SBS: Through the Paddy

by David

Hey all,

time for another SbS. This is a summary of my first adventure into the world of 1/72nd scale minis, which started at a lovely and sunny weekend at the Herzog von Bayern Competition in Ingolstadt in April 2017. I will tell you a bit more about my love for 1/72 minis and how it all started in a future installment. But this was the beginning of it all... I guess, the article also has another message: that sometimes stuff happens when you try new things, but that you (almost) always can (try to) fix it, if you're just dedicated enough.

Anyway, when I got back from Ingolstadt, I dug out a set of Vietnam-era 1/72 "Special Forces" that I had bought for another project that might become reality some time (or not). I have always been super-interested in the Vietnam war and will delve a bit more into that in another future contribution here at MV, but this will be way in the future (post 2020 World Model Expo), so don't wait up. 

I didn't have a story in mind when I started the project, but simply rummaged through the beautiful set, which was originally designed by ESCI (check the pics of the box and its contents over at Plastic Soldier Review) and repeatedly re-published by other producers, including Italeri and Revell (where my little box came from), to let inspiration hit me. My decision fell on the running guy - I liked his dynamic pose - and immediately a little story came to my mind: I saw a brawny Marine running through a rice paddy, holding his helmet (he had been too lazy to close the straps). Maybe he was running from Charlie staging an ambush - or equally likely from a "tame" water buffalo gone wild! I also liked that the mini was rather well-cast, there were no undercuts, no flash and very few moldlines.

Before I started working on the Marine, I started with the base. In addition to my first attempt of painting a 1/72 miniature, I also wanted to try some other stuff, such as using the Vallejo Mud Effect I had bought on a whim, and experimenting with resin water (spoiler alert: disaster ahead!). I picked up a 20mm round plinth (made from a simple beechwood staff cut to about 4cm height by a lovely carpentery-inclined friend of mine), and just lathered a solid layer of Vallejo Russian Mud on it. This was supposed to become the ground of the rice paddy.

Next, I started to work on the trooper - and I realized what a pain it can be to prepare these soft-plastic minis for painting. Today, I know a lot more about that (there will be a MV article on preparing soft plastic 1/72 minis in the future, by the way) and I actually enjoy doing it. But the Marine being my first one it was a big hassle - despite the rather high quality cast. All in all, I worked a good 2.5h on the mini before I decided that it was ok - but, as you can see in the next pic, I did not manage to remove all the fine pieces of soft plastic that always appear when you don't use the blades properly. Here's a pic after the 2k priming method worked its magic:

The following pic shows the state after about 1.5 hours of paintwork: basic colors have been applied to the Marine, and the skin has received some first highlights and shadows. 

The next steps involved painting some more of the skin - deepening contrasts, adding lights and shadows - and making a few changes to my originally envisioned color scheme. I decided to give the mini a few more colors (and to challenge myself a bit more). First, after seeing a few pics and illustrations that flak jackets were sometimes black, I decided to do that. Second, I wanted to try my hand at 1/72 camo, so I gave helmet and pants a new basic color (a lighter green)...

... and painted the classic ERDL camo on them:

After painting some minor details I spent some time on the base, super-gluing a few grass tufts to simulate rice plants:

Then it was high time for a bit more detail work on the mini. I gave his helmet and his trusted M-16 some straps. These were made from the sticky parts of orange-colored "post-its", cut in slim lengths. The stickiness of the post-it help applying the paper strips where you want them. After sticking them to the correct position, I fixated the straps with a tiny bit of super glue. 

In addition, I prepared the base for the water-works. I used a piece of thin clear plastic, glued it to the base with super glue and tied it all together with multiple layers of sticky-tape. Especially with round plinths this additional layer of stability and tightness is useful, as it's really hard to get the length of the clear plastic exactly right such that there are no small gaps. I made the clear-plastic barrier about as high that the water will reach to the trooper's mid-shins. 

Since this was the first time ever that I worked with resin water, I wanted to keep it as simple as possible. So, I decided on using Vallejo Still Water, which is a single-component (1k) acrylic resin, which hardens by drying in plain air. I knew that the 1k "water" shrinks while hardening, but thought that that wouldn't matter as long as I poured multiple thin layers... Well, wait for it... Anyway. To simulate the muddy water of a rice paddy I mixed a bit of brownish ink into the resin (Army Painter Strong Tone and Vallejo Model Wash Brown) and did a first pour:

All in all, I poured three layers, waiting for at least 24 hours between pours for each layer to dry. However, after the first and second pour worked out well I got a bit carried away - and poured a bit too much "water", such that it touched the trooper's right leg (the one that was supposed to be in the air). Speaking of Icarus flying too close to the sun! As expected, the water shrank while drying, but it stuck to and got sucked up the leg a bit, such that there now was a "hole" in the water (sorry for the crappy pic):

What to do? I could have tried to repair the situation by pouring more water into the hole. But I did not like the water up the trooper's leg, so I decided to start again! "Carefully" I cut the guy from the base and out of the "water"...

... and in the process of course pulled off much of the painstakingly camouflaged pant:

So, I built a new base using Vallejo "Russian Dark Mud" and some rice plants - this time made from stiff brush-hair painted green (I didn't like the effect of the ready-made grass tufts), and "repaired" the Marine's camouflaged pants:

And then... Water-attempt number two. This time, I ditched (pun intended) the 1k Still Water and tried 2k water, closely following my jungle-brother Josua's fantastic Water Tutorial:

After 48 hours the big moment had arrived. I removed the barrier - and was really happy. There was a small "dent" in the resin, but nothing that couldn't be repaired with a bit of filing, sanding and polishing.

Next I used an old brush to sculpt some waves from Vallejo Water Texture, a whitish acrylic paste that dries crystal clear. I really like that stuff. Here's a pic of the first layer:

... and after that one had dried (depending on the thickness, this drying can take 30 mins to a couple of hours) - and I had painted the plinth black - I added a second layer of waves:

The rest was just a bit of minor detail work on the waves and some final brush-ups. And then, the Marine was done:

For additional (pretty lousy) pics of the finished mini, please see its Putty & Paint page.

Thanks for your attention. Let me know if you have questions in the comments below!

All the best, D.

PS: You might notice that at some point the Marine's M-16 became "bent". This happened while I transported the mini (on its plinth) to a paint-meeting and the gun broke. Normally I would carefully cut it off at the breaking point, drill holes into both sides and repair it with an acupuncture needle and some superglue. But at that point I just couldn't be bothered... 


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