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REVIEW
Alliance Modelworks' Panther G PE
bill_c
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Posted: Saturday, July 30, 2011 - 11:14 AM UTC
Bill Cross reviews Alliance Modelworks' Panther G Detail Set for the Dragon Panther G Smart Kit.



Link to Item

If you have comments or questions please post them here.

Thanks!
SdAufKla
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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 03:31 AM UTC
Our AMPS club is doing a DML Panther G group-build now and everyone is also using this exact same AM-Works PE set.

(We're combining the group-build plastic kit dynamic with a PE kit to help everyone crack the code on building with PE, too. We're having a PE demo at the next club meeting on 10 Aug for anyone interested. Meeting info is on our website.)

So far, we're pretty excited and pleased with the PE. It's very well engineered and designed. Although we have a long way to go before we can say we've used all the parts, so far the working tool clamps have been fun to build.

(These clamps are also available from AM-Works as a separate set that is a great value for the money!)

In regards to the cylindrical storage tubes, there are some clear photos of the factory stencils on these that state "Wischer u. Stange" (going by memory for the spelling), that is in English, "cleaners and rods." Archer even makes a set of Panther external stowage stencils that include these markings. So, IMO, it's pretty safe to say that the tubes contained the gun cleaning rods and brushes. It's also possible that they contained spare 2m arials for the radio.

Rolling cylinders from flat PE parts is certainly a challenge, but if the brass is anealed and you use a soft surface and the correct sized "roller" to form the parts on, it actually does work. A piece ofsmooth (not pebble textured) vinyl or rubber sheet works for larger parts. A thick rubber band stretched around a small wooden block works well for smaller PE parts. Work the curve into the part gradually starting with a larger roller and working your way down to smaller rollers. Roll off the edges of the part to impart the curve all the way to the edge (needed for cylinders) and to prevent a "flat" spot where the two edges meet.

We'll have some in-progress information on our Panther group-build up on our club website in the next few weeks.

Thanks for the review, Bill.
bill_c
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Posted: Sunday, July 31, 2011 - 04:33 AM UTC
Thanks, Mike, for the "boots on the ground" look at this set. I think it compares very favorably with the only other serious competition out there from Griffon Model or the Aber set (I have the Griffon set, but have only seen the Aber one on their site).
bill_c
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Posted: Monday, August 01, 2011 - 05:18 AM UTC
Thanks, Brian, for adding those details.

Buying decisions are so individual, it's really important to have as much information at one's fingertips as possible: what what makes sense for one modeler will not work for another.

The quality of the brass in your set is very high, certainly higher than several better-known PE makers who will remain nameless. I also give high marks to your company for the information they provide, both in the instructions and on the website. Not all PE makers provide even basic information.

And I agree that what's possible in brass isn't always the same as what's practicable, even for better-skilled modelers.

The bottom line is: do take time before making a purchase decision, and don't let price be your sole driver. In the case of this set, it's not the cheapest on the market, but it really gives you the tools for modeling just about any Panther G variant, no something the other sets can claim.
SdAufKla
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Posted: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - 03:19 AM UTC
Bill, you make some fair points about value decisions, but I'd like to say that I'm very encouraged to have a US domestic armor PE producer again. Ever since "On the Mark Models" dropped out of the picture in the early- to mid-90's, we here in the US have had to rely on overseas companies for our armor PE.

This is not to say that there's anything wrong with Eduard, Aber, The Show Modeling, Voyager, etc. All make some very nice products. However, the shipping and often limited availability has been very problematic, at least for me.

As an example, a fellow member in our AMPS club recently placed an overseas order for several Voyager PE sets. After shopping hard, he found that hese PE sets were only available from an Asian retailer. The cost of the PE was about US$150 (a fair price for what he was ordering), but his shipping cost was over US$50! That shipping added over 33% to his total cost.

Being able to purchase AM-Works without the killer shipping costs puts a different perspective on the suggested retail price for the Panther G set. (Of course, for our friends outside of the US the opposite side of the coin comes into play!)

So, as I mentioned above, IMO, the AM-Works PE is a very good to excellent value. It's vvery well engineered and designed, so the quality is as good or better than any other manufacturer and the costs are very competative.

Here's a couple pictures from an up-coming article for our AMPS club newsletter on the "history" of PE German Tool Clamps that illustrate the engineering and design. (When compared to other, earlier designs for PE tool clamps, this engineering superiority really stands out, but you'll have to read the full article to see all the photos.)

These clamps are from the Alliance Model Works Tool Clamp set #LW35046. This set retails for about US$10 and provides parts to assemble 136 individual working tool clamps in 2 diferent types (early and late), in three different sizes (small, medium, and large) for each type!







Not only do you get enough parts to make tool clamps for a veritable entire Panzer Abteilung, but the parts are carried on an adheasive plastic backer sheet, so they don't have to be cut off a fret and cleaned up before assembly. (This is why in our article the AM-Works PE parts are called Generation 3.5 tool clamps...)

This method of delivery for PE parts has long been used in a limited manner by companies that produce PE for model trains, etc, but almost no one until now has regularly supplied armor model PE in this way. Again, for my money, this is another valuation factor to be considered.

Anyways, sorry to "hijack" your review here, Bill, but (I guess it's obvious...) I'm pretty pumped about what AM-Works is doing and how they're doing it...

BTW: The "Unauthorized and Incomplete History of Photo-Etched German Tool Clamps" can be found in the V2, N8 issue of the "Wildcat" at:

AMPS Central SC "Wildcats"

Keep up the good work Bill!
bill_c
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Posted: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - 10:03 AM UTC
Mike, thank you VERY much for your very informative (and passionate) post. I like nothing better than when a review encourages discussion and even debate, since there often are no RIGHT answers to these questions, just right for each individual.

The question of price is, as I'm sure you can imagine, a sensitive one. Manufacturers price their products to sell well and make a profit (as opposed to amateur manufacturers who are really more into serving a passion or obsession than conducting a business), and pointing out the obvious sometimes rankles them. As a reviewer, I occasionally get slammed by a company for pointing out that their product is more expensive.

But if I don't, then I get slammed by members here who are sometimes alarmed at the high prices of this hobby. Some feel we're encouraging the price escalation and discouraging simple fun by pushing these upgrades. Of course, today's kits are so much better than when I started, you can build the average new release OOB and it's better than many old warhorses with a ton of PE, LOL.

While we haven't yet reached the ridiculous heights of AM add-ons common in the aircraft world ($100 Big Ed upgrade for the Trumpeter P-47D in 32 scale, for example), I hear a lot of griping about the costs of kits, much less PE. I try to be sensitive to price considerations, but obviously I can't please everyone.

My goal is, whenever possible, to point out that product might be more money than another maker's, but to give the reader the tools to evaluate whether it's worth the extra cost to him or her or not. Since Armorama discourages reviews that pit one manufacturer against another, we not only have to try to be even-handed in these matters, but also evaluate the item's strengths and weaknesses in its own right.

I would be lying to say I don't have my favorites among PE makers, based mostly on quality and ease-of-use. I do know, however, that some folks are happy to have a basic, cheap set and not the be-all, end-all.

In the case of this set, I have no doubt that anyone who purchases it will be happy with the results. The side skirts alone are superb. I also echo your sentiments that it's good to have another company making AM upgrades here in the States. While I have no qualms about ordering from Hong Kong, not everyone has had good success with that. It's good to see a domestic source for these sets. As your friend found out, sometimes the savings from ordering overseas are more than eaten up by shipping.

I'm very intrigued about the tool clamps, as these aren't on the AMW site from what I can tell. I certainly hate making clamps from flat PE, LOL.
Bizarre
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Posted: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - 11:12 AM UTC

Quoted Text

Voyager PE sets. After shopping hard, he found that hese PE sets were only available from an Asian retailer. The cost of the PE was about US$150 (a fair price for what he was ordering), but his shipping cost was over US$50! That shipping added over 33% to his total cost.



luckymodel.com has free shipping on most of the PE brands.

Bizarre
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Posted: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - 11:14 AM UTC

Quoted Text

I'm very intrigued about the tool clamps, as these aren't on the AMW site from what I can tell. I certainly hate making clamps from flat PE, LOL.



They are on the website!
http://www.am-works.com/store/lw35046-wwii-german-vehicle-tools-clamps-p-66.html
Bizarre
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Posted: Wednesday, August 03, 2011 - 09:40 PM UTC

Quoted Text



To me, a model should look "right" and "clean". Looked right doesn't mean the construction had to be exactly like on the real thing, but should appeared accurate. Once an accurate look had been achieved, then focus should be on making things looked clean, by making the construction simple / straightforward and reduce chance of errors.



Brian, that's great attitude! By modellers for modellers - thanks for that!
I think that there are not that many modellers that care about construction looking 100% as on real vehicle and such people usually can scrathbuild that on their own.
bill_c
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Posted: Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 03:36 AM UTC
This is a fantastic discussion, thanks, Brian, for giving us all a peek behind the curtain as to how these things are done.

I also appreciate the nuanced discussion about each manufacturer. Making purchasing decisions is hard, given that most reviews just say "here is what you get." How well do the pieces come off the fret? Are the instructions clear about bending? When finished, do the results approximate the real thing or represent it as accurately as today's technology allows?
Kelley
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Posted: Thursday, August 04, 2011 - 05:17 AM UTC

Quoted Text

but the parts are carried on an adheasive plastic backer sheet, so they don't have to be cut off a fret and cleaned up before assembly.


This alone has me interested enough that I'll probably by a set or two. Cutting those tiny pieces off the frets and cleaning them up is half the battle. Thanks for the info and pics Mike!

Regards,
Mike
SdAufKla
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Posted: Sunday, August 07, 2011 - 10:11 AM UTC
To close the loop on the AMPS Central SC "Wildcats" newsletter article about the history of armor modeling PE mentioned above, here's the link:

V2 N8 "Wildcat"

Hope anyone who surfs over to our web site enjoys the newsletter.

Happy modeling!
bill_c
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Posted: Tuesday, August 09, 2011 - 05:12 AM UTC
Mike, that's a helluva fine newsletter, you really set a high bar for other clubs.

Thanks for sharing that, hopefully this will help some fellows dip their toes in the water of PE. Latches and clasps are a good "first step" because they REALLY up the ante on realism. Other PE often enhances, but there's no comparison between a styrene latch with its "suggested" outline and a brass one. AMW should be commended for developing this breakthrough, since removing the latch handles from a fret of PE is one of the most-annoying and biggest timewasting things I can think of next to watching "Real Housewives of New Jersey," LOL.
pseudorealityx
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Posted: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 - 12:36 AM UTC

Quoted Text

To close the loop on the AMPS Central SC "Wildcats" newsletter article about the history of armor modeling PE mentioned above, here's the link:

V2 N8 "Wildcat"

Hope anyone who surfs over to our web site enjoys the newsletter.

Happy modeling!



Mike,

Really enjoyed the newsletter. Nicely done.
SdAufKla
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Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2011 - 02:59 AM UTC
Glad you liked the newsletter Bill and Jesse!

If you're ever in our litle neck of the woods, look us up and stop by!
SdAufKla
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Posted: Friday, September 02, 2011 - 12:32 PM UTC
We're motoring along with our PE-based group build, and since the subject came up about the PE cleaning rod tube being made from a flat piece of brass which required rolling into a cylinder, I thoght I'd post this pic of one of the AM-Works cleaning rod tube assembled:



For anyone interested in our progress, you can find the latest build notes here:

AMPS Central SC Group-Build Page

With the latest PE set hints and tips here (with photos):
Panther PE Set Build Notes 2

Sorry Bill for "hijacking" you thread!
SdAufKla
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Posted: Saturday, September 03, 2011 - 02:18 AM UTC
Thanks for the compliments, Brian!

The stacking construction on the cleaning rod tube end caps was remarkably easy. Even though I soldered the components together, this is a method that would work very well with CA -

The actual gluing surface contact area of the rings is significantly greater than an edge-glued flat part rolled into a rim for the cap and therefore would be much, much stronger. Also, that strength would allow builder to clean-up the circumference of the cap while using the CA as a filler producing a nice clean build.

I confess that I don't normally solder as much as I have on many of these assemblies. Usually, I use either CA or epoxy depending on my estimate of the strength needed for final assembly and finishing, reserving solder for those joints that need the most strength. And this set would be no different except for the fact that we're using it as the basis for an exercise in group-learning.

We're trying to squeeze all that learning potential from the effort that we can, and I have to say that some of the guys in the club have made great progress in learning some new skills - soldering being one of them. It's gratifying to see a guy who's a basic-skill level modeler successfully tackeling those front fenders and soldering them together like a pro!

So, soldering is not the mysterious modeler's equivalant to the Alchemist turning lead into gold, and any modeler out there in Armorama-land can learn and master the techniques with just a little effort and time.

In regards to the "C-hook" tubes, those were also remarkably easy to do once I found the right sized drill bit to use to roll them around. For anyone interested, follow the links and read the detailed description on our website.

However, the AM-Works PE set parts can be used to detail-out the kit's plastic tool racks and rear stowage boxes along with the kit cleaning rod tube and other areas. So, the PE parts are not really a set of either / or choices, but a continum of increasingly detailed assemblies. Many of the PE assemblies are well suited to practice and try more complicated construction techniques without having to make irreversable changes in the DML kit.

For example, if a builder messed-up the PE rear stowage boxes, he could easily just add the PE mounting frames and hooks to the kit plastic boxes for a very nice improvement in their appearance. The same applies to the tool racks - the modeler could easily just add the PE tool clamps, "C-hook" keeper chains and pins, etc, to the kit's plastic racks and not have to build the brass tubes, etc.

Thanks again to Alliance Model-Works for the review samples, advice, and encouragement!

Happy modeling,