There comes a time in everyone’s life where you face a soul sucking challenge. The kind of challenge where you dare not give up, out of fear of dishonoring your ancestors, but you would rather not carry on the struggle. The Dragon M4A3E8 Sherman “Thunderbolt VII” proved to be one of the titanic struggles for me. But, after over a year long hiatus, with new found wisdom, perspective and a burning desire to redeem my honor, I have finally completed this damn model and it is my finest yet. In retrospect, things should have/could have gone much more smoothly. Let’s take a look at one man’s epic tale of self-flagellation.
Not long after watching the movie Fury, I was hell bent on getting a Sherman Easy Eight model. At that time, I was rather naive and thought all models were pretty much the same in terms of fit and finish (modeling putty? What’s that?) after making exclusively Tamiya models with the exception of a pretty simple Dragon kit years ago. After all, I had just completed two Tamiya models from the 1970s, I was on a god damn roll! Nothing could stop my blitzkrieg across this new frontier of modeling (ha!). Filled with my new found modeling success and the need to spend some hard earned dinero, I found myself in a dilapidated hobby story in Gilroy, California. There I stumbled upon the Dragon M4A3E8 Sherman “Thunderbolt VII” kit in 1/35 scale for a steal of a price. The sweet box art, the bad ass AUTO-CAD renders on the back: this was the one. I paid the depressed cashier and left, ready to take on the world. Then reality set in as soon as I cracked open the box.
The build began with vigor as I was riding the momentum of my two recent successes, but the gravity of situation became apparently: I was a toddler on a tricycle riding in the middle of the F1 Grand Prix. I had taken on a model level outside my skill set and to top it all off, I did not have the wisdom nor the finances to gather up a good set of tools and skills. Alas, began my Stalingrad: the war of soul sapping attrition. I was plagued by shitty instructions that did not flow logically and would trap you if you weren’t a few steps ahead. I was also living in a dungeon of a house with near non-existent lighting using tools and techniques that would make a Neanderthal laugh at my lack of ingenuity only added insult to injury. 26 parts for one wheel bogey? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Photo-etch? Clear parts? It was sickening.
Dark times were indeed had. Then even darker times fell upon me. Fast forward to many months later and moving several times and I had resumed work on the tank. Each day it sat there on the self, my guilt grew. I would attempt to work on it and would only find myself stymied again and again. But magically, each time I worked on it I learned something different and new. I was not only improving my skills, I was starting to make investments in quality tools as well. Alas, I wasn’t ready to give this fight my all and I put the tank back on the shelf to gather dust as my life was catapulted in new amazing directions.
Time, circumstance, attitude, and drive are all fascinating factors that truly make a difference in all that you do. I found myself recently wanting to re-enter the modeling world, but as a scholar and learned man. The days of being a dilettante were over! I invested in good equipment, started studying and learning from the best in the art (thank you Youtube), and changed my approach. I would strive to improve with every build and conquer this bastard of a model once and for all. But first, I completed some easy models to build my confidence and refine my skills: I had something special planned for this Sherman.
With the emotional backing of my beloved girlfriend Mo and the enthusiasm to show this thing off in the office at work, I started the model up again. Tremendous progress was made every time I sat down to improve upon what I had attempted to create before. I found myself fixing all of the issues with my new found knowledge and shit load of water soluble modeling putty. I had this! Even when I totally screwed up the tank treads last year because I didn’t know what I was doing: I faced the chaos and fixed them. In disbelief, I had finally completed the tank build. When you live in a conflict for so long, you forget what peace was like. I was shell-shocked from my restless weekends fixing and rebuilding the tank. Even though I had accomplished what I set out to do, I had struggled all along the way. But each struggle was met with understanding and knowledge of what to do or avoid in the future. I felt great. I felt alive! It was finally time to paint this thing.
Painting, as opposed to building, is my favorite part of this hobby. I guess I am mainly in it for the art factor. I love to paint models and make things look as “real” and gritty as they can be in such small scale. The Sherman tank, all though mainly olive drab, allows for a tremendous amount of color modulation and great weathering effects to shine through. I purchased a Harder & Steenbeck (Deutschland ist die Nummer eins) Infinity CR Plus airbrush for the occasion and the results were fantastic. I focused on color modulation and light weathering. I really wanted the quality of the paint job, as opposed to the overabundance of weathering to shine through. Let’s take a look at the progress:
After enduring some setbacks, such as my matte varnish muting down the colors more than my liking (thanks Vallejo) I finally sat down on Memorial day weekend and completed the weathering. I used my weathering products of choice, Ammo of Mig, and the job went very smooth except for some minor issues that were my own misdoing. Overall, I was very pleased with the outcome.
As of tonight, the model is finally finished. Over, 100 hours put into this thing and many hard lessons learned. I wanted to quit this tank, I even wanted to quit this hobby, but I pushed on. I’m extremely pleased with the final result and believe this is probably the best model I have done yet. When all is said and done, this model obviously suffers from some bad instructions and poor fit issues, however, I am glad I battled on otherwise I probably wouldn’t have learned some very important lessons. Maybe I wasn’t ready just then for it, but it forced me to step up my game greatly to conquer it. This completion represents one of my proudest moments in my hobbies.
In honor of all of those who have served and fought so bravely for our freedom and out of selfless duty: I dedicate this model to this Memorial Day 2016. May we never know the hells of the Second World War ever again. A greater generation of patriots shall never grace this earth again.
So without further ado, the completed Sherman Easy Eight (enjoy!):
And there it is! Straight from the horse’s ass. I hope you enjoyed this little retrospective tour. I will keep building Dragon Models, as this build was not enough to make me swear of of them (in fact, I ordered two more). But, I will be doing more research about what kits are good and not in the future.
I will have a status update on the Tiger I shortly (the metal tracks have arrived!) and a paint overview of the Takom Whippet I am working on as well.
Thanks for reading!