PST KV-122 heavy tank in 1/72
         Started: December/2015
Current state: Working on the display base

PST is a Russian plastic model manufacturer relatively well known for their many unusual 1/72 tanks, trucks and soft-skin military vehicles. Years ago, I got my PST KV-122 in a bargain, and it remained in my stash for a long time until I decided to give it a go. Actually, I was interested in their rare KV repair tractor, but switched the subjects for some reason. Maybe it was the almost cartoonish bad-ass silhouette of the KV-122, maybe it was the heavily sagged usual pattern of the KV series track... I don't know.


The KV-122, however, is not a famous tank. In fact, it is more to the obscure side of the tank warfare. For the records, the Russians mounted a 122 mm gun turret (that would be used later in the IS tanks) on a KV-85 chassis as a test bed. References indicate one single prototype built during the outumn 1943 (never officially called KV-122), but no production run. However, the idea worked well and many combat units uprated damaged KV-85s with the IS turrets. Photographic evidences of the KV-122 in action are slim at best, but at least the 62nd heavy tanks regiment of the 8th guard tanks corps was equipped with a number of them during 1943.

A production KV-85 fitted with IS-122 turret seen in Kirov plant No.100, Chelyabinsky, Autumn 1943.

A production KV-85 fitted with IS-122 turret seen in Kirov plant No.100, Chelyabinsky, Autumn 1943.
The kit is very basic, with parts ranging from well molded to others indistinguishable from the sprues. PST seems to use whatever is the styrene color in the injection machine, as some parts are injected in a mosaic of colors - something I found in other kits of the brand. Their sprues are common to most, if not all, PST tanks based on the KV hull, leaving many parts unused in the sprues. But the basic shape is there, so I started working on the turret. I replaced many details by scracthbuilt ones, refined others, and added the handles around the turret by staples. I used liquid glue to add some texture to the cast parts of the turret, and simulated weld lines with the traditional stretched sprue method. At this point, I was hooked by a few photos of KV's with some sections of the fenders missing, and decided to reproduce that on my model.

The hull and wheels were quickly assembled (cleaning the wheels is another story...). I noted that the round walls mounting the turret extended to the hull sides, so I blanked the apertures under the fenders with plastic card sheets. A Part photoetched fret designed to the ISU-152 was hanging around in my bench, and I decided to use some parts from it. I started detailing the fender joints with them, but couldn't use much more than that. The KV characteristic towing cable tensioner mounts were terribly represented in the kit (parts B7), so I made new ones from Aluminum sheet and glued to the sides of the hull. A torn length of thin wire was installed to feed the headlight. I also embossed the bolts along the front hull joint (part K4):


Sticking to my initial plan, I removed three fender sections from the right side and two from the left side. Before proceeding, I tried a method to show the characteristic caked mud which accumulates under the fenders. I simply laid masking tape along the lines where the removed fenders would run and applied a mixture of modeling putty and fine sand by tapping a brush along the tape edge. Then I removed the tape before the putty set. During the weathering phase, this area would be painted in earth colors to emulate remnants of mud stuck to the hull sides before the fenders were lost:
A few more parts were cemented in place and the hull was essentially finished. I then went back to the turred and added more photoetched details, namely, the lifting hooks welded to the turret sides and gun mount. At each of these spots, two small lengths of stretched sprue were used to simulate the welds and leave a narrow slot where the hooks were glued into.

Later on I noted that I could have added one or two other missing details... Anyway, by then I was really upset with the tracks provided by the kit. They were of the link-by-length type, and not exactly bad, but the details were too soft for my taste, and I couldn't devise a good way to represent the sag between the return rollers using the kit parts. At that point I left the model aside for several months, until a friend warned me about the OKB Grigorov resin tracks. I ordered a sample and they were simply stunning. Made of a (supposedly) workable resin, what really jumped to the eyes was the level of detail in these parts, rivaling some 1/35 tracks around.
In theory, hot water could be used to shape the tracks. I used this method to make the turns around the idle and tractor wheels, but I found it impossible to shape the sags using hot wather without distorting other areas already shaped. In the end, brute force was used and it sort of worked, except that sometimes the tracks broke - fortunately at the hinges - putting me back to the link-by-length approach. I think I need more practice. After bending and test fitting countless times, I finally had a usable set of track lengths that would hopefully stay in place with super glue. Many hidden tooth of the traction wheels (those hooked to the tack links) were removed to make the installation less prone to breaking. In the process, I also got some spare links. In summary, it was worth the money and the time spent: I had realistic sagging and faithful details on my tracks. After a good coat of Testors Model Master Track Brown I left them aside to dry thoroughly.

With renewed interest, I finally started painting the model. After a coat of Vallejo Dark Green primer, I painted the basic assembly using automotive lacquer paints. A friend handed me his secret mix of Russian Green (thanks Bradley!) which I used as a base color. Then, using Aerotech (a Brazilian brand) lacquers I highlighted somewhat the horizontal surfaces with their Russian Army Green color and finished by applying a further highlight on raised areas using the same color with yellow added.

I wanted to test a different weathering technique than the one I usually do (see, for instance, my Renault FT-17 or the Famo) in order to speed up the processes a bit. Additionally, I also would like to leave some residual shine of the glossy lacquers here and there on the model to simulate what I found in many wartime photos. The idea was to reduce the shine of the green camouflage 'naturally', I mean, without using any flat or semi-gloss varnish, but instead leaving the washes and pigments do their job just like real dirt and dust do on a glossy surface. In order to do so, I had to ensure that all my weathering agents would dry flat. Fortunately this is generally true for oils, washes and other modeling effects on the market.

I started applying a generous coat of Tamiya Accent Color Brown, cut with mineral spirits, over the whole model. Capillarity does the job for you, concentrating the pigments along corners and recesses:

After letting this initial wash dry throughly, I then applied uncut Tamiya Accent Color Dark Brown using a fine brush to concentrate the effect on deeper recesses and around the perimeter of raised features. The excess was spread right after with a small flat brush just slightly dampened in white spirit. Vertical movements of the brush naturally left streaking marks. You may need to repeat the step a couple of times, but the beauty of this method is that I didn't have to use any weathering fluids or oils washes to obtain a subtle effect. Very quick and effective:

While the models were drying, I started working on smaller details. Two things that had to be addressed were the tow cable tensioners, whose kit parts are terribly awful, and the rear area of the engine, missing the rear light and an air outlet deflector. These are very prominent features in the real thing, and therefore worth the extra time invested. Like I always said, the soul of 1/72 models is in the smaller details 'you don't see':

The rear light and the rear air outlet were scratchbuild with plastic, the latter randomly torn, painted and glued to their plates. The cable tensionsers were not so easy, and while I was at it, I also worked on other things.

The fuel tank came from the Part photoetched set. I simulated some battle damage by hitting the assembly with a small srewdriver, leaving realistic dents. The tensioners were done more or less like the real thing, i.e., two hooks inside a threaded pipe. The larger hook was made with brass rod shaped in jeweler pliers but I failed to get the same results for the smaller one, so I used 0.5 mm rolled around a toothpick. All I left to add to the tensioners were the turning bars, which would be added later:


The kit headlight (part B14) was improved by mixing two known methods (described in detail here and here). I started hollowing the kit part with a spherical bit. Then I painted the hollowed aread with silver paint. A small Tungsten ball was glued in the center with Pledge Future to simulate a bulb. The lens came from a aftermarked item (Wave) but are not yet installed in the photos below:

The tracks were then treated with dark washes. Since the KVs didn't have rubberized wheels, I scrubbed Uschi van der Rosten Iron Metal Polishing Powder on the inner bands to simulate the characteristic polished effect that the road wheels yield. The sides of the lower, front and rear hull received a sludge of earth pigments (dark and light), fine sand, and chopped static grass with a few drops of decal setting solution. This simulated the dry mud/dirt accumulated on the areas closer to the ground.  Before assembling the tracks in place, I scrubbed Humbrol Polished Metal around the outer rings of the wheels using a cotton swab. Once the wethering was done they would be polished again with a small piece of cotton. Only then the track sections were assembled in place, and
I had to retouch the paint on the attaching links to hide glue marks and sanded spots. This sequence is important, as the weathering could now proceed allowing the same dusting effects on the hull to be used on the tracks as well.

Still in the mood for trying new techniques, I returned to the weathering ready to test something that have been in my mind for quite a while. At this point I still had to dust the model and apply other effects, but the surface details were not as highlighted as I wanted them. Had I just applied dust pigments, they would be even more outshined. Here is what I did, crossing my fingers that it would work:

    1. Paint chipping and scratches applied first with pencils, pens and sponge along edges, hatches, handles etc. Dark brown and black colors. Fresh chipping would be re-applied on selected areas later on.

    2. An overall pass of light dust pigments heavily diluted in water and a few drops of Windex. Used over the turret, hull, wheels and tracks.
    3. Dark dust applied on corners, upper and lower hull, some of the wheels and tracks using a medium brush. This was applied dry and fixed with Windex.
    4. Once the pigments are completely dry, a stiff flat brush was used to remove the excess of pigments. This is an extremely important step, often overlooked by modelers, to bring the dusting effect to scale instead of leaving a 'coat' of pigments. If you are interested in reproducing the aspect of a well used vehicle in dry weather, it is something to consider. Evidently, no fixing solution was used.

    5. Only then I appied a moderate dry-brushing using light green oils. This is a novelty to me... coming after the enamel/oil washes, the dry-brushing effect would not be changed and no protective varnish is needed neither. The dry-brushing also removes some of the previous pigments, and therefore you don't need to be heavy handed during the step 4.

    6. The previous step will render the paint chipping more visible, some more (newer chipping) some less (older chipping). But at this point you may want to add really fresh paint chipping. I did on movable parts and along the edges where the towing cables would be bashing.

In summary, I changed the usual order of the things a bit, particularly with the dry-brushing used after the dusting.
Contradicting many modelers, I think dry brushing still is an irreplaceable technique, at least for small scale models. For some reason, this sequence worked very well for me. If you really want, fixing solutions could be airbrushed now to keep them in place. 

Once the previous weathering was dry, things were rounded off with the effects around the engine:

    7. Oil pools were simulated around and over the engine access panels. You may vary the shine of the pools with more or less gloss effects, as well as their intensity by repeated applications. The same applies to fuel leaks.
    8. A localized black oils wash was carefully applied over the engine grilles to add depth to them. I wanted to use a photoetched item from the Part set instead, but it would not fit the kit molded on ones. 
    9. Exhaust stains were airbrushed with black paint trailing the engine stacks. The effect was refined smudging dark grey pastels on the center of the stain marks. Later on, restrained rust marks would be added to the exhaust stacks.

It seems a lot of steps, I know, but if you look again, steps 1 to 6 are all done in the same modeling section. And note that no flat clear coat was used, not only speeding up the project, but also leaving a realistic shine here and there. I guess in the end what I did was follow better the same sequence of Nature, apart from the dry-brushing, and it payed off. Of course you can always go back and redo something that does not look good or natural. I did so several times! Best of all, the whole process lasted two modeling nights on my workbench... way faster than my previous weathering experiences.

The towing cables used the kit parts for the eyes and a length of cord, painted and weathered. In order to make them look more natural, after painting the cables with Humbrol Polished Steel and applying a black wash, I dampened the cable with Turpenoid and a fine brush at the points where I wanted them bent more severely. This softened the paint which would dry again in the correct shape.They were installed connecting the tensioners to the towing rings at the front hull:

The headlight was finished with a Wave clear lens and glued in place:

The contact areas of the tracks were treated with a silver pencil. I did the same with the links tooth on the inner faces. I liked the final aspect of the tracks, even though no wash or drybrush was used there at this stage. Chalk up another point for OKB tracks... Eventually, I would simulate the tooth removed from the driver wheels with bits of plastic inserted in their slots:


And if you want to see how the sagging of the tracks resulted, here they are - not perfect, but surely much better than what I would end up with, had I used the kit parts:

I made some more weathering on the fly, but I will not remember of them all. This is how the project stands as for now:

Moving on, it was time to think on a suitable base. It is a difficult choice, for as like I said, there are not many photos of KV-122s in action. I made a quick research - more on that later. After looking for what I had in hand, I found a resin item released a while ago by Airfix - European Ruined Café. The box states 1/76 scale, but I wondered if it is 1/87... Even an elf would not pass through the front door of the building. The model comes with photoetched frames for the windows, but is not quite realistic in some areas, probably to make possible its casting in a single piece. And the resin used is probably the same material used in the Tiger tanks armor - almost indestructible.

While gathering material for the base, I added the last bits to the KV. First, I had to fix the tooth of the traction wheel that were removed earlier because they would not fit the track openings. After scratching my head for sometime, I came up with the following solution.

I cut small slices (approximately 0.75mm wide) from a 1mm soldering wire. Since the tooth should look polished due to abrasion, and solder wire oxidizes with time, it was treated with a Metal primer before slicing:

The slices were then inserted in the empty openings of the tracks and fixed with a small dab of flat varnish. Worked like a charm... and so easily:

But they were a tad too bright in comparison to the rest of the track, so I knocked down the shine with some pigments and water. Much better:

The last two item added to the model were the scratchbuilt front hull and rear turret machine guns. And that was it. Before continuing with the display base, here are a few photos of the finished model, at last:

Looking at wartime photos, I realized that the exhaust stacks were not right. Ces't la vie... blame PST, but not me... Wow, it rhymes!!! Am I a poet or what?

Achtung KV...

In case you are wondering about the plans for the display base, here is a glimpse of the initial idea:

Still a lot of work ahead, but the joy of vignettes is having fun without worrying much about fidelity... stay tuned.

I'm trying to keep track of the main references used in my projects, whenever possible. There are not many books about the KV-122, if any. I found a few volumes of the Wydawnictwo Militaria
Tank Power collection useful for this project, though:

Technical file
- PST #72009
- OKB Grigorov resin detail set S72051 - Tracks for KV, 700 mm in 1/72
- Part P72-011 - Photoetched detail set of PST ISU-152 in 1/72
Basic colors: 
- Primer: Vallejo Dark Green primer
- Camouflage: mix of automotive lacquer colors

- Tracks: Model Master Track Brown #2150
- Flat finish: Testors Model Master Acryl semi-gloss
- Some scratchbuilt details (see text).

Rato Marczak © 2017