A Modeling Guide to:
Assembling Link and Length Tracks
by Neville Lord
For military modellers who like to assemble their kits largely out of the box, it can be valuable to have a reliable technique for assembling link and length tracks. This system, which typically has two long pieces (top and bottom runs), a number of shorter lengths and several individual links, is used on over a dozen recent Italeri kits including the Tiger, sWS and Demag Sdkfz 10 ranges, as well as Tamiya's sd.Kfz 250s and a few Dragon and CMK models. Its advantages are that it can readily depict track sag while requiring less assemble time than separate link tracks, but these tracks can be tricky especially if the lengths are too long.
This article presents what I have found to be a practical technique for working with link and length tracks. For this article I'm building Italeri's Demag D7 with Flak 38 - sd.Kfz 10/5 which was a World War II German half-track. It shares the same chassis as the other kits in the Italeri sd.Kfz 10 family including the Demag with 50mm Pak 38.
Step 1: Assemble Kit's Hull
Assemble the lower hull and fit the road-wheels, and rear idlers. At this stage leave the drive sprockets (wheels with teeth) loose. By fitting the tracks before attaching the upper hull you have more space to work in. To avoid damage don't fit small parts until after the tracks are fitted.
Hint: If you are building a half-track, don't fit the front wheels at this stage, since by leaving them to later, the wheel alignment can be tweaked to ensure the model sits flat.
The drive sprocket has been left off so it can be adjusted to line up with the tracks (for this kit it would also pay for the centre fenders to be left off).
Step 2: Prepare the Parts
Remove the track parts from the sprues, and keep each track separate. I store these in separate zip lock bags.
Step 3: Arrange the Parts into Track Runs
In this and the following step the single links and shorter lengths are joined into two sections of track (one for the front and one for the rear). I only work on one track at a time in order to give it my full concentration.
- Loosely arrange the parts for one track into the sequence shown in the instructions. This is done to familiarise you with the parts, check all links are there and get them in the right order. A lot of AFV's have directional track pattern, so watch for this.
- Remove the long piece of track that goes on the bottom (and if applicable the long upper piece e.g. Italeri Tiger I & Sturmtiger), and divide the rest of the track into two roughly even sections; one for the front (fits around the sprocket) and the other the rear.
Step 4: Assemble the Links into Track Runs
- Starting with the front section apply a dab of liquid cement to the front of the second link.
- Working on a flat surface, with the outer face of the links facing downward, join this link to the rear of the first link and repeat for subsequent links and lengths.
- When a section is finished ensure it is straight and flat (if necessary press a ruler against the sides and top of the tracks) and leave it to sit while the glue sets.
- Repeat for the rear section of the track.
Step 5: Fitting the Tracks
In this step the trick is to make sure that the bottom length and the links that go around the drive sprocket are both well aligned, while leaving the sag on the top till last.
Fit the Bottom Track Length
- Glue the bottom run in place making sure it does not jut out at either end.
Fit the Front Section of Track
- By now the front section of track should be ready. If it is ready, the links will stay together when you lift the track. If the joins are weak, wait a few minutes.
- Glue the drive sprocket in place and then apply a dab of glue on the inside of the drive sprocket's teeth, and the front link of the bottom track run. - Loosely fit the front track section to the guide sprocket.
- By rotating the guide sprocket, join the front track run to the bottom track run.
- Going from the bottom up, press each link firmly into place on the drive sprocket.
- Leave the upper end of the links loose (or if applicable join to the top length of track).
Fit the Rear Section of Track
- Apply a dab of glue to the top of road wheels rear idler and the ends of the rear section of track.
- Join the rear section to the bottom run of track, and then wrap it around the rear idler and over the road wheels.
- Join the ends of the track together.
- Make any final adjustments to ensure the track sags evenly.
- Leave the kit to stand as the glue sets. For the first track, make sure the kit sits even (e.g. place some links underneath the wheels of the other side).
- If necessary hold the upper track in place while the glue sets. I find tweezers positioned at the key points work well.
If when fitting the tracks you find that they are a little too long, you can trim a small amount of several links/lengths to make them fit. To get a neat even finish I prefer to slightly trim a couple of links than make a more noticeable adjustment on one link.
If when fitting the tracks you find them a little too short, you can usually increase the pitch between several links/lengths by reducing the amount of overlap where the tracks meet. Alternatively if you are more confident you could reposition the rear idler.
If you decide to replace the link and length tracks in a half-track with aftermarket tracks such as Fruil, you will often have to add a spacer above the axle for the front (truck) wheels. This is because some of these kits have relatively shallow track profiles and the aftermarket tracks have deeper more accurate profiles and the spacer lifts the front wheels up to match the new track profile. This is an easy tweak that can be done with a piece of plastic card cut to size.
This article was prepared using the chassis from Italeri's Demag D7 series.
At the time of writing Italeri had released three versions and announced the Sdkfz 10/4 which had a Flak 30 20mm anti-aircraft gun and was the predecessor of the Sd.Kfz 10/5. Availability is intermittent.
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