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   Here are some modeling tips for 1:1200 and 1:1250 ships -- and actually, for modeling in general.  Given my wide and varied interests in modeling (note I said "interests, not "skills"... (sigh)), I've noted that "tips and tricks" learned in one genre often work well in others!  After all, modeling is modeling -- the things that change are the subject, scale and materials, not the techniques!


   Where known, I've given "credit where credit is due";  if no source is listed, then they are tips I am posting from my limited experience!


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Attaching Photo-Etched Parts

Get Enough Light

Magnifying Lenses

Make Your Own Masts

Overlooked Modeling Resource?

Painting Tips

The Right Tool for the Job

Weathering Ships


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   One of the major "tricks" I've learned for myself -- and probably had overlooked other such advice previously -- is that GOOD lighting is one of the best tools you can have in your "toolbox"!  It doesn't -- and shouldn't -- be overpowering.  I would believe that direct sunlight is just a little too much.  But make sure your work area is illuminated well.  In addition to the overhead fluorescent bulbs in my work space (a table in our family room), I add one (or sometimes two) 100-watt bulbs shining in and on my models.  The less my eyes have to strain... the better I can see what I'm doing, and the better the chances of having a positive result from my modeling efforts!


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   As my "Mk. I eyeballs" have gotten older, I've found I have more difficulty seeing the fine detail in this scale.  I purchased a "magnifying headset" from my local hobby shop.  As it fits over my head (like a visor), I still have the use of my glasses.  And being able to see a magnified view with both eyes allows "stereoscopic" vision, with its depth perception -- a BIG plus when doing fine detail work!


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   Dissatisfied with the plastic masts that came with your model?  Tired of straightening... and re-straightening... and re-straightening those "soft" metal ones?  Need to replace a missing -- or broken -- mast?  Make your own!  A well-stocked hobby shop (look in the Trains section) will have a variety of plastic or brass rods in several sizes.  Personally, I prefer brass; it's a little harder to work with, but it's durability makes up for that little bit of extra effort.

   Using a pin vise and bit, drill a hole where the mast will be installed.  Try to make the hole no larger than necessary; but the deeper you can make it, the more secure the finished mast will be held.

   Using nippers, cut the mast a little over-length -- you will "bury" the extra length into the deck of your ship when you glue it in.  Using a flat needle file, file the top (cut) end flat -- this will go a long way to improving the look of the finished mast.  Next, using smaller rod (if appropriate), cut the yards to length; and again, file the ends flat.  Now, mark the position for the yards on the mast; then take a fine "sharp-edged" file and file a small groove in the mast where the yard will attach.  When you have all of your grooves filed, tape the mast to a scrap piece of paper (so that it can't shift on you), being sure not to tape over the grooves!  Then glue the yards in place; I use a super glue, and have had excellent results.  Let dry.

   Now, install the mast in its hole with a small drop of super glue.  Again, let dry.  Paint in the appropriate color.

   Step back (not too far!) and admire your work!

   You can also build tripod masts this way -- but you must take care to drill the holes in the deck of the model at the right angle!


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   Don't overlook the works done by modelers in larger scales!  While one cannot guarantee 100 accuracy, it seems that if someone has done the research and work to build a 1:100 scale model of a particular ship, their efforts might provide more than enough information to detail or paint a 1:1200 or 1:1250 scale model!  A good place to start would be -- there are some fantastic models pictured there!  You can also try your search engine of choice, such as Yahoo! or Google -- type in the name of the ship and maybe a keyword or two (such as Battleship or Royal Navy)... and then have fun checking out the links your search turns up!


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   1.  Make sure your model is clean!  The molds the model was cast in was treated with a "release agent" -- to help the model separate from the mold.  And as you've handled the model, a small amount of oil has rubbed from your fingertips to the model, too.  Before painting, wash it in clean, lukewarm water with a mild dishwashing detergent added (I prefer the brand call Dawn; it seems to do very well at removing oils.)  Scrub lightly using an old toothbrush; you need very little pressure, so you don't have to bend those fine detail parts to get it clean!  Then, rinse thoroughly.  Before rinsing, I recommend putting the strainer over the drain in the sink... yes, small parts can be retrieved from a garbage disposal, but it isn't a lot of fun!  Let the model dry completely before painting -- and keep handling to a minimum.  (Some have recommended using latex gloves, but I don't go this far...)


   2.  When it's time to paint, make sure you have everything you need at hand -- having to run back-and-forth finding reference materials, rags, the proper brush, the "other" color you need, etc., slows the process down and makes it more frustrating.  And one thing you don't need when you're trying to paint is more frustration!


   3.  Make sure you have more-than-adequate lighting (see Get Enough Light, above).  No, you don't have to paint outside on a sunny day -- that might be too much lighting for your eyes to be comfortable!  But if you're having to strain to see things, I can almost guarantee you're not going to end up with a good paint job.


   4.  If you need them -- or maybe even if you don't -- consider magnifying your subject (see Magnifying Lenses, above).  When you get to areas this small, it can't hurt to make them appear larger... and magnifying lenses could well give you the confidence to tackle those fine details!


   5.  Know your paints.  Don't mix lacquers with enamels with acrylics!  And when using any paint, but especially lacquers and enamels, make sure you have plenty of ventilation -- and consider eye and hand protection.  In my (admittedly limited) experience, lacquers provide the most durable finish, but are also the hardest to work with; they will "etch" and dissolve plastics, and the fumes can be quite strong.  Enamels are a close second to lacquers, but with some of the same "problems" -- and they both require the proper thinner/solvent for thinning, cleaning brushes and spills, etc.  Acrylics -- water-based paints -- have come a long way in the past few years, and in many areas.  They are now much more widely available; several manufacturers now make and market extensive ranges of colors; the "pigments" of the paint itself have become more finely ground, enabling the modeler to achieve a thinner coat of paint, which allows more detail to show through; and (my favorite!) they thin and clean with water, and have few (if any) odors involved!


   6.  As with any endeavor, have the "proper tools" available.  You're not going to get good results painting a torpedo boat with the same 6" brush you used to paint the garage!  Get some good quality brushes, in the proper sizes for the "job" at hand -- and take good care of them.  Clean them thoroughly when you're done painting, and store them with the bristles unbent.  Most likely, you will find the few extra dollars you spent on good "tools" (and taking care of them) will be much more cost-effective than going through a slew of cheapo brushes which you throw away every other time you paint... and you'll get better paint results, too!  As for an airbrush... many modelers swear by them, and in the hands of someone who knows what they're doing, the results are quite impressive.  However, I've gotten very good results from paintbrushes, and am quite comfortable with them.  So don't think you can't get a good paint job without an airbrush, because you can!


   7.  "Old saws":


          (a)  "If you can see it, you can paint it."  I'd say this one is pretty much self-explanatory.


          (b)  "Inside to outside" -- paint the surfaces farthest from the "outside" or "edges" first; that way, when the inevitable "smear" occurs, you can later cover it without having to go over the previously painted area.


          (c)  "Light to dark" -- since dark colors cover over light colors better than light colors cover over dark colors, begin with the lightest color first.  If you're painting a 1890's era French battleship, save the black hull for last -- paint the white upperworks first!


   Obviously, there will be times when (b) and (c) conflict with each other.  There is no hard and fast rule here, in which takes precedence.  You will just have to use your judgment as to how to get your finished results.  Remember:  good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment!


   8.  Don't be afraid to make a mistake.  More often than not, that "smear" on the boom of a derrick, caused when your brush reached in to paint that lifeboat cover and you got just a little too far over to the side, can be touched up later.  Which then leads to...


   9.  Patience!  This is NOT work -- this is a hobby!  You're not on a deadline -- your goal is to get the best job you can do with the skills you have at this time.  If you're getting frustrated... if it's time to let a coat of paint dry... step back, close the paint bottles, clean the brushes, and go do something else for a while!


  10.  For lettering and stripes (and maybe other uses, too) -- consider decals.  Another "old saw" goes along the line of "paint as little and decal as much as you can".  Check your local hobby shop -- they will probably either have or be able to get plain decal sheets in a variety of colors.  Or you can purchase blank sheets, paint them the color you want, then cut them to shape/size/width as needed.  And when you use a sharp knife blade with a straightedge, you can get a perfectly straight line -- something that is very difficult to do with a paintbrush!


   Decals are an excellent way to get those markings on flight decks!  Paul Jacobs (of 1250Scale fame) taught me a "trick" for dashed lines -- (a) paint the flight deck; (b) apply a straight line in the desired color using a decal; then (c) paint the "gaps" with the flight deck color!  (And Paul has done some truly wonderful paint jobs this way -- check out that web site for some of his models!)  I've read that decals are a good way to get the "boot topping" line at the waterline... and also the "barber pole" red and white aircraft identification markings on World War II era Italian ships, too!


   And while on the subject of decals -- don't overlook dry-transfer lettering.  Available at art supply stores, dry-transfer lettering can be obtained in a wide variety of sizes and styles.  They can be applied directly to the model... or applied to a "blank" decal sheet, oversprayed with a protective coat, then applied like a standard "wet" decal.


   Another note on decals -- make sure you're applying them to a glossy finish.  As I understand it... the difference between a glossy finish and a flat finish is the way light reflects from the surface.  For a glossy surface, the "microscopic" particles of paint have formed a relatively smooth top surface -- somewhat like the bricks in a paved street.  But for a flat surface, those "microscopic" particles are "rough" and jumbled" -- kind of like a gravel road.  The result is that the light reflecting off of the surface of a "flat" surface is diffused and scattered slightly, thus giving that "dull" finish -- while a "gloss" surface reflects the light more directly, giving that "glossy" or "wet" sheen.  Now it may seem that I've wandered off the main point here -- but stick with me just a few more moments.  As far as applying a decal -- that "flat" surface will leave lots of "microscopic" air pockets under the surface of the decal, which will not only give the decal a "frosted" appearance, but will also prevent the decal from properly adhering to the model's surface.  But applying a decal over a "glossy" finish will help prevent those air pockets from adhering, and will allow the decal to "bond" with the painted surface of the model -- in effect, becoming another coat of paint, precisely applied.


  11.  This is a "trick" I've learned years ago -- and with the advent of digital cameras, it has become much more affordable -- when you're satisfied with the finished paint job, take a few pictures of the model, then study those pictures.  Oddly enough, you will see more "imperfections" and "gee, I wish I'd seen that's in a picture than you did when you looked at the model itself.  (My guess is this a matter of perception... but I've found that it works!)


  12.  The final step is to apply a clear, protective finish.  If you're painting a "wargaming piece" -- one that will be handled often, and occasionally without "care" -- I strongly recommend a final coat of Future acrylic floor wax.  It can be airbrushed or painted on (it cleans up with soap and water), and will provide a VERY durable, glossy finish -- after all, it's designed to cover floors that are being walked on!  (It's also a good "base" for decaling -- see notes on decals, above)


    If you're looking for a flat finish, Testor's Dullcote is hard to beat.  It is a lacquer-based clear coat (which I believe leads to its durability), and if applied lightly, it can be applied over any type of paint -- I've had nothing but success spraying it over acrylics and enamels alike.  The "trick" is to apply a light coat -- and after it thoroughly dries, if it isn't "flat" enough, apply another light coat... until you've built up the "flatness" you're trying to achieve.


   And if it's a "wargaming piece" that you want to have a "flat" finish -- apply the Future first, then apply the Dullcote in light coats over the top of the Future!


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   I know, you've probably heard this one a hundred times... but the reason you've heard it a hundred times is because it's true!  You don't need an extensive tool set in this hobby, but there are some "basic" tools you do need if you're going to build from kits or modify "assembled and painted" models:


   (even before (a) ) -- SAFETY FIRST!  Be careful and take your time.  Tools and models are (almost always) replaceable -- an injury or harm cause by their misuse may not be.  Think about how you're going to use the tool at hand, and use it safely.


   (a)  a large, flat file -- at least 8" to 10" -- for filing down rough edges on the bottom of the hull


   (b)  a set of "needle files" for cleaning casting lines, flash, etc.


   (c)  a sharp knife -- my preference is the "good ol' X-acto" #11 -- again, for cleaning casting lines, flash, etc., but can also be used to carefully cut away parts that are not needed / wanted / etc.


   (d)  a sharp-pointed "scriber" or "pick" -- to mark starting points for drilling holes for masts, turrets, derricks, etc.  I found a "used" dental probe at a model railroad show for two or three dollars, and have gotten a lot more value than that out of it!  You can also use the tip of a sharp knife blade -- but you must be careful to not break off the tip of the blade.


   (e)  some small drill bits and a pin vise.  You'll need a couple of larger (say, 3/32" or 1/16") drill bits for drilling holes for turret stalks, and some smaller bits for drilling holes for masts, cranes. etc.


   (f)  a fresh bottle of "super glue" for assembling those small parts.  It's my experience that most super glues have a shelf life of six months to a year, then they lose their "oomph" (or holding power).  Unless you're building an entire fleet at once... get the smallest bottle that's available.  Then in six months or a year (when you need it again)... throw the old bottle away and get a fresh bottle.  You might get a fine-tip marker and write the purchase date on the bottle -- this will help you remember when you purchased it... and when it might need replacing!


  (g)  right along with the super glue -- a bottle of de-bonder or solvent.  Have it readily at hand when you use the super glue.  Super glues were actually invented for the medical profession, as a substitute for stitches, for gluing skin together!  (Later, someone discovered that super glues worked well on a lot of other things too... hence their use in the hobby.)  And it works quite well on it's originally-intended subject.  It is far too easy to glue a couple of fingers together, or an object to a finger.  By having the de-bonder available when you need it, you might save yourself a trip to the emergency room at the hospital to have your fingers "un-separated"!


   (h)  good-quality paint brushes in a variety of sizes; #2 or #3 for "overall" painting, "five-ought" or "ten-ought" (00000 or 5-0, and 10-0) for fine details.


   (i)  some paint, to go with your brushes.  Know your paints, and get those you're comfortable with.  My personal preference is acrylics; little (if any fumes), available in a wide range of colors, and (best of all) can be cleaned with soap and water!


   (j)  proper lighting.  Too many variables to go into here, but this one should probably be at the top of the list!


   (k)  surface protection -- a cutting pad, a layer of newspapers, etc., so that you don't cut / mar / stain / paint the surface of your work area.  (This is vital if the your work area is the family dining table or an heirloom handed down to your wife by her grandmother!)  "Self-healing" cutting pads come in a variety of sizes, with prices to match; mine is approximately 12" x 18", and as I recall, I paid less than $20 for it.


   (l) a straightedge, such as a ruler, for cutting straight lines (such as masking tape or decal sheets).  I highly recommend metal ones; I've tried plastic and wood, but have managed to cut into each with my knife as I was cutting.  I have two different ones I use most of the time, depending on what I'm cutting; a 6", which is easy to handle; and a 15", which I use for longer cuts.  One tip -- make sure your fingertips are back from the edge you're cutting, especially if you've just put a brand new blade in your knife.  (The voice of experience...  I didn't even realize I'd cut off the very tip of a finger until I was trying to figure out where the "red paint" was coming from!  No, it didn't require stitches; the cut was about the size of a pencil eraser, and a large band-aid took care of it.  But it's a mistake I won't make again!)


   (m)  reference materials.  While this might not actually fall in the "tool" category, it is quite related.  The more you know about "the real thing", the better your chances of building an accurate model.  Many, many pictures and plans can be found on the Internet.  Don't forget your public library; maybe with a little luck, they'll have just the book you're looking for.  And finding and acquiring your own library can be just as satisfying as building your fleet!  


   Other tools which are nice to have, but not absolutely necessary...


   (a)  Magnifying lenses -- and depending on how good your eyes are, these might be necessary!


   (b)  a rotary tool, such as a Dremel.  You can do quite a bit with a rotary tool and its attachments.  On the "flip side", you can also do a lot of damage quickly if you're not careful!


   (c)  an airbrush.  Good for getting a fine base or primer coat of paint -- and with masking or careful planning and execution, fine details as well.  Of course, then you have to get an air source, such as a compressor... and if you're painting indoors, you'll probably need a spray booth to catch overspray -- and definitely to vent fumes, if you're using lacquer based or enamels!!


   (d)  "nippers" or wire cutters, if you're going to add or replace masts, bent or broken small gun barrels, cranes and derricks, etc.


   (e)  a variety of brass or plastic rod and "shapes" -- you can build or replace masts, deckhouses, derricks, -- almost anything! -- with these.


   (f)  a soldering iron or gun -- instead of gluing brass shapes together, you can solder them.  Will provide a stronger, more durable hold, but is also harder to work with, due to the "close" area of small parts.  Model railroaders have been soldering for years, so I know it can be done.  But it's not my "cup of tea" -- I prefer the ease of using super glues.  To each his own...


   (g)  casting materials.  Need ten or twenty of the same part?  Make one "really good" master, then cast the rest!  I've done anti-aircraft guns in resin; and once installed and painted, it's really hard to tell which ones are the originals and which ones are the resin cast copies!


   (h)  decals.  The best way to get a straight line or lettering.  See Painting Tips, above.


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Posted by Jim Russell on the SteelNavy Message Board on June 24, 2004, 9:54:58

I use a mixture of Elmer's Glue-All and Model Master Acryl (whatever color I want the joint to be, 5-H or 20-B or any other).  I do not remember reading about this in the past, but if it has been put out it is worth mentioning again.

Base part - plastic or resin primed with Krylon Fusion (a spray can primmer for plastic), spray painted with enamel, and dulled with a Future, matte medium, alcohol mix.

Part - PE, plastic or resin primed and painted as above.  Generally I do not dull before gluing (if I make a botch and want to redo, small delicate parts are easier to clean if they are glossy).

Glue - I use small plastic lids (nut can) as a container.  Put down a small quantity of Elmer's (approximately 3/16 inch) . Apply two drops of MM acryl and mix, I use a plastic tooth pick.  My guess is that the final ratio is approximately 6 Elmer's to 4 color.  The mixture appears to polymerize, it becomes stringy and thicker than the Elmer's or the paint.

Application - I use the toothpick or a fine, stiff brush. I then use a brush wetted with water to smooth and blend.  Places where glue does not belong are cleaned with a wet Q tip.

Botches - I tend towards ham hands at times.  If I make a mess or the PE is not bent just right, I put the PE or part in water, clean the base part with wet Q tips, clean the PE or part and start over.

Finishing - The assembly is spray painted with the dulling mixture.

Conclusion - The joints are strong and unobtrusive.  When compared to my luck or skill with super glue, it is no contest.


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Posted by Geoff Cook on the SteelNavy Message Board on July 1, 2004, 13:06:15, in reply to "Weathering Ships Question"

Personally, I don't gloss my ships and think its a bad idea... too many coats (paint, gloss, wash, THEN dull) makes the finished bulkheads, decks look too thick.  I spray the ship with acrylics, then do washes with a mix of turpentine and enamel... that way the wash doesn't interact / screw up the paintjob because they're technically immiscible.  With decks, I use black or gray pastel chalks to give them a weathered and used look.  Rust should not be overdone but subtle streaks on the hull can be accomplished with orange / rust colored chalks.

With the washes and pastels done, give it a nice dull coat (I recommend Polly Scale acrylic clear flat sprayed from an airbrush - the rattle cans of Testor's Dullcote suck!).  The key is to not overdo it... start small and add to it if it's not enough.  With the wash, remember you're trying to just highlight recesses and details and not to "paint" the details with wash.  A small amount of wash around a watertight door, etc. should literally "suck up" into the recesses and highlight it nicely.  Thanks to my mentor, Wally Bigelow for teaching me the art of washes... now hopefully I can pass it on.


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