1⁄350USS Fletcher - From an Armor Point of View
Ship Modeling - An Armor Modeler's Perspective
So what is an armor modeler – and a Swiss one, the only navy we have is a few patrol boats on lakes – doing with warships? Good question!
My interest in warships started about the same time as my interest in military history and is actually older than my interest in armor. The first few ships of course were sunk in the garden pond and none of these early examples of my modeling career still exist. It was an article in a German magazine about a Tamiya 1/350 scale Yamato in the late 1990ies that started an interest in "serious" ship modeling and it was the first time I heard of Gold Medal Models (GMM) PE accessories. Combine this with my interest in the US-Navy of WWII and I was on my way to building a 1/350 scale USS Missouri at the time of the Japanese surrender in 1945. At the time I didn’t dare risk weathering and so we still have a brand new USS Missouri in our office today.
I had to get more of course so I settled on the same approach for a 1/350 scale Tamiya DD-445 Fletcher and I even planned to convert her to another Fletcher class DD that was present at the surrender ceremony with USS Missouri. For some reason however I then switched back to armor, massively improved my skills there and the Fletcher remained started in the box for almost 10 years. Then the "Drydocked Campaign" came along...
Getting back to ship modeling was quite a challenge and several problems had to be overcome.
1. How much detail?
As this was my first ship in 10 years and my scratch skills are somewhat limited I decided to keep her a Fletcher 1942 as in the kit, try my hand at the camouflage and relearn the basics, especially with PE. When detailing a ship model it seems the sky is the limit and I admire all the wonderful builds I see on MSW. But for myself I decided that while I wanted more details than out of the box, I certainly didn't have the patience or dexterity to use even all the bits of the GMM set. Main items used were doors, railings, radars, depth charge racks, ladders and some bits for the AA guns.
2. PE railings
I'm not an expert dealing with PE as is, but bending and attaching the railings proved to be quite a challenge. As an afterthought I would probably have to take care that in every corner of a bend there is a pole, which now there isn't. Attaching the railings with super glue worked quite well as I use a gel like glue that allows time for movement. But once it's dry there is no flexibility and for my next project I will probably try Gator Glue.
3. When to paint?
With armor I usually build it all, then paint it overall with the airbrush and the details with the brush. Not very practical for ships, especially when using PE railings. I decided to work in sub assemblies and paint these before attaching them to the main hull.
The hull was first painted Tamiya hull red. Masking tape was applied and black followed next for the water line. After another masking I painted the upper hull in blue for the camouflage pattern. Now how to get an accurate camo pattern? Fortunately Tamiya includes a 1/350 scale plan, so I copied it, cut out the camo pattern and attached these to the model with "'post-it' from the can", a spray glue that dries sticky and then is like the glue on a post-it (I don't know if this product is still available, the can has been sitting around for years now). This works only on an even surface. The next color was the dark gray. It worked perfectly and with that the hull was ready. Incidentally, I noticed, that the gray colors as indicated by Tamiya were very dark and I lightened them up considerably.
The different subassemblies (including the railings) were then painted dark gray. I masked off the camo pattern with a kneaded eraser and sprayed the light gray over it. The tricky part was now the deck. I had no idea how to mask this, so I decided to hand paint it. In the first try I mixed the deck color as per Tamiya's instructions and got a purple color. Some research on the net turned up a drawing where the deck was dark blue. I then mixed a dark blue with Vallejo Acrylics and the painting proved to be easier than expected.
With Rigging the two questions were how and how much. On the Missouri I used stretched sprue and wasn't very satisfied with it. Fortunately Simon Heathwood proved very helpful and gave me the tip to use copper wire from electrical cables. So how much? On close inspection of photos it seemed like hundreds of cables were rigged on the original. I decided to add just the main lines, for fear of knocking down the first ones in the process of attaching the last ones.
Weathering was of course a totally new aspect. No dirt or dust on a ship! I decided to keep it light the first time around and added a wash of Windsor and Newton oils to pop out the details and give it a somewhat used look. I then decided that there should be some dirt and rust streaks below the anchor and added these from ground up pastels diluted in white spirit. Certainly not the most intricate weathering but I was happy with the result.
I know this Fletcher has many flaws and many parts could be improved (starting with straightening the radar but I fear it will break off…). I’m happy with the result as is and hope to improve one step at a time with future ships. My next challenge of ship modeling will be water and I will keep you posted on my future projects. Thank you all on MSW for the inspiration. I will try to lurk less and participate more in the future. And for those who haven't built a ship yet: Get one!