My M4 Sherman is under construction.  I will be posting information and more pictures as the build progresses!

I have taken quite a few pictures (as usual) and you can view them all by clicking on camera icon

The first thing I did was to prime and paint the metal parts.
Before I started working on painting the plastic parts, I removed Tamiya's numbers that they had on the hull.   
I also removed the numbers that they had on the top of the turret.
The plastic parts were painted.   Once they are removed from the sprues to use them they can be touched up as needed.
I was anxious to glue something together so I put together some of the crates and gas cans.
Here is a partially assembled gas can.  It consists of two half's, a cap and a handle.... lots of little parts!
With a dime for size reference, here is a ammo can, one built and one in parts.
Starting to assemble the suspension.
The tiny size of some of the parts can make things difficult!
More of the suspension done.

Now it was time to paint some of the aftermarket replacement metal parts.   I ordered from Backyard Armor:

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL CONE SPRINGS

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL CONICAL SPRING SEAT SETS

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL SET 1

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL UPPER HULL CLAMP SET

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN T-84 METAL DETAIL TRACK SET

ELITE ARMOR TWISTED ROPE

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL TOW CABLE

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL SET II

ELITE ARMOR TAMIYA SHERMAN METAL TOW HITCH

I also ordered the metal oil reservoirs separately.

Getting ready to do the final assembly of the suspension.   There are a lot of small parts in this step, so I counted out all the parts I would need and divided them into piles for easy identification.
Again, lots of small parts!
Aftermarket ball bearings were used instead of the stock bushings.
The metal cone spring seats and metal cone springs getting ready for assembly.
One of the cone springs put together.

Because people have said that the stock motors are a little too fast and don't have good low end torque, I replaced them with a set of Longcans from Hobby-Lobby.com

FK5202 LONG CAN 400 MOTOR

I had to remove the pinion off the stock motors and put it on the new motors.

To get it off I had to get a very small (1/16") punch.   I held the stock motors with a wire stripper, since it lets the shaft go but does not let the pinion through.

I then used the punch to gently drive the shaft back out of the pinion.

To install the pinion onto the new motors, I supported the main shaft which runs all the way through the motor on a vise.   I could then safely tap the new pinion on without hurting anything.

The shaft is shown here with the yellow arrow pointing to it.

The motor wires were removed from the stock motors and soldered onto the new motors.   The motors were installed into the gearboxes and the gearboxes were installed into the chassis.
After a test fit, I decided to put a little shrink tube over the ends of the wires where they connect to the motors.
With the shrink tube in place I used a small torch to heat and shrink it.
The gear boxes were installed and the front cover screwed in place.
The suspension arms that I built earlier are attached to the chassis.

One of the things that I did differently as to reverse half to the cone springs from what the instructions said.

(Yellow arrows in this and the next pic)

This way they are all facing the same direction on both sides of the tank.

I don't know if this is historically correct, but it seemed to make sense to me.

The next upgrade was on the ventilation cover.   The stock hull has a lump where the cover would be.   I started to remove it to fit it with the replacement cover seen here.
Once the hole was cut out, I made a notch in the rear so the cover would fit nicely.

Here you can see the cover in place during a final test fit.

I thought that it looked sorta cheesy, but you can see the real one here, and it is a good match

The tracks were put onto the chassis.
On the rear of the turret is the place where the antenna would have been in real life.   Tamiya would have you put a metal wire with your antenna wire wrapped around it coming off the rear of the tank... this would not look nice!   
I purchased a Deans one piece antenna.   I stripped most of the plastic covering off the antenna and put a 90° bend near the small circuit board.

I then started to drill out the antenna hole in the turret... and melted the plastic. DOH!!

Make sure that when you do these types of things that you keep the parts cool!

I was able to cut it down and save it.
With the Deans antenna installed, the small circuit board is now more flat against the roof of the turret and out of the way.
I went to the local Hobby Town looking for a small spring.   I was able to get one from part of a N scale trail.   The small spring holds the train car hitches together.
Here you can see the Deans antenna coming through the top of the turret.   I was really glad that I had not removed any more of the plastic covering or my plan would not have worked!
I drilled the top of the hole out slightly larger so the spring can sit down in it around the Deans antenna.   The end result is what you see here.   Once painted, it should look like a spring loaded base of the antenna.
The next modification was the weather cover loop for the machine gun.  The first step was to remove the one that is moulded on.
With it removed, I glued the replacement metal part in place and painted it.

Next was the head lights and tail lights.   While the head lights are small, you just have to put them together.

For the tail lights, they want you to paint the lenses.

Talk about small... With my smallest brush I was barely able to get it.... and a rough job at that!
Starting to install the headlights and replacement metal guards.
Passing the headlight wires through.
The same was repeated for the tail lights.
The front end mostly put together.
I started painting some of the implements and let them dry while I worked on other things.
The commanders hatch is supposed to be built with it either glued open or closed.

Instead of this I drilled it out and made it so I could open it.

The first pin I used was too small.

I got a larger piece of brass tube and re-did the hatch hinge to make it more realistic in size.
With the upper hill in place, I then installed the piece that covers the front end screws.
On the edges of that piece you can see the mould lines.
After a little sanding, they are much less visible.   You may be able to see them once the part is installed and that is why I removed them.
The front end mostly done.

Next I started working on the battle system.   Again, Tamiya has you doing something that looks cheesy.   They would have you build a great kit then put a weird looking transmitter on top of the barrel.   Instead, I decided to install it into the gunners sight next to the barrel.

Because I wanted to keep the performance the same as what Tamiya would have, I but a piece of tube the same length as the LED holder that Tamiya uses.   This should make the transmitter have the same field of view as the Tamiya setup.   

The hole for the gunner sight was drilled out the same size as the tube.
The inside was grooved slightly to let the LED tube sit level with the gun barrel.
Here it is during a fitting.   Once it is in place and cemented, I will use some sort of filler and build it back up more like it was before around the base of the new tube.
The barrel mount was also clearance.

Here you can see a rear view.

Again, there are a lot of pictures that I took, so if you want to see them click the camera icon.

The turret was also clearance for extra room.
Once again my shaky hands made me cut a little too much!   Nothing that cant be fixed!
Here you can see the barrel and new LED tube in place.
OK, so this is where I got sidetracked.   I had trips to the Rubicon, Redding and Run-A-Muck, plus I was taking diving classes and getting ready for a trip to Hawaii.   From here, things went in spurts.
With the tube for the battle system transmitter in place, I wanted to try to duplicate the casting like with the machine gun port on the other side of the mantlet.
I re-drilled the commanders hatch and used a larger pipe to simulate the hatch hinge.
The end was open, so this was the second thing I would putty at the same time I did the mantlet to you cant see that it was a tube.
Using white putty I tried my best to fill the area around the top of the tube to make it look like it was cast that way.
After the putty was dry, I sanded it to try to smooth it out.
I then painted it.  Here is the result, not as good as I wanted, but better than nothing!
The battle system LED is rubber cemented into the tube.
The gun barrel is put in place.
I did a few test fits before I put the mantlet into the turret.
I found that I still needed to clearance for the wires and rear of the LED and pipe.
Here is a shot from the rear.

With that done, and the barrel all the way down, you still may be able to see a little blemish if you are looking for it.

The mantlet is attached to the turret.

The rest of the turret is wired and the battle system is installed.
The flash is just inside the end of the barrel.
I was debating on if I should cut the commanders windows out or just paint them as is.   Because one small slip could ruin the turret, I decided to go with paint.   found a metallic blue that worked well.
The trailer hitch was assembled.   Instead of gluing it, a small screw was used.   This lets the hitch rotate as it would in real life.   The screw is not readily visible.
This is where I was at at that point.

The next thing was to construct the wood board and mounting mechanism for the front of the tank.   Tankers would stack all sorts of stuff on the front of their tanks for added protection, many of these being done in the field with whatever was available.

I got a small piece of mini angle iron to make the brackets.  The wood is balsa wood that is painted.

This is what it looked like after painting and attaching it to the tank.  The top can still come off, the board and mounts are part of the lower hull.
I started working on the .50 cal machine gun for the top of the tank.   This took a few hours to do with all the small parts to paint, detail and assemble.
A 1:18 scale Sherman tank donated a few parts for mine.   Here you see a spotlight for the top of my turret.   Tamiya has all sorts of wonderful detail, and even provides a arm for the spotlight, but the spotlight itself is missing.
The .50 cal. machine gun assembled.
I took a small piece of wire and heated it up red hot and poked it in the end of the barrel to try to simulate the hole.   My aim was slightly off center!   After that I repainted the end of the barrel black and then using a sharpened toothpick put a dab of silver into just the hole.   This picture does not show it well, but it actually came out quite good.
The spotlight gets some metallic blue for the lens.
The other Sherman also donated some shells for rear deck decoration.
After the turret was assembled, I had a problem with the main gun elevation mechanism.   The lever that raises and lowers the main gun is held in place by a moulded peg at one end and a screw at the other.  The adjustment was WAY off and this broke the peg off (green arrow), leaving the arm pivoting on the screw.   Since the turret is already together it is extremely tight to work on this.   I was able to use a toothpick to add CA to secure the arm in place.

The next step was to adjust the arm.   I put the arm in place with the ball joint loose and ran the servo up and down to its extremes.   Doing this I was able to get a very good idea of how long the arm was supposed to be.

On this workbench drawing, the curved end line (green arrow) represents where the end of the ball cup came to before I made and adjustments.   I believe this to be about where the kit instructions said it should be.

 

In this picture, you can see about how far the metal rod would be threaded into the plastic piece adjusted as it was.
In this picture, the small yellow arrow shows about where I wanted the middle of the ball cup to be, but the green arrow shows where the end of the shaft would be if I threaded it down this far.   Because of that, the red arrow shows where I cut the threaded arm off at.

With the arm cut short, the yellow line now shows how far the threaded shaft will go into the plastic piece, and the green line shows where the center of the ball cup should be.

After a few checks, the arm was re-installed and the main gun elevation now works fine.

This is one part that I would check carefully so you don't have to go through what I did!  Make sure that the arm is adjusted right the first time.   

With the gun barrel elevation problem fixed, the decals were applied.

The next step was to start making it look used.  Rust colored paint was applied to the ends of the track links.   Don't worry about being too neat, as with the rest of the "dirt" and such it will not matter!

I then airbrushed 3 different colors onto the tank to give it a dirty look.   "Mud", "Dark Red", and "Oily Black" were used.
Here it is after the dirtying up.
Sandbags, road wheels, and track links are added to the front of the tank.
I painted over the commanders windows then gave them a rough stroke of the metallic blue again to make them look like they were dirty and then wiped off.

The rear deck gets some gas cans, extra shells, K-Rations, an oil drum and potato sack.   These were then "tied down" with rope.

I was not too worried that the items on the rear deck are not so dirty like the rest of the tank, as items like this would come and go in real life and may not match.

Some miscellaneous other detailing was done, but this is basically the end of the construction.   
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5-1-2005