Step-by-Step Vol.35 Finishing German Armor: Special Issue Sd.Kfz. 263 Funkspahwagen
by: Matthew Lenton
Listed as volume 35 in Glenn Bartolotti’s Step-by-Step Armor series, this one is a “Special Issue”. I think that’s because it is available for free from his website, I suppose by way of being a sample to introduce modellers to the other volumes that are for sale. It is also different from many of his other products in that its subject is a 1/72 scale kit, and although he has done a few others for this scale, it has to be said that subject matter of this type aimed at braille scalers is relatively rare, and so is to be welcomed. The subject here is Dragon’s Sd.Kfz. 263 “Funkspahwagen” (or should it be a “Panzerfunkwagen”? - never mind…) which, as Glenn states, is a very nice kit, a review of which, incidentally, is available on Armorama.
what you get
If you’re not familiar with these publications, they are like a single chapter of an electronic book. Glenn Bartolotti is essentially producing a guide book to painting and weathering armour models in various scales, and is publishing it in instalments, covering individual subject model kits in each one. This one is 13 pages in total, half covering the actual step by step details, the other half being the introductory pages, and photos of the completed model. It is well laid out and professional looking in terms of design and execution.
So, as stated, the first thing you notice is that the product looks pleasing, with the quality of the photographs of this small model being of very good quality. Note what it says about it being a guide to painting and finishing armour models, for it does not deal at all with construction of the kit, and indeed step 1 begins with a photo of the completed model in naked grey styrene.
The introduction, which I think is standard, states encouragingly that no special materials are used and indeed those used are obtainable from art supply stores, so there’s no need to have a whole stack of specialized modelling products. Glenn’s statement about his dislike of dry-brushing has been noted by some other reviewers of his products, and seems unnecessary, unless it is just that he is worried that people will expect to see how to do that particular technique. Each to their own I suppose, both in terms of whether one wants to dry-brush, or to mention it.
A little history of the vehicle is then included, the source of which is given as Wikipedia. A small error has crept in where it says “Note that there is also an 8 wheeled Sd.Kfz. 263”, for of course this is the eight wheeled Sd.Kfz. 263, and so it should say that there is also a six wheeled 263, based on the Sd.Kfz. 231; indeed the quoted extract is incorrectly taken from the entry for the 263 6-rad.
Step 1 describes the kit itself, and the only information provided on the build is that the Zusatzpanzer nose armour was omitted as it wouldn’t have featured on the 1940 French campaign vehicle being modelled. Step 2 details a neat way of ensuring that you can hold the model and not mess up your paintwork.
Steps 3 and 4 show techniques for priming and then creating the base colour in such a way that details will be preserved and highlighted. Model Master acrylics are shown being used for these steps.
Step 5 is a guide to applying the decals and does give a mention to the rather fiddly numbers that the kit provides for the registration plates.
Steps 6 and 7 deal with painting the tools and the tyres: for the tyres a neat solution is provided, though no special hints are given as to how to represent the wooden handles of the tools; photos of the real thing seem to suggest that the handles are sometimes at least partially painted over with grey, though others show them apparently still plain wood.
Step 8 describes the pin wash, and a fair amount of detail is given on what the aim is and how to achieve it.
Step 9 covers the use of pastel pigments to add dirt weathering to the model. Ground up pastel (pastel chalk I assume, rather than oil pastel) is employed, using a particular method, then with some final metallic highlighting we are done.
The remainder of the publication is photos of the completed model, the resolution of which is quite high, enabling one to zoom in to see the finished painting pretty close up, at around 3 or 4 times the size of the actual model.
This publication is perhaps targeting what might be viewed as a gap in the market, maybe, for example, those modellers who have normally just painted flat coats of the specified colours and then applied the decals, but who are now looking to move on to a higher level of finish. Books such as those by Michael Rinaldi and Mig Jimenez are fairly expensive of course, and are also really quite complicated and sophisticated in their approach, as they feature so many techniques and it perhaps isn’t always clear in which order they may be applied or which to use together. By contrast this step by step guide provides a simple, ordered approach which may enable someone moving up from beginner level to follow it without becoming bogged down in a whole catalogue of new techniques. Of course it could be argued that you could find such information for free on a site such as Armorama; well, the same might be said for all modelling techniques, the problem being that you may have to hunt it out, and even then, you’ll find lots of differing opinions and techniques. It may also be comforting that not too many specialist materials are required to follow these techniques.
Personally however I feel that this publication is perhaps a little too short; if it is aimed at the level of modeller that I have supposed, I would, for example, like to see more explanation on how to execute the pin wash technique, as in reality this is quite a tricky thing to master (I don’t claim to have done so yet). A step showing it being applied, with another showing any overflow being cleaned or blended, then maybe another showing the finished effect, dry, in big close up. Similarly the pigment application step could have been expanded into another step or two, and the priming and base coating section is actually describing a fairly complicated shading technique, the aim of which might not be completely clear to all modellers. I suppose the point I’m making is that if you are familiar enough with such techniques as to know precisely how to apply them then you may already be beyond this publication, but if you’re not, then it may not be quite detailed enough to guide you in exactly what to do.
Although the subject is painting and finishing only, that does mean that the techniques are equally applicable to other subject with a similar colour scheme, but maybe this misses an opportunity, as giving a few tips on building the model itself might help to draw in those who are interested in this particular kit. I couldn’t help noticing that the tail lamps looked a bit wonky, which is exactly what I found when I built the kit - basically they don’t fit properly - and this is the kind of thing that some modellers may have found helpful had it been discussed, as well, perhaps, as some of the issues that exist with the instructions.
Finally, there’s a small number of spelling mistakes, something that seems to devil non-mainstream publisher modelling publications, including both Rinaldi and Jimenez on occasions.
Anyway, this one is free, so it’s easy for anyone to go and see if it takes their fancy and may of use to them.
Highs: Very good photography with decent design; modest materials make it accessible to modellers on a budgetLows: Could be more detailed in describing exactly how to achieve some of the effects.Verdict: Straightforward simple advice, almost a checklist, that some will find useful.
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