Photos by the author
It's funny how relationships develop between modelers and can go on for years without actually ever meeting the person face to face. Putting talk of your hobby interests aside, you eventually confide in that person your likes, dislikes, politics, family or whatever soapbox you happen to be talking from at any given time. Such is the case between Dennis Aust and me. He lives in Washington state; I live in New Jersey. I guess the 2,000-mile-plus barrier is what keeps us at merely an electronic friendship, although, hopefully, someday we will shake hands.
For me personally, I have always loved model railroads and truck models. I guess this may have been fueled by my Aunt Peg who had a nice HO layout in an upstairs room that she would allow me to run at a very young age. Ive bounced back and forth between trains and truck models through the years, finally settling into the latter of the two 20 or so years ago. Although my three-year-old sons infatuation with trains may cause a shift in that decision in the near future.
So after years of collecting and building HO scale trucks, I have become what the general modeling population might refer to as a "rivet counter"...or in my case, a "huckbolt" counter". Thats not to say every model I enjoy looking at or collecting has to be a perfect scale representation in every facet. But the projects I build myself are slowly moving in that direction, although nerves, temper and material seem to be having the last word.
So imagine my excitement a couple years back when Dennis Aust confided in me he was working on another new modern Kenworth design to add to his already fantastic line of prototypically scaled resin kits. A Kenworth W900L to be exact quite possibly my favorite prototype design from that manufacturer.
The release date came, and I got my kits. Unfortunately I also had 20 different combinations for a model floating around between the ears as well. I finally settled on building a long wheelbase daycab version like one of the oh-so-many that pass the end of my driveway everyday hauling crushed stone down from the northern quarries and backhauling washed sand and the like from the multitude of southern NJ's sandpits. It would have to be mean and clean, yet not be too over-the-top. The type of truck with just enough tinsel to make you rubberneck.
I figured the first step was going to be to come up with a list of the different options, parts wise, that I wanted on this model. At the time Dennis used a printed-out list of available parts but has since joined us in the 21st century with a great website (www.dennisaust.com) to list all his cab kits and parts.
I settled on kit #0141-H, which is the W900L Kenworth Truck Conversion Kit in the Highway Version with a daylight cab. The resin kit comes with the cab, hood, grille, battery boxes, long fuel tanks, interior, air cleaners, and a few other small parts. Since this was going to be the type of tractor that would be put to bed in the owners driveway or yard every night, I also ordered smaller fuel tanks as well as a smaller tank for hydraulic fluid for the scratchbuilt dump trailer.
At the present time Dennis doesnt make frames for his cabs, letting the modeler decide whether they want to scratchbuild or use one of those available from manufacturers like Athearn, Herpa/Promotex, etc. He does make available parts such as front suspensions w/motor that are specific for the kit you use. I used Part #245, which is for the W900L.He also makes several different combinations of rear suspensions. As much as I would have liked to use an air-ride type, none were available at the time. Hopefully hell get the hint on that one! I opted for Part #137-A, which is a nice complete rubber-pad type of setup. The wheels he sells are, in my opinion, the best out there. I went with the aluminum drive wheels which are Part #955-a and #955-1 for fronts.
Actually that last statement is quite true. When I was nearing completion of the project Dennis surprised me by sending an actual set of real aluminum front rims that he machined by hand and then polished. Yep, that shine, my friends, is the real deal! He made a couple sets and uses the others as his mold masters for Part #955-1. What a guy, huh?
The frame rails I used for the chassis are milled out pieces of .060 x .125 Evergreen styrene. The crossmembers are .100 Evergreen I-beam, and the rear crossmember is .100 C-channel. The front 3/4" of the rails are kept solid as these are glued into Dennis front-axle assembly with cyanoacrylate (CA) cement. I use CA to connect the styrene to the resin parts and Tenax or Testors liquid cement for connecting all the styrene together. The finished frame assembly has an outside width of about .390 to accept the rear suspension assembly, which fits nicely and can be slid in either direction to get the exact wheelbase desired. The outside of the frame rails were sanded to give the prototypical rounded edges before the suspension was glued in place. Also remember to wash all resin parts to remove any mold release agent before gluing them in position. Small bits of angled end styrene were added to the top and bottom of the crossmembers to simulate bracing.
The crossmember bolts were simulated by using Tichy Train Group 8017 .020 rivets. These work well for small bolt heads. A friend made a drilling template of the sixbolt pattern by drilling holes on a short piece of brass C-channel that fits snugly over the outside of the frame rail. I just slide the template down the frame and quickly drill the holes with a #77 drill bit. They all become uniform and make for easier insertion of the Tichy rivets.
Detail Associates (DA) 1103 lift rings make great carrier bearings to which I add appropriately sized K&S aluminum tubing to simulate the drive shaft. I also scratchbuilt the double air tank assembly with some styrene and brass and used DA 2203 3/4" nutbolt-washer castings to simulate the attachment bolts.
I begin prepping my resin cabs and parts by cleaning up any mold flash with a sharp #11 blade and some single-edge razor blades. I then use various grits of sanding sticks to clean the parting lines from the mold, etc. I also remove the large center post in the cabs. At present, Dennis doesnt supply windows, so one can either add a small, more prototypical, piece of brass or styrene stock for the windshield divider or add a very narrow piece of black decal material directly to a scratchbuilt window, which is my preference. Next, I pre-fit any flush-fitting windows after making them out of scrap pieces of clear blister packs, making sure to fit them a little loose, as the paint added later will make them fit more snugly. I also do any drilling into the cab for mirrors, lights, hand grabs, etc., that I know will be added later. Its easier to clean the hole out if needed from paint buildup than to ruin the paint by having the bit slip while trying to drill all the holes later for the first time.
After sanding and drilling I give all the resin parts a wash in soapy water with a soapy toothbrush scrub. Sometimes I just use an Ivory bar or dish detergent. Ive never had problems with paint sticking as long as Ive thoroughly scrubbed the parts. I tend to wash my hands a lot while working on cleaned parts, not because Im a nut job, but because it keeps any dirt or natural oils from possibly ruining the paint. In other words, I generally avoid something like a bucket of KFC at the modeling table.
Now is when I use Squadron putty to fill any air bubble holes I might find. Working with resin parts I have also learned that if there is a bubble that is visible under the surface, but not quite through, on an area that will be a focal point later, I go ahead and pop that sucker with a pin or drill bit! Ive learned from experience to fill it now, because profanity wont fill it later when it seems to open up after the paint job begins.
My favorite enamel paint for a smooth, thin, glossy finish is Scalecoat II. I have had great experiences using it with an airbrush. There usually is no need to prime the model. Recently, though, I have had problems with the unused paint drying in the bottle; once the factory seal is broken, it loses any kind of shelf life, even if only a few months. But, as I said, I love its workability and finish, so I picked up fresh bottles of S2089 CP Rail Bright Red and S2010 Black.
I first airbrush the inside of my cabs with black, being careful not to spray through the window openings too much, as that could cause a bleed-through problem when I spray the red on the outside. I also spray any of the other black parts at this time, such as the interior cab parts.
After the black has dried for a few days, I roll up a wad of toilet tissue and gently insert it into the cab, making sure all the window openings are blocked so the red doesnt get on the black interior.
I hold all my parts with clamping hemostats or tweezers. I install the brass axles in the chassis and clamp onto the axle for holding that particular sub assembly. The hemostats are clamped on other parts in a spot that wont be visible later, as they tend to squash where they clamp on. On small parts I snip off the bristles from a wire brush and drill a slightly undersized hole into a section of the part that wont be visible later. The bristles can be pushed in without the need for glue and be held firmly for painting by the tweezers or hemostats. A piece of Styrofoam serves as a staging and drying area for the bristle-impaled parts.
A couple of years back I was talked into trying Alclad II Lacquer for painting chrome and polished aluminum parts. This stuff is awesome, to say the least, and I have been sold on it ever since. I picked up a bottle of Alclad II #ALC-105 Polished Aluminum and a bottle of #ALC-107 Chrome from Trip Aiken at Truck Stop Models (www.truckstopmodels.com).The key in my experience with this paint is to have a superb glossy black enamel paint prime job on all the parts to be done. Once the primer is completely dry, this paint is shot straight from the bottle without thinning. A couple of successive thin coats is what I use. You may notice a dusty finish on what has been painted. Dont flip your lid just yet. Let the parts dry a couple days and use a soft Q-Tip or something similar to gently buff off the dust to reveal the brilliant shine.
I also love to use a lot of photo-etched material on my models. You may notice the decking, foot steps and rear fenders are from etched material. Plano Model Products (www.planomodelproducts.com) has some fantastic scratchbuilding material as well as etched mirrors, steps, grilles and the like for HO scale trucks. I use Part #204 Brass Morton Pattern for a lot of my decking and step material as well as for exhaust pipe protectors. I use Part #208 Brass Diamond Plate pattern for a lot of my fenders, tool boxes, etc. I find its easier to cut and work with the brass than the stainless. Ive also learned to simply place a piece of Scotch tape on the material and mark out my measurements on that instead of directly on the irregular surface of the material itself. I use a large, heavy pair of quality scissors purchased at a flea market to cut along the marks on the tape. Nice and neat. Bending it all into a fender is a story in itself maybe for another time.
After all the paint is completely dry, Im basically in the homestretch and start to get excited about seeing the finished product. Final assembly is usually a pretty fast step of the project.
I start by doing any decaling. Brad Libby at Pen-Bay printed the custom EEX decals for me from artwork I sent him. The Kenworth emblems were found on Microscales 87-873 May Trucking sheet. After the decals were applied and set, I used Testors Model Master semi-gloss clear coat to seal them and take the high gloss shine of all the red paint down a notch. I use Testors small spray cans, but instead of spraying it directly from the can, which comes out heavy and spotty, I carefully spray a little of it into the cup on my airbrush. I dont thin it any more. I seal the model by spraying a light, even coat with my airbrush.
After that dries thoroughly I add my windows and start adding my detail parts. Another fantastic product out there is an adhesive-backed material called Bare-Metal Foil in a Chrome finish. I use this for a lot of the chrome that cant effectively be painted, like small parts of the hood or cab. Its extremely thin and can be rubbed in around most small protrusions like rivets and the like.
My wires and hoses are made from the different-sized wire removed from small sized multi-stranded electrical wire such as that connected to grain-of-wheat bulbs. Its tough to work with but looks pretty realistic in my opinion.
Well thats my short, or was that too long, wrap-up of what I did in building one of Dennis Austs beautiful resin truck kits. Of course there are many different methods and materials that modelers use to build things, and others may surely take a different approach. Im forever picking up new tips myself in almost every article that comes down the pike, and it always makes the next project that much smoother.
By the way, this particular model is named after Dennis wife, Sally Aust. In Denniss own words, "a companion, a wife, a mother, a grandmother and a fighter."