French Army Special Unit Dinassaut – PRELUDE
Jose Brito is an inspiring Scale Modeller who has won awards around the world and who is frequently featured in international modelling magazines. When I approached him to write a piece for our little blog, I was doubtful he even knew of figurementors.com. However, I was a little taken aback as not only did he know of and enjoy reading the blog, he felt it an honour to contribute something. So, without wasting any time, he sent me many images with annotations for each, the following after many hours (as I type this little intro at the end it is 03:20) is an article pieced together from those side notes. I hope it reads well and Jose the honour was all ours! (Ed).
Both the LCM from Revell and LCVP from Italeri are suitable for this vignette with good details. The kits are presented in big boxes and once opened we find several sprues in a top quality grey plastic, crisply printed decals and clear and concise instructions. The surface detail is very good and accurate. Even built “out of the box” they can be transformed into some fine replicas.
The French company U-Models is one of the most original and prolific names when it comes to resin conversion sets. They have a set for the LCVP and another for the LCM and the subject are the French Riverine Forces in Indochina. The sets are moulded in a top class and flawless resin. The detail is just great and the fit really nice. The instructions are clear, concise and even include some period reference pictures. The conversion sets will really add extra scope, accuracy and detail to the two kits.
Before starting the build of the vessels, some ejection pin marking must be removed. This can be easily achieved with the help of a round point surgical blade. All we have to do is gently pass the blade several times over the ejection pin marking and finish the process with some fine sandpaper. The construction is very straightforward, even so there’s always space for some small scratch details. In this case I decided to use fine metal wire to add some extra detail.
I have to be honest when I say I know very little about this subject, so this section will be shorter than usual. If anyone has any other information, technical or historical, I would be happy to amend the article and credit the author (Ed).
The Dinassaut (Division Navale d’Assaut, “Naval Assault Division”) was a type of riverine military unit employed by the French Navy during the first Indochina War (19 December 1946 til 1 August 1954). Another term for this type of unit was the “brown water Navy” and was used to describe any Naval Force capable of military operations within natural flowing waterways, generally freshwater that leads to marine water, such as at estuaries.
Each Dinassaut consisted of approximately a dozen craft, quite frequently these were American landing craft, modified with armour and utilised tank turrets as weapons. Other craft carried 81mm mortars and were deployed as riverine artillery.
CONSTRUCTION AND INITIAL PAINTING
To get the best shapes and results I usually use tools from Small Shop. We can make hundreds of these small parts and always with the same shape and size. Once done, all we have to do is glue them in place. Small metallic parts were glued in place with the help of Deluxe Materials Rocket Hot. Being an ultra-thin glue solution, it’s ideal to work using capillarity action. Small details like this can make all the difference once the model is finished.
All the major assemblies and small details were glued with the help of Deluxe Materials Plastic Magic Glue. For the best results I use their Pin Magic applicator. Pin Magic applicator will allow an ultra-control, because the Plastic Magic Glue is ultra-thin.
Ropes were made in ultra-fine wire from Plus Model. The wire was twisted and it looks like a rope. To glue it in place, Deluxe Materials Rocket Hot was used.
Deluxe Materials Rocket Rapid was also used to glue small plastic parts in the desired spot. The bond is super strong and lasts forever.
The plastic tube from a cotton bud was cut in small sections and was used to represent the dials in the wheel house. Small details like this can make all the difference and are easy to achieve.
French Landing Craft Mechanised (LCM’s) and Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel (LCVP’s) received huge in-field transformations. So, we will need to make those changes on our models. Most of the changes made by the French forces were defensive and consisted of armour add-ons. The parts to be removed and reworked were marked with a red marker. Like that we can always keep some control and avoid cutting the wrong parts. Plastic tape was glued in place and taking advantage of its’ straight edge, we can mark perfectly straight lines to make our clean cuts.
With the plastic tape in place, we can start cutting. All we have to do is pass the blade several times along the desired line and very soon we will have the relevant part removed. Soon the parts are separated and we will be able to allow the U-Models to set. Both models are primed in Vallejo German Panzer Grey 73603. Vallejo primers dry very fast and turn the surface very smooth, ideal for airbrushing. They must be airbrushed in several layers in order to keep the surface detail.
In order to get some colour variation, Vallejo German USN Light Ghost Grey 73615 was airbrushed over the Vallejo German Panzer Grey 73603. The raised and most exposed parts were airbrushed in Vallejo 71046 Pale Grey and in Vallejo 71119 White Grey. This will add the zenithal light effect. This technique and effect is a completely different and much more accurate technique when compared with the modulation style.
In the modulation style, the model looks like a 3D CAD job. With the Zenith Technique approach, the light effects are accurately represented in the model. With the Zenith Technique we do not see aggressive colour contrasts and panels painted in several different colours.
With this technique the model is exposed to the light and the paint is applied in the same fashion as if the model was exposed under a spot light. The colour transitions are ultra-smooth and the model has a higher visual interest.
In several reference pictures, protective sandbags are visible. Sadly the U-Models set do not provide them, so we will need to scratch them. For this task I used Andrea Sculpt putty. This putty is easy to work and once dry is rock hard. Before dry, a fine metal mesh was pressed into the putty bags. This will produce a very convincing texture and the putty will look like rough tissue. For the best results, slightly bend the metal mesh and gently press it into the putty.
The plastic flimsy parts can easily be improved. All we have to do is remove the parts representing the ropes and replace them by fine lead wire from Plus Model. Twisted lead wire really looks like a fine rope and a small scratch work like this can really improve the projects’ final look.
Once well dry, the sandbags were painted in several colours from the Vallejo Model Colour range. The tarpaulin was airbrushed in several colours. This is a delicate and time consuming painting process, but the final look is really beautiful and convincing. Being a huge and prominent part, we really must pay big attention to this area. Once the acrylic colours were well dry, the tarpaulin also received some oil colour treatment.
Buff colour from the MIG Productions 502 Abteilung oil colours range was applied in the raised parts and in order to get a more established zenith effect. Light Mud from the same range was applied in the recessed and deepest parts. This will increase the colour variation, turn the model more accurate and add scale to the weathering work.
Shadow Brown and Dark Mud from the MIG Productions 502 Abteilung oil colours range were applied around the sandbags recessed parts. This will increase and add volume to the paintjob. In the same area, the deepest parts received a wash of Dark Wash from MIG Productions wash colour range. The parts with more wear and tear received lots of scratches. The process started with the help of a small sponge and extra attention was paid to individual scratches using a fine, brand new brush. Several colours from Vallejo Model Colour range were used in order to achieve a more realistic look.
Dark Rust and Light Rust Brown were applied around several areas of interest. Standard Rust Effects and Light Rust Effects also from MIG Productions wash colour range were applied in combination with the oils from the same company. All of this weathering work will make the models much more visually interesting and also much more accurate.
Faded Dark Yellow was applied using very well thinned pin washes around some recessed parts. Referring to the available reference pictures, these vessels do not show heavy corrosion, mainly as they were operated upon rivers and other freshwater environments. Vessels like this that had operated in the sea are much more exposed to corrosion.
Brown Wash and Wood Ageing Solution, once more from MIG Productions were applied to the LCM and LCVP interiors. Like all the previous weathering work, this process will enhance the models, creating interesting effects and replicates accuracy.
Wood parts were airbrushed in grey and then they were airbrushed in MIG Production Absolute Chipping. Once fully dry, green colour from Vallejo was airbrushed over the top. Then, with the help of a flat brush, moistened in MIG Production Absolute Chipping, we can start peeling the green paint.
The process is completed by applying several scratches as described before using both a sponge and a fine brush with a good point.
The LCVP tarpaulin was painted in Vallejo Model Colour. This is a time consuming process, but the final look is really worth it. Light Mud and Field Grey were applied in order to increase the colour variation. Several MIG Productions washes were applied in the desired areas. All of these colours combined will add that extra touch of realism to our models.
WEATHERING EFFECTS AND NARRATIVE
U-Models LCVP set also provides a beautiful 20mm Oerlikon L/70 machine Gun. The metal gun barrel (also provided in the set) is from RB Models. This is what we can call a “kit inside the kit” and once painted and weathered it will look really cool in the LCVP. All the armament was provided in the U-Models sets and once painted and weathered they look really nice. All those small details will bring the models to life and add an extra touch of accuracy.
The propellers were painted in a Brass colour from Vallejo and then washed in MIG Productions Moss Green Wash, this is a very simple step with a convincing result. U-Models also produces figures about the French forces in Indochina. The resin cast to these is flawless and the detail is of the top quality. The poses are very natural and convincing.
The U-Models ref. UMO131 also provides a couch and a cat. This is inspired from a well know picture and is a lovely detail. Small details like this can make all the difference and add an extra touch of interest to our project.
I always add figures to my dioramas. Besides the “human factor” and scale, they can also tell a narrative, bringing your vignette to life. All the figures in this project are from U-Model. The figures were primed in Vallejo Acrylic White Primer 73600. Once well dry, they were airbrushed in Vallejo Model Air 71076 Skin Tone.
Once the primer is totally dry, the figures were painted in Vallejo Model Colour, except the flesh tones that were painted in oils from the MIG Productions range. Value Gear is a new company specialising in military accessories, especially tents, tarps and boxes. The detail is amazing and the resin casting totally flawless.
All the Value Gear items were airbrushed in Vallejo Surface Primer 70601 Grey Primer. Vallejo primers dry very fast and turn the surface very smooth, ideal for airbrushing. They must be airbrushed in several layers in order to keep the surface detail and once dry the items were painted in several colours from the Vallejo Model Colour range.
The paint from several wood boxes was chipped with the help of MIG Productions Absolute Chipping and then weathered with MIG Productions Wood Ageing Solution wash. The final look is very convincing and accurate. All of the tarps and tents are finally painted, weathered and ready to be placed in their positions. Wine Bottles and Crates from Royal Model (another lovely set) will be used in this project. We all know that the French appreciate a good wine so having a good French wine in Indochina is a good way to remember France and home!
DEVELOPING THE SCENE – FROM SKETCH TO REALITY
All my projects start with several sketches. This step is very important because it will help to define the composition and the placement of all the elements. The elements must be placed in a dynamic way and adhering to invisible diagonal lines. We must avoid at all cost placing elements parallel to the sides of the base.
Next step is to transfer the idea and the sketch to the base. We really must spend the necessary time in this step. This is one of the most important steps of all and will define the final look of the entire scene.
I like bases with volume. As usual I use a wood base and make the side walls in balsa wood. This will form a box and the volume will add an extra touch of interest to the base and piece. Some of the materials used in the base making. include the wood base, balsa wood for the side walls and several glue types from Deluxe Materials. By using different types of glues, baring in mind the needs of the various materials, we can get the best from each product.
Balsa wood will form the side walls and will create a box to be filled later. Deluxe Materials Rocket Cyano Glue Gel is ideal to glue the balsa wood to the wood base. As the name says, this is a cyano gel. So it’s very easy to control and once dry is almost indestructible. It dries in about 10 seconds. It’s a non-runny glue and if necessary can be used to fill gaps. This really is a lovely glue.
The interior is filled in heat isolation foam. This foam is cheap, easy to find and easy to work with and to cut. Also, it is lightweight and ideal to fill largevolumes. As previously mentioned we need to transfer our idea to the base so, we must draw our idea over the heat isolation foam plates.
At this stage we need to remove the foam where the LCVP and LCM will be placed. By removing the foam and placing the vessels in the recess we are creating the illusion that they are slightly submersed.
Deluxe Material “Foam 2 Foam” was used to glue the foam to the base and to glue foam parts. Foam is a sensitive and tricky material and we must be very careful when applying glues or solvents to it. With Deluxe Material “Foam 2 Foam” we do not have any problems, because this glue has a special formula to protect the foam. Also, once fully dry the bond is ultra-strong.
Deluxe Material Speed Bond was also used to glue the foam to the wood base. Combined with Deluxe Material “Foam 2 Foam”, we will get an indestructible bond in our base diorama. Several foam parts were cut and glued in place to add volume to the project. Deluxe Materials Foam Armour was applied all over the foam.
This will add a super strong and protective layer to the foam. This is a good protection for future weathering work as the weathering work involves strong solvents and as already mentioned, can damage the foam however, with the coat of Foam Armour just as the name says, the foam is protected.
Deluxe Materials Create and Shape was applied with a spatula. This will also protect the foam and add a smooth texture to our working base. While it was still wet we can pass a sponge moistened in water over the top, this will turn the surface ultra-smooth and will help to apply the product. Once totally dry it is rock hard and can be sanded for a better finish.
The river area was painted in Vallejo primer IJA Tsuchi – Kusa – Iro Earth Green. For this task I used a small roller. At this stage and once the river paint had dried, the models can be placed in their final locations. This can be a time consuming process, but is very important, So, we really need to take all the time needed and do not rush this process. Any small gaps can be filled in using Deluxe Materials Create and Shape, applied with the help of a brush slightly moistened in water.
RECREATING THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
A diorama about Indochina means a lot of vegetation! Thankfully we have today several companies making lovely stuff. Names like Joefix, U-Models, MiniNatur, Model Scenery, Eduard, Treemendus, are some of the names to take into consideration when we need to make realistic and convincing vegetation.
Eduard produces some of the best palm tree leaves. They are pre-painted and all we have to do is use a fine blade to remove them from the metal sprue. Even though they are pre-painted I like to apply a primer and paint them in my own fashion. Joefix also produces some lovely plant trunks to be used in natural scenes. Deluxe Materials Rocket Rapid glue will glue the leaves into their positions.
Some of the vegetation from Joefix is made in vinyl, so we must apply some treatment to them, otherwise they will be a nightmare to glue in the desired spot. Also, they are pre-painted but they do not look natural enough.
Before all the painting and glue work we must add a layer of Deluxe Materials Tricky Stick. This will allow the cyano glue to bond and will increase the paint’s adhesive properties.
The Joefix plants were airbrushed in several different colours accordingly using several reference pictures. Once the paint was dry, the leaves were treated in Shadow Brown oil colour from the MIG Productions Abteilung range. This colour was applied, well thinned using MIG Productions, Odourless Turpentine, with a flat brush from the same company.
Small and ground vegetation came from several Joefix and Model Scene sets. Both companies produces lovely products for natural dioramas and are always a presence in my works. Some vegetation is also applied in the palm tree trunks. In this case, vegetation from the MiniNatur range. It is only with a combination of several companies’ products that we are able to achieve the best results, it is like team work, taking the best of each company.
Small vegetation pieces need to be applied in logical places, those small details will make a big difference in the final scene. To achieve this comes with experience but also observing real life, the natural world and your environment along with images searched using Google can all help you to recreate realistic and natural looking scenes. Kitchen accessories from Eduard and apples from Treemendus will add that extra touch of interest to the final scene.
FINAL TOUCHES AND THOUGHTS
For the water, my only choice is Deluxe Materials Solid Water. All we have to do is mix 2 parts of resin with 1 part of hardener and we are ready to go. If necessary we can add paint or pigments to add colour. Once dry, it’s rock hard and totally transparent. However, before we apply the water we must check the level and make sure is totally horizontal. The level doesn’t lie!
With that we are finished. Although this was a small article on Armour Modelling, I believe as does Jay, that there is something for everyone to learn, in observing and understanding other genres of our amazing hobby. Hopefully you have found this article interesting and you may take something away with you to help you with a future project.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and a big thankyou also to Jay for inviting me to contribute to this quickly growing and important blog, sharing our Art with everyone, inspiring, encouraging and supporting each other will ensure a great and healthy future for figure painting in all its’ diversity!