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Airborne Offspring
Zveno 6 - TB-3 4M-17 & I-16 Type 5

Model, text, and images by Aleksandar Šekularac


This story came to me in splinters, over years. I would see a picture in a book, or read a line, or two about it. The interest would reverberate for couple of minutes, and then the whole thing got forgotten. Like a big puzzle, it was building itself in recesses of my subconscious.

And then it happened. These people from Ukraine came out with the most unusual kit. The image on the box looked familiar, but strange at the same time. An oddity on hobby shop shelves. Yet, it was there, and stream of information collected over time came back in a flash.  How was I to defy it? The itch for this subject overwhelmed me, and I started digging deeper.  After just couple of days I was spellbound.  Here is an amazing story I discovered.

The Tale of “Zveno

The idea of coupling, and uncoupling aircraft in flight is almost as old, as the aviation itself. Several free thinkers worldwide, throughout the 20th century tried to construct a viable flying aircraft carrier. Nobody went so far as the Russian engineer, Vladimir Sergeevich Vakhmistrov, whose work allowed for some amazing achievements during the golden age of flying. This is the only case in history where a flying composite, consisting of mother-ship and two parasite fighter-bombers, was successfully used in combat.

Vakhmistrov started work on his idea of the long-range bomber escort in 1931. It was called “Zveno”, and its first incarnation involved two modified I-4 fighters strapped on top of the wing  of TB-1 bomber. The first flight of this composite was successfully carried out on December 3rd 1931, over Monino base near Moscow.

Many more modifications, and flight-tests followed. The parasite planes were replaced with I-5’s, then a new, and bigger mother-ship arrived: TB-3. When Polikarpov I-16 monoplane fighters became available Valkhmistrov was eager to try them. Two I-16s were strapped under the wing of the big bomber, and this became the most successful configuration, known as Zveno 6. Carried on pyramidal suspension system, fighters were mounted under the wings of the TB-3 before flight. Connected to their behemoth “mother” with umbilical chords, they were feeding on fuel and oil during a joint flight. On take-offs, all six engines were throttled up, and roared in unison down the runway. It must have been such a sight.

Series of flights were carried out, with fighters successfully uncoupling from the bomber. Zveno 6 was finally accepted for production by NII-VVS (Scientific Research Institute of the Air Force) in December 1936.

Next was an attempt to enable the fighters to return to the mother-ship. Vakhmistrov had an idea of developing completely new, airborne fighter plane for Zveno, which wouldn't have landing gear, and as a consequence be smaller, lighter, and faster. This would also solve the problem of returning range of the fighters. A complicated tubular trapeze system was designed to extend and catch approaching I-16. Then, the whole thing would retract back, under the shadow of the gigantic wing. After several trials the process of reattachment was deemed too sensitive and complicated for an average skilled pilot.

The pinnacle of Zveno project came with “Aviamatka” flight, which took place in 1935. For the purpose of so called “airborne alert” no less than five different fighter planes were attached to one TB-3. Despite a successful flight, this concept  was discarded by critics as just another publicity stunt by “Vakhmistrov’s flying circus”.

Final evolution of the composite that saw outbreak of the war, was based on Zveno-6, and was known as SPB Zveno. I-16s parasites changed their role from air defense to high speed dive-bombers.  The success and effectiveness of SPB Zveno in its 30 combat missions was striking, especially considering that both TB-3, and I-16 fighters were already obsolete by the time they were called to defend the motherland. Bridges over Danube and Dniepr, oil fields, and docks of Constantsa, and other targets all fell victim to Zveno raids. German Field-Marshal, Erich von Manstein, in his memoirs implicitly blamed final loss of Stalingrad battle on Russian bombing of the bridge over Dniepr at Zaporozhje in August 1941. Two Zveno SPB composites were responsible for this attack. The bridge was not repaired before autumn of 1943, much to late for the fate of German troops. Despite their successes, the truth about Zveno missions remained secret to the outside world, long after the end of the war.

Rant About the Kit

ICM company from Kiev, became a synonym for Soviet aviation and mechanization in scale from Great Patriotic War. Some time ago I was working on a MiG-3 kit made by these people, and thought how new age finally came, when one can enjoy a kit of something that doesn't begin with letter F, or Bf. Little did I know.

Few years passed, and ICM released a kit of Tupolev TB-3, Russian colossus, one of the most comprehensive 1:72 aircraft kits in history. This was clearly somebody's labor of love. Attention to detail, and accuracy of this plastic jigsaw puzzle indicates painful dedication to an object of passion. This is not a cookie-cutter kit developed on marketing research. Weekend modelers wouldn't be interested in something this obscure, and complex.  The kit builds like a real aircraft, beginning with lot of flat, structural parts: spars, ribs, bulkheads, frames, and formers. They all cry for some attention before they will fit properly.

Another ICM box appeared shortly after the initial kit release. It was a so called Zveno-SPB. So called I say, because what is in this box is a great kit of a true farce. We who care know this, and good people from ICM must have known it, as well. The excellent model of a TB-3/M-17 was thrown in a box with two excellent kits of late type I-16 and the box was called Zveno-SPB. Well, the truth of the matter is that by 1940, old TB-3/M-17 types were replaced by more modern TB-3/AM-34FRN, and these were the mother-ships flown to combat. The difference between these two types are drastic: engine nacelles, main landing gear, nose compartment, tail turret, just to name a few most obvious differences. So the question is why did ICM do this? They could have altered I-16 kits to produce accurate early Type-5 variant, and call it Zveno 6, or Zveno 7 (this is what I ended up doing for this model), or they could rolled the dice, and produce whole new TB-3/AM-34FRN, for accurate Zveno-SPB. For someone who doesn't care about authenticity this is probably not a problem, but then again, this kit is not geared towards those who don't care. My theory is that the bean counters finally overpowered master modelers in ICM, threw them kicking and screaming in the basement, and locked the door behind... Oh well, be it as it may, this kit is still worth more than they ask for, in my humble opinion. It is the only scale model of a very unique part of the aviation history, and that is enough for me to feel grateful.

And then, lets not forget Eduard photo-etched set for TB-3 (72-335). Many details for the cockpit, gun rings, engine service platform, spoked wheel rims of course, and multitude of barely visible parts bring the model to the whole new level. The expression that I use to describe working with these bits is “molecular modeling”. Well, for anyone who didn't have enough with 400 parts from the ICM box, Eduard ads some 150 to that number.
 

Construction Starts

Most modelers have an instinct to start a new aircraft kit in the cockpit. That is usually a good instinct to have, but this particular model requires something a bit different. As I mentioned, there are no fuselage halves to sandwich the pilot compartment between. There are no wing halves either. I started by laying out all the structural parts, and corrugated surface panels on the floor, and pondered where to really start. Two wing spars include main fuselage frames, and everything else extends from there. The wing of this pterodactyl had to be done first. I started to sand every corrugated skin panel back-face, as these lay on the inner structure, and require even thickness to look properly when assembled. Exquisite surface detail prevent standard finishing methods on this model. Luckily, I realized at the very beginning that there can't be any seam sanding or puttying on the surface of TB-3. All panels have to align perfectly, and gluing has to be done from the inside. I adopted a strategy of using liquid welder cement, and its capillary action to run it along inside edges of all panel joints and structural elements. This was a main method for building the wing and the fuselage from myriad of parts.

The Wing

Wing construction started with spars and ribs that build into a support frame for surface elements. I can't emphasize enough the importance of making this structural frame straight and parallel. Everything that will follow depends on this crucial step. After finished the frame, I started to attach bottom skins for the wing surface. All of these panels are butt-jointed, and it is a good idea to support the seams from inside with overlapping plastic pads (from styrene stock).

With the wing of this size, real aerodynamic properties become obvious even in 1:72 scale. Achieving symmetric and consistent dihedral, as well as the proper angle of attack distribution over the span takes a lot of effort. I did some tweaking as I assembled upper surface elements. Applying some pressure, and torque before glue cures is the most effective way to adjust everything. When the wing is boxed in, with lower and upper panels locked on the frame, it becomes rigid, as if carved from a solid piece. Leading and trailing edges are all separate parts. I used more of inside seam-pads, as  described before, to align them with the main wing. Wing tip elements, had some trouble fitting, so scalpel was required. Two part ailerons were also tricky to fit and align on the supporting structure. After I finished the wing, grandness of this aircraft had stricken me for the first time.

At this point I blanked off cavities for the ventral turrets, as some available pictures of Zveno aircraft show this. I cut a leading edge panel of the extending servicing platform for the inside port engine, and installed photo-etched plug for this structural detail. I also made landing light sockets on the port wing from pieces of brass tubing.

Next task was to carefully measure and drill small holes on the bottom of the wing surface for fixed main landing gear, as well as pyramidal parasite fighter trusses. I planed ahead to anchor all these connections with steal wires and pins, anticipating heavy and fragile model. I drilled two holes of a bigger (~4mm) diameter and made ducts from styrene tubing for parasites fuel/oil feeds, and small mounting hoists from bent steel wire. After that, I let the wing alone for a while.

Inside Compartments

Open cockpit, bombardiers compartment in front, and engineers compartment in the back, as well as the back gunners stands are all present in the kit. They can be built in a very convincing interior of the TB-3. In addition, they provide frame support for the fuselage surface elements. Before starting work on the actual cockpit I had to build the framework for the nose compartment. Some walls were thinned down for the scale appearance. Same was done for the aft of the fuselage.

Eduard photo-etched parts enhance the area of the cockpit immensely. The instrument panel is a sandwich of brass, acetate, and plastic, which is my favorite for representing realistic instruments in all scales. Additions of throttle quadrants, finer “steering wheels”, ruder pedals, and seat harnesses are also very welcomed. When finished, this area looks like it should.

Many parts were scratch-built in the bombardiers, and engineers compartments. I tried to make best use of the parts I found in the spare box: like radio boxes from the Mosquito in 1:48 scale, but there was also lot of place left for “evergreen” tubing and brass wire. Most of this detail ended up shrouded in darkness, once the fuselage was closed, but at least for a while it looked impressive, and it gave the model (or the modeler) a sense of completeness.

And now, for the first real challenge of this big model. All the small windows on the sides and the front of the fuselage come as separate pieces that have to be framed in the orifices in fuselage panels. All of these were oversized for the corresponding openings. Being an inherent optimist, I reasoned that this is still much better then if they were all undersized. I sanded, and then polished each clear piece in width, height and thickness. When this was done, one problem remained. How to attach and align single windows to the fuselage sides, only using thin sides as a bonding surface?  I fancied the idea of leaving this step for the end, after the painting is done, but rational part of me knew that there is a slim chance of doing this without ruining paint, or detail around the window. To further complicate the problem, there is full corrugation detail inside and out on all nose side panels. I don't consider myself a radical person, but at this instant I knew that there is no civilized way around it. I sanded the corrugation from all insides of fuselage panels, save the are of the open cockpit, where it will be most visible (luckily there are no windows there), then I positioned all the windows in their places, and did the unthinkable: poured superglue across inside surfaces and windows. Then, I waited for the glue to crystallize... While feeling unique sting of CA vapor in my nose, I wondered if I just destroyed the model. The fuselage side panels now resembled a landscape of volcanic islands, and all the windows were fogged. It was time for sand paper again. I rubbed, and I scrubbed, rubbed, and scrubbed, and started to realize that my plan had worked! The windows were now fused with the surrounding plastic, looking like there were there from the beginning. Finer grades of sand-paper and Tamiya rubbing compound brought the old shine and transparency back, and the job was done.

Fuselage

Similar to the big wing, fuselage is assembly of corrugated skins over the structure made of bulkheads and frames. It is again important that everything is aligned inside, for the outside to look symmetric, straight, and proper. Front and aft fuselage are separate assemblies and they meet with side panels, arching across the airfoil of the wing. I have built all the inside detail on the bottom panels of the fuselage, then glued the sides, and then assembled the front and the aft fuselage to the wing, before actually closing the top off. This was done, to allow access to the seams for running the glue from the inside (I tend to adhere to the previously proven methods, if I can).  By this time the process required a special applicator with a cotton micro-tip, bent such that it can reach inside corners.

Even with the greatest care, I found that the fuselage needed some side shims to form a air-tight connection with the wing. This is due to the fact that front and aft fuselage assemblies are already finished when everything comes together. I made these shims by sanding a piece of styrene stock to sharp edge on one side, then inserting it in the gap where the wing meets the fuselage side, and then tracing with a black pen along profile of the wing. I then cut this shape out, and with little trimming I had a perfect fitting insert, which actually ended up looking like another row of corrugation of the surface (this is visible on some construction images as the white stripe on port wing root). When glue dries, the structure is once again very rigid, which is in contrast to the number of fragile parts that it consists of.

When the fuselage front was fully assembled I tried to attach big faceted bombardiers glazing in the front.  It didn't fit right. It was wider then the fuselage sides. When I tried to adjust the shape by exposing it to hot water, it just warped, fogged, and then finally broke. Well, it was time for scratch-building again. Using Falcon acetate sheet I measured and then bent the facets for the front bit, and cut the bottom for this part out of flat piece of clear plastic from the spare box.

While I was at it, I built the windscreen for open cockpit using the same method. Part that came with the kit had a chipped corner.

Tail Surfaces

This is were I encountered second big problem. Both, vertical and horizontal tail surfaces have only point contact with the fuselage; on the real aircraft they were secured with rigging. While I planed to have functional rigging for the tail, I had to somehow attach the tail parts and manage not to brake fragile bond until the model is almost done.  Further, the horizontal tail piece in my kit was warped out of shape.  I am convinced that this piece of plastic was prematurely extracted from the mold, and then warped as it was cooling down. I once more tried the trick with hot water, this time with greater success. I managed to straighten the part in horizontal plain, without destroying surface detail. Then, I sanded down the hinge line for the elevators, to produce a straight line. I rebuilt the hinge detail, and also bored holes and attached two syringe  tubes axially to the root of the horizontal tail, to produce support with the adjacent fuselage bulkhead.

I needed to pre-drill a lot of small holes for future rigging, as well for the attachment of the tail skid, and all the tail mechanization lines. After this, the tail was assembled (I made another plastic shim where the top end of the fuselage panel meets with the horizontal tail). While preparing the tail skid elements, I replaced all the links with steel wire, and main skid oleo with piece of syringe needle. This gave more life, and much more stiffness to this spider-web contraption. Fruits of this labor were obvious much later, when everything got painted and assembled.

Functional rigging of the tail surfaces was done by threading nylon monofilament (sprayed in gun-metal) through pre-drilled holes and securing it with droplets of thin super-glue.

M-17 Engines

Four engines of the big bomber took a lot of time to build and detail. Three of them were built more or less from the box, but with more detail added on the back side of the radiator exit, where nacelle is open and allows some view to the engine. I also thinned out all exposed nacelle edges, as these parts are quite thick. Radiator back faces are provided as fine photo-etchings in Eduard set.

I decided to open up the top cowling of the inside port engine, and show it with the extended service platform. ICM kit engines are rudimentary, but that is sufficient if everything is left closed. I first intended to use resin Shvetsov engine from “Engines & Things” company, but this proved to be little more than what is in the kit already.  So, general scratch-building material was used again. 1:72 is not the ideal scale for making such small parts, as rocker levers, or oil pumps for engines, but with couple of good reference photos that I found on the web, and extra stock of patience, engine turned out pretty impressive.

I also drilled out ends of exhaust envelopes and attached them to the cylinders using steel pins. When this big job was done, it was time to feast on the service platform, which is given in Eduard set, as the multi-part photo-etched assembly.  This is a little jewel in itself, but it takes some skill to assemble. This part forms the leading edge of the wing in its closed position, and has complex curves to it. I used cylindrical surface of my pin vise to roll the parts around, and then carefully super-glued everything together.

Next were propellers.  I read several tips on the internet how to represent natural wood in plastic, but this was first time I was about to try it myself. It must have taken five tries before the results were satisfactory. But, it was worth it. So, here is the secret: airbrush a base coat of tan acryl color, and let it dry thoroughly. Next day, mix a wash of wood color using artist oils, and mineral spirit as a solvent. Mineral spirit won't attack acryl base coat, so you can hand brush layers of color and achieve very realistic wood grain. You have experiment a bit to find a good hew, but as an example I mixed yellow ochre, burnt sienna and burnt umber for this purpose (I even mixed tubes of different brands). As I said, it takes some practice but the result should be very pleasing.

Where Rubber Meets the Road

Main landing gear is another focus of interest on this extensive kit. Tandem main wheels with their buggies,  and long tripod legs look impressive right from the box. However, most photographs of TB-3 bombers show wheels with uncovered spokes, while the kit wheels are solid pieces. One of the highlights of Eduard set are spoke rings for main wheels. I gouged out halves of the kit wheels, leaving just the tires, and glued them together. I then filled the hole left inside the wheel rims with putty. The spokes required a lot of attention, as only a very thin ring comes to touch with plastic tire. Needles to say, super-glue is a weapon of choice here. I added spindles made of brass and assembled the supporting structure. On several photographs I noticed that tubular structure of swivel landing buggies seem to be black, or very dark color, in contrast to the light undersurface of the wing. I pained it black and then weathered it with earth tones.

I drilled small holes in all the junction points of the landing gear struts, and reinforced them with steel pins.  The swivel point between the wheel buggy and the main strut was also replaced with a syringe needle, but this was left unassembled to later fine tune the stance of a  finished model. The landing strut tripods were glued to the bottom of the wing. Finally, this big bird started to take shape.

I-16 Early Type-5

After reading and researching texts and pictures of  Zveno, I was certain to a high degree that only Polikarpov I-16 Type 4 and early Type 5 were used before the war started. Most pictures show Zveno-6 layout with older Type-4 fighters, but others also show Type-5 being released from the air from the TB-3/M-17 mother-ships. It is easy to conclude that these replaced Type-4 models in later years of the project. On the other hand, ICM provides two Type 24 fighters, for their “SPB” version. Since my decision was to be historically accurate as much as I can, I had to backdate small kits to represent pre 1938 Type 5 variant. For one part this implied deleting surface details, but there are also some major differences that required greater attention. For example, early Type-5 aircraft had full span ailerons, where the later models had shortened version. I just re-scribed the extra length of ailerons, when the wing was assembled. Other changes were harder to make. Early models had 8 exhaust outlets, while later models had 6. Propeller spinners also differed in a manner where sand paper alone could not solve the problem. Not to mention sliding enclosed canopy on the early models...

When I have question about something old, Russian, and flying, I usually ask my friend Erik Pilawskii about it. He is as much as one can get a walking encyclopedia about obscure objects with red stars on them. Well, when I asked him about above mentioned problem, he recommended getting A-Model kits of early I-16 Type 5 that are very accurate. I found these cheap, and got two. While they are indeed very accurate, they also look crude compared to the nice plastic in the ICM kit. The sliding canopies are thicker than what I would expect T-34 armor to be in this scale. I decided to use all the necessary parts from A-Model boxes to backdate ICM kits. The bottom cowling panel was cut from the wing, and modified to fit properly, and  spinners were separated from the propeller blades, and gouged to accept a new propeller.

In the mean time I managed to convince my other good friend, Aleksej from Gremlin Models, to help me with the canopies. I've sent him one of the clear bits from A-Model kit along with some scale drawings of I-16 early Type-5 that I found on the web, and what came back was a dozen, or so heat-and-smash canopies along with vinyl masks for framing, and for correct outer wing ribs! I don't know how Aleksej does this, but he does it really good. If you haven't seen size of this canopy in 1:72 scale, it is minute, and you can barely manipulate it with tips of your fingers. Now, imagine doing butterfly shape framing right on top of it.

With all the problems solved, I proceeded to modify the kit. I drilled pairs of holes on top of the fuselage, in front of the cockpit. This is to allow some natural light to penetrate to deeply recessed instrument panel. I also made rails for the sliding canopy from the styrene string, and scratch-built telescopic gun sights from syringe needle, and some brass sheet. ICM kit provided very detailed radial engine, so I decided to leave some cowling panels open on one of the fighters. I added details to the engine compartment, like push rods made of steel wire, and exhaust stubs from (again) syringe needle (people in the drug-store always look at me with the great suspicion when I ask for large quantities of syringe needles of different diameters).

When two fighters were assembled it was time to position them under the wing of TB-3 and build the support structure. Plastic struts given in the box looked too thick, yet fragile, and furthermore they were with profiled cross-section. While this is correct for later SPB composites, Zveno-6 had simple tubular trusses. I used kit pieces just for approximate measure of length, and made new ones using steel wire.  This was one of the most time consuming steps, as the trusses had to be made perfectly symmetric, and to the right dimensions. When I-16 fighters are suspended, they have to be aligned in all three axes, to one another , and with the big carrier. They have to appear horizontal, while hanging from the wing that has pronounced dihedral.  All this can be better described with this picture of the model during one of the final test fittings.

I added fuel, and oil valves on the starboard sides of the fuselage, and little “Ratas” were done.

Last Details

Several times while working on this model I was tricked to believe that I am almost done. Once again, there were more things to be finished. All over the surface of TB-3 there is a multitude of small details: hand grip railing, radio antenna poles, melon antenna in front of the main windscreen, several pitot, and venturi tubes, and to top it all, a miniature power generator.  The wire for the main radio antenna was once again sourced from the nylon monofilament, sprayed with gun-metal paint.

After long, rigorous course of following historical facts, at this point I finally yielded  to the call of artistic freedom. Most photos show Zveno flights to be unarmed, with guns taken from defensive positions of the bomber, as well from I-16 fighters. But the gun rings provided in the ICM kit, as well additional photo-etched detail provided for them in the Eduard set, were to good do be ignored. I decided to call my model an ultimate pre-production Zveno-6, all dressed up, and ready to go. After finishing defensive positions of the TB-3, I knew I made the right decision.

Finally the time has come to apply some paint. But, before that, mask all the glazing and openings...

Jack In The Green

If you like elaborate camouflages and colorful markings, look elsewhere. Zveno’s were big, rectangular, and irritatingly bright green. It is that elusive shade of AII Green that nobody knows how to match. Nobody but Erik Pilawskii. He kindly provided me with exact RGB definition for colors used on this model, so I was able to happily mix my own brew from U.S. Interior Green, some Neutral Gray, and a drop of White. Underside surfaces were painted with Russian Underside Blue (Model Master bottle), with a tad of French Blue added to the mix. The I-16 fighters are more of the same color, with cowls painted black.

I started painting process by spraying the whole surface of TB-3 with light gray acryl primer. This was done to reveal any remaining surface imperfections, but also to provide nice high contrast base for pre-shading with black. Black paint was sprayed along  panel lines, hinges, and especially around, and behind engine nacelles. I then started applying undersurface blue, starting from the middle of the panels, and working my way towards the edges. This allows for controllable variation of weathering finishes, from extensive to subtle.  When the underside was dry, I masked the demarcation line and sprayed AII Green on upper surfaces, using same technique.

With the model of this size, handling becomes a problem. I made a rig, consisting of a big Styrofoam base, and padding foam cubes, for wing and tail supports. In this way I was able to handle and rotate the base without touching the model.

Applying stars on TB-3 corrugated surfaces proved to be a challenge. Early in the construction I realized that I won't use kit decals. They were printed in some orange hue, stars were not symmetrical, and they simply wouldn't conform even to the mild curves. After few tests with different spare decals, it was clear that the stars have to be painted on.  I designed stars of the right size using a computer, and then printed these outlines on the back of the sticker backing paper. I peeled of and disposed of the sticker surface,  and then carefully applied 3M tape on its place, over the exposed glossy backing, taking care that the tape fully covers the area where the stars are printed on the back. Several layers of the tape were needed to cover everything.  I cut out the star masks following the outline, applied them to the surface of the model, sprayed red color, and removed the masks. The result, well you can judge for yourself.

More weathering was done with thinned over-sprays of lightened base color, and some dark browns for exhaust streaks behind engines. I also applied washes of browns along some panel lines, and along control surfaces, adding spill-outs of fuel and hydraulic fluid where appropriate. Final touch was paint chipping, which I did using thinned silver paint applied with a “0” brush. This proved to be an overdone effect in 1:72 scale, so I made another transparent spray of base AII Green that subdued the look. The TB-3 was done.

For I-16 fighters I made same steps as with the big bomber. Of course, process was much quicker this time around.  Gremlin Models wing masks worked very well. One thick spray of Gray was applied with the masks on, and then they were removed. After lightly polishing newly established detail, final coat of paint was sprayed. Subtle ribbing detail is visible, even beneath decals.

The stars for the fighters came from spare decal sheets, and I applied them to under-wing surfaces and sides of the fuselage. With some more weathering I-16s were done too.

Final assembly of small parts included canopies, propellers, gun rings for the bomber, and then I permanently attached fighters to the suspension trusses bellow the wing of TB-3. I fashioned  oil and fuel hoses from insulated wire painted dark gray, and attached them with drops of super-glue.

I pulled back in the chair, and took a deep breath, still smelling curing solvents in the air.

 
In The End

Sometimes I run into a book, a novel, and when I start reading it I cannot stop. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is a sensation worth cherishing.  The world of the novel fuses with the outside world, and for a while I am living in two realms. Working on this model, and researching surrounding history gave me similar feeling.

Eight months passed since I first opened the ICM box. Now, I was again looking in the same box, checking through the remaining sprues, for anything forgotten. I felt satisfaction, relief, but also sadness that this journey is at its end. Model was done, and displayed in the big glass cabinet. It was time to clean the work bench.

This was so far the biggest modeling project for me. I tried a number of techniques for the first time, maybe I even invented a couple. I returned to 1:72 scale after many years. Despite its limitation, it provides great possibilities for subjects that would be really hard to manage in bigger scales.

I would also like to mention couple of people, whose help and enthusiasm were much welcomed during this project. Erik Pilawskii, who I consider a kind friend, provided his knowledge and expertise on several occasions.  Aleksej Ilic, form Gremlin Models, is another old friend, and this time he stretched across the ocean, and provided some amazing hand-made vinyl masks and acetate canopies. Thank you both.

ICM 1:72 Zveno is not easy kit to build, and it is far from perfect, but it is one that can turn into a precious stone if one polishes all its facets. Scale modeling for me is about patience and attention to detail, and this model requires both, in abundance. It is a real treasure for adventurous souls.
 

References