure wearing a camouflaged jacket and a green cap and trousers.

The style of the unform is certainly correct with the wrap jacket, but all the references I can find suggest that StuG crews (who were members of the artillery rather than panzer troops) wore grey uniforms throughout the war. So, I give my crewman a grey uniform, which also means I don’t have to attempt a complex camouflage pattern, something I think I’d find very challenging in 1/35 – I have to admit that my figure painting skills aren’t the best! A pistol holster is included in the kit but, as the figure doesn’t have a belt, there isn’t anywhere to hang this. The kit also includes headphones, but these fit so badly on the figure’s head that I leave them off.

The last jobs are to add the two radio antenna and hang the Schurzen plates on either side – they don’t have to be glued in place, so you can display the finished kit with one or more plates missing. And that is the StuG IV pretty much done… 

 After Action Report

Other than adding some rusty texture to the exhaust with Tamiya white putty (and that was the only occasion I needed to use any filler on this kit), cutting the Schurzen side armour into individual plates and adding the radio antenna, this build is straight out of the box. I’m very happy with the result and the kit itself is a sheer pleasure to build. There aren’t a great many tiny parts and what there is fits perfectly. The instructions are generally clear (though I did struggle to understand where to place the rear towing hooks) and there is nothing really challenging in this build.

As with the other old Taimya 1/35 kits I have built, this was just fun and relaxing to build and paint. Perhaps the tracks could be better and there is a gap between the upper hull and the top of the roadwheels that can be seen from some angles through the open loader’s hatch, though it would be simple to fill this with plastic card – I failed to notice until I had joined the upper and lower hull.  I’m sure that more recent kits of the StuG IV provide more detail and things like stowage items on the outside of the hull. Nevertheless, this builds into a reasonable representation of a StuG IV for very little money.

Two generations of German tank destroyer in 1/35

Italeri Marder III behind

Overall, this kit is highly recommended and it might be especially appropriate for someone coming to 1/35 armour kits for the first time.

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Italeri 1/35 SdKfz 139 Panzerjäger Marder III (6210) Build Review

It’s time to start the build of the Marder, and I’m a little nervous. I don’t own an airbrush and on previous 1/35 kits I have used acrylic spray-cans for the base colour. Despite what the instructions recommend, I’m going for overall panzer grey here to model a Marder in Russia in late 1942. I don’t have a spray-can of the right colour and I plan to brush-paint everything. Which of course brings its own particular challenges…

I begin with assembling the hull and almost straight away, it is clear that this kit has some fit issues. The first problem is that the rear right side of the engine compartment is badly bent. Now, I don’t think this is an issue with the kit itself, more probably in the way that this example has been stored, but it’s very noticeable. The picture above shows the assembled rear hull after I tried to straighten it out, but it’s still not straight. The second issue becomes obvious on dry assembly – the overall fit here just isn’t great, particularly round the rear hull. Compared to, for example, some Tamiya kits from the same period, parts just don’t fit together positively and a great deal of care is needed to avoid lots of unsightly gaps.

With the addition of some filler to the worst gaps, the hull is largely complete and it’s clear that there isn’t much internal detail here other than a couple of seats and a shell storage rack. I may add some helmets, gas-mask cases and other bits and pieces from the spares box to add visual interest later though, to be honest, the interior is largely hidden by the gun, mount and armour. The anti-slip mesh on the floor is quite nicely done, but it’s marred by some very obvious sink-marks and these are impossible to remove without sanding away the mesh. I paint the interior off-white, then add a layer of clear varnish and a wash of dark grey oil paint. This does enhance the detail, but it also makes the sink-marks very obvious.

Then, it’s time to work on the rest of the hull, though I’ll be leaving the upper guards off until the tracks are complete. The suspension parts fit well and without any major drama. Actually, most parts added to the hull fit fairly well, which is a relief. With the main hull done, I give that and the armour a couple of coats of well-thinned (to avoid obvious brush marks) coat of Vallejo German Grey.

Then, I rub with a household scourer to remove paint from details, high spots and edges.

Then, everything gets a very thin, lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey which leaves the highlights still visible.

Then, I add the decals and it all gets a coat of clear, acrylic varnish and then a wash of thinned black oil paint to enhance the shadows and some white streaks to give some variation to main panels. For some reason, the camera makes these look much more intense than they really are – they’re barely noticeable lighter areas, not white stripes! 

Then it’s time to start work on the gun and mount. The barrel is moulded in two halves and, though they have locating pins, fit once again isn’t great and it takes quite a bit of sanding and the use of filler to get something approximately circular and smooth.  

Overall, detail on the gun is quite good, but the location for some parts isn’t very clear and the instructions aren’t a great help. Once it’s done, it gets a couple of coats of German Grey.

Then I rub off the high spots and give it a final coat of lightened German Grey. And then a wash of black oil paint and some white streaking. Then I highlight the control wheels in a light gunmetal and add the gun shield.

The road and return wheels, idlers and sprockets get the same treatment and the tyres are painted in dark grey. Then it’s time to work on the tracks. I’ll be assembling these on the running gear and then removing them for painting. Assembly isn’t particularly difficult and the instructions are clear. However, I do note one odd thing – the instructions state that seven single track links should be used on the rear idler and six on the front sprocket, but if you do that, this is the result…

Happily, there are plenty of spare single track links provided, so it’s simple to add another on the sprocket on both sides. Then the tracks are removed and painted. I keep this pretty simple – a base coat of dark gunmetal, highlights picked out in a lighter gunmetal and then an acrylic brown wash to simulate rust and dirt.

Then, I add the painted tracks to the hull. I’m happy with the result and this wasn’t nearly as fiddly as some track-and-link kits I have built. Finishing the tracks is always a good moment during the construction of any AFV as it really starts to look like a tracked vehicle.

Then, I add the track-guards, the rear storage and some other bits and pieces. The deformation in the rear hull causes some issues when fitting the guards, but with a bit of fiddling, it doesn’t look too bad. There are also some very evident sink-marks on the upper surfaces of the guards, and I’ll try to cover these with spare track links. After some more varnishing and oil wash, the hull is pretty much done.

Then, the gun and mount are attached to the hull which is straightforward. Finally, it’s starting to look a bit like a Marder.

Then, the top and side armour panels are then added and that’s another frustrating experience. There is a complete absence of mounting guides on the armour panels or the hull to say where and how these fit. It’s just way too easy to get the whole armour construction too far forward (or back) or to find that it’s not straight – I managed all three at various points before arriving at something I could live with. It takes a fair amount of referring to photographs of real Marders to work out where everything goes and some care and attention to make sure things are the same on both sides.

And finally the last parts like the exhaust, tools, jack and spare tracks links are added. The final touch is the addition, from my spares box, of helmets, gas-mask containers and an MP40 in the rear stowage and the addition of a radio antenna. I left out the expended shell casings provided with the kit, partly because they look a little oversize and mostly because my attempt to mix a brass colour looked so horrible. Finally, everything gets a well-thinned coat of matt varnish mixed with a little Panzer Grey. This tones everything in and reduces highlights while still leaving them visible.

And that is the Marder done.  

After Action Report

Other than drilling out the exhaust and adding some rusty texture to the same part with Tamiya white putty and adding a couple of bits and pieces to the rear stowage, this build is straight out of the box. Like just about every other kit I have attempted, this has both positives and negatives. The biggest negative is poor or imprecise fitting, especially in the hull and upper armour though this also applies to many smaller parts – almost every time there is a part with pegs intended to fit in locating holes, they either don’t fit without sanding or the locating holes are not provided and must be drilled-out. The instructions aren’t always great either, and I had to refer to some pictures of actual Marder IIIs to be certain about where some parts fitted. That said, there is nothing here that’s a complete disaster.

Set against that, the suspension, running gear and tracks are well done, the gun is fairly detailed and simple to construct and I’m happy with how these parts of the kit look now that they’re finished. Brush painting any 1/35 kit is a challenge, but overall I’m fairly happy with how this looks now it’s finished. There aren’t too many obvious brush-marks and I feel that the highlighting of things like rivets, bolts and other high-spots adds to the overall effect. 

Compared to more modern kits, I’m aware that interior and exterior detail here is sparse and I do feel that this kit would benefit greatly from the inclusion of two or more nicely detailed, convincingly-posed figures (I know, it comes with two figures but frankly, you probably aren’t going to want to use either of them).

Overall, this was a pleasant kit to build. Fit frustrations mean that it wasn’t quite as relaxing as, for example, some Tamiya kits of a similar vintage, but I generally enjoyed building this Italeiri Marder and the finished model does look pretty much like the original. If you can find one (especially a version like this, with length-and-link tracks) I recommend this as a pleasant way to spend a few evenings. And that, after all, is why we do this…

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Tamiya 1/35 3.7cm Antitank Gun PaK 35/36 (35035) Build Review

Construction of the PaK 35/36 itself is very straightforward and the instructions show clearly what’s needed. Fit of, for example, the main parts of the loading section and breech is not great and some filler is need to avoid a visible seam on the top. Getting the forward part of the barrel absolutely straight also takes a little bit of care.

The wheels, chassis and stabilising legs are all added. I am leaving off the shield until I have finished basic painting.

I then do a basic assembly of the main parts of the figures. Quite a lot of filler is needed, particularly at the shoulders and where the legs join on to the torsos. At least the poses don’t look too bad. The shell that the loader is clutching in his right hand really does look a little silly – it’s just too small, so I cut it off and I will replace it later with one of the loose shells from the kit.

I have made a small base out of an old picture frame and I try placing the gun and figures on this, just to see how everything will fit. I am aiming for a muddy lane, somewhere in Russia in the Autumn of 1941, and I have used some strips of plastic card to suggest the basic layout.

Then, it’s back to the gun. First, everything gets a lightened coat of Vallejo German Grey (I find the base colour too dark).

Then some light chipping is added and the tyres get a coat of dark grey.

Then, the shield is added and everything gets a wash of dark oil paint. And that’s pretty much the PaK finished.

Next, it’s on to painting the figures. The faces and hands are done in an approximate flesh colour and then a wash of dark brown oil paint is added. Then tunics are painted in green and belts, collars and epaulettes are added in black – the Tamiya paint scheme suggest bottle-green for the collars, but by the time of the Russian Campaign most German Army uniforms featured black collars. I use a fairly light green for the tunics because I intend to add a wash of dark green oil paint which will darken the overall colour and provide some shadow detail in folds and creases.

I’m going for grey rather than green for trousers as this seems to have been fairly common. Again, I use a light grey acrylic paint and then add a darker grey oil wash to darken things down and add shadows.

Finally, boots are painted dark grey and helmets and pieces of equipment are added. Here’s the finished commander figure.

I try the loader and gunner next to the gun. Neither relates particularly well to the PaK, and I still think the hands on the gunner look like bunches of bananas!

Nest, the base. I make the muddy ground out of exterior filler and add some small stones and debris from my wife’s cactus garden (don’t tell her!). I press the gun and figures into the filler before it’s completely dry so that all will appear to sit in rather than on the muddy surface.

Then it gets painted with several shades of brown – it looks very dark in this photo for some reason and the overall effect is actually much lighter.

Then, I make some “mud” out of a mix of brown paint, coffee grounds and PVA glue and add this to the tyres of the gun and the boots of the figures.

Then the figures and gun are placed on the base, ammo boxes are added and a few empty shell-casings scattered around. And it’s done…

After Action Report

This was straightforward and simple build, something I really appreciate. As far as I can tell, the PaK 35/36 is a reasonable representation of the actual weapon.

The figures aren’t as bad as I had expected, but they’re not up to current standards either. The poses are OK, but there is nothing dynamic or interesting and the lack of facial expressions is disappointing. It took a fair bit of filler to get reasonable joins and even then, they aren’t perfect.

That said, I’m not too unhappy with the finished result. The poses mean that the faces are mostly in shadow and/or hidden, which, given my lack of skill at painting faces, is probably a good thing. And given that this kit is just so cheap, it’s a great way of practising if, like me, you aren’t sure of your ability to paint 1/35 figures.

If you simply want to build a kit of the Pak 35/36, or if you’re going for a diorama and you can accept the limitations of early 1970s figures, I can heartily recommend this as a quick and satisfying build.

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Tamiya 1/35 Walker Bulldog (MM155) Build Review

I began construction with the turret. The main gun is moulded in two halves, and it does take some careful sanding to remove evidence of the join. The upper and lower halves of the turret itself join on what would be a weld line on the original, and this continues at an angle to meet the top edge. It was fairly simple to sand a small bevel on the joining surfaces and add a small piece of plastic rod to replicate the weld.

Then I added the canvas blast-shield. I used tissue paper and PVA glue, carefully building up layers to achieve a suitably wrinkled look. I also added a small extension tube in front of the co-axial mg using clear plastic tubing, as that is what most photographs seem to show. It took several attempts to get a reasonable look, but I’m not too unhappy with the result.

I added the hatch and other parts to the turret and gave the canvas screen a quick coat of acrylic dark green, which showed up a couple of areas that needed further work. I also added a little filler to the rear of the turret to cover some small gaps.

Then, the turret got a coat of Vallejo spray olive drab.

Then I added the decals (I’m going for a tank of the JGSDF) and painted the canvas screen.

Next, I started work on the hull. The holes in the lower hull were filled using pieces of plastic card and Tamiya white putty.

I added the driver’s hatch and other parts to the upper hull and joined the upper and lower hull halves. Don’t forget to add the ends of the exhausts before you join the upper and lower halves of the hull – they insert from underneath. In retrospect, I should also have added some clear plastic to the interior of the driver’s vision slots – these are fairly large and obviously open on the finished model.

Then the hull got a coat of olive green and the exhausts were given some rough texture with Tamiya white putty and painted a rust colour – most photographs seem to show well rusted exhaust shields on M41s. I also added the decals to the hull at this stage.

Both hull and turret were given some light chipping before both were treated to a coat of clear varnish.

Then I added some shadows and general staining on both turret and hull with Abteilung Oils Dark Mud, which is actually a dark grey. I also applied a wash of dark brown oil to the canvas screen.

The Sprockets, roadwheels, return wheels and Idlers are all very cleanly moulded. I painted the tyres dark grey, a fairly easy task because there is a clear distinction in these parts, then these too were given a coat of varnish and a wash of Dark Mud.

The tracks were painted a fairly light gunmetal, the rubber blocks were painted dark grey and then a brown wash was applied to these, the running rear and lower hull.

Then it was on to final assembly. The only change I made was to replace the radio antenna with some thin plastic rod, though I kept the kit bases. With the addition of some streaks on the hull and turret using white oil paint, it was finished…   

After Action Report

I accept that this is not the most detailed or accurate 1/35 armour kit available, but, here’s the thing; I really enjoyed this build, far more than some other recent builds. Why? Well, it’s a simple and straightforward build for one thing. There is nothing challenging or complex here and very few tiny parts to be eaten by the carpet monster. Enjoyment is an under-rated factor in kit-building – after all, most of us do this for pleasure and relaxation and for me, this one really hit the spot.

Other than attempting to create a canvas screen round the mantlet and making a weld-bead on the turret, this is entirely out-of-the-box. I know, there are lots of other things I could have done including fabricating a tow cable, adding the strengthening struts on the side of the stowage boxes and other bits and pieces but you know what? I don’t care. I’m satisfied with the finished result and creating it provided me with several hours of pleasure. Add that to the fact that this is a very low-cost kit and you have something that is close to the definition of cheap and cheerful.

Despite its age, the parts in this kit are cleanly moulded, everything fits well and there is nothing complex or fiddly involved construction or painting. This is, in every sense, an old-school kit. You have to be prepared to either put in some time to make improvements or to simply accept this for what it is – a reasonable but not perfect representation of an M41. With those caveats, I heartily recommend this kit to anyone looking to while away a few pleasant evenings.

Now, all I need to find is a 1/35 Godzilla foot so I can build an appropriate diorama…

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HobbyBoss 1/35 T-37A Light Tank Izhorsky (83821) Build Review

The main issue for me in this build is the tracks. These are individual links (more than eighty on each side) and assembling these will be a challenge and means a slightly different approach to construction. Normally, I would paint the hull and things like roadwheels, suspension units and sprockets separately and before assembly. Here, I need all the running gear assembled and in place on the lower hull before I can begin to build the tracks.

I begin by building all four suspension bogies. These are not complicated, but fit is a little imprecise and it takes some careful alignment to get all the roadwheels lined up. Then I attached all four bogies to the lower hull and here I found the fit to be poor. There is a square lug on each bogie that locates in a hole in the lower hull. However, it took some careful propping while the glue set to get everything to line up.

The sprockets, idlers and return roller all fit well. Here is the complete suspension attached to the lower hull.

Then, it’s time to start building the tracks. The individual links are tiny – here are eleven on a 2p coin. I want to glue the complete track length on each side as two separate pieces that can then be removed for painting.

Each link must be carefully cut off the sprue and then sanded – not easy when they are so small. Engagement between the links is not particularly positive – the leading edges of each links engage with tiny slots on the adjacent link. However, a little too much enthusiasm when sanding can make the leading edges uneven which makes the tracks curve. You need to do this 174 times, so it’s not a quick process. At least there are plenty of spare links if the carpet monster gets a few.

I started with the straight run at the bottom and gradually added links up to the sprocket and idler, being careful to glue the links to each other but not to the sprocket and idler. I used AK quick-drying liquid cement which worked well. I was feeling quite good about this until I spotted that the tracks were upside down! After a few expletives, I found that it wasn’t too difficult to remove the tracks and turn them round.

Next, I started working on the upper run and here I wanted to add sag between the return rollers. To do this I used a little tape to create a curve on a piece of plastic card and assembled each of the three parts of the upper run using this as a template. These were then joined to form a single upper run. I did not join this to the lower run so that the tracks could be removed for painting. Here is the finished track on one side.

Building the tracks took way longer than I expected and it certainly isn’t perfect but, if I’m honest, it turned out better than I expected. It is certainly much more time-consuming than using rubber-band type tracks or even track-and-link sections, but, from the side at least, I think it looks better too.

Then, the tracks were removed and the upper hull was added along with the hatches, vents and other parts and PE parts. Fit here was generally very good and I didn’t need to use any filler. I left off the tools and exhaust which I will paint separately and the buoyancy tanks which I will add after the tracks are painted and assembled. One thing I did notice was that the hinged splash guard on the upper front of the glacis plate isn’t mentioned in the assembly instructions – it’s not there on one step and appears in the next, but fortunately it isn’t difficult to see where it belongs.

Next, the turret was assembled. Fit was good but a little filler was needed at the front edge of the hatch.

Then, everything got a coat of Vallejo spray olive drab, the tyres were painted on the roadwheels, idlers and return wheels and a little light chipping was added.

Then, the white cross was painted on the turret and everything got a coat of clear varnish.

The assembled track lengths were painted with dark gunmetal and lighter highlights on the internal horns and treads.

The tracks were added to the hull with a dark brown acrylic wash to represent mud and rust and Abteilung Oils Dark Mud was used to add highlights and streaks.

Then the buoyancy tanks were added. Finally, the tools and exhaust were added to the hull and the decals and machine-gun added to the turret. And that’s pretty much it finished!

After Action Report

Apart from the tracks, this was a fairly simple build. Fit is reasonable, though not great in places – getting the suspension bogies to line-up wasn’t easy, for example. There are no really tiny parts and the instructions are easy to follow.  

I found building the tracks to be a bit of a pain. No matter how careful I was, I still ended up with some links that just don’t line up properly with those adjacent – this is particularly noticeable looking from the front or rear. Engagement between the links is not great and it is just too easy to sand off a fraction too much when cleaning up the individual links – this, I think, is what leads to some not being straight. Viewed from the side, the sag is satisfactory and the tracks look all-right. I don’t think I would be inclined to tackle another kit of a tank this small using individual links like this though on a kit of a larger tank or where the engagement between links was more positive and didn’t rely on sanding for alignment, it might be OK.

Overall, detail is good and, looking at photographs, this appears to be an accurate representation of the T-37A. The detail is perfectly adequate and the PE parts are a nice touch.

If you have the patience and persistence to deal with the tracks, this can build into a perfectly reasonable kit of a little-known light tank. If you can find it, as I did, at a reduced price, I would highly recommend it.

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Tamiya 1/35 Panzerkampfwagen II Ausf. F/G (MM109) Build Review

As ever, I begin by drilling out the main gun and, in this case, the MG34 as well. Then I assemble the turret. Everything fits well with no need for filler. There is some nice detail here including the weld where the gun-mount is fixed to the mantlet and welds on the upper edges of the turret. This really doesn’t feel like a fifty-year-old kit.

I glue plastic card inside the lower hull and fill the holes from the outside with Tamiya white putty – which is good stuff generally, but it does shrink badly so it always takes at least three passes to get a completely smooth finish.

Then it’s on to the roadwheels. I want to create a battered looking finished kit with chipped and discoloured paint. I haven’t tried this before as it is very difficult to achieve on small-scale kits. I know what I have in mind, but I’ll be using the roadwheels as a test area to see how it works. First, I spray the roadwheels with the base colour using Tamiya TS-68 in an aerosol can.

Then I add chipped areas using a very light sand.

Then I add darker areas in the centre of the largest chipped areas using Panzer Grey.

Then I paint on the tyres using a fairly light grey and give everything a coat of clear varnish.

Then I use Abteilung Oils Brown Shadow to emphasize shadows and suggest dirt and grime and finally I add a wash of acrylic light brown to represent dust on the tyres. Here are the finished wheels, sprockets and idlers. I’m happy with the result and I’ll use the same approach on the rest of the model.

The turret gets the same treatment, with decals added using Vallejo Decal Fix and Decal Softener before the chipping, varnish and oil highlighting.

I add the various lights, boxes and other parts on the upper hull. Everything fits very well and no filler is needed.

The upper hull then gets a coat of the base colour with TS-68. I’m impressed with this Tamiya spray can – it gives good, consistent, dense coverage and, even though the can is small, there is plenty of paint left when I’m done – I would guess that I have used less than half the can. One odd thing – the AK clear acrylic varnish I use doesn’t like this paint. It takes at least two coats to get a consistent finish and the Tamiya spray paint seems to repel the varnish – I haven’t found the same issue with Tamiya brush paints.

I add decals and chipping to the hull upper half and then give it a coat of clear varnish before doing more oil highlighting with the same colour used on the wheels.

I assemble the parts of the lower hull and then paint it in exactly the same way, though I add more staining and dirt on the sides. Once everything is dry, I join the upper and lower hull halves and add the roadwheels, idlers and sprockets.

Then, it’s on to the tracks. These are painted with a dark gunmetal base and lighter gunmetal highlights on the treads. Then everything gets a brown acrylic wash to represent rust and dirt.

Finally, the tools, exhaust and spare track links are added to the hull. And here’s the finished model.

After Action Report

I found this an enjoyable and stress-free build. There are no tiny parts and everything fits accurately and well. It really is hard to believe this kit is very nearly fifty years old. Other than the need to fill in holes in the hull bottom, the fact that this was originally created as a motorised kit doesn’t cause any problems. I built it completely OOB with the exception of drilling the gun barrels and exhaust and using some Tamiya white putty to add rusty texture to the exhaust.

This builds to a pretty reasonable and fairly accurate depiction of a Panzer II Ausf. F. OK, I know, there are all sort of extras like metal gun barrels, items stowed on the hull and PE kits that could be used to improve it further, but even straight out of the box this is a very reasonable kit for not a great deal of money. The figures provided with the kit look perfectly acceptable, and I haven’t used them simply because my figure-painting sills are very rusty indeed.

I really enjoyed working in 1/35 as opposed to 1/76 or 1/72. The scope for showing weathering and wear during painting is much greater, and I’ll probably try another couple of 1/35 kits. Overall, this is highly recommended and, because the Panzer II was such a small tank, display space shouldn’t be a problem – this is not much larger than a 1/72 Tiger, for example.

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Dragon 1/72 Sd.Kfz.231 (8-Rad) (7483) Build Review

I want to build a clean, early version, so I won’t be using the Zerschellerplatte. I also won’t be using the pennant mounted on the mudguard or the width-sensing antenna as these often weren’t fitted and the versions provided with the kit are way too bulky.

I generally start any armour kit build by drilling out the main gun, but there is no need for this here as the slide-moulding technique allows the tiny bore for the KwK L/55 autocannon to be moulded open – hurrah!

Construction begins with the assembly of the parts of the turret and fit is very good indeed – no filler is needed at all.

Then it’s on to the drive, suspension and steering parts on the underside. These are very detailed and it’s a pity most of this won’t be seen on the finished model. The instructions are generally helpful, but it makes sense that you do a dry fit first. Essentially, you’re building two, four-wheel bogies, each with its own leaf-spring suspension, drive and differentials.

I painted everything before assembly, just because actually getting at some of these tiny areas later will be a problem. It actually takes a couple of tries to get the assembly right. I found the right order was to fit the leaf springs and connecting rods first, then the main suspension arms with differentials and prop-shafts, then the steering arms. It’s important to get the main suspension arm assemblies the right way round – there are tiny holes near each hub where the steering arms fit. On the forward bogie, these must face backwards and on the rear bogie they must face forward. It’s possible to assemble these 180˚ out of position – guess how I know that?

There is nice detail here, but I haven’t spent a great deal of time on painting because unfortunately, most of it won’t be seen when the model is done. I’m leaving the wheels off for the moment as I want to paint these before fitting.

Painting the tyres is the usual pain – the cocktail stick method is easiest, but as ever, it’s fiddly. I want to actually finish painting the wheels at this stage because they’ll be partly covered by the mudguards when assembled. Once the tyres are painted, the wheels get a coat of clear varnish before I apply some acrylic wash to represent dust on the wheels and tyre treads. I also paint the lower hull using Vallejo Panzer Grey, where it will be hidden by the mudguards.

I fit the wheels and I’m delighted that these sit nicely, with no gaps and no wheels in the air. However, the fit of the wheels on to the spindles is loose, so some care is needed while the glue is setting to make sure everything is aligned and straight.

Next, the mudguards. I have filled the holes for the width antenna and the pennant with Tamiya putty but otherwise it’s just a case of assembling as per the instructions. I also paint the mudguards and the various boxes and other items on the mudguards before assembly, just because this is easier before they are attached to the hull.

I then attached the various vision slots and other stuff to the upper hull before joining this to the lower hull. Either the upper or lower hull is slightly warped and the parts have to be clamped while the glue sets, but the final fit is very good. Then I attach the frames to the upper and lower hull. This is really fiddly and not made easier by the fact that the two holes on the left-hand upper hull just aren’t there. I didn’t notice until I started assembly, and I had to drill these out to get everything to fit. The tiny lamps and the rectangular plates that fit in the same area are also very, very tiny and I lost one of the lamps to the carpet monster.

When basic assembly is done, everything gets a coat of Vallejo Panzer Grey. I think the colour of this paint is good, with just the right amount of blue, but it has a tendency to separate once a small quantity is placed on a palette. If you don’t constantly re-mix, you get a streaky finish. This paint also seems to be very soft – any handling at all, even when it’s completely dry, takes the paint off high spots.

Then I add some fairly subtle highlights to small items that would catch the light with a lightened mix of the base grey. Then I add the two decals to the hull and to the number plates. Once this is dry, everything gets a coat of matte clear varnish and then it’s on to adding some depth to the shadows using Abteilung Oils Dark Mud, a dark grey. However, I’m not happy with the result, so I try again, this time with an even darker Prussian Blue oil for shadows and a lighter colour to give some streaks to the hull.  

And here’s the finished result.

After Action Report

This was a fiddly build. The model itself is tiny and there are lots of very small parts and getting all these in position and aligned takes time. Most of the detail (and almost the majority of parts!) are unfortunately on the underside of the vehicle where they won’t be seen.

However, the quality of moulding and the fit of parts is very good indeed. No filler was needed anywhere and the only minor issue I found was that the mounting holes for the sidebars were missing on the upper hull on one side. Overall, this is a very high-quality kit that builds into a decent representation of this iconic armoured car. If I have one small reservation it is that the tyres are moulded completely circular, and I can’t help feel that they would look better if they were moulded with a flat spot at the bottom, as done on many current aircraft kits.

There are other options available in 1/72 and I haven’t tried any of those but I can’t imagine that they are materially better than this. If you want to model an Sd. Kfz. 231 in this scale, I can strongly recommend this kit.

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