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Airfix 1/76 Sherman Crab

Posted by huib on 07 Jun 2019, 12:45

Sherman Crab

The Sherman Crab was a British mineclearing tank based on the American Sherman M4A4 tank (British designation: Sherman Mk.V). The Crab was based on the flail principle: by rotating iron chains with iron balls on its end at high speed, they hammer the soil with great impact, causing mines to explode in front of the vehicle. This way a safe path could be created in a minefield.

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Sherman Crab in action.

The Crab was a succesful development of earlier flailtanks, like the Scorpion and Baron, both built on the Matilda chassis. The Crab became operational during the Normandy landings in june 1944, as part of 79th Armoured Division, aka Hobarts Funnies, that consisted of a variety of specialised armoured vehicles.

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Sherman Crab of 79th Armoured Division "Hobarts Funnies".
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 07 Jun 2019, 12:59

Airfix 1/76 Sherman Crab

As a starting point for this build I use the Airfix 1/76 Sherman Crab. That has some consequences, mildly said (Also known as masochism :mad: )

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My 2005 boxing

The Airfix Sherman Crab van Airfix is dating from 2005. Quite recently, you could say. The base of this kit however is the aged notorious Airfix Sherman kit from 1961. Not quite up to date, maybe.

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This shows it all: lovely old style Airfix sprues! Who doesn't remember them from their youth? Lovely!

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Added to that these awful Airfix tracks, of wich is said that they are too short. I will see.... :shock:
On the other hand a quite nice decal sheet with emblems of 79th Armoured Division. That's an advantage of a 2005 boxing.

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And, remarkable, two sprues for the flail apparatus in a completely different colour and style.

Now, there are a few issues:
1. It is well known the turret of the Airfix Sherman is too small for its scale, although the hull is ok.
2. The Airfix Sherman is a Sherman Mk.I. The Sherman Crab was a Sherman M4A4. There are a few differences, especially on the engine deck, the backplate and the length of the hull.

I will see what to make out of that. So, this will be old-fashioned hacking and sawing on a classic (a euphemism of old and outdated) kit. So let's start!
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 07 Jun 2019, 13:13

Making the turret a bit bigger

It is quite well known (among certain modellers that fancy vintage nostalgia) that the turret of the Airfix Sherman is too small, both in hight and width.

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This is the one. There are several solutions for this issue:
a. Bin the kit and buy a decent Sherman (Drawback: what a waste of a nostalgic kit!)
b. Use a better turret from another kit, for example the Matchbox Sherman Firefly, (Drawback: what a waste of the Matchbox Firefly kit!)
c. Cut the turret in four parts and fill it up from the middle (Drawback: it is quite difficuilt to get a circular turret again)
d. Laminate the turret from the outside with plastic. (Drawback: the distance of commanders cupola to the edge of the turret increases.)

I have chosen for the last approach. Maybe I can solve the issue with the commanders hatch.

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Most detail was sanded off, and the turret is laminated with some strips of plastic. Also a plastic circle was glued under the turret, to increase its hight.

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The big gaps were filled with Milliput, which was also used to shape the exterior of the bigger turret again.

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Then the turret was treated with filler, sanded smoothed and primed to check for irregularities. It stil looks like a Sherman turret, right?

Now I have to replace all the details on the turret exterior.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by C M Dodson on 07 Jun 2019, 15:18

Ingenious solution.

Best wishes,

Chris
C M Dodson  United Kingdom
 
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Posted by Bluefalchion on 07 Jun 2019, 16:19

option a. would be easier, but not as entertaining.

option b. a crying shame to waste a kit. I really couldn't stand it. I try to end up with the original number of soldiers when I hack off arms or heads for coversions.

option c. seems most huib-like to me. But I can just hear the phantom screams of frustration! Or scratch build the turret completely.

option d. I never saw coming. Of course it is the best, and so far, very well executed.
Bluefalchion  United States of America
 
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Posted by huib on 11 Jun 2019, 17:56

Thank you guys!

Detailing the turret

Now that the turret has more or less the correct size, I again apply all the detail I sanded away earlier, and more. But first this:

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Airfix's 75mm gun appeared a bit too thin and too short to me. I was sure when I tried to drill the barrel with a 1mm drill. So I made a new barrel of carefully stretched sprue.

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The old barrel on top, the new one below: A bit thicker and longer. Now I was able to drill out the muzzle with a 1mm drill.

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The new barrel in position, and a variety of detail added to the turret: pistol port, lifting eyes, periscopes, antenna mounts, turret bustle box, etc.

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Also lifting eyes on the early style gun mantlet. And some detail on the inside of the hatches, including the commandes periscope.

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The turret painted green. Some irregularities have to be dealt with, but for the rest the build of the turret is finished.

Now on with the hull!
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 14 Jun 2019, 19:23

Lengthening the hull

As I wrote before there are some serious issues with the Airfix Sherman Crab. One of the important ones is that the Airfix Sherman is an M4 (Sherman Mk.I) and the Crab in operational service always was an M4A4 (Sherman Mk.V). Now one of the main differences between the M4 and the M4A4 was a different engine that resulted in a longer hull. 15 cm longer. Not that much, but still visible, especially in the spacing between the road wheels. Now at first I decided to neglect this issue (who will notice?), but as I suffer chronically from AMS (Advanced Modeller Syndrome) in the end I decided to try and tackle the issue. As I couldn't find any precedent on the web I thought out my own approach. Let's see how this works out:

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The lower hull parts were glued together. As a counterweight to the mine flail I glued a piece of lead in the back of the hull. I could have done this in a later stage, but at that moment I didn't know yet AMS was going to force me to cut the hull in half.

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Then I marked were to cut the lower hull, using modellers tape. The cut is exactly on the vertical axle of the middle bogie, so wheel spacing will end up evenly distrubuted.

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This is always the best moment in modelling: cutting your model in two! No way back now.... :drool: :mad:

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Then I inserted a 2mm shim of plastic, more or less approaching the 15cm extra length I need in 1/76 scale and glued the two halves together again.

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In the mean time the upper hull was freed from most of its detail.

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Now a 2mm shim was glued to the back plate. This is convenient, as the M4A4 has a different shape of backplate anyway, compared to the M4.

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Then lots of filling and sanding, to get everything smooth again.

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Job done!

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From another perpective. Now there is a lot of work to recreate and add all that detail.

By the way:
AMS dilemma: If people notice this lengthening I did a bad job. If I do a good job, nobody will notice it. :eh:
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by Bluefalchion on 14 Jun 2019, 22:45

huib wrote:...but as I suffer chronically from AMS (Advanced Modeller Syndrome)...


I have seldom seen an acuter case of this curious disorder.
Bluefalchion  United States of America
 
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Posted by huib on 20 Jun 2019, 20:07

Wheels

Todays maxim: Wheel masochism is an inherent part of tank modelling.

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Lot's of parts for building the bogies with road wheels and return rollers.

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The six bogies constructed. Now people who know something about Sherman tanks immediately see something essential is missing on these bogies.......

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....the track skids on top op the bogies that guide and support the upper part of the track. They are not included in the Airfix kit, which is an omission.

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Luckily MBM (Modellers Basic Material) came to the help: aluminium from a beer tin. (Again I had to drink beer to be able to fulfil my hobby in a succesful way :beer: )

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I cut some strips from the beer tin aluminium, bent them in an appropriate shape and fixed them in place using CA glue.

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Then there is an issue with the Airfix sprocket wheels. They are without any detail, too much simplification. And although they will be partly hidden behind the mineflail installation in the end, they are so plain looking that I think it is worthwile to try to make some improvements.

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This is what a real Sherman sprocket looks like. (Or at the least the model of sprocket common on my type of Sherman.)

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My attempt to make some improvements on the sprocket wheels. A very fiddly job. Next to it the idler wheels, which I think are acceptable.

Now to continue with some improvements on the hull.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by MABO on 20 Jun 2019, 21:54

Once more I get crazy with all all of these details!
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MABO  Europe
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Posted by huib on 21 Jun 2019, 18:37

MABO wrote:Once more I get crazy with all all of these details!


Poor MABO is suffering from my details! :yeah:
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 21 Jun 2019, 19:11

Some more changes to the hull

Now this Airfix kit keeps surprising me. For Sherman tanks there were two different styles of differential covers:

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The three piece bolted differential cover, which is the correct one for my tank.

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And the one-piece casted differential cover.

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Now Airfix manages to combine the shape of the one piece cover, with the flanges and bolts of the three-piece cover. :eh: :shock:

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The solution turned out not to be too difficult. It should be easy to file and sand the Airfix differential cover into a shape that resembles the three piece cover, without damaging the flanges and bolts. On the left side on the picture the new shape, on the right the original Airfix shape.

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The final result. It not exactly the shape of the three-piece bolted cover, but at least it resembles it.

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I had to remove the old splashguard on the hull, as it didn't fit the enlarged turret anymore. Now it's replaced by a new one.

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The Sherman M4A4 is not only lengthened, it also has a different shape of backplate, which I imitated here.

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A view from behind. After painting the seam should be invisible if I did my job well.

Now for some more details on the hull.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by Wiking on 22 Jun 2019, 04:47

Not so much details still on the hull.

A lot of work like for a FA kit. But with a more detailed suspension.
And nowaday there are really enougth Sherman kit available. In 1/72, ok not 1/76!

Pimp up the old and worn out mould.
:yeah:
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Wiking  Germany
 
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Posted by Santi Pérez on 23 Jun 2019, 00:19

MABO wrote:Once more I get crazy with all all of these details!


Me too, huib. :shock:

I admire your patience and love for details, congratulations. :yeah:

Santi.
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Santi Pérez  Spain
 
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Posted by huib on 24 Jun 2019, 14:35

Thank you guys! OK, let's continue with more details then.... :-D

Reconstructing the engine deck

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The Airfix Sherman is an M4. As the M4A4 I am building had a different engine, the engine deck was also different, and longer. As a result I had to sand all detail away and start with a tabula rasa.

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Using a scriber I made new panellines on the engine deck, and added the air intake grill for the radiator, just behind the turret.

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Then I added lot's of detail including a radiator hat with filling cap, tools, hand grips, air intakes, lifting eyes, backlights with guards, fuel caps and some rivets.

Now on with the back of the hull.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 28 Jun 2019, 16:28

Detailing the hull sides

I spent some time making toolboxes and other stuff for the Sherman.

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Of especially complex design are the chalk dispensers that mark the cleared path through the minefield.

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And some other toolboxes and detail added. The chalk dispensers are temporarily attached with blue tack for the photo.

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A picture from the other side, showing a rack for spare chains.

Now on with the hull front.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 29 Jun 2019, 12:15

Detailing the hull front

I continued with detailing the hull front.

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Lots of small stuff: spare track links, driving lights and light guards, lifting eyes, mudguards and periscopes. Also towing eyes, but they are not visible on the picture.

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Oh, and not to forget visors for the driver and co-driver, as this is an early style Sherman hull with direct vision. The hull machinegun is cut away as the Crabs didn't have it: the flail is blocking the field of fire.

Now turret and hull are more or less ready. Time to continue with the mine flail.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 07 Jul 2019, 14:27

Increasing the parts count

Kitmakers are always proud to announce the number of parts on their boxes. The more parts, the better and more expensive the kit. Or so they claim.

Well, I can do that too with my old and cheap Airfix kit. Just cutting it up and creating more parts:

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The parts of the flail drum with chains.

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Yes, managed to make 42 parts out of 6! A great quality improvement! ;-)

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And I can repeat the trick by cutting up the connector arms at the hinges. This will enable the flail to hinge at the place it should hinge.

Now after cutting up parts I can continue with the (re)construction and detailing of the different subassemblies of the flail installation.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by huib on 08 Jul 2019, 14:35

Constructing the flail arms

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The complete flail mechanism is a good looking complex construction that lends itsself very well to extra detailing, and making this model interesting.

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I think the Airfix parts are not bad at all, but much simplified. So there is something to gain here. Very conspicious is that only one of the flail arms has the blast shield fitted. This indicates the kitmaker used the Bovington Sherman Crab as an example, where this shield is missing too.

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I copied the right hand blast shield by making a template from tape, that I could transfer to plastic card.

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The new blast shield fixed in position, and some more detail added to the flail arms.

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After construction.

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From another perspective.

Now on with the flail itsself.
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huib  Netherlands
 
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Posted by MABO on 08 Jul 2019, 17:40

Now on with the flail itsself.


I am looking forward! :thumbup:
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