Zimmerit Techniques Community Page
4 October 2003  
The most common question I have received as host of this website, is how to apply zimmerit to small scale tanks. Since I have never attempted to do this yet myself, I asked for readers to help me in assembling a collection of techniques for this very necessary modeling task. For this article, I have compiled all the responses I have since received to my request.

This article is a continuously growing cooperative effort. If any readers have additional information and methods which they would like to share, please send them to me, and I will happily add them to the list.

My thanks to all of those who have contributed.

Background
Zimmerit was a coating which the Germans applied to many of their armored vehicles during the mid-to-late portion of World War II, in order to defeat magnetic and adhesive anti-tank explosives. I will not go into any detail describing the history of zimmerit, since there are better places on the web for that. John Elwen sent me the following link:

http://www.panzerdiesel.com/eng/e270.php

This site has some great photographs of many vehicles which utilized zimmerit. Another excellent reference is an article from the Track-Link website:

http://www.track-link.net/articles/vArticle.php?aid=15

Photoetched Brass
My only contribution to this article will be to point out the excellent etched brass zimmerit sets from the Polish firm PART, and more recently, Eduard of Czech Republic. They produce several different patterns of zimmerit for each vehicle, as well as "factory-fresh" and "weathered and chipped" versions of each pattern. Michael Hatch has used the PART sets to great effect on a Revell Tiger kit. Michael also wrote a Preview of the PART etched set before finishing the kit.

For ease of application, consistent results, and variety of patterns, I heartily recommend the etched brass sets. Unfortunately, using these sets is more expensive than any of the do-it-yourself methods. Also, although the vehicle selection is growing, for out-of-production kits such as the Brummbär and Elefant, we still must rely on our own techniques.

Contributed Techniques
Tippex and Jeweller's Screwdrivers. I have seen the results and they are stunning, and I am experimenting now.
-Mike Siggins

I just finished my first 1/72 Tiger I, and I added Zimmerit thusly:
  • mix up some Milliput epoxy putty.
  • rough up the surface of the plastic a bit with sandpaper (fine grit will do nicely)
  • using your finger, spread a thin, uniform layer of putty on to the surfaces you want "zimmeritted"
  • wet the surface of the putty a bit
  • using an Exacto razor saw blade, lightly "comb" across the putty to make the grooved surface of the Zimmerit. Stop combing every so often and "jog" the blade a tiny bit to make the vertical breaks in the Zimmerit finish.
  • for small areas, or irregular shapes (the circular escape hatch on the side of the Tiger I turret or the ball mounted MG on the hull come to mind) use a flattened toothpick, small screwdriver blade, etc. to impress the pattern.
  • Let dry, sand lightly if the texture is too coarse, and paint.

Sound like an expert don't I? If you only knew - this is my first tank in about 15 years - I'm a figure modeller normally! I guess the moral of the story is to just dive in and give it a go!

Now, does anyone have a technique for doing waffle pattern Zimmerit? I'm gonna try a Stug. IV next!

Cheers,
Brian Wildfong
Cambridge, Ont., CANADA

I know 3 methods and I've already used 2.
  • Epoxy putty. I buy a brand new epoxy putty, mix both parts and roll in a flat surface (a mirror is nice). In order to work better, I always use liquid vaseline, in order to thin and not stuck the putty in our hands.Afterwards I apply a very thin layer in one part, and use a small screwdriver (usually 0,9mm) and make the pattern. Voila! Very convincing pattern. I recomend to practice before in some scrap plastic. I usually coat 4 pieces of scrap plastic before I begin to use on my precious model. I used this method when I converted an Airfix Tiger I into a Sturmtiger. Real nice results!
  • Liquid Cement. Just apply the cement on the part desirable, let it dry for 20 - 30 minutes and make the pattern with the small screwdriver. Also very convincing. I used this on a Hasegawa Panther G, converted for Berlin '45. Nice results, but I'd rather use epoxy. However, the cement can be sanded and reapplied. Do not use much cement, as it can mar the plastic. Please, practice before!
  • Napkins. I never used it. Some napkins have the Zimmerit pattern on it. Just cut and glue. The only disadvantage is that is limited to just one pattern.

I hope that this may help.

Have a nice day, Ricardo Haddad

I use an epoxy for filling up cracks in walls, becuase it's relatively cheap, dries very slowly and very hard, and adheres well. Mask off the boundaries with masking tape, and apply an even layer of epoxy to the entire surface. Take a hacksaw blade with teeth that are of the correct size and scrape it across the surface, raising or lowering the blade about one millimeter where you want the ridges to be broken. The main problem with the epoxy that it is VERY sticky, so it's harder to make clean transitions between sessions. If any blemishes occur, I very carefully fix it with a toothpick dipped in alcohol so that it won't stick to the toothpick.

I suppose that using a less adhesive putty would help solve this problem, but Tamiya's grey putty dries too fast to be used on large areas. I wasn't sure how fast their epoxy putty dries, and I couldn't find any other brands of putty (here in Taiwan, Tamiya is just about the only choice you have) so I decided to use the left over expoxy that I had used to fix cracks in my walls after a 7.3 earthquake. The epoxy sets in 40 minutes, hardens in 6 hours, and a thin layer will cure in about 24 hours, which gives you plenty of time to scrape it off and re-do it if you decide you don't like it.

Many people have recommended using a product called Zimm-it-rite from http://www.rjproducts.com/. I've never tried it however so I don't know, but looking at the photos people sent me, it looks pretty good. In Taiwan, it's always a pain (and expensive) to buy things overseas, so I decided to stick with easily available products. In any case, experiment and practice before risking your model.

Happy modeling!
Sincerely, Michael Hwang

Ross Moorhouse sent to me a scan of an article from Military in Scale magazine (August 1999) which was written by Michael Tooth. I can't reproduce it here without violating copyright laws, but I can summarize what Michael had to say:

He suggests using a product called 'Humbrol Liquid Poly' which is a type of modeling glue with a very slow drying time. You brush the Poly over the plastic, let it sit a couple seconds to melt the plastic, and then cut in the zimmerit pattern with a knife or other sharp object. This is very similar to some of the other suggestions I've seen, but the key is that this particular glue dries much slower than the other liquid cements. One of the benefits is that if you don't like the result, it's easy to sand it off, and try again. Thanks for the article, Ross.


From Curt Reimer:

Getting inspiration from a recent magazine, I've done zimmerit with paint. I put on a coat of enamel paint, then just before it is dry, I put on a second coat. Just before this second coat is dry, I take a small screwdriver and impress the zimmerit pattern. With three Panzer IV's under my belt, I can get a fairly even and scale effect. A big plus is I use some of that old paint!


Material:
  • Jewelry flat head screwdriver (the smallest you can find).
  • Testor's contour putty or Squadron's green putty.
  • Acetone.
  • Rubbing alcohol (isopropyl).
  • A small putty knife (popcycle stick or small flat piece of flexible plastic).

Procedure:

1. Spread a thin layer of the putty on the surface with a putty knife. Work approximately 1 x1 cm surface area at a time, because the putty dries fast. It takes practice to make it even. The ideal thickness is about 1/2 mm. Usually the putty will start to dry and stick all over the place. Dip the putty knife in rubbing alcohol, then continue spreading. It will soften the putty. (Note: Test with both rubbing alcohol and acetone. Rubbing alcohol tends to soften the putty, while acetone will dissolve the putty - it is good for making a rough surface. However, acetone may damage the plastic model).

2. With good lighting, and good posture, work quickly using the screwdriver to make imprints of lines in the still soft putty. I make the depressions at about 1/2 mm apart. I have succeeded in three patterns: A) Horizontal lines for an early jagdpanzer IV (Hasegawa); B) Vertical lines for an early Panther G (Revell) and C) Square pattern for a Normandy Jagdpanther (HaT).

3. After about 5 minutes, check for result. Any unsatisfactory areas can be scraped off to give a "flaked off" appearance, or putty can be re-applied.

Note: Since zimmerit was discontined in 9/44, the latest versions of German tanks usually are not covered with zimmerit. The late "ambush" camouflage scheme is almost mutually exclusive of Zimmerit. When I show the models to my neighbor, he told me I was crazy. Hope this helps and happy modelling!

Albert Chen (Los Angeles, California)
P. S. Does anyone know how to make the waffle pattern for the StuG III?

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