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Red Steel

Red Steel

by Phil Novak  

Russian Armor: A brief overview

When Germany first invaded Russia in 1941 most of the Soviet armor was able to handle the German threat. The problem was that the Soviets had a very poorly organized armored division. The mainstay of the force consisted of the T-34/76 battle tank. It was a very good design with an awesome combination of firepower, protection and mobility. Its 76mm gun was able to defeat most German armor and its armor could hold its own against the German guns well.

Keeping with the Russians view of using cavalry in battle came the designs for light tanks, such as the T70. As the war raged on, the Germans came up with better armor and better guns. The T34/76 could no longer outclass German tanks such as the Tiger I or Panther. These tanks had almost impenetrable armor and guns that could take out the T34 at over 2000 meters. So the next step for the Russians was to upgrade to the 85mm gun.

The Russians also kept ahead of the Germans in mobility. Their combination of armor, firepower and mobility went unmatched throughout the war. This kept them in competition with the Germans and allowed them penetrations of the Tiger and Panther series of tanks. These tanks were some of the most maneuverable, best armed, and best armored of the time and served well in the post war battlefield.

David Clarke’s Method (T34/85)

David Clarke to built the T34/85, which is a later version of the original T34/76 as mentioned in detail above. Clarke started with the DML kit and assembled without any major modifications. An assembly detail that is noteworthy is the engine screen on the rear deck.

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Clarke said he used Woodland Scenic mesh ” Thinned slightly for a flimsier appearance” He also said that the dented look came by accident “while handling the model during painting and detailing, my fingers pushed the mesh into a distressed appearance”.

After assembly was completed he sprayed the model with a Russian dark armor green, and then used a lighter shade of the green to over spray and pick up that highlighted look. He then applied a dry transfer for the numbers, which have developed on cracked look.

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Next came dry brushing with a yet lighter shade of green causing the rough, cast texture of the armor plate to really stick out. After this, a rusty brown color was used to add rust stains to the ends of the grab irons and the plugs on the turret. This was done by “dry brushing a rusty color using downward motions at most of the weld points and plugs in the turret”.

Dry Brushing is done by taking a paint brush full of paint and knocking most of it off onto a paper towel, piece of cardboard, or even your hand, until it just deposits on the high spots when you run your brush over the area to be dry brushed. This method is excellent for adding rust stains and bringing out detail on the surface of the model.

Clarke also had an interesting method for applying mud to the undercarriage and the spare track links.

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He claims that “pastels that are ground up and then mixed with Tamiya thinner make great looking mud once slopped on and allowed to dry. On to the tracks.

He decided to replace the kit link by link non-working track with ModelKasten working track. “The detail in the tracks is unmatched and it adds something special to the model,” he added.

The track is put together link by link, taking a single-track link and pinning them together with another link using small plastic pins provided in the track set. When finished the track links move like the real track, therefore giving your model tracks that behave like the real thing. The links themselves are very highly detailed, one of the best moldings I have seen from an injection molding machine. “I love the look of the ModelKasten track but I’m a little upset that it tends to come apart so easily,” continued Clarke.

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It is fair to mention that the pins provided with the set are sometimes not long enough to make a strong joint. Hence if they are pulled they come apart quite easily. To counter this problem I find that using fine gauge brass wire makes an excellent pin.

I find that .015 is a good gauge, but depending on the track you may need to go bigger or smaller depending on the type of track. Just jam the wire in as far as it will go, clip off the excess, apply a small drop of super glue and then your ready to move on to the next link. They are a great way to give your next model an extra “spark”.

Bob Caruso’s Method


Bob Caruso used a combination of Floquil or Model Masters enamel greens: a dark green (like a marine green) and a german black green on his rendition of the Russian KV-2 heavy tank. He airbrushed them on, thinning them with a hot lacquer thinner.

“I like instant dry, so I use the lacquer thinners for the etching effect it gives me on plastic. I then work with light greens or the base coat mixed with white or yellow to give me the desired effect,” he says.

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His shading techniques really cause the panel lines to pop out. He starts with the base coat of a “German black green” (enamels) and moves then to a lighter color. He remarks, “I prime with the color that I am going to use for the base coat. Always dark to light”.

This technique allows for a “faded” look on the panels, and some more of a grungy look on the weld seams and around the machine gun, radio aerials, and other such fittings.

Caruso comments that the look is achieved by “airbrushing lighter coats of the base color or other greens, sometimes light olives, to the center of the panels, and working out to the edge of the panel as much as possible and then dry brushing and panel washes with enamels. Before I clear coat, I may add some pastels, but heavier then I need because some of the effect is lost with the clear coat.”

He replaced the tracks that came with the kit with Fruilmodel tracks. These excellent tracks came from Italy but are now made in Hungary. They are white metal, so they are quite heavy when fully assembled but the effect is amazing.

Most of the realism comes from the tracks’ ability to work just like the real sized counterpart. Assembly consists of putting a pin through the links to obtain the pivot. The track is assembled just like real track.

Caruso points out that he likes the “scale sag” of the track over the return rollers, as a result of the heavy white metal that it is made out of. Also when the track is completed and painted, it can be filed to reveal a real metal finish. If you ever obtain an older set of tracks (which this was), you may not use the pin method to assemble them. These tracks require you to push tabs down to lock the links together. The weight of the track often times pulled them apart, but it was still very well detailed. Fortunately, Fruilmodel has chosen to convert its tracks to the pin method.

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The antenna on front of the hull was made of wires composed of a phenolic-type substance and fanned out for better reception. Caruso simulated this by using a multi-strand wire, soldered a length of it together, and then fanned it out on top.

The plank of wood on the side of the tank is in fact real wood. Basswood was suitably distressed, stained and weathered slightly.

The numbering on the model was “dripped” with white acrylic paint to give the appearance of the lettering being applied wet and runny. The rusty look was created by airbrushing enamel until a satisfactory look was achieved.

Caruso says that he often uses pastels in conjunction with the airbrush. Pastels are applied to a model by grinding the appropriate color up on a piece of sandpaper and then using a soft brush to “dust” the model creating a rust look. Also they can be mixed to create colors that are not readily available .


The T-70 was also built by Bob Caruso and incorporates many of the same methods as the T-70. He comments that “it lacks some of the detail of the Tamiya kits, but is still a great build even though the hull is multi piece.

The pieces are a little heavier then Tamiya although it doesn’t show when its all together.”

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He says that he was attracted by the simplicity of the tank and the interesting painting techniques. He created the base groundwork using Hudson and Allen “Mud”. This powdery substance was mixed with water and then slopped onto the running gear and base of the model.

Chuck’s Theidel’s Method


Chuck Theidel also built the KV-2 tank. He said that he was really interested in the KV2 because of its massive size and the fact that it was something off the wall and different.

Theidel’s tank is very interesting in that he did not use an airbrush. That’s right. You read correctly and it’s not a typo! He did not use an airbrush. He simply painted with a base of the Russian armor green, and then came back with an overcoat of camouflage gray to give the winter scheme look.

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If you look at the pictures, you may say, Hey! That looks like a tan color! It can’t be camouflage gray! Well that’s because it’s from the mid 70’s and the paint changed with age and a little bit of cigarette smoke. This just goes to show that models don’t have to use the latest photo etch and resin to be a work of art.

The tracks on the model also look weathered and beat up. This is from the Andrea paint that he washed onto the well-worn areas to get a good rusted look. This goes to show that tracks don’t necessarily need to be ModelKasten or Fruilmodel to look realistic. All it takes is a little skill and finesse to produce a model without the use of after-market detail. The model may be many years old but it is still and excellent replica of this Red Beast.

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So as we can see there are many ways of constructing Russian tanks without seeing the same thing over and over again. The methods of these modelers show us that a “plain” paint scheme can be very interesting and result in a good-looking model.

Photos by Phil Novak