USS Hornet (CV-8) Build Log pt. I: Hull Assembly and Painting

As the first of the Yorktown class carriers in my stash to be built, I wanted Trumpeter’s 1:700 USS Hornet to be an engaging and rewarding experience.  While I was tempted to buck the norm and portray the ship as she appeared at Midway or Santa Cruz, Trumpeter’s inclusion of 16 scale B-25s all but sealed the deal for this to be a Doolittle Raid vignette.  On that note, Doolittle Raid Hornets seem to be most often modeled as either just launching the raiders or ferrying them across the Pacific; my initial intention was to show the ship near the end of her launch sequence with only one or two raiders spotted on the flight deck and F4Fs and SBDs being rushed to the now-open flight deck via the rear elevator.  Then, however, I came across this picture of Hornet en route to rendezvous with Enterprise in the north Pacific:

Spotted F4Fs

F4Fs spotted on Hornet‘s forward flight deck. Image Credit: Steve Wiper. Warship Pictorial 9: Yorktown Class Carriers.

Here I could realistically and accurately display a flight deck that showed more variety and interest than one stocked merely with B25Bs.  Plus, I now had a good weather reference for the seascape when that time comes.  Plan in mind, I set to work.

The kit includes a two-piece hull split along the waterline; a waterline plate is also included if that configuration is what the modeler is going for (I am).  As the waterline will be below the level of the Liquitex gloss gel/sea base, I didn’t fret too much about filling and sanding the seam between these parts.  I did, however, have to work a good bit in sanding down the step between the vertical edge of the forward hull and the f’o’csle, something most ship modelers will be familiar with if they’re looking for an accurate bond between these two sections.  Fortunately this area of the ship featured steel decks instead of wood, so sanding away detail wasn’t really a concern of mine.

Ah, sanding

Ah, sanding…

At this early point I went ahead and started improving the molded detail of the ship’s bulkheads, principally with PE watertight doors by Lion Roar…

Lion Roar Doors

PE from Lion Roar

PE Doors

The first of many, many sets of doors that replaced less-detailed molded versions.

Also at this stage I needed to start planning out the assembly and painting sequence of the hanger deck sides.  Trumpeted has molded both port and starboard sides in three sections each (wisely separated at logical 90-degree breaks), but painting the hanger deck floor is greatly simplified if that task is tackled before adding any of these parts.  After preshading with Mr. Surfacer 1500 black (yes, there is panel line detail on the floor surface!), a coat of Tamiya XF-63 was applied with a post-shade variant mixed 60/40 with XF-2.  A coat of Future (I suppose I should follow FineScale Modeler’s lead in calling it PFM [Pledge Floor Care Multi-Surface Finish]) went on before a sludge wash of black and raw umber artist oils brought back much of the panel line detail.  The result:

Hanger Deck Forward

I love how the deck actually came out looking like a garage floor. This photo was taken much later in the build, so disregard the extra work that you see elsewhere!

It hurts that about 98% of this detail will be invisible once the hanger deck is sealed up, but I’ll know it’s there!

Speaking of extra details, I didn’t care for the plain, flat surface on the interior surface of all of the hanger bay walls.  Using a couple of reference photos from Hornet and her sisters, I used styrene sheet and rod to construct a rough facsimile of the hanger’s busy interior space.  Mind you, I was going for the feel of the hanger deck without reproducing each structure rib for rib, mostly because (again) just about none of this work will be visible on the finished model.

Hanger Deck Scratchbuilding

I am particularly proud of the scratchbuilt catwalk along the starboard side – that part is more or less prototypically correct (OK, the prototype rises from the deck at an angle before leveling off).

After adding the catwalks along the hull sides (and making sure they were aligned – harder than it looks at 1:700!) it was time to apply Hornet‘s distinctive camouflage.  Like many US Navy ships in 1942, Hornet was coated in a Measure 12 scheme.  This called for vertical gradations of Sea Blue 5-S, Ocean Gray 5-O, and Haze Gray 5-H.  Hornet‘s scheme was the more irregular Measure 12 (Modified), however, which called for the same colors but applied in random blotches as each ship saw fit.  This led to the distinctive pattern the ship would carry throughout her short life:

At Pearl Harbor

I told you it was distinctive.

This was going to take some planning.

To begin, I masked the entire hanger bay deck floor, inside and outside the vertical walls.  That done, I sprayed the interior walls with Tamiya XF-2.

Hanger Deck Masking

Masking the Hanger Deck. Once the finicky bits are done with Tamiya tape, I find it easier (and less risky) to use cut notecards for larger swaths.

Next I ran tape along the inside of the vertical hanger deck doors and sprayed the entire outer hull in XF-25 (Light Sea Gray – my stand-in for Ocean Gray 5-O).  I probably didn’t need to wait two days for this to dry, but I am always concerned with paint lifting and I wanted to minimize that for this part because, if I pulled it off, things would look fantastic.

Trumpeter provides handy color paint callout charts with their models but, unfortunately, in this case the illustration didn’t match reality at all.  I could follow Trumpeter’s lead, or make a random splotch pattern, but as you guessed, I wanted to be more accurate than that.  Fortunately the Shipcraft series of books put out a fantastic volume devoted to models of the Yorktown class ; included in this book are 1:700 color profiles of each vessel as they appeared at various points in their service life.  Hornet‘s career being so short, the Measure 12 (Modified) scheme that she wore during most of 1942 made perfect sense for this, so it was included.  After making a few photocopy scans, carefully tracing the patterns/trimming the tracing paper/transferring the design to Tamiya tape/trimming the tape in segments, I’d masked the hull and was ready to go:

Hull Masked

Hornet‘s hull masked

I hold my breath.  I spray two coats of XF-18 (my stand-in for Ocean Blue 5-S).  To minimize lifting problems I usually pull the tape off a few minutes after the last coat goes on.  I hold my breath some more.  And…

Hull Camo

So pretty I could cry


Oh, I forgot to note: long before I put the first coat of gray on the hull, I had actually sprayed a coat of XF-2 near the waterline for the forward third or so of the hull.  I then masked this with salt (first time trying this technique), leaving the salt on through all subsequent layers.  With the camo applied it was time to mask off and paint the boot stripe along the waterline in XF-1.  That done, I finally decided to chip off the salt, revealing the original white coat underneath:

Paint chipping

Hornet’s camouflage had a notorious chipping problem after the rough seas of the Doolittle Raid. As my version of the ship is about a month younger than the prototype picture on the left, my chipping is necessarily less extreme.

With that, major construction and painting of the hull was done.  Next time, we’ll look at detail painting, experimenting with paintbrushes (I hate brush painting!), and creating the best flight deck I’ve ever modeled.

I hope this has been informative and possibly helpful to any of you reading!  For frequent snapshots of current builds be sure to check out the Museum Modeler Facebook page at; for video updates (including a breakdown of the various 1:700 Yorktown class kits on the US market these days) take a look at the YouTube channel found at

Until next time, wishing you smooth seas and happy modeling!


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