When I first got back into modeling after a 15-year absence, I took to the internet to find out what I had missed. Among the first pages that I found were two blogs, respectively named Doogs’ Models and The Combat Workshop. These pages were – and still are – excellent sources of inspiration, information, and if you’re fortunate enough to connect with their owners, camaraderie.
Some of you might just be getting back into modeling, or maybe have just found this page through other means, or maybe you’ve been following for a while. Either way, you’ve probably seen tips and endorsements on this page as well. If you’re like I was at first, you took these as infallible holy writ, as wisdom from those expert modelers that should be ignored only at your peril.
I’m here to tell you that this is wrong.
It should come as no surprise that this post has been a long time coming. What’s it been…thirteen months since I blogged in earnest? Sorry about that interval, but hopefully you’re already part of the community on The Museum Modeler Facebook page and YouTube channel, and thus are aware that I am nowhere near dead.
I’ve worked on several projects this year, but one of them overwhelmingly consumed my time and attention: a long-planned 1:700 vignette depicting USS Franklin (CV-13) and USS Santa Fe (CL-60) on the morning of March 19, 1945. Specifically, as depicted in this scene:
USS Franklin (CV-13) viewed from USS Santa Fe (CL-60) on March 19, 1945. NARA Identifier 520656
In the end, going to this from a pair of stock kits required more patience, creativity, and troubleshooting than I’d ever thought I’d need to call on in the pursuit of this hobby. Writing this now, however – one year later – I can finally tell you how it went down, phase by phase.
Spoiler: The completed USS Franklin and USS Santa Fe.
Let me tell you a story.
Unless you’re going for that “builder’s model” look, odds are you’re curious about pulling off a realistic weathering job for your naval build. This post is designed to provide a step-by-step method for how I achieve chipped, stained, and scorched paint effects on my 1:700 builds.
Trumpeter’s 1:700 USS San Francisco (CA-38) showing battle damage.
Trumpeter’s USS Franklin (CV-13) under construction and showing the effects of saltwater abrasion and intense heat from uncontrolled fires.
Merit’s 1:350 USS Yorktown (CV-5) presents an excellent opportunity to display “that gallant ship” in a way that isn’t terribly common among shipbuilders: out of the water, but still within a vignette. Even though most full hull ships are mounted on a base for display, the fact that Yorktown underwent one of the most famous repair operations of the Pacific War between her actions at Coral Sea and Midway lets us depict a historic scene without the need for waterlining. That said, Yorktown entered drydock for a reason, and some work should be done to illustrate the damage she suffered which necessitated her repair. This damage is often misunderstood, however, and can be difficult to depict accurately, so we need to examine damage reports and oral histories, primary and secondary sources, general plans and photographs to come up with a clearer view of how this scene could best be modeled.
Luckily I’ve done just that.
USS Yorktown at Pearl Harbor, May 29, 1942. National Archives and Records Administration Identifier: 80-G-13065.
No Battle Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy
This adage by Helmuth von Moltke (the Elder) sums up much of the Guadalcanal Campaign of 1942-1943, but perhaps nowhere near as completely as when describing the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal. This running nighttime brawl, fought in the early morning hours of November 13, 1942, has been described in exquisite detail both online and in print, so I won’t be using this post to re-tread old ground. Instead, I want to focus on specific historical evidence which justifies and flavors a 1:700 vignette featuring USS O’Bannon and USS Atlanta as they steam into that confused and – for one of these ships – final action.
Image source: ibiblio.org
Seeing this month’s SCU topic actually gave me a burst of optimism: Jon over at The Combat Workshop is wondering at what point during the build do we tend to stall? Given that I’m knocking out 3-4 builds per year (when I could probably double that), for a moment I thought this was directed at me. That responses are already coming in, though, is proof that I am definitely not alone.
If you’re a regular reader, by now you’ve picked up on my insistence that each ship I build include as much photoetch as possible, both for accuracy and for realism’s sake. For most modelers (myself included), one or two frets of the good stuff (usually from Gold Medal Models or Tom’s Modelworks) is usually sufficient, but lately I’ve been seeing more and more of these multi-fret “super sets” on the market. Flyhawk and Lion Roar are two of the bigger names in this genre, but a recent build using the USS San Diego super set from FStar prompted me to double down on their product. And boy, have they outdone themselves this time…