Battlefront T-35 (SBX23) Assembly Guide
The Battlefront 1:100 scale T-35 model has a lot of parts whose positioning is not always obvious. Luckily Spotting Round is here to serve up an assembly guide!
There is no doubt that Battlefront, creators of Flames of War, make nice models. Generally speaking, if Battlefront makes a particular model it is either the highest quality or second highest quality model available. Their Soviet T-35 monster tank is no exception, and is a really nice model.
One downside to Battlefront’s models is that they can be more complex to assemble than other brands. This alone would not be too bad but for the issue that assembly guides are generally not included and often are not available online. Such is the case with this model.
To fully utilize the parts of this kit you will need to do some scratch building of a wire frame. This is not required – indeed it does not even show up in Battlefront’s own photographs of the model. But if you have a tendency to try and make your modeling life as difficult as possible like Spotting Round does (go read the article on scratch building barbed wire for an example), then you will want to do the optional steps. The photos of the model included in this article have the optional steps, and it end up looking really, really good.
Assembling the Battlefront Soviet T-35 Tank
The first thing to note with this model is that it comes packaged two to a box. You can build them one at a time or assembly line fashion. Spotting Round did it one at a time and learned some tidbits along the way, which are included here.
Step 0: Inventory and clean your parts.
Sure, sounds obvious, right? Do it. Make sure that you’ve got everything that you need. Take the time to clean up the mold lines and trim the flash. Time spent up front will help insure that your finished model looks the best it can.
Step 1: OPTIONAL – Bend the main turret wire frame
Wait a second here. How can Step 1 be optional?
The hard part of this kit involves the wire frame around the turret. While the kit includes the mounting brackets it does not include the antenna itself. The best time to shape that frame is now, before you have done anything else. You could attach guns and all first, but it is just easier to do this before you do that.
Spotting Round used a piece of 24 gauge wire we had obtained for our scratch building barbed wire project (Amazon link: 24 gauge steel galvanized wire, 100 ft). We picked up a 250 ft spool of the stuffand ended up not using it, but it turns out to be useful for all kinds of things (not all gaming related). 100 ft is probably a lifetime supply, and we expect our 250 ft roll to get passed down to future generations of von Cover gamers.
Measure out a length of at least 4 inches/10 cm. Do not worry about being exact as you will come back later and trim off the excess, plus the extra length makes it easier to handle. Spotting Round left the curve the our wire naturally had coming off the spool and as you can see from the photo and measured a generous four inches. The stuff is cheap and plentiful so don’t be afraid to use some extra to make life easy.
Gently bend the wire around the main turret. This will give the wire the general shape that we need. It is not only okay but is actually preferable for the wire to spring back a bit larger than the turret. Once the frame is attached that extra size will make our lives easier. Set the wire aside for use somewhere where it will not get bent.
Step 2: Assemble the tracks
Battlefront has made this easy by keying the tracks in a manner that it is difficult to mess up. Spotting Round was saved from our own incompetence by the keys as we initially tried to put the tracks on backwards, even though this was our second model. Thank you for good model design Battlefront!
The tracks are nice castings, although one of our tracks had a slight bend in it (it was still serviceable). Note that only the top portion of the key will be in contact with the hull. The large, flat part of the key does not actually touch the body. Even though this is the case, we score any large, flat mating surfaces in any models we build. By giving the glue more rough surface to stick to this makes the bond stronger and should, in theory, make your models more resistant to battlefield and transport damage. For this model, once the tracks are glued on and firm, we returned and added more glue in the body/track gap. Using the theory that more is better, and hoping that our scoring did not go to waste, we figure that this will make the model more damage resistant.
Step 3: Secondary turrets
Compared to your average battleship, the T-35 does not have a lot of turrets. Compared to tanks, it has four too many. And that is why Spotting Round loves them! The tertiary turrets are machine gun turrets. Cast in one part out of metal, there is no assembly required.
The secondary turrets on this 1:100 model are cast of resin with guns cast of metal. There is a generously large hole in the mantlet to receive the gun – in fact too large. The gun itself has the main barrel with a small one protruding next to it. The small barrel is a machine gun and belongs to the right of the main gun (right side from the gunner’s point of view). This is simple to assemble with just a drop of glue.
Step 4a: Main turret, main guns
The main turret is the most complex part of this Soviet T-35 tank. You must use four pieces, but can add up to an additional 13 more. The four that you must use are the main gun, the coaxial machine gun, and the two hatches. Keeping things relatively simple, you can add one or both crewmen for your command tank. Making things complicated you can build the antenna frame. One step at a time though.
The main gun is a stubby little thing that looks nothing like what we have come to expect tank guns to look like. The tiny barrel sits atop a rectangular box structure. There is a large cylindrical protrusion out of the back of the barrel that mates with a similarly sized hole in the turret. This is pretty easy.
The machine gun has a clear, dedicated spot to the right of the main gun (gunner’s point of view). The spot appears to have a hole in it for a mounting pin, but the machine gun has no reciprocating pip. Make sure you’ve got the back end of the gun well filed and flat and then just stick it to the turret in the proper position.
Step 4b1: Main turret, hatch covers
If you are going to just glue the hatch covers on closed, then do this step. Otherwise skip to 4b2.
The hatch covers are easy to mount. The round hatch cover hinges in the back while the front one hinges in the front. Merely align the hinges and glue in place. Your tank is done. Start thinking about how you will paint it.
Step 4b2: OPTIONAL – Main turret, crewmen
Flames of War players often use exposed tank commanders to show which of the tanks in a platoon is the platoon leader’s tank. Battlefront has included a sprue with five figures in two different poses with the two T-35s included in their box set. If you are going to have exposed crew, decide which one(s) you want.
The first part of mounting the crewmen is preparing the hatches for them. As they are cast, the hatches and turret top are designed to be closed. A bit of prep will make having them open much easier. The commanders hatch, the round one, needs to have the top rear hinge portion of the metal hatch cover filed down to an angle. That angle will help you mount the hatch propped open. We are unsure of the right angle, but in our book any angle is the right one for 15 mm scale wargames. Do not glue the hatch cover on yet.
The square hatch’s hinges, molded into the resin turret, need to be removed. Once those pips are gone, you can file an angle onto the bottom front of the metal hatch cover if you want, or you can call it good enough. Do not glue this hatch cover on yet either.
When cutting the figures off the sprue, you may want to leave a bit of the sprue attached. This is because the figures do not fit well in the open hatch spaces. A bit of sprue will be invisible once the model is painted up and may help you get your figures positioned as you like them by propping them up a fraction of a millimeter. Choose how you are going to pose your figures and glue them in. Remember that the square hatch cover will mount to the front of the square hatch and lean backwards, while the round hatch cover will glue to the back of the round hatch and also lean backwards.
Once the glue has set on your crewmen, glue the hatch covers in place. Note how the square one is hinged in the front and the rear one is hinged in the rear. Of course it was not until the photo was inserted to the right that we realized that the hatch in the foreground is opening too far. It should be leaning back towards the crewman to be historically correct. Oh well, the glue is set and 99.99% of gamers will not know that we screwed up!
Step 4c: EXTRA OPTIONAL – The antenna brackets
So you are a glutton for punishment, eh? Welcome to the club!
Spotting Round confesses not knowing enough about Soviet World War Two tank doctrine to know if every T-35 tank should have a radio antenna. Every historical photo that we can remember showed a T-35 with one (most of them knocked out), so we figure that we should have one too. If it is good enough for them, it is good enough for us!
For this part there is no help to be had from the model itself. There is absolutely no indication where the mounting points are. We had to go out to various scale modelling sites to find images as to where the brackets are supposed to go. The most important thing we found is that they are not evenly spaced, so that is one thing we do not have to worry about. Take a look at the “Mad Max” photo below to get an idea as to where they go (definitely a case where a picture is worth a thousand words).
Take a good permanent marker (we use an ultra-fine tip Sharpie to good effect) and mark on your turret where your brackets are going to mount. The ones to the rear of the turret are easy to locate vertically as they align with the bottom of the turret. The two forward ones have no indication as to the vertical location for them, so eyeball it as best you can to line up with the rear two. Do both sides of the turret.
Arrange your brackets on your work surface in a manner where you will be able to pick them up in succession without having to orient them on the fly. This may seem anal-rententive but do it anyway. It really does make life easier.
Normally we do not bother telling you how to handle your glue as we assume you are at least that competent, but in this case a different way of thinking goes a long way. Take some sort of scrap, such as the backer of a Battlefront miniatures blister pack, and put a blob of glue on it. You are going to waste most of that glue, but trust us on this one.
Pick up your first bracket, dip the end with the flat square into the glue (just the contact surface if you can), and then place it on the turret on one of the rear two spots. Repeat with the second rear-spot. If you are as lucky as Spotting Round was, you will be able to move the post around a bit even as it is stuck with suction to the turret so as to position it exactly where you want to. We used an Xacto knife tip to nudge the two brackets around until we were satisfied with them.
Why the rear two first? Because now you have got a reference line to help you line up the front two. It is not perfect, but you have a better chance to get the front two into a good position. So now get the front two on the first side glued in place.
Set the turret aside and let the first four brackets set up. When they are dry, repeat the process with the second side of the turret. Your turret now looks like something out of Mad Max. Come to think of it, this whole tank looks like that… (Which is a good time to ask if any readers are from Down Under? Yes? Then why the hell are you reading this post instead of trying to figure out what indigenous critter is sneaking up on you to instantly kill you? Good God man! Get your damn priorities in order!)
When the brackets are all set up we can start working on the antenna. This is where you earn your gold star on this model.
Take the wire you cut back in Step 1 and lay it into the brackets. It should be a pretty decent fit especially given that you have barely sized it at this point. Now this gets really fiddly. Lay the wire as close to resting in the bracket cups as you can. Depending on the gravitational alignment of the stars, Spotting Round could get between four and six brackets at once. We put glue on the rear four brackets, aligned the wire, and used all kinds of toothpicks, extra bits of plastic sprue, and anything else at hand to keep the wire in the right spot. When we had the four rear brackets and wire in a manner we liked, we put some more glue on a blister-backer and used a toothpick to liberally coat the joints, then used the other end of the toothpick to remove glue blobs that were big and unsightly. This is crazy fiddly so get ready to get creative as to how you keep the turret and wire from moving.
With the first four brackets completely set up (we let it set for several hours), VERY carefully bend the wire and glue up the two front brackets on one side. Try to avoid stressing the brackets with your bending. Two of our brackets popped off the turret when we did this step which was surprising as we expected the antenna/bracket connection to be the weak one, not the bracket/turret. Our intention had originally been to do one side and let it set up before doing the second side, but it was easy enough to accomplish that we were able to take care of both sides at once.
The bracket mounting process took us ten minutes the first time around and one minute the second time around. Knowing what you are doing makes a huge difference here.
Trim the antenna as shown in the image on this page. It is supposed to protrude unsupported well beyond the forward-most bracket. It is also meant to be the same length on each side. Looks like we will be going back and doing a bit more trimming to get it right.
Step 5: OPTIONAL – The turret top machine gun
This is a part that doesn’t have a home. From our historical research we have determined that the ring about the commanders hatch may have been on a gimbal with the machine gun always diametrically opposite from the hatch hinges. Given this model and the machine gun in question, it is impossible to mount it “properly”, so a bit of improvisation is in order.
Using a pin vise we drilled a small hole in the top of the turret close behind the cylindrical protrusion (if you do not have a pin vise set get one. Once you discover it it becomes like your Xacto knife – you reach for it without even thinking). We then put a dab of glue and stuck the mounting post of the machine gun into it. It does not look great if you look too close, but at tabletop distances it will probably look brilliant.
Even though the image to the right does not have the antenna frame on it, if you are going to mount the antenna do it before this machine gun. This thing is so weedy you do not want to apply any pressure to it whatsoever as it will bend in too strong a breeze.
Step 6: It’s Miller time
You are done, so savor it. The last two bits were fiddly and you deserve a beer (if you are of age, of course). Do not get a Miller though, get something good.
Concluding Thoughts on Assembling the Battlefront Soviet T-35 Tank
This model can be as hard to assemble as you want it to be. If you just do tracks, guns, and closed hatches it is a snap. If you cannot let good enough alone and have to go off into the weeds it is a real bitch, but well worth it. Prior to paint, this model is the nicest one we have worked on in our 15 mm WW2 wargaming career.
And now that this assembly guide is done, it is Miller time for me…
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