As many of you are sure to know, Amazon.com was running a nice clearance sale on Gundam kits for a while... Master Grades for $10-$20 and even a PG Wing Zero for $20... Needless to say I used the opportunity to buy a bunch of kits. A lot of people don't seem to like the original Master Grades much, due to limited posability, alignment problems, and overall construction which is more like a modern high grade kit rather than a MG. But getting my hands on a bunch of these old MG kits has given me a new appreciation for them. Anime kits from the 1980s usually had enough parts to build the subject and not much more - in contrast modern MG kits usually have at least twice as many parts as they really need, as they include parts for a whole interior framework which, in the end, adds no value to the model. I've found I really enjoy the relative simplicity of these old kits. Despite the exciting bargains going on, I decided to get just one of the MG Zakus (I already had a MG Char's Zaku anyway) - I've decided that I want to convert it to the version from the 08th MS Team anime.
The original MG Zaku is very similar to the 08th MS Team design, but there are differences. The "cuffs" near the wrists are one of the most obvious differences, but others include the overall design of the cockpit and hatch, differences in the shape of the head, feet, and shoulder armor, as well as the usual collection of variances between a kit and the lineart from which it was adapted.
Amaterasu suggested a MG Zaku 1.0 group build on the Hobbyfan boards in commemoration of the upcoming MG Zaku 2.0. I was hesitant to join up at first but I decided that the old kit deserves a lot more respect than it's been getting - so I joined up. Pretty much throughout this project I've been planning to make the MG Zaku more like the Zakus in 08th MS Team, though I've been a bit uncertain about the specifics. I went back and forth for a bit between wanting to make it more like the Okawara lineart and wanting to make it a blend of the MG kit and what was seen in the animation (which was different from the lineart, even in the early episodes). I've decided I want to base the model on this - which is the lineart used for the Zakus that appeared from episode 8 onward. The lineart was drawn by Kimitoshi Yamane - among the differences from Okawara's design are thicker skirt armors, a more acute angle to the shoulder armor, and a more pronounced front area of the lower leg, distinct from the leg pods, somewhat reminiscent of the Zaku Kai and F2. The lineart is actually a composite I made of two images by Yamane - the damaged Dell and Arth Zakus from episode 8. (Damaged areas from each Zaku mapped nicely to undamaged areas of the other.)
For most details I intend to follow Yamane's lineart. I may re-incorporate a few of the standard Okawara details - like the Hi-Zack panel lines on the head (but scribed in at a reasonable scale, as opposed to the giant trenches on the kit) and I may not quite include everything - and some details, like the hands, I'll simply build to my own tastes (most likely following the 0080 design) - but for the most part, the Yamane lineart is my target. I hope to be able to capture the look of the lineart without excessive alteration of the kit: while I have specific goals for the model I also want to take advantage of what the kit itself has to offer, when possible.
The MG and PG Zaku kits all have very slender shields. The MG Zaku shield is about 82mm long and 22mm wide: about a 4:1 length:width ratio. The 08th MS Team HG Zaku kit, on the other hand, has a shield length of 50mm and a width of 20mm: a 5:2 ratio. It's not as though the HG kit is infallible, but it's a pretty wild variation between two kits of the same design. I decided that I preferred the wider-looking shield, as it seemed to have the potential to actually block something. As a result, I've widened the shield from its original 22mm to 28mm: the new shield is the same width as the HG shield would be if scaled up to 1:100 scale, and about 8mm longer. I'm still undecided as to whether I want to add the spikes to the shield - one the one hand, they are a nice touch, but on the other hand I feel like that starts to pull the design too far from what a "Zaku" is. I'm not sure yet what I'll ultimately do.
To widen the shield, I first measured a (more-or-less) center line along the length of the shield, and attempted to cut along it with a razor saw. Then I measured the side walls of the shield (1mm each, so 2mm total) and subtracted that from the final shield width I wanted, and cut a rectangle of styrene that width (26mm) and glued it to the back side of the shield. I re-joined the pieces and filled the gap in this way. I checked my work by measuring and realized that one end of the shield was wider than the other: 28mm at the bottom end and between 28.5mm and 29mm at the top end - so I pulled the parts apart again, trimmed down the styrene plates holding the shield halves together, and reglued it, this time aligning according to measurements. Once I was reasonably happy with the alignment I filled in the remaining gap with more styrene and then polyester putty.
With the outer surfaces of the shield more or less finished, I turned my attention to the inner surfaces. To give the back surface a good work surface I cut out some 25mm wide styrene rectangles to fit inside the back of the shield. I added some .5mm strips to the inside of the shield so these new plates would sit level with the edge of the kit part. Then I drew up a design (pretty much just a widened version of the MG shield detail) for the shield detail on 1mm graph paper, cut it out, and attached it to styrene rectangles I'd cut out, then cut through the areas that needed to be removed, gradually removing material and then filing it down to a uniform edge. The result is still a bit sloppier than I'd like - I think in the future when I start filing I'd better be more careful, and take more measurements as I'm working. So far I've got the part for the top section of the shield cut out and installed - next I need to cut out the detail for the main part of the shield.
I've continued the work on replacing the back-side detail of the shield. This time, I decided to follow a suggestion from "Cecil" on the Gundamofficial forums, and build the outlines of the raised areas with styrene strips, and fill in between with polyester putty. The advantage of this approach are that I can build straight edges more easily than by cutting and filing 1mm plate. The disadvantage is that it becomes harder to follow the pattern and there are the putty steps to be done. I used 1mm x 1mm strip, and glued my pattern to the back of a .3mm plate. Unfortunately (and I can't figure out why or how this happened) despite trying to follow my pattern, some very strange issues arose, and I wound up playing certain things by ear after correcting the glued strips. I'm hoping it'll look alright after I clean it up a bit. If not, then I may do this portion of the work over again. While I was applying the poly putty for the shield back I also applied some for the shield front - certain areas needed a bit more filling, especially the bent part of the shield.
My Doro Doro is in really sad shape. I think the last time I used it before the Zaku project was when I made either the V-fin or the feathers for the Wing Zero - back in February, probably, and the can was apparently never closed up properly. The stuff has little chunks in it now, and it's not properly thin unless thinned with Mr. Color Thinner. It may be time to get more.
I decided that the previous attempt at a shield back-face wasn't good enough. I feel like there were little sloppy areas here and there, and the mystery of what happened to require me to rearrange everything still bothers me. So I decided this time to make the detail by cutting it out of multiple thin layers. This time around I also refined the pattern a bit, rounding the corners to 45 degree angles and adding detail to the bottom layer.
I think this approach has advantages over the other ways I've attempted: it's much easier to cut through a .3mm sheet rather than a 1mm sheet, and it's easier to get things lined up properly when the guide is directly attached to the plastic. Plus this time around I drew the guides in pencil, rather than pen, and this gave me finer lines. It was actually pretty easy to get the cuts to be rather good, too - using a ruler as a guide to make the straight cuts, there were only minor variances which, in theory, will cancel each other out when the layers are joined.
I still need to clean up the parts a bit, but I think this will work out nicely in the end.