Afrika Korps Panzer III

Tamiya 1/48 Afrika Korps Panzer III Ausf L by Russell Eden

This article is written by Russell Eden a new club member and part of the “Telsis faction”

I thought, after a bit of persuasion from Mr Adams (cornered at work!), I’d try and write an article on the joy of etch kits.

Etch can make a model – the level of detailing is unrivalled, BUT it can be very frustrating leaving bits of etch glued to you, the tweezers and the carpet!

My kit of choice was an Afrika Korps 1/48 Panzer III `L’ made by Tamiya. After browsing the net, mainly

I had a rather large list of extras I wanted

  • Hauler – KV1 German conversion- using the jerrycan rack and rear rack.
  • Hauler – Panzer III `N’ – the L was out of stock but this had the mudguards I wanted.
  • Voyager – Panzer III `L’ – This came with a machined barrel and extra armour and it even has a horseshoe for luck!
  • Verlinden – German vehicle stowage – crates, boxes, personal kit, tarpaulins, etc
  • Legend – Stug stowage – more crates, jerrycans, buckets and boxes.

The build of these Tamiya kits is relatively easy, the cast hulls are great and after supergluing everything to it I had a complete chassis with minimal clean up needed. The tracks even have built in sag too. There was no etch needed for this part.

The hull top was a different matter. After thoroughly reading the instructions of all the etch kits and after checking what’s included I made my choices of which bits to use.

Different manufacturers etch kits usually have different contents, this can mean buying more than one etch kit for your model, as I did. After working out which bits go where and when in the kit build process, I started building.

I used the grills, barrel and extra armour mounting plates from the Voyager set. The armour was not used as the etch nuts were too large scale-wise and too fiddly to use so I used the Tamiya plastic one on the hull and left off the one on the turret, as seen in plenty of photos. This etch set had no mudguards so I ordered an Hauler set which did. These were bent to look very battered, this was one of my main reasons for using etch after all how long do military vehicles stay pristine in the battlefield?

Tool recommendations for using etch:

  • Sharp scalpel will cut most etch
  • Flush end cutters for thicker etch
  • Tweezers of varying size
  • Superglue – instant is good but a thick slow dry one is better so you can move parts if needed
  • Glue tips for the glue bottles and fine wire is good for small bits of gluing.
  • A magnifier of some sort
  • A bright light and a contrasting carpet – for when bits go ping – and they will!
  • Soldering iron – I have never used one with etch but is recommended for larger etch parts
  • Fine wire is better than flat etch for handles.
  • Photos for reference – especially if making conversions or using addition kit

After a lot of struggling with super glue and tweezers I managed to a fix all the parts I was going to use. The grills were a nightmare, as being so fine any excess superglue on the mesh will show, luckily mud, stowage and figures can disguise any really bad bits. I also cut off all the moulded `handles’ and replaced them with wire – a pin vice is great for drilling holes for these.

The turned barrel is gorgeous, far better than the plastic one. I used a resin turret bin with etch too, this was a pain to fit but the detail is crisper and the buckles are great. The shovel from the KV was utilised with etch holder too.

Slow drying superglue means you can take you time placing items but sometimes it just doesn’t stick and you need the instant stuff. Using this I either stuck it in the wrong place or ended up with my fingers or tweezers stuck to the etch!

Not easy but with patience it is rewarding.

It is also easy to customise – the rear jerrycan rack was the KV1 ammunition rack cut down with a jerry can each end holding it together (it fell to bits after 2 bends – oops!)

The side rack had to be made wider so the cans could lie down (again photos of these helped) more etch cut, bent and glued.

Another of the joys of etch kits is you can use as little or as much as you wish, depending on skill and patience. I use the big bits and tend to leave the smaller bits as you can end up with superglue everywhere and tiny bits of etch in the wrong places.

Once the kit has the level of detail you want and are confident with – STOP! Any further and you could make an expensive mess.

The kit was now ready for paint……After the completed kit was given a quick wash to remove dust and grease, I then removed the turret from the hull and both were sprayed with Tamiya Dark Sand paint. This was straight out of a can; as yet I do not possess an airbrush so I am a bit limited. Luckily DAK vehicles were sprayed a variety of shades of brown and yellow.

The rubber wheels were painted a nice shade of black and the tracks were painted a mix of panzer grey and rust. All the base details were painted too, including the axe, shovel and jack block.

Once the base coat was completed the model was given a light coat of Johnson’s floor varnish – this not only protects the base coat but it gives a good surface for the next stage – the ink wash.

After painting lead figures for many years I am a great fan of the ink wash to bring out the detail of a kit – otherwise they can look too toy like for me. I use burnt sienna and black mainly. After squeezing out a small amount of each onto a pallet I start thinning with white spirit and mixing them to the right consistency and colour – always try out the ink on a small part of the model to see if it flows well. This is where the varnish helps – it makes the ink flow better. I go over the whole model making sure the recessed areas have enough detail picked out. If you use too much ink it can be removed with a clean brush dipped in thinner and can be moved about for several hours if you get it in the wrong place. The ink can take up to 24 hours to dry so once you’re happy with your wash leave the kit somewhere out of reach – dried on finger prints never look good!

That’s the wash done. I then sometimes do a light dry-brush, in a lighter shade of the base colour, to bring out a bit of detail – this is good on a clean, factory finish model but on a heavily battered one like this panzer it’s not necessary.

The decals were applied at this point – these were aftermarket ones from Gasoline, as the Tamiya kit had no DAK palm trees supplied. The stowage was added too – this was painted separately. DAK vehicles carried all the supplies they could so imagination is good here – from the photos I have – anything goes! This included the spare track and wheels on the front.

DAK vehicles were renowned for being very weathered – the only photos I have of good condition vehicles is as they were being off loaded from the transport ship. All other photos show them in varying states of disrepair. The worn and chipped paint is done with a fine brush and dark grey enamel paint. You can do as much or as little as you want. But try to keep it realistic – paint will chip around hatches and where crew climb over the tank or it hits obstacles.

I did do some dry brushing at this point, using the dark grey – making sure the strokes were facing the way the sand would have flowed – this gave me light scratches in the paint. Once I was happy with this I gave the hull and turret a thin wash of light sand – this takes the harshness out of the paints and blends the decals in. Before the final weathering I gave the completed model a light matt varnish.

Now the next fun part – pastels – I use MIG pigments. For this model I used “Gulf War Sand”. Using a cut down brush I covered the model with a light layer of sand. The pastel will naturally sit in recesses like a build up of sand and also gives the whole model a layer of dust. Again do as much or as little of this as you want – any excess can be blown or brushed off. The only problem with powders is too much handling will remove them so once you finished to kit handle as little as possible – hence mine was glued to it’s base as soon as it arrived.

I hope this was interesting for you all and hope it has inspired you to have a play.

Onto my next project – Heller 1/72 VAB 4×4 plus etch kit, of course!

Ed Note: Russell’s panzer can also be found at Track48 along with his Sdkfz.222

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