Building a set of Friul tracks is worthy of its own build log, with all the tedious work required. I’ll try not to bore you with the tedious work too much.. But 75% of the work is cleaning, cutting and fiddly work. But it is definitely worth it!
First of all you need to cut off any excess metal off the track links, they have tiny ‘sprue gates’, luckily they’re all on one side and not too big and not too difficult. But cleaning 690 little bits of metal is well.. tedious. If you haven’t read my review yet, you might want to
After that you need to drill out the holes as some are (partially) obstructed. In this case I needed 0.4 mm but it probably differs for other tracks. I do hope 0.4 mm is the smallest diameter however, as the bits are tiny
I’m lucky enough to have a hardware store nearby, so I popped in and bought a few 0.4 mm bits. I could have assembled at least a few tracks without the drill but sooner or later you need to drill a few holes. I started cleaning and assembling in small batches of 15 links and holding the individual links together with my fingers worked ok. But I soon found that cleaning and assembly is much faster when you do one bag (and thus one track) at a time is faster, but a bit boring.
But holding the individual tracks can be a bit tricky. And not knowing how many links I needed for one track meant that I could not afford losing even one link. And I dropped several.. But always managed to find them, thankfully, helped by the fact that they feel like a small LEGO brick when stepped on.
So I cut out a long, narrow strip of cardboard from a Revell box, put some double-sided tape on it and started assembling the links on that. That way you can speed up the assembly process as you don’t have to hold the links together with one hand and fiddle with the track pin to get it inside the links. The pins often needed some fiddling with them to go all the way. The cardboard-and-tape method helped in that regard as I didn’t have to fiddle a lot less with the pins and/or tracks.
One other ‘problem’ I had was that the track pins I cut off the provided piece of wire were often inconsistent in length. After doing some Googling I found that other people used wooden blocks with a hole drilled into them at the right length for the track pins. Stick the wire in the hole, cut off using snips and remove the pin. This leaves you with pins in more or less the same length. I found that a wooden clothes peg was just the right width for these pins, so I taped it together and used that.
This also sped up assembly, as the pins didn’t ping off into the distance. But first a PSA:
ALWAYS wear safety goggles while cutting pieces of metal wire!
And I mean it. I’ve had a close call or two with these. Damaging your eyes is not worth it.
After assembling the tracks it’s time to glue the pins. After I’ve cut off a section of tracks I would glue the link shut. It can be hard to see which links you already glued and which ones not so I’d recommend working in short sections. It’s OK to glue one section twice,m but it’s not OK to not glue one section. Something something Murphy’s Law something something.. Because these would always fall out when handling the tracks.
After the glue has dried it was time for the burnishing fluid to enter the stage. I have used Ammo by Mig Burnishing Fluid to give the tracks that rusty-but-used look. It’s pretty easy: get a sealable container, dump in the fluid and water in a 1/1 ratio and throw the tracks in.
As I was a bit uncertain of how this would work I sat next to the container, keeping a close eye on the tracks. After just 2-3 minutes I saw the effects of the stuff, and 5 minutes in I pulled out a bunch of tracks to give them the appearance of newer replacement links. I left the rest of the tracks in for another 5-20 minutes, just to get some variety, grabbing 5 or 10 links at a time.
After that I washed the tracks to get rid of the fluid. During this process I found it is easier to burnish the single links, but that might be personal preference. In the end I found handling a handful of links easier than handling the long lengths. The end result though is great, if a bit funny smelling.
Mounting the tracks was a bit of a pain, but the problems were related to the model. There is barely enough room for the tracks between the sprocket wheel and the fenders of the Pz. Kpfw. II (and because of this the rubber tracks will probably be harder to fit). It doesn’t help that I’ve applied a liberal amount of mud in these ares. And this kit has two large gaps where the upper= and lower hull meet, and these gaps are at just the right size for tracks. This made mounting the tracks a bit more difficult. But apart from that, mounting the tracks was fairly easy. I assembled two almost complete sets of tracks to see how long they needed to be. I’d say I assembled 90-95% of each track and added the last 5-10% when the tracks were installed. This way you have some control in how loose or tight they are.
As you can see in the above picture, it all looks pretty nice. I’m not sure if I could have added more or less links, as the sprocket wheel didn’t line up with the holes in the tracks properly. I love how the tracks turned out, a definite improvement over the rubber tracks included in this seventies-era Tamiya kit.