By Matt Bittner
Photography by Scott Hackney
The Iosef Stalin (IS, and not JS) series of tanks were the result of the Soviet's needing a more "modern" heavy tank during the Great Patriotic War. Since the KV series was outclassed in the early part of the war, a heavier armored and better gunned tank was needed to not only battle the Tigers and Panthers, but also to provide a better "break-through"ability. The IS-1 was the first production development toward the IS-2. Also known as the IS-85, it was basically the new chassis used for the IS series, and the 85mm gun, hence the IS-85 designation.
The PST IS-1 (IS-85) consists of over 180 parts, and a lot of those won't be used. For example, when I finished this model I had over 18 separate track links left over. There are decals for two machines, but the decal sheet is also the same one that comes with the IS-2 kits.
All PST kits have a lot of redundancy in them. This is due to them providing most parts for all tank-types on the same sprue. Some may think why, but I for one am glad. Not only does PST allow for multiple types, but also there exists the possibility of replacing parts that may be miscast, missing or ruined by the modeler. In fact, it was due to PST including the same sprue for the IS-1 in the KV-85 kit that I was able to easily finish this model. The KV-85 kit comes not only with the common parts between the two tanks, but also includes those parts used by the IS-1. One of my IS-1's lower hull sides was not cast completely, so I was able to snip the one that came with the KV-85, since the lower hull of the KV-85 is different than the IS-1.
In addition, PST has cast most of the items on their tanks as separate pieces. That means pioneer equipment like axes and shovels, etc., are molded separately. This definitely helps in the scale appearance of the model.
I started construction by gluing the lower hull sides onto the lower hull "center piece". The fit was decent but not perfect, resulting in some putty being needed. After the putty was sanded and finished, then I added the rest of the parts to the lower hull. (Note that when I talk "lower hull" versus "upper hull", the kit is separated by top and bottom, where the top consists of everything on the top of the tank - minus the turret - and the lower hull consists of the suspension, wheels and underside.)
Unfortunately the roadwheels in my kit were separated from the sprue somewhere between PST's distribution center and my house. This meant that my road wheels were flat on one side. I fixed this by gluing layers of sheet styrene until I met the "roundness" of the rest of the wheel. Once the plastic sheet was on and dried it was then sanded to blend with the rest of the wheel. I then glued the wheels to the lower hull completing this construction phase.
I then turned my attention to the turret. There was less than a stellar fit here which meant a seam that needed some putty and attention. Once the seam was gone I added the various items to the top of the turret. After those were added I noticed that when I sanded the seams on the turret I also removed the cast-texture (the real turret was a one-piece casting). I restored the cast appearance by brushing liquid cement over the surface of the turret (I didn't have to restore the texture to the top of the turret). This worked very well. Another way to restore the texture could have been with a Dremel tool, which I may try on another model.
After the cast-texture was restored I replaced the kit's infantry handholds with some made from wire. The kits were too thick and mis-molded to use - probably the worst part of the whole kit. I also cut the kit rear, turret-mounted gun's tube off and replace it with drilled out styrene rod.
Attention then turned to the upper hull. The extra fuel barrels on the top of the fenders needed extra attention to keep them round due to some poor seams. The underside of the fenders of the upper hull will have to be filled partially in. Due to molding concerns half of the fenders were "hollow" to allow easy molding of the hole to accept the turret. This was filled in first with sheet styrene and then putty took care of any seams or depressions after that.
I sprayed the model in three distinct sections: lower hull, upper hull and turret. I didn't glue the upper hull to the lower hull to help with track addition. Once the lower hull - and then later the tracks - were painted, I then started to add the tracks to the wheels on the lower hull. The tracks are excellent molds and with a little care can make the tank look fantastic. The IS (and KV) series of tanks had noticeable sag to the tracks between the return rollers. The plastic the tracks are made of allowed moderate bending without breaking, so these were carefully bent to give the impression of track sag.
I had to work on the separate track links to get them to work. There are some "nubs" on each track link end that may have to be removed for ease of assembly. In addition when attaching the separate track links to the drive sprocket the holes in the links to accept the teeth of the drive sprocket will need to be enlarged. Alternatively one could cut the teeth off the drive sprocket where the links attach to the sprocket. I chose to enlarge the holes.
I also had to adjust one track link per side to finish the whole run of track. This was due to me introducing sag to the track. The tracks are meant - out of the box - to attach to the wheels with no sag. By introducing sag I increased the amount of track that would be needed - and of course, with modeling, it couldn't be as easy as adding just another separate track link. I had to sand the ends of one per side to fit correctly and effectively close the track run.
I first sprayed the track with Testor's Acryl "Engine Gray", and once the tracks were on the lower hull I followed that by brushing on Testor's enamel airbrush only "Jet Exhaust". Since "Jet Exhaust" is an airbrush-only paint it was perfect to provide a "wash". The upper hull and turret were painted with Testor's "Medium Green" acrylic while the lower hull was painted with Polly Scale's Soviet Khaki. After the tracks were "washed" with the "Jet Exhaust" I glued the upper and lower hulls together. There were seams to deal with at both ends, but a little CA and sanding took care of those.
I then put on an oil wash of brown in all areas, and followed that with an oil wash of black in those areas I wanted the detail to really pop out. After the oil was dried I dry brushed some of the original "Medium Green" to bring the original color back out. Once that was dry I sprayed the entire model with Polly Scale "Flat" and ended by applying some pastel-chalk. I also added an MV Lens to the front light.
PST kits aren't the "shake and bake" variety, but with a little patience and foresight can be made into first rate models. I didn't go to the extreme I normally due with small scale armor primarily because I just wanted to finish the model. If I built this kit again I would definitely replace the grills on the back of the upper hull with photoetch, and would be more careful during the construction. I am extremely glad with the PST kits and am really glad with their subject matter - especially the KV series which is a personal favorite.
Armada No. 6, The IS Tanks