Though I built all sorts of models growing up, I had a sort of “fallback” group of kits that showed up quite frequently on my shelves. Monogram had a line of 1/72 scale aircraft kits that were quite simple in design, but looked very good. The best part was they were only about 99¢ each – a critical fact when your source of income was quite often finding glass bottles by the roads. Turning those bottles in yielded a nickel… or was it a dime? It’s been so many years I can recall.
I recall one time in particular. A neighbor had a weekend party, and my family had been invited. We went over for a few burgers, and I noticed that everyone was drinking Coke from the bottles, the way the good Lord intended. It was also not lost on me that those bottles were going right into the trash cans.
Being an enterprising young man, I did the sensible thing. Later that night, I crawled out of my window, and rooted through their garbage. I only woke them up a few times, each incident being marked by the husband coming outside with a golf club to chase away “that danged raccoon”. Oddly, the raccoon politely replaced the lids, and left no mess.
Aside from the clank of the bottles as they were finally dragged away in an old Army duffle bag, no one was the wiser. And all the while I knew that every ten bottles would equal a kit from Woolworths, with a bottle thrown in now and again for the tax.
The Appeal Of The Little Kit
There was a lot to like about those little kits. The variety was quite good, with several mid-war biplanes, WWII fighters, and a decent variety of post-war aircraft. The boxes were not very big, and at the time of my youth, featured a photo of the built model. While many of my friends liked the action shots shown on some models, I liked the picture. I’d quite often use it as a reference as I attempted to paint my model.
I think my favorite was the P-36 Hawk. A diminutive little airplane with just a few parts, it nonetheless looked every bit the part of the real thing. The kit was molded in silver plastic, so little paint was needed. It had a cool set of decals, with an American Indian Chief decoration on each side of the fuselage, and “U.S Army” boldly plastered across the underside of the wings.
The kit even came with a little stand so the model could be displayed as if it were flying. I built more than a few of those Hawk kits, as well as the other “small box” kits. Even when money was very tight, those glass bottles kept me building.
More Than Just Cheap
I don’t know that I’d have been able to express it this way, but the kits had a greater value that went far beyond the small price point. Because of their simple design and easy construction, the provided a great amount of “instant” fun, pound for pound… so to speak.
While I always enjoyed building larger and more complex kits, those models took more time. Even with the simple methods I used to finish my builds at the time, a bigger kit simply required more effort. And when you’re 10 years old, sometimes the need was not so much for an enriching build experience, but air support for your plastic army. Five dollars worth of P-36 Hawks could knock over quite a few plastic baddies!
And there were more than a few times that my friends and I would pool our money, and buy a few small stacks of kits. Just like in later years when we would sit at McDonalds, pile up several orders of large fries, and talk about the things teen boys will, our younger versions did the same. I can fondly recall sitting in my carport, the models stacked up in the middle, and my friends and I circled around. Building models, and talking about whatever it was in our world that came to mind.
Not Cheap, But…
Since “discovering” Citadel Warhammer kits back in late 2017, I have enjoyed every one of the kits I’ve built from that franchise. Whether big or small, they offer quite a variety of types, each with enough detail to keep any modeler satisfied with the painting and weathering experience.
They are not cheap, however, so it will take quite a bit of bottle collecting to pick up a 40K model. However, there are enough options available in the $30-$50 range that a modeler can have plenty of fun.
When I saw this Tau Commander kit, I was immediately drawn to it. Though only a little taller than a standard Bic lighter, it offered everything I’d liked about those small Monogram kits… aside from the cost of course.
Assembly is simple, fit is good, it looks cool, and painting is quite fun. But nothing special is required – just a brush or two and some paints.
Initial Assembly And Base Paint
After cleaning up the kit’s nubs and seam lines, I assembled a few sections. Torso, legs, arms, head, guns, and jet packs were all left separate. This would make painting easier across the suit.
The white parts were given a coat of Mr. Color Gundam Color MS White. While most 40K builds start with primer, the Mr. Color paints are lacquer, and thus hot enough to adhere nicely, and act as a primer for any later acrylic paints.
Gray parts were brush painted with a few thin coats of Vallejo Model Color Neutral Gray, and the black parts with VMC Black Gray. Gold areas were given a coat of Citadel’s Retributor Gold, and the head was painted with Vallejo Game Color Gory Red. Black areas were edge highlighted with the Neutral Gray, and the head unit with Citadel Wild Rider Red. Recessed detail and other relief was shaded with Citadel Nuln Oil, and then any boo-boos were cleaned up as needed.
All sub-assemblies were brought together at this point, glued on with Tamiya Extra Thin Cement.
The Weathering Stuff
I wanted the model to appear used, but not dirty, almost as if it was newly deployed to whatever grim, dark planet it was on.
The chipping was first, with the gray areas being heavily chipped with VMC Cold Gray paint. The white areas followed, with the Black Gray paint being applied, using the edge of a flat brush for precise control..
Some initial oil and grime staining was applied with various Vallejo acrylic weathering products. I like to use fast drying acrylics as a sort of base to the weathering. It provides areas of opacity for later oils to be applied over, but without a lot of wait time. A bit of Vallejo Model Wash was applied to the feet, to give it a slightly dirty look.
Over those acrylics some oils were applied. Ammo of Mig’s Starship Filth Oilbrusher was used, and I dabbed it on fairly liberally around most of the vents, openings and joints on the suit. Odorless thinner was used to blend all of it a bit, though not too precisely to allow things to flow and mingle. After allowing a bit of time to dry – just an hour or so – I went back and did adjustments to the oil stains to further blend them and make them look a bit more organic to the model.
The final step was to give the model a good “once over”, looking for any final details that needed to be touched up.
All About That Base
The kit comes with a simple base. I started the “dress up” process by adding some Milliput “lumps to the surface, and then pressed some small rocks and gravel from the yard into that. Once allowed to dry, it was all primed with Tamiya Primer from a rattle can.
Vallejo Earth Texture was applied in a fairly thick fashion over the base, giving it a very lumpy appearance. VMC Mahogany Brown was painted over the whole surface initially, and then given a heavy wash of Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade. All was then drybrushed with various rusty orange acrylics.
Vallejo Game Color inks were then thinned with water and applied over the base, with orange being used on the ground, red on the rocks, and purple in the crevices. A bit of “slime” was then added, composed of Vallejo Model Wash Dark Green and Future floor polish to give a wet look. This was dabbed on to appear as if it were flowing from the various crevices.
Recapturing Good Times
Though the price points are certainly higher, these smaller Citadel Warhammer kits really do take me back to the days of my youth when I was told what it was to be a modeler. They don’t require much assembly time, little cleanup, and can be painted and weathered to a decent level in an afternoon if you are so inclined.
Playing the game is certainly not a requirement either. I’ve been a bit astonished at the number of people I talk to who think that either to build you must play the game, or are surprised that I build and don’t play the game. While they are made for gaming, they are first and foremost science fiction models, and in that regard are some of the best available on the market.
I’m really happy with how this little Tau XV86 Coldstar Battlesuit turned out. Though small, it gave me quite a few hours of enjoyment. It has a look that pleases the 10-year-old kid in me, and even though it cost more than my old Monogram kits, I think the value proposition was worth it.
Give one a try – I think you’ll enjoy it!
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