Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Scratchbuilding a US M2 Medium Tank in 28mm Part 1

One of my wargaming buddies is deeply involved in gaming the Very British Civil War in 28s.  In order to participate I looked at potential foreign contingents.  I though possibly a US ‘Abraham Lincoln Brigade’ might be appropriate.  I began then to look into tanks for support and found some references to the M2 Medium.  It literally bristles with machine guns and has very VBCW flavour.  Built in 1939 it is just on the fringe of the time frame, but I felt it would be close enough.
Begin this (or any project) with some basic research.  A Google search for “M2 Medium Tank” or “M2 Medium Tank drawings” turns up a variety of photos and drawings.  Two useful sites are:

I downloaded some three- views and some detail photos.  Using the basic dimensions of the vehicle I was able to print out some scale plans.  Calculating to roughly 1/56 scale you may be able to use your home printer to print at a percentage reduction.  Alternately print out your drawings, measure and calculate a reduction or increase and have your local photo-copy store reduce or enlarge as needed. I usually print out a couple of sheets of the scale drawings to take measurements on and at times to cut up for full-size templates.
Some basic drafting skills may be required, but with the scaled drawing you can measure directly on the drawings to size up your stock.  (More as we continue.)
I used 40 thou Evergreen white styrene sheet for strength in the support structure, and generally “skinned” with thinner 20 thou stock.  The 20 thou is thin enough you usually do not have to account for the thickness.  Using thicker stock will make a stronger model, but remember to compensate for the thickness of the materials in your measurements.
My basic tools are a steel rule and a snap blade hobby knife.  The Evergreen styrene card is easily scored and snapped or can be trimmed with a sharp knife blade.  The steel rule provides a straight edge for cutting and is graduated down to 1/64th of an inch for measuring.  I can’t see or mark out a measurement smaller than 1/64 and for a wargames’ model that is sufficient tolerance.  You only have to make yourself happy so work to whatever tolerances you prefer, add details and be as accurate as you wish.  The best advice I can give is to be patient, and let the glue dry.  When in doubt let an assembly dry thoroughly overnight before you try to proceed to the next step.
I also did some Alumilite castings in latex moulds and some “squash” moulding for complex parts.
Any structure is can generally be thought of as a series of boxes of various shapes and angles, tubes, and some complex shapes.  The M2 is mostly flat plates and I will demonstrate some methods to build complex looking shapes out of easily obtainable materials.  The driver’s compartment is an interesting pyramid shape, which is rather confusing in the drawings, but since the real vehicle was built out of flat plates, progressing with a model will reveal what the drawings do not.

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