Building review: Dragon Sd.Kfz. 251/7 Ausf. D in 1/35 scale Part I
Sd.Kfz. 251/7 Ausf. D, Dragon, 1/35 scale, Building review part I. Hi everyone and welcome to this building review series. This time we build the Sd.Kfz. 251/7 Ausf. D by Dragon. On the kit box you can see the “3 in 1” logo, so this kit is from the time when Dragon was simply awesome. These kits came with a lot of goodies. “3 in 1” means that you can build three versions of the vehicle with this kit. You can do the combat engineer vehicle that comes with the assault bridges, its command version and a vehicle that features this light AT gun. I intend to build the normal engineer vehicle which can be seen here on the boxart. In this building review series i´m going to show you how you could build the kit. My approach is not the perfect one of course. I will show you how i build the crew figures. I want to show this in detail, especially how i paint them. Of course we will also build a diorama for the thing. I show everything. I hope i am able to show you everything in a comprehensible way. Maybe i can provide some help and some inspiration for you. As you can see the kit comes with many sprues and other bits and pieces. Having all of them around you during the assembly is annoying and not really feasible. For that reason i usually separate the sprues and create two piles of them before i start the assembly. All sprues and pieces that won´t be needed for a long time or are only needed occasionally are collected in this box. I found another sprue that fits into that category. The sprues on the desk are relevant for the first few assembly steps. Now i do not have to go through all the sprues when i´m searching for a part and it saves space on the bench. The instructions are sitting right in front of me. My eyes are good enough to see everything in detail from where i am sitting. Now we can start the assembly. The parts require some cleanup once you cut them from the sprue. You have to remove all the sprue-leftovers as good as possible. Use a knife or sanding sticks to do this. If you do this correctly all parts will fit nicely and your model will look good. My main glue is Revell Contacta Professional. In order to press down some tenacious parts in the desired position you can use either some tape or clamps. The kit comes with many tiny parts, so be careful! Do not lose them. Patience is required here. Let´s put on the axes. Right in the first assembly step they show us the installment of photo-etched plates on the hull tub. I recommend to skip to step 2 and 3 instead where we have to install the axes and these tiny buffer elements. The photo-etched plates sit in between all these parts. I prefer to have the plastic pieces on the right position first and then put the PE parts around them. For that reason i put the axes and the buffer elements already on the hull tub. On the other side i glued on the PE plates. In my opinion the handling of the initial assembly stages is easier this way. For cutting PE parts i really like some nail scissors. It works better than a knife in my opinion, because you can not bend the metal while cutting it. Instant adhesive is ideal for PE parts. Our normal plastic cement can not glue plastic to metal. Two-component epoxy glue can do the job as well, but usually it is too thick. You might see some glue marks later. Instant adhesive is usually highly fluid and runs into the recessed areas, too. In my opinion instant adhesive is perfect for the job. We continue with the assembly of running gear parts. The wheels require some careful clean-up, because they are perfectly visible later. The interior gets glued on the chassis already. I prepare now the side walls of the upper hull. The instructions tell us to glue the armour plates of the upper hull on the chassis one after another. First we put on the side armour plates, then we have to prepare the other parts one after another. Then have to attach the remaining plates to complete the hull. In my opinion this approach is difficult and careless. If you do it this way you will most certainly encounter serious fitting problems. It is almost impossible to glue on these two side walls in the right angle. Only with tremendous force you will be able to put on the other hull pieces, if it works at all. You might come to the point where the model becomes hard to repair, because due to the shape of the vehicle it is tricky to fill and sand down the gaps. Because of all that i recommend a different approach. We prepare all the hull pieces first (the side walls, the rear part, the front part and the upper part). Then we assemble the hull in one short session, not like they show it here where we are supposed to do it one after another. The Revell glue does not dry too fast, so we can still move around the pieces to guarantee a perfect fit without any gaps. To hold the parts in place during the assembly we use Tamiya tape. It does not leave and residue on the model surface. As you can see i put on all the interior parts already, it would be tricky to install them later. My solution worked very well, i´m satisfied with the result. Irrespective of the particlar model kit i always recommend to do such rather complex assemblies in one session, even if it takes one or two hours to get it done. It saves you a lot of nerves. If something goes wrong you can still do some corrections because the glue is not yet dry. Imagine yourself gluing on few pieces here and there and then you leave the workbench for two weeks until you continue, and then you realize that you did something wrong, well, time is over for easy corrections. In that case the affair becomes very annoying indeed. It is better to do a long focused assembly session instead. Now i put on the stowage boxes. That little hatch can be displayed opened, but i decided to glue it on in closed position. Tamiya Extra Thin glue is perfect for filigree parts. Tiny grab handles and blocks go on the assault bridges. The basic assembly of the vehicle is done now. As you can see i kept some parts separately. Front wheels are still separate from the model Same applies for the wheels of the tracked running gear except for the interior wheels. It is easier to paint these wheels separately. Once that is done i´ll glue them on and put on the tracks. Of course the track will removed from the model again to be painted separately. Anyway, you will see this much later. That little roof here can be removed and the machine gun mount is not yet glued on as well. We will deal with the machine gun that goes on the mount later. I did it this way because there will be some crew figures for the vehicle, so i have to be able to somehow get the driver figure in there later. Same applies to the machine gun mount, right now i do not know how it will be positioned, it all depends on the crew figures. Maybe there will be a figure that leans on the machine gun, or a figure that fires the gun. I do not know this yet. Everything else is glued together. I do not have any troubles with painting the model in one piece. I can reach into the interior pretty well later for painting everything with my airbrush. It won´t be hard to do for sure. As i said already there will be some crew figures for the halftrack. I intend to show the infantrymen inside the vehicle. It is quite tricky actually, because there is no figure set for that particular purpose. Driver figures are a rare thing, too. So i just have this pile of figure sets which i plan to somehow use for this project. I will do it this way: I gather various bits and pieces here and there, or even complete figures if they fit the scene i have in mind, and adapt the poses of the figures to the vehicle and the scene i want to build. It is possible that i will take the head from a figure here, use an arm from this set and put that on the torso of a figure from this set here. The equipment might come from some other sprues from my spare parts box. I call this process “frankensteining” That way i can create new figures that fit perfectly into a vehicle or a scene using various different bits and pieces. Figure parts are usually quite flashy, you have to shave it off or sand it off. Normally it is not hard at all to assemble the figures. Permanent testing helps to create a natural pose of the figure. That way i assemble the crew figures one after another. Here you can see the crew figures i assembled using various different figure parts and spares. I was able to create six figures: A driver, a radio operator, a vehicle commander, machine gunner, a lazy dude just sitting there and a fellow having a look outside the vehicle here. As you can imagine it is quite tricky to find figure that can actually sit in this tiny vehicle. Everything is very cramped in there, usually the angle of the legs do not allow it to fit a sitting figure in there. For that reason i have three sitting figures and three standing ones. Actually it suits my plan for the scenery. I do not want to show the vehicle on the normal march, but slowly approaching the enemy lines or scouting the front line. The men are prepared for the enemy right now, keep their eyes open and are also a bit stressed. For me it is very important to have figures that actually fit in the time period i´m going to depict with the diorama with regard to their uniforms and gear. We build a Normandy diorama here, so i tried to match the look of the German soldiers of that time and battle. Quite often you see figures that clearly belong in the French campaign of 1940 on a Berlin 1945 diorama. I do not really like this. It is pretty easy to adapt the figures to the era you want to depict using the technique i just showed you. In my opinion the “frankensteining” (if i may call it that way) is a pretty good method to create the figures you need for a particular scene. Even if you get the ideal resin figures, they still need some extra work to adapt them to the vehicle or the scenery. It is very rare that everything fits perfectly into a vehicle from the beginning. Because of that you can build your own figures using spare parts right away. The figures here do not have much gear on them yet, most of them require some filling and sanding first. There are some small gaps or some overlapping bits, like on this figure. His arms are a bit too thick. We will sand the overlapping bits off and fill the gaps. It is normal, the parts fit pretty well, but not perfectly. This will be the next step of our project. Now i show you the figures inside the hull. In my opinion they are pretty interesting. The radio operator. His legs and torso are from the Tamiya Schwimmwagen driver figure. Head and arms are from a different figure. The driver consists only of Dragon bits, but the beige part is made out of DS plastic. As you can see it is very flexible, so i can simply shove him in the driving compartment, his legs and torso will find a natural position on their own. Quite neat! The machine gun mount and the gun itself got glued on the roof, because now i know how the gunner is holding the gun. Everything fits in there now. Now we sand off excess plastic on the arms and shoulders. Small gaps and messed up spots get covered with Mr. Surfacer. The equipment completes the figures. The gun straps for the rifles are an important detail. Usually the figure kits do not come with these. Dragon offers some figure sets where the gun straps are molded on the guns already. It looks okay, they can be used. However, these can not be used for every pose. It works usually, but not for everything. The Dragon figure sets i´m talking about are actually not that common. This means that you have to help yourself and add the gun straps. There are several ways to do this: Some Dragon figure kits even come with PE parts which include gun straps. In my opinion the material is way to stiff, even after tempering it is not the stuff i really like. Another way to do the straps is paper. Simply cut paper into thin strips and glue it on. Surprisingly this works really well. If you soak the paper with instant adhesive you can paint the paper straps very well later. Anyway, i found out that lead foil works best for me. The material is very soft and easy form. Cutting it with scissors works well. I´m cutting a thin strip off that sheet which i will glue on the rifle of my figure using instant adhesive. Instant adhesive helps to make this a quick affair. I cut off the overlapping section of the foil strip and position the strap in a realistic way. In order to present our model in an interesting way we will also build a diorama for it. As a base we will use this press board section. It used to belong to a shelf that was turned into firewood. I kept some nice boards because they are ideal for diorama building. I recommend to build small dioramas instead of gigantic ones, usually the small ones are more interesting. Of course you can do the big ones as well if that is your wish. It is just not my cup of tea. The halftrack will stand on a country lane that crosses the board diagonally. Here i have a Norman farm gate made by MK35. The kit consist of these plaster wall sections and resin fence pieces. In order to make the whole thing a bit more dramatic i got this dead cow from MK35, too. Maybe i can add the dead animal to the scenery. Due to artillery barrage or aircraft ground attacks or whatever such farm animals suffered, too. I think i will add the cow, there should be enough space on the diorama. I do not like the look of the press board edges. To cover that i´m going to build my own frame. It is always the first thing i do when i start a diorama. I will use balsa wood for the frame. I simply cut it into the right length and glue it with wood glue on the press board. I use the press board as a jig to cut the balsa wood into the right length. I glue everything with Ponal wood glue. I use crepe tape around the corners to keep everything in place till it dries. In order to add volume to the base insert some styrofoam. You can glue this stuff pretty well with wood glue. The height of the frame is arbitrary, so now we cut it down to the right height. I will keep the scrap, it is deal to represent floor boards on dioramas that feature ruined buildings. Balsa wood is very versatile. Around the corners there are some gaps or pitches. In order to get rid of them i´m going to use Moltofill filler. You can apply the stuff directly from the tube onto the surface and smear it into the gaps. Just let it dry for a while and sand it down. You won´t see the gaps or pitches once that is done. While the filler is drying we can cover the styrofoam with repair grout. The ground provides a solid base on which we can work on later. I´m going to use “Repafix” by PCI. It has proven its value many times for my diorama making. You simply mix the stuff with some water and apply it on the base. As you can see i try to be as efficient as possible. With my limited time i need to get something done. While the grout dried up the filler could dry up as well, now i can sand down the latter. Now we can deal with the farm gate. Let´s assemble it. The resin sprues are easy to remove. There is quite a lot of flash on the gate, i simply scrape it off with the knife. With a toothbrush i remove the crumbs. Instant adhesive glues resin very well. I use two-compound epoxy glue to attach the cross bars. I attach them only to one side. That´s how i intend to arrange the diorama. During the construction i put everything together again and again to check whether or not it looks good. I keep an eye on the empty spaces in particular. I think it looks pretty good so far. As you can see the wall here is overlapping the edge of the diorama. The wall is not going to end there, it might continue on along the country lane where the halftrack drives on. In order to create this illusion i will try to sand away the corner of the wall in just the right angle. That way the wall becomes also a part of the diorama frame, that zone will be painted black later. It creates the illusion that the wall continues on beyond the edge of the diorama. I hope i get the sanding right?! I´ll keep sanding until the angle of the wall is right. I think i achieved the desired result. I used pretty coarse sanding paper which is great for working with these plaster parts. It is always good to adapt such building structures to your diorama if necessary. The essence of a diorama is in my opinion the “cut away look”. That´s why it looks like someone cut the wall and the ground with a sword. I like it when such structures become a part of the diorama frame. Now i want to cover the diorama with a thin layer of modelling clay. That will be the actual layer where we work on later and put on the earth and the grass. For this task i like using “Fimo Air Basic” by Staedtler. The modelling clay is air-drying and once it became dry is very similar to plaster. I have an already opened pack here. Just put the opened pack into a plastic bag and seal it with a peg. The clay won´t become dry too soon, that way you can preserve it. It lasts pretty long that way. No worries. With moistened hands you can easily smear the stuff on the diorama. I simply smear it on now. The first layer of modelling clay should only cover the surface, later we come back for the detail work. We can also add the wall sections already. Ponal wood glue is simply ideal for anything related to diorama building. Now we can deal with the dead cow by MK35. It is a resin figure which consist only of few parts. You have to remove some pieces from a sprue, some you just have to clean up. It is not as simple as it sounds, because it will surely require some sanding at some point. Be careful with resin, it is not healthy at all to breathe in the resin sanding dust. I recommend to wear such a mask while doing that or probably the better way of doing it is wet sanding. You moisten the sanding stick or the resin piece with water. That way the dust gets caught in the water and you can later wash off the “resin slime” without any danger. To clean up the parts i simply shave and sand away the excess resin. Again we use instant adhesive. The parts of the cattle do not fit perfectly, but this was expected and is not a problem. We simply sand off the edges on the legs and the neck and fill the remaining gaps. There is no beautiful detail on the figure which would get destroyed by our sanding attack. I still deploy the wet sanding method. For this task you need a bit more patience than normally. As you can see we got rid of the edges, it is pretty smooth now except for the little gaps. Filling them is not tricky at all. I always recommend to sand down the area till the shape is correct before you do the filling. If you don´t do that you will need more filler and more time for the sanding process, because you have to sand down the filler and the resin at once. I prefer it to do some good preparatory work, it makes things easier. I will use the Revell Plasto filler for the job, it usually works pretty well. I simply smear on the filler using a Q-tip stick. Crude work will do it, we have to sand it down again anyway. Sometimes the crude method is alright, too. Again we do some nice wet sanding. The tedious work pays off! Filling and sanding is not as tedious as people sometimes think, it just requires time and a bit of patience. Just like halftrack crew figures i will cover the cow figure with some Mr. Surfacer. On the areas where some gaps might still exist (it is sometimes hard to see that on a freshly sanded figure) i´m going to apply Mr. Surfacer 500. For the rest i´m going to use Mr. Surfacer 1200. A crude application is alright. The basic assembly is done now. Maybe i will add more stuff to the scene, maybe not. We will see! If i stumble over something that has to be in this diorama i will add it. This is basically the layout of the scene. Around the walls i want to have one of these typical Norman hedges. They would look lovely. Maybe i display the gate in opened position, i don´t know it yet. Right now i do not know what the next episode will be about, probably it will deal with the painting and weathering of the vehicle. Some thoughts need to be spent on the stowage inside the vehicle, should i glue it in before painting or do it separately? I don´t know that yet, i will think about it. I guess i will glue it in before painting, it works well usually. We will see! Thank you for watching, see you again in the next video, your Hamilkar Barkas. The next parts of the building review will follow soon.