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Osprey Modelling 9: Modelling the IS Heavy Tank

by Nicola Cortese

Osprey Publishing Ltd, Soft covers, 7.25 x 9.75-inches, 82 pages, 245 color photographs, seven color drawings, bibliography, kitography, index and color chart, ISBN 1-84176-757-3


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The IS (or Iosef Stalin) series of tanks has long been a popular staple of the AFV modeling community. In “ancient times” we had the Roco item in 1/87 scale, the Airfix kit in 1/76 scale and the Aurora kit in 1/48 scale. Tamiya had something that looked like an IS tank in the early 1960s as did a couple of resin companies as recently as the early 1990s. In the early 1990s, DML, then Tamiya, and finally Trumpeter graced modelers with good kits of several versions of the IS-2 and IS-3 to work with (and in the case of DML, ISU-122/152 derivatives as well). Why all this background? To illustrate the point that the Soviet IS series of heavy tanks was, and is, extremely popular not only with modelers, but with manufacturers as well.

Therefore a good book, devoted to modeling the IS series of tanks should prove to be popular among modelers. This latest title from Osprey (a fine first effort by Mr. Cortese, a Canadian modeler and moderator on this site) is a welcome addition to their revamped Osprey Modelling series. Using very well-done step-by-step photographs (also created by the book’s author), and easily understood text, Mr. Cortese takes the reader through several projects. These are of varying skill levels, depicting five vehicles in the popular 1/35th-scale, as well as two in the smaller 1/72nd-scale. The kits built are:1. DML’s kit of the ISU-152 in 1/35th-scale.
2. DML’s kit of the IS-2 in 1/35th-scale.
3. Trumpeter’s kit of the IS-3M in 1/35th-scale
4. Tamiya’s kit of the IS-3 in 1/35th-scale
5. Cromwell’s conversion to a post-war ISU-152 based on the Tamiya IS-3 kit in 1/35th-scale.
6. Two different production versions of the IS-2 from Fujimi in 1/72nd-scale.

Starting in a logical sequence, the author first briefs the reader on his modeling philosophy and the reasons he chose this particular series of AFVs for this book. He then talks about the basic tools in his arsenal and their use. But the book’s entire emphasis is on construction, detailing and finishing techniques that are not only useful in modeling IS tanks, but also on AFV models in general. This information will prove extremely useful to the novice, as it talks of basic modeling skills and how to acquire them. To the “old hands”, it will also provide some useful tips and techniques. I found the author’s method for making grab handles especially welcome as it depicts a simple way to repeatedly create both uniform shapes for the handles, and a means to maintain a uniform position for the handles on the vehicle model in question.

The author also provides some different ways to weather a model, including an effect using a tiny sponge. This particular segment of the book is accompanied by a series of color drawings to further reinforce the point he is trying to make. I found the author’s finished models to be quite pleasing, but they all seem to look pretty much the same, although one had a winter whitewash and another a faded desert scheme. But that observation is a mere trifle compared to the overall quality of the models in this book.


The author also describes scratch-building techniques using styrene, various thin sheet metals and wire, as well as methods of using or enhancing the details of after-market items such as engines, interiors and photo-etched brass. To emphasize this last point, the author “destroyed” a DML kit and inserted a completely re-detailed engine based on a commercial styrene offering as well as a new interior based upon a resin item. To illustrate a simple conversion, and methods to work with it, he uses a Cromwell conversion for the Tamiya kit. Finally, he “takes it down a notch” by showing how very basic techniques can result in a stunning Braille Scale model of an IS-2.

There is a helpful reference section at the end, which cites some books and web sites of use in modeling these AFVs. The author also provides contact information for many of the manufacturers whose products feature in this work. A list of available kits and accessories will also prove useful, as will a page of color chip approximations (with the specific manufacturer of the color listed on the back of the page). Of course, these last are for reference only and should not be used for matching purposes, due to the inherent limitations of the printing process.

About the only thing in this book that is different from the other books I have reviewed in this series, is the lack of reference photos of the prototype to illustrate certain points. Also, a bit more on the physical differences of the various IS-series tanks may have been helpful. Including these would have been icing on an already tasty cake. Overall, however, the presentation of this book is top-notch making it quite useful to modelers of any level of competence.

Highly recommended.

Frank De Sisto

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