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In the Praise of Shipbuilding...

n by Rafi Ben-Shahar

Many modellers prefer to model aircraft and armour. Ship displays in IPMS contests often receive lower variety and less attention by visitors. While I would not know why there is a seemly lower interest in ship related topics, I know for myself that my focus on aircraft modelling stems from the fact that it is such a highly diversified topic.

Yet, if your interest lies in aircraft, there still is a good reason to build a ship every now and then. This month I'll show you two of my Tamiya's 1/350 Battleships, The Tirpitz and the HMS King George V. Although these ships never met in combat, they both represent the pinnacle of the battleship era in naval history.

Battleships make a highly attractive subjects for ship modellers because of the complexity of superstructures that leaves considerable room for detailing, in this case particularly visible with the King George V.

It is amazing that building a plastic ship and building a plastic aircraft model could be so different. As I was progressing with the construction of these models, I became aware of new construction challenges and accuracy issues that I wasn't aware of previously while building aircraft. To begin with, the Tamiya battleships are large but old kits with basic engineering and moulding quality, and unless you embark on some extensive superdetailing, it will show in the final product. Like many others who built these models, I had a considerable problem (and frankly wasn't very successful) in eliminating the joint lines between the different sections of the deck. In addition, I faced for the first time the tedious aspects of modelling which is a highly repeatable task of assembling all the guns, drilling portholes, mounting rails.

I found out that photo-etching technology is crucial in enhancing the final outcome of model ship construction. The same cannot be said about aircraft models, where most PE parts almost always be replaced with resin or plasticard with no damage to the final effect. Attaching all the delicate metal parts to plastic was a lesson in patience.

Secondly, the wooden structure of the decks and patterns of camouflage over the superstructures called for new approaches to painting. In the end, I used coloured pencils and brush to represent the individual wooden planks and pre-painted structures before attaching them to the model.

Thirdly, the small scale called for a different point of view on the final outcome. Unlike aircraft that crave for a close scrutiny, a ship is perhaps best viewed from the distance. Therefore, blending the structures together with appropriate painting, was important.

In the end, I assessed the overall appearance of my battleships and compared them with reference photographs. Now, I know why I prefer to build model aircraft. It is much easier to trick the viewer into impression of looking at the real thing!


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