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Panzer IV

Tamiya 1/35 Panzer IV Ausf.J Build Review

By Michael Taylor

Date of Review September 2006 Manufacturer Tamiya
Subject Panzer IV Ausf.J Scale 1/35
Kit Number 35181 Primary Media Styrene
Pros Nice build Cons
Skill Level Intermediate MSRP (USD) $41.00


The subject for this article is Tamiya’s Panzer IV Ausf.J kit # 35181. I’ll be adding Eduard set #35326 PZ.IV details, #35181 PZ. IV Ausf.H skirt armor and DML individual track links. As is the case with most armor kits today you can spend a lot more on aftermarket parts or you can spend less-it’s up to you. My intentions are to give an overall impression of my techniques for building armor. Many of the techniques I use can be transferred to other types of armor like modern or allied.

Let me preface this article by stating that I am not an expert in German armor. I choose not to limit the scope of my interests to any one period or type of modeling, so I’ll not be commenting on things such as number of bolt heads on the rear hull lip, or angles of turret armor or the like.

I begin by looking over the instructions, as I always do. Once the detail sets arrive I cross check the instructions-marking off parts that will be replaced with photo-etch details on the kits instruction sheet. AS the tools would be receiving photo-etch straps all the molded on straps and holders were removed and the tools were placed in a small ziplock and tossed in the box ‘till later.

Where to Start?

Panzer IV

At the beginning, of course. I started with step 1 of the Eduard sheet-cutting off and replacing the kits front fenders. Using a straight edge I scribed a line with my X-Acto across the fender till I had a nice groove. Then using a razor saw I cut the down angles on the fender side. I lined this up by using the angle between the forward hull lip to the fender top hinge line. Once that was cut through the fender can be snapped off and the edge cleaned up with a file or sandpaper. The Eduard set is extremely user friendly. All fold lines are easy to see and equally easy to bend. I used my needle nosed pliers to bend the fender to shape and test fit it to make sure everything was all right.

Panzer IV

A bit of super glue on the fender location of the kit and the photo-etch fender was set in place. Then I run a small bead of glue on the underside of the fender to secure it. I repeated this procedure for the other side with the exception that I wanted to have some damage to this fender. I cut a small nick in the fenders front edge with a pair of scissors before I glued it in place. After it was placed and dried I used my pliers to open it up a bit, like it was hung up and torn on something. Be Careful! These can be sharp. The fender hinges are what I call extremely fiddly bits-being easily bent out of shape so care was needed in cutting them out and placing them into their positions on the fenders.

Eduard supplies spare track stowage braces and a few other structures for the front end of the upper hull. I used the kit spare track length (#D12) to mark the position of the braces. These braces are among the smaller parts on the photo-etch fret. Once removed they were bent using my pliers, dipped into some CA and carefully positioned on the marks I made using the kit part as a template. Eduard also includes the frame to surround the spare wheels, air intake doors, clamps and latches, tow cable hangers, side fender braces, and tie downs. Most were easily bent to shape with the pliers, the tie downs were started with pliers then bent down around the back side of my X-Acto blade.

Panzer IV

Completing the upper hull with the addition of the rear fenders and engine compartment sides allowed me to add the rear fenders. This is basically the same technique as the front fenders only on the other end.

Panzer IV

That completed the fitting of photo-etch parts to the upper hull. The lower hull was assembled as instructed, with the rear and front lower plates , suspension and other small kit parts. The kit muffler was assembled then the molded on straps were removed and replaced with Eduard photo-etch parts. Note that no wheels of any kind are attached yet . The upper and lower hull are complete with all the photo-etch parts they’ll be getting and can be cemented together at this point.

Now back to the kit instructions to finish the upper hull. Hatches, hinges, and anything else that needs to be added before painting is added now. No tools, handles, or machine gun barrels yet. If it could be taken off the tank in real life leave it off ‘till after you paint. Put the completed hull aside and grab the parts for the turret.

Panzer IV

I built the barrel with only the parts I needed to secure it to the turret. The hatches on this kit will be closed so there’s no point in building the entire breech assembly if you don’t need to. The turret was built using the kits instructions taking care to note where kit parts are to be replaced with photo-etch (remember I marked off the parts to be replaced on the kits instructions at the beginning). Eduard parts replace the turret tie downs, rain gutters, and the clasps and braces for the rear stowage bin. I chose not to use Eduards gun ring feeling it was going to be more trouble than it’s worth. With the addition of the turret armor braces the turret was complete and the basic tank is ready for paint.

Let’s Squirt Some Paint!

Panzer IV

AAAhhh, German camouflage....... That’s the real attraction isn’t it? Let’s get a few things straight. German armor was painted in it’s base color at the factory. In this case Dunkelgelb-that tan color-you know. The other colors-Olive Green and Chocolate Brown were supplied in a thick past form that needed to be thinned an applied in the field. Camouflage patterns were usually left to the discretion of the commander but more often than not this decision was delegated to whomever was doing the actual painting.

Panzer IV

The pastes were thinned with whatever was readily available-water, gasoline, milk, urine (yuk!) and applied in almost as many ways. Modelers love airbrushed patterns, with nice tight demarcations between colors. Truth is brooms, brushes and rags were often used to add the camo. Imagine what the camo pattern may have looked like if indeed they did use the spraygun....Painted in the field, or perhaps a more relaxing rear area, by a nineteen year old with little or no spray painting experience. Keep in mind that you are your own worst critic. It’s difficult to really screw up a paint job like this one. Keep your paint thin and even and it should turn out O.K.

Panzer IV

I use a Testors Azteck 470 and Model Master II enamels-they have the German colors although I sometimes substitute depending on what kind of mood I’m in. The entire hull and turret are given a nice coat of Model Master II Dunkelgelb and set aside to dry. As long as I have the paint loaded I squirted the wheels, and running gear on the sprue-sometimes I take ‘em off first, sometimes I don’t. Set it all aside to dry for a bit and clean your brush out and go do something else.

Panzer IV

Now it’s time to paint the camo pattern. I looked at the instructions and noted that the brown needed to go down first. To get a nice line thin your paint to the consistency of milk-runs down the inside of the jar well but not see through. Set your pressure to around 25psi and spray some test stripes on a sheet of cardboard of something till you get it how you want it. I loosely followed the pattern in the instructions taking care to watch the background for possible overspray problems and contorting my hands through all sorts of seemingly impossible positions ( I call this airbrush palsy) to wrap the pattern around the perimeter of first the hull, then the turret and finally the running gear. After running some thinner through the brush I repeated the process with the olive green -camo done.

Now you have what looks like a painted tank model.


Panzer IV

Weathering can make or break your efforts to build a realistic replica. Even if you cheese to build a factory fresh tank it needs some small amount of wash and drybrushing to give it some level of visual interest. On the other hand overdone weathering can give your tank a surreal, cartoonie look, with overdark shadows and overlight highlights.

As you can tell I don’t use the “underpainting” method. This is a technique where a darker color is painted on the hull first and the top colors lightly sprayed over to induce shadows and dark areas around the edges of panels and structures. I just don’t think it looks real. Maybe on cement or stone earthworks but not steel. I begin the weathering process by giving the subassemblies a coat or two of Future to gloss it up. This does two things. It allows me to use a wash made from thinned enamel paint without “pulling up” the paint underneath and the gloss prevents the wash from “bleeding” where I don’t want it. This coat of Future should be left to dry for 24 hours.

Panzer IV

My wash is 80% thinner and 20% burnt Umber Model Master paint. Do not spray your tank with this wash through the airbrush, do not slop the wash over the entire thing with a 2” brush all that would do is make a mess. Take that old brush with 7 or 8 hairs in it and use it to put the wash where you want it. Along recessed lines, weld seams, the base of raised details and the like. Do the entire kit....the turret, gun, upper and lower hull, suspension, and don’t forget those wheels on the sprue. Just dip your brush in the wash and touch it to the model. The paint will run off the brush and wick around the parts your trying to pick out or along recessed panel lines and inside corners.

I did use a wider brush on the treadplated areas of the fenders. Don’t worry if it gets a little messy now but don’t be careless either. Set it aside to dry completely. Once it’s dry you can clean up if necessary with a q-tip dipped, then patted dry, with thinner. If you rub an area too much the Future will come off so be careful. At this time you can paint the rubber areas of the road wheels charcoal black.

Panzer IV

Drybrushing is one aspect of weathering that I’ve constantly seen overdone. I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste, I choose to drybrush subtly. I begin with a medium drybrush with the base color-Dunkelgelb-over the entire vehicle. This is the realism stage of drybrushing, not the artsy stage. The paint will wear off certain parts of the vehicle that are subjected to wear exposing first the lower colors and in the extreme the metal.

Take care when drybrushing around those tiny photo-etch parts-you don’t want to knock ‘em off. Drybrushing is simply dipping your brush in the paint then wiping it across a rag or paper towel until very little paint remains. When you then run your brush over the surface of the model the high spots pick up the remaining pigment. Areas likely to stand out now are edges, the raised areas of treadplate and boltheads.......

The next level of drybrush is the artsy level. It’s sole purpose is to give depth to the model by artificially lightening the higher spots to contrast the shadowy wash. You may simply add some white to your basecoat or use a lighter shade of a different color-it’s a matter of choice. I used interior buff. This drybrush should be about half the pressure used in the first session. Trying to get just the highest spots to pick up the pigment .

Panzer IV

The final level of drybrushing is once again a realistic level. It will cover some of the previous “artsy” level but that’s O.K. It just doesn’t look right if you don’t have that “artsy” level underneath, one of those...”I can’t put my finger on it but it don’t look quite right” things. Get a 1/4” soft brush and your bottle of Model Master buffing exhaust metalizer paint. This drybrush will hit the areas of highest wear. Fender edges, turret top edges, tow hooks lower hull edges.....basically anywhere the paint has been totally worn off. Model Master exhaust is very dark-almost black, and I think the perfect color for bare metal on armored vehicles.

I never want to see silver drybrushed on a tank!!! (the only exception is drivesprocket teeth) Once you have the corners and edges drybrushed get your brush to a point where you can drybrush a pattern of scratches and hit the hull front, the front of the gun barrel turret and hull sides, anywhere that the paint may be scratched and scraped off. Don’t paint the tip of your gum barrel black to simulate a sooty build up. Unless the tip of the barrel of the tank your building was painted black it should not be given a sooty look. Tank ammo did not blacken the end of the barrel. Maybe after thousands of rounds and no cleaning............This is another artsy thing some modelers do. Maybe you think I’m wrong? Maybe I am? Show us some wartime photos........ Next take that thin brush and the exhaust paint and just randomly put some specks here and there for chipped paint.

Now that the hull and turret are completed I added the turret side armor. I’d left it off till now to allow better access to the turret for weathering. Once in place it was weathered to match the turret, the front edges were given the bare metal look as well as some of the top edge. The jack block was added at this time also. I used Eduard hardware and a chunk of Balsa wood for the actual block.

Now the bottom of the hull is painted burnt umber, and this color is allowed to come up the front and back of the hull a bit. The suspension is oversprayed with a random pattern of this color creeping up the lower hull sides. What we’re going for is a dirty, muddy look. At this time the wheels are given a light overspray with the same color. Next a light overspray with a lighter shade of brown-I used dark tan, on the upper areas of the raw umber-this gives the effect of dryer mud. This is also sprayed up from the underneath to spray onto the fenders and front and back of the hull. Now that the area behind where the wheels will go is finished it’s time to add the wheels. Remove ‘em from the sprue, clean ‘em up, touch ‘em up and put them in place. Notice I only attached the inside parts of the return bogies-this will facilitate the placement of the individual track links later.

The brackets for the side skirt armor were attached using the kits parts not the Eduard photo-etch parts. Why? Did I cop out!? Naaa. This is going to be shipped ‘cross country and I just didn’t trust the Eduard brackets to have enough strength.

Well that’s it for this time. Next time we’ll cover the photo-etch sideskirt assembly, painting and weathering/damage, tools and brackets, individual link tracks and decaling.