How much wear and chipping is appropriate

I’ve recently completed the RFM Pzkpfw IV Ausf. F with the full interior and I’m in the early (turret) stage in the RFM Panther Ausf. G with the full interior. I have seen several examples of the work done on this and similar kits by other vendors in this forum and in other forums. All of this documented work has been very helpful in providing both examples and techniques for adding to the appearance of use and wear. The nice thing about this kind of modeling is that we, as the model builder, get to make our owe choices and I’ve seen many comments about the rationale for many of these decisions. The kind of philosophical question I would like to pose is one about the potential “realism” of some of this wear and tear. As regards the German WWII armor it seems to me that the “half-life” of these vehicles was quite short. I’ve read a few published first hand accounts that tell of extremely short “lives” for these machines. One account tracks Panzer IV crew as it traveled from Army Group South to Austria to take delivery of a new tank and their return to the fighting. Having disembarked from the railcar the crew found themselves abandoning the tank due to a jammed turret. Recognizing that the tank was about to be overrun by the advancing Russians they set off the onboard demolition charge. That brand new tank had a combat lifespan of one day! I think I’ve read that a average lifespan of around three weeks was a reasonable estimate. Having said all of that I recognize that there are also many instances where a vehicle was damaged and repaired repeatedly. So, again, for the sake of discussion should we be modeling for weeks and months of wear and tear or months and years?

I go with the weeks/months model. I put more focus on weather effects like mud and dust over lots of chipping or paint wear. I will normally only chip in heavily-trafficked areas hit by boots, wear on grab handles, and scratches from underbrush or heavy objects dragged around on the hull such as stowage.

I’ve seen a few builds with so much rust they look like they were sitting in Truk Lagoon for a spell. If possible, go take a look at some construction equipment that isn’t too old and look how those have been wearing.


Personally I think some people batter their kits way too much. Of course that is their good right, but I doubt whether it is any close to reality.
Just like rusting tracks: the metal used contains a high level of manganese, and shows a brown color, but it doesn’t rust.


I like the idea of using construction equipment as a go-by. And I agree that the best place to show use is on the exterior. Those combat vehicles rarely made a stop at the car wash. The remark about the oxidation color of high manganese steel is new to me and very useful. We’d all have a better sense of what to do if there were more high quality color photographs, but there are virtual none, so it’s up to us to sort it out.

That’s a perfect example Erwin.

The problem with the manganese content of tracks when modeling them is twofold, not all tracks have manganese in them, or at least not very much, for example US tracks don’t and can rust up pretty quickly. The other problem is that the brown color from the manganese, on a model, when also adding dirt, mud, and other weathering effects, is that it can end up looking like rust even when that was not the intent.

You are totally right! Even today, it’s hard to find quality photos of tanks, or other vehicles, that meet modelers needs. And prior to say the Vietnam War, most photos were in black and white. And be careful, many photos we see of older subjects have been colorized, they are not accurate.

True about the pictures. Rust on armor is killing anyway: it destroys the integrity of the metal and thus is prone to destruction. Armoured vehicles were not in combat 24/7, and when they were not fighting, maintainance was a important part of the time spent by the crews. If you take care of your vehicle, it will take care of you…

Over on, there is a guy who did quite some research on the subject of track colors, and this is what he says:
Most tracks of WW2 vintage were a high-manganese steel for wear resistance and long life. This was most definitely NOT silver, nor graphite. It was a goldy-brown colour, sort of like a light bronze. Even late-war German tracks still appear to have had a decent manganese content. They would wear out in no time without it, and it was being sourced from Sweden through Denmark until very late.

It’s a hard effect to replicate and none of the paint manufacturers does a colour that captures it. Since I got back into modelling in the last couple of years I haven’t found the answer yet. It’s hard to capture on film too: flash glare can make it look silvery. These photos of substantial Tortoise and Churchill links just about show it.

2GvEvus.jpg B770zrv.jpg

We’ve all just got used to using silver and graphite colours to show wear because that’s all we had, and still have. Just like we used to show bright worn metal on our tanks, before we all understood that armour plate is actually dark brown and doesn’t polish to silver or graphite either. I’m trying change that, but none of the major paint companies have taken any interest in trying to produce a more accurate colour.

So, why are all current Track Primer and worn track colours a very dark black-brown and why does everyone rave over chemical blackening of white metal tracks? Neither of these are close to being realistic. There has been debate whether track links were painted, and the consensus seems to be “no”. It would have been inherently pointless.

The oxide of manganese steel is a mid grey-brown colour, and it doesn’t rust readily in the conventional sense to orange, red and dark brown shades.

Of course, mud and dust would obscure the base colour quickly. But the wear points on the spuds, guide horns, inside surfaces and where the sprockets mesh would remain bare metal of the afore-mentioned goldy-brown colour, as seen above. It is physically impossible for manganese steel to be silver or graphite/metallic grey.

Many post-war rubber-padded tracks like those on US tanks do seem to be painted, show rust and wear to a silvery colour on contact points, indicating little or no manganese content (unnecessary with the rubber wear pads). Modern all-metal tracks, as favoured by Israel and Russia, remain high-manganese.

For the complete thread:


This comment about armour plate color is just the kind of information I like to learn. This certainly informs my decision about the chipping I will try to reproduce. Assuming the scrapes go through the primer.

Even colour photos can be misleading due to print processing and reproduction in books/ magazines.

Since we’re having a nice discussion here let me ask a related question. Why do you think the folks that did the Littlefield Panther Ausf. A restoration chose to paint the lower portions of the interior grey rather than an iron oxide primer color?

There’s accuracy and there’s art. Do what looks good to your eye and be happy with your decision.


I never did understand the “blacken - it” product and why guys used it. It never made sense to me as I never saw worn black metal tracks in the field.


Chipping - really depends on what one wants. Artistically it can look fantastic. Realistically it should probably be used with moderation.

USSR mentioned combat life span of a T-34 in WW2 was 14 hours. Sure it might be a few months from manufacture to getting knocked out/destroyed. I would imagine similar for German AFV’s in most cases.

Artistically as a modeler, I feel if it looks right - it is right :slight_smile:

Here are a few reasons that come to mind.

  1. It can give a nice rusty brown effect rather than black.

  2. Helps ensure white metal isn’t exposed

  3. Can act as a primer/etch coating for applying other products

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Ok I never new that Wade, I only saw a handful of people use it and it stayed black. Did it give a rusty appearance if you left it on longer?

There’s many darkening agents with various effects, Richard however the original Blacken-It would go black/dark gray then turn brownish rust color with a longer exposure. It was really a pretty neat chemical for effects but it’s off the market now.

Just Blacken-It with a long soak and pastels touch up. It brown is from the long soak.

Some of the other agents will go crud white with long exposure etc…sort of a wild card etc.

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Oo-er; my usual blast of Tamiya Buff is clearly heresy!

Isn’t the same true of figure painting. Some of it looks so real while others look very cartoon like. Both take skill but it’s an art form and therefore very subjective.

I’m a newbie to 1/35 scale. But I consider wear and tear the key. You can have a bashed and battered tank which is only a week or two old and not a spot of rust in sight.


Ok Wade I see what you are talking about. I took the name of the stuff literally not having ever worked with it. That looks great btw!

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It’s been said here by several contributors but it’s worth repeating. Most of us are building these models for ourselves so how you do it and what it looks like is for you to decide. I can can tell you that my family and friends see these models and wonder at the detail but have absolutely nothing to say about the authenticity of the work. That said, if authenticity is one of your goals that can be a difficult thing to achieve given that, as I mentioned before, there is so little color documentation. One of the references I’ve leaned on for my Panther project is Walter Spielberger’s book from 1978. There’s no color photos but there are many good images of the interior and exterior that appear to be contemporary to the Panther tank production. Even it that instance, where the source is indisputably authentic, I get the feeling that many of the images are of a prototype rather than one of the tanks leaving the production line with its next stop at the front.