USS Hornet (CV-8) Build Log pt. II: Flight Deck Assembly and Painting

I’ve noticed that those with an opinion on the matter – modelers and non-modelers alike – either love aircraft carriers or hate them.  In the “hate” category, one reason I hear on the modeling side is that they’re “just so boring” compared to the bristling armament and towering superstructure of surface combat vessels.  And you know what?  They’re right.  Compared to a battleship or cruiser, carriers are (superficially) nondescript enough to have deserved the somewhat derisive moniker “flattop” in the years leading up to the Second World War.  They’re big and they’re flat, or at least their flight deck is, but hat doesn’t mean that they have to be boring.

Murderer's Row at Ulithi Atoll

Just boring old “Murderer’s Row” stationed off Ulithi Atoll, December 8, 1944. In line from the bottom are Ticonderoga (CV-14), Hancock (CV-19), Hornet (CV-12), Yorktown (CV-10), and Wasp (CV-18). Posted just astern is also Lexington (CV-16). All told, 216 fighters, 216 dive bombers, and 108 torpedo bombers that will could – and did – send any battlewagon that challenged them to the bottom of the sea.

By necessity, however, this stage of Trumpeter’s 1:700 USS Hornet was significantly shorter and less involved than the preceding one by virtue of it only consisting of two parts – the flight deck and the single elevator that I chose to place in a raised position.  The recessed flight deck details are subtle and elegant, consisting of both wood planking and tie-down, but I did choose to supplement the supplied wind breaks with PE replacements from Tom’s Modelworks.  There was nothing wrong with the molded breaks, but I want this build to benefit from any aftermarket advantage that I can give it.

One thing about Tom’s Modelworks: the etched work is beautiful, but damn is it pliable.  Personally, I would love it if every PE manufacturer went the way of Eduard and used steel, but something tells me there would be a revolt in the hobby were that to occur.  My point, though, is that considering that these particular aftermarket parts consist of a long, thin strip of metal holding dozens of perpendicular long, thin strips of metal, the chances of losing the look you want to imperfectly straight lines is high.  Still, I persevered, and after multiple coats of thin CA and a lot of sweat, I was happy enough with the breaks to call that phase done.

OK, so I sometimes get a little crazy with the dry-fitting...

OK, so I sometimes get a little crazy with the dry-fitting…

Finally, it was time for paint.  One thing I hope to do with a future carrier build is stain an actual wood deck with Norfolk 250-N flight deck stain in order to get the blue-yet-not-blue that US carriers tended to display on their flight decks.  This time, however, I wanted to follow through with a technique that I tested on a smaller kit some time ago.

To begin, I sprayed the deck with Tamiya XF-59 Desert Yellow, mixed about 70/30 with XF-60 Dark Yellow.  This was done in several uneven coats, giving some parts of the deck darker hues than others.

DSCN3013

 

I had intended to next spray multiple light coats of White Ensign Colourcoats Flight Deck Stain, but realized at the last moment that spraying enamels on acrylics would be a bad career move.  With the fact that I had more weathering to do after this, I shrugged and opted for XF-50 Field Blue instead.  My intended effect was for the blue to be opaque enough to be obviously blue, but thin enough for the wood grain to show through.  After all, this worked well on the earlier test piece, right?

DSCN3014

Not bad, but way too blue for my liking.

C’mon!  I wanted the deck to have some life in it – be worn from use and exposure to the elements, not look like…well…a model.  After staring at this for several moments, I decided to try something crazy.  I use ground pastel chalk powder to simulate dirt and dust on larger-scale builds.  If I could mix enough earth tones together to simulate wood, I might have a shot at this.  Since I now knew I was going to use top-level weathering, I needed to get the rest of the flight deck markings down.  Using photos for references, I masked and painted the unique guide lines painted on Hornet‘s deck for the benefit of the B-25 crews, as well as the standard catapult markings.  That done, I grabbed my pigment and a wide, soft brush, and in less than five minutes I had exactly what I wanted:

A thing of beauty!

A thing of beauty!

Done.  Signed, sealed (literally), and delivered to the top of my workbench hutch, out of any potentially damaging reach until its time to add it permanently to the ship’s hull.

Moving from the keel on up as we are, next time I’ll be writing about the construction of Hornet‘s island superstructure.  As I’m writing this, major components of that subassembly are drying on my workbench; the finicky nature of the extensive aftermarket modifications I’m putting into the thing is partly why I stepped away to write the blog entry you’re reading now.  Needless to say, I hope that the result is worth all the sweat and shakes.  I think it will be.

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 www.facebook.com/themuseummodeler; for video updates you can take a look at the YouTube channel found at www.youtube.com/themuseummodeler.  And as always, feel free to subscribe to this blog to get updates delivered right to your inbox.

Cheers, friends, and happy modeling!

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