PzKpfw VI Tiger I

After a visit in June early June 2004 I now have some photos of Tiger 131 at the Bovington Tank Museum.
Click on the thumbnails to see much larger and more detailed versions.
You are free to reproduce any of these images so long as you credit me for them and link back to this page.

Websites with info on the Tiger or about Modelling the Tiger

As a kid I always found tanks facinating and I used to enjoy making plastic models of them. Well they say men never really grow up, their toys just get bigger, and I'd have to agree, so after the robots and the underwater camera housing I found myself without a project and decided to build myself a tank - The Panzerkampfwagen (PzKpfw) VI Tiger I. But this would be no ordinary plastic kit, no this would be completely scratch built, all metal and BIG. When I say big a mean big, 1/8 scale - that means it's about a metre long and will weigh about the same as I do. Fully radio controlled including a blank firing main gun it's a major engineering project. The estimated cost is about £1000 - £1500 and will take me several years to complete - there are a lot of parts to make, including 196 track links that all have to be cast (after I've made the molds).

OK, so why a Tiger I. Well it had some history - the most powerful tank on the battlefield when it appeared in the Second World War and feared by the allies for it's awesome gun and impregnable armour. Second there is a lot of information out on the net about modelling the tank as well as original specifications (see links below) and lastly and probably most importantly it was reasonably simple to make. The general shape involves mostly flat plates welded together, other than the turret there is hardly a curve on it. With the the decision made on what tank to make, a little more research was required as to what variant. There were several variants but I wanted one that had rubber tyres (these were dropped on later models due to lack of materials at the end of the war) and so it had to be an early model. I wanted a plastic kit to help with dimensions and the only one the shop had of the early type was the one pictured above - decision made - initial production it would be. The Tamiya range of kits are supposed to be the most accurate and this would help with sizes I couldn't obtain from other sources.

I decided to start from the top and work down. The reasoning was that rather than get fed up making hundreds of track links first I would start with the turret and once this was complete it would spur me on to complete the more complicated running gear. OK, so here are a few pictures of what I have so far. Click the images to see a bigger version.

September 2003 work starts.

The Turret wall is made from 3mm thick aluminium sheet, this was a thick as I was able to roll. To create the impression of a scale thickness wall I have welded another piece inside the turret so when the top is on it will look correct. The turret has not been painted, it's been bead blasted, this gives a very nice 'cast metal' appearance.

The barrel pivot is aluminium but has brass inserts in each end. The two brass lugs you see sticking out are the trunions that the main gun pivots on. These are machined to give a sliding fit into the brass inserts. On the model I have threaded them so they screw into the wall of the turret to hold the barrel pivot in place. This was not how it was done on the original tank but seemed a simple way of dismantling for maintenance later on. The main frontal turret armour goes between the turret and the gun as is currently being machined. The muzzle brake which goes onto the end of the barrel has not been made yet.

Update: I had the size of the barrel pivot wrong so it is now much larger in diameter - the hole inthe front of the turret has been machined larger for it to fit into.

The gun on the model will recoil, just like the original, so rather than having aluminium sliding over aluminium (never a good idea), I have made the thickest part of the gun from brass and machined a brass bush that fits onto the main part of the aluminium barrel. This is a sliding fit inside the larger part and the recoil will be solenoid or servo activated in sync with the blank firing gun mechanism.
April 2004:
I have started the mantlet which is the frontal armour of the turret. I decided to make this from two pieces for a couple of reasons. Firstly it makes it easier as I can turn the round sections and mill the square sections seperately and secondly it keeps the cost of the material down as I would need to machine a lot of material away. I also could not obtain a large enough piece of aluminium from local suppliers to do it in one piece. The barrel has been threaded so it screws into the mantlet - this is not how the original was fitted but gives a strong and easy to disassemble joint.
This ring would normally hold the barrel on but doesn't on my model. The bolts are made by screwing two nuts onto some threaded brass and soldering in place then turning to shape. They will hold the ring in place. This ring fits in the groove around the barrel shown in the above image of the mantlet.
Picture of the mantlet with the barrel attached, next to the turret with the roof on. Cheek pieces in the mantlet opening are welded into position as are the top and bottom bars which form the front armourment of the turret. I have tried to keep these as scale as possible and the welding will be cleaned up and engraved to similate scale welds. Barrel mounting ring is held in with normal screws in this shot rather than the pointed versions above - this was so the ring could be machined.
Turret with barrel mounted and roof on. There is still some more work to do on the mantlet - holes for binocular sights and machine gun and the cut out in the top. The barrel needs the muzzle brake to finish it, which I'm still working on. Rear stowage bins for the turret are currently under construction.
Nov 2004:

I'm now working on the muzzle brake for the gun. This is a complicated casting on the original (look here) so I am making it in sections and then will silver solder together. The original has a screw ring inside and I have replicated this on the centre ring of my copy. The back of the ring also has some detail which you can't see in this picture. The holes in the sides of the muzzle brake will be machined once it's all joined together.

Storage box for the back of the turret. One of the lids is shown but not fitted yet. The box was fabricated from rolled sheet aluminium and then the top and bottom were welded onto it and then filed and sanded to a smooth finish. I'm trying to find some scale hinges as those shown are not perfect.

The finished muzzle brake. This was quite time consuming - the front slots are machined into the sides at an angle of 30 degrees while the rear slots have angles of 20 degrees and 50 degrees for the front and rear edges. I eventually re-made the centre section so it fitted better once I had the slots in the outside. The finished result is worth the effort I think. Compare it to the original here.

Here is the Commanders Cupola that sits on top of the turret. It was machined out of a solid piece and then the slots were milled into the sides.
March 2005
The hatch for the Cupola is quite detailed on the bottom and I wanted to be able to see this when the hatch was open. The only way to do this was with a CNC machine so I had to spend quite a while learning how to use the CAD system so I could draw what I needed. The CAD system then writes the CNC code for the milling machine. Pretty cool.
The hatch was machined from both sides of a block, here you can see the bottom on the left and the top on the right (its the same piece of metal). It's not quite finished in these shots but eventually the edges will be machined right through and the completed hatch will fall out of the middle. It's been a slow process as it's a complicated job for a first time CAD design, but learning it will help in the future.

Thanks to Chris S for his help in learning the CAD/CAM system. I should also thank Gonz, and Stubbo, the other Chris and Roger for all their helpful (and sometimes not so helpful) comments and advice, and for putting up with me invading their lunchbreaks and taking over their machines (happy now lads ?).
Here is the square loaders hatch from the top of the turret. This is the outer frame and the hatch will sit inside it. In this shot it is not quite finished as the square material right at the bottom needs to be machined away as does the material in the centre.

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