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Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 8:35 pm
by Mike Conley
I usually don't show much of my Armortek builds but if I run on to any 'tip' to builders I'll post it. I've been working on little things on this M3 Lee build until the Motion Pack gets here: rounding machining corners, putting on cast numbers, applying 'cast' texture, painting the inside surfaces white, little things like that. But I've seen a minor thing that could be done to save yourself (or the next owner) a lot of frustration years from now.

On the Sherman forum I showed how I had to take the swingarms off so I could put on update stuff (first pic here). The Sherman has a three bolt bracket on the bottom of the suspension housing that ya can take off. This helped a LOT to get the swingarm axles out with pliers. Most came out without too much of a 'fight' but there were two axles that were pretty much seized in the swingarms. Over the years the thin coating of grease had dried out and they DID NOT WANT to come out! Even the swingarms were awfully stiff to even move. Had a HECK of a time with ViceGrips and a small hammer to get'em out enough to tilt'em out. Once out, had to used a brass punch and hammer to fully push'em thru.

Now I've noticed on the M3 there's no three bolt bracket on the housing bottoms and just two holes for'em. To try to get THESE M3 axles out, if they're dry and seized, well there ain't really no way to even get a hold of'em! If a tire needed changed or a swingarm needed grease, what'er ya gonna do to git that axle out? You could do like me and have a few beers and think on it OR you could have already done a pre-emptyive strike on'em!

The real M3 has axles with holes in the ends anyway. So I put each swingarm and wheel axle in the lathe and drilled a hole in each one because it looks 'right' AND so years/decades from now, when I (or the next owner) needs to try to get the axles out, they'll at least have a hole to maybe bind a metal screw or 'easy out' in to bind and help twist/pull'em out. Better than just a smooth axle face to start with. I would have also tapped the holes but I don't have a tap that small...

If you're building the M3, think about getting this done. Surely you 'know somebody' who 'knows somebody' who 'works with somebody' who has a lathe that can take a few minutes to drill holes in the swingarm/wheel axles. Or even a machine shop cause it'd only take a couple minutes...

Mike (the one in Kentucky!)

Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Sun Apr 14, 2019 9:45 pm
by Mike Conley
On all my tanks I initially paint the inside panels Krylon 'Paint & Primer Semi Gloss White'. That paint gets hard and still reflects light. It's easier to do it right off than wish you'd'a done it before you started bolting the hull plates together!

As soon as I wash the oil off and they're dry, I like to lay everything out and spray the inside surfaces. That way, after it's built, anytime in the future when I have to mess around inside I can SEE a LOT better. If I drop a screw or have to fix a wire the white interior makes everything stand out. And it looks pretty 'neat & clean' to anybody looking inside there too!

Another thing I found out, before you install the lower hull side plates (for the suspension housings), be sure to tap the two rear hull upper side 'ears' straight out to match the side panels. AND you may have to grind off a 'little' of the ear outside surfaces (and the rivets each side) where they join so the side plates go together flush. That is a BIG help when it comes time to line up all the holes of the two rear idler housings. ( I had to loosen the side plates and use a grinder to take off some of the ear faces (and the rivet ends!)


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Mon Apr 15, 2019 6:47 pm
by Adrian Harris
I've written a couple of short programs for my CNC lathe to chamfer the inner end - to make it easier to align with the inside of the bogie - and drill a hole in the outer end.

I also found this photo on the site, showing an M3 based T2 tank recovery vehicle which appears to be tied down by loops bolted into these holes:

trv_7.jpg (167.98 KiB) Viewed 4313 times

So they obviously had more than one use.


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Wed Apr 17, 2019 5:52 pm
by Mike Conley
Pete has a REALLY GREAT idea to turn the hull over when you're installing the suspension! I just found that makes it a LOT easier pushing DOWN on the swingarm springs when trying to put the axles in rather than trying to lift UP on'em!

AND I figured, with the hull bottom facing UP, this would be a pretty good time to cut off the ends of those five lower trans cover bolts sticking thru. I didn't want them things hanging down just in case I ever lose control and this M3 decides to run over me! Without them bolts sticking down the bottom is a LOT SMOOTHER and it probably wouldn't hurt as much if in the chance the hull slides across my face. Ya gotta THINK A HEAD on some thangs!!

Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Mon Apr 22, 2019 4:53 pm
by Mike Conley
Since I'm still waiting on those M2 locknuts and stuff from ECA to get here, I figured I'd do some of those little detail things that need to be done but dread doing. But NOT when we got a good movie to watch (Bomahemian Rapserdy cause I like Queen's music) and ice cold beer in the fridge!

This morning I used the right rear storage box to mark the side heights of the left tall one. I used a hacksaw to cut the corners then my Dremel with the large cutting wheels (took 1.5 of'em) to cut around. I had one slightly high corner and the bench grinder took care of that.

The rear engine deck needed the impression of lines for the individual plates. I had to do it with the Sherman too so kinda knew how to do it. Clamped a straight edge, used a pointed bit, and very lightly (not deep) cut along'em. The Sherman's was a LOT harder because it's upper deck is STEEL. Glad this plate is aluminum.

I'm going to redo the commander's hatch. The cut is too far forward for it to fold out good. I ordered a 3mm (1/8") sheet of aluminum and I'm going to cut it in two more back past the hatch center. That way the 'short' half folds under the front long hatch when they're open. And I'm going to only use one bolt in the center of the hinges on one side. That way it'll miss the opposite two and the hatch can fold down flatter.

And I have a piece of square brass so I'm going to try to whittle the two hatch supports that go on the front sides. I'll put them on after the hatch is installed so I get the height right.

It's getting warmer so I'm getting busier out in the garage. I'll post an update when I get something done worth seeing.

Mike (the one in Kentucky!) (UPDATE: Two hours after this post, I received the 3mm sheet so I'll be working on that now.)

Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:10 pm
by Mike Conley
Well that was a bonehead move on my part. I cut the new hatches this morning with the mid break further back. I DIDN'T take in to account the thickness of the hatch when it goes to fold over then under the front hatch. The rear half moon hatch, when it's folded under the front hatch, makes 6mm together and that's too thick for the height of the hinge pivot point.

So, if I'm going to put a commander in that hatch, it'd just be best to use the original hatch and only fold the rear half moon hatch over the front one without having both open all the way. With only the rear open there'd be enough room for the commander (Ed Harris) to be in position comfortably.

OR I have a sheet of aluminum 1.60mm thick that would be closer in thickness to the hinges to be able to (maybe) fold the rear under to open all the way. I'll give that a try and let ya know how THAT turns out soon. (that 1.60 will be a lot easier to cut/trim than this 3mm!)

Mike (the King of the Boneheads in Kentucky!)

Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:31 pm
by Vince Cutajar
Well that was a bonehead move on my part.
Don't worry Mike. I know that feeling all too well myself :cry: :cry: .


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 4:57 pm
by Adrian Harris
Looks like on the real ones, the hinges fold into each other, so the bolts don't clash.

Could it be the button heads which are hitting each other ? Could you swap them for CSK instead ?


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Tue Apr 23, 2019 6:59 pm
by Mike Conley
I was thinking about using those CSK screws too. Those button heads are pretty tall and I'm going to look thru my surplus stock and see if I have any single slot screws. And tomorrow morning I'm going to go ahead and cut this thinner aluminum to see if those will work. I'm having fun building this M3 and do as much as I want to because I have all summer.

The M2 locknuts came in so I've been out there putting some track together. AND because of that, in the last 45 minutes of putting these tracks together, I've came to the collusion that IF Armortek EVER decides to come out with an M4A3E8 'Easy Eight' Sherman, I MAKE A MOTION that it use CAST, ONE LINK T66 tracks! With them you just shove a pin in, spread a cotter pin, and you're done! May I get a Second?


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Wed Apr 24, 2019 3:23 pm
by Pete Nash
You didn't look at the Track build Thread for some tips mike?

Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Wed Apr 24, 2019 5:36 pm
by Mike Conley
Hi Pete!

Yes, I've been using the wood block I show on there as a jig for building these tracks. The 'difficult' part for me is my old, thick, stiff fingers. It was the same when I did my Sherman tracks, I fumble around and that's why I only try to do 10-20 links a sitting that way I don't get burned out on'em.

AND, this morning I cut the 1.60mm aluminum sheet in to the two hatches and they turned out PERFECT! I didn't have any tiny single slot CSK screws so I used Philips heads. The botton heads were too tall for the hatches to close but these flush ones clear everything.

I kept moving the crease toward the rear and now it folds great! Just to be sure I only used one screw (instead of the two) in the center of the hinge. I was just 'Eyeballing & Figuring' (SWAG) on where to put the final crease, checking on where the small hatch would fold under the larger and contact the hull, and I cut'em that size. The front hatch, front to back, is 42.92mm wide.

I still have cut the two hatch supports (look like little horns) that are on each side, then the folded hatch will fit more level but it don't look too bad now. But Commander 'Ed Harris' seems to like it!!


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Thu Apr 25, 2019 6:31 pm
by Robert E Morey
Looking good Mike. That cupola is tiny though. Where is the back end of the .30 cal MG going to go? Loks like it would have to be dismounted if the CDR is standing in the hatch?

I'm enjoying the progress on the Grants and Lee's, unique tanks for sure.

Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Thu Apr 25, 2019 7:11 pm
by Adrian Harris
When you see a commander in the cupola with the MG mounted, they're usually standing at an angle:

M3 Lee Commander.jpg
M3 Lee Commander.jpg (42.28 KiB) Viewed 3547 times


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Thu Apr 25, 2019 11:14 pm
by Mike Conley
THANKS Bob & Adrian for being so 'observant' about how tight the MG turret is. Something I didn't think about... SO I legged it out to the garage and checked... and you're right. (Maybe Commander Ed Harris is just REALLY slim?)

The M1919A4, in the pivot mount, hits the rear of the little commanders turret even before the mount is all the way in. I initially thought about putting the turret in my LITTLE lathe and dishing it out 'half moon' in the middle because the sides are thick. But with MY extremely basic skill with my lathe I deduced THAT was a VERY BAD IDEA! I'd probably be ordering a new turret or going to the Emergency Room or BOTH!

So I figure I could cut a square notch (the width of the MG) in the back of the mount. I might try that. Also I thought about trying to redo the hatches again but that would take a lot to make ANOTHER set so I'll just stick with these.


Re: Mike's M3 Lee #12 Little Build Things

Posted: Fri Apr 26, 2019 8:34 am
by Chris Hall
It's not just the lack of room in that silly top turret ..... have you considered the fumes, and the vibration ? Not a good 'office'. That's one of the reasons why the British in Burma took them off and replaced them with Grant cupolas. The Brownings were more useful to the infantry.