December 26, 2016

MTSC Trench Runner Review: Modeling World War I Tanks by Frédéric Astier

Modeling World War I Tanks - Steel Masters
by Frédéric Astier*, 128 pages, softcover

Publishers Product Description
Using numerous S-B-S processes and 500 images illustrating this book, Frederik Astier shares with you his knowledge to building; painting complex camouflage of the Great War, aging and weathering, making mud, painting miniatures, making scenery, etc. Includes photos of orginal militaria as well as a gallery of completed achievements of the author. Tank models of the First World War' accurately describes assembly methods, painting and realization of dioramas for each of these 6 model • British Mark IV "Male" • British Mark IV "Female" • German A7V • French Schneider CA • French Saint-Chamond • French Renault FT


Product Review
The 100th anniversary of the first use of the tank has had quite an effect in encouraging manufacturers to produce some very good new model kits. WWI AFV modeling is enjoying somewhat of a Golden Age at the moment, with new toolings of kits popping up from mainstream manufacturers in injection moulded styrene, the likes of which we have never before seen in 1:35. We have Meng, Takom, even Hobby Boss bringing out major and minor variants of vehicles such as the St Chamond, the diminutive FT-17 and almost all of the British Marks of tanks, even down to the Tadpole and Mark I.  Whilst you don't require hugely different techniques to build and finish a WWI kit, some of the methods you will use might be subtly altered to give the best finish, such as sharp demarcations and massive quantities of mud!

This book is perfect-bound and contains 128 pages in glossy A4 in portrait orientation, with plenty of text and photos throughout.  The author, Frédérik Astier, a professional photographer as well as a world class modeler, is a regular contributor to the French modeling magazine, 'Steel Masters'. His grasp of English is excellent, either through his own skills or those of the translator/editor. It aims to help WWI modelers to expand their skills, as well as assisting them with that often elusive art of creating dioramas. Using a series of set-pieces, the author guides you through the build and finish process of various models, with the added bonus of lots of useful hints and tips about diorama creation on the way.  He is clearly unaffiliated with any particular brand of paint, as we see AK Interactive, Tamiya, Vallejo, Lifecolor and even MIG productions products through the book.  

The vehicles builds are as follows:
Tamiya Mark IV Male
Takom Mark IV Female
Takom St Charmond Tardif
Hobby Boss Schenider CA1
Meng Sturmpanzerwagen A7V
Meng Renault FT (FT-17)

Following several pages of introduction, it follows a repeating pattern for each subject, detailing the build of each model, the painting and weathering of it and then creating a diorama for it as well, rounded off by a set of archive reference photos showing each type. The one slight variation to this is the first chapter, where the author builds and makes a detailed comparison between the Takom Mk IV Female and the Tamiya Mk IV Male.  There are pros and cons to each one it seems, excluding the motorization features of the Tamiya kit.  He also bravely builds the tracks in the earliest Takom releases, which have 5 parts to each track link, and have since been changed to single piece alternatives, very similar to the way Tamiya did it.  Each of the two models is then painted and weathered and explained in detail.  The Takom Female, has been finished in a multi-color German camouflage of a captured machine while the Tamiya Male kit is placed in an effective diorama.

The two British tanks are followed by the first French subject, the late version of the St Chamond  from Takom. The later version of this French tank had a sloped roof, rather than the flat plate of the earliest versions. Again expertly built and then painted in a multi-colour scheme, then put into another fine diorama, along with some neatly done figures.  Another German tank follows.  Not a captured on this time, but the Meng kit of the A7V, which also includes finishing all the interior detail which is included in the kit and the author has added even more finer detailing parts which are shown in the build sequence. There are some excellent tips to be picked up here.

Next we return to the subject of French tanks, and a build of the Hobby Boss kit of the Schenider CA1. Another neatly built model equally well painted and weathered, and this time put into a diorama which also includes building a German Trench as the tank approaches the defenders within it.  Then the final build in the book, and another Meng kit in 1/35.  This time the smallest of the tanks, and the first true tank, with a fully rotating turret, the Renault FT17. This is another with interior detailing and this is shown off to real advantage. On a war torn battlefield, an exhausted French soldier is seen leaning up against the tank as some peace has crept back to the battlefield.

Between each build section are a couple of pages of period photographs of the subject just modeled, which are informative and crisp for their vintage. The diorama content is interspersed through the builds, and is incredibly informative. Frédérik is clearly a master of this particular genre to say the least.  Of course some of his techniques would be a little daunting to the novice, but a great many of them are surprisingly simple, and use every day household (or DIY) items.

Illustrated with about 500 superb quality photographs there are lots of ideas and inspiration to be picked up from this book and it is well worth checking out if you are modeling Great War tanks.
Farley M. 12-2016

*Frédérik Astier, a professional photographer, is one of the most talented and prolific French modelers. For more than 10 years, he has been regularly collaborating in the magazine specialized in this area, Steelmasters. Renowned for his mastering techniques in assembly and painting as much as in setting dioramas, he always attaches a particular care to finding documents for each of his projects in order to find the greatest historical accuracy. 

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