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TankArt vol.1 - WWII German Armour


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TankArt vol.1 - WWII German Armour


by Michael Rinaldi


$29.95 from Rinaldi Studio Press




This is the first title from Michael Rinaldi, a name that I think will already be familiar to many armour modellers. It is a "how to" book, focussing on as the title suggests, German armour in WWII. Looking for a quick reference point, I would liken it to the books by Toni Canfora I have reviewed for Scale Plastic and Rail, covering the Panther and the StuG III. The main divergence is that the focus very much the 'how' and the 'why' of various painting, weathering and finishing techniques; there is no analysis of technical features of particular vehicles, nor any diorama components.

This is quite a chunky volume: 208 pages of softback, high quality paper, measuring 8.5" by 9.5". The introduction is worth a read because the author walks you through his modelling philosophy, providing an insight into what motivates him in his models, and what he strives for when finishing them. The book can be divided in two main sections - although the Contents page provides a detailed chapter breakdown: the first looks at various modelling techniques - painting and weathering, rather than construction; the second, the application of these techniques to five different pieces of German armour.


A couple of things are worth pointing out at this stage: firstly, the models are of the highest quality, but that was what I knew already and was to be expecting to be honest; secondly, the quality of the pictures is simply the best I have seen in print, and I trust that the snapshots I provide here will do them justice. Anyway, first up we take a look at the products and materials used to achieve Michael Rinaldi's modelling results, from primer (my beloved Mr Surfacer 1200 rattlecan), paint, pigments, filters and washes. Tamiya paints are the industry workhorse, and a number of modellers rave about the ease with which the use Vallejo, but his use of Lifecolor caused me to raise an eyebrow, because many, including yours truly, really cannot make these work at all. Still, a bad workman blames his tools and all that! There are no real surprises amongst the other products - MiG Productions and current darling of armour modellers across the forums, AK Interactive, feature heavily throughout.


In Weathering Principles, we are introduced to layering, and the author's saying that 'you can never have too small of a chip' (!). Importantly, with a number of techniques floating around, we have it set out what order these are to be applied in, from basic priming and painting in the beginning, through to pigments and heavy washes at the end.


The hairspray technique which, despite being around since 2007, seems only recently to have been universally demystified (thank you YouTube?) is examined in detail. Helpfully, it is shown on a number of vehicles, from panzer grey, through dark yellow to winter whitewash. We also get an assessment of run of the mill hairspray vs pre-packaged (and vastly more expensive) 'chipping fluids', and which paint brands work best when using the hairspray technique.


The next chapter covers something which I confess I simply have not yet tried, at least not properly anyway: the use of oils, and more specifcally, oil paint rendering. If ever you were suspicious of putting multi-coloured dots all over your cherished work of art, and then blurring the all together, this is the section for you! There is even a 24 (yes, twenty four, as in Jack Bauer) stage photographic step-by-step (SBS) to show you exactly what to do in each stage, and what the results should look like as you go along.


We now come to the six test subjects, the first of which is a Panther Befehlswagen in white distemper over a base of dark yellow with thin brown camouflage. This is also the first time we really see bare plastic and etch metal. As I mentioned before, the actual construction of models is not the focus of this book, so we do not delve into what Fahrgestell Nr or production batch this particular kitty might be! Indeed, this Panther is actually a Tamiya Late Ausf G, rather than an industry benchmark DML kit, because that way "less time is spent gluing parts together..." (Tamiya kits being renowned as 'shake and bake').


The paint job is definitely not shake and bake, and at first glance I thought overly complicated for most modellers. But, when I sat down and read the narrative properly, it's actually quite simple to follow and a process that should not cause too many problems. Yes there are quite a number of stages, and the order in which everything is done is quite crucial when using the hairspray technique, but Michael Rinaldi goes to great lengths to explain things in this regard - the chapter is 30-odd pages long. It ends, as do all of the vehicle specific sections, with a two page spread of snapshot SBS photos, which are probably a good aide memoir once you get stuck in.


I think no book on German armour - or at least no book that courts popular appeal (nothing wrong with that after all) - would be without a tank in early war Panzer Grey, or without perhaps the most famous weapon of the entire conflict, the Tiger I. This next chapter gives us both in one package, the well-known Tiger I Initial Production #111.


An illustration of how this book is geared towards aesthetic outcome over technical accuracy is given by the author's admission that he chose Friul metal tracks because they would finish well, even though they were not 'handed' as all good Tiger experten know they should be for this tank. In fairness, he also mentions the need for hollow guide horns, which I think dates this build somewhat, as handed tracks are available from a number of different sources know, complete with requisite hollow guide horns. But I digress...


This is another 30 page monster, notable firstly for making what can be a very plain finish in the hands of the novice, one of great depth and warmth. It also introduces us to use of pigments to achieve mud spatter, and the use of chemicals to weather white metal tracks. I am most definitely not a fan of the paint he uses in this section, but one simply cannot argue with his results - they are exquisite.


The third subject is one of contrasts: the very simple but good Tamiya kit of the very simple (and also rather good) little Jagdpanzer 38(t) Hetzer tank; we then have some fine weathering over a what looks a beast of a three tone camouflage complete with multi-coloured flecks. As with the Panther, everything is broken down and dissected so as to make you want to hop to your desk and try it yourself! I can't pay a higher complement than that.


I think up until now I have always shied away from vehicles with such schemes, but I really think I want to try one of these in my next couple of projects.



I will confess to being a bit of a 'scale evangelist': I build 1/32 aircraft and 1/35 armour, and studiously ignore everything else. As such, the next model has little interest as a project for future construction, because I know I will never build a 1/48 piece of armour. That being said, I do find the extreme chipping used to reveal primed metal underneath Dunkelgelb to be very interesting, and certainly worthy of trying to replicate on its bigger (correctly sized?) cousin that I have in my stash.




The vehicle is meant to show a fairly advanced state of degradation post-War, as depicted in photos the author mentions. This is one particular time that I feel an image or two of what we are trying to replicate would be very useful - although I am not sure 'replicate' is the right word given Michael Rinaldi's openly artistic / impressionist stance, but hopefully you know what I mean?




This 251/22 is probably the least engaging of the subjects for me: the weathering is superb, and what I assume to be realistic, but somehow this finish on this subject really needs a bit of historical content for me I am afraid.




Fear not, for we end (or almost end) on a high note with a DAK Panzer IV Ausf E which has most certainly felt the wrath of the North African sun, sand and winds. If you think the colour looks a little 'off' well, that's because it is: this is one of the early panzers that were shipped in panzer grey, and then had sand coloured camouflage applied in the field. What this means for us is that we take the same journey as the tank: from primer, to dark grey and then sand, with plenty of weathering along the way, and lots at the end.




I said almost the end, because the book actually finishes up with ten pages of figure modelling. This feels very much an afterthought to me, and nearly - emphasis on nearly - spoils the 'after-taste' of the book (think fine wine here...). The figures are very good, but almost deserve a whole section to themselves. They also do not relate to the models that precede them, adding to that "tacked on" feel.






Excellent. If you liked the Canfora books, you'll probably go for this. And if you are more interested in advancing your modelling technique than your technical knowledge, then this is most certainly a modeller-friendly book. The finish does spoil it a little, but I will try to concentrate of what is good about the book, and that is a whole lot. There is an Allied Armour volume coming out soon too - look out for Tank Art vol 2!


Highly recommended.


With thanks to Michael Rinaldi for the review copy.

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