Tamiya 1/35 T-34/85 Build Review
|Date of Review||November 1999
Updated May 2019
|Kit Number||35138||Primary Media||Styrene|
|Pros||Easy build||Cons||Lower hull holes left over from motorization|
|Skill Level||Basic||MSRP (USD)||Out of Production|
Note: This build was done in the early 1990s from the 1987 reissue of Tamiya's venerable kit which was originally produced in the mid-1960s.
Like most aspects of scale modeling, weathering is not a science - it is an art. There are many different techniques that have been developed over the years and I don't believe that there is any one that is better than the rest, it is merely a matter of discovering what techniques work best for you.
I've spent hours poring through the Verlinden books and magazines, as the models shown there represent some of the better results achieved by these master builders. What I learned there led me to discover that even THEY don't have a uniform technique. But what is important is that I chose a number of techniques and mixed and matched them in different projects until I was comfortable, and then added my own twists. What I'd like to share with you is one technique that has served me well on the average green-colored tank and/or armored fighting vehicle.
In this particular project, I chose the Tamiya 1/35 T-34/85 kit to which I added aftermarket road wheels and the Eduard photo-etch detail set. The Eduard set proves a more realistic set of engine-deck screens and vents. The kit parts were modified per the Eduard instructions and the new vents and screens were installed. Assembly of T-34 was pretty much according to Tamiya's instructions, substituting the kit road wheels with the aftermarket set.
I did take time to patch and fill the holes on the underside of the hull, where the motorized switches and adjustments used to be visible on the original motorized version of this Tamiya kit.
I replaced all of the kits grab irons/hand-holds with brass rod. The attachment points on the hull and turret were drilled out with a pin vise, and then short lengths of brass rod were bent to the appropriate lengths to align with the drilled-out holes. When they were satisfactorily installed, the new grab irons were glued into place with thin cyano.
I arbitrarily chose a Testors Model Master Olive Drab to paint the T-34, as I knew that the tank would be anything but that color when finished. When the paint was dry, I buffed the hull and turret down with an old T-shirt to smooth out the surface of the flat paint. I then brushed on a coat of Future Floor Wax (does this stuff really work on floors too?) on the turret sides to provide a foundation for the decals.
At this point, I painted the tires on the road wheels flat black, and the kit's "rubber-band" tracks with a mixture of Testors Model Master Rust, Steel, and Flat Black. The concoction served as the base for further track weathering later.
With the 'Chervonets' markings in place, I shot the entire model with a few coats of Model Master Flat Lacquer. I needed a bulletproof coating on the kit for what was to come next.
I had seen that many other builders start with a black wash on the model. This was created with a mixture of one part flat black paint with 10 parts thinner. I grabbed a big paintbrush and boldly applied this mixture to the tank. When I had finished, I experienced a brief panic attack, as the whole model was now flat black! Fortunately, this was only temporary, as the model became a darker green after the thinner bearing the black paint had dried/evaporated. The black wash had added a great deal of depth to the model! Even more importantly, the decals are now weathered into the model and look like they belong there, not applied as a modeling afterthought.
NOTE: Applying thinner-based washes can be hazardous in a few ways. First, it must be done in a well-ventilated area or you'll get exposed to more toxic fumes than you are accustomed to in a normal paint session. Secondly, you must be careful with your brush. The thinner can easily work though the lacquer barrier and strip off your paint job if you are not careful. Dab the backwash onto the model; try not to touch the same area twice. I am planning on trying this same wash technique with flat black acrylic in a wash with isopropyl alcohol in the future. I'll set you know how this combo works.
The next step is to grab the bottle of your original base color, in this case Olive Drab, and with a wide paint brush, dry-brush large areas of the model with the color. Don't worry about overdoing this step, as it will get blended back into the model again later.
With the same wide brush, drybrush a light gray (I like Model Master Dark Ghost Grey) on the edges and high spots of the model. This will pick out details that will provide highlight in contrast to the dark wash we applied earlier. NOTE: Some folks have used chrome silver as their highlighter in this step. While this might work for them, I would caution you that I couldn't recall ever seeing anything bright silver on a tank. Try to avoid this extreme, please.
While the hull and turret dried from these last few steps, I applied the leftover black wash on the tracks. After they dried, I dry-brushed the gray on the raised detailing of the track. The tracks now look like they've been "rode hard and put away wet." Since the track on the real T-34 droops on the return over the top, I used another trick I read about - after installation, I used thread to tie the tracks to the inside of the road wheels to create that distinctive track droop.
The final step in this process comes straight from the bottle - well, actually four bottles. I had been reading about a four-part process called Rust-All. I picked up a set for this project and was quickly impressed with the results.
The first bottle contains a rust-colored fluid. This is brushed onto areas where you want to depict serious corrosion. On tanks, this is usually at every weld seam and along areas that accumulate water. I applied this with a fine-tipped brush. The liquid cleans off the brush (and if necessary, the model) with water. When dry, the rust is VERY flat and realistic!
Bottle two contains a black wash to add depth, but since we've done this more effectively in the earlier steps, we skipped this one.
Bottle three is a white fluid that is applied generously to the horizontal surfaces of the model. When dry, it provides a realistic combo of flat and shiny spots usually found on a vehicle that has been in the elements for a while.
Bottle four is a very fine powder of rust-colored dust. This is brushed onto the whole model. Do not use a sealer at this point, as it will defeat all of the weathering steps accomplished up until now. If the rust colored dust wears off, brush on more.
I created a whip antenna from a short length of brass rod tipped in cyano and painted flat black. Antennas typically have a "tip" on end of them. Finally, I added a model railroad lens to the sole headlight. I find that headlights that are painted white or silver lack the realistic look. These model railroad lenses are great for armor/AFV headlights as well as for landing lights on model aircraft.
This process has turned out to be very effective and has been used on subsequent projects. This T-34/85 was the first to receive this overall technique, and I was amazed at how realistically metallic the model appeared. On a lark, I entered the model in an IPMS southwest regional contest, which is typically heavy on armor competition. Much to my surprise, it was awarded a second place. The only big problem with the model is that, after going to the trouble of installing those beautiful Eduard vents and screens on the engine deck, a flashlight-equipped judge shined it inside the model - no engine!
While these techniques have since served me well, as I said at the start of this article, play around with different techniques and come up with something that works best for you. Unlike aircraft and ships modeling, armor is a great place to practice heavy-duty weathering. Unless it is rolling off the assembly line for the first time, there is no such thing as a clean tank or AFV.
If you are also an aircraft builder, you'll find that these same techniques, toned down quite a bit, will also add realism to your scale flightline as well. Enjoy!