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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Bolt Action - Testors Decal Set

If you're anything like me, all of your models are similarly based in some version of a green and brown, spring or summer mix. While this does mean that my models always match the terrain on that pick-up game table set up down at the shop, it also means I'm bored of all that green!

To liven things up a bit, I decided to go a route I've never gone before with my next army. As mentioned in episode twenty-eight of Bolt Action Radio, I'm going for a German force at the beginning of winter as frost and snow are just beginning. (As of this publication, twenty-eight may not have released yet.) Time to attempt my first ever whitewash! Before that, however, I needed to slap some decals on, because I felt like the light-to-dark-to-light contrast might just look good.

Is it "white wash" or "whitewash"? I'll leave the grammar to the Well Actually Arbiters out there, as it's used both ways online, but for character-conservation's sake I'll use the version sans space in the middle. Regardless, for my whitewash I started off laying the color the white is covering on each tank. As an aside, I'm writing this while I attempt to achieve the winter look - so by the end I may not be as excited about the endeavor, depending on the results! That out of the way, these tanks sprayed up nicely with some Early War German Panzer Grey from Plastic Soldier Company. The stuff is hard to come by these days - I'm not certain they even make it anymore - but you can still find cans of grey kicking around if you're willing to spend in the $25 range after US shipping. I still mostly agree with my old review of the product except it's important to add that having the right tip made a difference. I'm not sure what plastic engineering is different between the tips, but it sprayed out much more evenly. The amount that sprays takes some getting used to, as it is very fine, but after twice the passes I'd normally make I had a great coat that didn't reduce any of the tiny rivet detailing of the models.

With the tanks sprayed, I gathered the decals, some old brushes, a disgraceful shot glass of water, and a product I'd never used before called Testors Decal Set on the label and "Setting Solution" on their website. This was really turning into an uncharacteristically ambitious project! I walked away from the initial application of the decals with a new lesson firmly entrenched in my modeler's mind: Always buy extra decals! During the course of applying fifteen decals to these three tanks, I lost three or four of them to folding. By coincidence, I was flush with decals, so I discarded those that folded stubbornly and wouldn't right themselves when dropped back into the shot glass. And who wants to mess with something that doesn't get better after a dip into a jigger? Having the extras laying around meant I didn't feel pressured to mess with the folded plastic for extra time, and since they're relatively cheap, why not buy two when you need one?

During the application process, I did not feel as smugly confident as the version of me that was haughtily tossing blown decals around the room, but more on that later. I decided to start with very small balkankreuz on the side of each hull, and these went on easily enough. To use the Decal Set, I simply brushed enough on to float my decals, as I would if I were using water, then positioned the decal. Once in place, I brushed more Decal Set over the top of it, then blotted it with a damp napkin to lock it down. This worked very well at eliminating the smoky look to the plastic surrounding the decal itself. Please note that these were placed in a completely flat area on the hull and excepting the Decal Set required a process I was completely comfortable with having done it on other tanks in the past.

Then, I put crosses on the back of the storage behind each turret. This was slightly trickier, since they were so large, and I was placing them on a slightly rounded surface, but stubborn folding aside, went on easy as pie. Another note I should make at this point is the image immediately above and below represent finished decals. They do not represent what they looked like immediately after application.

Obviously not my tank - but there's numbering over the raised areas as well as the flat of the hull.

Having successfully placed balkankreuz on the three tanks, I moved on to what I was most nervous about: The numbering. The issue here, and the reason I purchased the Decal Set in the first place, was because I knew I would want to run decals over turret hatches and other three dimensional objects. There was simply no way to get the numbers numbers I had onto the Panzer III J turrets without overlapping some protrusion. Speaking of which, it never occurred to me to follow my own advice on the cheapness of decals and simply buy smaller numbers; but regardless, I saw images of the numbers running over features online and I wanted to give it a shot. I was tired of those mean old tanks scaring me away from applying decals over ridges! I was going to stand up them!

I dove in head first, and made what seemed to be a great time saving decision at the moment. Since the numbers on the decal sheets increased in pairs (1 1 2 2 3 3 ...) I decided all of the three digit numbers on my tanks would start with "11". This meant I would not have to cut out as many individual numbers and more importantly would keep the numbers aligned together. Or at least, that was the theory. In practice, the numbers only allowed themselves to be placed on the tank together. Once I tried to adjust their position, they would separate slightly - some stuck together at the top, others at the bottom, still others only in the center - and make for a nightmare to line up. This meant I would slightly nudge the top left corner of a "1" and in doing so shift it too close to its neighboring number, and any number of other frustrating problems. To make matters even more infuriating, the numbers would of course stick readily to each other, requiring often trips for all three digits back into the shot glass for a reset.

At this point, I was ready for a shot, but it was definitely not the time. I powered through, and managed to get them where I liked them after about ninety minutes - ten minutes per digit for those keeping score at home. Unfortunately, they don't settle the way you'd want them to with only the initial application of the Decal Set. It took me a half a dozen applications of the solution over the top of the numbers to really get them sitting to my liking.

While the numbers had fit the contours well, and the "frost" of the plastic surrounding the decal images had disappeared, there was still quite a distinct shine from the plastic areas of the crosses and numbers. As Nemesis Andy can attest to, I was quite frustrated with the tanks at this point, but put them down for the night so that all that Decal Set could do its work without other chemicals interrupting the process. The next day, I sprayed the tanks with one coat of some Testors matte and was pleasantly surprised after checking them an hour later. I could not detect any plastic shine, and could not see any of the decal lines. In other words, I had succeeded (for once) in accomplishing what modeling task I set out to! Will wonders never cease!

Next step: Whitewash! Stay tuned!


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