Sera's Tank Blog 2017
You can now follow the latest news from Staples & Vine with Sera's Blog.
Updates from the workbench with news on the latest tank being sculpted.
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Sera Staples. sculptor.
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Previous years blog are accessible here 2018 2017 2016
December 21st 2017
Well another year draws to an end and it certainly has been a rollercoaster. Back in January I would have expected to have released about 5 or 6 new models this year but things haven't gone to plan. We launched our first tank (Tiger I) back at the begining of March to high acclaim and have been working hard to keep up with orders. Since then we have released the Lightning F3, Short S.23, S.30, and the Hurricane Prototype. We have also released 50 T-shirt and Mug designs, set up a new shopping cart website and changed the name of the company from Diverse Images to Staples and Vine. I would have liked to have posted more frequently on the blog but as you can see we have been a little busy. Hopefully 2018 will be a little more sedate. We have planned the Spitfire VB (1/48), Sherman M4A3E2 (1/48), and Gladiator MK I (1/48) for next year so far. All three of these are well advanced but I will post more details in January. I also have planned for 2018 a new major project but more latter. That just leaves me to thank all our marvelous customers and wish everyone very Merry Christmas and a prosperous 2018.
November 25th 2017
Some of you may be aware that I am a massive Porsche fan. I love all forms of motorsport but in particular Porsche, and have always dreamt of one day owning a 911. This year I had a 'big' birthday and was given a Porsche driving experience at Silverstone which I took up this Monday. I drove a 911 GTS (450 BHP) and had the time of my life. I was given expert tuition and got a good taste of the capabilities of an awesome car. Experiencing launch control and ABS as well as taking the car around the handling circuits.
The Experience Centre
is a fantastic facility with current and historic road and race cars on display. My car was superbly prepared and everyone was very proffessional. I even had a good lunch. I not only had a great time but learnt driving techniques to help make me a better driver day to day.
October 26th 2017
I have just purchased the latest set of tank books by Guideline publications which will help us plan our future tank releases.
These books have excellent photos, profiles, maps and history well peproduced on high quality glossy paper and are a must for the tank enthusiast. I am genuinely impressed with them and even Tim has started reading them, rating them very highly (praise indeed).
There is a lot of historical detail in these books as well as technical information on the development of the camouflage schemes. I do find many aircraft and tank books are often padded with superficial content but that is certainly not the case with these. For more information visit www.guidelinepublications.co.uk
September 29th 2017
Our new Staples and Vine website is live! We can now take online orders for T-shirts and mugs! It has been a lot of work but we are pleased with the result so feel free to explore by clicking on the image below which will take you straight there.
I have used 'Wordpress' to design the website which is completely new for me and has been a steep learning curve. It is a flexible design package which allows for lots of 'plugins' to add more features to the site which will continue to evolve. For instance the site has a plugin to allow it to function on mobile phones and a plugin for a slideshow on the front page. There is also a search facility for the T-shirts and mug. At some stage in the future I may redesign our other sites with similar features but without the shopping cart facility.
September 15th 2017
A lot has been going on recently with T-shirts, mugs name changes and new aircraft, but in the background our 3D printer has been silently whirring away. I now have all the parts for the Sherman Jumbo 3d printed ready for cleaning up, and adding further detail. There are a lot of settings to get right when 3D printing but having learnt from the Tiger I these parts have come out really well.
The first picture is of all the 3D printed parts. You will notice a lot of tall rods, these will be cut down to make fixing pegs to attach the parts together.
You will see that many of the parts have a 'structure' over them. This is a suppoirt structure sometimes called 'scaffolding' to enable the part to be printed. To avoid this the part can be printed in a different orientation although this can comprimise thge quality of the print. I chose to print the upper hull on its side and remove the scaffloding later. The scaffolding is fairly easy to remove without damaging the print but I still have to be careful. I particularly enjoy removing the support material as it reveals the detail beneath.
Often it doesn't matter which way you orientate the part you still need support material. Here you see a bogie unit with the scaffolding, and after it has been removed. It is a fidly job as the parts are small. The support material comes out pretty well but the parts still need a lot of cleaning up.
This is one side of the Sherman tracks. You can see the classic Sherman tread pattern of the rubber track blocks and the 'duckbill' extensions added to spread the additional weight of the 'up-armored' Sherman Jumbo. I had to print the tracks separate from the bogie units as the printer software couldn't handle it all in one go. The software is constantly being upgraded so hopefully by the next tank it should be able to tackle a complete unit.
September 2nd 2017
We now have a new Staples and Vine logo which is being used across all our ranges and websites. The intertwined S and V represent Tim Staples and Sera Vine the company founders. I am currently working on a new website and several other projects, more details to follow soon.
August 18th 2017
WE ARE CHANGING OUR NAME!
Please note that Diverse Images Ltd has now changed its name to Staples and Vine Ltd.
This is purely a marketing exercise and there are absolutely no changes to the structure, ownership or financial set up of the company.
For the moment all email addresses remain the same but in between now and the end of this year there will continue to be more exciting developments of new web sites and new products.
July 31st 2017
I have just finished our latest T-shirt and mug designs. We now have a total of 50 aircraft and tank designs which are available via our main website www.staplesandvine.com or you can click on the T-shirt and mug button to the left. Clicking on the images below will take you directly to the relevant tank T-shirt or mug page.
CHURCHILL VII T-SHIRT
SHERMAN FIREFLY T-SHIRT
TIGER I T-SHIRT
TIGER II T-SHIRT
CHURCHILL VII MUG
SHERMAN FIREFLY MUG
TIGER I MUG
TIGER II MUG
So when you get asked what you would like for Christmas you know where to come! I have been making excellent progress on the Sherman as well with the 3D printing now complete check back soon for the latest updates.
July 14th 2017
A lot has been happening behind the scenes over the past few months and here is a teaser for you. Building on the success of our range of aircraft T-shirts and mugs we are pleased to announce the first in a range of Tank T-shirts and mugs begining with the Tiger I. The Tiger I T-shirt and mug are available now with more designs to follow shortly. For information about sizing and ordering visit our main website here.
May 11th 2017
I have just returned from my 'annual day off'! A thoroughly well enjoyed day at Bovington Tank Museum where I caught up with the Tiger exhibition. Arriving early gave me plenty of time to take photos and really study the exhibits especially the 'Elefant in the room'.
The Elefant was shipped from America specially for the exhibition and adds a lot to the Tiger story.
These tanks have never been exhibited together before. The Tiger II saw action late in the war and is definately near the top of the to do list.
The evolution of the species is fascinating as the technology and designs changed throughout the war.
The Porsche turreted Tiger II is one of the prototypes and the Jagdtiger next to it was the largest tank to see action in World War II (the Maus did not enter service).
The Tiger exhibition is on until May 2018 and I cannot recommend Bovington highly enough, there are so many interesting exhibits and inspiration for future tank models. Great to meet up with MC - safe trip home.
April 21st 2017
Tiger production is going well and the reaction we have had from our customers has been fantastic. Many are already looking forward to our next tank release the Sherman M4A3E2 'Cobra King'. We have had people ask what figures we wil be producing with 'Cobra King'. We will probably be sculpting three figures with the Sherman these will be based on a famous photo taken after the relief of Bastogne.
The officers in the photo are I believe as follows : McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne (centre) who held out in Bastogne with William Roberts of the 10th Armoured division (right) and Abrams of the 37th Tank Batallion (left) who led the relief operation. They are of course holding the 'Bastogne' sign which survived the war and is now in the Bastogne War Museum in Belgium. I have alraedy strted on the artwork for the sign and think it will make a great addition to the 'Cobra King' Sherman.
So that's the plan for the Sherman so far. I have to visit the tank museum at Bovington in the next couple of weeks to check some dimensions and then it will be time to fire up the 3D printer and get some masters printed. It will take some time to print all the parts but well worth the wait to get the high quality I am after.
April 6th 2017
Lots going on now we have advertised the Tiger I which is selling well with many customers wanting to collect all our future releases. I certainly need to get out more and with a visit planned to the tank museum in May a visit to the War and peace revival show in July looks like a must. In the past have mainly visited airshows but the Tiger I has opened up a whole new world to us.
April 5th 2017
We have just recieved a copy of Britain at War which this month features the Tiger I. We are mightily impressed with this substantial magazine which features many in depth, well written articles not only on the Tiger but many other aspects of warfare.
For more info on the magazine click on the image above. Tim and I both highly rate this magazine so it looks like we will be subscribing.
March 23rd 2017
Tiger I casting has gone very well. As you can imagine I have used a huge amount of metal producing these tanks. It took me a full day to cast all the orders.
Now I just have assemble, paint, decal and base them. I produce them in small managaable batches and time how long each stage takes for future pricing of other tank projects. I have learnt a lot during this project which I will be able to implement on future tanks. The Tiger is a very complicated subject and as such is a bit of a baptism of fire. Our next tank the Sherman will be simpler and I am already planning further releases.
March 20th 2017
With Tiger I production starting tomorrow I thought I would post some computer rendered images of our next release the Sherman 'Cobra King'. These images are form the computer 3D model I have created and which will form the basis from which I will 3D print the masters.
From these images you can see some of the deatils that set the M4A3E2 apart from a standard Sherman. The bolt on track extensions to cope with the extra weight, the chunky turret with its thicker armour and the additional extra armour to the upper hull. We always try and work from photos so 'Cobra King' will have external stowage as it was in the day. There are still a couple of minor issues I have to double check before I begin printing but these should be cleared up on my next visit to 'Bovington Tank Museum' when I hope to catch the new 'Tiger' exhibition.
March 10th 2017
You may be aware that we now have in-house decal printing but you may not know that our latest tech also allows us to print very high quality T-shirts and mugs. Over the winter months I have created 20 aircraft designs based on aircraft through the ages as part of our 20th anniversary. All these exclusive designs have now been copyright protected and are available on both T-shirts and mugs. Our T-shirts are all top quality 215 gsm cotton. The T-shirts and mugs are available through our Staples and Vine website or via the new T-SHIRTS & MUGS button at the bottom of the left hand column. Personally I love the SR71A Blackbird. Rest assured we will be ading tanks to the range in due course, but more on that later.
We are now taking orders for the T-shirts and mugs but won't be in production until mid April. When ordering a T-shirt please state the size you require not your dimensions. This is the start of a new range which will grow and develop over the years. So if there is a particular aircraft or tank you think we should add to the range please send me an email.
March 3rd 2017
A momentous day for us today. Our new 1/48 scale Tiger I is now in production after many months of development. We are delighted with the result and thrilled with the response we have had from our customers. We knew the Tiger would be heavy as it is cast in pewter but were amazed when it weighed in at over 1 Kg (2.5 lbs). It is a very complex model with 36 individual parts and with the base it weighs almost 2 kg (4lb 4 ozs). The level of detail we have been able to reach has been fantastic especially at the rear and on the upper hull. I was originally concerned about the weathering but basing this on the photographs of Wittmann and 'S04' I think we have got it just right. We always try and work from original photos and have done so here. In the photos 'S04' is missing a couple of road wheels on one side - we have replicated this. The pose of the crew figures is a dierct representation of one of the PR photos taken on the day.
Of course now the Tiger I is in the range it needs some company so what to do next? We have always prided ourselves for tackling the subjects other manufacturers fear to produce because they can't get enough variants from their tooloing. At the same time we have to balance our the obscure with the classics. So our next release will be a Sherman! But not any Sherman, some are more obscure than others.
The Sherman we have chosen is an M4A3E2 often known as a 'Jumbo'. The M4A3E2 had additional armour added to the front and sides as well as much thicker armour to the turret and final drive. It retained the original 75mm gun but due to its increased weight track extensions called 'duckbills' were added to spread the load. The M4A3E2 was used as an assault tank and the particular one we have chosen called 'Cobra King' was used to famously relieve the encircled 101st Airbourne at Bastongne during the 'Battle of the Bulge'. There is so much history behind this Sherman I felt we just had to add it to our range, but more on that in a later post. Just to say that all the design work is going well and the end result will perfectly compliment the Tiger I.
February 16th 2017
The Tiger I is coming together well, this has been a major project for us and I have learnt a lot. Fortunately I haven't made too many mistakes on the way. I think this is because I have been planning the Tiger for such a long time and have gone through the design time and again over the past year before finally getting files on the project. The turret is now finished and is like christmas tree with all the detail added.
The smoke dischargers and spare track brackets make the turret come alive. I am very pleased with the barrel and how well the muzzle brake has come out. We also have our sample of the cast base back from the casters, the result is everything I could have hoped for, the detail has been perfectly captured. As you can see I couldn't wait to assemble the Tiger to assess the overal look of the diorama.
I still have the exhausts, mudguards and other details to fit but so far so good. There are some fit issues still to address but I am well on the way to completing our first tank and I am very happy with progress to date. I hope to finish the sculpting early next week then I am onto mouldmaking and producing the sample.
February 10th 2017
Very busy on the Tiger right now, it is all coming together quite well. This project is radically different from our traditional aircraft range in many ways but I am still using the same techniques. I am now at the stage where all the parts are being hand finished and assembled into the final master.
Some of the parts that were 3d printed have been cast in pewter to form metal masters and I am delighted with the quality of casting and detail I have been able to maintain. In this photo you can see the fresh casting in situ after the metal has cooled enough to open the mould.
Making the silicone moulds has allowed me to duplicate parts such as road wheels and spare track links. Here you can see alll the cast parts together with the optional crew figures all waiting to be cleaned up for assembly.
Today I have been cleaning up and fitting the road wheels and drive sprockets which has gone very well. The detail is fantastic, you can even see the bolts holding on the road wheels. Now I just have to clean up all the other parts. It can be a bit tedious clening up lots of the same parts but the reward has been well worth the effort. Now I can get on with the upper hull and turret which I am really looking forward to.
February 8th 2017
Everything is progressing well with the Tiger I. I have installed the Ultimaker 2+ upgrade to our 3D printer and printed out the remaining parts for the Tiger I. These were mainly small detailed parts such as exhausts, spare tracks, smoke dischargers and air filters. I have had to clean up and enhance these parts by hand with our standard sculpting material - Milliput. At the same time I have sculpted the optional figures for the Tiger I. The figures are the Wittmann and his crew arm in arm, based on one of the period photographs taken infront of the Tiger. The Tiger will be available with or without the figures. The figures give an excellent sense of scale to the Tiger as well as atmosphere. It is our intention in the future to further develop our tank bases as dioramas giving scale and context to our tank range. This is something we have always carried out with our aircraft range.
Once the small parts have been completed it is time to convert them to metal masters wehere they can be duplicated (in the case of road wheels and spare tracks) and further enhanced as necessary.
Two part high temperature silicone moulds are produced by hand over a couple of days which will allow me to cast metal masters. These cast masters are fairly coarse and require a lot of hand finishing to reach the final fit and finish for production of the Tiger.
January 27th 2017
As the 20th year of Diverse Images begins a belated happy new year to everyone and I am now finally starting sculpting our Tiger I. Many of the major parts were 3D printed last year leaving me still to make the small parts such as exhausts, coupola, spare tracks and smoke dischargers. This project is our first tank and as such requires a fair bit of planning as I have to develop new techniques for sculpting and production. I have a pretty good idea of how things are going to work out but some aspects still have to be 'thrashed out' as I go.
I have had to start with the base as this will be cast by specialists in resin and will take some time to produce. As I intend to sculpt the bas surface with Milliput which I bake to cure I need to find a base material to build up from which will withstand the heat of the oven. I have chosen Tufnol which appears to be very similar to Bakelite. After cutting out the square base plate I have added additional layers to build up the height in selected areas. The cut out plan of the Tiger I helps deciding an overal layout for the base.
While the additional layers of Tufnol are glued to the base plate with epoxy I have started to assemble the running gear of the Tiger. This is the first time these parts have been together and I am thrilled with the result, the stance is perfect and and I can now see what an imposing model this will be.
A few hours of Milliputing and baking later and we are starting to get a landscape. I have made a 1:48 scale left and right boots and used them to create footprints in the 'snow' where the crew dismounted from the Tiger and where they will be standing arm in arm when I have finished.
Also moulded into the 'snow' are the impressions of the Tiger tracks which have come out particularly well. I still have to sculpt some snow covered bushes but I am very pleased with progress so far.
In other news we have just recieved an upgrade kit for our Ultimaker 3D printer. To see what's in the box visit our aircraft blog here.