by: Darren Baker [ ]
When improving your tracked models appearance and making it appear as realistic as possible the biggest improvement is the inclusion of photo-etch grills, this is followed by turned metal barrels and individual link tracks. Where track sag needs to be replicated, such as on German Panthers, Tigers, and most WWII Russian tanks, workable tracks are the easiest method of getting the right look.
There are a number of manufacturers catering to this market. There is DML who include individual links in a number of their kits in plastic and marketed as Magic Tracks, there is also ModelKasten who produce multi-part plastic workable tracks. By far I have found the easiest to assemble and mimic track sag are the offerings from FriulModel.
Packed in a small box are the following:
210 metal links (in 2 bags).
A coil of wire for the pins.
A paper insert covering construction in 7 stages (The instructions are in English).
The links are all very well cast and include detail such as hollow guide horns, they do however require some cleaning up. The holes for the connecting wires need opening (covered in the instructions), and some of the guide horns will need to be cleaned out.
The track links do replicate the real track links faithfully, but have an issue that until getting this set I was unaware of. The track links are in two separate bags, there is however no difference between the contents of each bag and they could have all been packaged together. All of the previous sets I have worked with have been handed and therefore separate bags were needed, and the reason it is a weakness in this set is because it means the connecting wires will be displayed on the finished model. I have overcome this issue by using dress makers pins for connecting the track links rather than the provided wire (thank you for the tip Henk).
First job is to drill out all of the track connecting points with a 0.5mm (#76) HSS drill bit, with the set containing 210 links that is 420 connecting points to drill out. They will not all need drilling but I always drill each one as there is nothing more annoying than trying to place a pin to find its path is blocked.
Secondly you need to make sure all of the hollow guide horns are clean as some will be blocked. I use a No 15 scalpel blade for this purpose as it is an ideal size for cleaning out the blocked ones.
Thirdly comes the connecting pins, as I have said I use dress making pins for connecting the links. Regardless of which connecting method you choose to use this will involve the cutting of the connecting wire supplied, or making the dress makers pins the correct length. The method I use to obtain pins or wire of the correct length is to insert the wire into the track link, and when fully home mark the wire and measure the needed length. I then drill a hole into a piece of wood the desired depth, insert the pin or wire and cut flush, this results in a quick supply of pins of the required length. If you decide to use the wire a good set of wire cutters will be needed, dont use the set you use for removing pieces from the sprues as it may take the edge off of them. If you take the dress making pin option I use a grinding blade in my hobby drill to make them the correct length.
Fourthly press home the pins or wire into the track links to connect them all together. The dress pins will be a tight fit and so will not need securing. The wire will be a loose fit and the addition of a fixative may be needed such as super glue. If you decide to glue the wires be careful not to let the glue flow between the links.
Lastly, once you have your two track runs make sure to give them a good wash as they will have had some grease on them before you started and now that you have been handling them a lot during construction there is a lot more. The reason for removing all traces of oil is that it will affect the painting and weathering process later on.
Friul tracks are, in my opinion, a big plus on a model with the only real down side being the price. I do not believe that any other track offering quite portrays the weight and sag of tank tracks as well as Friul tracks do. As can be seen by the assembly steps that need to be taken, Friul tracks are not the quick and easy solution when it comes to obtaining that realistic look, so consider how much effort, and money, you want to put into your model before purchasing this product.