Sadly, this will be without pictures, but I’ll go into a quick explanation of why I chose the Zimmerit pattern I used on my Panther and how I applied it.
When I started working on this model, I was not entirely sure just how detailed I really wanted to get. Should I play it safe and keep to the basics, as it’s my first real model (and the only one I’ve -ever- tried to paint)? Or should I go all out and ambitiously try to make a very detailed vehicle with what I could do on hand?
This question settled nicely into the back of my mind as I proceeded with the work of priming and basecoating the tank. By the time I’d finished that and started assembly of the hull, I’d more or less decided that I wanted to put as much detail I could into the vehicle and push the boundaries of my skills to see what I could come up with. That’s something of a gamble in my mind, since the vehicle model probably cost somewhere in the 60$ (USD) /55€ (EUR) and I know I was and still am worried about ruining such a gift in the process of my experimentation.
However, in the words of Admiral David G. Farragut (1863, Battle of Mobile Bay) “Damn the torpedoes. Four bells, Captain Drayton, go ahead. Jouett, full speed.” or to paraphrase “Risk it all and keep moving!”
And so I did, Admiral Farragut, so I did.
Once I determined that I would go ahead, I tried to find what might work best for my efforts to create Zimmerit on the vehicle. My local hobby store (Tammies Hobbies in Beaverton, Oregon who have lovely staff and helpful people) recommended upon consultation that I try using Squadron’s Green Putty (see below image) to create the effect.
Uncertain but undeterred, I obtained a tube of the stuff and took it home. Cautious man that I am, I proceeded with a series of experiments to become familiar with its qualities as a medium, and used note cards as a basis of these experiments. With each of my happless test subjects, I came closer to understanding how to work with the putty.
– First off, wear a respirator or other face covering, this is not something you want to inhale. When it says ‘well-ventilated room’ it means a wind tunnel, I believe.
– Next, make sure you’ve got your tools on hand for whatever you’re going to do. This stuff seems marvelous for filling awkward gaps in your model or making a quick rough surface. Speed is of the essence, thus preparation and readiness are key.
– Notice that the tube, right there, on the front, says “Fast Drying”. They are not kidding, it begins to set within 5 minutes of contacting the air and by 10 it will be like working with fairly dry, crumbly clay. By 30 minutes, it’ll be rock hard. I applied it in a stripe down the long axis center of my working surface.
– Once you’ve applied it, quickly spread it. For Zimmerit, I tried to spread it as thin as I felt I reasonably could with my fingers (not recommended to touch this stuff) since I was cheap and didn’t get a small detailing putty knife. I recommend getting one. Ad-hoc tools (I tried several) do not do well with this stuff. It’s messy and dries fast, but doesn’t adhere as well to metal as it does to plastic, wood, or paper.
– Once it’s been spread to a uniform thickness (fairly thin for Zimmerit, even at 1:35), I used a variety of tools to try to create the pattern I wanted. I wanted to apply the somewhere rarer plain square pattern, rather than the rippling square pattern that you see on later model Panther A. I’ll explain why later.
The tools I used included a carefully cut up plastic comb, a piece of scrap metal, and a toothpick. None of these worked remarkably well, though the scrap metal worked the best. I etched lines in the putty and tried to make sure they were roughly uniform (as Zimmerit was applied by human hands, it could be pretty wobbly). I noticed that the putty sets so quickly that making sure everything is right is difficult and it seemed to slide off or crumble in irritating ways when etched. Perhaps it was just my way of handling it, but I probably practiced on 10 or so note cards before feeling confident enough to try it on my model without ruining it. I recommend that you pick a surface, and try to keep the patches limited in size. For instance, on the upper glacis, do not do as I did and apply it all in one go. Apply it to half the surface and work with that, let it begin to set, then apply to the other half and work with that. This makes sure you’re not working too much putty too quickly, a lesson I learned as I proceeded on my Panther.
Once it sets, it’s set. It dries pretty hard, but this means you can sand it down and smooth it out a little, since it will very likely be pretty rough on the surface, far more so than you would likely want for the vehicle. Sanding it is actually pretty easy and that likely goes back to it’s originally intended role as a gap-filler for models.
Once you finish the sanding, you can apply a primer or base coat to it and it takes to paint pretty easily. And that’s roughly how I learned to work with the Green Putty.
Now, on to why I used a square pattern. I wanted my tank to look like it had a quickly applied Zimmerit coat on the field, rather than at the factory (which did happen with the early model Panthers). Those still operational when the order went out would eventually receive a supply of the Zimmerit mix and have it applied by the maintenance crews. This of course, like many other things German in the war, meant that while all the patterns did their job in disrupting the use of magnetic anti-tank weapons (the Germans were the main users, but the Russians would use their own anti-tank weapons against them whenever they had them available) they did not expressly all follow the exact same pattern or method of application. Some were applied in squares, others with cross-hatching, yet others a mixture of the two. All of them were applied by hand in one way or another, very likely with a bricklayer’s trowel or the like, since Zimmerit had a consistency similar to concrete or brick mortar.
I also have photographic proof that the early model Panther A had square pattern Zimmerit applied at least in one case.
I’m aware that my pattern of squares is larger than that featured in the image. I’m going to chalk that up to being my vehicle maintenance crew being lazy bastards and not wanting to make a more finely detailed zimmerit pattern, rather than my inability to find a drywall nail and do a proper detail job.
And there you go. That’s how my Zimmerit came into being!
I think that in the future, however, I will attempt to use a two part epoxy putty like Miliput or Apoxie Sculpt, as those seem to be easier to work with, though they take much longer to dry. They also, reportedly, do not smell like a Superfund site*.
*Superfund is part of the United States of America’s Environmental Protection Agency’s ( http://www.epa.gov/superfund/ ) efforts to clean up and restore hazardous waste disaster areas, such as Love Canal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_Canal ) or Hanford Site ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanford_Site ). The more you know!