Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Taming Etch: Take 2

My first “Taming Etch” post was several years ago and featured Trumpeter’s M1126 Stryker APC, with attention on the excellent etch fret supplied with the kit to make up the jerry can racks on the tail end. That was my first structural use of etched brass and I was quite intrigued.

It was inevitable I’d have another go, and when I tackled their AS-90 SPG, back in 2014, I invested in two etch sets from Eduard to dress it up. I didn’t use all of what was on offer but I did use maybe 80% of it, and it took a loooong time to get those fiddly parts cleaned up, bent and attached.

The photos here were taken from an angle to optimise reflection, to get the etched steel to show up against the plastic.

I guess getting into the swing of it is the trick – finding a method that works for you and making it a production-line technique. There are those fancy bending jigs out there, I’m thinking the “Etchmate,” but I doubt I’ll use enough etch to warrant investing in a specialist tool (at a specialist price.) My standby is the traditional one, two single-edge razor blades (Stanely knife blades) used to manipulate and bend on the straight fold lines.

The pic below has nothing to do with etch and is included for curiosity's sake. In my post earlier this year about the Trumpeter MiG-3 kit, I mentioned I had only ever had to use C-clamps to force alignment on two models, and oddly enough both were Trumpeter  well here's the other one!

Well, lots and lots of items were done this way – the tops of the six stowage bins were etched, along with their latches, plus tie-downs and tool holders, the smoke grenade launchers, the stowage unit on the turret roof and a variety of hull fixtures. It was quite impressive to see it going together but – and this is an important but – the moment the paint went on, all the painstaking etched work flushed into the general visual impression of the project and it was as if it never existed. Unless the model is under a good light and viewed with magnification, the work invested in the metal accessories is as good as lost. There is the satisfaction of knowing the details are there and much more accurate than the kit bits, true, but whether that satisfaction is worth the cost of the sets and hours spent installing the parts – such as were willing to yield to my skill level, there were those I was simply not willing to attempt – is another matter.

It’s a different situation when the etch is, say, a grill set. It’s a detail that is likely completely absent from the kit and the easiest of all etched parts to apply. I would never build a Pz.III, Panther or Tiger without etched grills, but whether I would spend the time shaving away plastic and replacing it with folded metal is very much down to my gut feeling at the time. I might get ambitious and give it another go, or I might be impatient to get to the painting stage where I can soft-edge the camo and work up road grime and rust, which is always fun.

By the end of this project there were aspects not addressed, for instance the cargo tie-down straps that go with the stowage cage on the roof, but by that point I simply didn't want to know anything else about etch at that point. Perhaps I'll return to this project at some point, add some stowage in the cage and put the tie-downs in place, maybe do something about the shine on the decals, add some road grime, who knows.

If I was asked my overall impression of photoetched metal parts I would say they are a valuable accessory technology to the industry which is pretty much indispensable for some uses – railings, ladders and radars for ship models, for instance. But perhaps more is made of it than is warranted; that’s an individual call, of course, and if your thing is working with watchmaker’s tools and superglue by the tiny drop, then you’ll be in hog heaven. For myself, I weigh how well I can see the details in the first place against how accurate they may be, and for the most part, when it comes to things like tool clamps on tanks, I go with the plastic. Drybrushed with steel over the basic paintwork, it’s evocative, and less trying to my dexterity and sanity in the process!