26 May 2011

Realistic Tow Cables for Amored Vehicles - Part 3

In the previous two posts, I demonstrated how to replace a broken or inaccurate plastic model kit part (tow cables) with better detailed twisted wire.(see Realistic Tow Cables for Armored Vehicles - Parts 1 & 2 in this blog).  Now, I'll show how to mount these to the kit. I'm in the middle of building Tamiya's 1:35th scale US Army M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank kit.

Here is the Abrams turret with the modified kit part tow cables tacked in place. In order to add more detail, I'll add the mounting brackets to hold the cable to the turret, similar to the real tank.

Using the two modified tow cables, take one and tack it in place on the side of the turret, following the kit instructions. When the glue has cured enough that the cables won't fall off, drill a series of holes in the turret as seen in the photograph above. These are for the three simulated brackets I'll be making out of fine brass wire. Use reference photos of a real Abrams or use the old kit parts as a guide for placement. In photos, there are five L-shaped mounting brackets to hold each cable in place. For simplicity's sake, I'm going to use three brackets per cable and make them U-shaped so that I'm ensured that they will be secured to the vehicle.

Tools and materials needed to create and assemble tow cable mounting brackets. clockwise from the top: (1) Cyanoacrylate (thin and thick varieties); (2) Sprue cutters; (3) Fine point tweezers; (4) Soda-pop bottle cap used as a CA receptacle with fine wire applicator; (5) Three pieces of brass wire cut into 10mm lengths; (6) Spool of 28-gauge brass beading wire; (7) partially assembled model turret of the M1A2 Abrams tank with tow cables mounted to it.

To create the simulated mounting brackets, I used 28-gauge brass wire cut into approximately 10mm lengths. I made three of these for each tow cable for a total of six pieces of wire.
Grasp one of the 10mm lengths of wire with the fine point tweezers and bend it into a U-shape. Align the wire ends with the holes that were drilled in the side of the turret and insert the wire. You may need to pinch or spread the legs of the U as needed to ensure alignment. 

Make sure that the U wire sits securely against the tow cable. Apply a drop of thin CA followed with a drop of accelerator to secure. Repeat this step for the remaining five sets of holes in the turret.

Brass wire bent into a U-shape for insertion into the turret holes. Secure each leg of the U with a drop of CA followed by accelerator.

A photograph of an M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tank in Iraq. Note the location, position and mountings of the tow cables along the bottom edge of the turret.Using references like this can greatly aid in making more detailed models (Photo courtesy of Military-Today.com)

23 May 2011

Realistic Tow Cables for Armored Vehicles - Part 2

This is the second installment of my previous post, "Scratch-building Tow Cables for Armored Vehicles" where I demonstrated how I took a broken kit part and replaced it with a more accurate looking one from a hardware store-procured twisted wire picture hanging wire.  Here, I will show how I added the metal ferrules to the cable/tow eye by using thin metal from "tea candles" obtained from a dollar store. I will also show how I added more accurate looking mounting brackets that attach the cables to the turret with fine gauge brass wire.

This is modified tow cable created in Part 1. A scratch-built ferrule is being prepared to add another level of detail.

A ferrule is a metal sleeve used to prevent wire cable from unraveling. To make the ferrule, I used the thin aluminum that is found as the base for tea candles. It is easily cut, smoothed and shaped for a variety of scratch-building tasks.  I found that the candle was easy to pop out of the metal "cup". By using scissors I cut the stamped aluminum candle base away from the sides of the cup. I was then able to smooth the resulting strip flat by pressing it down on the work surface and scraping my metal bench ruler along it's length several times. As you can see, the edges are very ragged, so I removed them with a sharp No. 11 Xacto knife and a straight edge. In the photograph below, here are the materials needed to reclaim the aluminum to make the parts:

Clockwise from the upper left corner: (1) tea candle; (2) tea candle with the candle removed and the resulting aluminum "cup"; (3) the cup base (discard) and the ragged-edged "wall" of the cup. This is what I'll use as the metal strip for the ferrule; (4) Clean aluminum strip stock after it was trimmed and flattened; (5) Sharp No. 11 Xacto knife blade; (6) Metal straight-edge.

To make the ferrule, use the Xacto knife and straight-edge and cut a strip of aluminum approximately 1.0mm wide and 5.0mm long for each tow-eye. These measurements are approximations. I'm not a "rivet counter", which is a modeler who is very detail-oriented to the point where every part must be exact. There is nothing wrong with this at all, it's just that I like to move things along when I build and if I can improve the looks of something, I'm willing to sacrifice a bit of accuracy. To me, it'll still look like an Abrams tow cable in the end.

Wrap a beginning bend around the cable at the butt end of the tow-eye and crimp it in place with fine tweezers. Apply a drop of super glue to the joint, followed by a drop of accelerator. Complete the wrapping of aluminum tightly around the cable by one and half more turns. Gently crimp in place and apply another drop of super glue with a fine wire applicator. Follow up with a drop of accelerator and blot dry with a paper towel. Finish it off by feathering the exposed aluminum overlapped end with a medium grit sanding stick. Repeat this for each tow-eye. The finished product will look like this:

Here the completed, modified tow cable is glued in place along the bottom of the Abram's turret. What needs to be done is add the cable mounting brackets. Based on references, I'm going to make brackets out of fine brass wire.