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Zimmerit: History and How-to


Now it's time to apply the zimmerit! It is important to do one side per session, since soft putty is easily disturbed when handeling the model. For each of the standard patterns there is a slight variation. If you goof up or do not like the pattern then Zimm-it-rite can be scraped off easily and reapplied, (for plastic putty: scrape the putty off right away, let the plastic harden up and sand smooth).

Make a trowel from scrap sheet stock, 0.030 is best, the business end should be around 5mm in width and sanded to a taper, (for plastic putty: make several, as this putty tends to destroy them).

Select on logical area to work, such as an entire hull side, and apply the Zimm-it-rite. The best tool to use is your finger, just push it on and around until it covers the entire surface. Now smooth it out, the best tool I have found for this is an artist's paint knife, (check at an art supply store). It is important to wet the tools with water and to keep them clean. If you had previously applied the small tool-tabs then you will notice that this smoothing out process cleans and leaves them exposed. Expect to spend up to one half an hour getting the application of Zimm-it-rite smooth. The actual thickness doesn't really matter but it does have to be uniform. For complex surfaces such as the front of the Pz.IV (see photograph above) I find that an X-Acto knife is the best tool for application. Getting a smooth coat of uniform thickness is the single most important factor with this technique. So lots of practice beforehand is essential. If you are starting out then it is best to try a clean flat surface first, like the Kingtiger hull side below, before something more complex.

For plastic putty the technique is a little different. Since this putty dries within minutes, only small areas can be worked per application. Basically follow the patterning methods below but apply small squares about 30mm x 30mm and press the texture in after a "skin" has formed. Leave a bit of the putty unworked to blend into the next application, apply another section, texture it and continue until the surface is done. Using plastic putty has no advantages over Zimm-it-rite other than it is essentially free - but it is quite troublesome and a lot of practice is needed to master its use.

Ridged Pattern (Most prevalent)
I find that Zimm-it-rite textures easier if it is left to set up for about half an hour, (this time will vary depending on ambient temperature and the amount of mixing done). Water prevents Zimm-it-rite from sticking to the tools so it is essential that the trowel be kept wet and clean. Wetting the Zimm-it-rite beforehand will help to prevent this from happening too.

Hold the trowel perpendicular to the surface and gently press in the ridges, being careful not to push the putty around the model, if it does move then wait a short time for it to set up a bit more. Start at the top of a column and work down until the entire column of ridges is done, then move to the right and start another, (I suppose if you are left handed then move to the left). When done remove any masking tape while the putty is still soft. That's it! Easy!

Panther Pattern
Almost the same as for the ridged pattern, but the ridges are vertical and a secondary grid pattern must be over laid. I find the second pattern easier to make with a straight piece of 0.010 stock. The Zimmer-it stamps for the Panther pattern from R&J could be used too. I tried them out and they seem to work well, but I did not spend enough time to master them.

StuG III Pattern
Using the same technique as for the Ridged Pattern, but make a different trowel. Take a 7mm x 7mm square of very thick stock and saw the "waffle" pattern into it. Mount this onto a handle made from sprue and use it as a stamp to create the pattern. There is a set of stamps available with this pattern from Zimmer-it.

StuG IV Pattern
Using the same technique as for the Ridged Pattern, and the same trowel, but angle the trowel at about 45deg. Work up a column, move one column over and then work down, thus creating the zigzag pattern. I find that this kind of pattern looks better if the putty spread on a little thicker, (don't ask me why).

Early Jagdpanther Pattern
Make a different texturing tool from a long straight piece of 0.010" sheet plastic, sandwiched between 0.020" sheet stock for strength, (be sure to leave the 0.010" exposed). Use this tool to impress the checker board pattern into the Zimm-it-rite.


Set aside to dry, usually over night. Do another side the next day, it should take about a week to do the entire vehicle. Remember, do not touch it in anyway until it is dry. I usually sand the Zimmerit surface lightly to remove the rough edges and even it out a bit and then gently go over it with steel wool to round the edges again.

If there are any methods I have missed please let me know. I'll try them out and update this article. Good luck with your next zimmerit project.

2002 Paul A. Owen and Track Link - All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.
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