Track assembly tips
The Panda tracks are considered to
be amongst the easiest track sets to assemble. A brief set of
instructions is included on the inside of every set label.
Some modelers have asked for some additional suggestions for
assembling the track sets. The techniques we recommend were
not developed by us, but have been adopted from the writings and
suggestions of many of the hobby’s most prominent modelers including
Cookie Sewell, Steve Zaloga, Shep Payne, and many others.
Cut off all the links and
connectors from the sprues as cleanly as possible. I like to
use a sprue cutter to cut in close to the part and then clean up any
remaining burrs with an inexpensive nail file borrowed from my wife.
I place all the track pads in one Dixie cup and the connectors in
Create an assembly jig to make
sure the track runs are straight. This can be as simple as a
length of ¼ inch masking tape stuck to the table with the sticky
side up and placing the track shoes at regular intervals along the
masking tape. A more elaborate jig can be developed using a
thick styrene strip (.125"x .250") from your favorite vendor
(Evergreen, etc) or even a straight edge ruler. Modelers using
this type of jig place the shoes against the strip and assemble the
connectors, letting them rest on top of the strip. In this way
they get a straight alignment of the track and the proper
orientation of the connectors in one step. An even more elaborate
jig was created by Steve Zaloga. In his excellent Osprey
Modeling book called, “Modelling the US Army (75mm) Sherman Medium
Tank” he uses two lengths of Evergreen hollow rectangular stock
slightly narrower than the width of the track shoe that are glued
together at one end with a gap between them just wide enough to slip
in the Sherman track shoes. A floor made of a scrap piece of
flat styrene is glued to the two lengths of stock so that the final
result looks like a plastic trench. A second set of two
rectangular stock is assembled into a jig with just a gap the
thickness of the track shoes. When the first run of connectors
has been cemented and dry, the run is transferred to this second
jig. The glued connectors hold the track from slipping out and
the other connectors are added and glued.
I use a variation of the Zaloga
method in that I use two lengths of hollow rectangular stock that
are slightly narrower than the track shoes so that the track shoe
pins on each side stick out. I fasten the two pieces with the
shoes trapped between using a rubber band at each end. Whichever
method you use, place the individual track shoes in your jig making
sure that all the chevrons (if applicable) are running in the same
direction. I recommend no more than 10 shoes at a time.
Take the first connector and
attach it to the first two shoes. Continue adding connectors
until the one side of the track run is complete. At this point
we need to discuss the different builder preferences and their
correspondingly different assembly methods:
Many builders like to glue the
connectors on permanently during assembly. In this case, glue
all the connectors with liquid cement (personal preference, but I
prefer Testors), let it set up, add the connectors to the other
side, and glue them up. Let the assembly dry. Runs going
around the sprockets or the idler should be fitted when the glue has
partially set up, but not completely dry. Some modelers
connect all the runs and mount the track on the model while the
cement is still soft, while others make the last connection and
mount when the completed sections are dry.
A few builders leave gluing for
last after they have fitted the runs to the tank. The Panda
connectors fit snugly so that one can fit a run to the tank without
fear of it coming apart. The runs are fitted to the tank and
assembled together. At this point each connector is painted
with liquid glue and left to dry.
Many builders like to create a
workable track. We learned this technique from the writings of
Cookie Sewell and modified it slightly to meet our own needs.
When making a workable track, add another connector to the shoe at
the end of each run, and paint every other pin on the first side
with liquid cement and let dry for 15 minutes. I then turn my
jig over, add the connectors as before, and paint the same pin
on each link with cement. Let assembly dry. The result
is a "trapped" link with one side of each shoe fixed but the other
end movable. This technique has the benefit of making track
installation easier after the model is finished.
No matter what method you use, it important to fit
the runs to the model to ensure that the track links fit inside the
driver guide teeth properly to avoid problems in final assembly. In
addition, you want to make sure the tracks are wrapping tightly
around the idler and that the track runs are straight.