IS-2M, 4th Heavy Tank Regiment

Model by Michael Rinaldi,

Text and photos are Copyright Michael Rinaldi all rights reserved

Historical context

My model represents a veteran warhorse from the Polish 4th Heavy Tank Regiment seen in March 1945. It is a survivor of the fierce fighting seen during late months 1944 and into the springtime in1945 as these units pushed West to victory Berlin. Its winter camo is all but worn away. Markings include the early 4-digit turret number and the hand-painted white eagle on a red diamond symbol of the Polish Tank regiments. These units saw very heavy fighting in the liberation of the Eastern countries, including their home country of Poland; much of which was set against harsh urban combat.

Links

Buy Polish IS-2 tank crewBuy a book with IS-2 and IS-2M walkaround – interior photos in Adalbertus modeling internet shop

See IS-2 walkaround photos in www.Berlin-1945.com

The project

In my stash, I had the old MB Models JS-2m resin kit. I knew it was very inaccurate because it was made before accurate data on the JS series was available, but it did have some very nice features. Plus it gave me the excuse to revive an old JS-2 project and kill two birds with one stone. After careful study, I decided to mate the front part of the cast nose to a half-finished Dragon JS-2 kit that I received in a previous trade. Added to this kitbash was the extensive part upgrades offered by Friulmodel for this series of Russian tanks, which included all new road wheels to correct the poor Dragon ones, new metal tracks to recreate the perfect heavy sag, and the delicate white-metal 12.7mm DshKa MG mounted on the commander’s cupola. The following photo essay will help illustrate and explain the execution of this project.

Construction

For the base of this kitbash project, I used the Dragon JS-2 kit # 6012 as the main components for the turret and hull. With a razor saw, I removed the nose of the hull from the driver?s station forward and grafted on the resin front end of the MB Models kit to turn it into a proper JS-2m. This was a rather simple operation, and went very smoothly. I then used Cast-a-Coat to provide a uniform texture between all of the various cast surfaces on the tank, which includes the front half of the lower hull and the turret. For the lower chassis, I must mention that I received the hull already assembled so I could not go back and correct the incorrect height issue found in this release of the DML kit. For the running gear, the new Friul road wheels and tracks are superb, and they were direct replacements and required only some minor cleanup to fit onto the DML parts. While the Dushka AA MG kit is a little delicate to work with, the results are a near perfect replica of this heavy machine-gun. These were usually associated with postwar tanks, because the Dushka was introduced late in the war, and only a small portion of heavy tank units were able to receive them before the war had ended. Regardless, I chose to add it to this project to provide some additional visual interest and a bit more of a “cool” factor.

Tracks

I prefer to chemically treat Friuls to represent wear instead of painting them. I like to use a product Blacken-it, which is a model railroad metal weathering agent found here in the US. I first assembled the tracks with .020? brass rods that are easier to use than the thin wire provided. I then soaked them over night in household white vinegar (5% acid) to help remove the tricky mold-release agent used during the casting process. I let them dry completely, than gave them a soaking in Blacken-it (I place them in a small plastic food container with a lid) for a few minutes until they turned a pleasing dark-brown-grey-rust color. I find this a great “base coat” from which to further weather the tracks from. If you like to use Blacken-it too, just remember that the more coats (eg. multiple soakings) you do, the darker the tracks will become.

With the construction phase nearly complete, and the tracks ready to go, I have pre-painted the various engine inlets and exhausts black to help create some depth before I grab my airbrush and begin the painting process. I had also decided by this point to add new PE engine intake screens, which are a very prominent feature of the JS/JSU chassis. It is necessary to completely remove the molded engine inlet screen area on the kit and is a somewhat time consuming and tedious job, but well worth the effort. Also, please note the self-inflicted error of the angled engine vents mounted 180deg the wrong way, they should face backwards towards the rear, and not forward as shown here.

I have pre-painted the various engine inlets and exhausts black to help create some depth before I grab my airbrush and begin the paintjob. It is necessary to completely remove the molded engine inlet screen area on the kit if you choose to add PE screens; a somewhat time consuming and tedious job, but well worth the finished effort.

Painting and weathering

For the base coat I went with the old but still popular Tamiya XF-61 Dark Green. I thin my paints to a ratio of 50-50 (thinner to paint) with lacquer thinner, and I set the compressor to a low 15 psi for most of my spraying. In this manner, the Tamiya acrylics dry very fast, so this process does not slow me down any and I can move to the next stage almost immediately.

A quick note about Cast-a-Coat use here

When I applied the initial coat of paint, the Cast-a-Coat texture looked out of scale. As I continued the process of painting and weathering, the cast surface texture began to blend together and look much more in scale. My only real complaint of any sort for the product was the somewhat “pebble-like” look to the texture. Further experiments will be necessary to try and get a more convincing result, especially if I want to use on something like a Sherman, which is far smoother. It does responds very well to acrylics and I had no trouble painting it.

With the base coat completed, I now had to add the many layers of color and worn whitewash camo to achieve the right look. So I selected a variety of Tamiya colors suitable to the task and by toning down the white and adding color variations with yellow-greens, rust browns and dark greens colors I was able to achieve this heavily worn look. This paint job is considered “old-school” now and done prior to the more current fashionable techniques like hairspray, but the end result is still a very attractive and convincing finish. Note that I tried to keep the colors consistent to the source, ie. the rust streams down from exposed joints or chipped edges, etc. Also notice the broken fuel tank mount in the right side of this photo. You will see how I used it to my advantage in the next photos, instead of trying to repair it.

After this initial painting phase was complete, I wanted to add more wear and tear to the turret roof where the crew moves around on. For this effect, I used a liquid masking agent and added some chipping spots around places of high wear; hatches, grab handles, turret edges, etc. For the outer winter coat, I used a mixture of Tamiya XF-1 White and a little bit of XF-59 Dark Yellow, and with my airbrush set to a lower 10 psi, I lightly sprayed on the worn winter camo. I was careful to add white more heavily in areas that do not receive as much wear, like around the turret vent for example. I could now remove the masking agent to reveal the heavy chipping under the top layer of white. I then used a mixture of XF-10 Red Brown and XF-2 Black to apply the rusting areas in a post-shading style. Next, I used the filter process to bring out the worn areas in the paint. I use green filter and gently brush it around the areas I want to tone down the white, like the turret and hull sides.

My next step was to apply the markings. Since the Polish units hand painted all their markings, so would I. With Lifecolor paints, I simply took a fine pointed brush and went to work. Using the excellent Concord Publications “Stalin Tanks” book as my reference, I chose a generic four digit code representing a vehicle from the 4th Heavy Tank regiment, 3rd Co., 1st Platoon. After the markings are added, I begin to add various damage marks, scratches and individual rust streaks. Again the Cast-a-Coat product responds well to this technique because it easy to make these kinds of marks into it, much easier than scratching the surface plastic per se.

The next group of photos shows the final stages of the weathering. I prefer to use Mig Pigments for the heavy dust and dirt, and set about applying them both wet via thinner and dry. I have also applied another favorite product – graphite. I use a soft 5B drafting pencil. I use graphite two ways. One, I apply graphite directly from the pencil like on the road wheels where I just draw on them; and two, I grind them up and apply it with my finger tips, like on the turret edges and top of the barrel. The resulting metallic sheen contrasts very nicely with the dull look the pigments achieve and felt it represents a high level of authenticity in surface finishes.

This photo shows to good effect the use of graphite has. Each contact surface of the road wheels and drive sprocket was treated this way?it is such an easy and effective technique. I also treated all of the areas where the crew/tank riders would likely move around or hold onto, either when mounted for travel or simply climbing on or off of the tank.

At this stage I have only used a couple of the pigment colors: Light Dust, Brick Dust and European dirt. I wanted to add even more contrast, so I used some Dark Mud on the lower half of the tank and it really helped to bring the whole thing to life in the end.

This was the point at which it was made clear that I had placed the engine vents in backwards. I wasn?t going to break out the saw to save it, so I have to live with it. I have also applied the necessary black soot around the exhausts. In reality this was a heavily worn area as these engines ran very dirty.

You can see here the effectiveness of using a darker pigment color down low, as it helps to plant the tank on the ground even though I am not using it in a diorama or vignette. The final touch up of pigments was applied once the tracks were mounted to unify all of the colors a bit more.

Switching pigments to a darker mud color helped add a subtle layer of color to final version. They were mostly applied dry as I was after a dusty effect and didn’t want to go with a wet mud look. It is easy to over do it with pigments, so work in light layers and build up the color gradually.

The last elements are to add a loose chain and a length of spare track for the stowage. At any given point these tanks would carry everything including the kitchen sink on the back, but in the end I decided to keep it simple and emphasize the lines of this beast.

Finished model gallery

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One thought on “IS-2M, 4th Heavy Tank Regiment

  1. Spectacular. Certainly the best IS-2 build I’ve seen and easily in my top 5 best AFV’s models I’ve seen. You made some really interesting points about the use of dark pigment on the lower areas to plant the tank on the ground.

    Just one question, the links to the larger pics seem to be broken, how can I see them?

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