ET Models is a fairly new company from Shanghai that specialises in photo-etch accessories for 1/35 and 1/72 armour, although they also do a few resin sets. Their reputation for fine detail is growing, and they have released two sets for the AFV Club T-34/85 that illustrate why:
#020 covers what they call “basic” (and the rest of the world would call hugely-upgraded detail)
#021 adds fenders (or track guards if you live on the right-hand side of the herring pond).
ET recommend also using their set #008 of fuel drums (£11.25, but not reviewed here).The drums should also fit the T-34/76, for which there are separate detail sets.
The Basic set (#020) contains two large brass frets and one small one in steel (they start at B, not A), plus two small resin parts on a single casting block.
The Fender set (#021) contains a single large brass fret.
Set #020 has bits for all over the tank. There are stowage bins, tools, clasps and hinges and handles for hatches, retaining straps for fuel drums, track grousers, turret pistol ports, an entire engine vent group, and a few other small items. All of it is brass except for the engine grille, which is steel, and the plugs for the pistol ports, which are perfectly-formed resin. A number of items will need bits of plastic rod added, for which the dimensions are generally given clearly.
The finesse of the parts is extraordinary. The mesh on the engine grille is barely visible and impossible to photograph well. It’s so fine, in fact, that it will cause problems: not creasing it as you remove it from the fret, and painting it without clogging the openings will be a challenge. Beside it are eight minuscule chains for the clasps on the stowage boxes. Each link is half a millimetre long. Being flat PE, the alternate links aren’t as well represented, but still, this is very neat.
Much of the brass is more familiar in scale. The material is nicely flexible and should take well to being shaped. This is useful, as so much of it has to be bent around other items, and you’ll want to do it cleanly and evenly. 20 grousers are provided and each consists of seven parts: the main plate, and six teeth that have to be tucked into the folded plate. Luckily there are over 200 teeth when you only need 120 or so. However, so far as I can tell, these are about the only spares. Which leads us to the worse points of the set.
First, while the instructions are clearly laid out and logical, they occasionally leave too much to the imagination. Several times, they blithely indicate “bend this part” without showing you how, and the assembled part doesn’t clearly show where the bends go, or even what the final product looks like. Second, some of the bends are going to tax your skills. You have to take a tiny flat stretch of brass and curl it into a cylinder with a diameter of, if you’re lucky, a millimetre. One set of hinges goes down to less than a third of that. Frankly, I think this is going to be impossible without making a hames of it and the part ending up squashed. Even the instructions describe it as “crimp.”
One other thing to be aware of is that the fret has been etched from both sides. This means that some fold lines, which you may think are missing, can be found by turning it over. In some cases this is because the part has to be folded in opposite directions or needs relief adding from the underside (which you do by pressing with a ball-point pen or similar). In other cases, well, I’m not sure.
The fender set offers a choice of front ends – angular and rounded – for different factories, mated to common side and rear fenders. A particular highlight is the representation of the light welds where the fenders attach – just about visible and barely detectable with your fingers. Too much paint and... Bending will, though, be tricky here too, as the side sections have a single fold that runs their entire length and need the inner side, if not the outer, to be perfectly flat afterwards.
Much of the basic set and a good deal of the fender set will also be applicable to earlier T-34s. Only a few parts are attached to the turret and, if you can find references, you may be able to use the fenders on late-production T-34/76s. Or there are sets aimed at that variant, of course.
ET Model have designed these sets to fit AFV Club’s T-34/85, which isn’t blessed with a great deal of etched detail. I don’t own the kit, but I do have a Dragon Premium Edition one, which comes with a lot of brass. A fairly unscientific comparison indicates that the ET Model etch will fit the Dragon kit, too, and is finer, both in the level of detail and (in the case of the grille) in the thickness of the metal. It also contains many elements that aren’t in the Dragon kit. So, although it’s been designed around the AFV Club T-34, it should enhance any equivalent kit, though not to quite the same extent. Plus, of course, the fenders are a long way ahead of any kit’s plastic ones. The drawbacks mentioned above are really only quibbles, provided you can cope with minute detail and the perils of static cling.
ET Models' UK distributor is Cove Models, from whom the whole range is available directly. They also offer a reduction if you buy these two sets as a package.
Highs: Lots of fine detail, should mostly be easy to work with.Lows: Finest parts perhaps too fine; some impossible contortions required for success.Verdict: High-quality photo-etch, well worth it as an enhancement to any T-34/85.