by: Matthew Quiroz [ ]
OrangeHobby is a new aftermarket manufacturer of PE and other accessories. Their set for the Dragon StuG IV (#6520) Schürzen was provided to me for this review. Let me preface this by saying this was by no means an easy review or build for me. Your mileage may vary. I do not want to bash this accessory, but this is one of the most labor intensive endeavors I have tackled in a long, long while and it isn’t all that big a set.
What you get in this particular set is—
• Three frets of PE brass and associated hangers and attachment points to fit the Dragon Models Stug IV early, Kit #6520
• Stencil set for vehicle # 224 and associated crosses
• Small baggie of micro-mini turned brass bolts
• Instruction sheet
The Orange Hobby side skirts for the Dragon Stug IV (6520) looked great on the frets. I checked over the instructions before I began and thought this would be an easy addition for my Stug. That was mistake #1. There was nothing easy about it. I decided to start with the fender brackets… this would come back to bite me later, but I digress. The instructions called for removing the molded-on brackets from the DML kit’s fenders, then to use the included marking/layout guide to place the PE ones on. I snipped off the brackets and sanded the resulting fender edges smooth to accept the new PE offerings.
I used a set of digital calipers to establish where the PE hangers were to go based on the spacing diagram at the top of the instructions, and marked the areas on the fenders in pencil. Well, the second bracket to go on should have been listed as part E6, but it was listed as C6, which is what I removed from the fret. It didn’t look right to me, and being the guy that I am, I made it look right. Which was mistake #2. The bracket I cut down was actually one of the angled hangers from the hull to the side skirt railing, so I was now one short. To make matters worse, I had removed and assembled the wrong hanger rail… even going so far as to solder it. I got the remainder of the fender brackets bent to shape and installed using CA glue. I then decided to continue with this particular rail and leave the fender brackets in place to see how they matched up with the PE skirts.
Frustrated as I was, I continued. I located the correct rail, and got it also soldered together using my Panavise to hold the railing in place while I attached the mounting teeth. This rail will get installed at a later date with the remainder of the skirts and associated brackets. I flipped the instructions over and tried to make heads or tails of what skirts went on what side. I clipped those particular skirts that looked to be correct off, and began assembling them. Turns out, I was building the wrong ones…
Would anything ever go right?
Backtracking I found the skirts I needed and began getting them assembled. There are a lot of parts for just one of the square skirts found midway along the length of the vehicle: nine pieces, including two extremely small bolts that are inserted through the smaller inner skirt into the outer skirt. Now… this is where my patience was really put to the test. The holes in the skirts for said brass bolts are the exact diameter of the bolts. There is no wiggle room. Either it goes in the hole perfectly, or it doesn’t go in… period. In my case 4 bolts immediately departed without filing flight plans. I have no earthly idea where they ended up, as I neither saw nor heard them hit. I decided I would address this later.
At this point the Stug was set aside before it went through similar flight trials. I rarely get this upset with a build, so it was not a good day to be modeling, so I took a break. I would return to it another day.
And return I did.
All together, I spent the better part of four days soldering the skirts up. This is just one side mind you. It was that time-consuming. “Why solder and not CA glue” you may be asking? The simple answer is strength. I have had CA come apart at the most inopportune times. Rarely have I had that happen with solder. There were a few setbacks with the soldering, and that was my own doing, but once I figured out what was going to work and what wasn’t, things went considerably smoother.
The ugly mess I made on the skirts is evidence, but I cleaned them up as best I could and continued. I used a small piece of yellow tack to hold the parts for soldering, and formed the hangers into their shape using my PE bending press. These pieces were then pressed into the tack, a small amount of flux added, the two smaller inner braces added, and then a small dab of solder was touched to the joint. They are not 100% straight and true, but unless the vehicle being modeled came straight off the factory floor, I doubt they would be. Suffice to say, mine won’t be once I get back to it.
Now, remember the fender hangers I installed initially? Apparently I should have waited until I had the skirts and the hanging rail assembled and installed before adding them, as the skirts don’t exactly fit the way they should. They slide over the teeth on the rails, but the fender brackets are a bit “off.” If I had to do over again, I would assemble the rails first and mount them to the upper hull, then assemble the skirts themselves, adding the brackets to the skirts, then using them as the template for installing the teeth on the rails. The skirts should overlap front to back. Most of mine do, but there is one that is almost flush with its neighbor and looks a bit “off” for lack of a better word.
Once all the teeth on the rails were in place, I would then hang the skirts the way they are to be laid out, and use a pencil or fine sharpie to mark the location on the fender for the fender brackets. That is if I was going to use the PE fenders brackets to begin with. The ones molded on the kit look fine to my eye. I’ll use the remaining ones I have just to keep things even. I may even go back and “unsolder” some things to get a better fit and alignment.
Could I have avoided a lot of problems with this set? Probably. I should have questioned the incorrect part call-out at the beginning, and not cut the listed part down-to-size, which would have saved me some hair pulling later. But the bolts are a real nightmare; I was able to get four of them installed into the side skirts themselves by drilling out the mounting holes in the corresponding skirts. However, there are many more that are provided to attach the hanging rail to the side hangers, and the side hangers to the vehicle. Those particular points are very thin and fragile, and a drill would chew things up in a hurry, making for an even nastier mess. I think the simple solution is to just leave the bolts off, and use cut pieces of hex rod in their place. There are a lot of small parts that connect to even more small parts via these bolts. Is it cool looking? You bet. Was I able to pull it off? Not a snowball’s chance in hell.
I am a fairly proficient builder, but this one had me cussing almost the entire time I was at it. Look at the included pictures to better understand the size of the bolts. That is a standard #11 blade, and the tips of my surgical tweezers in the frame with them. In a couple of the pictures, you can see the size of the holes in the skirts. Both inner and outer skirts first had to be lined up, and then the bolt passed through. I managed to get one through, and then the skirts came apart. That’s when that particular bolt went to the Great Unknown where all our single black socks seem to migrate to over time. A difficult procedure to say the least.
If you purchase this set, read, read, read and re-read the instructions, as they are very busy and can get confusing— as evidenced by my go at things. Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time in assembling the hangers and skirts. Now, all is not doom and gloom with the set. The hangers on the skirts feature the correct dual mounting slots for skirts used with the Winterketten, the wide duck-billed tracks designed to help German tanks in the deep snow of the Eastern Front. These second mountings would allow the skirts to be pushed out away from the wider tracks to prevent them from fouling on the extensions. A nice detail, even if it was tedious to assemble. The skirts and mounting rail feature position marks where the mounting brackets and teeth are to be installed, too. It was tricky getting the parts to stay put while soldering, but I figured out an effective method to do so: a little dab of flux placed on the location, then the part placed on the flux. The flux acted like temporary glue and kept it in place while the solder worked its way around the join area when touched to the two pieces.
Unfortunately I didn’t figure this out until I was almost finished my build. In my example picture, I am not soldering anything together, but merely showing how I used the yellow tack to hold things. It worked really well, and I can go back and fix my goofs later. There is a nice vehicle stencil and crosses included with this set that could be used for other builds, too.
So, to recap:
1.) Read the instructions thoroughly. Then read them again.
2.) The part listed as C6 for the fender hanger should be E6. I circled it on the instructions.
3.) Hex rod instead of the turned brass bolts, unless you are really brave and have a means of keeping them out of orbit.
4.) Install the fender hangers after the skirts and hanging rail are assembled and installed.
5.) Use the skirts with the brackets installed as a marking guide for the teeth on the rail, and for the fender hangers.
6.) Be patient and take your time…. lots of time.
While this build/review was frustrating, it was also very enlightening for me, and taught me to take considerably more time with things, and not to take the instructions at their word. I can recover the goofs I made on this (save for the hacked up bracket), but I will write that off as a learning experience. Some battle damage will cover things up when the time comes… or I might use some styrene and scratch-build a new one. Time will tell. I hope this little tidbit didn’t scare any of you off, only made you more aware of what you are getting into should you decide to undertake this particular set.