Quick Tip: A simple way to create Zimmerit
At our club meeting this month I was asked how I created the Zimmerit on the Panther that I’d bought along. You can see an example of the applied Zimmerit in the image below.
Photo 1: The applied Zimmerit on the Panther’s Turret
I did not come up with this technique; that honour belongs to a friend from the Austin Armor Builders Society (in Austin TX) Karl Leidy. During one of our regular Sunday morning modelling sessions back in 2000 or so he showed me how to achieve the finish using a Pepsi bottle cap. Thanks Karl! This tip is a quick and dirty overview of the process for those club members who might be interested.
What you’ll need:
- Squadron White or Green Putty, or another filler with the same consistency
- A Pepsi screw top plastic bottle cap (for the factory applied look) or a craft knife (for the cross-hatched look) – these seem to work better for me than the Coke or other type bottle tops
- Something to smooth the putty into place (I use a palette knife), and
- A palette to mix and work from
Step 1 – prepping the putty
Onto your palette you’ll need to squeeze out just enough putty (about the size of a pea).
I use the tops from Pringle’s cans as these are the perfect size and clean up fairly well too and allow re-use for several applications.
With your palette knife or other mixing tool move the putty around to thin out the layer and get it setting up.
Step 2 – prepping the surface
There is not a lot of surface preparation to do, however, the putty will work better if there is some tooth to the surface of the model. A little rub down with some 800 grit Wet-and-Dry (wet is better) will give the putty everything it needs to bond to the surface.
Step 3 – Slopping it on
With the putty starting to skin over it is time to get it onto the model
Don’t worry about neatness at this stage. You only really need to get it in the right area.
In this image I’ve used only a small amount of the putty from the mixing palette.
Next you’ll begin to spread the putty out to a uniform thickness across the surface.
Once you’ve achieved this initial thickness you’ll roll it out using the bottle cap. Note that in many cases Zimmerit applied in the field was very rough and ready, and tanks take one hell of a pounding in wartime conditions. So neatness is not as big a deal as you might think.
Step 4 – smoothing it out
The putty will be skinning over and going off quickly now. Note that you may have more working time in winter, and less in summer but you’ll note that the putty will begin to stiffen and not want to be moved with the palette knife at tis stage.
This is perfectly OK. We want it to begin to get harder now. In the image left you’ll note that the putty has a consistency of cake icing. It is sticking to the palette knife.
I recommend that you clean up the palette knife with the back of a hobby blade or other knife now. Then begin to push the surface toward a flatter finish. Give the putty a few more seconds to dry and go off before beginning to add the remaining surface detail.
Step 5 – Adding the Zimmerit pattern detail
If you are going to use the cross-hatched option, time to get out your knife of choice (longer blades are better – I now use a snap off knife I bought from Office Works for all my modelling needs).
Making sure that the putty is setting off by touching it with your finger, or the palette knife, you should see a tougher skin setting up. Once this stage is reached you can begin to roll your pattern.
To do this with the bottle cap simply roll the cap along the putty surface, using a fair amount of pressure, rolling the cap between thumb and forefinger. After completing a row move along to the next section.
To get the best effect work from the top most part of the putty (you’ll get a wide and unbroken patter) down the model, re-working the putty each time. This will ensure that you get about the right size (around 5mm by my eye) in 1/35th scale. You’ll need to give the putty a few seconds to set up once more. Then repeat the procedure again to spread the putty and thin it to the right look for your model. You can see the difference between the image above left, and the one directly left. If the look is still too heavy repeat the process one more time until the Zimmerit looks just right.
Keep in mind that I’d never done this before, and had not modelled a tank in 30 odd years. No matter what you are not likely to make a complete mess of it. If you do? Scrape it all of with a knife and start over again. Left is another example on the opposite (starboard) side of the Panther. To illustrate using a sharp knife blade to get the hatched look I allowed the putty to skin over.
Next I used the bottle cap and setup the basic Zimmerit look. This time though I left the putty perhaps 10 thou thicker than normal.
With my knife blade extended out quite a way, I put lines in the putty – both vertically and horizontally.
You simply press the knife down along its length into the putty. If the putty has really started to harden you can use the tip of the knife blade as a gouge to emphasize the line.
You should keep in mind that the two photos of the starboard side of the tank were taken about 8 minutes apart. That’s about the working time I get with Squadron green. The Squadron White putty seems to go off a little quicker. Although all of my tubes are from my stash I had in the states (8-10 years old)and your mileage may vary.
Step 6 – Getting that broken pattern look
To get that broken pattern look that you can see on the sides of the turret and on the front of the tank below the ball-mounted machine gun you need to let the putty go way off before applying it. Once the putty has skinned over, work it once more on the palette, then when it is stiff on the palette move it to the model and this time wipe it straight across the surface you want to cover. Because the putty is setting rapidly by this time you’ll get that broken look that you can see in these images.
That’s it! Hope you enjoyed this quick tip.