Projects: Man builds tank with WEST SYSTEM epoxy
If you follow the M4 west as far as it goes, you’ll arrive in the small Welsh village of Crosshands, home to a ‘Panzerkampfwagen VI’ (more commonly known as the Tiger 1 tank).
Among other materials local resident Mark Milward is using WEST SYSTEM® epoxy to build a half semi-scale model of the much feared, heavily armoured tracked vehicle. Developed for the German Army’s mechanised fighting units, the tanks were in use during WW2.
Having always been interested in history and an avid modeller, Mark wanted to build something different.
“Everyone builds boats, cars and planes, I wanted to do something that would bring all my life-learned skills together,” he says. “Then when I retired, I bought a 1/16 Heng Long model of a Tiger 1 and decided to scale it up using the Tiger 1 Haynes Manual as a base guide.”
In his younger days Mark used to help his granddad repair motorbikes and cars which is where his interest in all things mechanical started. After finishing school he trained for a year as a mechanical technician then jumped ship to become an apprentice electrician with South Wales Electricity Board. Many years and job roles later Mark took early retirement but not before amassing the valuable skills needed to bring such an ambitious project to fruition.
It is ambitious. Not just in size, but also in available space to create the model.
“It’s very challenging, not having huge amounts of space,” explains Mark. “The tank takes up most of the garage so I work outside when I can. When the weather doesn’t co-operate, I am often to be found in the kitchen or dining room.”
The tank will be fully functional with moving turret and gun attached, powered by a donor VW polo engine and running gear. It will be steered via an on-board PC screen system, through a number of externally mounted cameras and will stand 1.5m high, 4.2m long and 1.8m wide (roughly filling the space of a Land Rover Discovery).
“The best advice for a project like this is to have a timetable for doing things, devise a plan of what you need to do in advance, ensuring that you have inside work and outside work to allow for weather and for space, otherwise you can’t move as everything’s in the way,” Mark says.
Made from “steel and wood, lots and lots of steel and wood”, Mark uses WEST SYSTEM 105 Epoxy Resin and WEST SYSTEM 205 Fast Hardener to laminate the wood. “A friend and fellow modeller recommended WEST SYSTEM epoxy to laminate the marine plywood wheels, to build up the requisite 88mm thickness x 400mm high. It works a treat.
“I made the turret base in the same way to give it the right height and shape – there’s lots of gluing and screwing involved. That was another reason I chose WEST SYSTEM epoxy, it comes in large pack sizes and with the amount I get through, that’s really important.”
When the time comes Mark will also be using WEST SYSTEM epoxy for some of the finer aesthetic details of the tank.
“The original tanks were welded together and the resulting joint leaves a distinct pattern on the weld face. To recreate this I’ll be using the WEST SYSTEM 406 Colloidal Silica which can be applied and shaped to produce the desired puddle-wave lap effect,” says Mark.
It is definitely a labour of love, taking up most of Mark’s time.
“I’m outside setting-up as early as 6am ready for 8am, … then the noise starts and finishes no later than 6pm. I’m very lucky with my neighbours, no one complains, they take an interest and are really very supportive, always stopping to chat. The rest of the day is for planning the next task and for research to ensure its as authentic as I can possibly make it.”
Mark has no set plans for his tank. “I’ve thought about displays at schools, attending re-enactments or possibly selling if the price was right in order to build another. My next project could be something simpler though, and less time consuming, perhaps a full-size operational Dalek.”
This mammoth project, ongoing since Oct 2018, is due for completion in the not too distant future. If you find yourself at the tail end of the M4 and see an armoured vehicle on the side of the road, don’t panic – it’s just Mark’s tank.
Watch the video below to get a closer look at what Mark has so far: