A Modeling Guide to:
Assembling Fruil Model Workable Tracks
by Neville Lord
Upgrading a military model's tracks is one of the most effective ways to enhance models of tanks, half-tracks and many other military vehicles. In this article Neville Lord steps through the use of Fruil's workable separate link tracks on Dragon's Jagdpanther Command version.
The Benefits of Workable Tracks
As tracks can really influence a model's look, it makes sense to select tracks that look realistic and present your model to its full potential. Workable tracks are an effective way to achieve this. These tracks are constructed from individual links which when joined articulate just like the real think. Their benefits include:
1.) They naturally sag, particularly the heavier metal Fruil links and the sag can be adjusted by adding or subtracting a link.
2.) Improved accuracy and quality often including detail missing from or correcting weaknesses with in the box tracks.
3.) The sag adjusts to ensure the two ends
of the track join neatly and will bend to match the contour of a diorama base.
4.) Positive alignment between links due
to the use of pins or equivalent.
5.) Fruil tracks are robust enough to
be handled during painting or transferred to another model.
6.) Well cast aftermarket track links do
not have injection marks on the track faces.
The Modelling Project
For this article I'm fitting Fruil's Panther late type tracks to Dragon's Jagdpather Command version. This kit represents a late war Jagdpanther and I'm basing my model on photos including those from MNH's assembly plant after it was captured. I'm also enhancing the kit using etched pieces from Eduard and Aber and an Armo barrel. These tracks have chevron's fitted to the link's outer face and are suitable for recent kits of the Panther Ausf A & G, Jadgpanther and Bergpanther.
This Fruil set contains 210 identical links, which includes enough spares to fill the hull spare track racks and also the Panthers turret spare track hangers; and four meters of wire to make the pins that join the links. Each metal link has crisp detail and does not require the remove of any plugs or the like. The links have open guide-horns, unlike the Dragon and Tamiya kits. Many Fruil sets have left and right handed links.
Building and Fitting the Tracks
Step 1: Assemble Your Kit
Assemble the kit to the point it is either painted or ready for painting. During assembly make sure that the drive sprocket is firmly secured to support the metal links.
Step 2: Prepare Your Track Links
While Fruil links are free of sink marks, they still require some preparation. For each link:
1.) Remove any residual flash with a hobby
knife. For this kit I also checked that the open guide horns were free of flash.
2.) Dislodge any flash from the track-pin channels by passing a drill or like through them. Fruil recommends using a 0.5mm drill bit. Personally I use a dressing pin with a pearl head as it is easy to hold and quick to use. If you encounter a link that is difficult to clean up, put it aside as you have extras. These can often used as spare tracks as these links don't need to pivot.
3.) After preparing the links, I washed them in soapy water to remove any residual.
Hint: If the set you are using has left and right handed links always keep each set separate (e.g. in separate zip lock plastic bags).
Step 3: Make Your Track Pins
Making track pins is fairly quick and the trick is to make sure that they don't get lost in the carpet.
Straighten out 20cm (8 inches) or so of wire and place the end of the wire next
to a link.
2.) Position a pair of side cutters, ready to cut the wire so that the pin is slightly wider than a link.
3.) Then position both the wire and side cutters above a small container and cut the pin so that it falls into the container.
Hint: If you cut the wire without securing the pin, the chances are that some will fly into the air (which is dangerous) and get lost. My preferred solution is to cut the wire over a film canister, so that the pin falls into it. After making the pins simply fasten the lid to keep them safe until needed.
Step 4: Assemble Working Tracks
1.) Working on a flat surface, take two
links and click them together.
2.) Insert a pin into the hole where the links join and using tweezers push it in firmly.
3.) Continue adding links checking the length as you progress. If possible, I compare the track against the kit's one-piece track to work out how many more links are needed. If the kit doesn't include one-piece track you can often use a track from a similar kit. I used a track from a Tamiya Panther as the comparison for this DML Jagdpanther (see photo).
4.) Apply a small dab of super glue to
the exposed end of each track pin, except for the last 4 links. This enables
me to remove these last links if the track is too long. To get neat results
I use a super glue of medium consistency with an inbuilt nozzle. I found it
easiest to have the pins facing upwards and to apply the glue just above the
link so it runs into the channel without much risk of any glue getting onto
the links and causing them to become stiff.
Hint: If you do not have a one piece
track, complete the track until it is two or so links short of the "correct"
number, but do not apply glue to the last six or so pins. Details on the number
of links used on AFVs can be found in good technical reference books.
Step 5: Removing Excess Wire
Using a pair of side cutters, carefully snip off the track pin's excess wire on those links that you have glued in place. As a safety precaution I wear eye protection and cut the wire over a small container such that the excess metal lands in it.
Step 6: Test Fit the Working Tracks
1.) With the excess wire facing out, feed
one end of the track through the rear idler until it reaches the drive sprocket
and attach several links onto the drive sprocket teeth.
2.) Pulling on the track near the rear idler adjust the sag until you get the desired effect. Then run the rest of the track under the road wheels and up onto the drive sprocket.
3.) If the track is too long, remove the excess links one by one until you get the right sag. This is done by removing the pins that were left unglued.
If the track is too short, remove the track and add a few extra links. Often
the number of links needed can be determined by counting the number of exposed
teeth on the drive sprocket (see photo). If you are adding several links it
may pays to test fit the track before gluing the last link in place.
5.) Finish the track by gluing the remaining pins in place and removing any excess wire.
6.) Once you have completed one track, you can build the second track to the same length.
Hint: If when you test fit the tracks
a joint look stiff, it is probably because the super-glue run between the links.
To solve this flex the links in your hands until the joint articulates freely
or remove the residual glue with a hobby knife.
Step 7: Fitting the Tracks
In this step the completed track is fitted to the kit and the two ends joined. A lot of AFVs, like the Jagdpanther, had directional tracks, so check your references to see if the track should be facing in a specific direction.
1.) Then I fit the track to the kit, so
that the two ends meet at a point that is easy to access. For this kit I choose
the area near the rear idler.
2.) Insert a pin into the last join on the track and cut off the excess wire.
3.) Either (a) Apply super glue to secure the track; or (b) if you wish to retain the option to remove the track at a later date leave the final pin loose (i.e. not glued in place) so that it be easily removed with tweezers.
Fitting Spare Tracks
Since the Jadgpanther's spare tracks tend are prominently located, the open guide horns and absence of injection marks makes Fruil links ideal for this role. The open holes for inserting the track pins add realism and allow for additional detailing.
I enhanced my spare tracks based on wartime photos. The photos showed that a track pin was often fitted to the lower of each pair of tracks. I replicated these by cutting small dressing pins to size (see side on photo). I drilled out the closed end on each of the upper tracks. I inserted a short piece of wire into the open end where each pair of links join before super-gluing the tracks in place. Finally, I scratch built the pins that secured the tracks onto the mounting brackets using stripped telephone cable.
Fruil tracks offer modellers plenty of
flexibility in terms of when and how they can be painted and weathered. Being
workable and robust they can be painted before fitting, and can be weathered
before and/or after being fitting. As this article focuses on construction techniques,
and painting techniques is a topic in itself, I left my Jadgpanther bare.
Some suggestions on weathering are:
Aftermarket Tracks and Drive Sprockets
If you are fitting aftermarket links to
a model that they were not designed for sometimes you will need to modify the
kit. The most common adjustments, that I've encountered, are to trim down the
size (height and width) and/or depth of the teeth on the drive sprocket so that
the track links fit snugly. In both cases it is only necessary to trim those
teeth that will mate with the track.
Another possible adjustments is that the kit's road-wheels are too wide for the guide horns and need their rear face thinned where they touch the track.
Some sample track prices:
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