Wave’s 1/20 Ma. K SAFS: A Big Grin And A Lot Of Fun

I will freely admit, the Maschinen Krieger bug has bitten me. 

When I’d first switched over to doing more scifi kits, I’d not felt the draw to build them. Photos posted by other artists looked great, and I appreciated their work. But that feeling modelers so often get – “Hey! I have to build that!” – never really came over me.

Eventually I decided I may as well build one, just to see what all the fuss was about. Though I’d actually ordered this Wave 1/20 SAFS kit first, I opted to start on a later purchase, the New Rally Pawn.

When all of the debris stopped falling, Klaus knew he was in trouble.

It had all been going well. A deep strike into merc territory had yielded good results. The operation had moved into a mopping up phase, in fact. Gains were being consolidated, forces reorganized, and the prospect of a hot meal had even loomed in his mind.

Then the counterattack began. 

Though I really enjoyed the Pawn kit, finishing it left me with two thoughts. 

First, I’d learned a lot about working with the Ma. K aesthetic from that build. It wasn’t that I wanted to necessarily clone everything I’d seen. But I did feel to learn about a genre, to fully appreciate its universe, it would be helpful to stick within canon for a bit.

The second takeaway was a little more fundamental. I’d greatly enjoyed it. Though I had some fits and starts of my own doing, in the end, I had a lot of fun. And that’s the key.

Thus I quickly moved right into construction of the SAFS. (Super Armored Fighting Suit… which differentiates it from the Armored Fighting Suit. Because super, duh… 😉

It wasn’t that the tactic was unexpected. The planners knew such a bold incursion would get a response. In fact, it was planned that way – to draw out the merc forces, hoping for a more set battle that would favor SDR forces. But no one anticipated the numbers, coordination, and most disconcerting – the ferocity.

Several days of the hardest fighting most of them had known up until this time ensued. The SDK losses mounted. Communication was almost nonexistent. Fighting devolved into small pockets of fierce destruction simply to survive.

Looking at his status monitor, Klaus contemplated all this in light of his present situation. He’d been moving to what appeared to be better cover, wanting to get a good firing position to support his comrades. What appeared to be an entrance into a partially collapsed warehouse held a hidden danger, however. A basement.

The kit itself builds up very quickly. Within a short time, I had the full suit built up. In a previous blog entry, I covered getting it to the point of a base coat of paint.

I’d covered over the polycap joints with Milliput, which not only gave a better foundation for painting, but also locked everything in place. While I appreciate being able to articulate the “stompy robot” genres, the traditional modeler in me prefers a fixed pose. It’s easier to paint, and if nothing moves, no paints get scraped off.

As he’d moved into the warehouse, what looked to be a pile of debris on the floor was actually sections of the collapsed roof suspended tenuously over a large hole. Stepping around the debris to position himself behind the remains of a wall, it had given way.

The resulting fall left him in a world of trouble. Warning indicators were flashing. One leg refused to move. He’d ended up laying partially on his side, feet higher than his head. Staring into the gaping hole above, the situation was grimly apparent.

Get up and move, or die right there.

Beware Of Sharks

I’d had an idea to add some sort of “artwork” to the model. While the kit came with a few nice looking decals – including a hilarious “walking egg”, I wanted something large, bold, and dramatic. I searched through the stacks of airplane decals I have, but none looked like they’d fit. What I really wanted was an American Volunteer Group (the Flying Tigers) shark’s mouth. I’ve always thought it looked pretty cool, and the shape of the “egg” that is the upper torso of the SAFS seemed to call out for it.

But with no decal, I was hesitant. I’d never painted any custom artwork before. On any kit. Still… my desire to “make it look cool” overrode my fear of messing it up. Grabbing a mecahnical pencil, I lightly drew on the outline of what I wanted.

Explosions and the glow of fire from above told him his time was running short. They’d been in retreat from the merc forces, covering each other in as orderly a withdrawal as possible under the circumstances. Given the way things had been going, he could only assume that the renewed explosions meant another comrade down.

Then he heard it.


Several other SDK pilots had made frantic radio calls about it. Because of the merc frequency jamming, the calls had been broken and distorted. But clearly, they said they heard music.

Generally just before their demise.

Now Klaus heard it. What was the point of playing music? Some psyop ploy? Or simply a madman?

My first attempt wasn’t very good. It was at that point I happily discovered I could erase the lines easily, without damaging the underlying paint or texture. So I made a few more adjustments. Eventually I arrived at a design I liked.

I opted for simple colors – white, black gray, and dark red, all from various Vallejo paint lines. Starting with the white, I carefully blocked in the teeth and eyes. I made sure the paint was thin enough to flow easily, but I did unload much of it from the brush onto a paper towel. I really wanted as much control as possible from the paint. 

It took a few coats, but my #0 liner brush was up to the task, though I’m not sure my shaky hand was. There were a few jagged edges here and there, but I hoped later colors could clean those up.

Ignoring the ominous sounds, he began frantically running diagnostics, attempting to reroute power so he could at least get up and move. Desperation set in, as he realized that every effort seemed to only bring more warning lights flashing angrily before him.

The music stopped. 

A scattering of dust and debris descended on him from above. Straining to look up, he saw the familiar shape of a merc SAFS above him, silhouetted against the smoke filled night. The glow of fire outside cast an ominous, dancing shadow.

Jumping down from above, the merc landed just off to Klaus’ side. Helpless as he was, little could be done other than continue his attempts to get the suit righted. 

The music started again. Loud, distinct, and strange. A droning bass sound – did he hear a siren? What was this madman listening to? Music from the past, long ago forgotten? A brief pause… then – was there singing?

The white was followed by the red of the “tongue”, again carefully painted with the same brush. I felt a bit more relaxed as I went on, and was fairly happy with the results. 

The next step was adding in the black gray color. The hardest part there was getting a reasonably clean edge for the outline of the whole thing. While I wanted the face to definitely look like pilot applied art, I also didn’t want it to look like pilot applied art while dancing in a drunken manner during an earthquake. 🙂

After a few harrowing moments of shallow breathing, the black gray was on.

And while I’m normally reluctant to declare “that looks good” about my own work, I thought “that looks good”. (Although I did give myself the caveat of “for a first attempt… 😉 )

The final step was to add two small red dots in the eyes for pupils.

The final look is a little less menacing than I hoped for, but I suppose it could fall under “maniacally intimidating”. Either way, I thought it looked cool.

“Generals gathered in their masses….
Just like witches at black masses…”

Klaus had no idea why this merc fellow was simply standing there playing music… but he knew it gave him time. A few lights began to show green. Moving his hands swiftly at the controls, he continued his work, pleading with the suit, coaxing it to respond. More green lights. If it could just get roll to one side, he might be able to get a shot.

“Politicians hide themselves away
They only started the war
Why should they go out to fight?
They leave that role for the poor, yeah….”

And Now… The Weathering

With the artwork in place, I added a few decals. I considered going with the various warning labels and stencils supplied with the kit, but ultimately decided to simply use a subdued number “2” in three locations. I figured as long as I took the time to paint that darn shark face, I wanted it to be the center of attention. 🙂

I’d not given the model a gloss coat for the decals, opting instead for the “Future puddle” method. This is done by placing a small dot of Future where the decal is to be placed. When the decal is applied over it, the Future spreads underneath. Excess is wiped up with a cotton bud. Careful application avoids silvering, but leaves the surface of the model matt – perfect for follow on weathering when a more “grippy” surface is wanted.

Grabbing a few enamel wash products, I applied what I’d describe as a “varied filter wash.” I slopped on a few grimy colors, spreading them around. I wanted a filter-type effect, to draw all the colors together, and to impart a heavy, war-weary look. But I also wanted to start enhancing the panel lines. So I can’t quite call it an application technique. I’d best describe it as “controlled sloppiness.”

Klaus’ suit started to move, and then the green lights went red again. More warning flashes. Desperate, Klaus began stabbing at the buttons and knobs, his efforts now hampered by panic. “NO! It will not end like this!” He’d always heard of life flashing before one’s eyes at the end, but all he saw was the incessant warning lights, telling him time was about up. A tough man, hardened in battle, faced his end. “Yeah, some hero you are.” Tears welled in his eyes. But give up he did not. Then…

All power went out. 

Breathing became shallow. There was nothing left to do. Perhaps if he got out… gave himself up? No… he knew no one in this battle gave – or asked – for any mercy.

The lyrics jolted him.

When that had enough time to dry, I began  chipping the suit. I used the sponge method for the first application, using darker gray acrylic color. As I too often do with my chipping, I went a bit overboard – or so I thought at the time. As later weathering steps were applied, however, the chips seemed to blend in, and the result – to my eye, at least – is actually a bit less chippy than I’d really wanted. It did reinforce a weathering lesson I’ve learned many times. Later weathering steps can hide a lot of early weathering missteps. With some luck… 😉

With the chipping in place, I began a process of adding various streaks, grime, and other insults to the model. I’d started using enamel products, but being concerned with the time it was taking to dry, I dropped back to a new method for me, acrylic weathering.

Working from the “additive” principle, rather the typical “subtractive” for oils and enamels, I started layering up various black, brown, and gray grimy colors. At first, it looked pretty awful. I was becoming concerned I’d made a bad choice. But as I continued to add layers, it started to look more cohesive, and actually began to show what I thought looked like depth.

“Now in darkness world stops turning,
Ashes where the bodies burning
No more War Pigs have the power…”

He strained once again to look out of the suits canopy. Why didn’t the fellow just get it over with? Why this mind game?

In the glowing light, he saw his opponent, standing almost over him. As his eyes further adjusted to the flickering light from above, a cold chill ran up his spine. A giant, grinning shark’s mouth confronted him, hideously. The merc pilot must have painted it on his suit.

An Acrylic Lab

When I felt the acrylic washes and stains were sufficient, I grabbed some newly acquired Vallejo Pigments. While I have used pigments quite a bit in the past, I’ve never actually purchased pigments, opting for homemade pastel chalk shavings. As I’ve decided to make more use of them, however, I felt that buying some commercially produced ones was in order.

I began applying them wet, dampening the surface of the model with water, and then adding a “slurry” of powder and water. At first, I thought I’d gone way too heavy. However, as it dried, the effect toned down quite a bit. 

As I continued to work, it dawned on me that powders work much like oils. They can be applied easily, and then later reactivated to be worked again. The difference being, of course, that the water dries really fast, and the work/dry/reactivate cycle can be squeezed into minutes, rather than days. Yet they also have the flexibility to be reactivated days later – as long as no varnish coat has been applied to seal them in.

So though I have used powders many times, I’ve never done so to this level, and was quite enjoying the experiments. Eventually, I simply stopped because I needed to get the model finished and photographed!

“Just shoot, you demon! Just shoot!” Klaus’ screams echoed inside his suit. No one could hear him. All he could hear was the music. Sweat pored from his brow in great torrents, as his eyes bulged in terrified anticipation of the next few seconds.

“Hand of God has struck the hour
Day of judgement, God is calling
On their knees the war pigs crawling,
Begging mercies for their sins
Satan, laughing, spreads his wings
Oh Lord yeah….”

A few more stains, streaks, dots, and smears were added here and there. A final matt coat was applied. The last step was to add a few glossy streaks around the engine to simulate petrol and oil, freshly spilled. Or leaked. Whatever the imagination dictates.

While I enjoyed the New Rally Pawn, I can say this SAFS model really sold me as a fan of the genre. It was one of those rare builds that I did not want to end. While I’d certainly not hold my completed work as anything special in and of itself, I do think it fits within the Ma. K style – exactly what I was hoping for. More importantly, it helped me learn further lessons on a variety of fronts, including quite a bit about acrylic weathering products.

If you’re already building Maschinen Krieger kits, I don’t have to sell you on them. If you’ve not built one, consider doing so. They’re easily assembled, look pretty cool, and invite great freedom of expression in finish.

And for a great starting point into the genre, I can highly recommend this SAFS kit!

The SAFS emerged from the  pit. Behind it, the glow of a fire from the basement, secondary explosions booming in the night. The merc pilot paused in a shadow. Looking down at his monitor, his index finger deftly manipulated a play list. The selection was made.

“Yeah… that one will do. Rock on, dude.”

He moved off into the night, the fires from his enemie’s remains illuminating the grin on his suit. He tapped his foot, quietly drumming in time with the thumping music. His pulse quickened at the guitar’s riff. The lyrics, quietly on his lips…

“You take a mortal man
And put him in control
Watch him become a god
Watch people’s heads a’roll….”

4 responses to “Wave’s 1/20 Ma. K SAFS: A Big Grin And A Lot Of Fun”

  1. Hi Jon, well done and welcome down the Ma.K slide!! He he! I know exactly what you mean about the bug biting, I also started with the ASFS, went on to the SAFS and then kept going. Even after starting to work in the Ma.K Studio in Tokyo, I was a little “hesitant” about some of the designs and finishes. Some looked too rough and some I simply didn’t understand – yet. It’s a builders and painters genre, all of the models having been made by one man’s set of hands and are in reality, all 1:1 Kow Yokoyama Sensei creations and I think the way you are doing it, learning by building and painting, is the best way to experience Maschinen Krieger. It’s not simply something to look at but something we as craftsman need to hold in our hands to understand.

    Congratulations on the excellent finish and look forward to more from you buddy!!



    1. Thanks so much Linc! Very encouraging – I am most grateful! 🙂


  2. This is far and away my favorite thing you’ve made. I’ve seen a hooded sweatshirt like this somewhere, I’m sure of it.


    1. Ha! That’s right! It sure does look like it! 🙂

      Thanks for reading my blog!


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