A new manufacturer out of Poland, QuickWheel, has begun producing kit-specific wheel masks unlike any other mask product previously seen. Unlike the usual AM manufacturersí approach of using either PE or adhesive masks that are essentially one-time use products, the QuickWheel masks offer a different approach entirely. The focus of this review is mask QW-002 designed for use on the DML Pzkpfw III/StuG III kits 6320, 6394, and 6354.
The packaging of the item is very straightforward, consisting of the mask attached to a small square of cardboard via adhesive tape and enclosed in a zip-loc style bag with a product card stapled to the top. The mask itself consists of a rectangular piece of black hard plastic measuring 13cm x 5cm with holes punched out for the road wheels and return rollers and a thin layer of blue vinyl laid over that to produce the mask. The mask has 12 holes for the road wheels and 6 for the return rollers, enough to hold one complete hull sideís worth of road wheel halves and return roller halves at a time.
The masks do not come with any instructions or directions but their use is straightforward enough that this will not really present an issue. The holes are deep enough to take each road wheel or return roller half individually and the fit is tight enough that friction alone will hold the wheel half in place while painting with the first use. Subsequent uses though tend to make the fit a little bit looser, so thatís something to keep in mind to avoid the possibility of having wheel halves going flying and potentially getting lost when the mask is reused.
For the purposes of this review I gave the masks a test drive using DML kit 6320 StuG III road wheels and return rollers. Prior to using the mask, I air brushed the rubber portions and then, once dry, inserted the wheels into the mask from the underside. The fit is tight on the first try so the machined tolerances on the holes are very close to that of the wheels. The wheels need to be seated well against the vinyl mask but if you push too far the vinyl will stretch a bit which I found makes it less precise on subsequent uses, so care is needed if you want to use the masks more than once.
The appropriate color was then air brushed for the hubs and I found that holding the wheel in place gently with a finger while painting helped to avoid slight slippage against the mask. Once the paint had dried, the wheels were gently popped out to complete the process and avoid stretching the vinyl into the hole in the process. Since the mask is designed to handle an entire hull sideís worth of wheels at a time, it took more time for me to prep the air brush and clean it than it did to actually paint the wheels. The vinyl surface of the mask cleaned up easily with just thinner and a q-tip and can conceivably be reused as long as the vinyl mask doesnít stretch too much over time.
The only serious drawback I found to this particular mask was the absence of sufficiently sized masks for the inner portions of the wheel hubs. The Pzkpfw III (like many German vehicles) road wheels and return rollers have different diameters on the rubber portion on the inner surfaces vs. the outer surfaces. Since the mask circles are all the same size, you are left on your own for painting the interior hub portions as there isnít any provision otherwise. This means that the mask will provide an efficient solution only for the outer faces instead of for the entire wheels as I had hoped. In order to get a fully accurate masked look on the inner hubs, some other method such as a circle template or hand painting will still be required.
Overall I found the size of the mask to be conveniently sized for easy handling and being able to take a full hull-side at a time will definitely speed up the painting process. The mask is of good quality and durable materials and can be reused on multiple projects if youíre looking to build the additional kits itís designed for. At $12, it is reasonably priced and is recommended for those looking for a faster way to handle painting the outer faces of road wheels and return rollers.
QuickWheel's Pz IV wheel masks are Reviewed Here